An imaginative option for dealing with the situation in North Korea

People in Pyongyang watch Kim Jong-un on North Korean TV, 2015–Uwe Brodrecht | Wikimedia

The Korean Peninsula was effectively split in two during the Korean War. The fighting ended in1953, with the North and South’s signing of the Korean Armistice Agreement, creating the “Demilitarized Zone,” although no peace agreement was ever signed, and it has been the position of the administration in North Korea that even after 64 years they are still at war.

North Koreans visiting statues of Kim Il-sung and Kim Jong-il, April 2012 — J. A. de Roo | Wikimedia

Kim Jong Un’s position is that even though the odds seemed to be against their contending with the U.S. in any conventional way, with the advent of nuclear weapons, fate has allowed for North Korea to follow through with its allies‘ cooperation (with the enemies of their enemies as ‘friends’) such as China and Iran to mitigate against any extreme sanctions against North Korea and to provide the technology and the wherewithall to be able to contend with the perceived threat from Americans by creating the prospect of a North Korean threat to the U.S. mainland, which has now become a threat more real than imagined.

It would seem that there has never been a better time for negotiation, now that Kim Jung Un no doubt perceives he has managed to gain an upper hand in the wildly asymetric imbalance of power with these recent ICBM delivery system trial balloons, and the miniaturization of the actual nuclear weapons in sight as further successes, in short shrift.

President Obama’s position for the U.S. as pro-active “strategic patience” may well have been based in part on the results of studies of 100 defectors done annually after the Obama administration took office in 2008, by Seoul National University’s Institute for Peace and Unification which indicates that although initial support for the North Korean regime was high in 2012 — as Kim Jong Un gained control — defectors perceived support at 70.7%. Further slipping by 2013 at 61.7% and weakened even further with the latest available survey in the graphic below from a relevant CNN article — that while they perceive that support of Kim Jong Un remains at least greater than half of the the country, in September of 2015 it had dropped to 58.1%. As described in the CNN piece, the optimistic belief by a North Korean defector: “Kim Jong Un’s days are numbered

On the other hand, it may also be a signal that the Supreme Leader may be subject on some level — even if only theoretically, at present — to the interests of the people of North Korea from all walks of life: the workers, the intellectuals and perhaps among the most unique contributers, those referred to as the agrarians. As Thomas Jefferson one noted in a letter to General George Washington (even before there was a U.S. Constitution) his enormous respect for the farmers; so much so that he believed their work — and perhaps all life-affirming endeavors — are dignified and almost sacred by Nature:

“Agriculture … is our wisest pursuit, because it will in the end contribute most to real wealth, good morals & happiness.”

Thomas Jefferson, writing to George Washington from Paris in August of 1787

Perceived support for Kim Jong Un as gauged by North Korean defectors in the South — Photo: CNN

With the defection of one of North Korea’s senior diplomats — Thae Yong Ho, based in London, in August of 2016 — indicating an even further decrease in support for the regime among the elites of North Korea; especially since a very high-ranking military intelligence officer had also defected to South Korea in April of last year, as had 13 North Korean workers — en masse — at a state-run restaurant in China.

Kim Jong Un is very young and like all human beings he craves the reward of being well thought of. He is at the height of power which even he must realize is quite a victory. made possible to a great extent by the sacrifices of the North Korean people themselves. There is no better opportunity for his being able to follow the same impulse that allowed for the family re-unifications (won by lottery) that brought both the news of the well-being of loved ones from both regions and allowed for the reuniting of families in October of 2015.

The flag of the Workers’ Party of Korea. It is composed of a hammer (workers), writing brush (intellectuals) and a Korean sickle (peasants), crossed over a red field. Photo: Public Domain

It is interesting that Kim is believed to have attended school in Switzerland (a country famous for its Neutrality in war), and that among the works on politics, the economy, and science and technology that he is believed to have authored is “The Spirit of the Blizzards of Paektu.”

Mt. Paektu is an active volcano that straddles the border between North Korea and China, which contains a large crater lake in the caldera on the top of the mountain called “Heaven Lake,” which was formed in one of the largest and most violent erruptions in the last 5,000 years. In this publication, Kim Jong Un “stresses that the Korean people should achieve the final victory of the Korean revolution by learning about Mt. Paektu,” and the revolutionary spirit that it embodies.

