North Korea: Free speech works both ways

the proof

Kim Jong-un. Photo: Reuters

Gangnam Style is the gold standard in internet success for aspiring musicians, a true Cinderella story. The people of the world do not love that song and that video because their respective governments are intentionally emphasizing the difference between North and South Korea. The truth is we love Korea, but we can only see half of it.

The Korean automobile manufacturer Hyundai has gained market share dramatically in the USA and around the world in the last few years. Why is North Korea not sharing in that prosperity? As usual, it’s because of the West. Expansionist and Anti-Communist agendas trumped logic and common sense in the heady days following World War II.

We thought we could take Korea. We didn’t realize the Chinese would back them up. We thought the Chinese and the Koreans hated each other. They did at one time. War is a tricky beast. It makes friends of enemies in the face of greater enemies. The Chinese saw what the Americans did to Japan and said nevermore. Good for them. We still occupy Japan, by the way. Japan could be our ally in this scenario if we had allowed them to build their own armed forces at any time in the last seventy years.

Same story in Vietnam, except the American people caught on and held the government accountable. Those are the dark days in our history that we hate to discuss. We’ve had a few dark days recently, specifically between 2001 and 2008 when the Executive Branch of our federal government allowed the CIA to torture prisoners of war.

The difference between North Korea and the occupied territories was that the latter remained open to diplomacy and trade. Those are the building blocks of friendship at the nation-state level. At this point, Japan and South Korea function completely independently of the USA, except in matters of war. This works to their advantage if the aggressor is larger than Korea or Japan, which, in the new global environment, aggressors usually are.

The difference between North and South Korea is that South Korea is allowed to participate, to share information with any other country, unless that country is being sullen and refuses to engage. North Korea is only allowed to engage with China. Whose fault is that? Probably the West, again. Lines were drawn. Mistakes were made.

Kim Jong-un inherited this situation. He did not create it. Now he says he has proof that North Korea is not responsible for the cyber-attack on Sony. The information, the proof, is not forthcoming. Is that because there is no proof? Is it because the Central Government of the PRC has opted not to disclose the information? We don’t know.

There is no way for Kim Jong-un to communicate with his neighbors. He is behind a curtain. China doesn’t want to hear it, whether it be Black Hat hackers within Chinese borders, Russian hackers, American hackers, Iranian hackers, or some independent group. If the attack came from abroad, the Chinese will never admit that their security has been breached. If it came from at home, they will most certainly never admit that their security has been breached.

It is almost certain that the Central Government of the PRC is not behind this attack. It is far too sloppy, unplanned, impulsive, and opportunistic. Kim Jong-un understands this reasoning in a way that Westerners do not. He is not responsible for the current human rights violations, starvation, and general inadequacy of North Korea, yet he cannot admit this state of affairs, except perhaps to China, his only ally.

The USA does not care. We know that someone tried to curtail our right to free speech and we are out for blood, which leaves North Korea in a hard place. They can explain to China, but if China chooses not to explain, for whatever reason, North Korea remains in the cross-hairs. There is another way.

At the Korean Baptist Church just down the road from my Episcopal Church, they pray without ceasing for Korea, North and South, because there is only one Korea. The Demilitarized Zone is a relic of a war that ended more than sixty years ago. Mr. Kim, tear down that wall.

We have just witnessed the USA admitting its own mistakes in foreign policy toward Cuba. This is long overdue. A strong and supremely powerful nation humbled itself before the reality that working together is better than standing apart and doing nothing. North Korea could do the same thing. If the neighbor to your right is not listening, maybe you should talk to the neighbor on your left, even if they seem small in comparison.