Quantcast

Posts Tagged ‘Kim Jong-Il’



Expert: How Lee-Ling Saga Affects US-Korea Affairs

Wednesday, August 12th, 2009

KimBy Evan Wagstaff
Special to Calbuzz

Kim Jong-Il got “100 percent” of what he wanted from the imprisonment and release of California journalists Euna Lee and Laura Ling, who were held merely as “bargaining chips,” according to the author of a new book on North Korean labor camp conditions.

But the United States also benefited by sending former President Bill Clinton to bring home Lee and Ling, said Associate Professor Suk-Young Kim, of U.C. Santa Barbara, author of Long Road Home: Testimony of a North Korean Camp Survivor. The U.S.  gain was an improvement in relations,  she said.  “There’s something to be gained for North Korea and the U.S.”

Professor Kim said it is unlikely the North Korean government ever meant to imprison the two, who were released last week to Clinton, followed by a joyous homecoming at Burbank airport.

“I think North Korea’s plan was not to keep them, but use them as part of a bargain to ease the tense relationship between North Korea and the US,” she said. “North Korea tried to use them as bargaining chips, and I think they got 100% out of that bargain. They wanted to say, ‘We’re not that crazy, we’re reasonable people; if you listen to our Kim-Jong-Il101voice we’re willing to cooperate with you.’”

Dr. Kim’s book, released in June, is based on her interviews and conversations with Kim Yong, the first known survivor of a North Korean labor camp, which she describes as a “death camp.” The book recounts Kim Yong’s experience as a dedicated lieutenant colonel in the North Korean military until he was accused of treason and sentenced to Camps 14 and 18, where he spent six years.

Lee and Ling were both sentenced on June 4 to 12 years’ hard labor at such a camp for purported “hostile acts,” after being captured in March for allegedly entering North Korean territory while researching a story on political refugees for the cable network Current TV. They were released shortly after Clinton’s arrival in North Korea.

Professor Kim said that beyond its intention to reach a global audience with the dramatic release of the journalists, the government also used Clinton’s visit for internal political purposes, as a self-glorifying rallying call, trumpeted by the North Korean media, to bolster its image as an international power player.

“When there is a foreign dignitary that visits, North Koreans conduct political education sessions,” she said. “Clinton would have shown the political clout of Kim Jong-Il to the North Korean people, who would’ve likely been told that even a great leader of imperial America like Clinton has come to pay respect to the dear general.”

She also said that the American media greatly oversimplifies issues relating to North Korea. For example, she said, Kim Yong has expressed a desire to return to his home country, even though he was severely punished by the government he spent his life serving. Professor Kim said that while the former prisoner would like to see the North Korean government collapse, he still feels an an important connection to the North Korean people.

“If you talk to people who lived in North Korea, it opens up your view beyond what you hear on Fox News or CNN,” she said. “It’s a human society just as complex and twisted as the US or South Korea or elsewhere. The American media for the most part only shows one story consistently, and it’s a story of failure. That’s the way America is portrayed in North Korea and I don’t think Americans would like that.”

Relations between the U.S. and North Korea have long been strained. In April, North Korea attempted to launch a three-stage long range rocket; this was followed by a successful nuclear test in May. Both actions came in defiance of international warnings and past agreements. Also, North Korea has insisted that it would reprocess nuclear fuel rods for the purpose of creating a nuclear arsenal.

Dr. Kim said that the recognition on the international stage the North Korea gained from the Lee-Ling saga could prove very important in repairing the broken relations with the U.S.

“This was a way to ease up that tension, to sit down with Clinton face to face and jump start those relations that have deteriorated,” Kim said.

“Although I understand it is a harsh and terrible regime, if we want to improve our relations with North Korea, we should talk to them and deal with them with patience. It doesn’t mean I endorse what they do, but there is no other way than to engage with them and Clinton’s visit is a good example. It yielded positive results.”evan

Calbuzz intern Evan Wagstaff is Opinion Editor of The Daily Nexus at UCSB.

Press Clips: Why Is NPR in Thrall to Prince Gavin?

