March 29, 2006


Audiences in Seoul face the music about North Korea (Donald Kirk, 3/30/06, The Christian Science Monitor)

Telling the world "what it is like" motivated the director, a North Korean refugee, to press on with the production in the face of funding problems and a government that remains extremely uncomfortable with criticism of its northern neighbor.

Officials called asking the show not to go on, says director Jung Sung San, who escaped to China after leaping from a truck carrying him to prison in 1994. He had been sentenced to 13 years in jail for listening to South Korean music. "We got anonymous calls telling us not to do it. We toned it down and revised it a lot."

It's a useful exercise to look at the Koreas -- the North which we can all agree is genuinely evil and the South which is relatively Westernized and decent -- and see how so many of those who are in the moral right still insist on excusing or ignoring what's going on across the border. It makes it easier to understand that folks here similarly become apologists for our enemies and downplay the truth.

Posted by Orrin Judd at March 29, 2006 7:55 PM

Much of it could be fear. They're terrified of the North Koreans and Chinese, and respond by appeasing those they fear and displacing their hostility to the U.S.

At the same time, China and North Korea have made huge investments in building a fellow traveling activist movement among the South Korean universities and media, which no doubt has had an influence.

Ironically, a lot of those anti-American Koreans would love to immigrate here.

Posted by: pj at March 29, 2006 8:18 PM

"Much of it could be fear."

I think that's true. Part of it is also probably the personnel dynamics particular party that's in power at the moment. The Grand National Party (currently the opposition) generally takes a much more robust stance towards North Korea. Kim Dae-Jung (of the "Sunshine" policy) and his successor No Mu-hyon have been more from the opposition side of things. And partly because they were in the opposition in the 70's and 80's, and (at least for Kim Dae Jung) faced all kinds of threats from the government/dictatorship, on the grounds of national security, they are perhaps less eager to see national security threats from the North than they ought to be.

A lot of people voted for them on that basis, I think. But many others voted for them on economic issues -- as a practical matter, though the war is ongoing, it's been 50 years since the last major exchange of hostilities, and economic issues are significant in domestic Korean politics, more significant for many than the conduct of the war.

Ironically, a lot of those anti-American Koreans would love to immigrate here.

It depends what you mean by "immigrate." If you mean "get an education and work a few years to acquire American connections and experience with American business management" then yes -- there are loads of parachute children coming in from Korea just as from most of the other Asian nations. Heck, there were many such in the last generation too.

If, on the other hand, you mean "move here and live here permanently," I think there's still some, but far fewer. My sense, with the more recent immigrants (e.g. some of my close kin), is that they are here only on a temporary basis, for educational purposes or to help manage Korean-owned operations out here, and will go back when they can. Actually, for my close kin, I know that. Living out in America isn't much more desireable than living back in Seoul, now that living standards among the Korean middle and upper classes have risen so much. So much, indeed, that some of my cousins complain about how primitive it all is out in America.

Posted by: Taeyoung at March 29, 2006 8:57 PM


Yes. If those who are predominantly concerned with security then seek to displace their fears then the phenomenon would afflict our own Left too.

Posted by: oj at March 29, 2006 9:04 PM