Mister Pterodactyl
Monday, March 07, 2005
Hugh Hewitt is mightily exercised over an article from Thursday’s LA Times describing an interview with a NK official. Written by Barbara Demick, the Times’ bureau chief in South Korea, the article reports what the man says in such a way that, if one didn’t know anything about NK, one might think that it’s not such a bad place. That lack of context is what has Hewitt in a lather; it’s propaganda, not news.
I am not too bothered myself; frankly, one would have to be really ignorant not to see through this. [Basically have to not pay attention at all and if you’re not, you’re probably not reading the LAT anyway.] Still, it would have been nice had the writer included a disclaimer, or at least some indication that she is not gullible or naïve enough to actually believe what he says. Instead she gives us this: “because North Koreans seldom talk to US media organizations, his comments offered rare insight into the view from the other side of the geopolitical divide.”
What polite phrasing.

Ms. Demick describes the man, who wished to be identified as “Mr. Anonymous,” as “an affable man in his late 50s who spent much of his career as a diplomat in Europe, [and] has been assigned to help his communist country attract foreign investment.” He calls himself “a businessman with close ties to the government,” and says he doesn’t want his real name used because “his perspective was personal, not official.”
‘A businessman with close ties to the government.’ Read: ‘a midlevel bureaucrat with enough ass-kissing time to be given a peachy out-of-country post.’

He says that NK wants a better relationship with the US, and admits that the economic problems his country is experiencing are the result of over-reliance on Soviet-bloc trade. He’s enthusiastic over NK’s recent announcement about its nukes while at the same time blaming the US for the energy shortage (if you recall, we stopped giving them help due to concerns about their nuclear program). Asked about the gulags, he suggests that they house “social agitators” instead of political prisoners and alludes to the US’s own human-rights offenses, though he doesn’t specify any. He further blames the failure of negotiations on American intransigence; if only we’d agree to one-on-one talks, everything would work out fine. And he downplays the Japanese-abduction issue as “something done by a few overly enthusiastic people long ago,” and claims that NK had tried to make amends. Also, Japanese politicians are making a big deal out of it merely for political gain.
Mr. Anonymous’ ‘personal perspective’ sounds an awful lot like the official one, doesn’t it?

The best part: “the most important point the North Korean said he wanted to convey in the conversation was that his nation was a place like any other.” Americans, he says, “have the wrongheaded notion that North Koreans are unhappy with the system of government under Kim Jong Il,” and “we prefer to have a benevolent father leader.” Westerners tend to stress individual rights, but “we have chosen collective human rights as a nation.”
I’m sure a lot of East Germans used to say the same things. Iraqis, too.

It’s interesting to hear from an actual North Korean. That’s all that was interesting here, though, as his comments could not have been more banal. It’s also disappointing, to say the least, that Ms. Demick (or her editors) could not see that. Nor, apparently, were they aware of the outright falsity of some of his statements. Or of the various human rights reports condemning NK. That’s just outrageous. Maybe Hewitt was right to be so upset after all.

And yes, it did take me three days to write this.

UPDATE: Jason Van Steenwyk is, um, moderately more pissed, and he has excerpts from the US Human Rights Commission report on the NK gulags. Caution: harsh language.

The Steenwyk link came via an email news service I subscribe to. Nice that he's including blogs.
That Kimjongilia is such a beautiful flower. Too bad it sucks the life out of all the other plants in the garden.
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