June 9, 2005


Dancing With the Dictator (JASPER BECKER, 6/09/05, NY Times)

Since South Korea's president at the time, Kim Dae Jung, met with North Korea's Kim Jong Il in 2000 (and pocketed a Nobel Peace Prize for his efforts), Seoul has gone to remarkable lengths to gain the North's trust. Unsurprisingly, the only real changes under this Sunshine Policy have occurred in South Korea. And efforts by President Roh, who was elected in 2002, to engage Kim Jong Il have led him to plunge his own nation into North Korea's world of lies.

For example, Seoul no longer sees any evidence of North Korea's crimes: the government tries to keep South Korean newscasts from showing a smuggled tape of the public execution of "criminals" by the North that has been broadcast in Japan and elsewhere; reports that China is shipping refugees back to North Korea are denied by the Roh government; the North's testing of chemical weapons on live prisoners goes largely unmentioned; and even Pyongyang's apparent preparations for nuclear weapons tests are played down.

South Korea, a member of the United Nations Human Rights Commission, has abstained for the last three years from voting to condemn the North for its abuses. The South's latest national defense white paper even indicates that Seoul no longer considers the North to be its "main enemy" - which implies that the presence of American forces on the peninsula is no longer necessary.

Because Seoul chooses to regard the North as a friendly neighbor, it no longer wants to help North Koreans fleeing the regime - even though its Constitution declares that these refugees have the legal right to become citizens of South Korea. There have been press reports that Seoul has been pressuring China to prevent North Korean escapees from seeking asylum in South Korea's embassy and consulates in China (there are at least 100,000 North Koreans hiding in China).

Last year, when 468 North Korean refugees who had taken refuge in Vietnam were flown into South Korea, Seoul's minister in charge of reunification declared that "we disapprove of mass defections" and promised there would not be another large-scale movement of refugees. In December, the ministry cut the "resettlement" grant program for escaped Northerners by two-thirds and announced that henceforth there would be far greater scrutiny of asylum-seekers (on the questionable grounds that these refugees might be spies).

President Roh has defended this approach by more or less throwing up his hands. He refuses to give even moral support to dissidents in the North, claiming that Kim Jong Il would ruthlessly crush any protests. For Mr. Roh, there is no chance his "partner for peace" will fall from power; in fact, he makes clear that he would not wish the regime to crumble any time soon.

So, what has President Roh received for all this appeasement?

Presumably Mr. Roh has become the greatest guitar player since Robert Johnson?

U.S. defense official secretly visited S. Korea, reportedly threatened to pull U.S. troops (AP, 6/09/05)

A U.S. defense official paid a secret visit to Seoul this week and told his South Korean counterparts that Washington might withdraw its troops if the two sides continue to disagree on various bilateral issues, local media reported Thursday.

South Korea's Foreign Ministry acknowledged the visit by U.S. Deputy Undersecretary of Defense Richard Lawless, but refused to disclose what was discussed during his meetings Monday and Tuesday.

Local newspapers reported that Lawless said Washington might have to withdraw its troops if Seoul keeps disagreeing on a range of issues, including Pentagon plans for its forces to be more flexible and potentially operate across the region. The reports in the Hankyoreh and Munhwa dailies, along with various Internet media, cited South Korean defense officials and diplomats.

Posted by Orrin Judd at June 9, 2005 12:33 PM

Sold his soul at a crossroads, did he? Amusing reference, Mr. Judd

Posted by: John Thacker at June 9, 2005 12:54 PM

Good! Pull them out and the sooner the better.

Posted by: Genecis at June 9, 2005 12:56 PM

I sure hope this report if wrong, and that the meeting was to discuss the final details of the withdrawal...

Posted by: b at June 9, 2005 1:16 PM

Put our bases in Korea at the top of the base closing list!

Posted by: Dave W. at June 9, 2005 1:32 PM

didn't madeline albright literally dance with dear leader ? he probably still has nightmares about that.

Posted by: cjm at June 9, 2005 2:03 PM

We should take any NK refugee SK reject.

Posted by: JAB at June 9, 2005 2:03 PM

We should have pulled the troops out of ROK when the failed to offer three divisions to the effort in Iraq.

Until we do pull the troops out, South Korea and China will persist in trying to make North Korea, into a US problem. After we do pull the troops out, then it will be their problem.

Posted by: Robert Schwartz at June 9, 2005 2:40 PM

Robert - No, it will still be our problem, but at least we won't have 30,000 hostages behind enemy lines.

Posted by: pj at June 9, 2005 3:24 PM

its a golden opportunity for us, after the troops are out. the immolation of seoul will be a superb lesson on what happens when you yap away at the hand that protects you. tokyo et als will be just that more eager to work with us.

Posted by: cjm at June 9, 2005 4:44 PM

Throw me into the briar patch, Br'er Fox.

Posted by: Ptah at June 9, 2005 7:07 PM

Let the chaebol protect Seoul.

Posted by: jim hamlen at June 9, 2005 10:24 PM