Tuesday, November 30, 2010

8 million ways to die visit a country on the verge of war

When they said there would be 8 million visitors per year to South Korea by 2010, they laughed in the faces of the Korea National Tourism Organization. Ha ha, they said. Who would ever want to go to Korea?

But lo and behold, Sun Renzhou emerged from a Shanghai-to-Inchon plane and became the eight millionth visitor to South Korea this year. And just in time for all the fireworks: "Welcome to Korea, now go home!"

Ms Sun will receive a round-trip ticket to come back to Korea again, a stay at the Shilla Hotel, and a digital camera to record all her memories.

Frankly, among friends and relatives — non-kyopo and kyopo alike — who have either visited me in Seoul or have gone there after I began my studies in Hawaii, all have had a great time. In Hawaii or California I meet people who have visited Korea and they rave about their trips. There is a lot to do and it's easy to get to, and it can be "more of the same" or a respite from whatever they were seeing or doing in China, Japan, or Hong Kong, if those were also on their itinerary.

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Dick Cheney's daughter blames Bush-43 administration for North Korea's brinksmanship


So says Huffington Post, which includes the above video from Fox News (start at 9:29):
During a discussion on Fox News Sunday, Cheney, who has adamantly defended Bush's policies when others tried to attribute current events to his administration's actions, said that the 43rd president failed to adequately sanction North Korea in the wake of some key incidents.

"I do think what that we've seen there is an example of how provocative American weakness can be. And I think that unfortunately it is policy of weakness that has expanded back into the Bush administration -- into the last years of the Bush administration," Cheney said. "I think that we've seen time and time again North Korea -- they test a nuclear weapon, there are no consequences, they build a reactor for the Syrians, there are no consequences. And what they have learned is that their belligerence, in fact, often times yields from us capitulation and concessions. I think that it's time for us to put them back on the terrorist list."
The Fox News Sunday video itself is an interesting discussion. I don't care much for Faux News's mixture of opinion and information, nor its playing loose with the facts, but I know from my days of being forced to watch them at the Townhouse that they do have some intelligent commenters there.

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Disturbing video snuck out of North Korea

Frequent One Free Korea commenter and occasional Monster Island visitor Theresa sent me a link to this The Shanghaiist post which contained the following video (put together by the guerrilla journalists at Rimjin-gang) snuck out of North Korea:



Seeing the emaciated and dazed twenty-three-year-old woman is just heart-wrenching. But the pugnacious youngish ajumma in the next scene gives hope that there are more like her who are willing to stand up to authority (and that there are authorities like the guy in the picture who don't automatically fight back when challenged).

I direct you to One Free Korea, where Joshua also put up a post on this video, with some very good commentary. A sample:
These are the expendable people of North Korea, the ones who don’t have a place in the propaganda parades, the ones who don’t get to eat the food aid that the regime either refuses or steals from them. I’d be surprised if that woman were still alive today.

One day, these people are going to hold their oppressors accountable. The more I see, the more convinced I become that we should teach them how, and then arm them. North Korea needs a revolution, and no peaceful revolution can possibly succeed in such a place. When governments become destroyers of humanity, it is the right of the people to alter or abolish them. I see no other way.
Wouldn't it be wonderful if that were sooner rather than later?

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Japan to invite South Korea and other countries to join new body made up of whaling states

So says the Japan Times.

Gotta hand it to Japan. No matter how bad whaling makes the country look, there's so much determination to keep the industry going, even when Japanese themselves have pretty much turned their back on whale meat.


Though I like the idea of Seoul and Tokyo cooperating, this is one case where I hope South Korea gives it a pass (see here and here). It might be better if South Korea's 8000-year-old whaling tradition also died a quiet death. The country's already got enough PR problems with dog meat.

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Is China actually sick and tired of a rogue North Korea it has no control over?

Well, that's one thing that seems to have come from the recent dump of diplomatic cables by the folks at Wikileaks.

From AFP:
China, long viewed as North Korea's protector, increasingly doubts its own influence and would support the peninsula's reunification if the regime collapses, leaked US documents have said.

Over an expansive dinner last year, the Chinese ambassador to Kazakhstan revealed that Beijing considers North Korea's nuclear program to be "very troublesome," according to a memo obtained by whistle-blower site WikiLeaks.

Ambassador Cheng Guoping "said China hopes for peaceful reunification in the long-term, but he expects the two countries to remain separate in the short-term," said the leaked cable by US Ambassador Richard Hoagland and reprinted by Britain's The Guardian newspaper.

In another cable reproduced by The New York Times, a Chinese official whose name was removed said that Beijing believed North Korea had "gone too far" after carrying out its second nuclear test and firing a missile.

The official told a US diplomat "that Chinese officials had expressed Chinese displeasure to North Korean counterparts and had pressed (North Korea) to return to the negotiation table," it said.

"Unfortunately," the Chinese official was quoted as saying, "those protests had had no effect."
China doubting its own influence? Why, just yesterday I was saying almost the same thing:
While North Korea is a client state and buffer zone for China, without whom the Pyongyang regime would have collapsed long ago, it may very well be the case that North Korea has gone so far off the reservation that Beijing is in no position to rein in North Korea at all.

And as loath as they are to being told what to do about North Korea, they are even more loath to admit they can't do anything.
The Guardian actually went a bit further with the reunification issue and China's apparent position:
The leaked North Korea dispatches detail how:

• South Korea's vice-foreign minister said he was told by two named senior Chinese officials that they believed Korea should be reunified under Seoul's control, and that this view was gaining ground with the leadership in Beijing.

• China's vice-foreign minister told US officials that Pyongyang was behaving like a "spoiled child" to get Washington's attention in April 2009 by carrying out missile tests.

• A Chinese ambassador warned that North Korean nuclear activity was "a threat to the whole world's security".

• Chinese officials assessed that it could cope with an influx of 300,000 North Koreans in the event of serious instability, according to a representative of an international agency, but might need to use the military to seal the border.
If China really is willing to accept a reunified Korea (probably in exchange for a promise that the US will not place military bases in the former DPRK), then that would really change my view of China. I'd start speaking of benevolent Big Brother China with far less irony and sarcasm in my voice, for starters.

Joshua at One Free Korea has a must-read post on the Wikileaks dump here, where he talks about it shows that China has been helping North Korea with weapons proliferation.

Though I share the concerns of folks like Joshua Stanton that the dump may be illegal and might actually get a few people killed (not to mention that it may hamstring future diplomatic efforts), I do see a plus side. Maybe this is something China needed to get off its chest, and I dare say it could be a catalyst for an end to Beijing's propping up of the Pyongyang regime. The North Koreans should see these private exchanges as a wake-up call, perhaps a sign that they've overreached.

UPDATE:
Zbigniew Brzezinski, former National Security Adviser under Jimmy Carter, believes that the WikiLeaks cables were spoon-fed to them by anti-US spy agencies and that the PRC-DPRK revelations were actually meant to embarrass the United States.

