Friday, March 17, 2017

I'm taking this site down on account of Google's history with security and censorship issues.

Please update your bookmarks to my new site:

Wednesday, January 6, 2016

Timeline: Pyongyang's H-Bomb

This is the big topic of the day: KCNA announced that the DPRK has successfully tested its own thermodynamic hydrogen bomb. We know that there was a bomb test; we know that there was an earthquake around the test site. Beyond that, experts, analysts and anyone in general with an opinion all disagree on the particulars.

Image: Google Maps
At 7:17 p.m. (EST) on January 5—or 9:47 a.m., January 6, Pyongyang—news began to break that North Korea had conducted a successful submarine missile test, near the city of Sinpo, South Hamgyong Province, 30 miles east of HamhÅ­ng, the second largest city in the DPRK.

This concerned some NK trackers, as any warfare development is likely to be worrisome. Some months ago, NK claimed to have launched a sea-to-air test from a submarine, but this was debunked: the photos were altered to hide the launch from a standard sea-faring barge, not submerged at all. Analysts were satisfied that Pyongyang hadn't made any threatening leaps in military technology, later reports decried this test as a failure, but this recent development was of some concern.

Wednesday, October 28, 2015

Speaking Truth to Marketing

The discussion that got me banned.
Image: @soominee
I haven't updated this blog in a few months. I try to keep up with defector autobiographies, but it gets overwhelming as you might imagine. There's more and more information coming out all the time. And I follow the news, but sometimes it seems it resolves too quickly to write about, and if anyone's really interested in these topics, they're already following the same RSS feeds and Twitter accounts I am... I don't feel I have much to contribute to the discussion.

I do take it as a point of pride that Young Pioneer Tours and Michelle/Soominee have blocked me from their Instagram accounts. That only tells me they know they're doing something wrong and are unwilling to talk about it.

Why would they do such a thing, you ask? Because occasionally I go after certain tour groups and certain accounts when I think they're capitalizing on North Korea's sordid reputation for bragging rights or ticket sales. The social media person at Young Pioneer Tours labeled me a "troll" for my activity, but to my mind, an Internet troll is someone who's taking a position they don't necessarily believe in, solely for the purpose of riling negative emotions in their target.

Tuesday, August 11, 2015

The Bait-and-Switch of Lee Hee-ho

Image: the Kim Dae-jung Peace Center Archives
After the eastern hemisphere calmed down about the DPRK setting its clocks back 30 minutes, it refocused on real news: Kim Jong Un invited Lee Hee-ho to visit him in Pyongyang over August 5−8, then promptly retracted the invitation at the least convenient time.

Most news outlets focus on two identifying traits of Lee Hee-ho: she is the 92-year-old widow of former South Korean president Kim Dae-jung, and they associate her with the "sunshine era" of the two nations. Her name is alternately Romanized as Lee Hui-ho or Ri Hui-ho.

The Sunshine Policy was instituted in 1998 by South Korea as a form of "killing them with kindness" tactic in dealing with North Korea. President Kim Dae-jung initiated this policy to engage with the historically belligerent and short-tempered DPRK. It stipulated that while South Korea would not tolerate any saber-rattling on North Korea's part, the two nations would behave as though they respected each other's sovereignty. South Korea would also seek to cooperate and collaborate with North Korea whenever reasonable.

Sunday, August 2, 2015

Review: Victor Fox's 'Kimjongilia'

My Goodreads review of Kimjongilia is here.

Beyond that review, I'm just going to sum up a couple points. This book does not resemble the N.C. Heikin documentary, though I suspect it's referring to it simply for attention. Nowhere in the story is the begonia cultivar mentioned, and Kim Jong-Il is only a character from birth to age 6, hardly a key player to the plot. So why choose this title, if not to guide people to this book by accident?

Kimjongilia is written by Victor Fox, a self-publishing author with a confusing website. His blog is a feed of cut-n-pasted sample text... the same text pasted over and over. The latest post is the stock "welcome to your new blog" entry that most thinking people remove. I'm not sure what's going on with that site.

Yet not only does he emphasize that Kimjongilia is absolutely a true story, but he indicates it was handed to him by an elderly Asian gentleman. The implication here is that it's a firsthand account (retold through Fox's styling) of 1940s Korea, just as the Soviets were setting up Kim Il-Sung to be Prime Minister and the Communist Party of China surreptitiously attempted to steer the direction of the new DPRK. Fox would have us believe he was simply jogging through the park and befriended an old man he'd seen several times, and that man handed him the "explosive" manuscript.

That could happen, but the information in this text is so detailed, with such profound insider material, that it requires extraordinary substantiation. In this story, the sexual deviations of the founder of North Korea are categorically explored; private meetings with Stalin and Mao are up for display; far-reaching background stories for a dozen characters are charted. Who could possibly have all this information? How much of it can be verified? The names all check out, but they're readily available from multiple public sources. I really need to hear from my preferred North Korea analysts and scholars, get their impression of this book.