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Korea stands strong: Kim Jong-Il in context

By staff |
December 21, 2011
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The morning of Dec. 19 started like a normal Monday for the Korean staff at the Hae Dang Hwa restaurant in Beijing. The greeting staff welcomed hungry customers at the front door, the chefs began prepping their fine selection of kimchi and other Korean dishes and the waitresses and waiters began taking down orders for their guests. All of that changed when a China Daily reporter mentioned in a conversation with a waitress that Kim Jong-Il, the head of state for the Democratic People's Republic of Korea (DPRK), had died that morning of a heart attack. In minutes, the entire Korean staff - from the waiters to the chefs in the kitchen - broke down in tears and, after apologizing to the customers, closed the restaurant early for the day so they could grieve the national tragedy together.

Several thousand miles away in Pyongyang, mass sorrow like that experienced in this Beijing restaurant took the swept the capital as men, women and children – from the most esteemed party official to the steel worker – took to the streets to mourn Kim’s death.

Most people in the United States have a hard time understanding the sorrow of the Korean people and the Western media spent the better part of the past few days ridiculing this mass display of grief. After all, it’s inconceivable to imagine the death of any U.S. leader – President or otherwise – eliciting unanimous mourning from the American people. Nevertheless, even the harshest critics could not deny the sincerity of the tears shed by the Korean people, both in the DPRK and abroad, on the morning of Dec. 19.

The Western media tells us that DPRK government is ruthlessly oppressive, and yet the Korean people’s reaction seriously contradicts this image. What is it about Democratic Korea and its leaders that cause its people, even those far away from the eyes of government authorities, to mourn like this?

Misinformation presented by the Western media cause many to see Democratic Korea as a highly repressive, brutal regime with no accountability to the Korean people. A closer look past the slanderous – and often fabricated - claims reveal a strong nation, resilient in the face of more than a century of imperialist aggression that, against all odds, continues to mobilize the Korean masses in the process of building socialism.

Korea is a single nation that was forcibly divided by the United States immediately after World War II. To this day, the DPRK remains committed to reunification. After 35 years of horrifying treatment by Japanese colonizers, the Korean people’s brief hope for a single, unified Korea was dashed when the Truman administration launched a military campaign to violently suppress the Korean revolution. Aided by the Soviet Union and socialist China, the Korean People’s Army (KPA), led by Kim Il-Sung, pushed the U.S led invasion back to the 38th parallel, now the southern border of the DPRK.

Over the course of the Korean War, the U.S. dropped more bombs on Korea than it did in the entirety of the World War II Pacific theater, killing more than a million Koreans and destroying most of the north’s cities. Equally horrific was the execution of hundreds of thousands of suspected communist sympathizers by Syngman Rhee’s U.S.-backed fascist government, which took power in southern Korea.

Despite the destruction caused by the Korean War, the DPRK undertook an ambitious reconstruction effort that allowed them to enjoy a higher GDP and better standard of living than the U.S.-supported regime in the south, which consistently suffered from high unemployment and low wages brought on by Western sweatshops. It wasn’t until the 1980s and the eventual collapse of the DPRK’s largest trading partner, the Soviet Union, that the Republic of Korea would overtake the north in economic productivity.

Even the U.S. government cannot deny the accomplishments of Korean socialism. Written behind closed doors in 1990, a declassified CIA report admits that the DPRK administers outstanding social services for children, guarantees totally free housing to citizens, provides a highly successful country-wide public preventative medical program, oversees a police force with an extremely low level of corruption and has achieved high life expectancy and low infant mortality rates.

The same CIA report points out that there are more college-educated women than men in the DPRK, and admits that the Workers Party of Korea legitimately committed to ‘radical change’ in Korean gender relations. The facts support their conclusion: Prostitution is outlawed, women are permitted to serve in the military, state child-care programs allow women to have independent careers outside of the house and a significant number of high level political positions are occupied by women, including representation in the Supreme People’s Assembly.

The DPRK’s remarkable public health care system – which provides unconditional universal coverage for citizens – continues to perform tremendously well, even in the midst of crippling U.S. sanctions. Just last year in a report to the United Nations on the North Korean health care system, Dr. Margaret Chan, the Director-General of the World Health Organization (WHO), called it “something which most other developing countries would envy.” She pointed out that the “DPRK has no lack of doctors and nurses,” and praised the system for its “very elaborate health infrastructure, starting from the central to the provincial to the district level.”