Friday, August 7th, 2009

newsom_2_JPGWe were floored to listen to Madeleine Brand’s nine-minute story on the California governor’s race on NPR on Tuesday. Not because that’s a huge amount of time to spend on the race — which it is — but because half the damn thing consisted of an interview with Gavin Newsom (she didn’t interview any other candidates).

The piece also included an interview with the Chron’s Carla Marinucci, whose comments were edited so her money quote cast the race exactly the way  Newsom and his strategist, Garry “Svengali” South, want to define it: as a “generational contest.” Whether Prince of Prides Newsom can succeed in cubbyholing Crusty the General Jerry Brown as a drooling geezer seems to Calbuzz a dubious proposition, at best.

What we found most interesting in the NPR piece was Newsom’s decision to underline strongly his claim to fame as the No. 1 advocate for gay marriage, after  downplaying it in recent months; when Calbuzz asked him about it in March, for example, he said, “People, from my perspective, have really moved on . . . The new realities of the economy are much more pressing in people’s minds.”

But on NPR, he not only embraced his role on the issue, but reveled in it. For the record, he said: “There are certain fundamental values that I hold dear and there are principles that I’ll fight for. I believe in equality. It’s not just a slogan; it’s not just rhetoric. Actually, I want to champion it, I want to fight for it. I’m someone who just doesn’t believe separate is equal . . . I won’t equivocate.”

burningpapersThe decline and fall of practically everything: Thanks to our friend Alan Mutter over at Reflections of a Newsosaur for pointing us to an excellent post at Content Bridges that provides the first quantitative analysis of the journalistic impact of all the financial cuts in the newspaper industry.

The site is operated by former Knight-Ridder guru Ken Doctor, who put together stats on the number of journalism jobs slashed by daily newspapers – 8,500 in the last two years alone – and reductions in pages devoted to news – an estimated half of the 40 percent decline in newsprint usage – to calculate a loss of 828,000 news stories a year, “neither written nor read,” as Doctor put it.

It’s easy enough to trash newspapers and those who run them, and Lord knows Calbuzz does our share, for being arrogant, out of touch and slow off the mark to adjust to the wacky world of the web. But 828,000 fewer stories means that people across the nation know a helluva’ lot less about what’s going on in city halls, cop shops, courtrooms, school boards and state capitals than they did just a few years ago. And that ain’t good for the public interest, no matter how clueless some newspaper editors may be.

P.S. The big buzz in the news industry this week was Aussie press baron Rupert Murdoch’s announcement that he intends to start charging readers for content on all web sites of his far-flung News Corp. empire.

difipencilNext up – podcasting with Dianne: Check your thesaurus for an antonym for “blogger,” and you’ll find a big picture of Dianne Feinstein; California’s straight-laced Senator is just about the purest antithesis imaginable of the pajamadin.

So Calbuzz was shocked the other day to find Difi joining the likes of Alec Baldwin, John Waters and Nora Ephron in Arianna’s lineup of celebrity bloggers over at the Huffington Post.

No doubt, Herself’s piece on warrantless wiretaps was Really Important but still: She managed in a single post to  a) put everyone to sleep from the start by employing the dreaded historical lede –- 2 ½ paragraphs worth of it; b) leave us scratching our heads about her central point by omitting the crucial nut graf, and c) churn out a thicket of verbiage as impenetrable as a Brillo pad, laced with bureaucratic Beltway-speak like this:

“Initially, the OLC based its opinion on the president’s inherent constitutional authorities as Commander-in-Chief. Subsequently, the OLC shifted its rationale to rely upon the Authorization for the Use of Military Force…”

Memo to Dianne: Don’t quit your day job.

mouthpiece

Not exactly “Frontline”: Class act kudos to Chris Cillizza of “The Fix,” for graciously extracting himself from “Mouthpiece Theatre,” the WashPost’s dreadful experiment in multi-media infotainment.

For the past several months, Cillizza served as sidekick to the spectacularly unfunny Post humor writer Dana Milbank in an online video schtick called “Mouthpiece Theatre” in which the two donned smoking jackets, wielded pipes and parodied political pundits, playing it for yuks, which were few and far between.

