The “normalization” of North Korea

I’m not the only one who’s noticed that American animus towards the world’s most repressive and tyrannical country—North Korea—has waned during the Winter Olympics. To represent his country, dictator Kim Jong-un sent his 30 year old sister Kim Yo-jong, who is now being seen as more appealing than Mike Pence. Well, she may be more attractive, but remember that Trump and his regime, though odious, is infinitely preferable to the DPRK. Further the North Korean cheerleaders are getting favorable attention, and everyone seems to think that the North Korean presence is some kind of harbinger of peace. It’s all beer and skittles over there.

Well, I do favor us trying to talk to North Korea, but as I’ve said before, I think it’s futile. If we know anything, it’s that Kim Jong-un will give up neither his nuclear program nor his relentless propaganda campaign against the U.S.—much less the shameful and disgusting way he treats his people—and I see little to be gained from talks. Well, let us still talk to them if it will make us feel better, but let us not think that North Korea is now serious about any settlement that doesn’t let it have nuclear weapons or dominate a unified Korea. South Korea, I maintain, was duped, and what we see is a “charm offensive” by the DPRK that’s actually working. It’s almost as if people hate Trump (and his emissary Pence) so much that they’re willing, in their anger, to smile on a representative of the world’s worst country.

BuzzFeed recounts some of the “normalization” of the DPRK in an article called (apparently to appeal to the kids) “PSA: Kim Jong Un’s sister is not your fave shade queen. She’s a garbage monster.” (Subtitle: “What the hell is wrong with you people?”)

And here’s some of that normalization:

Look at this bullshit!:

Here’s the headline of the NYT story (click on screenshot), which spends a lot of time criticizing Pence, adding just a bit at the end to tell us that the DPRK has “repression and human rights abuses”.

And this from a credulous Tweeter:

For a riposte to the following WaPo tweet (don’t they know better?), read Frank Bruni’s column in today’s New York Times: “The Ivanka Trump of North Korea? Oh, please.” It ends with these two sentences: “But there can be no mistake: America is in a rotten moment. North Korea is rotten to the core.”

And USA Today called the North Korean cheerleaders, who creep me out, “amazing” and “a huge hit”, adding this tweet:

Do we really need to be reminded of the perfidies of North Korea: how the government starves its people, prevents them from having any outside contact with the world, imprisons them in horrible camps (along with their families) for imagined crimes, and executes them in public, forcing people to watch? Has Donald Trump got us so deranged us that we’ll ignore all these human rights abuses in admiration of Kim Yo-Jong’s “style”?

The Hill also reproves the media for their unseemly fawning in a piece called “At the Olympics, North Korea’s appalling media boosters.” An excerpt:

Kim Yo-Jong, sister to North Korean dictator Kim Jong Un, received not merely respectful, but even complimentary coverage. Most egregious among the media outlets was a CNN piece titled “Kim Jong Un’s sister is stealing the show at the Winter Olympics.” It’s opening line stated “If diplomatic dance were an event at the Winter Olympics, Kim Jong Un’s younger sister would be favored to win gold.”

This is bizarre and disgraceful. For one, Kim Yo-Jong is not a powerless dignitary or mere figurehead family member in North Korea. She is the director of the Propaganda and Agitation Department of the Worker’s Party of Korea, where she helps oversee the brainwashing and psychological terror apparatus of the North Korean state. The rush to praise the “diplomacy” of a woman whose country currently holds around 100,000 political prisoners in multi-generational concentration camps is malicious stupidity.

Kim is also a member of the Politburo, and is considered one of the most senior and trusted advisors to Kim Jong Un. She is specifically sanctioned by the U.S. Treasury Department for her role in North Korea’s crimes against humanity. By all accounts, Kim is not just complicit in the atrocities of the North Korean state: she is an enthusiastic participant. While the South Korean government has to treat Kim according to protocol, there is absolutely no excuse for journalists to fawn over her.

This is from Think Progress (click on screenshot). Historic? We’ll see about that. And again, it’s mostly critical of Pence:

Now I’ll grant that Pence could have been civil to Kim Yo-jong, and shook her hand, but to say that this is some kind of contest that North Korea is winning is to neglect the whole historical background of the conflict. It is to be duped—just as many on the American Left were duped by Stalin’s Soviet Union.

Here’s another so-called “Leftist” who’s been duped. He’d do really well in North Korea! I suppose this is the Leftist equivalent of lying for Jesus:


  1. Posted February 14, 2018 at 9:44 am | Permalink

    No fan of the Drumpfenheimers; but really detest the people in charge of the DPRK!

    The media gushing over them is very unseemly.

    • Kiwi Dave
      Posted February 14, 2018 at 2:13 pm | Permalink

      Unseemly and credibility destroying. Two years ago, Ben Rhodes explained how Obama et al sold the dodgy Iran deal by dismissing reporters as 27-year-old know-nothings. This is more evidence to support that opinion.

      On another issue, it might be civil for The Vice-President to shake the hand of a dictator’s sister, also complicit in and a beneficiary of his brutal regime, but he probably recalls the eventual political fall-out of Rumsfeld’s handshake with Saddam Hussein.

  2. glen1davidson
    Posted February 14, 2018 at 9:44 am | Permalink

    Is North Korea really that bad?

    Oh right, they are. That is, the government it.

    I don’t think that all diplomatic channels should be closed, of course, but I’m afraid that “we don’t want nuclear war” might become the excuse to forget that they’re really horrible to their people, a nuclear threat to their neighbors and even us, and likely to sell nuclear technology to other vile regimes.

    The enemy of Trump is, in this case, the enemy of humanity at large.

    Glen Davidson

    • glen1davidson
      Posted February 14, 2018 at 9:44 am | Permalink

      “is.” You know.

  3. Cate Plys
    Posted February 14, 2018 at 9:50 am | Permalink

    Thanks for laying that all out Jerry. The coverage has been driving me crazy. At least one columnist at the NYT is calling it out; I sure hope to see more.

