We were tempted to link to Despair Inc’s Motivational Poster Generator in our daily links, but decided against it as it was not really Asian content.
We hope the below posters rectify that problem.
The Korea Liberator (TKL) offers a sympathetic interview with Gordon G Chang, author of Nuclear Showdown: North Korea Takes on the World and The Coming Collapse of China. Naturally, TKL focuses on events relating to the peninsula, although Chang also briefly reaffirms his belief that the Chinese Communist Party is collapsing.:
Chang: Or all of the above [laughter].
I don’t believe that the communist party will be ruling China very much longer. I think it will fall from power by the end of this decade. But my crystal ball is not clear enough to provide a specific answer as to what happens next. Over the long term, China will develop representative institutions and a free economy, but perhaps not in the time frame you mention.
I don’t think China will fragment, but I do see Taiwan becoming recognized as the independent state that it actually is today. But apart from that, China won’t fragment. There will be a great period of uncertainty and turbulence in China, but 10 years are not enough to produce a democracy and the free market.
AsiaPundit has both of Chang’s books and would recommend them. While AP does not fully subscribe to to Chang’s view that the CCP will collapse — particularly in such a short timeframe — a deep economic correction would not be a surprise. Although there is hyperbole, even six years after publication Chang’s text still well illustrates the fragility of the modern Chinese state and, moreover, offers a welcome antidote to China hype.
With North Korea’s missile launch yesterday, debate has emerged as to whether China was either unwilling or unable to stop the launch. AsiaPundit believes there is some truth to both arguments, but the former is more probable.
Pyongyang cannot be prevented from doing anything — even something that goes against its own interest. As dependent as North Korea is on Beijing and Seoul, it is not a client state.
That said, if this Strategy Page report is to be believed, China’s influence over the rogue state is even less than AP had previously imagined.
…(Chinese) food and fuel supplies sent to North Korea have been halted, not to force North Korea to stop missile tests or participate in peace talks, but to return the Chinese trains the aid was carried in on. In the last few weeks, the North Koreans have just kept the trains, sending the Chinese crews back across the border. North Korea just ignores Chinese demands that the trains be returned, and insists that the trains are part of the aid program. It’s no secret that North Korean railroad stock is falling apart, after decades of poor maintenance and not much new equipment. Stealing Chinese trains is a typical loony-tune North Korean solution to the problem.
If the North Koreans appear to make no sense, that’s because they don’t. Put simply, when their unworkable economic policies don’t work, the North Koreans just conjure up new, and equally unworkable, plans. The Chinese have tried to talk the North Koreans out of these pointless fantasies, and for their trouble they have their trains stolen. How do you negotiate under these conditions? No one knows. The South Koreans believe that if they just keep the North Korean leaders from doing anything too destructive (especially to South Korea), eventually the tragicomic house of cards up north will just collapse. Not much of a plan, but so far, no one’s come up with anything better.
(via the Marmot, who notes that he has not seen any news stories corroborating this.)
Start panicking now!
A U.S. State Department official in Washington told Reuters a long-range missile, believed to be a Taepodong-2, failed 40 seconds after it was launched.
Experts say the Taepodong-2 has a possible range of 3,500-4,300 km (2,190-2,690 miles).
Daniel Pinkston, director of the East Asia non-proliferation programme for the California-based Center for Nonproliferation Studies, said the rocket’s failure would be a blow to Pyongyang.
“If there was failure that early on in the flight, there is no way they could make any claims of test-launching a satellite as they did in 1998. They will not be able to exploit the propaganda value of that after that type of failure,” he said.
The first time North Korea test-fired a long-range missile — in 1998 over Japan — it triggered a sharp increase in tension in the region and sent shockwaves through Far East Asian financial markets.
Experts say that Pyongyang is developing long-range missiles to have the capability one day to deliver a nuclear bomb, but that it is years away from acquiring such a weapons system.
