how the world sees america

Dear (American) Leader

DMZ-Guards_2.jpg
United Nations troops patrol the North-South Korean border.

As a child Kwang Soo strolled through parks in Hongwan, North Korea, read novels about her Great Leader, and stitched yarn dolls in the likeness of U.S. soldiers. Then she and her friends tossed those stuffed Americans into the air and beat them apart with sticks.

Soo’s history teacher taught her that the United States launched the Korean War. In mathematics Soo learned that if you have seven Americans and kill four of them, only three are left. At assemblies, her teachers told her to fortify herself for another great war against the U.S. and South Korea. Within her lifetime, they said, war would reunite the peninsula, which America split apart.

Yet today Soo prays that America will help save her family in North Korea.

Soo was born in 1964 to a well-respected family. Her grandfather was a prominent lawyer for the Workers Party of the Great Leader, Kim Il-sung; her father a distinguished professor; and her mother a party administrator.

But high status didn’t bring great wealth in this ‘Socialist Paradise.’ Her family of six all lived together in a one-room apartment. Ten other families shared one shower and one toilet. Though there were faucets, clean water didn’t run through them. Soo pulled water from the river. Electricity was always scarce.

As time passed, food grew scarce as well. At twenty-nine, Soo married a party administrator who had just left thirteen years of mandatory military service. She became entirely dependent on her new spouse. Her parents passed away and she says there were so few jobs in the country by the early 1990s that married women didn’t work. With crisis looming, the couple gave birth to a son.

By 1995 North Korea’s communist patrons had shriveled up. With them went food sold at friendly prices. The government dispensed less food day by day. From three meals to two to one. People began starving to death on the streets. Soo’s friends told one another they weren’t far behind.

As the situation deteriorated, the government increased its anti-American broadcasts. TV documentaries from North Korea and select old ones from Mainland China claimed that America was squeezing North Korea to force regime change. The U.S. sought world dominion at any cost, TV and radio said.

But Soo was less receptive to that talk now. Private conversations with close friends by 1996 were all about the failures of the government. State military and police agents were stealing food, extorting bribes, and executing civilians.

Then the summer of 1997 robbed Soo of all she loved. Dysentery swept across her town. Chronic diarrhea combined with poor nutrition caused her husband and newborn son to waste away in a matter of weeks.

With nothing left to lose, Soo traveled north to the Tumen River, clasped hands with five strangers, and waded into Mainland China. She contacted distant relatives there and got a job as a maid. At the night she listened through to South Korean broadcasts on TV. Over the next three years and seven months she slowly discovered all the North Korean regime had hidden.

But in 2001 and 2002, the China began cracking down on illegal North Korean immigrants. Soo feared that they would send her home to North Korea to die either of hunger or a bullet. No longer enamored by her Great Leader, hoping simply to survive, Soo sought asylum in South Korea.

Now Soo lives in Seoul with a new husband. The couple ekes out a living through entry-level office jobs. She recently gave birth to another son. Life is beginning again for Soo, but her sisters remain in Hunong.

She spoke to them last year. To stop famine, North Korea opened up slightly, allowing new ways of making contact across the border -- some legal, some not.

Soo contacted a ring of smugglers, supported by corrupt members of the North Korean military. They brought money to her relatives for a 70% commission, and allowed them a ten minute cell phone conversation.

Pyongyang.jpg
Pyongyang.

“They were terrified by it,” Soo says, widening her black eyes and pressing her hands against her cheeks. “They had never seen anything like it.” She told them the North Korean regime was cruel; that the south was liberated; and that she had remarried and given birth again. Her family said little, afraid someone was listening. “At least they are not dead,” says Soo.

From a childhood spent detesting the U.S., Soo now prays it will help her sisters. "They need it,” she says, “One has a baby girl."

Soo's solution: U.S. and international aid organizations must demand direct access to real people like her sisters. "Watch the food be delivered to their mouths," Soo says. This can help widen cracks in the once airtight regime, allowing people like Soo to quietly reveal the brighter outside world to relatives -- a world that must stand with them and help them survive, with or without their Dear Leader.

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Comments (78)

Anon:

Doesn't matter what the press says. Doesn't matter what the politicians or the mobs say. Doesn't matter if the whole country decides that something wrong is something right. It's our duty to help the tired and the poor. America is great because it is good. If and when America stops being good, it will cease to be great.