Imperialist aggression against this defiant revolutionary government continues to this day, manifesting itself in more than 28,000 U.S. troops permanently stationed in South Korea and the overhanging threat of U.S. Navy freighters carrying nuclear missiles in the Korean Peninsula.

Seeing the emboldened aggression of U.S. after the fall of the Soviet Union, the DPRK sought to insure their protection from another Korean War by acquiring nuclear weapons. Facing an onslaught of trade sanctions and the threat of invasion, Democratic Korea preserved and announced their first successful nuclear test in 2006, an achievement spearheaded by Kim Jong-Il.

The importance of Democratic Korea acquiring nuclear weapons cannot be overstated. In 2005, the U.S. presented an ultimatum to both Libya and the DPRK, demanding that both surrender their nuclear weapons programs and cooperate with Western imperialism in the ‘war on terror.’ Libyan head of state Muammar Gaddafi played ball. Kim Jong-Il gave the U.S. a figurative middle finger. As we near the end of 2011, having witnessed NATO’s brutal invasion of Libya and the toppling of Gaddafi’s government, it’s painfully clear who made the right choice.

Why do Koreans mourn the death of Kim Jong-Il? It’s because of his courageous defiance of U.S. domination, his commitment to the reunification and the real accomplishments of socialism. In the face of those who wage war for exploitation and oppression, Kim’s decisions represented the aspirations of Korean workers, peasants, women and children – the united Korean nation – for freedom. Although Kim Jong Il has passed away, the Korean people will continue to march forward raising the banner of national reunification, self-determination and revolution.

U.S. Hands off the DPRK!


Randolph Bourne wrote 4 years 37 weeks ago

Anon says: "intentionally or

Anon says: "intentionally or unintentionally you are advocating Trotskyist line of NEITHER & NOR. imperialism is bad, so is Kim and Qaddafi dynasty. this is your argument . you let yourself be fooled by the flux of the corporate media. i m from 3rd world i tell you that you and intellectuals, writers like you are and have been creating the pretext of imperialist hegemony over free people and nations."

I deny being a trot, but I do kill puppies. You are just tossing dogmatic rhetoric around without any relation to history. Can you specify what inaccurate corporate media story I have accepted? Can you specify a sentence where I support imperialist hegemony? So you are 3rd world. Big fucking deal. Your comments are still just a vague, convoluted guilt trip.

Are we to believe that opposing the US requires accepting the Kims as deities, as is demanded of the NK populace?

Anonymous wrote 4 years 39 weeks ago


this is very good article and so is the following debate but let me say something to Mr Randolph Bourne:
intentionally or unintentionally you are advocating Trotskyist line of NEITHER & NOR. imperialism is bad, so is Kim and Qaddafi dynasty. this is your argument . you let yourself be fooled by the flux of the corporate media. i m from 3rd world i tell you that you and intellectuals, writers like you are and have been creating the pretext of imperialist hegemony over free people and nations.

Randolph Bourne wrote 4 years 42 weeks ago

Anon says: "I said that it

Anon says: "I said that it was perfectly reasonable for the DPRK to think it may be invaded...That is why the DPRK went ahead with nuclear weapon production, NOT because Kim is madman, heading up a cult, etc. etc. Thats all. "

You have no evidence of what the DPRK internal deliberations were in deciding to starve children in order to build a nuke. But we do know that a US invasion is unlikely in the extreme, and nuclearizing in response was cruel folly. I would guess they wanted nukes as an umbrella of protection so they could continue with their brinkmanship games, like torpedoing South Korean ships.

I never suggested Kim was mad and am sure he was not. But the Kims do head the most surreal and deadly personality cult of any modern nation. Watch the film referenced above and see if you can maintain sympathy for that regime.

I'd like to thank Fight Back for posting my comments, that shows class.

Anonymous wrote 4 years 42 weeks ago

Randall Bourne says

Randall Bourne says here:

"Where is your evidence that NK was "targeted" "for invasion?" As opposed to targeted for propaganda hype? It's not in the Wiki article you cited."