  4. Jesus Figueroa
    Posted February 14, 2018 at 9:50 am | Permalink

    Poor duped liberals, we see in them that hypocrasy of the typical liberals when they circle the wagon around Trump and Republicans and Western world view in a commun cause against the most tyrannical regime, North Korea.

    But who is the world war monguerer, the USA. their all over the world in Colombia against Venezuela, Syria, in Africa, and all those military bases in Asia and especially in Southern Korea. Violating nations sovereignty. Where theirs electoral fraud like Honduras they look the other way.

    Where are the North Korean military bases in the world, In with conflicts is North Korea in the world. And why can’t Korea have there nuclear bomb?

    But those liberals have to circle the wagon with there Empire because of the benefits they get from there empire, how evil that empire is. United in the Empire.

    • Dave
      Posted February 14, 2018 at 10:06 am | Permalink

      Jesus, are you Noam Chomsky in disguise? Your “The US is the greatest warmonger and responsible for all the bad stuff in the world” schtick sounds like it came right out of his playbook.

      If there were no US military bases in South Korea, the entire peninsula would look like North Korea. Read a history book – the communists were the aggressors in 1950, not the US.

      North Korea shouldn’t have a nuclear bomb because it’s a vile tyranny whose regime cares nothing for the lives of its own people, let alone anyone else’s. Gaining long-range nuclear capability probably guarantees that tyranny will survive for a long time to come, and perhaps indefinitely. That means the North Korean people will continue to starve and suffer, and everyone else on the planet will have to accept that a juvenile despot in Pyongyang has the ability to kill or blackmail them any time he wants. I don’t find that a welcome prospect.

      • Ken Kukec
        Posted February 14, 2018 at 10:55 am | Permalink

        Russian bot.

    • Posted February 14, 2018 at 10:07 am | Permalink

      Excuse me, Jesus, but I’m certainly not circling the wagons around Trump; my dislike of him and his policies has been clear.

      Would you rather live in the U.S. or North Korea?

      • Posted February 14, 2018 at 1:06 pm | Permalink

        “Would you rather live in the U.S. or North Korea?”

        This is the key question! Pony up Jesus!

        • Posted February 14, 2018 at 2:56 pm | Permalink

          This sounds a bit like the old “America, love it or leave it” response to criticism of US foreign policy. Why the US should stick its military nose in every trouble spot in the world is a legitimate issue for me.

          • Posted February 14, 2018 at 3:03 pm | Permalink

            I agree. It’s the opposite of critical thinking. Patriotism, blind allegiance to one’s country, is the opposite of being a good citizen and working to improve your country. I am in favor of the latter, bigly!

    • Posted February 14, 2018 at 10:11 am | Permalink

      You have no clue what violates a nation’s sovereignty or not.

      You’re also apparently unaware of the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty.

      You’ve also likely never had the pleasure of spending much or any time in a totalitarian state. (I have.) So maybe go visit NK. Don’t forget to take one of those souvenir posters!

    • Diana MacPherson
      Posted February 14, 2018 at 10:12 am | Permalink

      False equivalency much? I live in Canada, right next to the United States. I bet there wouldn’t be a Canada if instead of the US it was North Korea I lived next to.

    • glen1davidson
      Posted February 14, 2018 at 10:26 am | Permalink

      Where are the North Korean military bases in the world

      Yes, because they wouldn’t have them if they could.

      And why can’t Korea have there nuclear bomb?

      Oh, why not? Many of their people have starved, while they poured money into nuclear weapons. But what could that hurt?

      Glen Davidson

    • BJ
      Posted February 14, 2018 at 10:35 am | Permalink

      I’m not sure if this post was meant to be serious or a hilarious parody, but if it was the latter, I applaud you. Well done!

      • Ken Phelps
        Posted February 14, 2018 at 10:45 am | Permalink

        The Poe problem – It’s not just for creationists any more.

      • Ken Kukec
        Posted February 14, 2018 at 11:04 am | Permalink

        Typed on Cyrillic keyboard in Russian troll farm outside St. Petersburg.

        Pay no attention to Moose & Squirrel.

        • Diana MacPherson
          Posted February 14, 2018 at 11:08 am | Permalink

          Darn Boris & Natasha.

        • BJ
          Posted February 14, 2018 at 12:20 pm | Permalink


    • Posted February 14, 2018 at 10:49 am | Permalink

      This must be sarcasm.

  5. Randall Schenck
    Posted February 14, 2018 at 9:52 am | Permalink

    I think most of us know that the Olympics is mostly a highly political form of entertainment so to expect an Olympics in Korea that is anything but politics would be naive. What journalist are doing is throwing opinion around for lack of news.

    I also believe Trump was duped the moment he opened his mouth concerning N. Korea many months ago. No one will ever mistake him for a statesmen or any of his hired lackys in their dealings with any foreign governments. So who should be surprised that anyone from the propaganda govt. of N. Korea could not run circles around the Trump administration when it comes to image in the political world. Remember, in two weeks it will all be over.

    • gluonspring
      Posted February 14, 2018 at 10:57 am | Permalink

      It won’t be over in two weeks because the rift between SK and the US didn’t start there. NK didn’t just happen to show up at the Olympics and charm everyone, they were invited, against wishes of US, by SK.

      The rift comes from the fact that SK are, rightly, deducing that they can’t trust the US to act in their best interests.

      Many Americans, all of MAGA world, are gung-ho to have a war “over there” to prevent any chance of war over here. The human beings “over there” are not as keen on this policy.

      They don’t have many options, of course, but I expect them to explore all their bad options (deals with China, their own nuke program, etc.) the more we seem willing to let them die for our feelings of safety.