Joel:

America, like so many western nations is a beacon of hope and freedom for those without such basic rights. It is also one of many nations with 'relative' freedom of the press and a 'theoretical' democracy. It isn't perfect, but it is a damn sight better then many experience. The difference between America and the other 'liberal' nations is that america has a somewhar xenophobic approach to international politics, a "we know better" mentality that alienates those who should be its allies, and the biggest arsenal of weapons we know about.
It is no wonder the rest of the world fears America more then it respects it. When someone (or some nation) waves their fist in your face and demands you improve yourself "or else" it breeds resentment, even if the change is necessary.
There is no 'white knight' in this picture everyone is protecting their own interests from the meglomaniac running N.Korea, to china keeping its neighbour poor and in their debt, to America pushing its international agenda. In the mean time people in North Korea starve.

Gotta love human nature.

Jolie:

There is this documentary about the secret state of north korea. it was taken by a journalist who disguised himself as a tourist and got into north korea. The people all seemed so brain washed by the fairytale stories of their leader. We cant hold the north korean people accountable for all this hate. They are mere victims of a cruel government. I hope and pray for a revolution that can break down those boundaries before its too late. Families that were torn apart from the forming of north and south are slowly becoming extinct because of old age. I want them all to be reunited and not live in fear for their lives.

I support people. I support life. Government or no government. American or Korean. We need to get over ourselves and just help each other out. You know what i mean?

Anonymous:

Found out this article through facebook, and am impressed that there actually are Americans (I mean people and the press) who are very much concerned about the way America is seen from the outside world.
I am from a country that is described to be the biggest partner of the U.S - Japan - and I have lots to say, but since I'm not going to write a multiple-page collage-style essay in respose to a blog, I will just write down some points on how I, and a few "mature" and "internationa-aware" people here are coming to think about America. Hope this throws a stone into a pond in many minds reading this.

Basically, we see America as a threatening country that is very selfish and is often an evil-being. I thinkg that America "sets up, destroys, takes all away and rebuild it the way she likes so that she has a better control over it". Acts like the way Ameria does its business is supposed to be the global-standard and if anyone stands up and says anything against such act of her, this "brave" country is permanently damaged to the deep-down, that this country can never recover its political independence. Examples? I think Japan is one of many, then Iraq, Iran and Pakistan that you might soon start another war with.

America, if you think that your system is so perfect and universal that you think it should work everywhere in this world and want that to come true, please get some modesty and good amount of respect to small countries before you start the next war. A true leader does a big thing, but never underestimates the importance of small things. Be the one, or else the world will turn their back on you! We are very , I mean "VERY" fed up with the way you were, are and have been!!!

US Army PFC in South Korea:

From reading alot of these posts and coming from 11 months of continuous time spent in SK and 1 month left, alot of people dont seem to see that South Korea (Republic Of Korea actually) is really better off thanks to us. One person said at the top that only the older South Koreans appreciate us, no. 90% of South Koreans here appreciate us, young and old.

To mark way up near the top. Your post may be small but it gives off a biased opinion. No-one gets crushed by HMMMVs. Most SK and Americans hit by vehicles over here, are hit by SKs, the traffic over here is more dangerous than the states. As for rapes, they dont happen as much as you think. Rapes on South korean women are rare by US military. Most rapes are actually US on US. Cant say more to that, im not a spokesperson.

Vic van Meter:

....Uh, are you people nuts?!

America is not withdrawing its forces from South Korea. Not while North Korea is still there.

Not to mention things like the South Korean economy (they consume Japanese and our own products like candy), they are a military balance to North Korea and, by extent, China. Think of the way Israel and Palestine are, only instead of fighting, they simply stare at each other across the border. The Koreas aren't actively killing each other, mostly because America is protecting its own and China is likewise propping up North Korea. It's a sort of peaceful stand-off, and one of the few things America can point to and say that it's done some good in the world.

I mean, a lot of people like to say America has never done anything good for the globe. But you certainly can't say South Korea is worse off than North Korea. And it's hard to say South Korea would be where it is today without American support.

Whether they thank us or not, they're part of a link in the economy most people don't want to nod to. I'm at Ohio State University. Do you have any idea how many students here are Korean exchange students? South Korea fuels us with their best and brightest who come here to study, then stay here to live. Korea is thankful for the Koreans who come back to help South Korea. The rest become gears in America's machine. And that sort of story is literally the only thing holding America back from the brink of economic catastrophy in the wake of our government's economic idiocy.