You are moving the goal posts. I said that it was perfectly reasonable for the DPRK to think it may be invaded, given the Bush Doctrine and the US govmt's subsequent and prior actions. That is why the DPRK went ahead with nuclear weapon production, NOT because Kim is madman, heading up a cult, etc. etc. Thats all.

Furthermore, the DPRK comes out looking even more rational in hindsight, considering that the other members of the "Axis of Evil" that did comply with the ultimatums in the Bush Doctrine were nevertheless obliterated by the US/Nato (Libya, Iraq).

Call the Bush Doctrine propaganda hype if you wish, but the threats outlined in it were obviously followed through with during the remainder of his and his successor's administration. Folks can read it for themselves and make their own assessment:


Randolph Bourne wrote 4 years 42 weeks ago

The cult of personality

I just viewed on Netflix "watch it now" the National Geographic documentary "Inside North Korea."

I'd like to recommend people watch it to check for just one thing: evidence at the end of an extreme cult of personality in North Korea.

There is a lot in the film that is unverifiable, and will be met with great skepticism by readers of Fight Back News. But there are some things that can't be fake: the statements of NK citizens to the film crew. Skip the crap and go to the last quarter or so of the show.

The situation is that a Nepalese eye doctor travels to NK to do 1,000 cataract surgeries on the blind in ten days. A film crew is allowed to document it. They talk to one blind woman pre-surgery. While the NK political monitors watch, she says the worst part about being blind is not being able to see the Dear Leader. This in a room with her beautiful granddaughters.

At the end, a room full of people, one by one, have their bandages removed, and can suddenly see again, sometimes after many years.

The first thing they do is start praising the commanding portraits of Great Leader and Dear Leader. The surgeon is right there, but they thank the Kims, with extravagant emotion. I challenge anyone to watch this, and not think the people are praising a god king of the Aztecs. It is that exaggerated.

That degree of personality cult is not healthy.

The DPRK regime should send chills down the spine of anyone with eyes and ears. I'm starting to exhaust my ability to articulate the creepiness of it.

Randolph Bourne wrote 4 years 42 weeks ago

Tom, Where do you get off


Where do you get off saying I accept the right of imperialists to set borders? Nothing in what I wrote carries that implication.

My view is exactly the opposite. When outside powers divided Korea at the Potsdam conference in 1945, it set up the coming of the Apocalypse. (You understand, right, that Soviet officers signed off on the map dividing occupation duties at the 38th parallel?)

A lot of what you wrote baffles me, I think you may be responding to another poster.

You keep referring to the Kim regime as the "Korean people." I don't think that is reality based.

As for putting China "in the drivers seat" you are mischaracterizing what I said. I don't believe China manages the internal revolutions of Korea or Vietnam. But it is just a fact that China is a strong power and can ward off the US. Thinking NK or NVN endured without shelter from other powers is just revolutionary romanticism. Similarly, the US couldn't contemplate invading Iraq back when the Soviet Union was around.

As for how to get the US out of SK, there is no easy, attractive scenario. I think most Koreans would favor a long period of engagement between their governments culminating in unification. Certainly that would create a situation where the US base rights could be revoked. To wish the DPRK horror regime on the south is heartless.

You are throwing the word "puppet" around. That lacks appreciation for the considerable agency displayed by SK elites. Churchill and Truman were so exasperated by Syngman Rhee that Churchill once sent a secret cable floating the idea of a coup.

In my view, we are still at a point in the debate where there is no justification for NK nukes or a totally militarized society.

Tom Burke wrote 4 years 42 weeks ago

Korean people are prepared to fight imperialism.

Dear R. Bourne,
I like your questions, but there is a problem with your thinking. You accept that the imperialists, whether they be U.S., British, French, or Japanese, have a right to draw lines across maps and declare new states, and divide up nations and peoples. So instead of asking, "Why did the French or U.S. occupy Vietnam?", you ask "Why wasn't North Vietnam invaded?" As if the imperialist have the right to occupy other countries. This is American chauvinism and reflects the thinking of imperialism. The Vietnamese liberated themselves first from the Japanese with the help of the WWII Allies--including the French and U.S., then the Vietnamese liberated themselves from the French and U.S. imperialists with the aid of the Soviet and Chinese revolutionaries. The U.S. has no right to invade or occupy any part of Vietnam or Korea (or the Philippines, Colombia, Ghana, Afghanistan, etc.)

