Sunday, October 15, 2006

B. R. Myers: "Kim Jong Il's suicide watch"

Symbol of the Fascist Movement
(Image from Guide-to-Symbols)

My post of two days ago, "Approaching North Korea: Realpolitik plus Human Rights," hasn't exactly gotten overwhelming support, but I understand the criticisms.

And if Brian Reynolds Myers -- better known as B. R. Myers, author of A Reader's Manifesto, an attack upon postmodern literature, but also author of the scholarly Han Sorya and North Korean Literature, and who is an associate professor of North Korean Studies at Korea University (at the other campus, I think, for I've never met him) -- anyway, if B. R. Myers is correct, then nothing, neither sanctions nor engagement, will work with the Kim Jong-il regime.

In the October 12, 2006 issue of the International Herald Tribune, Myers, writing of "Kim Jong Il's suicide watch," seems to imply that neither approach will work because the regime's ideology has produced not the so-called 'Marxist masses' but a type of fascistic Volk that has encouraged fanaticism among its population. How has it done this? Through emphasis upon racial superiority through racial purity:
[A]lthough journalists persist in calling North Korea a Stalinist state, its worldview is far closer to that of fascist Japan.

Like the Japanese in the 1930s, the North Koreans trace the origins of their race back thousands of years to a single progenitor, and claim that this pure bloodline makes them uniquely virtuous. The country's mass games -- government-choreographed spectacles with a cast of more than 100,000 -- are often mistaken by foreign journalists as exercises in Stalinism. They are in fact celebrations of ethnic homogeneity. "No masses in the world," the state-run Cheollima magazine reminded readers in 2005, "are purer and more upright than our masses."

The North's emphasis upon race reminds one of the views of some South Koreans -- or of what some South Koreans used to believe about Korean purity -- but the North's emphasis is profoundly uncompromising, even aggressive, as "a recent meeting between generals from both Koreas [demonstrated], [for] the North delegation's leader condemned the South for allowing racial intermarriage," something that the South actually needs if it's going to maintain its population at replacement level.

At any rate, here's where Myers gets into the part of his argument that poses problems for proponents of engagement:

Naturally enough, the North Koreans' race theory, like that of the Japanese fascists, actuates a blithe indifference to international law. A uniquely virtuous people has no reason to obey its moral inferiors, be they allies or enemies. China has now learned that despite decades of military and economic assistance, it can draw on no residue of good will in dealing with Pyongyang.
Interestingly, the same holds for the North's relations with South Korea -- and, by extension, to relations with the U.S.:
Neither can the South Koreans, whom the North Koreans will revile for their ethnic treason no matter how much cash they pump northward. This utter imperviousness to gestures of friendship and conciliation bears obvious implications for the prospect of normal relations between North Korea and America.

Myers presents a deeply pessimistic view of engagement, especially since the regime knows precisely what it is doing:

The northern regime has so far restricted its racial propaganda to the home audience, because it wants the world to go on misperceiving it as a Stalinist state. This way we continue to pin our hopes on the kind of trust-building dialogue that worked so well with Communists in the 1980s - and failed so disastrously with the pure-race crowd a half-century earlier.

So, engagement will never work ... but, then again, neither will sanctions:

[T]he irrationality of their worldview is such that we should, at the very least, stop assuming that they would never use their own weaponry.

While Kim may not be suicidal himself, he shares Hirohito's penchant for encouraging this quality in his people: "Defense until Death" is an increasingly popular slogan. In 2003 a colorful poster was disseminated to the foreign press showing a fat missile in flight with a suicide-readiness slogan on it: "Yankee, take a good hard look." That isn't bad advice.
I take this to mean that if we press the North, it's likely to attack.

If Myers is correct, then neither engagement or sanctions will effect a desirable result ... so what do we do? It seems to me that the lesser of two evils would be engagement, for if sanctions are likely to lead to a war profoundly damaging to South Korea, then better engagement than death.

Moreover, while Myers might be correct about the Kim Jong-il regime's fascistic aspects, we can at least wonder if the regime has successfully brainwashed its population. But even if so, would it remain brainwashed under conditions of engagement? Would the regime's entire administration remain loyal? Or would 'ideological corruption' seep into the system as the attraction of wealth draws loyalties elsewhere even within the regime itself?

