Tuesday, August 26, 2003

some top-notch Koreablogging

Visit the Marmot for his latest fisking of a Korea Herald article in which the author attempts (once again) to pass blame off to anyone but South Korea.

Meaty Marmot quote:

Look, South Koreans are "detached and powerless" because they have consistently failed to take on an "issue that directly impinges on their fate," i.e. the North's nuclear weapons program. I mean, Jesus, sometimes it seems like the Western press deals with this issue more than the Korean press. And look at the meaningless shit the politicians up in Seoul have been concerning themselves with - party reform, secret video tapes, judicial uprisings, everything BUT the nuclear crisis. Heck, Seoul seems more concerned with inter-Korean sports events and protecting Hyundai's corrupt business deals with the North than it is with ending the North's nuclear program. The South Koreans passed off responsibility for this problem onto the Americans, so I don't want to hear bitching and moaning about "powerlessness" and "detachment," OK?

In a different Marmot post: China has given some advice (cough) to NK. The Marmot remarks:

To be frank, I'm not sure how serious China is being here - I think this report is more for foreign consumption, i.e. oh, look how helpful China is being, rather than any indication of how China will behave during the six-party talks. As I've said before many a time, China could have put an end to this problem a long, long time ago, and the fact that it didn't says to me that Beijing sees this as an opportunity to win influence / political points vis-a-vis the United States - a very dangerous game to play indeed. Talk is cheap; when I see China actually do something other than protect the North Koreans in the UN, then I'll start believing that the Chinese really want to start playing a productive role on the peninsula.

Meanwhile, Kevin at IA gleefully flays Bill O'Reilly and Fox in a short post (do we really need to say much about this case? O'Reilly's suit was frivolous!).

Kevin again brings out the war hammer and goes to town on South Korean preachiness toward North Korea re: the use of violence in conflict resolution.

What set Kevin off was this, from the Chosun Ilbo (re: the recent NK-SK Universiade fracas, in which NK journalists attacked SK protestors of the NK government):

The violence North Korean journalists inflicted against local anti-Kim Jong Il protesters on Sunday was a violation of the law. If the journalists were unhappy with the demonstration, they should have objected to the Universiade's organizing committee, rather than engaging in a fistfight. Raising fists may be admired in North Korea, but such action is not tolerated in South Korea and in the international community.

Kevin had this to say in response:

Not tolerated in South Korea? "Raising fists" is the standard method of negotiation in South Korea. Violence is a widely used, broadly accepted part of conflict resolution in Korean culture. Unions use violence as a negotiating tool without fear of punishment. Forceful occupations, blockades, sit-ins, public disruptions, and violent rallies are the acceptable standard in South Korean protest culture, and the government does next to nothing to punish that behavior or attempt to change the culture.

What's more, South Korean journalists are no angels:

Reporters routinely use physical force to block politicians and (more commonly) entertainers if they refuse to answer questions.

I'm quite sure that Chosun Ilbo journalists regularly use the same tactics to get quotes from their targets. The same Chosun Ilbo journalists that are preaching about South Korea "not tolerating" the physical force used by North Korean reporters to register their displeasure with protesters.

The use of physical force and violence as means of opposition reaches into all corners of Korean society and all the way to the top. A few years ago an Australian company used video footage of a massive brawl in the Korean parliament to advertise dress shirts, and Koreans were outraged at the accurate depiction of their elected children representatives.

What really caught my eye in Kevin's post, though, was something I myself have contended privately in emails with my friends: the vaunted "Westernization" of countries that have undergone "nation-building" is more surface phenomenon than anything else. Kevin puts it this way, in language that repeats almost exactly something I'd said:

In short, there is absolutely no respect for the rule of law in South Korea. Respect only exists for the force of law, and the government perpetuates the vicious cycle of violent protests and civil disorder by recognizing and accepting violent protests as legitimate means to an end. Violent protests, blockades, and illegal occupations are always simply broken-up, but arrests are rare, and convictions with meaningful punishment are unheard of.

This very point, "rule of law," is a quintessentially Western notion, I think, very much rooted in Greek and hebraic culture. Logos is extremely important to Western society. It's an example of a "core value," if you will, that I don't think has really taken root in any non-Western "nation-built" countries except perhaps in name only. This is one of the major reasons why I can't view the Iraq project with complete confidence, even as I root for its success. The kind of reorientation we're seeking in Iraq simply may not be possible without literally decades of unrelenting effort to change millions of minds. I don't think my doubts make me a doomsayer; I simply think it's important to keep a realistic view of what we're undertaking any time we engage in nation-building.

Toward the end of his post, Kevin gawks at this passage from the Chosun Ilbo article:

A new "rule" for inter-Korean contact must be devised. That rule must focus on helping North Koreans understand the diversity of free and open societies and tolerate external criticism.

Kevin scoffs:

Jesus H, this is the topping on the hypocrite cake. Am I actually listening to the South Koreans lecture North Koreans about the value of the diversity of free and open societies? This, in a country which values diversity so much that a TV anchor who expressed an opinion critical of violent anti-American protests was promptly fired because viewers demanded it. The diversity of a free and open society is so valued in Korea that the reaction to jokes by Jay Leno was to flood NBC with complaints and file a lawsuit claiming Korea's national pride had been damaged.

Sure, diversity is valued...as long as the you've got pure Korean blood. Korea is free and open as long as you're on the right side of the all-powerful "public sentiment." External criticism is tolerated about as much as external invaders. Before you go teaching your northern brothers about diversity and tolerance, how about taking a crash course in it yourself.

My apologies to both Kevin and the Marmot for quoting so MUCH from their blogs, but I'm a lazy bastard at heart and these were simply too good to pass up. I'll restrain myself in the future.

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