Of course, you are correct that the reason the U.S. has not attempted to leave their bases in the southern part of Korea and invade People's Korea is because the Korean people are prepared for war. In an earlier comment you said there is no need for the North Koreans to prioritize military preparation, though you seem to now understand the need for this now. It is good to see you are not so rigid.

The Korean people are prepared to defend themselves from being taken over by U.S. imperialism and its puppets. You are also correct that the nuclear weapons developed by People's Korea are only useful as long as the Korean people are willing to defend and/or liberate themselves from imperialism. The organized and conscious revolutionary people are key, not the technology. The nukes are secondary, a socialist system in Korea, supported by the people with a clear and determined leadership cannot be defeated by U.S. imperialism. There needs to be turmoil under heaven for the imperialists to take advantage of.

You also put the Chinese in the driver seat for what happens with Vietnam and Korea. This is wrong, the Chinese support is secondary. The people of Korea is what is primary. The Chinese clearly do support the Korean people, but the Korean people are not reliant upon the Chinese to defend or liberate their country. If one needs friends though, it is comforting to have China as a neighbor, that seems to be what the UCPN-Maoists in Nepal have figured out.

You ask good questions R. Bourne, What has to happen for the U.S. to be driven out of occupying the southern part of Korea?

Randolph Bourne wrote 4 years 42 weeks ago


Where is your evidence that NK was "targeted" "for invasion?" As opposed to targeted for propaganda hype? It's not in the Wiki article you cited.

Using NK in propaganda to frighten the American people is not the same thing as planning a war with China, which is what attacking NK would mean. An invasion of NK would make no sense, and therefore requires very strong evidence that it was planned.

You are playing word games over the Libyan comparison. It's a fact that Libya has no China on its border that objected to the invasion. You've invoked a strawman comparison. (Besides, attacking Libya was not done under the Bush axis of evil doctrine. The US and Britain made up with Libya. Khadaffi was attacked when it became apparent the Libyan people had rejected him -- an entirely new situation than the axis bs.)

My questions remain: why wasn't North Vietnam invaded? Why wasn't NK reinvaded in the decades it didn't have nukes? Why wasn't NK invaded in the years before the US was stymied in Iraq? What reason was there besides China? NK still doesn't need nukes, yet it impoverished generations to get them.

Anonymous wrote 4 years 42 weeks ago

The Bush Doctrine

"Why do you think the US never reinvaded the north during the 40 years the Kims had no nuke? There's a logical problem for your position to overcome."

The Bush Doctrine of 2002 targeted Iran, Iraq and North Korea for invasion:


Iraq was subsequently invaded, and of course that meant that Iran was surrounded by the US miltary (Central Asia, Iraq, Afghanistan, and the Fifth Fleet). They would have invaded Iran next if the Iraqi resistance had not tied them up there. It is reasonable for DPRK to have thought they were going to be 3rd up. After all, the US and DPRK are still officially in a state of war, and there are already tens of thousands of US soldiers and nukes in the lower half of the Korean peninsula.

"Libya is no comparison."

Actually, Libya was targeted under the same doctrine so you're wrong about that.

Randolph Bourne wrote 4 years 42 weeks ago

Like I said, China won't let it

Why do you think the US never invaded North Vietnam? It would have brought China into the war, which was an unmitigated disaster in Korea. The longest retreat in US military history was when China chased it down the Korean peninsula.

No way is the US going to risk a war with China over the Korean peninsula. From Washington's point of view, what could possibly justify that kind of risk?

Why do you think the US never reinvaded the north during the 40 years the Kims had no nuke? There's a logical problem for your position to overcome.

Libya is no comparison. There is no strong bordering country that can object to an American invasion.

Your political line is trumping basic facts about Korea.

