June 14, 2005


Bush Meets Privately With Noted N. Korean Defector (Peter Baker and Glenn Kessler, June 14, 2005, Washington Post)

President Bush met privately yesterday with a well-known North Korean defector who spent 10 years in a prison camp and has since become an outspoken critic of his homeland's government, a move that could provoke Pyongyang just as it was reviving stalled nuclear talks.

Bush invited Kang Chol Hwan, a journalist and director of the Democracy Network Against North Korean Gulag, to visit with him in the Oval Office and recount his tale of suffering in North Korea, where he was arrested in 1977 at age 9 and had to eat rats, cockroaches and snakes to survive. The White House did not list the meeting on the president's public schedule, but a spokesman later confirmed it.

According to aides, Bush has been fascinated with Kang's story ever since he began reading the former prisoner's book, "The Aquariums of Pyongyang: Ten Years in a North Korean Gulag," published in English in 2001. Bush has recommended the book to senior White House and Bush administration officials, who have been poring through it lately as well.

"He found the book compelling and wanted to talk to the author," said spokesman Frederick L. Jones II. "These are issues that are of great interest to the president -- freedom and democracy."

The timing of the meeting could fuel simmering tensions between Washington and Pyongyang a week after North Korea signaled that it was ready to resume six-party negotiations about the future of its nuclear weapons program.

Could? It's the purpose of the meeting.

Posted by Orrin Judd at June 14, 2005 7:15 AM

Any ideas on how they'll get an invasion over with the public? I doubt WMDs part 2 will work.

Posted by: at June 14, 2005 12:28 PM

How dare they call North Korea a gulag! In a gulag, you get honey-glazed chicken every night for dinner, free religious materials, and complimentary musical selections from the contemporary pop charts...

Posted by: b at June 14, 2005 12:39 PM


Why not?

Posted by: oj at June 14, 2005 12:54 PM

Unless you dig up WMDs in Iraq before D-day, the mockery in the echo chamber will swamp public support.

Posted by: at June 14, 2005 1:19 PM

Americans don't listen to the echo chamber--they aren't in it. And George Bush doesn't care.

Posted by: oj at June 14, 2005 1:21 PM

And the complications in Iraq haven't made Americans a bit trigger shy?

Posted by: at June 14, 2005 1:34 PM

And the complications in Iraq haven't made Americans a bit trigger shy?

Posted by: at June 14, 2005 1:34 PM

They don't control the trigger.

Posted by: oj at June 14, 2005 1:43 PM

So you think Bush would go in with 40% public support? 20%?

Posted by: at June 14, 2005 2:05 PM

Forget talking to Bush; put him on Oprah, and then see what the public says we should do about lil' Kim.

Posted by: Mike Earl at June 14, 2005 2:10 PM

0% + 1

Posted by: oj at June 14, 2005 2:39 PM

Uh-huh. Now I know what a true Bushite is.

Posted by: at June 14, 2005 2:55 PM

that's all he had for iraq.

Posted by: oj at June 14, 2005 3:00 PM

He had majority support and a credible threat, unless it was all a big con which you seem to imply. After an extended and uncertain Iraq war he won't have an easy sell, and until Iraq is settled and we're out of there he ain't invading anything without another 9/11.

Posted by: at June 14, 2005 3:25 PM

It was all a big con. There was no threat.

Posted by: oj at June 14, 2005 3:28 PM

Well then it's fortunate Americans are such a vastly stupid people. I kind of doubt he'll get lucky a second time.

Posted by: at June 14, 2005 3:33 PM

And why would the US want a presence on North Korean soil? Any significant militairy activity by the US would likely result in North Korea attacking the South. After that battle has been won (with US aid) South Korea will have to move in and establish a better/normal government, no matter how much they dislike the idea of paying for it all. The big question is what does Seoul look like after this war.

Posted by: Daran at June 14, 2005 3:47 PM

A couple of years ago, the US might have cared about what happened in Seoul. Probably not now. That was the purpose of Roh's visit last week.

No one (except the gotcha media and the throaty left) cares about WMD in NK. And too many Democrats are on record as saying that NK is a much more present danger than Iraq ever was.

In their eagerness to cut Bush about the reasons for fighting Iraq, the left eviscerated themselves on opposing any attack on NK. All Bush needs to do is run video of Kerry, Edwards, Dean, Lieberman, Daschle, Pelosi, Reid, Bill and Hillary, and even Al Gore saying that NK is far more dangerous than Iraq ever was. "There is the (entire) leadership of the Democratic party, on the record, telling the American people that NK must be dealt with. That time is now."

The DU will explode, but what can the party do? Nothing. If they denounce Bush, they denounce themselves, and they will be in a worse position than Kerry was when he visited the Grand Canyon in August 2004. Talk about being boxed in.

Posted by: jim hamlen at June 14, 2005 4:15 PM


Lucky? It's worked for Polk, McKinley, Wilson, FDR, Truman, JFK, Reagan, Bush I, Clinton, Bush II...

Posted by: oj at June 14, 2005 4:34 PM

Anybody who wants to start a war with the DPRK has his head so far up his derriere it will take dynamite to get it out.

