Matthieu Mabin, Liberation’s intrepid reporter in Islamabad, reports on atomic scientist Abdul Khan in an article cleverly titled “Dr. Khan Again Becomes a Free Electron [Khan redevient un electron libre].” One of the more interesting things about this brief article, which breaks no new ground in terms of Khan’s connections to North Korea, is Khan’s insistence of the patriotic value of his research. It will be very interesting to see to what extent North Korea’s nuclear weaponry becomes a Korean, nationalistic, asset when Kim Jong Il dies, or if his death will result in the tactical ability of North Korea’s new leadership to associate the nuclear research with Kim and thus have an opening to get rid of their weapons and the associated stigma. Something tells me it will be the former, rather than the latter, approach. But will an individual scientist or group of specific North Korean technicians be able to, like Dr. Khan, personify the program and take appropriate credit? Dispersal of credit for nationalistic achievements is the sign of a confident leadership, one can argue.
Meanwhile, organizers estimate a demonstration of some 50,000 people gathered near the Brandenburger Tor in the Hauptstadt of Berlin, one of my personal favorite cities on earth:
Aussteigen! Der Hauptstadt jubelt mit Gegenatommachtdemonstrationen (courtesy Liberation)
Whether or not North Korean atomic might was part of the target, I cannot say. It is apparent, however, that the story of American misbehavior in Afghanistan among embassy employees is getting a great deal of play in Germany at the moment. They seem to be figuring out that charismatic leader “Obama auch braucht privat Kreiger [Obama also needs private warriors].” American morality in foreign affairs always gets more complicated when one ventures into Der Spiegel, since its editors and reporters — particularly those in China, as I have commented on in the past — are so much more attuned to human rights issues in Tibet than the stagnant American press.
As for North Korean human rights agitator-extraordinaire Norbert Vollertson, I have heard virtually nothing of late, although he apparently has a book in both German and English that I should read and would welcome input about. Selig Harrison recently obliquely referred to Vollertson’s stunts when refuting Dana Rohrabacher’s sortie into regime change hopes for Pyongyang. “You’re not going to get it by floating a bunch of balloons with radios from Seoul,” he basically stated. And this is part of the interesting thing about the kind of ersatz (and hopefully durable) coalitions being formed to handle North Korean human rights issues: bleeding heart European leftists, remnants of the East German experiment, can hook up with red-blooded Reaganites. And the two sides might also agree when it comes to non-proliferation of nuclear weapons. Oh how wonderful is the Dao/Dow!
Paris polysci guru Jean-Marie Bouissou argues, all things considered, that working out a viable stance toward North Korea is the key issue for the new Japanese government, at least in the eyes of public opinion.
Though slightly dated at 24 August 2009, this article in Liberation, “The Ambiguous Hand of Pyongyang to Seoul,” describes the posthumous influence of Kim Dae-Jung on inter-Korean reconciliation.
And the countdown begins until 18 September, the three day Lyon forum/retrospective on “20 Years after the Fall of the Wall.” What are we going to be talking about with regard to Korea (and for that matter, China/Taiwan) in 20 years’ time?
Ecological Diplomacy — Building a Green Wall of Defense
Jacques Trenier, a physician and civil-society advocate for environmental issues, says the time has come to return to the ecology of Epinal, citing the new “Gaia” hypothesis of British thinkers and the research of South Koreans and Japanese to increase hydropower and reduce carbon emissions.
Here we see a key opportunity to broaden the coalition of individuals and groups concerned with North Korea’s future. North Korea is in environmental meltdown. One function of kicking out inspectors is that coal plants and mineral extraction concerns are allowed to go completely independent of global standards, and labor and environmental standards are also worse than even those evolving measurements in China.
The North Koreans threw Bill Richardson a bone in New Mexico recently (perhaps reprising Dr. Evil’s favorite phrase) and asked for some coordination on environmental issues, which is positive and should be actively followed up on. Sure, they are trying to change the subject, you say? Well let them! Throw them a bone in return, and make it organic and range-fed! This is one area of “Track II” exchanges which, as Scott Snyder wisely argues, the West can work as closely with North Korea as they will allow us to.
Shades of the Yalu - St. Croix River, Minnesota (photo by Adam Cathcart)
One of the most interesting things that happened this spring was the order by the Division of Forestries in the DPRK to plant more trees (erosion being a huge problem with all the slash-and-burn or mountain-side plot farming) and prevent the cultivation of private lands in the forests. Here we have the convergence of environmental, food, and free-marketization concerns. And it should be discussed more widely. Does Greenpeace or the Sierra Club have a North Korea platform?
And, for that matter, what about my own university? Doesn’t “going green” on the Pacific Coast mean that chemical runoff from Hamhung’s mega-fertilizer plants (you know, the ones we bombed every few months during the Korean War using the Japanese blueprints?) impacts the Puget Sound and vice-versa? Time to connect the vicious with the viscous compassion!
Algae blooms know no boundaries and the DPRK has got international obligations here, too! Send Stephen Chu to pound on the table at the Six-Party Talks!
Blast down the tunnels at the DMZ for joint seismic research! Tag the tigers endangered and let them leap over the Tumen like ice-clawing journalists!
Study roots in glass jars, trajectories of smog-plumes, hail the ghosts of heroic engineers past! Let North Korea make new children’s stories of labor heroes who stop those voracious Chinese from blowing up whole mountaintops to extract their concrete for Changchun’s burly girders!
Bring in unemployed Appalachian coal mine specialists to slap the backs of the organically-fed boys of Danchun! Stop the drilling of senseless holes in transnational minds by the politics of disconnect!
Cultivate a new generation of North Korean hippies who export hemp tote bags to Trader Joe’s! Let them make guitars from wood saved from pulping by the Rodong Sinmun! And let them, their bellies full of all manner of legumes, sing songs about the coming North Korean Woodstock at the old chin Il-pae’s ranch on the plains of Hwanghae! And let them have rock and roll and watch Prison Break with State-Department siphoned subtitles!
Whew! Let’s get it done! I feel like Michael Stranahan talking to a bunch of burly offensive linemen who are bobbing from side to side and nodding their heads as they prepare to get back on the field. Just one touchdown, people! I would add somthing like “a miracle escape from the claws of the otherwise-inevitable isn’t out of the question,” but I prefer to pound on your metaphorical shoulderpads and say “Let’s go! Let’s go! Let’s go! 加油！”
Coda: In 1805, in a moment of Napoleonic excitement and fantastically constructive Orientalism, a city bureaucrat in Epinal built a “Chinese Tower”
in which to live and work. The tower was closed down with the end of the Vichy regime and the roof collapsed (il est effondremont) in the 1980s. Now, perhaps because France is incessantly seeking cultural ways to remain close to its highly-significant trading partner, China, the tower has been restored. An exposition runs there for another week.
Chinese Tower in Epinal, France (courtesy ville-epinal.fr)