Last week, they keyed off Obama’s “beer summit” with Harvard Professor Henry Lewis Gates and the Cambridge cop who arrested him, assigning several dozen obscure brands of beers to various politicians; the creaky episode collapsed completely when they put up a photo of Hillary Clinton and Milbank suggested she should drink “Mad Bitch” beer, a crack that earned the players and their paper widespread condemnation in media, political and feminist circles.

Over at the Columbia Journalism Review’s site, Megan Barber wrote:

“One wonders how much of the Post staff’s time and resources were devoted to researching, writing, staging, shooting, and editing such an extraordinarily value-free contribution to the annals of political commentary. Milbank and Cillizza are no Stewart/Colbert—they’re not even Letterman/O’Brien—not only because they’re simply not as funny, but because their status as (ostensibly) reporters means that they owe us more than lame-puns-for-the-sake-of-lame-puns, as per the typical humor of late-night TV.”

In a substantially lighter vein, comic Andy Cobb did a terrific You Tube send-up of the show

On Wednesday, media writer Howard Kurtz broke the news that the suits at the Post had pulled the plug on “Mouthpiece Theatre.” Cillizza, to his credit, made a clean breast of things on his blog.

The smug,  self-absorbed, fratboy Milbank also apologized in Kurtz’s piece, kinda, sorta but did so in a predictably self-serving way:

“It’s clear there was an audience for it out there, but not large enough to justify all the grief. My strength is in observational, in-the-field stuff, and that’s what I should do. I’m sorry about the reaction it’s caused but I think it’s important to experiment. The real risk to newspapers is not that they take too many risks, but that they don’t take enough risks.”

Calbuzz decoder ring translation: The little people just aren’t smart enough to appreciate my genius.

lingand leeLee and Ling and One Limp Neo-Con: Like all journalists, Calbuzz felt great concern about Euna Lee and Laura Ling and, back in June, offered space to Betty Medsger to advocate on their behalf. So we were delighted when former president Bill Clinton was able to bring them home from North Korea the other day. It was a wonderful exercise of personal diplomacy with the nutcase Kim Jong Il, who was most likely confused about whether he was posing for snaps with Clinton or Elvis, his one true hero.bolton Anyway, we were jazzed by the release of the two journos.

So when former U.N. Ambassador John Bolton immediately declared that the successful mission actually was “a classic case of rewarding bad behavior,” we just had to make a note — of what a complete dick this guy is.

Media Morsels: Palin as Khamenei, gWill Hearts eMeg

Tuesday, July 7th, 2009

palintrashStupid, crazy and mean: “Fear a stupid enemy,” goes a Turkish proverb that came to mind as Calbuzz perused the latest news from Alaska that Snowbilly Sarah has engaged some vicious lawyer to intimidate journalists. Palin’s irrational antics can be tres amusant to be sure –  Wonkette’s subtle characterization of her as “batshit-insane” gets it just about right –- but the soon-to-be-ex-governor of Alaska’s latest outrage ain’t no laughing matter. Her threats to the NYT, Washpost and MSNBC are silly on their face, but her effort to muscle and silence Alaska blogger Shannyn Moore, for the crime of not being content to swallow Palin’s incoherent explanation of her resignation, is both reprehensible and dangerous.

Calbuzz knows through bitter experience that being a lowly journalist dragged through the legal system by a vengeful, powerful person who operates on the ancient legal theory of Keep Your Mouth Shut or I’ll Ruin Your Life is a scary, painful and expensive proposition, and every principled pol, newshound and hen in the nation ought to be speaking up for Moore and throwing a red flag at Palin.

The Republican’s 2008 vice presidential candidate is a demagogue of the first rank who, despite the condescending chuckles of Beltway wise men, remains dead serious about exploiting the bitterness and resentments of the nation’s culture wars for the sole and focused purpose of benefiting her own career and self-interest. Palin right now is demonstrating for all to see that her notion of the First Amendment is not much different than that of Ali Khamenei or Kim Jong-Il, so it’s prudent for everyone who practices, covers or follows politics to keep that in mind. Forewarned is forearmed.

