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Re: “Understanding North Korea

The Wentz article on North Corea is extremely valuable for inserting nuance and context into a conversation that has been dominated by the perception of the US as a "savior," and North Corea as the "villains." Hopefully the article will motivate people to learn more and develop a more informed perspective on the issue.

Unfortunately, the conservative blowhards here are quick to vilify anyone who doesn't adhere to their narrow doctrine. No one is advocating for the existence of prison camps in the DPRK. None of the activists in the article are championing the shortage of food, fuel, and necessities for citizens in the North. However, the moment anyone starts questioning the popular, reductive, heavy-handed depictions of these issues, conservative attacks about being un-American traitors, communists, or spies follow.

The illberal, racially paternalistic perspective towards Corea still dominates conversations about the peninsula. North Coreans are either slavering brainwashed masses, or they are pathetic, powerless, oppressed people in need of salvation / education from the West (Whites.) These characterizations deeply affirm the righteousness of the American way and justify the colonial practices of the US in South Corea. The outcry against North Corea has more to do with bolstering racist notions of America's place in the world rather than a real concern for the well-being of the Corean people.

Where were these champions of the Corean people when the leader of America's occupying forces (General John Hodge in 1945) declared all Coreans "an enemy of the American people?" Where were these champions of Corean freedom when my people were being murdered in Kwangju? Why did they sit by idly when countless women were forced into a brutal sexual servitude for the US military?

Anti-North Corean pundits quickly equate such questions to "denying a holocaust," as if human rights is a zero sum equation. There is no reason why we cannot be concerned with BOTH the US's abyssmal human rights record in Corea as well as human rights in the DPRK -especially if the US if trying to argue against DPRK practices from "moral high ground."

If the war crimes in Shincheon, Suweon, Daejeon, and Masan (to name a few) inform the DPRK perspective, shouldn't we try to understand what happened? Did the US's unbashed support for a series of totalitarian military dictatorships in the South affect the DPRK's international policy? Why exclude this issue from the conversation? If the US embargo played a major role in the DPRK famine, shouldn't we try to understand this? If not, who is the holocaust denier?

Ultimately, the point of pundits like John Staunton is to demonize North Corea. Coreans who subscribe to his view are embraced, but Coreans who undermine his view with a critical perspective on both America and South Corea are slandered and dismissed. He preys upon the fear, shame, and silence around US / Corean relations in the Corean community in order to assert himself as an authority on the issue.

So while Westerners like Staunton and "Stewart" may feel "raped" by North Corea, there is a protracted silence around the legacy of literal mass rape and massacres in Corea. I applaud the efforts of Corean activists to overcome the humilation and denial that dominates our consciousness about Corea. I applaud the efforts of Coreans in America to take a leadership role in the conversation about North Corea.

Posted by kwok sa jin on 11/06/2009 at 8:29 AM

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