Had the Taepodong-2 not exploded shortly after launch, it would have altered the balance of power in Northeast Asia and had been a major global concern. Now, it should be of the greatest concern to the rocket scientists who designed the dud.*
The failure is also a setback for the writers at the Korean Central News Agency, who issued this this amusing threat on Monday:
North Korea would respond to a pre-emptive U.S. military attack with an “annihilating strike and a nuclear war,” the state-run media said Monday, heightening anti-U.S. rhetoric amid close scrutiny of its missile program.
The title of this post was stolen from Arms Control Wonk, who offers the following multiple-choice question.:
So who looks more foolish here?
A. Kim Jong-Il for staging a July 4th fireworks display that blew up in his face;
B. William Perry and Ash Carter for hyperventilating that we had to blow up this missile on the launch pad, instead of waiting for it to blow itself up 40 seconds after launch;
C. All those reporter who repeated the Pentagon palbum about how until the launch failure “we were ready to do what was necessary to defend the country,” as if the interceptors in Alaska had any chance of intercepting anything; or
D. All of the above.
*AsiaPundit does not have any detailed knowledge of the inner workings of North Korean bureaucracy, but he expects Kim Jong-il views failure in a similar light as do other evil overlords. If not, those North Korean guys are at the very least in for a serious razzing at the next rogue state propagandist convention.
In this allegedly North Korean propaganda flash animation game, defeat the evil warmonger Bush and the Japanese aggressors by covering them with giant rubies.:
North Korean website By the Korean Nation Itself launches online game “catch those thieves”, enjoy yourself. Instruction: move the red stones onto the you-know-who.
(via Letters from China)
A possible North Korean missile test has produced what is being called a diplomatic crisis.
AsiaPundit is not worrying. Like other long-time amateur observers of the Stalinist dystopia, AP has become so inured to bellicose statements and provocative actions from Pyongyang that they are likely to produce mockery or boredom.
Still, remembering words of wisdom from our parents — ‘it’s all fun and games until someone loses a large Pacific Northwest city’ – AP will refrain from making jokes about the crisis. This is a serious matter and attempts at jocularity should be avoided.
AsiaPundit is outraged by the way the US administration is handling this crisis. There has been too much waffeling. This matter could have been quickly resolved if only today’s politicians had the resolve and unity of vision that was characteristic of those of days past. If yesterday’s leaders were currently in positions of power we would certainly be seeing more decisive action.
Former US Republican House leader Newt Gingrich has called for a first strike:
The American public is being reassured that we have a ballistic-missile defense that will work. No serious person believes this. None of the tests have been robust enough or realistic enough to assure us that we could intercept the North Korean ICBM no matter where it was aimed.
In the immediate and present danger, the United States should not wait to attempt to shoot the missile down after it is launched. There is no proven reliable technology and no evidence that we could succeed. Instead, we should destroy the missile on its site before it is launched. Our ability to preempt the launch is nearly certain.
We can’t afford failure.
Imagine the North Korean dictator in a moment of insanity has placed a nuclear weapon atop of the Taepodong-2. Imagine he believes that taking out Seattle is the best way to impress us with how serious he is. Imagine that we allow this missile to be fired because we want to be in State Department language “prudent, cautious, reasonable, and multilateral.” Imagine what the “6/21 Commission to Investigate the Loss of Seattle” would report about 13 years of diplomatic failure and the failure of the United States to implement President Bush’s pledge.
America’s actions must be decisive. We are faced with a brutal, totalitarian dictatorship about which we know little. It is acting in defiance of all of its own international commitments. The time for talk is over. Either they dismantle the missile or we the United States should dismantle it.
From an American viewpoint of saving American lives and American cities certain preemption is much less risky than uncertain defense. That is a simple but painful fact. It is one Washington should act upon.
Should the United States allow a country openly hostile to it and armed with nuclear weapons to perfect an intercontinental ballistic missile capable of delivering nuclear weapons to U.S. soil? We believe not. The Bush administration has unwisely ballyhooed the doctrine of “preemption,” which all previous presidents have sustained as an option rather than a dogma. It has applied the doctrine to Iraq, where the intelligence pointed to a threat from weapons of mass destruction that was much smaller than the risk North Korea poses. (The actual threat from Saddam Hussein was, we now know, even smaller than believed at the time of the invasion.) But intervening before mortal threats to U.S. security can develop is surely a prudent policy.