So no, we aren't withdrawing our military or influence from South Korea. Especially with North Korea starving and flailing about, even China's government is holding them at arm's length. It's hard to blame the South Koreans for being concerned about their relatives' well-being up north. But all this amounts to one, big, insurmountable truth.

Sure it's not perfect. Sure it's a proxy stand-off. Sure the Koreans don't always like us the way we want them to. But the situation there is STABLE! North Korea is surrounded by people who deal with us and are genuinely concerned with what America has to say (even China cares, even if they're vying with us for the top spot). It's a rockfall that all happened to lean into each other and create something stable. So until the foundation shakes, we seem to be rather lucky that the situation has not deteriorated into another war. Nuclear weapons and tense face-downs later, nothing in the Korean peninsula has really changed. South Korea is still growing and North Korea still sucks to live in because Kim is crazy. China still backs the North, America still backs the South.

All these collosal powers seem to have come to a sort of rest in the far-east. It's not technically such a bad situation.

JT:

The Koreas should be left alone to solve their own problems. It is time for the US to withdraw all of its troops from S Korea and let that nation defend itself. This may speed reunification which is a matter for N and S Korea to resolve. Any outside assistance should be through the UN or other nations in the region.

Q-bert:

If they hate us so much. Leave them be to hate us. China won't do anything, won't allow anyone else to do anything, they don't want the Refugees. That they're starving in NK gulags is just fine and dandy with Communist China. The U.N. can't do anything but run a soup kitchen to provide some sort of damage control to the dear leader's megalomaniacal failures to provide even food or clean water. And the NK people are so irreversibly brainwashed that they'd probably have some sort of Jonestown kool-aid party if the dear leader was to be removed. SK is trying to reconcile with their neigbors, Big Mistake. It's sad but sometimes the only purpose of a life or a nation is to serve as a cautionary tale to others. Any other action toward NK would almost certainly be catastrophically tragic in the long run.

John:

What's so wrong with giving food aid? I'm living in S. Korea right now and I can tell you that the reason they do it here is because those are their families on the other side of the border. Come on people, it's only been fifty years since the war. These people still care about each other, not the stupid politics of their governments. The US and S. Korea agreed to give aid conditionally if the North would dismantle it's nuclear program. That's working. The next step will be to continue aid for other concessions. For example, allowing travel across the border to reunite families. In the next decade, the N Korean economy is going to receive an enormous windfall of money from S Korea in the form of investment. Hyundai and Samsung are building factories across the border, the trains are running again, and thousands of North Koreans are getting well paying jobs (by northern standards). Everyone else gets cheap labor. It's just a fact, as more people move in there, it breaks the grip of the government on the people. Change is coming and I guarantee that American investors will also be there to foster it along.

Berne:

Mike S, of course, we will be reckoning the obsolescence of American isolationism on different dates, as your context may be that as "deemed official" and mine as "for all intents and purposes" as we have distinct viewpoints and orientations about America. I guess it will be convenient to reckon such period as that which results from the Pearl Harbor attack in WWII as America's direction towards international intervention would be truly be justified. Unfortunately, my period of reckoning was 40 years earlier than that, when American colonialism need not be euphemistically placed in quotation marks, and which situation remains to be so even if it would be utterly denied. Be as it may, we can agree that we could disagree lengthily on this point.

Now, if some Americans could write as persuasively as Ben Sutherland, perhaps... :-?

SteveMD2:

While I agree that food distribution is nothing but a stopgap, what I am amazed at is that there are a number of right wing apparently good Christians, who forgot something said about love thy neighbor as thyself, which does command us to help those who are suffering.

It is going to take a long time to knock off the No. Korean henchmen. Engagement, things equiv to radio free europe and other media will open the people's eyes, and eventually change will happen as the whole rotten PRC govt begins to fall apart. But yes, it is in our interests to help the ordinary people there. There is no easy solution. And you can bet that those Americans who say we should just let them effectively "go to hell" under their totally corrupt leadership are the same people who talk about values and life in this country, the American Hypocrits who support our own idiot in the white house because they haven't anything else to add to the party.

D Smith:

Uhhh. Some countries are not ready for democracy. Their leaders are corrupt, with politics operating under a feudal clan system that are every bit as shady and brutal as the military coups that punctuate the turbulent history of ethnic and religious unrest while their economies languish in Third World status.

Too true, the words of another poster, that neither China nor Japan are in a hurry to see North Korea democratized (not that its going to happen).

