Tuesday, February 15, 2005

Dr. Judith Klinghoffer has a good article up at HNN on North Korea this week. I found the subtext about South Korean politics more interesting though. Professor Klinghoffer wrote:

"I am sorry to admit that the news did not surprise me. As Korean University professor, Shin-wha Lee, has recently informed me, any mention of North Korean atrocities is politically incorrect in South Korea because it is seen as unwarranted anti-Communism. Apparently, history has taught Seoul nothing. In South Korea we are back to the good old days when the Stalinist atrocities were meticulously covered up. The Moscow trials were treated as just. Robert Conquest was dismissed as hard line anti-Communist, and Noam Chomsky airily dismissed evidence of the Cambodian genocide.

And let us not be sidetracked by all the talk about crazy/not so crazy indeed, artistic leader. Nuclear weapons in the hands of a willful all powerful tyrant (the son of a tyrant) may be the primary world concern but it cannot be expected to the primary concern of South Koreans or human rights activists. For there a Holocaust is going on in North Korea and I am not using the term lightly and neither are those you will find if you click on. "North Korea's Auschwitz" -- the inside story on the No. 14 detention center. There you will find Kim Yong-sam's report..."

If Americans are puzzled by South Korea's recent rise in anti-Americanism they really shouldn't be. It was stirred deliberately by former South Korean president Kim Dae Jung, a former leftist dissident who suffered at the hands of South Korea's old, right-wing, military regime. It was Kim who patiently refashioned South Korean nationalism, away from opposition to North Korea and defined it in opposition to the United States. In all fairness, Kim succeeded easily because his policy was cost-free and the Clinton administration questioned neither his " Sunshine Policy" nor Kim's crackdown on criticism of North Korea's lunatic regime, finding both to be politically helpful cover for their own appeasement policy.

The United States will probably find China to be a more helpful de facto ally in taming Kim Jong-Il's mad nuclear ambitions than our de jure ally in Seoul

UPDATE: Dan at tdaxp identifies the driver in China's desire to denuclearize the Korean peninsula.

Thanks for the link.

You explain things very well, and I wonder if you could comment on something. Is it possible that the Sunshine Policy is realistic and takes full account of costs? I have read a lot of criticisms of it which label it appeasement. But what if it is an effort by the South Korea to turn North Korea away from China.

Seoul may believe that North Korea was in danger of being completely absorbed into Beijing's orbit. Keeping it alive and becoming a reliable friend would harmonize their interests. If China is behind shenangins in North Korea, this would represent a success.
You can't blame it all on Clinton. A couple of years ago, a couple of restaurants in Seoul were refusing to serve Americans, complete with signs out in the front window. This was an outrage and blatantly racist. Bush did absolutely nothing.

P.S. why do we have troops there?
Hi Dan,

Documents on North Korea from the former east Bloc states that are now available to historians ( Some are online at the Cold War History Project)indicate that after Stalin died and the Korean War ended the DPRK was anything but a grateful or subsevient client to the USSR or China. The North has been as frustrating and enigmatic to its friends as its enemies.

The ROK since the rise of the South Korean Left has pursued a " Sunshine Policy" that is based on an odd combination of romantic wishful thinking and hardheaded realism.

The wishful thinking is that PR and bribes can mellow Pyongyang's behavior or the nature of the regime. The hardheaded part is the fear of a " German style" unification where the North implodes and collapses, saddling South Korea with billions of dollars in reconstruction costs.

The ruling party's political purpose of the " Sunshine Policy" is to put off the day of reckoning as long as possible while keeping the anticommunist Right out of power by playing to nationalistic, popular desire for reunification.

American pressure on North Korea over WMD threatens that policy. The DPRK's nukes in turn have alarmed Japan into signaling a potential reversal of its non-nuclear status and a revision of its dependent security relationship with the U.S.

This is something China does *not* want to see happen which is causing it to reverse its previously blase attitude toward DPRK mischief.
I don't blame all of it on Clinton Barnabus but we are in the same situation with the DPRk now as in 1994 except back then they didn't have crude nukes to toss around.

As far as I'm concerned, if the ROK feels it is better off without the US as an ally we have more urgent uses for 37,000 troops. We're not the Soviets, if another country wants us out, we leave. I'm all for calling their bluff.
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