Reporting on the North Korean Frontier / Inter-Korean Thaw / The Debate on Selig Harrison

An Asian-American news aggregator in California has a fine piece of reporting about Mitch Koss, the cameraman whose role in the CurrentTV North Korean border fiasco still remains unclear. An Op-Ed by Koss in the L.A. Times from 2003, “Refugees Could Undo Kim,” for me, indicates how politicized the border region has become. It seems unlikely that China or North Korea is going to be overly tolerant of people who make their intentions so plain. It’s also a bit shocking that in the amount of media attention Koss has been getting, that so little analysis has been done of his previously expressed views on North Korea or approach to journalism on that country’s frontier.

France 24 has some solid television reporting on South Korean president Lee Myung-bak’s administration talking with North Korean delegates in Seoul. This one doesn’t have the import of, say, Kim Koo going to Pyongyang in 1948, but it’s a meeting all the same. For Lee, it may be an opportunity to get back out in front of a warming trend (a very recent and potentially abortive one, to be sure) before Hyundai again takes the lead in relations with the North. Non-governmental organizations can always throw a wrench into foreign policy, but when you have huge chaebol moving independent from the ROK government, something has got to give.

Kim Jong-Il with Hyundai Group Delegation in Pyongyang, November 2 2007

Kim Jong-Il with Hyundai Group Delegation in Pyongyang, November 2 2007

Human-rights bloggers are getting excited about “an information campaign” into North Korea, thinking that now is the time for some kind of grass-roots uprising there. I’m not feeling it, myself, but then again I have the disadvantage of having recently returned from that big band of land north of Korea, while folks like Joshua Stanton (whose analysis I usually enjoy) are imagining a North Korean uprising from their computer screens in Washington D.C. and deriding as “North Korean tool[s]” anyone, like Selig Harrison, who has set foot in the country. If you’re going to call Harrison a communist, you might also consider reading and then doing the favor of analyzing his Congressional testimony (including the Feb. 12, 2009 hearing on “Smart Power: Remaking U.S. Policy in North Korea“) or explaining how having more information about the current cast of the DPRK Foreign Ministry is a bad thing for the rest of us. Let’s leave the nasty epithets to the North Koreans and try to listen to what Harrison is saying. After all, it’s not as if the man is Edgar Snow.

In any case, Stanton’s recent work on two North Korean prison camps is illuminating, combining testimony from defectors with the powers of Google Earth. Another post on bridges across the Tumen River by ROK Drop (although in a more recent post the same author calls Selig Harrison “a useful idiot” for the North) is worth checking out as well.

Meanwhile John Feffer, whose expertise I have yet to see impugned, might have more insight than any of us.

Lee Myung-bak Meets with DPRK Envoys in Seoul today (image courtesy Reuters, via NYT)

Lee Myung-bak Meets with DPRK Envoys in Seoul today (image courtesy Reuters, via NYT)