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A speech to unify them all

ROK President Lee Myungbak gave a rousing speech to the nation on Monday. It outlined past aggressions by North Korea that went unanswered, discussed why the Yŏnpyŏng-do [Yeonpyeong] attack on civilians marked a dangerous turn, and vowed to fully retaliate if the North repeats this kind of provocation.

He made clear that South Korea will steadfastly defend the so-called Sŏhae-odo [서해5도], the "five islands of the West Sea," which skirt North Korea's southwestern coast. While acknowledging that many South Koreans had doubts about the facts surrounding the sinking of the Ch'ŏnan in March, he hoped the shelling of Yŏnpyŏng-do would remove doubts about North Korean aggression in the Yellow Sea.

He made clear he wanted to unify the country in their resolve to defend the Republic of Korea.

Courtesy of Yonhap, here is a sizable excerpt from the address:
Fellow citizens,
North Korea's provocation this time was entirely different and unprecedented in nature. Since the end of the Korean War, the North has perpetrated numerous provocations, but it has never launched a direct attack onto our territory before. Making matters worse, it indiscriminately shelled the island where some 1,400 residents are peacefully living.

A military attack against civilians is strictly prohibited even in time of war; it is a crime against humanity.

Only a few meters away from where shells landed, there is a school where classes were going on. I am outraged by the ruthlessness of the North Korean regime, which is even indifferent to the lives of little children.

Countries around the world are joining us in denouncing North Korea.

We have thus far tolerated provocations by the North time and again. On January 21, 1968, North Korean commandos infiltrated into Seoul with the intent of killing the President. A bomb explosion in Rangoon, Burma, set off by North Korean agents, killed many high-ranking South Korean Government officials who were accompanying the President. The North has already tried and failed twice to kill the South Korean head of state. North Korean agents blew up a civilian airplane in 1987, taking the lives of 115 passengers.

South Korea nonetheless endured these continual provocations because we entertained a slight hope that the North would change course someday and an unwavering commitment to peace on the Korean Peninsula. Over the past 20 years, therefore, South Korea has striven to resolve the North Korean nuclear issue through dialogue and collaboration while at the same time providing unstinted humanitarian assistance.

North Korea, on the other hand, responded with a series of provocative acts, including the development of a nuclear program, the sinking of the Navy corvette Cheonan by an explosion and the shelling of Yeonpyeongdo.

At long last, we came to a realization that it no longer makes sense for us to anticipate that the North would abandon its nuclear program or its policy of brinkmanship on its own. The South Korean people now unequivocally understand that prolonged endurance and tolerance will spawn nothing but more serious provocations.

Those who have so far supported the North Korean regime might now see its true colors.
It was an excellent speech that said everything it needed to say. But, as The Marmot notes, he said many of these things this past spring in regards to North Korea's sinking of the Ch'ŏnan. Worse, he might even be inviting North Korea to test this resolve. And then, if South Korea again responds by doing nothing, this could be a speech that will live in infamy.

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Monday, November 29, 2010

Chinese netizen reactions to North Korean brinksmanship

I don't usually put much stock in netizen reactions as news (this oldie but goodie The Marmot's Hole post sums up why), but I thought this collection of Chinese netizen comments by the Wall Street Journal provided some useful insight:
The Kims are making trouble for the Chinese people here. Chinese people don’t want to control North Korea, but Fatty Kim is getting out of control. No one sympathizes with them, and this will only isolate them further. They need to build up their economy. — reader commenting in Baidu’s Post Bar discussion forum

From a broader perspective, this seemingly random attack was in fact an inevitable consequence of tensions that have been developing between the Koreas ever since the Cheonan incident. Additionally, ever since its second nuclear weapons test, North Korea has wanted to be invited to the table as a nuclear power…Forcing the U.S., China and other countries to acquiesce in this is the strategic objective it wants to realize. — Zhang Liangui, Korea expert, Central Party School

By every indication, North Korea despises the Six-Party Talks… The Six-Party Talks and the strategic objectives of North Korea are completely contradictory. North Korea firmly believes that possessing nuclear weapons isn’t just a matter of maintaining stability on the peninsula—it’s also a way for them to get more of what they want. — Shen Dingli, professor of international relations, Fudan University

China has no right to criticize North Korea. North Korea has a right to pursue freedom. If they can’t earn freedom, if they scream and nobody pays attention, then cannons will get attention. Cannons are effective. — reader commenting on Sina.com’s Mil Forum

As far as peninsular issues are concerned, South Korea relies completely on the United States military, seldom consulting China. As a result, despite China and South Korea having a common interest—despite China and both Koreas having a common interest—in stability, what you get instead is yesterday’s attack. — Global Times editorial

Firing on a residential area is the most intolerable act. The EU, the U.S., Japan and even Russia have condemned it, but all we can do is express neutrality. The most pressure in this situation actually falls on our shoulders. North Korea understands this, keeps stirring things up, because they know we’ll help them—stir things up all over the place then make us cover their tail. — reader commenting in Baidu’s Post Bar
The link is courtesy of One Free Korea, included in a post listing other worthwhile links. Sphere: Related Content

Meanwhile, the FTA...

Talks are resuming this week. In the Washington DC area, not Seoul. Probably a wise choice, all things considered.

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China proposes talks to defuse tensions of Yŏnpyŏng-do incident

With South Koreans angry over their government's lack of a tough response to North Korea shelling Yŏnpyŏng-do Island [Yeonpyeong] and killing four people, the US and South Korea conducting joint naval drills in the Yellow Sea not far from where North Korea has unilaterally declared ROK-controlled waters south of the de facto border as inviolably their own, there are a lot of nervous folks out there worried that things can escalate.

One of them is China, which responded to its client state's murderous attack on its major trading partner by telling its major trading partner to "calm down." (They like saying that whenever North Koreans kill South Koreans, such as after the Ch'ŏnan incident.)

Anyway, China has now proposed emergency talks on this latest incident, but Seoul and its allies are skeptical.

From Reuters:
China called for emergency talks on resolving a crisis on the Korean peninsula on Sunday, and Seoul and Tokyo said they would study the proposal, as the U.S. and South Korean militaries started a massive drill.

Beijing's move to bring the two Koreas to the negotiating table comes after global pressure on China to take a more responsible role in the standoff and try to rein in ally Pyongyang.

China made clear that the talks would not amount to a resumption of six-party disarmament discussions which North Korea walked out of two years ago and declared dead. South Korea said it would carefully consider China's suggestion.
It's hard to know what China's intent is because it's not entirely clear what in North Korea is driving this. While North Korea is a client state and buffer zone for China, without whom the Pyongyang regime would have collapsed long ago, it may very well be the case that North Korea has gone so far off the reservation that Beijing is in no position to rein in North Korea at all.

And as loath as they are to being told what to do about North Korea, they are even more loath to admit they can't do anything.

But the US has few options other making appeals to China, which is what they're doing (mixed in with some biting criticism as well). From the Los Angeles Times:
With tensions rising on the Korean peninsula, several leading U.S. lawmakers Sunday called on China to play a more constructive role in restraining North Korea.