Mengistu wrote 4 years 42 weeks ago

How can you say the DPRK

How can you say the DPRK doesn't need a nuclear bomb? The slaughter in Libya today disproves that completely. It's literally the only reason the North isn't a pile of rubble under US occupation. For better or worse, the bomb is the only deterrent the imperialists still respect, and the Koreans are exceptionally courageous and wise for making the acquisition of one the nation's top priority.

Randolph Bourne wrote 4 years 42 weeks ago

There's no consideration besides imperialism?

As a general proposition, it is good to see people standing up to U.S. imperialism. But sometimes the opposing force is horrible, as with the Iranian regime, Libya under Khadaffi, the Khmer Rouge, Al Qaida, and the Kims.

NK does not need a nuclear bomb and a totally militarized society to defy the U.S. The militarization is to control the people and keep the nightmare Kim family in power.

Evaluating North Korea purely on its opposition to Washington heartlessly leaves out the Korean people.

Sympathy for the DPRK raises a question, is there ANY opponent of Washington that Fight Back would not support?

Tom Burke wrote 4 years 42 weeks ago

Excellent article, unreal comments

This article is excellent and some of the comments are unreal, foolish, or reek of American chauvinism. The U.S. has no business dictating to Koreans or Iraqis or Afghans or Colombians or Puerto Ricans or other peoples, what their country's future should be or how to organize their social system. The problem is U.S. imperialism. The main aspect of the problem is the U.S. military occupation of Korea and the U.S. Navy's nuclear weapons off the coast of Korea. Koreans have the right to unite their country, by peaceful means or by any other means they choose. It is their country, not the property of the U.S. Of course Koreans cannot invade their own country to start a war, that is a foolish notion. Two U.S. officers drew the 38th parallel line for the Koreans using a National Geographic map.

Here is what Koreans are thinking about. At least 2 million civilians died due to the U.S. war and occupation of Korea in the 1950's. The U.S. invaded Iraq based on lies with the desire to control oil and the middle east region, wrecked the country, killed hundreds of thousands, if not over a million, and now the U.S. has withdrawn (but NOT REALLY if you count the largest U.S. Embassy (military fortress), U.S. military advisors and all the private U.S. contractors/mercenaries. The U.S. occupation of Afghanistan is failing, but the U.S. keeps pouring money and soldiers and military equipment into the war, with no end in sight. Libya's government tried to cooperate with the U.S. and Britain in parts of Africa in recent years and under U.S. direction, NATO overthrew their government. So it is fair to say Koreans would be foolish to not be prepared for war with the U.S. Koreans have a good friend in China, but need to rely mainly on themselves for their own defense and the U.S. occupiers are prepared for war at any time. Does it not seem hypocritical and chauvinistic in this debate that Americans are criticizing another people for having a government that prioritizes spending on the military? At least the Koreans are doing it in self-defense and not for the purpose of building empire!

When the U.S. is eventually forced out, probably in the context of a larger war aimed for a second time at rising socialist China, then the Korean puppet regime in the south will fall and Koreans can decide on their future together as one. So can the Chinese who will re-unite the renegade island of Taiwan with the Chinese people. The Vietnamese united their country by fighting the imperialists (Japan, France, and then the U.S.) and so will the Koreans, Chinese, Irish, Palestinians, and others. The main contradiction in the world today continues to be imperialism versus the peoples of the world who want liberation. Victory to the Korean people and their leaders!

Randolph Bourne wrote 4 years 43 weeks ago

I really doubt the "relative

I really doubt the "relative parity.," but would be interested in your sources. Nonetheless, it's been two decades since the USSR fell, and N Korea remains in darkness. It finished its unneeded atomic bomb right in the middle of the hard times precipitated by the Soviet collapse. The "military first" policy has impoverished the people.

So the penal system is described as rehabilitative. Aren't they all. Rita's link was very informative -- people are being rehabilitated to death.

I reread the original editorial, and it does say that Truman initiated the war. A followup post says he did it in the form of creating the division and occupying the south. This is half right. The US occupation ended in 1949 when the last combat troops were withdrawn. Advisers and influence remained, but it was not an occupation. Interestingly, the US refused to give Syngman Rhee heavy artillery or tanks to make sure he didn't do anything reckless like invade the north.

I'm the anonymous who's been posting. Thought it was time for a name.