Therefore, if North Korea persists in its launch preparations, the United States should immediately make clear its intention to strike and destroy the North Korean Taepodong missile before it can be launched. This could be accomplished, for example, by a cruise missile launched from a submarine carrying a high-explosive warhead. The blast would be similar to the one that killed terrorist leader Abu Musab al-Zarqawi in Iraq. But the effect on the Taepodong would be devastating. The multi-story, thin-skinned missile filled with high-energy fuel is itself explosive — the U.S. airstrike would puncture the missile and probably cause it to explode. The carefully engineered test bed for North Korea’s nascent nuclear missile force would be destroyed, and its attempt to retrogress to Cold War threats thwarted. There would be no damage to North Korea outside the immediate vicinity of the missile gantry.
Oh how we wish we were back in the wonderfully bipartisan Clinton era.
UPDATE:Kim Jong-il must be trembling in fear. Walter Mondale has called for a first strike.
South Korean boy band ShinHua made a rare appearance in North Korean capital Pyongyang. A You Tube video is available at GW North Korea. More interesting than the band is the audience, Preetam comments:
I couldn’t believe that North Korea allowed such seemingly western influenced band to play in front of North Koreans. The caption does say that the show was held in Pyongyang.
Occasionally the video zooms into the well dressed and sober audience. The audience reaction is priceless.
The women are all dressed in traditional hanbok and most of the faces look as if they don’t approve of such music.
The woman in the left seems interested while the women on the right is probably glad that she didn’t bring her kids along.
AsiaPundit is pleased to announce the commencement of the new round of Asia Blog Awards. The awards are based on the Japanese financial year, which ends on March 31, and nominations are now open for the April 1-June 30 period, full-year awards are to be based on the quarterly contests.
Details are below, nominations for the below categories can be made on the individual pages linked below until the end of June 16 (Samoan time).
Awards are at present limited to English-language or dual-language sites.
Region/Country Specific Blogs:
Non-region specific awards:
Some categories may be deleted or combined if they lack a full slate nominations - and some may be added should it be warranted.
Winners will be judged in equal parts on: (a) votes, (b) technorati ranking and (c) judges’ selection.
While judges will naturally have biases, they will hopefully offset imbalances in other areas (such as inevitable cheating in the voting and inflationary blogroll alliances in the Technorati ranks).
The names or sites of the judges will be public.
Judges will be ineligible for nomination. As the awards largely intend on providing exposure to lesser-known sites of merit, we are hopeful that authors of ‘A-list’ sites that tend to dominate such contests will disqualify themselves by being judges.
The contest has been endorsed by previous ABA host Simon who is also serving as a judge (thereby disqualifying Simon World).
Traffic — the most telling and accurate measure of a site’s populatity — may be a consideration in future awards. However, at present, there is no clear or universal way to accurately measure and contrast traffic (sites such as Sitemeter, Statcounter offer results that cannot be compared, while services such as Alexa.com do not work for sites that are not hosted on independent domains).
This is all imperfect and will be tweaked in future events (with transparency, of course).
Most importantly, this is intended to be fun.
This is an intriguing experiment, but to suggest that a highly controlled Pyongyang bureau will make the Associated Press the envy of other news organizations is very much overstating things.:
APTN, the television arm of the Associated Press news agency, has become the first western media organisation to open a bureau in Pyongyang.
This is a remarkable coup and will make AP the envy of other international news organisations which have been trying without success to open an office in North Korea, which generally bans journalists from the country, especially Americans.
APTN’s director of marketing, Toby Hartwell, told NK Zone that the bureau will be manned by three local North Koreans who “will adhere to the AP’s reporting standards.”
Negotiations had taken four or five years, and the AP had received guarantees from North Korean officials that they would allow regular visits by their journalists and news executives.
