Fred Yong 
Member since Nov 4, 2009


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Re: “Understanding North Korea

Ms. Wentz, evidently a reporter for the East Bay Express, wrote an article about East Bay activists. A substantial number of the comments have testified to the appreciation people have felt not only for expanding the dialogue about Korean issues but also importantly the news the reporter provided concerning the unusual day-to-day harassment these activists have confronted. Whereas I can disagree with a commenter like Slim and give my take on the nature of negotiations (e.g, the Agreed Framework of 1994 and who reneged on the deal), the value of the accounts of aid workers on the DPRK's food distribution system, or the impact of floods prior to the Arduous March of the 90s, it is very different to write rebuttals in the virtual "backyard" (i.e., comments section) of a news article than it is to face the real, concretely deleterious dangers of being "spied on, red-baited, labeled North Korean sympathizers, fired from jobs, and... the targets of smear campaigns." Considering how one-sided the conversation on inter-Korean issues has been, facts that may seem commonplace to some (such as the number of bombs dropped on Pyongyang) represent for others "fresh thinking on North Korea." Even so, the article isn't, and doesn't pretend to be, anything like a master's thesis by a policy analyst. We are dealing with the challenges of fostering truly democratic dialogue about Korea, specifically as these challenges impinge upon the efforts of a handful of individuals to offer the public a story different than the public may be used to. When people's committees were forming throughout the peninsula after liberation from decades of colonialism under Japan, why were they not consulted for the kind of government the Korean people wished to have? Why do efforts for similar democratic processes today have to confront such underhanded methods to undermine them? Surely, it is not because as B.R. Myers would have it, Koreans believe they are "a pure-blooded race whose innate goodness has made them the perennial victims of rapacious foreign powers" or "innocent children on the world stage--and to ascribe evil to foreigners alone" (http://www.opinionjournal.com/editorial/feature.html?id=110009427). Surely Myer's ethnic stereotyping is a less convincing explanation for why politically-minded Koreans take issue with the military interventionists who conspire to shut them up than the various real-life accounts this article gives.

Posted by Fred Yong on 11/08/2009 at 11:36 PM

Re: “Understanding North Korea

Repeating the accusation that activists for Korean peace and reconciliation are unconcerned with the human rights of North Korean citizens does not make the accusation true. Commenter Slim is trying to make a joke by characterizing the efforts of peace activists as "singing Kumbaya and dancing on the graves of people you purport to want to help" -- ironically one of the only comments trying to be funny (that at the same time unaccountably tries to make us think it's "Kim Jong-il" who is doing the laughing). Likewise, accusing these activists of "strawman arguments" does not, Slim, disguise your own: does anyone on any side of the spectrum deny the political culpability of the state? Nowhere will you find a sane activist of the persuasion that among "North Koreans who aren't minders on the USS Pueblo" there aren't those who have experienced great suffering for political reasons. It is unlikely, though, that military intervention will help the country: and I can only presume, since your comments don't say, that is the reason you take issue with the agenda these activists appear to share of a peace treaty to end hostilities.

Posted by Fred Yong on 11/07/2009 at 9:42 AM

Re: “Understanding North Korea

Eventually this comments section will likely flood with the usual parley of cold war ideologues, no small thanks to cold-hearted reactionaries like "Oaktown 2 Korea" and sophistic blowhards like Joshua Stanton. Before it does, and you're forced to defend your position with all the tenuous Google Earth captures and ad hominem vitriol at your disposal, admit to yourself that you don't know enough. What a moment a deja vu: remember the case Colin Powell gave the UN in 2003 for a chemical weapons program in Iraq (http://www.informationclearinghouse.info/article3710.htm)? Were you rattling your sabres then, too? Or, if we haven't found the WWII analogies tiresome enough for their capacity to support either side of a contemporary issue, Nazi Germany felt nothing but sympathy for the persecution of the Danzig's German minority, prior to the regime's takeover of the city. Crocodile tears. I suppose an employee of Homeland Security, with all of the prerogatives it affords thanks to its domestic spying program, could always look a naysayer up. And who knows what miseries might follow? Is speaking one's mind really that important that you'd risk ticking off a member of the "Inner Party"?

Posted by Fred Yong on 11/04/2009 at 10:09 PM

Re: “Understanding North Korea

Sigh of relief -- one more clearly drawn distinction in print to add to what anyone who's read a little Korean history knows: on the one hand, there are (red-baited) activists today dedicated to helping improve conditions in North Korea, working from an ultimately impartial understanding (given the facts) of various nations' roles in isolating it. On the other, we have shameless apologists of militarization who count on the general ignorance of the public and niavete of other kinds of 'activists' (you can notice, among these latter, a penchant for free metaphorizing across huge expanses of history, drawing in particular comparisons with the most viscerally charged impressions from world events, rather than sheer historical analysis) to advance their failing agenda. This was a good article, despite the typos.

Posted by Fred Yong on 11/04/2009 at 2:27 AM

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