Mengistu wrote 4 years 43 weeks ago

The North was on relative

The North was on relative economic parity with the South until the 1980s, and exceeded their economic performance well into the 1970s. Notice the careful wording of the statement that anonymous questions as factually accurate - "It wasn’t until the 1980s and the eventual collapse of the DPRK’s largest trading partner, the Soviet Union, that the Republic of Korea would overtake the north in economic productivity."

Maybe that statement gives the impression that it wasn't until the collapse of the USSR that the South became more economically productive, but the actual statement is factual, in that the South did not substantially overtake the North in either of the cited metrics - GDP and standard of living - until the 1980s. The collapse of the USSR, which itself was a protracted process that began in the 1980s, exacerbated the problems that were already occurring because of the Sino-Soviet split and the destructive weather patterns that befell the North in the same decade.

Although the term gets used interchangeably with concentration camps - which is a term used interchangeably with Nazi death camps - the GULAG in the Soviet Union was a penal system aimed at rehabilitation through labor, as opposed to punishment or extermination. Unquestionably the DPRK has a penal system with an emphasis on manual labor as a form of rehabilitation. As Bruce Cumings points out, the penal system really isn't retributive in any way, and most non-violent criminals are paired with law-abiding Korean families for a part or the entirety of their sentence in order to become rehabilitated. The National Lawyers Guild, along with the DPRK itself, acknowledge the low recidivism rates in the country, and whether it's the product of a draconian legal system or successful rehabilitation, no one can deny that it's very effective.

rita wrote 4 years 43 weeks ago

hey anonymous - it was a typo :(

Hey anonymous, seems like we are not really in disagreement. When i said:

it's getting harder and harder to claim that some scandalous, atrocious, human rights crimes are being committed in N. Korea

I really meant:

it's getting harder and harder to claim that some scandalous, atrocious, human rights crimes are NOT being committed in N. Korea

My whole post probably makes more sense now...

Anonymous wrote 4 years 43 weeks ago

I did check it out

Rita, what were you trying to prove with that clip? It had Amnesty International, an independent, credible source, describing a vast gulag system. It said escapees reported high mortality rates from malnutrition.

The great crime of the Kim dynasty is the intense militarization of a small, poor country. And it's unnecessary for protection against foreign foes. By December 1950, the Chinese red army had established that the invasion and occupation of North Korea would not be tolerated. Yet North Korea has squandered vast resources on a nuclear program. The poverty of the people can be seen in the lack of electric light at night. Satellites show, according to Rita's clip, a stone age.

The heavy militarization is because that is the only way the Kim dynasty can maintain power -- by continually warning of the foreign threat, keeping the people in a permanent war emergency.

Do you think North Koreans can do the very thing you take for granted this instant, reading the internet? They've put a grandson in his 20s at the head of the regime. That's feudal, not Marxist. Why doesn't that give y'all pause?

rita wrote 4 years 43 weeks ago

really? please check this out.

Of course most of the new media (or any media available to those outside of N. Korea) is going to be slanted towards capitalism and US/western powers, but it's getting harder and harder to claim that some scandalous, atrocious, human rights crimes are being committed in N. Korea. You can only hide death camps from satellites for so long...the few who have escaped from N. Korea have confirmed this.


Anonymous wrote 4 years 43 weeks ago


Like I said in the last post, I'll accept that the author actually does know that the general war began when the DPRK invaded the south, and the mis-impression of the opposite stems from the article's word choice. And the author probably understands, once reminded, that it was principally China who defeated the US invasion of the north. Those were the factual issues I was reacting strongly to.

The kitsch narratives: I think they work on two levels. To the shrewd, sure, they are traditional legends like George's cherry tree. But they are taken literally by many, and actively used to manipulate the public. It helps fill in the vacuum from the people's spectacular information isolation from the rest of the world. Do you think a North Korean would be allowed to be your net pen pal?

And if you are going to rely so much on Cumings, it would be decent to acknowledge his hostility to the Kim regime. He concentrates his criticism on the U.S., but I think it is fair to say that the northern police state creeps him out.

