Understanding North Korea

While many people can recite the anti-north Korea catechism – garrison state, hermit kingdom, international pariah – they’ll admit that what they know about the country, apart from the comic book caricatures dished up by the media, is fuzzy and vague. But this has always been so. As early as 1949, Anna Louise Strong could write that “there is little public knowledge about the country and most of the headlines distort rather than reveal the facts.” (3) Cumings dismisses US press reports on north Korea as “uninformative, unreliable, often sensationalized” and as deceiving, not educational.


One of the reasons the headlines distort, even today, especially today, can be summed up in a syllogism. World War II, as it was waged in the Pacific, was in large part a struggle between the dominant economic interests of the United States and the dominant economic interests of Japan for control of the Pacific, including the Korean peninsula. Japan had occupied Korea from 1910 to 1945, until it was driven out by the Korean resistance, one of whose principal figures was north Korea’s founder, Kim Il-sung, and the entry of the Soviet Union into the Pacific war. After Tokyo’s surrender, the US tried to assert control over Japan’s former colonial possessions, including Korea. Kim’s guerilla state upset those plans. The corporate rich and hereditary capitalist families that dominate both US foreign policy and the mass media recognize north Korea to be a threat to their interests. The DPRK condones neither free trade, free enterprise nor free entry of US capital. Were it allowed to thrive, it would provide a counter-example to US-enforced neo-liberalism, a model other countries might follow, a model revolutionaries, like Che, have found inspiration in. The headlines deceive, rather than educate, because north Korea is against the interests of those who shape them.


My perspective is not that of the mainstream or of the investors, bankers and wealthy families who, in multifarious ways, define it. I am not for subjugating north Korea, nor for sanctions or war or forcing north Korea to disarm, and I am certainly not for what John Bolton, US ambassador to the UN, once called Washington’s policy toward north Korea. Asked by the New York Times to spell out Washington’s stance toward the DPRK, Bolton “strode over to a bookshelf, pulled off a volume and slapped it on the table. It was called ‘The End of North Korea.'” “‘That,’ he said, ‘is our policy.'” (4) I do not believe that Kim Jong-il is insane. The insanity slur is a way of giving some substance to the perfectly ludicrous claim that north Korea is a danger to the world. It is not. The only threat north Korea poses is the threat of a potential self-defense to long-standing US plans to dominate the Korean peninsula from one end to the other. read on


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