After a pre-Christmas week full of massive backlash for caving to a vague and unsubstantiated threat by hackers supposedly from North Korea, Sony has reversed course and decided it will allow The Interview to be shown after all – thus all but ending what Senator John McCain absurdly called “the greatest blow to free speech that I’ve seen in my lifetime probably”.
Don’t get me wrong: it’s unequivocally good news that North Korea (or whoever hacked Sony) won’t succeed in invoking a ludicrous heckler’s veto over a satirical movie starring Seth Rogen, but there are far greater threats to our freedom of speech here in the United States. For example, Sony itself. [Read more]
– http://wp.me/p4sUqu-12p – Michael’s Blog
Yeonmi Park was four years old when she learned to silence her feelings and free will. Her mother warned her that the birds at school could hear her when she whispered, that her thoughts were never hers alone.
Five years later, she watched as her friend’s mother was executed. Growing up in North Korea, she’d been taught that giving one’s life for the totalitarian Kim dynasty was the most honorable thing one could do. She had seen public executions before, but this one would haunt her for years to come. [Read more]
– http://wp.me/p4sUqu-T9 – Michael’s Blog
Photographs taken from inside North Korea give a rare glimpse of everyday life for residents living inside the notorious hermit kingdom.
Two Associated Press photojournalists, Eric Talmadge and David Guttenfelder, were granted unprecedented access to travel across the country – while accompanied by a minder at all times, of course. [Read more]
– http://wp.me/p4sUqu-S8 – Michael’s Blog
A North Korean official has publicly acknowledged to the international community the existence of his country’s “reform through labour” camps, apparently in response to a highly critical UN human rights report.
Diplomats for the regime also told reporters that a top North Korea official had visited the headquarters of the European Union and expressed interest in dialogue, with discussions on human rights expected next year. [Read more]
– http://wp.me/p4sUqu-JE – Michael’s Blog
The 31-year-old’s walk was somewhere between a limp and a waddle. The speculation was feverish: Kim Jong-un was ill, he was addicted to Swiss cheese, he had gout, he had disappeared – was he still alive?
The question still remains – Kim has not been seen in public for a month – but yesterday, among the many sober suits at the Asian Games in Incheon, South Korea, appeared a Vice Marshal of the Korean People’s Army, the North’s second most powerful person. Wearing an olive uniform, Hwang Pyong-so had arrived. [Read more]
– http://wp.me/p4sUqu-Jj – Michael’s Blog
The two Koreas seem at an impasse. In March Park Geun-hye’s Dresden speech held out a hand of friendship. Brusquely dismissing this, North Korea showered insults on the South’s President.
Fortunately rhetoric is not the whole reality. For over a decade, one project has shown how both Koreas can cooperate to their mutual gain. The joint venture Kaesong Industrial Complex (KIC), a short drive from Seoul just across the Demilitarized Zone (DMZ), has weathered many storms.
In May 2010 Seoul banned trade and investment with Pyongyang after the sinking of the warship Cheonan, but wisely exempted Kaesong. Last year when the North pulled out its 55,000 workers, President Park patiently negotiated the KIC’s reopening under a new joint management structure. [Read more]
– http://wp.me/p4sUqu-Fq – Michael’s Blog
Mark Twain supposedly said that while history does not repeat itself, it sometimes rhymes. Bevin Alexander’s book on the Korean War and its wider context is a good reminder that even the wisest statesmen and soldiers may base their decisions on false assumptions and wishful thinking – and that this is not a new thing. The greatest error of decision-makers in the Korean War was failing to understand that China was an actor in its own right and not simply a puppet of Russia or “world communism,” and that it had both the will and the ability to defend its national interests when threatened.
Alexander is a well-known popular military historian with a workmanlike writing style and a good eye for the telling detail or anecdote. In this latest book he turns his attention to the historical context and course of the Korean War, with an appropriate emphasis on General. Douglas MacArthur. It is a book he was uniquely prepared to write, having been an active duty Army combat historian during that war. [Read more]
– http://wp.me/p4sUqu-Bj – Michael’s Blog
Here we are, almost at the end of the US-ROK joint military exercise Ulchi Freedom Guardian (UFG), and the situation is eerily calm. DPRK commentary at the start of the exercise last week was relatively restrained, especially in view of the warnings the North had issued over the preceding months. Meanwhile, North Korean reaction to numerous recent ROK offers to reengage has been of the kicking-the-tires variety. So, is it safe to ask: Are we out of the woods? Have we successfully tiptoed past Vesuvius?
For once, we appear to have stumbled into a charmed glen of rationality. Well, maybe that’s an overstatement, but we can work with the image for now. So far, signs that things are heading in the right direction come not so much from something the North Koreans have said, but from the sounds of silence. Indeed, one of the hardest things to teach new analysts is how to listen for what isn’t said, and then figure out what it means. [Read more]
– http://wp.me/p4sUqu-yt – Michael’s Blog
This year was marked by a sudden outburst of political exchanges and economic negotiations between North Korea and Russia. In March and April, Pyongyang was visited by Rustam Minnikhanov, president of the Republic of Tatarstan, Alexander Galushka, Russian minister for the Development of the Far East, and Yuri Trutnev, Russian vice-premier.
In early June, North Koreans declared that Russian companies operating in North Korea would henceforth enjoy a number of unprecedented privileges. Russians would be allowed to use the internet without restriction and would be issued visas under greatly simplified regulations. Finally, it was also declared that transactions between the two countries would be undertaken not in US dollars but Russian rubles. [Read more]
– http://wp.me/p4sUqu-91 – Michael’s Blog
Even before he was caught playing poker on his iPhone at a Senate hearing on Wednesday, Sen. John McCain (R-Ariz.) had already sent a message: Anything less than an extensive aerial assault on the Syrian regime by American forces would be an unacceptable approach to the conflict in the Middle East. This was hardly surprising. Over the last two decades, McCain has rarely missed an opportunity to call for the escalation of an international conflict. Since the mid-1990s, he’s pushed for regime change in more than a half-dozen countries—occasionally with disastrous consequences.
Here’s a quick review of McCain’s eagerness for military action and foreign entanglements. [Read more]
– http://wp.me/p4sUqu-8K – Michael’s Blog