What we're really talking about is whether the Kim dynasty is a disaster, or worthy of respect. I think the night satellite photo really is worth taking seriously, here's a better one: http://subdude-site.com/WebPics/WebPicsEarthLights/korea_northsouth_japa.... The suggestion that the DPRK was ahead economically until the collapse of the USSR is preposterous. There's a factual error for you.

Mengistu wrote 4 years 44 weeks ago

What basic factual errors?

What basic factual errors? Can you cite particular quotes?

Additionally, can you cite real material harms of the kitsch narratives in the DPRK related to Kim Il-Sung and Kim Jong-Il? Bruce Cumings writes them off as national legends that no one really takes seriously, - not unlike George Washington and the apple tree, or that 'Honest' Abraham Lincoln never told a lie - and I get the impression that he's right.

Anonymous wrote 4 years 44 weeks ago

The Kim dynasty

Okay, I can accept that basic factual errors in the article are from very unclear writing.

But there's really a bigger problem. The article is rightly sympathetic to the plight of common North Koreans. But it doesn't see the Kim dynasty as one of the great calamities that has befallen Korea. U.S. aggression did not force the DPRK to claim that a new star appeared in the sky upon the birth of Kim Jong-il.

Mengistu wrote 4 years 44 weeks ago

Response to: This article has crazy wrong facts

The North Korean forces initiated the drive to reunite their country - crossing the 38th parallel - but that was in response to US occupation of southern Korea and the imperialists dividing the nation into two states. The article doesn't claim that the US initiated the attack on the DPRK, although in a very real sense they did because, as the article points out, Korea is one nation whose southern half is under imperialist occupation. The article claims that Truman initiated a campaign to suppress the Korean revolution, and that's unquestionably true in the post-WWII period. Declassified documents between Truman, MacArthur, and other generals confirm the veracity of this position.

Obviously this piece is generally sympathetic to supportive of the DPRK - a great contrast to 99% of the material on the internet - but it doesn't make any false claims about the course of the Korean War. If the version of events seems abridged, that's because it was abridged to fit into a two-page article.

I echo your recommendation of Bruce Cumings' book.

Anonymous wrote 4 years 44 weeks ago

This article has crazy wrong facts

This article proceeds from dogma, not knowledge of Korea.

For example, the suggestion that Truman initiated an invasion and North Koreans drove it back down to the 38th parallel is a whopper. The sequence actually goes like this: North Korea crossed the 38th going south on June 25, 1950 and nearly drove the U.S. into the sea at Pusan -- which is on the southern tip of the peninsula, not the 38th parallel. An American amphibious invasion at Inchon in September cut across the waist of Korea and cut the supply lines of the North Korean army. It was then that the US crossed the 38th and went north. The invasion of the north was driven back by China, not the shattered DPRK. Getting this basic sequence -- and the agent of American defeat -- wrong shows that the author has only the sketchiest knowledge of Korea. And doesn't care.

American crimes in Korea are immense, but that's no reason to take DPRK fairytale propaganda at face value.

There's a famous satellite night time photograph of the peninsula: http://msnbcmedia.msn.com/j/MSNBC/Components/Photo/_new/111219-holiday-k...

The desperate poverty of the North is apparent in the lack of electric lights at night. This suggests an alternate reason for why the North Koreans sob at the death of Kim Jong-il. It's 1984. It takes mighty propagandizing of the public to get them to overlook such gross disparities in wealth. They may do a lot with what they have, but their system provides little to work with. China is full of impoverished migrants from the North.

If you want to know actual facts about Korea, read Bruce Cumings. And he's no friend of American imperialism -- he refers to the US war as genocidal. But he doesn't think acknowledging American crimes requires supporting the Kim family dynasty.

Am eager to know if Fight Back accepts the DPRK news agency claim that a blizzard carved a goodbye message to Kim Jong-il in rock: http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/world-asia-16297811

Alexander wrote 4 years 44 weeks ago

To the comment above: " I

To the comment above:

" I wouldn't sit five thousand miles away, with only a casual interest in the whole thing anyway" is exactly my point. The article above is "casual interest" as it is mainly concerned with the role of the DPRK in terms of its opposition and contrast to the United States and not the actual conditions on the ground which are much more complicated. North Korea, especially in such times of uncertainly, deserves more than a binary evaluation by the international community. There is, of course, a bias in foreign media, especially in the US, and tendency to lampoon the country. This is wrong, but taking the debate 180 degrees in the opposite direction is equally wrong.

