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·  Introduction







Land that Inspired 1,000 Myths By Henry M. Seggerman


12/22, 2003 09:59


Upper Coryo is a mist-enshrouded, secret land, protected by a fortified wall that disappears from sight on one side, raging waters on the other three sides.  For most of the last century, its emperors – the latest known strangely as “the Dear Leader” – and their loyal followers kept the secrets of Upper Coryo well hidden from the rest of the world.  And so, storytellers in Upper Coryo’s neighboring kingdoms, and also in the far off land of the Bush dynasty, have created their own strange myths about this strange and secret land. 


Myth of the Given-Away Sword.  The entire discussion today revolves around the premise that North Korea can in fact be persuaded to give up its long-range missiles and nuclear weapons.  But is this a realistic expectation?  On October 20, Peter Maass wrote in the New York Times: “It does not require Kissingerian smarts to calculate that a member of the axis of evil would be death-wish foolish to relinquish the weapons of mass destruction that may be the only thing, by virtue of the horrible implications of their use, that stands in the way of an American attack.”  The ability to incinerate Los Angeles is quite logically Kim, Jong-il’s only credible regime survival insurance policy.  This is precisely what protected Mao Zedong from U.S. hawks forty years ago, and he knows it.  It is unlikely Kim, Jong-il will give up his nuclear weapons now or at any time in the future.  Just ask yourself a simple question: if your worst enemy called you and two others “evil,” then promptly kicked one of the others out of his house and tried to kill him, would you hand over all your weapons to that enemy?


Myth of the Great Betrayal.  The U.S. accuses North Korea of violating the Agreed Framework of 1994.  But no one seems to mention that the U.S. itself has abrogated many terms of the Agreed Framework, both under the Clinton and under the Bush administrations.  That’s what’s behind North Korea recent refusal to return the construction equipment.  We reneged the deal, so they are keeping all the hardware hostage.  North Korea has violated many deal terms, too, but there has never been much in U.S. behavior to build any trust on North Korea’s part.  It may be unrealistic to expect (as do many commentators) that straightforward negotiations are even possible.  Face it, the six-way talks have been a complete waste of time so far, preceded by John Bolton taunting, followed by North Korean taunting.  I really doubt “the dwarf” that Bush “loathes” is about to sit down and work out a deal with him anytime soon.


Myth of the Everlasting Treaty.  The U.S. also accuses North Korea of violating the Non-Proliferation Treaty.  But the Non-Proliferation Treaty is not some kind of lifetime irrevocable oath.  Like India, Pakistan and Israel, which never went for the NPT in the first place, North Korea simply developed a distaste for the treaty over time.  They pulled out in a straightforward, by-the-books way.  Believe it or not, NPT signers are entitled to pull out.  The U.S. pulled out of the ABM treaty it signed with the USSR.  Whoever said weapons treaties lasted forever and ever?


Myth of the Invisible Cannons.  North Korea remains at the ready to turn Seoul into a “sea of fire” any time.  It has 11,000 artillery tubes pointing at Seoul, plus hundreds of Scud missiles.  It has an army more than twice the size of South Korea’s.  North Korea could kill one million residents of Seoul in twenty-four hours, without even one of its soldiers charging across, or tunnelling under, the DMZ.  However, South Koreans, inebriated by their “Korea Is One” spirits, lusting after those nubile Northern cheerleaders, don’t think about, let alone worry about, the 11,000 cannons pointing at them.  Korean taxpayers, through the ever-cooperative Hyundai chaebol, have poured trillions and trillions of won into the Mount Keumkang tourist trap, and will soon pour trillions more into the Gaesong economic zone, with a Neville-Chamberlain like disregard for the 11,000 cannons.  Simply put, this is ostrich behavior.


Myth of Elysium.  Bush and Bolton have decried most vehemently the lack of freedom in North Korea.  In fact, U.S. government officials have used the word “freedom” millions of times over the last two years.  The U.S. Congress even voted to rename “French Fries” “Freedom Fries” on its cafeteria menu.  However, did you ever notice America’s total memory loss regarding Tiananmen Square, repression in Tibet, and the relentless pace of firing squad executions, in mainland China?  Note how Bush is giving the loudest possible “quiet” signals to “freedom loving” Taiwan, that it should just surrender to Beijing, and obediently become a Special Autonomous Region like Hong Kong.  Whenever Bush or Bolton denounces repression in North Korea, Kim, Jong-il thinks about America’s hypocritical China/Taiwan policy – not to mention Camp X-Ray – and simply turns a deaf ear.


Myth of the Invincible Hunter.  The most ridiculous U.S. government mantra in all of this is “verifiable, complete, and irreversible elimination of the North Korean nuclear program.”  Inspections had no effect on America’s march to conquer Iraq.  Kim, Jong-il would have to be a idiot to think inspections will protect him from Bush.  Recent hard evidence in Iraq demostrates vividly the opposite will take place.  In Iraq, letting the inspectors in was followed immediately by Regime Change.  So, I wouldn’t expect to see inspectors back in North Korea anytime soon.