      • Randall Schenck
        Posted February 14, 2018 at 12:09 pm | Permalink

        I suspect you are reacting from the actions of Trump. Certainly S. Korea has to find it’s own way right now and should look after it’s own interest, particularly when the U.S. is currently going a different way. I do not agree with much of anything the Trump group has been doing regarding the North But I do not think this Olympic issue is the beginning or end of anything. The Olympics will end in a couple of weeks and then we can just concentrate on reality and forget the circus that always comes with Olympics.

        I did not say the problems started with the Olympics in anyway. The North/South problem has been in place since 1954 and hopefully will continue in a non war like state until Trump is gone. The fact of the N. Koreans obtaining nuks seems to have everyone in great anticipation that war is upon us. This is mostly due to unending press coverage and the Trump administration. He seems not to give a damn what countries might be destroyed as long as he stops the N. Koreans from continuing their progress. This is also nonsense.

        The last time I checked, Having nuclear weapons is not the same thing as using them. Ask around.

        • Heather Hastie
          Posted February 14, 2018 at 2:02 pm | Permalink

          As usual when it comes to North Korea, I’m with Randy.

          While I can’t believe the ignorance and stupidity of people like Dan Arel in this, I see some of the news stories a bit differently. Without reading the actual articles, the headlines mostly look like simple statements of fact. Despite the horror that is life in the DPRK, Kim is winning a charm offensive. That part of the story is true. The problem is people getting sucked in by the charm offensive.

          And you can’t blame South Korea for not trusting the current US regime. The constant aggressive rhetoric about war from Trump is scary for them. He is unstable and if he followed through, which doesn’t seem completely unlikely, tens of millions would be dead, injured, homeless etc. The NZ and Aus militaries have plans for evacuating people from South Korea in the event of war, and I’m sure they’re not the only ones.

          President Moon was elected partly because of his promise to pursue closer relations with the North. However, he may have gone too far for his own people; his approval rating is down ten points and that is being blamed on getting too close to Kim. Since those results came out, there’s been a conscious effort to pay more attention to Pence. Although South Koreans want a closer relationship with the North, if they had to choose, a majority would choose the US.

          I think this will blow over when the Olympics are over. However, the Kim regime will continue such moves. Now they have nukes, they feel secure enough to try and rejoin the international community. Before, they thought (with complete validity imo) that any moves would lead to their downfall. Personally, I think it still will, because his people want what the rest of the world has.

          • Paul S
            Posted February 14, 2018 at 3:28 pm | Permalink

            I think it still will, because his people want what the rest of the world has.

            I’m not sure his people know what the rest of the world has.

          • Randall Schenck
            Posted February 14, 2018 at 4:37 pm | Permalink

            It’s that no free will thing. You could not do otherwise…Ha

            South Korea goes through changes politically from time to time – sometimes more friendly toward the north and sometimes not. Now you have one who wants to engage and that seems to be just the opposite from the Trump way. Diplomacy and a little statesmanship would be nice but we do not have it with the present administration. Right now he is busy running a ring of wife beaters and sexual harassment professionals.

  6. darrelle
    Posted February 14, 2018 at 9:54 am | Permalink

    Last night as my wife and I were watching the NK pairs figure skating performance, and the NK cheering squad, I quipped that I hoped they did well for their families’ sakes. As it turned out they were fairly good. Apparently they are the only NK athletes that actually earned their spot in this Olympics.

    I agree completely with your opinions on the cluelessness of the Western Media, tweeters and that NK is not to be trusted. I disagree however that SK has been duped. It seems unlikely to me that the SK government has suddenly come to trust NK because of their recent diplomatic overtures and I suspect that they are proceeding with eyes wide open. Not in expectation that their issues with NK will soon be resolved but that some sort of diplomatic relations with NK is better than none.

    • Dave
      Posted February 14, 2018 at 10:11 am | Permalink

      I agree with your take on SK. They’re not stupid, they must know the minds of their NK cousins much better than anyone. They know that NK will milk this event for all it’s worth, but they’ll go along with it for the sake of reducing the immediate level of tension, and hope that some good may come of it further down the line.

    • Posted February 14, 2018 at 10:38 am | Permalink

      Right now I am of that mind set. Provisionally. While the games are going on, there are also talks between the two governments that includes negotiations to ratchet down tensions. Both sides seem interested.
      It can all regress to business as usual, but I choose to hope a little bit.
      Baby steps.

      • darrelle
        Posted February 14, 2018 at 10:51 am | Permalink

        I think we can take it as a given that NK’s intentions are selfish and that they shouldn’t be trusted any further than they could be thrown. By the smallest athlete at the games. But that is true for a lot of diplomacy. Heck, it’s for circumstances just like that that most countries like the US have historically (a modifier added because of the Trump administration) invested so much in diplomacy.

        I think it would be irresponsible for SK to not engage with NK when they offer diplomatic overtures as they have. Even given that there is a chance that nothing favorable to SK may come of it, and even given that there is a chance of a negative outcome for SK. With eyes wide open of course!

    • gluonspring
      Posted February 14, 2018 at 11:02 am | Permalink

      No chance SK has been duped. They know better than we do what NK is.

      SK is just responding to the reality that their ally, the US, increasingly sees them as just an ablative shield for the US. If you live in Seoul, launching a war tomorrow to make the U.S. *feel* safer doesn’t seem like as good a deal as it does in Ohio.

      Now, their options are mostly crap, and I’m sure they know that, but given friends like the U.S. under Trump, it’s only rational for them to explore every far fetched possibility for a separate peace.

    • Posted February 14, 2018 at 12:39 pm | Permalink

      I also agree with your take on SK. There are still many split families between NK and SK, and every time the north allows a reunion, it’s major news. Even if these ‘friendly’ relations between the north and south only result in more frequent reunion events, the move will have been a smart one by SK. And I imagine their government will be rewarded in the polls (among the older population).