A crater lake at Tianchi (Heaven Lake, 天池) at Baitou (Chinese Changbai Shan) at the border of China and North Korea — Wikimedia Commons | Bdpmax

It may also be true, one supposes, that the notion of a forgiving God may well reach somehow as far as Pyongyang and that Kim Jong Un, even at this point — and for the best of reasons: the good of his people — could redeem himself in the face of all the nations of the world, perhaps, and move from his being one of the most misguided individuals on the face of the Earth in order to allow for an imaginative transformation that could help to secure a legacy of Goodness in his own time and beyond; with more joy here on Earth — and in Heaven — over his great wisdom: As wise as a serpent and as gentle as a dove.

If anyone could make this sort of argument to good effect it could be America’s unofficial ambassador Dennis Rodman, since it seems that his relationship with Kim Jong Un is a trusted one.

Mr. Rodman’s most recent visit was a few weeks ago, on the 13th of June. At that point four Americans were being held in North Korea: Kim Sang Duk and Kim Hak-song, who are both academics who had been working at the Pyongyang University of Science and Technology, as well as businessman Kim Dong Chul who had admitted to the theft of military intelligence during his trial; the unsuspecting University of Virginia student Otto Frederick Warmbier; and businessman Kim Dong Chul. Of the four Americans who had been detained Mr. Chul and Mr. Warmbier had been imprisoned for over a year, while the two others had been detained only this year, during the Trump administration.

“It’s all about doing one thing: It’s about Peace!”

A native of Cincinnatti, Otto Warmbier Warmbier, the 21-year-old University of Virginia undergraduate student was released on the same day that Mr. Rodman landed in North Korea; although very sadly. although otherwise mobile, he was in an “unresponsive wakefulness” condition — only able to blink — with brain damage that was alleged to have been caused inadvertently through food poisoning according to his captors, from botulism, slipping into a vegetative state after his having taken a sleeping pill within a few weeks of his trial.

Mr. Warmbier never responded to treatment once he was home in the U.S and hospitalized. He expired on June 19th, six days after his release, perhaps from the after affects of the very long airplane journey given his immobility of extended duration, from the consequences of a blood clot. Warmbier had been in North Korean custody since January of 2016, imprisoned following a one-hour trial in which he was convicted of theft as a ‘crime against the State’ of a poster, having been caught on video by a hotel security camera as evidence, and for that offense was given a drastically disproportionate punishment requiring him to serve a prospective sentence of 15 years’ hard labor. Mr. Warmbier made an extremely emotional plea during his trial which is captured on video, referrring to himself as a ‘scapegoat.’

According to a piece on National Public Radio, Young Pioneer Tours, the travel adventure company based in China (founded in 2008) that had arranged for Otto Warmbier’s fateful trip has now said that it will no longer take Americans into North Korea. They will still take citizens of other countries evidently, since the following information is currently available at their website, with the note that they specialize in North Korea tours, providing “budget travel to destinations your mother would rather you stayed away from”.

As well as seeing the must see sights in Pyongyang and visiting the DMZ, we provide tours to various locations within North Korea. So whether you’re looking to compete in the Pyongyang Marathon, experience the spectacular sights of Mt Paektu, ski at the world class Masikryong Ski resort, explore the extreme North East of the country, or visit Rason city — North Korea’s Special Economic Zone, we have itineraries to suit all travellers.
Aside from the DPRK, we travel to a number of other destinations such as Afghanistan, Iran, Turkmenistan, Chernobyl, Cuba, Antarctica, Eritrea and more! All our tours are founded on the YPT ethos of fun, thrill seeking and adventure at a great price. All ages welcomed!
The Emblem of North Korea — Photo: Public Domain

A BBC article published on the same day of Mr. Warmbier’s arrest has detailed the circumstances of Kim Dong Chui’s trial and information about a number of other foreigners detained in North Korea, and their disposition thereafter.

Despite the U.S. State Department’s warning American citizens not to visit North Korea which — like the government of Iran, currently detaining at least five American citizens — has been known to hold American citizens suspected of espionage or otherwise held hostage to serve as human shields against any sort of retaliative actions by their adversaries — an estimated 800 to 1000 Americans defy that advisory annually.

“… He was visiting the country on one of a handful of a guided tours organized by private companies, in which foreign tourists are chaperoned by North Korean minders and shown the country’s good side. …”