"Unfortunately, China is not behaving as a responsible world power," Sen. John McCain (R-Ariz.) said on CNN's "State of the Union."

"They could bring the North Korean economy to its knees if they wanted to. And I cannot believe that the Chinese should, in a mature fashion, not find it in their interest to restrain North Korea. So far, they are not."

Chinese officials Sunday called for an emergency resumption of the so-called six-party talks involving North and South Korea, the United States, China, Japan and Russia.

China made the request as the United States and South Korea began previously planned military exercises in the seas around the Korean peninsula.

North Korea — which last week shelled a South Korean island, killing four — has condemned the maneuvers, which involve a U.S. Navy aircraft carrier battle group led by the nuclear-powered carrier USS George Washington.

Appearing on "Fox News Sunday," Sen. Claire McCaskill (D-Mo.) called the Chinese proposal for renewed diplomatic talks a "good first step."
Remember back in the 1990s, when there were heated annual battles in Washington over whether to renew for one more year China's "Most-Favored Nation" trading status, and those who wanted to give Beijing a permanent free ride insisted that this would lead to an open relationship where the PRC could become a more cooperative partner of the US? How's that working out for us?

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It's okay. This happens to all major militaries at one point or another.

While conducting joint naval exercises in the Yellow Sea not far from where North Korea torpedoed the Ch'ŏnan and then shelled a town on a South Korean island, a South Korean army unit on the mainland accidentally fired a shell, which (thankfully) landed on the ROK's side of the DMZ.

From CNN:
The South Korean military accidentally fired a shell during a land-based military exercise Sunday afternoon, a South Korean military spokesman told CNN.

The country's defense ministry declined to provide details about the land exercise.

The United States and South Korea also began naval drills in the Yellow Sea Sunday, but a U.S. military spokesman has said no live firing will take place during those exercises.

The shell was fired by a unit located near Munsan, South Korea, and landed on the southern side of the military demarcation line, the South Korean officer said.

"The South notified North Korea that this was accidental firing through a statement issued by the chief delegate of inter-Korean general level talks," the officer said. He added, "the military is looking into the cause of the accident."
Yonhap also has the story. I say we "accidentally" fire loads more shells. Then if we ever do need to actually shell North Korea, they'll be caught off guard. After all, with their repeated shelling of the waters on either side of the NLL over the past year, that's what North Korea has been doing.

Meanwhile, Reuters has a nifty information-laden Q&A article on the joint military drills.

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Big trouble in Little Bangladesh

[source]

The Los Angeles Times has an article on the challenges faced by Little Bangladesh, the nascent ethnic enclave that was officially carved out of the much larger, more dominant, and far-longer established Koreatown.

In addition to Koreatown Koreans' opposition to L'il Bang's efforts to get a bigger piece of the pie, the Bangladelenos (um... that's Bangladeshi Angelenos) must work at filling out the space it was given:
Community leaders applied for the neighborhood recognition more than a year ago. At first, the goal was much grander: to designate a 56-square-block area from 3rd to Wilshire Boulevard and from Western Avenue to Vermont Avenue — an area generally considered part of Koreatown — as Little Bangladesh.

The Korean community, which had not previously sought an official designation for the area, countered with its own application. And when the City Council voted on the matter in August, the Bangladeshis got only a four-block stretch of 3rd Street between Alexandria and New Hampshire avenues as their own.

But that strip doesn't yet have the look or feel of a Little Bangladesh. Most stores in the area cater to a Korean or Latino clientele, and many of the dozen or so Bangladeshi stores are blocks away. Aside from a handful of restaurants and grocery stores, the neighborhood features almost no other Bangladeshi shops or services: no clothing boutiques selling salwar kameez, the traditional two-piece attire worn by both men and women; no jewelry shops for bangles; no souvenir shops; no salons offering henna and threading services. And since it closed about a year ago, no community center either.

Since they began their effort, local Bangladeshis have been trying, with limited success so far, to open and relocate businesses to the area, both to show their presence and to provide needed services for the thousands of lower- to middle-income Bangladeshi immigrant families who live there.
I have mixed feelings about such ethnic enclaves. If they come about "organically," as Koreatown did (and Little Bangladesh as well), that's fine, as long as they aren't ghettoized. That is, it's great to have a cultural gathering place of sorts (specialty supermarkets, fine restaurants, places of worship, karaoke in that language, etc.) for an ethnic or cultural group in a city or metropolitan area whose members might be spread out over a larger area, but not only should it not exclude people who are not a part of that group, I believe it should also act as a bridge to them.

Ethnic enclaves are not just a chance to come together, but also a chance to share one's culture with everyone else. I wrote of similar sentiments here, especially as it relates to signage, which I think should always include English:
Because of that I support efforts to require that public signs (e.g., on businesses, etc.) place English as dominant or equal to whatever other language the sign might be in. At the very least, signs intended for the public should not be exclusively in a language other than English.

I happen to know that 여행사 means "travel agency" and 순두부 means "tofu stew," but Mr Crow may not. And that means he will not venture into those places and instead will feel isolated from his own surroundings. Shopping centers with signs like this one from the staged Korean shopping plaza in CSI will only lead to ethnic stratification, and that's good for no one.
People shouldn't be made to feel like strangers in their own neighborhood.

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Sunday, November 28, 2010

The face of modern slavery in the sex industry

Writing in the New York Times, Nicholas Kristof has a piece that illustrates how many women in the sex industry in America are not in it voluntarily, regardless of what many people — especially their customers — would like to believe. Nor are they necessarily illiterate dupes or drug addicts. He uses a Chosŏnjok (ethnic Korean in China) as an example of this "modern slavery":
Yumi Li (a nickname) grew up in a Korean area of northeastern China. After university, she became an accountant, but, restless and ambitious, she yearned to go abroad.

So she accepted an offer from a female jobs agent to be smuggled to New York and take up a job using her accounting skills and paying $5,000 a month. Yumi’s relatives had to sign documents pledging their homes as collateral if she did not pay back the $50,000 smugglers’ fee from her earnings.

Yumi set off for America with a fake South Korean passport. On arrival in New York, however, Yumi was ordered to work in a brothel.

“When they first mentioned prostitution, I thought I would go crazy,” Yumi told me. “I was thinking, ‘how can this happen to someone like me who is college-educated?’ ” Her voice trailed off, and she added: “I wanted to die.”

She says that the four men who ran the smuggling operation — all Chinese or South Koreans — took her into their office on 36th Street in Midtown Manhattan. They beat her with their fists (but did not hit her in the face, for that might damage her commercial value), gang-raped her and videotaped her naked in humiliating poses. For extra intimidation, they held a gun to her head.

If she continued to resist working as a prostitute, she says they told her, the video would be sent to her relatives and acquaintances back home. Relatives would be told that Yumi was a prostitute, and several of them would lose their homes as well.