  7. Ken Kukec
    Posted February 14, 2018 at 10:04 am | Permalink

    Why’s VP Pence gotta travel halfway round the world to embarrass us when he’s perfectly capable of embarrassing us from right there in Washington, DC?

  8. Historian
    Posted February 14, 2018 at 10:06 am | Permalink

    Reality suggests that North Korea will be a paranoid regime for the foreseeable future. The aim of U.S diplomacy should be to reduce that paranoia as much as possible. If North Korea has a moment in the sun, so be it if it contributes to the reduction of the paranoia. Above all else, war must be avoided. I fear that if Trump feels cornered by his various scandals that he may provoke war as a diversion. There have been several articles speculating what war with North Korea would be like. The most extensive analysis that I have found is this one, published in Vox.

    The author points out that the danger is not only nuclear war, but biochemical as well. The world might never recover from such a catastrophe. The peace of the world requires a U.S. diplomacy that on the one hand shows North Korea that it will not put up with aggression, but at the same time comforts the regime to believe that the U.S. is not out to destroy it. Then, over time, we can only hope that the regime will evolve into a more benign entity. The real question is whether the U.S. can engage in such a diplomacy. With Trump as president, I fear that this is not the case

    • Diana MacPherson
      Posted February 14, 2018 at 10:54 am | Permalink

      Just read that article – I agree, it’s a really good article. Scary as hell though!

    • Posted February 15, 2018 at 5:22 pm | Permalink

      The article at Vox is sobering, to put it mildly. A must-read. It seems to me that China is the key to defusing the threat of war and setting the political direction of the Koreas. One of the key questions is what is China’s attitude to the so-called reunification of the Koreas? In my mind, this looks like the South being completely subsumed and dominated by the North. Unfortunately, their goose looks like it’s cooked, with the U.S. probably having no appetite for seconds a la Vietnam war.

  9. Diana MacPherson
    Posted February 14, 2018 at 10:10 am | Permalink

    I see that those articles, pointing out that North Korean representatives are outshining Pence as evidence that they aren’t duping the West. I took those articles as reporting on their efforts rather than praising the people behind them. But I could be wrong….people believe really stupid things all the time.

  10. Posted February 14, 2018 at 10:16 am | Permalink

    Comrade Dan Arel has been tweeting on how living conditions in NK are better than in the US.

    This is a man who not too long ago was considered one of the leading lights of atheist activism.

    • Posted February 14, 2018 at 10:33 am | Permalink

      I just added one of Arel’s tweets to this post. I wonder if he’d rather live in North Korea than in the U.S.? If he did, he wouldn’t last long. . .

      • Diana MacPherson
        Posted February 14, 2018 at 10:50 am | Permalink

        I was thinking the same. I’d rather be destitute and starving in the US than destitute and starving in NK.

      • Posted February 14, 2018 at 1:14 pm | Permalink

        Yeah, they love it so much there that they run in spite of the high probability of being gunned down while doing so.

        So many are running over the US-MX border from N to S to escape the horrible conditions in the USA!

        What a … an ignoramus?

      • Posted February 14, 2018 at 2:25 pm | Permalink

        He wouldn’t be tweeting, that’s for sure.

  11. Charles Sawicki
    Posted February 14, 2018 at 10:26 am | Permalink

    The DPRK is awful, but if this even slightly decreases the chance of the very stupid Trump administration starting a war, I’m for it 100%. North Korea will not start a war, their leader is responsible for crimes against humanity, but I don’t see him as insane and self destructive. I don’t know about Trump.

    • gluonspring
      Posted February 14, 2018 at 11:10 am | Permalink

      Trump is no more suicidal than Kim. We don’t have to worry about a war because of that. The problem is that Trump is safe. A war would pose no threat to him whatsoever. Most likely, everyone in the US is safe. If we start a war with NK tomorrow, odds are very slim that anyone in LA will die. It’s our relative safety that makes war with NK more likely.

      Thing is, you know who else is not suicidal? South Koreans. The South Korean desire to die so that someone in Ohio can *feel* a little safer is very small.

      That is the perspective I find missing in so much of discussion of North Korea.

      • Posted February 14, 2018 at 3:43 pm | Permalink

        Ironically, it is this asymmetry of relative safety that motivates the North Korean drive to acquire nuclear ICBM capability that so worries us.

  12. BJ
    Posted February 14, 2018 at 10:40 am | Permalink

    As I said in the previous post on this topic, I saw no reason not to do this joint Olympics program from the South’s perspective (and I still agree with that). I had no idea so much of the Western media would act like a bunch of little boys charmed by the pretty babysitter. What a bunch of buffoons.

    Meanwhile, Dan Arel is up to his regular twattery, but nobody is surprised by that. He has the argumentative wherewithal and wit of an edgy teenager who just discovered Das Kapital.

    • Ken Kukec
      Posted February 14, 2018 at 11:29 am | Permalink

      Bless the heart of any teenager can make it through all three volumes of Das Kapital; the Manifesto is much more likely to charm.

      And who snitched me off about what happened with the babysitter? 🙂

      • BJ
        Posted February 14, 2018 at 12:23 pm | Permalink

        Buddy, nearly every little boy had that experience with the babysitter. No shame in that.

        • Posted February 14, 2018 at 12:49 pm | Permalink

          *eww**eww**eww*!!! Thanks ALOT, BJ. And you too KK. Jeez. Now I’m stuck with the image of Mrs Robertson, our next door neighbor, who used to babysit me. Think Hazel from Olde Tyme TeeVee, but with with a foul temper and hideous breath.

          • Ken Kukec
            Posted February 14, 2018 at 1:16 pm | Permalink

            “Mrs. Robertson, you’re trying to seduce me … aren’t you?”

            (That one oughta stick with you a while, Mikey.)

          • BJ
            Posted February 14, 2018 at 4:02 pm | Permalink

            Ah, geez. I’m sorry 😦

            I meant little boys with pretty babysitters. And, like Ken, my first thought upon reading your babysitter’s name was Mrs. Robinson.