“We will be robust in what kind of cover we expect” from the three North Korean staff, a producer, a cameraman and an office assistant, said Hartwell.
Opening the bureau was “a first step, but a significant one,” he added.
If AsiaPundit’s memory serves him correctly, the only two foreign news organizations permitted to have bureaus in North Korea have been China’s Xinhua and Russia’s Tass. Both are state news agencies, and don’t stray too far from their own state positions. But they are staffed by Chinese and Russian journalists who would unlikely face much in the way of reprisals from North Korea itself.
It will be interesting to see what sort of copy the local staff will produce for AP. But as this is a country that jails cheerleaders, AsiaPundit is not expecting it to be be of much news value.
Follow the bouncing ball and pledge to defend the People’s Democratic Republic of Korea.:
(Via Boing Boing)
Related, but not Asian, a look at when when US currency was art.
Via the Marmot, a — the land where tourists are rare and the draft starts early.
Whether it’s satire or not, Juche Girl is disturbing:
I love leader Kim Jong Il very very much. All world people love Leader Kim Jong Il too. All the places Leader Kim Jong Il go, people give flower to Leader Kim Jong Il.
(Via the Flea)
Via Boing Boing, AsiaPundit offers this splendid Engrish education video for Japanese men seeking lessons on how to talk dirty. Not safe for work.:
AP can’t quite place the accent suspects that the ‘native’ speakers are Russian or from elsewhere outside of the Anglosphere.
The World Bank has completed a study of Chinese outward foreign direct investment, surveying Chinese 132 firms on their investment plans and opinions on issues relating to foreign investment at home and abroad.
A power point presentation of the study is here.
Among the questions asked was whether firms found it easier or more difficult to do business in various foreign locations. Not surprisingly, most respondents found business conditions easier in the West and all respondents found the North Korea the most difficult environment for business.
AsiaPundit does not find it surprising that Chinese businesses find the Middle East the second-worst location for investment. While China hands may find this hard to believe, as a former resident of the region who now lives in China, AP will attest that Arab bureaucracies are even more unbearable than what is found in heavily bureaucratized China.
(via the PSD Blog)
Curzon at Coming Anarchy notes that North Korea is seeking the arrest of people who helped others escape the gulag state.:
North Korea issued a warrant yesterday for the arrest of four members of Japan-based NGOs helping North Koreans flee or defect to South Korea and Japan. The warrants were issued on the following charges, carrying the following penalties:
Joining or leading groups that engage in anti-State activities: 5-10 years of “labor reeducation”
Fleeing to a foreign state for the purpose of engaging in anti-State activities: 5-10 years of “labor reeducation”
Masterminding insurrection against the State: death penalty, confiscation of all property
No charges are leveled against the individuals for protecting dissidents who have fled North Korea—which is what all four activists do for a living.
Japan’s national Police Agency has opined that because North Korea is not party to the International Crime and Police Organization (ICPO), the warrant is meaningless unless if the suspects go to North Korea, calling it a “nonsense warrant with no enforceability.” (Information taken from Japanese language Sankei Shinbun article.)
AsiaPundit thinks this is a great opportunity and that talks should be opened with the North with an eye to bringing it in line with international legal processes. If the North wants to put some Japanese residents on trial, that seems fair - but only if the trials meet international standards and it reciprocates by handing over some of its citizens who are wanted in the West.
Joshua at Korea Liberator - which is not incidentally a CIA front - reports that attempts to shut down the North Korean prison camp musical have backfired.:
In one of the great ironies of this young year, “Yodok Story” has had a splendid opening because of the very people who tried keep it from seeing its first opening act. The Chosun Ilbo reports that many shows are sold out, and that the play’s Web site has crashed from the overflowing traffic (though OFK/TKL readers have known for weeks that the site has labored under what we will call technical “challenges”).
A month after the fact, the government finally got around to denying reports that it tried to intimidate “Yodok Story” producers into watering down the atrocity stories in the script, or that it had a hand in pressuring some investors to pull out of the production. Director Chung Seong-San also claims that someone threatened his life. Soon afterward, a flood of media attention attracted new investors, donors, and the interest of theataah-goers.