Yumi caved. For the next three years, she says, she was one of about 20 Asian prostitutes working out of the office on 36th Street. Some of them worked voluntarily, she says, but others were forced and received no share in the money.
These stories are not new, but they bear repeating. Whether it's Filipinas or Russians in Korea or Japan, or Chinese or Koreans in America, there are some real tragedies behind the faces of prostitution.

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Like a brigade over troubled waters

The US and South Korea have kicked off joint naval exercises around Yŏnpyŏng-do [Yeonpyeong], the island whose recent shelling by North Korea killed two marines and two civilians and has put everyone on edge.

The announcement of the naval drills has itself raised tension. North Korea has called the exercises a provocation (but they call everything a provocation) and has threatened further attacks as a result. Meanwhile China has warned the US and South Korea to stay out of its EEZ (exclusive economic zone).

There's actually nothing wrong with US or South Korean naval vessels entering the Chinese EEZ, as long as they don't pitch fishing poles off the side and then try to sell what they catch. Since they'll be watching out for North Korean rockets, shells, and torpedoes, I doubt they'll be doing any angling. So screw 'em.

Actually, I'm a little baffled as to what the New York Times is getting at with their map. They show a 200-mile limit projected from the Chinese shore as if other nearby countries don't have their own EEZ.

Where two countries' projected EEZ overlaps, they must work out an agreement over who has economic control over what waters, but this typically follows the principle of equidistance, so South Korea's 200-mile limit would push against China's.

Indeed, the agreement of economically exclusive and economically shared waters is a bit more complex than the NYT lets on, and South Korea certainly has control over more than their map suggests.

PMZ means "provisional measures zone," while TZ means "transitional zone." At some point the TZs are supposed to turn into EEZs (or something like that), but I'm not sure if they have yet. At any rate, Chinese "control" is not as great as the NYT map suggests. [On an unrelated note, in the East Sea (Sea of Japan), Japan and South Korea have a shared zone based on an EEZ generated not from Tokto (which is technically not considered a habitable island, even though it houses people all year round) but from nearby Ullŭng-do.]

Oh, and I do know that a brigade refers to an Army subdivision, not a Navy one. But there aren't any naval terms that would have made for a bad pun.

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South Koreans thirsty for revenge?

There's a "This time they've crossed the line" vibe coming out of South Korea, and that's what the New York Times is reporting:
“We never thought they would attack civilians,” Mr. Hong said Saturday as he and other survivors sat somberly drinking soju, an alcoholic beverage, near a makeshift shrine to the two men in this South Korean port city. “North Korean soldiers have full stomachs from our support, and now they repay us by firing at us. Next time, we should repay them by shooting them back.”

The South did shoot back, but many Koreans consider the limited response feeble compared with the hourlong artillery barrage on Tuesday, in which North Korea rained about 180 shells on the island, killing the civilians and two South Korean marines.

The ferocity of the attack and the deaths of the civilians appear to have started a shift in South Koreans’ conflicted emotions about their countrymen in the North, and not just among those who were shot at.

After years of backing food aid and other help for the North despite a series of provocations that included two nuclear tests, many South Koreans now say they feel betrayed and angry.

“I think we should respond strongly toward North Korea for once instead of being dragged by them,” said Cho Jong-gu, 44, a salesman in Seoul. “This time, it wasn’t just the soldiers. The North mercilessly hurt the civilians.”
And therein lies the conundrum. If only we could move Seoul out of the way. Or let the North Koreans know that South Korean and American planes could rain down on Pyongyang the same damage North Korea inflicts on Seoul, and then some. Mutually assured dicktitude.

UPDATE:
One Free Korea focuses on this article in a discussion of whether South Koreans are "finally ready to cut North Korea off":
If this report is accurate, it suggests that sympathy for North Korea may shift from being a relatively insignificant factor in a politician’s electability to a political liability. It may mean that Lee Myung Bak will have political cover to do what he should have done years ago and close Kaesong for good (Kaesong’s business model always depended on attracting foreign investment, and North Korea pretty much foreclosed any chance of that with some belligerent meddling starting in late 2008). It could also mean the end of inter-Korean food and fertilizer aid, which was never sufficiently monitored to prevent it from being diverted to the military and those inhabiting the top tier of the North’s political caste system. The end of South Korea’s remaining aid to the North would represent a very significant policy shift. It would also be, in my view, a more appropriate response than military action, something that feels better to call for in the abstract than after the next shells start falling. Until now, South Korean voters weren’t ready to cut up Kim Jong Il’s credit card. Has that changed?
As with just about anything at OFK, it's a worthwhile read.

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Holy Moses! A mass exodus of North Korea workers from Russia!

The Independent is talking up the return of some twenty thousand North Korean workers in the Russian Far East back to North Korea as a sign that the North may be preparing for war:
A mass exodus of North Korean workers from the Far East of Russia is under way, according to reports coming out of the region. As the two Koreas edged towards the brink of war this week, it appears that the workers in Russia have been called back to aid potential military operations.

Vladnews agency, based in Vladivostok, reported that North Korean workers had left the town of Nakhodka en masse shortly after the escalation of tension on the Korean peninsula earlier this week. "Traders have left the kiosks and markets, workers have abandoned building sites, and North Korean secret service employees working in the region have joined them and left," the agency reported.
The workers are largely employed in construction, they are strictly controlled by Nork handlers who keep a close eye on all their activities, and most of their money is believed to go back to North Korea through government accounts.

Now what this all means is anyone's guess. I'd start by asking, Is this rare? I recall back in the mid-1990s, when the peninsula seemed on the brink of war over North Korea's nuclear program, several Western media outlets reported that things were so tense in South Korea that the authorities were conducting air raid drills. Yep, the turista journalistas who knew little about South Korea except that it was below North Korea were reporting that monthly air raid drills were a new response to all the tension. It would not be outside the realm of possibility that a routine or coincidental return of workers is being seen as a sign of something it's not.

But what if it is a deliberate response to the North-engineered crisis, Does this mean the DPRK military needs all the bodies it can get? I would think construction workers who can't even be trusted not to defect would make lousy soldiers (also because they lack recent military training). Surely a donnybrook in the Yellow Sea would warrant the deployment of actual soldiers.

If there is a connection with the Yellow Sea crisis, Could it be that Pyongyang fears these expat workers will flee if chaos erupts back in the Homeland? To me, this feels like a better explanation. Maybe things back inside the DPRK are shakier than we realize (which could be the reason for the Yŏnpyŏng-do shelling in the first place). If I were in charge of North Korea and I thought a war was going to break out, I'd want twenty thousand potential guerrilla fighters to stay outside the country until they're needed. But that's me. (Actually, I'd sign over the DPRK into some kind of confederation, and then I'd run for president.)

Another question to ask is, Is North Korea just messing with our heads? Though they do lose some hard currency by bringing the construction workers home, there may be some value in making the outside world think they're bringing back the workers for some military purpose. And as an added fringe benefit, it forces people like me to waste mental energy trying to figure out what they're up to.

UPDATE:
Joshua Stanton, citing this link from NK Economy Watch, suggests there may be something to my idea that the North Korean workers in Russia might take off if there is chaos on the Peninsula.