  13. Posted February 14, 2018 at 10:41 am | Permalink

    Those cheerleaders are creepy as hell.

  14. gluonspring
    Posted February 14, 2018 at 10:42 am | Permalink

    The American press reaction is indeed stupid (with exceptions).

    The most stupid part of it, though, is paying too little attention to the historic rift that is opening up between SK and the US. SK has depended on the US for it’s existence and survival for 70 years, yet South Korea *invited* the NK to the Olympics over US objections. Did they do this because they have forgotten that NK is an existential threat and Stalinist hellhole and now think it is all beer and skittles? No, of course not.

    They did this because they have absorbed the fact that it is now more or less explicit US policy to devalue South Korean lives. Both the President and others in his administration have made statements to the effect that we’ll do whatever it takes to prevent NK from having even a theoretical possibility of striking the US, including preemptively attacking NK. That is, US policy is to trigger the deaths of tens of thousands (possibly orders more) of South Koreans today in order to avoid even a theoretical threat to the US tomorrow. Victor Cha withdrew as ambassador nominee to S. Korea supposedly because he could not abide this policy. Needless to say, those on the sacrificial block in South Korea can not abide a policy of merely being the US’s ablative shield either.

    South Korea has very few options here, but trusting the US to act in their best interests is clearly right out the window, at least for the duration of MAGA. Perhaps it is desperation, but seeking a separate peace from the US may be the only option open to a SK. Their head is under the guillotine of the North while their supposed ally threatens to cut the rope that holds up the blade.

    It’s difficult to see how such a separate peace would work, of course. It might be a futile attempt. That’s what desperation does. Maybe they will try to get assurances from China, or develop their own nukes, or who knows what. But a “friend” who is willing to kill you to save himself isn’t going to be much of a friend for long. That’s the real story here.

    • gluonspring
      Posted February 14, 2018 at 10:45 am | Permalink

      P.S. Yes, I’m a native English speaker. In my editing of sentences I left a lot of errant articles lying around. Apologies to the reader.

    • darrelle
      Posted February 14, 2018 at 11:11 am | Permalink

      I agree completely with your first 2 paragraph, and mostly with the rest. I don’t think SK is hoping, or at least needs to, to achieve a peace beyond avoiding a continuing increase in tensions that could lead to armed conflict. If they can keep a lid on things until the Trump Administration is over their risk of armed conflict with NK is likely to decrease significantly.

      • gluonspring
        Posted February 14, 2018 at 11:23 am | Permalink

        Yes, I agree, the second half is overstated, and flat wrong if describing the short-term. Your formulation is, I think, more accurate.

        That said, I do think there is a risk that the Trump admin will make South Koreans more keenly aware of their position as cannon fodder in the US mind, and that will make them more open to consider any other security options that might present themselves. I think if I were a South Korean leader, I would at least be considering whether we could start our own secret nuke program with the aim of weaning ourselves off of reliance on the US in the future. If I were Japan I’d be thinking the same thing (and, FWIW, Trump on the campaign trail said he thought Japan should have nukes… I expect they heard).

        The risk of war will likely drop greatly after the admin is over, but the effects on our relations will probably continue in many ways after.

        • Tim Harris
          Posted February 14, 2018 at 6:19 pm | Permalink

          It is not only South Korea that is being regarded as cannon fodder in Drumpff’s mind, but Japan. What was it he said to Lindsey Graham? – something along the lines of it’s all going to happen over there (with the implication of course that the people living there are not properly white) so it’s no skin off our nose…

          Regarding the dreadful coverage of the charming North Koreans versus glowering Pence, this is what in particular the American media does all the time. Politics is reduced all the time to what is supposed to be ‘personality’, and this of course contributed hugely to Trump’s winning the last election

    • Randall Schenck
      Posted February 14, 2018 at 11:15 am | Permalink

      I mostly agree with your comments on this matter. We must put ourselves in the shoes of South Korea before we speak of their actions and also see the U.S. for what it has become under our current dear leader. The south pretty much knows that nothing good is going to come from the Trump method so it will do what it can until the U.S. changes leadership and maybe gets it’s diplomatic feet back on the ground. We not only still, do not have an ambassador to South Korea, we have a state department that is almost in ruin. Rex the oil man is a joke out of water so what is S. Korea to do in the mean time.

    • BJ
      Posted February 14, 2018 at 12:25 pm | Permalink

      “Did they do this because they have forgotten that NK is an existential threat and Stalinist hellhole and now think it is all beer and skittles? No, of course not.

      They did this because they have absorbed the fact that it is now more or less explicit US policy to devalue South Korean lives.”

      I find this to be a really strange reading of the situation. SK has been doing joint activities on and off with NK for years, long before the Trump Administration. The only thing new about this one is that it’s at the Olympics. There is absolutely nothing else different about this, and I’d be interested to see if you have any direct evidence that this is suddenly the new reason for SK doing such things, like quotes from any SK leaders.

  15. Ken Kukec
    Posted February 14, 2018 at 10:44 am | Permalink

    Not sure what you mean by “normalization” in this context, Jerry. I’m in favor of anything that lowers temperatures and staves off the possibility of military conflict (with its attendant likelihood of nuclear conflagration). But there should be no remission whatever in either economic sanctions or public opprobrium toward the DPRK.

    Ain’t like we’re gonna offer NoKo “most favored nation” status at the Word Trade Organization or anything (though I wouldn’t wanna see Trump and Lil’ Kim left in a room alone together, since they might get on the same authoritarian wavelength; the Donald do have a thing for human-rights-abusing autocrats. Our great negotiator might trade away nuclear deterrence for a handful of magic beans).

    • BJ
      Posted February 14, 2018 at 12:27 pm | Permalink

      I agree with this. I think Jerry means “normalization” regarding the media, but I think that word goes too far. The media is being charmed by a frivolous parade of smiles, though.

