I haven’t had much to add to everyone else’s comments about the sort of people who would keep hundreds of children captive for days, with no water, in midsummer, and then bring the roof down on their heads. It does dominate the thoughts, though, especially in combination with other news this week.
South Korea has been doing lab tests with uranium enrichment. The results were apparently a small amount that was “close to” weapons grade. Now, if there’s going to be a headline that reads “—– May Be Close to Developing Nukes,” I’d much prefer that the —– be South Korea over some of the alternatives. (Additionally, the experiment was done four years ago, and the IAEA inspectors found no evidence it had been expanded upon since then.) And despite the clear potential for diplomatic problems that would result from the ROK’s developing nuclear weapons, with the DPRK less than a two-hour drive from Seoul, who could possibly blame it for wanting to do so?
I wonder, does North Korea get much play in the US media? Here, it’s in the news all the time. Some of the reasons for that are obvious: It’s nearby, so the potential for patrol boat skirmishes and things is high, and there’s some Japan-North Korea trade. But what you most memorably see (I’m talking over the last five years or so) on television are human interest stories about refugees. For a while there, it seemed as if there were a new Japanese wife of a North Korean escaping back here through China every Thursday. Often, she would tell the reporter, her voice and face distorted to protect her identity, about eating potatoes when there was no rice–a shocking deprivation to East Asians. And that was before the appalling Japanese abductee story broke and began dominating news coverage. Recently, the focus has also been more on diplomatic talks, particularly now that the six-way nattering over the DPRK’s nuclear program is doing the on-again-off-again thing.
And that leads to the other exposure you get to North Korea here: excerpts from its news broadcasts, usually when some higher-up has made an anti-Japanese remark or some trade issue or summit has been reported on. The North Korean TV technology is so antiquated it has to be seen to be believed. The microphones have that dead sound the local news from an unaffiliated station had in the ’80′s. There’s only one camera angle. And this creepy girl in traditional Korean costume (whose job is to grin like a lunatic and deliver fulsome praise about Kim Jong-il) often appears against a blue screen. And I mean just a blue screen, as if they’d forgotten to put in the background footage. In a humorous-but-not-funny way, it reminds you what riches we have: the lamest music video by the most faceless new pop-product non-talent in our world gets production values that are many times better than the broadcasts North Korea uses to remind citizens that they live in the perfect society.
I was going to say that this is all some comfort because, you know, if the DPRK can’t get it together to make a decent news broadcast, they probably can’t contrive something as tricky as nuclear warheads that detonate. But that’s ridiculous, because if there’s one thing all these types care about and will put every last resource into doing successfully, it’s wrecking things. The reasoning runs, If your way doesn’t produce a prosperous society that nurtures its citizens, don’t bother changing; just blow the opposition and their artifacts up (and don’t forget to torture the children while you’re at it) until there’s nothing left to stand as a rebuke to it. There’s no fate bad enough for such people, but the Russian authorities had the right idea in making them dead, even if it’s determined that they acted precipitously.