Whoever attempted to stop “Yodok Story” failed miserably. Not only did the play get most of its publicity from its enemies free of charge, so did the cause those enemies tried to conceal from the world’s attention.
UPDATE: Reports of a smash hit have likely been exaggerated.
(Photo stolen from NPR.)
AsiaPundit had long been aware that many popular cartoons are animated in North Korea. But he thanks Angry Chinese Blogger for the reminder.:
Even North Korea has advanced beyond China in terms animation, having both a strong domestic market and an established Animation ‘finishing’ industry that uses modern techniques and equipment rarely found in China.
Though not widely advertised, North Korea’s SEK Studio produced many of the ‘in between’ cells for Disney’s “The Lion King” and “Pocahontas”. Both of which are believed to have been managed by outsourced companies in Europe/Asia, due to America’s trade sanctions against the communist state,
From a 2002 Asia Times item.:
North Korea never ceases to surprise, even to amaze. Nor is it in all aspects quite so cut off from global trends as we tend to think. True, not a lot that Pyongyang produces is of a quality to be readily salable worldwide. Among the better known exceptions are missiles. Among the less well known are cartoons.
What’s more, you’ve seen them. So cunning is this axis of evil, it’s even infiltrated Hollywood. Yup, we’re talking Disney. Pocahontas? The Lion King? Both of these used North Korean animation skills: presumably on a subcontracting basis, as otherwise they’d fall foul of the Trading with the Enemy Act. Europe has no such restrictions, so French and Italian producers have been getting cartoons made in Pyongyang since the mid-1980s. Recent titles include an Italian Hercules, and France’s Billy the Cat.
Via Korea Liberator, North Korea has allegedly jailed members of its National Cheerleading Team, possibly for talking about a trip to the South.:
Lee Myeong-ho, a former inmate of the Daeheung concentration camp in South Hamgyeong Province who recently escaped to China, said “21 beautiful women” were detained at the camp since the end of last year. “Later I found out that they were the cheerleading team that had gone to South Korea,” he said.
Lee said since inmates are forbidden to talk to one another, he could not find out for sure what mistake they had made, but the rumor was that they had broken their promise to North Korean security services not to disclose what they had seen in South Korea.
Another defector explained the cheerleaders are picked among university students, propaganda squad members and music school students from good families. Before they were sent to South Korea, they had to sign a pledge bearing their 10 fingerprints that says if they are going to an enemy country — Pyongyang’s epithet for the South — they must fight as soldiers of leader Kim Jong-il and never talk about what they have seen or heard in South Korea once they return. They agree to accept punishment if they break the promise.
(Photo Yonhap via the Foreigner)
A promising new group blog has been founded:
China has shown a sharp downward trend in press freedoms last year, while the Philippines remains dangerous and North Korea abysmal.:
While some countries in Asia have remained stable with regard to media freedom, there have been sharp downward trends in several Asian countries, particularly China, Nepal, the Philippines and Thailand.
Reporters Without Borders (RSF), the International Federation of Journalists (IFJ) and Freedom House, a non-governmental organization that monitors press freedoms around the world, assessed the levels of press freedom in countries based on the prevailing legal environment, political and economic situation and the overall attitudes of authorities towards the media.
The surveys were generally concordant in their results, with China, Nepal, North Korea and the Philippines remaining the biggest causes of concern for journalists in Asia.
"Compared to last year, there really aren’t many positives in Asia," said Karin Karlekar, Managing Editor of the Freedom House survey. "While some countries have remained steady [Japan, Taiwan and Hong Kong], we can see downward trends in many countries in the region."
North Korea was found to be the worst country in all surveys, showing no signs of improvement over the past couple of years. All media in North Korea continue to remain tools of Kim Jong-il’s state, while all foreign media are repeatedly portrayed by the regime as "liars" seeking to destabilize the government, according to the Freedom House report. However, the report also suggests that an increase in international trade has resulted in greater contact with foreigners, which might allow for greater access to international news reports in the near future.