  16. Posted February 14, 2018 at 10:47 am | Permalink

    If by “normalize”, you mean forget what the NK regime does to its people, then I agree. We shouldn’t normalize their behavior. However, war certainly isn’t the answer and the bullying the USA does via sanctions, military parades, etc. just makes them angrier and more resolute. Some dream of the NK people overthrowing their government but that isn’t going to happen soon.

    In my opinion, the only way to solve the NK problem is to engage them in sport, business, etc. If they participate in the world economy, they will gradually be forced to open up and give their people access to the internet, college, real food, etc. Their leadership will start to get their jollies from such participation rather than suppressing their own people.

    We can see this work in China. While they aren’t a truly free country, they are way closer than they were 50 years ago.

    We would have to hold our noses for a while and we should still take every opportunity to point out how bad NK is but engagement is the only way to go.

    • Ken Kukec
      Posted February 14, 2018 at 11:41 am | Permalink

      “Some dream of the NK people overthrowing their government but that isn’t going to happen soon.”

      Only way that happens is if dissidents in the NoKo military get the nod from the People’s Republic of China. And they’ll never get that as long as China fears the result will be a US client-state on its Manchurian border.

      • Diana MacPherson
        Posted February 14, 2018 at 12:05 pm | Permalink

        Or if somehow the US makes a deal with China and that can’t bode well for SK either.

      • eric
        Posted February 14, 2018 at 10:31 pm | Permalink

        China has only themselves to blame for the risk of a western client-state cropping up in NK. If they had wanted North Koreans to embrace communism even after the collapse of the authoritarian regime, they should’ve helped make NK’s communism actually work to create prosperity. Keeping people in subsistence level, impoverished misery does not endear them to your political system.

        Western nations often make the same mistake, of course, but on a smaller scale (in terms of human misery). Capitalist-compelled austerity in return for loans doesn’t cause a population to want capitalism – it causes them to hate it. But it doesn’t cause leaving-family-behind-and-running-through-gunfire-to-escape hate, which is what China’s de minimis support to NK over 50 years has helped bring about.

  17. Posted February 14, 2018 at 11:03 am | Permalink

    This is not about the DPRK being an acceptable society anymore than was Nixon’s ping-pong diplomacy with Maoist China. It is about trying to find a modus vivendi with the hope of avoiding a catastrophe. You don’t do that by not acknowledging the existence of your opponent. I hope at least there was some backstage attempt to communicate. The path to peace with a country like the DPRK is difficult and may dead-end, but that is not an excuse for not trying.

    • gluonspring
      Posted February 14, 2018 at 11:11 am | Permalink


    • Posted February 14, 2018 at 1:23 pm | Permalink

      Well said.

      As my best friend as I have said to each other: If we can just keep der Drumpfenführer from getting us into a shooting war with North Korea …

    • Tim Harris
      Posted February 14, 2018 at 6:20 pm | Permalink

      Very well said.

    • Posted February 14, 2018 at 6:29 pm | Permalink


  18. Jon Gallant
    Posted February 14, 2018 at 11:20 am | Permalink

    Maybe the DPRK could next send Kim Jong-nam, the dictator’s half-brother, on another charm offensive somewhere. Maybe to the airport in Malaysia? Oh, I forgot—it already sent some other people there to charm Kim Jong-nam himself to death.

  19. Mikael
    Posted February 14, 2018 at 11:33 am | Permalink

    I have to say Jerry’s viewpoint is extremely American, and hardly shared outside the US. While I have no doubt that North Korea is the worst country in the world at the moment, I do understand the South Koreans very well. I have no reason to fear North Korea, but I’m scared to death of the USA. And I’m fairly sure I’m not alone with this sentiment. However immoral the North Korean regime is, it is much less likely to do global harm than the USA. Everybody knows responsible Americans do exist, but are seen quite powerless against the holy alliance of billionaire greed and evengelical deathwish. Even the South Koreans are more afraid of the unpredictability of the USA than the evil of the Kim regime, making them emotionally more likely to side with their Northern neighbors than Americans, when things get tough.

    • Ken Kukec
      Posted February 14, 2018 at 12:01 pm | Permalink

      “Jerry’s viewpoint is extremely American”

      Really know how to calumniate a guy, doncha? 🙂

      • Mikael
        Posted February 14, 2018 at 12:24 pm | Permalink

        No, I don’t think “American” is a pejorative adjective. It’s quite understandable, to say the least. I used this word just because I do respect Jerry a great deal as an intellectual, but I think it takes an American to not fear the US more than North Korea. Even if everyone agrees the US society and maybe even its regime is still morally miles above the North Korean one.

        • Randall Schenck
          Posted February 14, 2018 at 1:09 pm | Permalink

          Spend a lot of time in South Korea do you? And you fear America more than N. Korea. That is fairly ridiculous and I do not believe South Korea would agree with you at all. I have only been there 7 or 8 times but I never got the idea they were more afraid of us. They may be afraid of the Trump issue on this however, and that is not good. But our 8th Army and the ROK have been partners against the North since the war. We continue to have more than 35,000 military in South Korea and many many civilians as well. We also have many more military in Japan and they are located there for the same reason – North Korea.

          • eric
            Posted February 14, 2018 at 10:13 pm | Permalink

            My reading of Mikael’s post is that he’s thinking more broadly than just nuclear strike or even conventional US military attack. By “global harm” he’s including things like bad trade policies, environmental policies, etc…

            Given that the US has a major global impact in many of these areas while NK is basically an insignificant player on the world stage, we certainly have a much greater capability to do economic, environmental etc. damage. And even as an American, I can see why other countries would fear the Trump administration making terrible, globe-damaging decisions in these areas. Not that Kim Jong-Un wouldn’t make terrible policy decisions that would hurt the entire world, but in point of fact he can’t, because he doesn’t have anywhere near our reach or power.

