Tuesday, December 7, 2010

The Plight of North Korea

This isn't Japan-related, but North Korea is, uh...near Japan (a hop, skip, and a ballistic missile away, at any rate)? So I'm gonna stretch on this. I found this op-ed on the LA Times site to be very poignant: Save the North Koreans!

I can only speak for myself, but although I have felt some sympathy for the N. Korean people, mostly when I think of that country what comes to mind is an unstable regime with a crazy leader and a huge army. I'm not saying it would be a good idea for the U.S. to attack N. Korea and try to topple its government Iraq-style, but it did strike me that I have been rather thoughtless in discounting the suffering going on there. There are so many human rights violations going on there (and in China, too, for the record) that so many people are willing to dismiss or turn a blind eye to. This kind of thing is largely ignored, while Twitter, Facebook, and the blogosphere fill to the metaphorical brim with news and opinion about Wikileaks and Julian Assange. Oh, what a world.


  1. The rest of the world needs to be on board with helping North Korea, and it's not. American is in an unfortunate position of being damned if they do and damned if they don't. For some reason, we're supposed to take care of the world and are criticized when we don't and then criticized again if we do. Frankly, as an American, I'm sick of it.

    Europe and the other developed countries of the world can step up to the plate rather than wait for America to be the one that always gets dirty. But, they don't care, do they? It's not happening over their fence so they don't care. Hell, even when it does happen on their turf they don't care. The U.S. had to step in and take the first serious steps in Bosnia to stop genocide there while the rest of the world sat around examining it's manicure.

    Frankly, I'm tired of the political cowardice and the economic greed that keeps the rest of the world from taking part in dealing with the hard jobs all the while lambasting the U.S. for its efforts (which are imperfect, granted), and I think the U.S. should stop stepping in so that other countries figure out that they need to either put up or shut up. We are not the world's babysitter, police, or moral guardians.

  2. hanks for the comment, Orchid!

    Yeah, I understand how you feel! Sometimes I also think the U.S. should disengage itself, but then there's that overused saying about power and responsibility.

    Your point is well-taken, but unfortunately I think many or most countries won't stand up for the weaker ones, and that is why the U.S. often must. I don't think the solution to injustices that no one but the U.S. will address is for the U.S. to cross it's arms and stand back in the hopes that someone else will step up.

    It's an imperfect analogy, but it reminds me of a schoolyard. If you see a smaller kid getting beat up, you can't just wait around and hope someone else will do something about it. Sure, if all the other kids united against the bully it would be great, but it's most likely not gonna happen (because usually the kid getting beat up is weak and unpopular). By not stepping in, of course you won't antagonize anyone, but you certainly won't be doing any favors to the poor kid who's getting punched in the stomach.

    We aren't the world's police, you're right, but people of high moral character must hold themselves to a certain standard, which includes defending the weak when they are in a position to do so.

  3. The problem with North Korea isn't North Korea. I mean, yes, North Korea has a trainload of problems, but the sticking point, the thing that keeps anybody from doing anything about any of it at this point, is external.

    The problem with North Korea is China, and specifically the PROC government. We can't do anything in North Korea, because of China.

    Sure, China is not as powerful as the US, but they're still powerful enough that it would be foolish to start anything with them. You absolutely don't want to go to war with China, because A) they're a firmly established nuclear power and B) they can field a very large army. You can't use the UN to make China be reasonable, because they have a veto-wielding permanent seat on the council. (It was almost certainly a mistake to give China that permanent seat in the first place, but it's far too late to revoke it now.) What can you do? Trade sanctions would be ineffective, because the PROC government cares more about their political positions than they care about their economy.

    Bottom line, there isn't anything we can do over there.

    The only reason we were able to do anything in South Korea is because we did it right after WWII, while China was busy with an internal civil war and the current government did not yet have secure control over China.

  4. The US doesn't go to war with China because they have no reason to. Doesn't the US borrow ample sums of money from them on a regular basis? Not to mention being the chief source of a large swath of the consumer goods market. Involving China in the argument as a belligerent is ignorant at best.

    The CCP leadership cares far more about the economy than any sort of political position. I lived in China for several years and I assure you that, when it comes to running a business and making money exchanges, they are as far from anything resembling "communist". A truly 'communist' society does not avail for international trade or allowing capitalist business owners (like Apple or Microsoft) so to set up shop in their human-labor farms. The factory owners in China resemble in nearly all accounts, from abusive labor practices, hoarding of wealth, and political influence, as the same bourgeois in Europe that fomented communism as a social and economic theory to begin with. Everything that China has accomplished has been BECAUSE they have abandoned economic collectivist practices.

    Also, China was established as the People's Republic in 1949 -- BEFORE the US in the Korean War began in 1950. The Chinese Civil War was already over by that time. In fact, the Korean War after MacArthur's march to the Yalu river was principally fought between the United States and China (who the PRC dubbed 'volunteers' at the time -- yeah right). The conflict might be more accurately called the "Sino-US War", but it fell on top of a Korean conflict on the Korean peninsula.

    Sorry to be that 'super internet fact-checker' but those points were just screaming at me.

    As per the schoolyard metaphor... North Korea wouldn't be a bully so much as the marginally psychopathic kid walking around, pulling the heads off ants, and bashing his own head on the basketball post. He has rich parents and a really popular brother, but no one really wants to talk to him, and everyone subtly expects him to go postal some day soon.

    A major issue with sympathizing with North Korean people is that, even if you tried to do so in real-time, you couldn't. While there is a sense of desperation for human plight on those people -- they have literally been brought up from day one with no point of social or cultural relativity to any other person or group of people in the world -- including other Asian societies. It is like speaking to someone who cannot understand the concept of color, and then trying to describe it to them.

  5. Thanks for your thoughts, guys.

    Yes, China is a big problem, too.

    Good thoughts, E, but I respectfully disagree with your take on N. Korea in the schoolyard metaphor. The "ants" the North Korean government is pulling the heads off of are its own people. Just because that's the only life they know doesn't mean it's morally justifiable for the rest of the world to stand idly by watching and shrugging its shoulders.