Jack Lang Speaks Out on his Pyongyang Voyage

Via the always-interesting-if-not-completely-comprehensible Association for French-North Korean Friendship blog, a forty-minute interview with Jack Lang is now available on the subject of his trip to Korea.  His French is pretty Parisian standard, but I’m at a point in my own learning curve where I think I’ll just make it available to you all and dig out what I can, such as Lang’s admission that he got zero concrete concessions on the subject of human rights with the North Koreans.

The link to the interview is here; a few helpful links are below taken from the Friendship Association’s page:

De retour à Paris après sa mission de cinq jours en République populaire démocratique de Corée (RPDC, Corée du Nord), Jack Lang a accordé, le dimanche 15 novembre, un entretien à Radio France Internationale, TV5 Monde et Le Monde.

Répondant aux questions de Bruno Daroux (RFI), Xavier Lambrechts (TV5 Monde) et Nathalie Nougayrède (Le Monde), l’envoyé spécial du Président Sarkozy pour la Corée du Nord aborde, entre autres points : la déclaration solennelle des Nord-Coréens qui lui ont affirmé ne pas procéder à la prolifération d’armes de destruction massive ; la perspective d’un règlement global de la question nucléaire nord-coréenne, de la paix et de la sécurité en Asie du Nord-Est, auquel la France pourrait contribuer ; le travail en Corée des ONG françaises qu’il conviendrait de soutenir davantage.

Si la seconde partie de cet entretien ne concerne la Corée du Nord qu’au début, ce que Jack Lang dit ensuite sur l’embargo imposé à Cuba peut très bien s’appliquer à la Corée.

Par ailleurs, Jack Lang évite de répondre aux questions des journalistes sur “la nature du régime nord-coréen”, mettant en avant son rôle d’envoyé spécial, sans chercher à se poser en juge.


Pyongyang to Honored Chinese Guests: Thanks for Leaving!

It’s a fairly unusual day at the Korean Central News Agency in Pyongyang when they have to emphasize that a large delegation of Chinese leaders are leaving the country.

Pyongyang, November 26 (KCNA) — Col. General Liang Guanglie, minister of National Defense who doubles as a state councilor of the People’s Republic of China, flew back home Thursday.
Leaving with him were Col. General Huang Xianzhong, political commissar of the Shenyang Military Area of the Chinese People’s Liberation Army, Lieu. General Feng Zhaoju, deputy commander of the Jinan Military Area, Vice Admiral Xu Hongmeng, deputy commander of the Nanjing Military Area and commander of the East Sea Fleet of the Navy, Lieu. General Jiang Jianzeng, deputy commander of the Nanjing Military Area and commander of the Air Force of the area, Maj. General Chai Shaoliang, organizational director of the General Political Department of the CPLA, Maj. General Wang Jin, vice-director of the Operation Department of the General Staff, Maj. General Jia Xiaoning, deputy director of the Foreign Affairs Office of the Ministry of National Defense, and other suite members.

Do you suppose they’re worried about rumors that Chinese are taking over the place?

The fact that KCNA was so quick on the draw with this news — “they’re leaving! seriously!” — and that North Korean propaganda releases are usually about two days behind Xinhua and the press releases of the Chinese Embassy in Pyongyang (which as yet has said nothing about the departure of the Defense Minister from the capitol) indicates perhaps a bit of North Korean nervousness.

Or maybe I’ve just been reading a bit too much of The Book of Corrections and am wrong to imagine that the appearance of Chinese military command supremacy over Korean troops rubs North Korean observers the wrong way, kind of like a hand wrapped in duct tape moving up a cat’s spine.

Screams at South Korea about sadaejuui, or “flunkeyism,” can be quickly turned against the North Koreans and the traditional target of “submission to the great,” China. Anti-Chinese sentiment in North Korea is a very, very real phenomenon, ranging from fear of absorption by Chinese companies to contempt for Chinese disorder. Mix  all this in with nervousness over the degree of Chinese influence in the successor generation, and you’ve got some combustible themes in the North Korean body politic.

At least the relevant folks have had some relevant conversations about securing the border, although these meetings didn’t seem to get much press in North Korea:

9月22日,中国人民解放军副总参谋长马晓天上将(右)在北京会见由朝鲜人民武装力量部副部长朴在京大将率领的朝鲜军事代表团一行。 中新社发 富田 摄 -- via Huanqiu Shibao

Hatoyama Fails to Pardon: Japanese Winter Whale Hunts Underway

While Americans are stuffing themselves with large quantities of bird meat (or, in my case, giant bowls of Vietnamese soup), another hunt for protein is on in Antarctic waters by Japanese ships.   The L.A. Times has an excellent blog post on this topic, dating from November 19.

courtesy Los Angeles Times

CNN covers the annual controversy from Tokyo in a 2008 report:

Meanwhile, the American satirists Matt Parker and Trey Stone are winding up their South Park show with a predictably offensive depiction of crazed Japanese whalers.  Of course, as I’ve described before, this kind of depiction of Japan is quite popular among certain Chinese netizens.  Ecorazzi, a kind of quirky West Coast website, takes apart the  whaling episode and its connection to World War II memories.   Nationalistic cartoonist Kobayashi Yoshinori defends Japanese whaling in an English translation by the Tokyo-contemporary-culture aggregator Tokyo Damage Report [东京灾害报告].

Whales: ancient, wise, and all-too-tasty.

Brooklyn/Beijing/Tokyo/Pyongyang: Rock ‘n Roll Can Rescue the World

Chuck Kraus carries some great links and analysis of the current academic and popular craze for Chinese “underground” rock music:

Then we have the Japanese band Electric Eel Shock, who have been rocking audiences for years, with their song “Rock ‘n Roll Can Rescue the World.”  I was fortunate to hear this band in 2005 on their first North American tour in a gritty Beachland Ballroom outside of Cleveland Ohio in the middle of a raging blizzard that left the band playing for a screaming crowd of about twenty people, but they rocked like it was a giant, packed, arena.  Completely unforgettable.

After the show, I spent some time chilling with the band over an icy PBR.  I asked them, “Have you performed in China?”  (One of their albums starts with a song entitled “Give Me Chinese Food.”)

“Oh, yes,” they nodded vigorously, “but the government asked us not to come back.”

“Why is that?” I asked, realizing that there was very little specific political content in the songs.

“Well, it’s him,” the guitarist said, pointing out the drummer.  “He doesn’t like to wear clothes during concert.”  I think you will see what I mean.

On classical music, I contributed some thoughts on a New York Times blog on Guitar Hero (scroll down for the comment) and found a wonderful story of a French Horn player who ended up in Pyongyang with the New York Philharmonic last year.

Thomas Joestlin, French Horn, fresh from "the geopolitical rabbit hole"

Besides the fact that he took 54 auditions before getting the gig with New York, the money quote from his interview is:

…during the concert, we played the North Korean anthem and then the American national anthem, and the Koreans gave us a huge ovation. It was very moving. Ultimately, I don’t know whether the visit did any good. As a boy, I once visited relatives in communist East Germany, so I thought I’d be prepared to visit another communist nation. I was wrong. East Germany seemed like a paradise compared to North Korea.

Maybe Rock n’ Roll won’t rescue the world after all?  No, just oust that thought!  Read some Stephen Epstein on Korean punk music!  And get that naked drummer to Pyongyang, pronto!