China has also shown a sharp downward trend in 2005, said Karlekar, which can be attributed to increased censorship of newspapers and radio stations, and greater Internet surveillance.
According to RSF, the so-called "broadcasting Great Wall" in China has been growing over the past year: The Voice of Tibet, the BBC and Radio Free Asia are among the radio stations jammed by the government in 2005.
South Korea’s current leadership is allegedly pressuring sponsors to pull funding from a musical about a North Korean prison camp, which is apparently "too negative" about conditions in the camp. While AsiaPundit generally would not support a musical, especially one that is as of yet unseen, AP wonders: ‘Is there any way donors outside of South Korea can contribute funds to get this made?‘:
A planned musical about human rights abuses in North Korea’s Yoduk concentration camp has run into massive obstacles, not least from officials fearful of upsetting the Stalinist country.
South Korean government agencies are demanding changes to the story, which they say dwells too heavily on the negative aspects of the camp, according to producers. Officials also allegedly invoked the National Security Law to warn producers against showing a portrait of former leader Kim Il-sung and the singing of North Korean songs in the show….
“Yoduk Story” focuses on a camp where 20,000 inmates work more than 14 hours a day living on just one bowl of cereal and a spoonful of salt. Those who try to escape are executed by hanging or stoning because the authorities do not want to waste bullets killing them.
But its scheduled debut in March is now in jeopardy. Reportedly under official pressure, more than half its budget of W700 million has disappeared, making it difficult to feed producers and cast.
"After reading our script, government officials demanded that we change part of the story, saying it’s too much,” Chung said. “I got a phone call, I don’t know if it was a government official, saying ‘It’s so easy to get you. You will be punished.’”
But Chung is determined to plough on. When Seoul KyoYuk Munhwa Hoekwan promised to show the musical in its theater last December, Chung borrowed W20 million against a contract to sell his left kidney. His father was publicly stoned to death in a Hoeryeong concentration camp in 2002. “I feel that my father is watching over our rehearsals,” Jeong says.
Private citizens are also chipping in. One elderly woman sent a gold ring, a jade ring and a pair of earrings after reading about the show, and an elderly man sent a box containing W500 coins, W1,000 bills and W10,000 bills totaling W10 million.
In last January 11th, Dcinside opened “Kim Jong Il Gallery’ in a category of ‘figures and others’. It is getting great interests from netizen so that only in three days, around 200 replies were posted on the bulletin board of the gallery.
In the bulletin board, varied opinions on ‘Kim Jong Il Gallery’ appeared, such as “why made this kind of gallery?” and “Jong Il might visit it, though”.
A manager of Dcinside guaranteed at maximum the opportunity that netizen can show their outspoken opinions, by posting the introduction “please insert only pictures and matters related to Kim Jong Il, otherwise deleted or moved to elsewhere” on the bulletin board.
The Dcinside party stated “we opened it according to the suggestion that as there is a Korean politicians gallery, so how about opening Kim Jong Il gallery?” adding “it reflects that Kim Jong Il is raising as a socially concerned figure”.
As is typical of most news related to North Korea, this is disturbing. Still, Asiapundit wonders, who would win if a panda and a Bengal tiger got into a fight.:
The grainy, sometimes out-of-focus film opens with a warning: "This program is something you’ve never seen before. It is about brutal animal fights and it is all real and intensely interesting." The 52-minute video, which the opening describes as "made in North Korea as a documentary", goes on to show a variety of animals, many endangered species, either tearing one another apart or posturing for an attack.
This is not your National Geographic documentary about animals in the wild kingdom battling over territorial rights, dominance or a sex partner. It’s not about predators and their prey. Hanjoon Productions’ animals are mostly caged, their battles initiated. Rumors about North Korean films of savage, staged fights involving endangered animals have been around for years. Now, the films are available. The video can be found at some video rental shops in South Korea, but hunting around is required. A handful of Korean online video retailers carry copies, which can be purchased for about 5,000 won (US$5).
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