North Korean workers in Vladivostok during happier (and warmer) times. 
[source]

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Yŏnpyŏng-do attack: The Big List #2

Things are still tense, but it appears time is running out to implement The Kushibo Plan unless there is another attack by North Korea in the next few days or weeks. Showing solidarity with South Korea over North Korea's attack on Yŏnpyŏng-do [Yeonpyeong], the US will bring the USS Washington into the Yellow Sea for military exercises, but I wonder if this is not the geopolitical equivalent of having a police car conduct a drive-by after you've called and complained that your stalker ex-S.O. has just killed your cat and kidnapped the kid you're babysitting.

I'm taking advantage of this lull to get some real-world work done, but I have been entertaining myself with my Kim Family thought bubble contest (see here and here). As usual, One Free Korea and The Marmot's Hole have some excellent links, as does ROK Drop.

From The Marmot's Hole:
  • Folks are unhappy with the government's response to the attack
From One Free Korea:
  • North Korea says sorry for shelling South Korea's "human shields"
From Korea Beat: 
And the most recent Monster Island posts on Yŏnpyŏng-do here in a convenient list:
  • The Los Angeles Times and former Ambassador Gregg get it wrong about North Korea's alleged claim on Yŏnpyŏng-do and the surrounding waters

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China's "hijacking" of global Internet raises security alarms



PBS's Newshour had a disturbingly eye-opening story focusing on state-run Chinese entities deliberately detouring Internet traffic through their sites:
RAY SUAREZ: When all the communications from tens of thousand of computer networks was routed to China, that included all the Web traffic, e-mail, and instant messages to and from dot.mil -- that's the Department of Defense -- and dot.gov -- those are U.S. governments departments. The U.S. Senate and NASA also had all their traffic diverted.

Companies like Dell, Yahoo!, Microsoft and IBM had their data diverted by China Telecom, too. On that day in April, officers logging into a Pentagon Web site ended up looking at an image that came to their screen via China.

It's not clear what China did with the Internet traffic routed through its computers, and it's not clear if the data that passed through China was saved to be examined later.
The piece explains for the layperson (that's me!) how this works:
RAY SUAREZ: Normally, the Internet works by swiftly finding the shortest, most efficient trip between two computers anywhere on Earth.

Electronic routers direct the traffic flow, insuring the shortest path, like these green lines here. But, back in April, electronic communication looking for the shortest route was sent through China.

Watch the red line. For 18 minutes, the traffic on 35,000 to 50,000 computer networks elsewhere in the world began flowing toward China, before getting routed to their final destinations. China Telecom had created a massive detour.

But traffic didn't stop. The affected computer connections took just a tiny fraction of a second longer. Whether someone was logging into check a bank balance, sending a child's photo to grandma, or shopping online, the Net still worked. ...

RAY SUAREZ: One of the architects of the modern Internet, Rodney Joffe, said this diversion was a very big deal. He says it was caused when computer routers in China belonging to China Telecom began signaling to other computer routers on the Internet that they could provide the quickest path between different computers .

RODNEY JOFFE: They, all of a sudden, began announcing the fact that they were an optimal path to about 15 percent of the destinations on the Internet, that, in fact, they were a way to get to a large number of destinations on the Internet, when, in fact, they were not. We have never seen that before on this scale ever.
I've been saying this more and more: "Welcome back to the Cold War." Or maybe we never left.

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Saturday, November 27, 2010

Glorious Dear Leader and Brilliant Comrade Thought Bubble Contest #2

I'm taking a bit of a break from the Yŏnpyŏng-do nonsense while I prepare a post or two on it. In the meantime, check out Joshua Stanton's thoughtful essay at One Free Korea on what to do, as well as The Marmot's helpful links (here and here) and some background into the resignation of the Ministry of Defense.

Instead, I'm going to continue with my well-earned distraction in the form of the Glorious Dear Leader and Brilliant Comrade Thought bubble Contest, round 2. (The probably funnier round 1 is here.)

I've added another blank slate for my readers, this time with the thought bubble coming from Kim Jong-un. Just what must be going through his mind?

Okay, the humor potential isn't quite as potent when KJU is doing the thinking, but it's not hopeless.

Well, that's what I'd be thinking. Except I'd say lame.

Well, that's what it looks like he's really thinking.

Yeah, I know. So far it's mostly fart jokes, fat jokes, and Kim-Jong-il's-number-2-son-is-gay jokes. Let's just return to what brought us here in the first place.

The original for this one was a tad NSFW.

Just sayin'.

All dressed as school girls.

Timely and topical.

I wonder if drunk people do just lie around in the Pyongyang equivalent of Shinchon? Is there a Pyongyang equivalent of Shinchon?

It's not a Kushibo post unless there's something about English teachers.

Okay. Have at it.

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Friday, November 26, 2010

Glorious Dear Leader and Brilliant Comrade Thought Bubble Contest #1

Here's the picture. It's from Yonhap (duh!) and — that look! — it's just screaming for its own thought bubble captions.

So I added some thought bubble space and started imagining what was going through Kim Jong-il's head.

There are hundreds of ideas.

Now it's your turn. Have at it. Email them to me if you think they're worthy of Monster Island (and remember: we have no standards).

They couldn't be any worse than these.

Okay. I'll stop now.

Okay, now.

UPDATE:
I just can't help myself.


Actually, I'm assuming genital warts are countable nouns. Anyone able to offer any insight on that? If not, I'll have to change it to herpes sores, but that just doesn't pack the same punch.

At the risk of dictating what's funny, this one has a good payoff if you know the references.

As you may have already guessed, good taste is not a factor in this contest. This one confirms it.

This, is an homage.

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Yes, North Korea really did threaten a second and third "strong physical retaliatory blow"

As first noted in the LAT article, the KCNA did indeed report that the Korean People's Army has threatened further attacks. The same article blames (again) South Korea for firing into "the territorial waters of the DPRK" (actually waters south of the NLL controlled by South Korea since the Korean War) and blames the US for not keeping its dog on a leash (a criticism I've made of China).

For your edification (with italicized editorial content added):
Panmunjom Mission of KPA Sends Notice to U.S. Forces Side

Pyongyang, November 25 (KCNA) -- As already reported, the south Korean puppet war-like forces Tuesday committed another grave military provocation such as firing shells into the territorial waters of the DPRK side in the West Sea of Korea.

The revolutionary armed forces of the DPRK took a prompt and resolute physical counter-action against the provocateurs who dared fire even shells into the territorial waters of the DPRK side while staging the maneuvers for a war of aggression against it codenamed Hoguk.

This once again confirmed the unshakable stand of the army of the DPRK not to allow even in the least anyone to encroach upon its inviolable territorial waters.

There came from the U.S. forces side a notice blaming the DPRK under the absurd charge that the recent shelling took place in the area under its military control and it was a "violation of the Armistice Agreement." [Kushibo's note: I'm surprised they even acknowledge the US position as strongly as they do.]

