Tuesday, February 02, 2010

Do we really understand North Korea?

The last decade has seen a parade of American presidents attempting to make friends with North Korea in hopes of defusing their nuclear threat and saving their people from an increasingly abusive government. We've tried the carrot, we've tried the stick. Nothing seems to work. One reporter who has been there asks "Do we really understand who we're dealing with?" Our experience with other countries calling themselves "Communist" may be blinding us to some bitter realities.

Consider: Even in the days of communism, there were reports from Eastern Bloc and Cuban diplomats about the paranoid character of the system (which had no concept of deterrence and told its own people that it had signed the Non-Proliferation Treaty in bad faith) and also about its intense hatred of foreigners. A black Cuban diplomat was almost lynched when he tried to show his family the sights of Pyongyang. North Korean women who return pregnant from China—the regime's main ally and protector—are forced to submit to abortions. Wall posters and banners depicting all Japanese as barbarians are only equaled by the ways in which Americans are caricatured as hook-nosed monsters. (The illustrations in this book are an education in themselves.) The United States and its partners make up in aid for the huge shortfall in North Korea's food production, but there is not a hint of acknowledgment of this by the authorities, who tell their captive subjects that the bags of grain stenciled with the Stars and Stripes are tribute paid by a frightened America to the Dear Leader.
Perhaps a new approach is needed, before our attempts to neutralize North Korea take a sinister turn.

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