    • Posted February 14, 2018 at 1:02 pm | Permalink

      I can certainly see your point; it is true that in terms of the harm we could do -especially in the context of our history- the rest of the world does indeed have much to fear from us. We should (but rarely do) own the fact that we scare the bejebbies out of many in the world and we really should do something about it. Of course, we won’t.

      “Even the South Koreans are more afraid of the unpredictability of the USA than the evil of the Kim regime…”

      If true, the South Koreans are scared of the wrong people and that in itself is something we USans should own; even those we claim to protect are more scared of us than they are of the real danger.

      But is it true? That’s not the sense I’ve gotten from reading about the tensions.

      • BJ
        Posted February 14, 2018 at 7:34 pm | Permalink

        “But is it true? That’s not the sense I’ve gotten from reading about the tensions.”

        No, it’s not true. There’s a reason they have a US military base, and it’s not because they think it will help make friends with the North.

  20. chris moffatt
    Posted February 14, 2018 at 12:07 pm | Permalink

    “…it’s that Kim Jong-un will give up neither his nuclear program nor his relentless propaganda campaign…”

    Seems to be taking a page from the Trump playbook. I’m afraid anybody expecting much change from either of them will be disappointed.

  21. Steve Pollard
    Posted February 14, 2018 at 12:51 pm | Permalink

    Let’s not forget that very single one of those North Korean athletes, cheerleaders and musicians is being watched over by minders all the time, and will have been told that if they deviate from the script in the slightest detail, or even fraternise with the enemy, they and their families will pay for it when they get home.

    • Steve Pollard
      Posted February 14, 2018 at 12:51 pm | Permalink

      “every”. Sigh.

    • Posted February 14, 2018 at 12:54 pm | Permalink

      How do you know this to be true? I am NOT trying to bait you – I have heard this claim before and am wondering why you think it may be true. Has it happened to other athletes?

      • glen1davidson
        Posted February 14, 2018 at 2:26 pm | Permalink

        It may be overstated (a script?), but ABC news appears to report something along those lines. They do add that the athletes allowed to compete in the Olympics are from the more loyal families in the first place, and most of them may be quite grateful anyway.

        Still, the “minders” are there, according to them. ABC news isn’t beyond question, but not exactly a fake news outlet either.

        Glen Davidson

      • Steve Pollard
        Posted February 14, 2018 at 2:30 pm | Permalink

        Mainly anecdotal evidence: for instance, Matthew Syed, an international table-tennis player turned journalist, has a detailed article in The (London) Times today, in which (among other things) he gives an account of a match against NK in the late 1990s. He tried to set up a joint training session; but the NK “coach”, to whom the players looked with what Syed saw as fear, refused point blank. He is certain that the man was a police minder.

        He also quotes a defector who told him before the London Olympics that returning athletes face six months of debriefing, have to sign non-disclosure agreements, and are told that any transgression would result in punishment, including prison, for them and their families.

        So no hard evidence; but Syed is an honest journalist whose judgement I trust.

        I’m sure there are similar accounts elsewhere.

        • Tim Harris
          Posted February 14, 2018 at 7:23 pm | Permalink

          Steve Pollard is almost certainly right. There are quite a few stories about this sort of thing. And, as with Professor CC, those cheer-leaders creep me out – as have all those highly organised mass demonstrations that the NK government so loves to put on. Equally, I must say, the mass Rudolf Steinerish movement activities at the opening ceremonies I caught a glimpse on TV (involving, presumably, South Koreans) creeped me out, as do (South) Korean boy bands with their faultlessly choreographed movements – they are virtually the bond slaves of their managers, it seems, and one of them recently killed himself. The liking for careful choreographed group-movement seems to be a shared liking between the two countries, though not one that takes on, in the South, the horrible expression of political power it takes on in the North.

  22. Ken Kukec
    Posted February 14, 2018 at 3:16 pm | Permalink

    Totalitarian states tend to be very conscious of the bad publicity attending high-profile defections, and go to great lengths to prevent them. Look what happened with Cuban ballplayers and Russian ballet dancers during the Cold War.

    • Ken Kukec
      Posted February 14, 2018 at 3:17 pm | Permalink

      In response to mikeyc just above.

  23. Richard Sanderson
    Posted February 14, 2018 at 3:56 pm | Permalink

    What’s baffling is that there are still a few “skeptics” who retweet racist clowns like Dan Arel, positively.

    These include:

    *Eiynah (Nice Mangos)
    *Peter Ferguson (Humanisticus)
    *Peter Moloney (Oceanclub)

    …and, of course, the bigots, trolls, liars, tankies, and racists, including:

    Sacha Saeen
    George Ciccariello-Maher
    ** ********
    Kiran Opal.

    Stay clear of this putrid bunch on social media, and the people who retweet their lies and smears.

  24. Posted February 14, 2018 at 4:46 pm | Permalink

    Reblogged this on The Logical Place.

  25. Lee
    Posted February 14, 2018 at 5:47 pm | Permalink

    “It’s almost as if people hate Trump (and his emissary Pence) so much that they’re willing, in their anger, to smile on a representative of the world’s worst country.”

    I think there may be more at work here than hate. People (including myself) honestly think that Trump is monster enough to start a nuclear war for his own fun and profit, leading to unthinkable destruction of both North and South Korea. Under these circumstances, they’re willing to start talking to monsters if that’s what it takes to head off the unthinkable.

    • Posted February 14, 2018 at 5:57 pm | Permalink

      We don’t have to like Korea’s government to have hope for its people and smile when they are allowed to participate in the Olympic Games. Also, the rational approach to the NK problem is engagement and that might involve some smiling.