The Panmunjom Mission of the Korean People's Army today sent the following notice to the U.S. forces side in connection with its attempt to misrepresent the incident, while thoughtlessly shielding the south Korean puppet forces who dared make a preempt shelling at the DPRK:

The south Korean puppet warmongers' firing of shells into the territorial waters of the DPRK side in the West Sea of Korea [actually South Korea-controlled waters south of the NLL] on Nov. 23 was a premeditated and deliberate military provocation from A to Z and a war action in fact [It might be easier to just list what is not a military provocation or war action, since it seems to be anything Seoul ever does].

On Nov. 22, the south Korean puppet forces made no scruple of announcing that they would fire shells into the territorial waters of the DPRK side with artillery pieces they deployed on Yonphyong Island while staging Hoguk exercises for a war of aggression against the DPRK [note that South Korea defending its own waters is now labeled an act of war for which Pyongyang sees fit to launch actual military assaults], straining the situation on the Korean Peninsula.

In this connection the DPRK side sent a telephone notice to the south Korean puppet military at 8 a.m. on Nov. 23, strongly urging it to immediately cancel the plan for firing shells into the territorial waters of the DPRK side. In the notice the DPRK side seriously warned that if it paid no heed to this demand, it would face a resolute physical counter-strike and would be held fully responsible for all the ensuing consequences [How did we know that this time you would actually mean it? And why did it have to involve killing civilians?].

The south Korean puppet forces, obsessed by hysteria for invasion of the DPRK [I'm sure you like thinking that, but the truth is your own actions are making it more likely], committed such reckless military provocation as preempting the firing of shells into the territorial waters of the DPRK side in the West Sea of Korea by mobilizing artillery pieces deployed on Yonphyong Island, defying the repeated efforts made by the DPRK to prevent military conflicts and preserve peace and stability in the said waters.

The island, therefore, played the role of an outpost from which a military provocation was perpetrated against the DPRK and it deserved punishment meted out by the army of the DPRK according to its self-defensive measure. ["The island... deserved punishment." Why do I feel like I'm in an episode of Lost?]

The Panmunjom Mission of the KPA in the notice particularly emphasized the fact that the U.S. forces side, too, is to blame for the incident.

The West Sea of Korea turned into disputed waters always fraught with the danger of confrontation and clash between the north and the south because of the illegal "northern limit line" unilaterally fixed by the U.S. inside the territorial waters of the DPRK. The U.S., therefore, cannot evade the blame for the recent shelling. [Is there anything the US can't be blamed for?]

If the U.S. forces side truly desires the detente on the Korean Peninsula, it should not thoughtlessly shelter the south Korean puppet forces but strictly control them [Change US to China and south to North and you've got yourself change I can believe in] so that they may not commit any more adventurous military provocations such as intruding into the waters of the DPRK side and shelling for the purpose of defending the illegal "northern limit line".

The prevailing situation goes to prove that it is the south Korean puppet forces which actually violated the Armistice Agreement and it was none other than the U.S. which sparked off the conflict in the above-said waters. [War is peace. Freedom is slavery. We have always been at war with Southkorea.]

This being a hard reality, the U.S. and the south Korean puppet forces are foolishly contemplating an additional provocation aimed to orchestrate another farce and charade such as the "Cheonan" case while kicking up rows and holding confabs one after another such as the declaration of a "state of emergency" and "a meeting of ministers in charge of security," far from drawing due lesson from the recent shelling.

The Korean People's Army will deal without hesitation the second and third strong physical retaliatory blow if the south Korean puppet warmongers commit another reckless military provocation out of all reason. [The money shot.]

The U.S. would be well advised to drop its inveterate bad habit of pulling up others, falsifying the truth about the situation. 
This would be hilarious if it weren't so serious. The second to the last paragraph makes clear that they are intending further attacks. The conditional (i.e., "if South Korea doesn't commit another provocation") is an impossibility, given that they have defined South Koreans patrolling the waters south of the de facto border — i.e., maintaining the integrity of its own territory — as a "provocation."

South Korea has two choices: Hold its ground (so to speak) and risk another military confrontation, or give in to threats of military confrontation and undermine control of its own waters.

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KCNA releases Korean People's Army report on Yŏnpyŏng-do attack:
"There is in the West Sea of Korea only the maritime military demarcation line set by the DPRK"

I think North Korea may have declared a reopening of inter-Korean hostilities but we are not yet grasping that. Note the very last line of the following report.

North Korea has decided that it is going to stop talking about the waters it claims south of the NLL (which it has never controlled except for a brief period when it occupied South Korea) and start turning it into a hot war, perhaps to bolster support for the military at a time when faith in the government is eroding (note that this has nothing to do with The Kim Who Wasn't There).

They are declaring that any activity in the area between the blue line (the Northern Limit Line followed since 1953) and the red line (the Maritime Military Demarcation Line they announced in 1999) in the map at right is an intrusion into DPRK territory that will be met with "merciless military counter-actions against it."All of that, I wish to point out, is ROK-controlled and filled with South Korean fishermen.

The Ch'ŏnan and Yŏnpyŏng-do, I fear, were only rounds 1 and 2.

The KCNA, for your ideological edification:
KPA Supreme Command Issues Communique

Pyongyang, November 23 (KCNA) -- The Supreme Command of the Korean People's Army Tuesday released the following communique:

The south Korean puppet group perpetrated such reckless military provocation as firing dozens of shells inside the territorial waters of the DPRK side around Yonphyong Islet in the West Sea of Korea from 13:00 on Nov. 23 despite the repeated warnings of the DPRK while staging the war maneuvers for a war of aggression on it codenamed Hoguk, escalating the tension on the Korean Peninsula.

The above-said military provocation is part of its sinister attempt to defend the brigandish "northern limit line," while frequently infiltrating its naval warships into the territorial waters of the DPRK side under the pretext of "intercepting fishing boats."

The revolutionary armed forces of the DPRK standing guard over the inviolable territorial waters of the country took such decisive military step as reacting to the military provocation of the puppet group with a prompt powerful physical strike.

It is a traditional mode of counter-action of the army of the DPRK to counter the firing of the provocateurs with merciless strikes.

Should the south Korean puppet group dare intrude into the territorial waters of the DPRK even 0.001 mm, the revolutionary armed forces of the DPRK will unhesitatingly continue taking merciless military counter-actions against it.

It should bear in mind the solemn warning of the revolutionary armed forces of the DPRK that they do not make an empty talk.

There is in the West Sea of Korea only the maritime military demarcation line set by the DPRK.
Great. After years and years of buffoonish bluster, now they stop making an empty talk.

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Happy Thanksgiving!

I'm here at Wailana Coffee House, enjoying their macadamia nut stuffing. Mmmm... Sphere: Related Content

KCNA: North Korea's statement on the Yŏnpyŏng-do attack

From the KCNA:
Statement Released by Spokesman of DPRK Foreign Ministry

Pyongyang, November 24 (KCNA) -- A spokesman for the DPRK Foreign Ministry Wednesday issued the following statement:

As already reported by the Supreme Command of the KPA, the revolutionary armed forces of the DPRK on Nov. 23 took a decisive self-defensive measure to cope with the enemy's reckless military provocation of firing shells inside the territorial waters of the DPRK side around Yonphyong Islet in the West Sea of Korea.

