Tag Archives: North Korea

Is Iran the new North Korea?

American Enterprise Institute (AEI) hosted about 40 participants on April 1st in their downtown Washington, D.C. building. Former United States Ambassador to the United Nations, John Bolton; ASI’s resident scholar, Michael Rubin; and George Perkovich, Carnegie Endowment for International Peace, led a discussion titled “Is Iran the new North Korea?” AEI’s Nicholas Eberstadt moderated the event that compared and contrasted the current undergoing nuclear deal with Iran to North Korea.

Rubin started off the discussion by explaining that he is paid to “predict the past” as a 19th century Iranian historian and certain patterns jump out when comparing North Korea to Iran. During the development of the nuclear agreement with the Asian country, the 1994 South Korean president Kim Young Sam, he explained, criticized the logic of the United States’ engagement with allowing North Korea to have nuclear weapons. This, in the eyes of the South Korean president, would bring more harm than good to the world. Rubin labeled Kim Young Sam as the Ben Netanyahu of that deal because of his advocate against the deal. But Rubin stated that, in regards to both deals, the U.S. “will never let allies get in our way because it won’t harm a good agreement.”

Perkovich highlighted the differences. He drew attention to the different amount of materials that both Iran and North Korea had at the beginning of their respected negotiations. Iran does not have sufficient material to develop one single nuclear weapon. North Korea had enough to build two nuclear weapons before the agreement was finalized. But Perkovich noted a few similarities, which include that both countries feared that the U.S.’s motives included destroying their regimes.

Bolton took his turn to discuss the economic sanctions side of the nuclear weapons. In order for the economic sanctions to be effective, it must be enforced by the military. North Korea’s sanctions were largely American unilateral but American unilateral sanctions are not enough because North Korea has been able to continue testing missiles. American unilateral sanctions are easy to avoid. The Iranian sanctions placed are not comprehensive enough, according to Bolton. In Iran, the economic sanctions have caused pain but there is no evidence that it has slowed down nuclear production.

During a question and answer portion, Rubin was asked if the Iranian people are open to nuclear weapons. Rubin stated that most polls show that people are in favor of the weapons but one company, which released a poll against the weapons, was later closed down. Bolton responded to his question on the constitutionality of the nuclear deal that President Obama is acting within the right of executive action. He also added that the outcry from Congress is a divergent from what the deal truly is.

Overall, I thoroughly enjoyed the discussion greatly. It was very intriguing to hear these three great minds share their knowledge and opinion of the topic. I am surprised by how little they did speak about the North Korea deal.

Jang Jin-sung

On February 4, 2015, I visited the Institute of World Politics in Washington, DC to listen to a lecture and Q&A with Jang Jin-sung.  A former propaganda poet for Kim Jong-il, he defected from North Korea to the South in 2004. It is widely known that Jin-sung was a particular favorite of the late dictator. The lecture consisted of Jin-sung describing the mechanisms through which the North Korean leadership (specifically, the omnipotent Kim dynasty) exact power and inspire fear, all of which was translated by Oxford graduate Shirley Lee. The discussion commenced with particular emphasis on how North Korea has managed to stay intact despite its wildly oppressive ruling ideology. Strategically, they use “theoretical restrictive and agitation” as primary strategies of preventing rebellion and uprising. They prevent revolution in exacting guilt by association, imposing the fear of not only individual punishment, but inflictions upon multiple generations of family members.

Jin-sung described the Workers’ Party as the central power of control – the supreme leader’s dogmatic authority is the only reality that the citizens of North Korea know. This mindset is reflected everywhere; the three leaders (the Kim family) are considered the sole protagonists in a world they are taught is full of evil and endless plots against the state, thrusting them into a Godlike savior status of sorts. Citizens are highly brainwashed and restricted from searching for the truth. Most alarmingly, Jin-sung described his memory of meeting the supreme leader in person. He truly believed him to be a divine being, and described the process of meeting him as being particularly drawn out and security-laden. He was told not to make eye contact, but instead to stare just below the leader’s face – anything higher would be considered far too presumptuous and warrant certain punishment.

Later, the audience was given a chance to ask questions. Among them were proposed comparisons of Joseph Stalin (of the USSR) to the leadership style of the Kim family. In fact, Jin-sung did not hesitate to make a distinction between the two: Kim Jong-il and his accompanying personality cult were notably worse than any associated with Stalin. Also, much of history in North Korea is fabricated by the regime. Textbooks begin in 1912 with the birth of Kim Il-sung, and teach students exactly what the leader had accomplished by the same age. Although, Jin-sung pointed out that many of the authorities in North Korea assigned to regulate incoming media from the South remain interested in infiltrating the very materials they are working to void. The event ended after about an hour and a half of talk. Jin-sung was available to sign copies of his book, Dear Leader, afterward.

International Relations

As an intern at The Heritage Foundation, a think tank based in Washington, D.C., I had the opportunity to see and hear a number of congressmen and Senators, but one of the first, and by far my favorite such occasion, was an event with Senator Rand Paul on 6 February 2013 entitled “Restoring The Founder’s Vision Of Foreign Policy” in which Senator Paul discussed the rise of Islamic radicalism and his containment policy regarding the Islamic Republic of Iran. Aside from my own background research I did in regards to Heritage’s and other’s studies of Iran before and after the event itself, I found Sen. Paul’s application of George Kennan’s early Cold War policies, namely containment, applied to a modern and, forgive my pun, radically different geopolitical foe than the former Soviet Union very interesting, to say the least.

My second favorite event I attended during my tenure at the think tank, which was as head and shoulders above the rest as the Senator’s was above this one, was an annual lecture on 20 March 2013 entitled “The Enduring Legacy Of America’s Commitment To Asia” with an address from Representative Ed Royce, Chairman of the House Committee On Foreign Affairs, and, as you might expect, the major topic at issue was U.S. policy in the Asia-Pacific region. A course I took on the Politics Of East Asia last semester only served to highlight the dynamic evolution in Asia. However, the trade driven development seems more and more to be slowly but surely leading to nationalism on both sides of the ocean, which makes for a much less peaceful Pacific, but, interestingly enough, Representative Royce points toward the failure of America’s North Korea policy as the cause of an even greater threat than nationalism itself. Certain aspects of his solutions for continuing to build trade relationships we have been constructing for generations is a bigger role in India, trade and investment in Taiwan and dealing the rise of China better than we have dealt with N. Korea.

I can say with confidence that I learned a lot of new information and am now able to better process old information just for attending these events and others, and I would strongly encourage anyone and everyone with the opportunity to do so to get out into the District and hear these great thinkers speak if your goal is, like mine, to continually grow your knowledge of the world Washington helps shape every day.

North Korean Propaganda

The event I attended in Washington DC, discussed North Korea Propaganda. They first showed a documentary on North Korea and showed citizens from North and South Korea and also had American commentators. The film showed the streets of North Korea and the different types of Propaganda present in North Korea. After the film was over the director had a question and answer session, where he answered a variety of different questions from the audience. It was very interesting to see North Korea and to understand that the citizens have always been surrounded by this propaganda and is the only thing they know. I learned that North Korean citizens are really isolated from the outside world meaning that they are only told and shown what the leaders want them to know.