    • Ken Kukec
      Posted February 14, 2018 at 7:46 pm | Permalink

      My views of Trump’s plans aren’t quite so dire as yours, but I think there is much too high a possibility that Trump will launch a so-called “bloody nose” preemptive attack on North Korea, in order to demonstrate he’s a strongman and to divert attention from Robert Mueller’s ever-tightening investigation and from Trump’s ever-ongoing efforts to obstruct it. I think there is much too high a possibility, as well, that Kim Jong-un would misinterpret such an attack and respond by launching a full-blown counterattack on South Korea, and perhaps on Japan and Guam as well.

      This is an extremely fraught situation, one most Americans do not fully appreciate because they don’t feel their own asses are on the line.

    • BJ
      Posted February 15, 2018 at 9:34 am | Permalink

      Somebody else made this claim above, saying, “[South Korea} did this because they have absorbed the fact that it is now more or less explicit US policy to devalue South Korean lives.”

      This was my response, and rather than type a slightly changed version of it, I’ll just cut and paste it (not because I’m looking to be rude. I’m just lazy and it seems like nothing is lost by doing this instead!):

      I find this to be a really strange reading of the situation. SK has been doing joint activities on and off with NK for years, long before the Trump Administration. The only thing new about this one is that it’s at the Olympics. There is absolutely nothing else different about this, and I’d be interested to see if you have any direct evidence that this is suddenly the new reason for SK doing such things, like quotes from any SK leaders.

      I’ll add to this that these few joint activities at this year’s Olympics seem far less significant an undertaking than others in the past, like family reunions between the two countries, the Kaesong Industrial Region, and others.

  26. gravelinspector-Aidan
    Posted February 14, 2018 at 7:27 pm | Permalink

    Well, I do favor us trying to talk to North Korea, but as I’ve said before, I think it’s futile.

    I’ll leave that as an open question. Western politicians have tediously and repetitively resisted any attempts to try to drag DPRK into a more normal relationship with the rest of the world.
    Why are DPRK pushing nuclear technology? Certainly part of it is a (perceived) need for tools to kill attacker’s families at home. But they also have a desperate energy shortage. Indigenous sources of fuel are largely low-grade coal (“lignite”, polluting in CO2, but more immediately dangerous with SO2, which largely settles out locally) and very minor higher grade coal. If you cast your minds back to pre-Industrial Revolution Britain or America, that’s not what you need to build an industrial base on.
    Optimistically, they’ve got a few decades of fuel left.
    So, they take the nuclear option. Because they have pretty much fuck-all choice. For locally-produced energy resources, even less choice. Given the rhetoric of everyone this side of Jan Pierce’s nag, they rightly distrust anyone outside their borders to provide them with anything reliably. They probably have to run their own NTP service, expecting offensive use through that portal.
    We (no names, no pack drill ; exploration geologists) have a list of targets (1930s tech data, manually digitised) for hydrocarbon extraction. Muggins here lined up as one of the people to go “in-country”. At a conservative estimate, we could provide a non-nuclear locally sourced energy supply adding whole percentage points to their energy supply annually.
    That adds up to – fewer power outages, making consumer goods more attractive.
    – energy to feed Haber-Bosch plants for fertiliser (also makes explosives. “Meh”)
    – increasing local industry – for both employment and need for education
    – a big push – and pull – to become involved in the cash economy of the RoTW.

    Well, we have tried. After 15 years, we (well, my office colleagues) gave up (I’m still up to do the work on the ground). The fucking politicians beat us down. When (not if) the nukes descend on Pyongyang and American cities, cast blame on people for “not trying to avert the problem”, but cast the blame elsewhere. We tried to bring them into the RoTW – but the fucking politicians have wanted war for decades, and are likely to get it. (Canadian cities too? … hmmmm, what do the bookies say? The loudest noise came from America, before POTUS-orange.)

    • eric
      Posted February 14, 2018 at 9:54 pm | Permalink

      It’s a nice thought, but AFAIK pretty much all of NK’s development is related to weapons. Their early support for Russia was in training scientists to design weapons. Their later collaboration with Pakistan’s Kahn was about developing a weapons program, and even their current desire to shift from Pu to U production is about being able to produce weapons more safely (i.e., hidden underground). Also, North Korea’s natural uranium reserves are of very poor quality. Last but not least, I’m not sure China would let them; I think the Chinese probably very much like having NK on their oil leash, and would likely try to prevent NK energy independence with far more effort than they ever put into opposing the NK weapons program.

      All of this doesn’t mean that NK couldn’t be trying to start up a nuclear energy economy (even the article I cite admits at the very end that it’s a possibility). But it makes it very unlikely.

      • gravelinspector-Aidan
        Posted February 15, 2018 at 1:06 pm | Permalink

        With their coal running out, and the door slammed shut on locally-produced oil, and no cash reserves to bring in oil-energy to develop industry and little hydroelectric potential … what options do they have?

  27. eric
    Posted February 14, 2018 at 9:27 pm | Permalink

    Now I’ll grant that Pence could have been civil to Kim Yo-jong, and shook her hand

    What, and touch a woman he’s not married to? Recognizing women as humans is not the Pence way!!!

    It may be small potatoes compared to the seriousness of international relations with a rogue nuclear power, but Pence’s ultra-conservative, sexist views regarding women shouldn’t be forgotten here, as they certainly influence and affect his behavior as VP.

  28. David Duncan
    Posted February 14, 2018 at 10:49 pm | Permalink

    “Here’s another so-called “Leftist” who’s been duped. He’d do really well in North Korea!”

    He’d last about 3.5 seconds in NK before being sent to a re-education camp or worse. Dupe.

    • BJ
      Posted February 15, 2018 at 9:37 am | Permalink

      Once there, he would likely be the first person ever to die from repeated and near-continuous fearful pants shitting.

  29. Posted February 15, 2018 at 11:52 am | Permalink

    I too think that NK is the most reprehensible place on earth as far as human dignity and such goes. But one has to start somewhere if the people are to eventually rejoin the world community. Simply starving all of them by sanctioning their country plays into the hands of their dictators.

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