The army of the DPRK warned several times that if even a single shell of the enemy is fired inside the territorial waters of the DPRK, it will take a prompt retaliatory strike in connection with the live shell firing drill they planned to stage from Yonphyong Islet while conducting the ill-famed war maneuvers for a war of aggression against the DPRK codenamed Hoguk.

At 8:00 a.m. on Nov. 23, the very day the incident occurred, the head of the delegation of the DPRK side to the inter-Korean military talks sent a telephone message to the head of the delegation of the enemy side once again strongly urging it to cancel the plan for staging the above-said firing drill in the waters around the islet, the sensitive waters.

This notwithstanding, the enemy committed such an extremely reckless military provocation as firing dozens of shells from the islet inside the territorial waters of the DPRK side from around 13:00.

The enemy fired shells from the islet which is so close to the territory of the DPRK that it is within each other's eyeshot despite the fact that there are so many mountains and rivers, sea waters and islets in south Korea. This powder-reeking saber-rattling cannot be construed otherwise than a politically motivated provocation.

The enemy is claiming that they fired shells southward from the islet in a bid not to get on the nerves of the DPRK but Yonphyong Islet is located deep inside the territorial waters of the DPRK away from the maritime military demarcation line. If live shells are fired from the islet, they are bound to drop inside the territorial waters of the DPRK side no matter in which direction they are fired because of such geographical features.

The ulterior aim sought by the enemy is to create the impression that the DPRK side recognized the waters off the islet as their "territorial waters", in case that there was no physical counter-action on the part of the former.

Herein lies the crafty and vicious nature of the enemy's provocation.

The army of the DPRK took such a self-defensive measure as making a prompt powerful strike at the artillery positions from which the enemy fired the shells as it does not make an empty talk.

This incident is one more dangerous development which took place because of the illegal "northern limit line" unilaterally fixed by Clark, UN forces commander, as he pleased on Aug. 30, 1953 after the conclusion of the Korean Armistice Agreement.

The U.S., its followers and some bosses of international bodies should drop such bad habit as thoughtlessly accusing somebody before learning about the truth about the incident.
If they shield south Korea, the criminal, without principle, just for being their ally, this is little short of feeding oil to the fire.

The DPRK that sets store by the peace and stability of the Korean Peninsula is now exercising superhuman self-control but the artillery pieces of the army of the DPRK, the defender of justice, remain ready to fire.
Given North Korea's illegitimate claim of a massive amount of maritime territory south of the NLL, just about any shell fired by any ship involved in a military exercise in South Korean waters off the Inchon coast would qualify as "even a single shell of the enemy [being] fired inside the territorial waters of the DPRK," under which "it will take a prompt retaliatory strike."

The language here makes clear that this was not, as some have tried to excuse it, a case of North Korea nervously firing back when they thought their area was under attack. This was premeditated and meant to send a message and inspire fear. This is the latest barrage in North Korea's recent campaign to make the waters south of the NLL — which it has never effectively controlled except for a brief period of time when it occupied South Korea — a new ideological, political, and actual battleground.

Further evidence of this comes from a KCNA report from the previous day — before the attack — blasting the ROK-US military exercises in the Yellow Sea:
The U.S. worked out new "defence cooperation guidelines" on the basis of upgrading its alliance with south Korea with its level and prospect in the new century in view. High-ranking officials of the U.S. Administration in public appearances asserted the importance of a new alliance with south Korea.

There came into being a strategic consultative mechanism for commanding a U.S.-Japan-south Korea force for actual operations and military consultative systems for various branches of arms were rounded off under the pretext of coping with the non-existent "threat" from the DPRK.

It was against this backdrop that the U.S. Department of Defense announced that it would stage the U.S.-south Korea joint military exercises in the West Sea of Korea at any cost with its nuclear-powered carrier George Washington involved.

The evermore undisguised moves of the U.S. to tighten the above-said alliance hint at a new phase of unchallenged military action to put not only the Korean Peninsula but the whole of the Asia-Pacific region under its control.
"Non-existent 'threat' from the DPRK"? Just one day before the DPRK shelled civilian targets, killing two of them (along with two military personnel)? This would be hilarious if it weren't so serious.

After reading several of these over the past few days, I'm beginning to wonder if unchallenged is not a code word foreshadowing a future attack.

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LAT and Gregg get it wrong (and so does Pyongyang) on any North Korean claim to Yŏnpyŏng-do

In the Los Angeles Times, John Glionna and Ethan Kim write about Yŏnpyŏng-do Island's [Yeonpyeong] history as a hot spot:
Just three miles across -- part military outpost, part civilian fishing village -- Yeonpyeong is the closest South Korean island to North Korea, just a few nautical miles from the barricaded shores of Kim Jong Il's secretive regime.

For half a century, the two sides have skirmished repeatedly over the archipelago, a tug of war that includes everything from sovereignty to the local catch of blue Kumori crab prized by both sides. In 1999 and 2002, the rivals' navies clashed near Yeonpyeong, resulting in numerous casualties.
Well, right there there's a mistake. Several islands nearer to the ROK mainland are close enough to North Korea that you could swim (if you were so inclined). I believe Kanghwa-do [Ganghwa] is the closest, and Kyodong-do [Gyodong] just to the west of that is also practically on top of North Korean territory.

'Bo knows geography (and 'Bo and his future ex-fiancée, in the days before GPS, nearly drove right into a ROK military guard on the northern side of Kanghwa-do one night).

On the map of Yŏnpyŏng-do on the same scale just to the right, note the distance from that island to the North. Not only is it farther to the North Korean mainland, even that tiny islet to the north is farther away than the North Korean mainland is to either Kanghwa-do or Kyodong-do.

But that's not my main beef. It would appear that the LAT reporters and the former US Ambassador to South Korea got it wrong on North Korea's claim to Yŏnpyŏng-do:
The bone of contention is the so-called Northern Limit Line, an invisible boundary established by the United Nations at the cessation of the Korean War.

But North Korea has long rejected that decision, claiming that the maritime border exists farther to the south. Yeonpyeong Island, Pyongyang insists, is part of its territory. A newscaster in North Korea this week again made that point, calling the attack a tactic to protect its island from the south.