The DPRK ain't Iraq. It has nukes and it will use them even in a suicide effort. Do you really want Tokyo and Seoul to get irradiated? If you do, then you might want to bone up on economics just a tad.

The Norks will fight. They have a million man army which, unlike the Iraqis, is actually trained and literate. They can fight and they will fight. The topography is against us. The population of North Korea is opposed to us and there is no shortage of anti-Americanism in the South.

Americans are whining non-stop about a casualty rate in Iraq that is less than that in Detroit, Atlanta or New Orleans. When we start shipping home dead Americans by the hundreds on a weekly basis from Korea, then what?

Posted by: bart at June 14, 2005 4:51 PM


Would you drive a North Korean car from here to Los Angeles on a bet?

Posted by: oj at June 14, 2005 5:00 PM


3 or 4 weeks (or even 10) is about all it would last, if that. Iraq is big, diverse, and full of troublemakers. NK is small, homogeneous to the extreme, and probably 25,000 of its million-man 'army' eat in a day what you eat for breakfast (if that). The rest, well, they might get a snack now and then. It would be messy for Seoul, but our reluctance to act for that reason alone seems to have dissipated in the past year.

If the choice is little Kim for the next 10 years (with more weapons and more insanity) or a hard war soon, it is easy enough, no?

Posted by: ratbert at June 14, 2005 5:00 PM

we aren't going to fight a war in n. korea so its a waste of time to speculate on that. dear leader will die and the place will eventaully merge up with the south, so that all the dprk generals can get their daewoo dealerships. we just like to play head games with the little sprout, cause he's so much fun to watch.

Posted by: cjm at June 14, 2005 5:19 PM


You haven't a clue. Iraq wasn't unified behind Saddam. The DPRK is unified behind Little Kim. His 'juche' philosophy and his weird personality cult have precedent in Korean history. It is after all, the Hermit Kingdom.

His army is well-fed, something which encourages its loyalty. They are an elite Praetorian class in the nation and ambitious Norksters aspire to join.

It's not about Seoul or Tokyo. It's the damage that the destruction to either or both would cause to the US economy. A simple perusal of any chart of foreign investment in the US should help you to understand that.

It's been two years and we're still in Iraq, aren't we?


I wouldn't drive a Chrysler product from my house to the Shop-Rite, and they make the Abrams.


That someone hasn't bumped off Little Kim by now so that all those DPRK generals can get their Daewoo dealerships and Holiday Inns utterly escapes me.

Posted by: bart at June 14, 2005 5:43 PM

Personally, I think we should just announce USFK is leaving. That alone is probably enough to get Dear Leader to attack. If not, we should just go ahead and attack.

The damage to Seoul is a plus, not a minus. It's the appropriate price they should pay for their attitude.

As for Tokyo, why do you think we started doing this:


Posted by: joejoe at June 14, 2005 6:43 PM


When the Leader is dead, will the starving still fight for him?

And how will NK re-supply once war starts? From China? I think not.

Your comment about the NK generals is telling:
little Kim is more likely to be killed by his army than ours (in the run-up).

One major difference between NK and Iraq - if we take it, there won't be thousands of moonbats sliding across the border with China to "insurge". The Chinese will close the border as tight as possible to prevent ANYONE from crossing.

Posted by: ratbert at June 15, 2005 11:08 AM


American 'victory' in a war against the DPRK is a foregone conclusion. The point is whether such a victory will be a Pyrrhic one. I would suggest that a war, in which tens of thousands of American soldiers are killed in a very short period of time, the cities of Tokyo and Seoul are irradiated destroying the economic infrastructure of two of our three most important non-Hemispheric trading partners and throwing the world's economy into a tailspin, and a nuke or two has been thrown at the US, isn't worth the cost of what victory would bring us.

Maybe the actual war would only last a couple of months, but the damage will take decades to repair.

My question still stands. The other leadership of the DPRK stands to benefit a lot more by switching rather than fighting. Yet, the leadership appears to be loyal to Little Kim. The logic behind that eludes me, just as it does with El Tirano Castro still being in power, and until I figure out why they remain loyal, I would refrain from feeling certain that they can be turned.

Posted by: bart at June 15, 2005 12:25 PM


It would end nuclear proliferation.

Posted by: oj at June 15, 2005 12:30 PM



Anyone with a decent bankroll and a Russian phrase book has nukes or can get them in very short order. The engineering is not difficult. The use of WMD proliferation as a casus belli is idiotic. All we can hope for is that the holder of nukes isn't loopy enough to get his country annihilated. What makes the DPRK important is that Little Kim just might be loopy enough to get his country annihilated if it means imposing some serious damage on the ROK, Japan and the US.

Posted by: bart at June 15, 2005 12:51 PM

Rogue nukes aren't a serious concern. Forcible disarmament is an important goal.

Posted by: oj at June 15, 2005 1:00 PM

Forcible disarmament of nations where the leadership doesn't care about casualties is chimerical at best.

Posted by: bart at June 15, 2005 8:36 PM

Makes it easy--no one cares about the casualties. That's why we could nuke Japan and firebomb them and Germany,

Posted by: oj at June 15, 2005 10:15 PM