THE TWO KOREAS: The Reaction to Pyongyang’s Overture (an Update)

The Western news media – and especially The Economist Magazine of London – have been almost incautiously optimistic about recent diplomatic developments coming out of North Korea. But the media in South Korea has been rather cautious about Pyongyang’s latest pitch to suspend parts of its nuclear program, to allow international inspectors onto suspected sites, and to halt long-range missile tests.

Perhaps the sole exception to Western media near-euphoria is the Wall Street Journal. Particularly strikingly pessimistic was the signed op-ed essay by former Bush administration foreign policy official John Bolton. Now a senior fellow at the American Enterprise Institute in Washington, the oft-irascible personality denounced the positive U.S. reaction to the North Korean move as yet another example of America cupidity and vapidity in dealing with the tougher hombres on the world stage, whether Iran or North Korea.

He wrote: “Unfortunately, the … deal is worse than just another failed effort to chitchat North Korea out of its nuclear weapons. It provides a political and economic lifeline to Kim Jon Eun’s uncertain new regime, and it schools him on how to outwit America. Iran’s mullahs will take careful note of the Obama administration’s desperation to announce a deal, any deal, that can be described as ‘progress’ on the nuclear-proliferation front.”

Bolton is not popular with American liberals, of course, but in all fairness his skepticism about North Korea is not exactly irrational.

Since 1994, after all, endlessly back and forth across the Korean Peninsula, negotiations of some sort over the nuclear issue have been on-going or going off on tangents — or (most often) going nowhere. Not surprisingly, then, the headlines in the South Korean media were arguably less euphoric – perhaps even by half — than some in the Western media. No doubt living in the shadow of the miserable Democratic People’s Republic of Korea might dampen anyone’s enthusiasm for almost anything.

The new North Korean government of Kim Jong Un – successor to his father, the recently late Kim Jong Il – negotiated an impressive amount of nutritional foodstuffs from the West in return. There’s a bit of melancholy in this.  One is almost tempted to say the heck with North Korea and let them starve. But of course totalitarian elites always manage their full share of caviar and salmon when the rest of their countrymen have to survive on a diet of central government incompetence and indifference.  No sense adding to the misery if we can afford to help – as long as it is the real people across the board who get our food aid, not the already privileged.

Besides, we do care about peace and stability on the Korean Peninsula and – most of all — the security of South Korea, our ally. So all steps that can be taken to bring North Korea into normality should be taken.  But it is true that we have been down this negotiating road before. That, understandably, is the sense you get from monitoring the local South Korea media.

As Bolton put it, “With such predicates, why did the Obama administration proceed? Most likely, it followed ideology and habit. The diplomacy here is entirely faith-based, as in: ‘There’s nothing to lose, so why not try negotiation? Maybe this time it will work’.

Then again, maybe it won’t – just like last time. Bolton, love him or hate him, may have a point.

For more information, please visit:

The Wall Street Journal




One Reply to “THE TWO KOREAS: The Reaction to Pyongyang’s Overture (an Update)”

  1. The way I read North Korea’s behavior is that they will always throw something into the bargain that comes to them naturally. If e.g. their program doesn’t make so much progress due to lack of funds and resources they will market this as a concession. That’s rather clever and as you say they even “negotiated an impressive amount of nutritional foodstuffs from the West in return” – well if no one in US politics wants to understand that North Korea has only X amount of money to spend and that sending foodstuffs relieves their coffers to make room for more nuclear research, then their arithmetic abilities are in doubt. Kim Jong Un has nothing else to threaten others with but the nuclear option. May I add that the US is equally ill prepared to understand the REAL threat of North Korea’s nuclear armaments: the moment they can bring a small (“Hiroshima size”) bomb into orbit and detonate it over the US mainland, the ensuing electromagnetic pulse (EMP) will bomb the North American mainland back into the Middle Ages – no traffic, no phone, no electricity and no hope of restoring them as most transformers will have blown out and these take months to repair or build anew … provided you have electricity to run the factories that build them. I always believed that this is the ruling family’s long term goal in North Korea.

Leave a Reply

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.