 

I dunno, what do you think she’s up to: The tsunami of ongoing speculation about what strategic calculations, if any, lie behind Palin’s walkaway include a couple of outstanding takes:  Paul Begala, CNN talking head and longtime FOB, argues the full insanity plea, while the journalist Geoffrey Dunn, who’s writing a book on Palin, offers one of the meatier  analyses, examining not only the political/ethical angles but that whole character is fate thing. Most Valuable Blogger award goes to the redoubtable Mickey Kaus, who catalogued (at last count) 14 separate theories floating on the web.

Will_George_EMAILAnother Right-Wing Scribe Falls Hard: Heartthrob Meg Whitman, already the object of a mad crush by conservative bloviator Fred Barnes, now has another right-wing pundit in the full throes of l’amour fou. This time it’s George Will, normally the most decorous and starchy of men, who’s been smitten by Her Megness and is in full gush about it. He begins his tonguey lip  lock with an anecdote displaying his own chuckling delight at how eMeg “delights” in recounting to him – little minx! – the story behind the Central Valley’s biggest corporate carrot farm. Be still, my heart!

Then the Great Man, always a substantive figure,  is on to more substantive stuff, giving us the nuts and bolts of Meg’s program:

 

“She would reduce the number of state Assembly districts (there are 80) because the Legislature is cumbersome, and would modify the initiative and referendum process.

 

“Voters have discombobulated budgeting by mandating spending without providing revenues, other than promiscuous borrowing. Whitman favors making it harder — requiring more signatures — to get measures on ballots, limiting the number on ballots in particular elections, and requiring the ballot language to specify the costs of measures being voted on…

Today’s most pressing problem — government in the grip of public employees unions — is, she thinks, ripe for improvement: 85 percent of the state’s unionized employees are working without contracts.”

“She would,” “she thinks” – Voila, what else is needed? L’etat c’est Moi!

And how will eMeg accomplish these great goals, which clearly have never occurred to lesser lights:

“To change Sacramento, which Los Angeles, San Francisco and San Diego television stations barely cover, she must find new ways to communicate with a disconnected public.”

Here’s an idea about a “new way to communicate”: How about giving an interview to somebody who actually understands this stuff? Sheesh. We’re just sayin’.

Turgid Times Strikes Again: In another blow to big-time big city journalism, the resident geniuses at the sinking L.A. Times have forced out the widely respected John Arthur as executive editor.  A smart, funny, blue collar, hard news guy, Arthur worked his way up the ladder in 23 years at the Times, playing key roles in the paper’s Pulitzer Prizes for breaking news coverage of the Northridge earthquake and the 1997 North Hollywood bank robbery and shoot-out.

Arthur got pushed out because of a disagreement over “masthead changes,” according to a memo to the staff posted by Russ Stanton, the latest Vichy editor installed by the minions of big brain Sam Zell. Brilliant move, Capitan: Axe a guy with great instincts, great experience and great passion because of a battle over rearranging the deck chairs. (One of Stanton’s big moves, which Arthur apparently disputed, was installing the…wait for it…Obituaries Editor as managing editor for news. You can’t make this stuff up).

A telling sidebar to this woeful tale is the characteristic hustle shown by two of L.A.’s better blogs in covering the story faster and better than the Times, which force fed its readers a business section story that could have been written by the marketing department. Word of Arthur’s departure came first from L.A. Observed, a daily must-read for SoCal news junkies, while the best behind-the-scenes yarn came from Nikki Finke Fan Club President Sharon Waxman, editor and publisher of The Wrap:

sharonwaxman

The firing of Arthur raised the ire of some members of the masthead in a meeting on Thursday. Arthur, much like his former colleague Leo Wolinsky — who was canned last fall — was (is) an unabashed, old-fashioned newsroom guy, the kind who stayed till 10 at night, who checked in on weekends and who guarded the sanctity of the front page with the loyalty of a Saint Bernard. But he was a leftover from the era of Jim O’Shea, an editor ago.

He’s gone now, replaced by people who are presumably more loyal to Stanton.

Safe travels, man.

– By Jerry Roberts and Phil Trounstine