You are definitely right in saying that "people that are there on the scene working and studying every day to find a way to keep their country alive" and I wish this was something that was more widely recognized. I have met many North Koreans, both who support the current government and others who would wish to see it fall, that would all agree with your point.

I truly believe we should not view the country as a political and economic pariah/basket-case nor as a heroic holdout in the fight against imperialism and globalization, because it is neither. We should instead view it as a place where the people (no matter their political orientation, class, or status) do their best to carry on their lives- and in that way it is little different from anywhere else in the world. Doing otherwise denies the North Korean people a voice of their own, which happens when foreign media claims them to be "brainwashed" or when their own government claims "100% support" of its people.

I have found North Koreans (in individual conversation, not public discourse) to be some of the most free-thinking and opinionated people in the world. (I think perhaps this is the case because of a combination of lack of public discourse in their society, but also the ideals promoted by the government-not so simple, eh?). I have also found that many North Koreans have a much more realistic and balanced view of the the United States than most people around the world, with the possible exception of Canadians and Mexicans. In contrast to much of Asia, where America's short history is often equated with a lack of culture, the North Koreans I have met often have respect for the American people's ideals, culture, and historical achievements. They, of course, have much to say about flaws in US government policy and the US military, but my feeling is they want a constructive relationship with the US and not total US disengagement or endless opposition to US influence in the world.

When thinking about North Korea, I think the two most important things are listening to what North Koreans say themselves about their own country- both the good and bad. For those of us who live in "richer countries", empathy is most important, not blind criticism, sympathy, or praise. What would we do in the same situation? How would we act given the same set of circumstances? Wedged between two immensely powerful neighbors (China and South Korea), I would probably do the same as the DPRK in defending itself, but also continually seeking bilateral ties and cooperation with the United States. Just look at Vietnam today and look at the words and real actions of the DPRK towards the US. They would rather see the US as a partner than a continued enemy or non-entity in the region.

Surely a country as proud and determined as the DPRK, can more easily contain the nefarious influences of a friendly US, than a hostile US? Give them some credit!

As for my casual interest? If only you knew how deep my casual interest goes :(

Anon wrote 4 years 44 weeks ago

This is a good article. To

This is a good article.

To the comment above: The North Koreans know that the U.S. is their biggest danger. I think they probably know best. I wouldn't sit five thousand miles away, with only a casual interest in the whole thing anyway, and second guess the people that are there on the scene working and studying every day to find a way to keep their country alive. I bet they know which way the wind blows. Just cause you live in a richer country doesn't mean you know better.

Alexander wrote 4 years 44 weeks ago

Enemies at the Gates

Even if the United States is the major threat to the DPRK today (and it probably isn't), the day reunification occurs the biggest threat to the North Korean people will come from its neighbors. Caught between two China and South Korea, two powerful economies which often put a higher priority on economic figures than human welfare, the North Korean people stand little chance. The old adage that Korea is a single nation divided by the United States is the perfect pretext to allow for total control of the future of the North Korean people as cheap labor for South Korean conglomerates and big business without any competition. China will no doubt go along for the ride.

The United States is too far away and if anything, America's major policy failure with regards to the engagement with the DPRK and the nation's people is its total lack of interest in the future of the Korean peninsula (selfish, humanitarian, or otherwise). I acknowledge that US policy towards the DPRK has many flaws, but "US hands off the DPRK" will condemn the country to future slavery at the hands of its neighbors. As strange as it may sounds, the US along with Russia, the EU, and Japan may be the DPRK's best friends in the future as counterweights to their neighbors.

I know many North Koreans and they would no doubt appreciate your acknowledgement of their sadness over the passing of their leader, but they would also be sickened by the use of their mourning as a proxy for to promote what is largely a US-related domestic agenda. Unlike many people around the world, North Koreans know manipulation and deceit (perhaps all too well) when they see it and do not hesitate to call it out for what it is when given the opportunity to do so. North Korea needs friends abroad, especially in the US, but they must be sincere friends who can see the country for both the good and the bad.