Do we have anything to lose by engagement?


At 6:48 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

we, and the people of north korea, and the world as a whole have everything to lose by engagement.

you don't allow a toddler to play with a lethal weapon. as hip as it is to make fun of our president's peculiar manner of denouncing everything he can't control, such a situation truly is "unacceptable."

one nation or one individual cannot be permitted to hold enough power to destroy the lives of millions of others. especially when that person has proven himself to be morally and mentally deficient and entirely racist.

one might reach the conclusion that engagement is the only option, but engagement as a tactic of appeasement is just a pretty name for blackmail. again, one psycho/socio-pathic individual is in control of the destinies and lives of millions. unacceptable.

he's like a tapeworm, sapping all the life out of his country. do you know how you deal with a tapeworm. you starve it to death. cut it off completely from what it needs to survive. this may hurt you for a little while, but eventually the worm dies and is passed out of the body. if NK is absolutely sanctioned, embargoed, quarantined from the rest of the world (as the NK ideology claims it wants, which is BS) how long will the regime survive? not long. eventually someone will do what has to be done. granted, this situation is a bit more sensitive than your average one, because this tapeworm has nuclear weapons at his disposal.

you know what this is? this is exactly like that episode of the twilight zone called "it's a good life." 정일 is playing the part of the little boy that everyone must pander to or be destroyed. i challenge you to watch that episode again and not feel the urge to rip that boy into a million pieces.

this is the same situation. we are left with only one option. someone must destroy kim jeong il. if his close associates, his generals, or his people won't do it, if the south koreans won't let it happen naturally through sanctions or total quarantine, then who will do it? someone must muster the courage.

At 7:04 AM, Blogger Horace Jeffery Hodges said...

Anonymous, the problem with sanctions -- as I see things -- is that China (and Russia) will never agree to measures that truly bite. China doesn't want the North to collapse and will therefore continue to supply them with aid.

That's why I suggest engagement -- with the aim of undermining the regime ideologically ... over time.

Jeffery Hodges

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At 7:36 PM, Blogger Hathor said...

I have just found your blog randomly. I find it interesting.
One thing though, the block quotes are almost too small for my old eyes.

At 8:07 PM, Blogger Horace Jeffery Hodges said...

Thanks, Hathor, for the information. I'll try to keep the block quotes regular size from now on.

Jeffery Hodges

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At 3:33 AM, Blogger Conservative in Virginia said...

I'm glad Hathor mentioned the text size. I'm constantly changing the size in order to read both what you write and quote. If the quotes are big enough, your type is too big. Ugh. Even special computer glasses no longer allow me to read small type.

As for Kim, do you think he is suicidal? I don't. He's not a religious nut, and I don't see him ready to die. For what? He has no cause, only himself. So sitting big nukes nearby pointing at him might just keep him from nuking his neighbors. But he has to stay worried that he, personally, would die in a retaliatory bombing.

At 4:04 AM, Blogger Horace Jeffery Hodges said...

CIV, I don't think that he's suicidal, nor does Myers, just that one's geopolitical choices can lead to one's demise ... a sort of suicide.

Jeffery Hodges

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At 6:56 AM, Blogger Al-Ozarka said...

Since it's the far-east we're talking about...what about our losing face in the eyes of the world...and N. Korea?

Isn't honor very important in that part of the world?

At 7:35 AM, Blogger Horace Jeffery Hodges said...

That's a good point, Daddio. Engagement would have to be dependent upon some North Korean concessions, too.

I'd say ... start negotiations with the hardest demand -- denuclearization with full CVID (Complete, Verifiable, Irreversible Dismantlement) in exchange for a Peace Treaty, economic investment, and full diplomatic relations.

Work from there. If the North proves not to be serious, ask them if they really want to be a Chinese dependency forever. Make them think about that future for a while.

If they're unwilling to deal, then there's not much that we can do ... short of war.

Jeffery Hodges

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At 10:13 PM, Blogger Al-Ozarka said...

You make too much damn sense, Jeffery! LOL!

I'm gonna have to stop hangin' 'round here.


At 4:10 AM, Blogger Horace Jeffery Hodges said...

Daddio, that's always been my problem.

I make too much damn sense, but the world doesn't work that way.

Which is another way of admitting that I don't make much sense at all.

Jeffery Hodges

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