Myth of the Great Hunger.  Many believe that “effective U.S. sanctions would bite deeply” and cause North Korea to submit to disarm.  This belief ascribes far too much power to the U.S.  In the final analysis, the U.S. doesn’t have much unilateral non-military leverage over North Korea.  No one knows exactly how much fuel oil China donates to North Korea, but it is an enormous amount.  If China (or South Korea, for that matter) ever disagreed strenuously with U.S. sanctions, they would just boost fuel oil, food aid, and financial support, replacing any shortfall stemming from U.S. sanctions.  Bush’s only unilateral alternative is Pentagon Operations Plan 5030, or some other act of outright violence he can perpetrate without consulting China, South Korea, Japan, Russia, the U.N., or anybody he might deem “unwilling.”


Myth of the Unshakable Alliance.  Embarrassed by France, Germany and Russia’s disapproval of his conquest of Iraq, Bush spent time and money trying to build an occupying “army of the willing” – offering Turkey $30 billion, making Berlusconi an offer he couldn’t refuse, and arm-twisting Korea.  President Roh, to prove his “strong alliance” with America, is sending 3,000 “combat troops” to Iraq.  However, a few weeks ago, he ordered the troops already there to avoid combat, and stay indoors -- a pretty good signal of South Korea’s overall ambivalence about being in Iraq.  It would be a mistake to interpret these reluctantly-dispatched soldiers as demonstrating South Korea’s geopolitical alliance with the U.S., especially regarding North Korea.  Cops beating up Dr. Norbert Vollerstein must also be seen as part of South Korea’s North Korea policy.


Myth of the Immortal Warriors.  The 37,000 US troops now stationed in Korea are entirely symbolic.  This tiny contingent would be essentially powerless against any North Korean “sea of fire” barrage or Million Man March.  Parading them around in military exercises serves no purpose.  In any case, wars are fought very differently today.  In the unlikely event of serious North Korean hostilities, within a few weeks, the US would counterattack with a devastating aerial bombardment, turning Pyongyang into a fine dust.  During this bombardment, it would assemble a large invasion force in the hundreds of thousands.  As with Kuwait in 1991, whether the US has zero soldiers or 37,000 soldiers stationed in Korea, this counterattack strategy is guaranteed and will always be the same.  The 37,000 US troops now stationed in Korea would be irrelevant if war really broke out.

Myth of the Trapper’s Lure.  Another myth is the “Trip Wire” theory, which suggests that if any American soldiers are harmed in a North Korean attack on South Korea, America will spring to the defense of South Korea.  This is silly.  There could be American flags burning on every street corner is Seoul, and not a single American soldier there, and the U.S. would still defend South Korea against North Korea.  South Korea is not Rwanda.  At a critical nexus between China, Japan, and Russia, Korea is just too big and too important geopolitically for America to abandon.  America needs Samsung Electronics.


Myth of the Silver Bullet.  Regime-changing hawks in the U.S. whisper conspiratorially about “effective strikes against the nuclear installations.”  This is an utter fantasy.  If the U.S. hasn’t found Saddam’s anthrax stockpile in a desert, how are they going to find Kim, Jong-il’s suitcase nukes in North Korea’s rugged terrain, with its thousands of hidden caves?  Likewise, “rules that tightly constrain North's nuclear production capacity” are a pipe dream.  Any nukes the North may already have can and will remain very well hidden for decades to come.


Myth of War and Peace.  Most discussions of North Korea debate the likelihood of successful negotiations versus military action.  However, nobody’s talking much about the Third Way, a good old-fashioned coup d’etat.    Grenada, Haiti, Kosovo, Afghanistan, and Iraq may represent the current military Regime Change style, but other approaches worked fine in the past, such as Iran 1953 and Chile 1973.  Everybody knows Kim Jong-il demanded and received a $500 million bribe for the 2000 summit, and that he had to give his 200 top generals 200 top-end Mercedes sedans during the famine.  Thus, the U.S. has hard recent empirical evidence supporting the possibility that it could pay Kim Jong-il to go into exile or pay his greedy generals to stage an “Et tu, Brute” finale.  Furthermore, a coup in Pyongyang would leave Seoul unscathed, unlike a military attack.  It’s a lot cleaner rather than a pointless bombing run on Yongbyon, and could be a lot more effective than wasting time arguing whether two-way talks are better than six-way talks.


By debunking the above myths, my goal is not to criticize the U.S. government, the Korean government, or goals of disarmament or reunification.  Quite the contrary.  I am hugely in support of disarmament and human rights, on a worldwide basis.  My only point is that supporters of these goals should apply them in a consistent manner.


Henry M. Seggerman is President of International Investment Advisers, which has provided strategic advice regarding Korea to Korean, American and European clients over the last eleven years....

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