|The first ever photograph of Japanese tourists in America.|
In the late 1860s and early 1870s, as Japan felt pressure to open up to the West, the Iwakura Mission and other diplomatic delegations set out for Europe and North America to intensely observe the social, legal, academic, and scientific institutions of the great powers of the day. In the late Chosŏn era, a number of Koreans went especially to the United States and Japan in an effort to learn how Korean could modernize itself and become a strong country.
It is in that vein that we have a dozen North Koreans on a crash course in capitalism partly arranged by UC San Diego's Institute on Global Conflict and Cooperation, touring the likes of Google, Home Depot, Sempra Energy, Bloomberg, Bloomingdale’s Department Store, CitiGroup, Union Bank, Qualcomm, and Stanford University.
The trip was largely a secret, but it seems the hosts pulled out all the stops. The North Koreans were even brought to Universal Studios.
|Like their counterparts in the Iwakura Mission 140 years earlier, |
these North Korean visitors have not yet adopted the peace/victory sign
as a de rigueur pose.
This is a very interesting development, one that would seem to indicate that North Korea really is turning over a new leaf, or is being forced to by China. I submit that this goes hand in hand with Beijing's attempt to push Chinese-style reforms on the DPRK in an effort to integrate it with the PRC's northeastern region (i.e., Manchuria). Such reforms, I believe, may be one of China's demands in exchange for allowing Kim Jong-il's son Kim Jong-un (i.e., The Kim Who Wasn't There™) to ascend to the Pyongyang throne, at least as a figurehead.
Kim Jong-il himself went on such a tour to China's south a few years back, visiting Guangzhou for a taste, Beijing's leadership hoped, of what Socialism With Chinese Characteristics (i.e., crony capitalism of the worst possible kind) could do for North Korea. Of course, if you're trying to convince someone who maintains control by hindering movement, blocking information, and threatening starvation that a relatively liberal and open system is the way of the future, free-wheeling Guangzhou (i.e., China's wild, wild south) is probably not the best place to take them.
Frankly, all those people down there doing what they want with little regard or concern for what Beijing wants them from them probably scared the bejeezus out of the poor Dear Leader.
We'll have to see what, if anything, it all means. I constantly ride Beijing for propping up a murderous regime, but maybe they really are working behind the scenes to get North Korean to "normalize" and join the community of nations. One can only hope.
Oh, and before their visit, I expect Google first made the Norks return that piece of Google Earth they stole.
|"Those Western women are practically naked!|
Don't look or your eyes will melt!"