Political Cartoonists love to portray North Korea as an irrational and infantile force, reports today’s Asia Times “It’s either a baby with a nuclear rattle or a little truant in need of a timeout. The relative youth of the country’s leader, Kim Jong-eun, encourages such representations, but the practice predates his ascension to power. According to the dictates of their profession, cartoonists must exaggerate to make their points. But these exaggerations also frequently show up in the comments of pundits and politicians, who need not resort to caricature.
“So, for instance, observers describe North Koreans as “childlike” and their leader as a “spoiled child”. Chinese leaders, according to WikiLeaks, have viewed North Korean behavior as an attempt to get the attention of the “adult”. Even top US politicians fall prey to these stereotypes. In 2009, Secretary of State Hilary Clinton accused North Korea of “acting out” like an unruly child. And President Barack Obama said during the latest crisis, “You don’t get to bang your spoon on the table and somehow you get your way.”
“As we slowly step back from the edge of the current conflict, it’s important to revisit these characterizations of North Korea as a fundamentally immature creature. There are many problems with US policy toward the country, including lack of information, a limited number of policy options, and a preference to ignore the situation in favor of other hotspots around the world.
“But we also have a metaphor problem with North Korea. We commonly treat the country as if it were a donkey that responds only to carrots or sticks and doesn’t have an independent thought inside its equine head (not even horse sense). Or we view North Korea as a criminal that breaks every agreement it signs and whose recidivism rate is off the charts.
“But the metaphor that dominates our thinking about North Korea is even more insulting. Donkeys and criminals at least make calculations based on costs and benefits. Infants are nothing but unbridled ids whose pre-lingual motivations are largely opaque to the adult world. They go on crying jags and knock cereal bowls off trays for no apparently good reason. That North Korea is often cast as the “younger brother” in its relationships with both South Korea and China means that Pyongyang is acutely sensitive to any such infantilizing metaphors.”
More at: http://www.atimes.com/atimes/Korea/KOR-02-130513.html
Decades ago media theorist George Gerbner coined the term “mean world syndrome” about a mindset of disproportionate fear among individuals.
Now the mean world syndrome is taking on international proportions. The communist enemy, with the “world’s fourth largest military,” has beentrundling missiles around and threatening the United States with nuclear obliteration, writes Tom Englehardt in today’s issue of Le Monde. Guam, Hawaii, Washington: all, it claims, are targetable. The coverage in the media has been hair-raising. The U.S. is rushing an untested missile defense system to Guam, deploying missile-interceptor ships off the South Korean coast, sending “nuclear capable” B-2 Stealth bombers thousands of miles on mock bombing runs, pressuring China, and conducting large-scale war games with its South Korean ally.
Only one small problem: there is as yet little evidence that the enemy with a few nuclear weapons facing off (rhetorically at least) against an American arsenal of4,650 of them has the ability to miniaturize and mount even one on a missile, no less deliver it accurately, nor does it have a missile capable of reaching Hawaii or Washington, and I wouldn’t count on Guam either. Continue reading “The New “mean world syndrome””
A new initiative was launched recently to teach statistics to university students and government workers in North Korea, a country with an authoritarian government that many researchers in the region think issues the fewest, and least reliable, statistics in the world. The Pyongyang Summer Institute in Survey
Science and Quantitative Methodology began with about 250 students last summer, taught by 13 instructors from the U.S. and Europe, reports the Wall Street Journal. “Soon, organizers hope to have 30 instructors, about 250 university students and 100 North Korean government workers, taught in classes hosted by the Pyongyang University of Science and Technology, the country’s first private university, opened in 2010.
“’Capacity building in the area of statistics is helpful to governments everywhere because quality data collection leads to informed policy decisions Continue reading “North Korea’s arithmetic”
North Korea is doing everything is can to crack down on cell phones, TVs, and anything else that can bring “subversion” into the country.
It’s a Stalinist campaign reminiscent for the old Cold War, as Kim Jong Un has recently ranted: “We must extend the fight against the enemy’s ideological and cultural infiltration.”
As Worlding.org reported last week, campaigns to indoctrinate North Korean children are nothing short of remarkable. Salon.com writes that the new emphasis on media is just as extreme: “Kim, who became North Korea’s supreme leader after the death of his father a year ago, called upon his vast security network to ‘ruthlessly crush those hostile elements.’
“Over the past year, Kim has intensified a border crackdown that has attempted to seal the once-porous 1,420-kilometer (880-mile) frontier with China, smugglers and analysts say, trying to hold back the onslaught. Continue reading “Kim Jong Un vs “cultural infiltration””
Welcome to the world of North Korean childhood. Today’s Asia Times carries an article on the strident nationalism in state education in North Korea: “In this world, cartoons such as ‘Pencil artillery shells’, by Cha Kye-ok, call on children to study well. Unlike in South Korea, where the same imperative is justified by intellectual fun and social success of the students, the North Korean educational paradigm suggests another lucrative objective: good students are better prepared for the defence of their country against invaders.
“In the constantly emphasized potential war, North Korean children are summoned to prepare for the worst. Verses of their songs widely employ idioms such as kyolsaongwi (desperate readiness to die [for the leader, the country, the party]) orch’ ongp’ at ‘anadulttal, (sons and daughters of guns and bombs/living guns and bombs). See, for example, a typical children’s poem by Kim Ch’angmu, They Envy Us, They Are Afraid of Us: Continue reading “Growing up in North Korea”