"The island is a hot spot -- both sides claim it," said Donald Gregg, a former U.S. ambassador to Seoul in the George W. Bush administration. "That whole area of the western sea boundary has been very difficult. It's a tough stretch of water, and Yeonpyeong sits right in the middle of it."
Insofar as the DPRK proclaims all of ROK-held territory as its own, it also claims Yŏnpyŏng-do. But as far as the 1953 Korean War Armistice Agreement is concerned, that island is firmly in South Korea's hands:
(b) Within ten (10) days after this armistice agreement becomes effective, withdraw all of their military forces, supplies, and equipment from the rear and the coastal islands and waters of Korea of the other side. If such military forces are not withdrawn within the stated time limit, and there is no mutually agreed and valid reason for the delay, the other side shall have the right to take any action which it deems necessary for the maintenance of security and order. The term "coastal islands", as used above, refers to those islands, which, though occupied by one side at the time when this armistice agreement becomes effective, were controlled by the other side on 24 June 1950; provided, however, that all the islands lying to the north and west of the provincial boundary line between HWANGHAE-DO and KYONGGI-DO shall be under the military control of the Supreme Commander of the Korean People's Army and the Commander of the Chinese People's volunteers, except the island groups of PAENGYONG-DO (37 58' N, 124 40' E), TAECHONG-DO (37 50' N, 124 42' E), SOCHONG-DO (37 46' N, 124 46' E), YONPYONG-DO (37 38' N, 125 40' E), and U-DO (37 36'N, 125 58' E), which shall remain under the military control of the Commander-in-Chief, United Nations Command. All the island on the west coast of Korea lying south of the above-mentioned boundary line shall remain under the military control of the Commander-in-Chief, United Nations Command. (See Map 3).
The emphasis, of course, is mine. I wonder if Messieurs Glionna and Kim did not discover this bit of evidence because the "new" Revised Romanization system spells the island in question entirely different from the (much better IMnsHO) McCune-Reischauer-based spelling that prevailed in the past.

In other words, North Korea and China both signed an agreement recognizing Yŏnpyŏng-do as South Korea-controlled territory. They have no legitimate claim to taking it back. None. Zero. Nada. South Korea's ownership is obvious, also, even in maps of the maritime border proposed by North Korea, which rejects the NLL that has formed the de facto border since the war.


The blue line is the NLL, a line that is basically follows the principle of equidistance between DPRK territory and ROK territory. The five outlying islands (서해 5도, Sŏhae-odo) that are firmly under South Korean control (and where ROK civilians live and work) project maritime territory that North Korea wants.

By contrast, North Korea proposes the red line, which follows the principal of equidistance from the Korean mainland, allowing for a corridor of access to each of the ROK islands that are on "North Korea's side" of that line. Note that North Korea's proposal runs completely counter to international norms, nor does it actually control any of the waters it is claiming that are south of the NLL.

North Korea has for some time been pushing the idea that the NLL is unfair and should be reworked. While originally behaving relatively diplomatically in that push, it has at least since the late 1990s been acting out militarily in support of its claim, with occasional NLL crossings and even random shelling of the South Korean side of the NLL.

But this is now a bit of a game changer. I will look for the KCNA report myself (I just don't trust anyone, especially journalists, to tell me what something says unless I read it myself), but if North Korea is suggesting that Yŏnpyŏng-do specifically needs to be liberated, and in light of their apparent threats of a second and third attack, we may have a real mess on our hands. Doing nothing will definitely not be the correct course of action.

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North Korea threatens more attacks... At what point do we consider ourselves at war?

The Marmot's Hole has a post focusing on how North Korea's attack on Yŏnpyŏng-do Island [Yeonpyeong] appears to have been premeditated (i.e., not the nervous response to South Korean military exercises that Pyongyang has made it out to be), evidenced by the type of weaponry they rained down on the island:
So, it appears the North Korean hit Yeonpyeong-do with slightly more than their coastal guns. They hit it with 120mm rockets fired from multiple rocket launchers. And according to lawmaker/military expert Song Young-sun (recently interviewed by the LAT’s John Glionna), the North also employed recently developed thermobaric warheads. The 122mm rockets have eight times the destructive power of North Korea’s coastal guns, and the thermobaric warheads are a special munition that penetrates concrete and kills with high heat and pressure.

Lawmakers showed off the remains of one of 120mm rockets, which landed in the backyard of a post office.

One lawmaker noted that 120mm rocket launchers are not normally deployed to the area from which Tuesday’s attack was launched, which means they were probably moved there from units further in the rear. This leads credence to the belief the attack was carefully planned in advance. The use of the rockets and thermobaric charges also show that North Korea was aiming for lots of damage and lots of dead bodies.
Missiles... fired at post offices... just what kind of imagery are you waiting for?

Well, if that's not enough to get you to sit up and reconsider turning the other cheek, how about this? North Korea seems to be shedding any plausible deniability that it was the aggressor and is now warning of further attacks:
The drama within Lee's Cabinet [involving the resignation of the Defense Minister] ended a tense day that saw North Korea warn of a possible reprise of its attack and Beijing voice concern over joint U.S.-South Korean naval exercises set to begin Sunday. If further provoked, North Korea "will deal without hesitation the second and third strong physical retaliatory blow," read a statement carried by the state-run Korean Central News Agency.
As I noted at The Western Confucian, North Korean rhetoric considers a wide range of legitimate state activities (from patrolling its own borders on down to adopting the KORUS FTA) as "provocation." By merely existing, South Korea is provoking the North. Going about its day is even more provocative.

As I have noted repeatedly, the big game-changer with the Yŏnpyŏng-do attack is that it underscores how taking the high road and avoiding military retaliation in cases like the sinking of the Ch'ŏnan does not prevent future attack. If what the LAT is reporting is true, Pyongyang is threatening future attacks (plural!) on the flimsiest of excuses. [And I will be poring over KCNA reports to find this particular news release. UPDATE: Here it is.]

What does this mean for Seoul? At the very least, it means something akin to The Kushibo Plan needs to be implemented or ready to be implemented (option #1 at minimum). As the days pass, the justification for anything other than option #1 slips away, and after more than a week or so, even option #1 must prudently be taken off the table. But South Korea must have in reserve the plan and the will to act on an appropriate version of options #1 and #2 (and possibly #3) if North Korea launches a further attack. Merely lobbing half the number of shells with which you were attacked is too weak a response to be a deterrent for such acts in the future.

In the meantime, while waiting and preparing for the next attack and praying it doesn't actually happen, Seoul (and its allies) need to adopt a stern and meaningful non-military response, one that provides punishment to China for not keeping its pet on a leash and starts directing Korean investment toward countries other than China (e.g., India, Vietnam, the Philippines, etc.).

Meanwhile, President Lee has gotten confirmation from Japanese Prime Minister that Tokyo stands behind Seoul:
Prime Minister Naoto Kan and his Seoul counterpart, Lee Myung Bak, agreed Wednesday their countries and the United States must work closely to confront any provocations by North Korea, which the previous day shelled a South Korean island in the Yellow Sea, causing four confirmed deaths.

Kan informed Lee by phone that Tokyo will call on Beijing, Pyongyang's economic and political benefactor, to pressure the reclusive state to halt similar belligerence in the future, Deputy Chief Cabinet Secretary Tetsuro Fukuyama told reporters.
No one wants war. Just about everyone worries that North Korea will take any reaction by South Korea as an excuse to attack civilian targets that are bigger, more significant, or closer to the capital. But at some point we have to recognize that Pyongyang is going to keep pushing the envelope until we put a stop to it.

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