Moreover, with the US nearly tied with China for birth rate (!), and standing just behind India and China in population (!), do you REALLY want yet yet another tide of political refugees streaming illegally into the US? Because this will be the sanctuary they will head to in droves...regardless of the anti-American propaganda doled out.

*scratching head* Why not invite China and Japan to jointly police the Korean DMZ?

Ben Sutherland:

"The fact of the matter is that the only way to deal with the North Korean problem is to force Kim Jong Il to bring about significant economic reforms (like China). Failing that, we will have to stomach the continued suffering of many innocent civilians until someone decides that enough is enough dispatches Kim and his haircut once and for all."

That's funny, anonymous. I don't remember the U.S. forcing economic reforms on China. Quite to the contrary, what I remember was China, like Vienam and other communist states, reforming their economic systems with greater freedom of trade and more open economies, and a diplomatic tour by then-President Bill Clinton to open up diplomatic relations and economic ties.

This author makes clear in no uncertain terms the consequences of U.S. hegemony and aggressive dominance of the Korean peninsula and generally in world affairs - namely that is makes peoples we wish to persuade to make liberal democratic reforms wary of us - and yet people still rally for the very kinds of policies that are clearly responsible for that mistrust.

How foolish could we possibly be to repeat all of those same mistakes in this arena trying to validate some backwards and clearly counterproductive notion of progress in our own country?

The beauty of a democracy is that when one leader or group is celebrating a bad governing philosophy, that I can vote for another, no matter how self-righteous the first group might be.

The commenter who noted that Koreans will, eventually, either wait for the U.S. and the international community to open North Korea up to economic reforms a la China or Vietnam, or, given the foolish directions that our own leaders, liberal and conservative, are taking us in, these days, North Koreans will have to make the sacrifices that are prerequisites to freedom.

Either wait for the slow and unpredictable pace of gradual reforms that may one day occur that free up the Korean economy, some, and open it up to the outside world. Or revolt, which would be a perfectly legitimate, and, given enough courage on the part of the Korean people, perhaps a better option, given no movement in the a more liberal or democratic direction.

Personally, if I were a North Korean citizen, knowing what I know today, I would try to escape to somewhere where freedom and democracy are taken more seriously and the fruits of those commitments and the opportunities that make them available are more plentiful. And I would work for as peaceful a transition to a free and open democracy and market in North Korea as I could possible witness in my own lifetime. But if North Koreans chose to revolt, I would fight with them, if I were still living with my homeland, and support them morally and materially, if I had escaped abroad.

Having said all of that, Americans and Europeans should stave off the humanitarian crisis in North Korea, given the awful and ugly state of affairs in that country, until Koreans are able to determine their own fates, for political as well as for humanitarian reasons, as a matter of leadership as much as a matter of compassion (and as a matter of making clear that the two go hand in hand in the real world of 21st century democratic politics).

But the readers who are concerned about what North Koreans do for themselves and what the American government is expected to do for them may have a point in the sense that what North Koreans and Americans have in common is that both of need to learn to be responsible better both for their own fates and for the fates of those in need on their own accord, more, and less from the largess of their governments. We might question whether the U.S. government should be relied upon to provide such aid not because it is not needed or because Americans shouldn't provide it, but because Americans need to learn such generosity of their own accord and not always rely upon their government to provide such aid when Americans are perfectly capable of helping out with or without their government. Americans, as much if not more than North Koreans, need a lesson in self-sufficiency, in dealing with international aid, learning to be responsible for such problems because it is the right thing to do and not because their government makes them help others by taxing its citizens.

That's a lesson for the whole world to learn, not just Americans or North Koreans.

And that is a lesson that will be learned with greater freedom and the responsibility that comes with that freedom rather than anyone forcing anyone to do anything.

Ben Sutherland
http://benfrankln.blogspot.com/

Mike:

"Top down democratic movement help along and impose on nations not ready for it will fail, just look at iraq."

Uh, just look at Japan and Germany, two countries whose democratic movemend was helped along and impsed on them by the US. Now, they weren't model democracies in 1950, but after time they become among the most peaceful, demomcratic and prosperous nations on earth.

Of course, rabid America haters are most often ignorant of history, so what do you expect from the losers on this board.

mike s:

Berne

The conservative, near isolationist sentiments of JQA's speech are alive and well in the US. But such policies have been made obsolete by, not American "colonialism", but by the advent of world war in the 20th C.

Joe:

Berne, I think by now most people around the world know the situation in NK. This article only duplicates thousand others that have already been written. I did not expect this from Wash Post.

This article reminded me about the stories I used to read about Iraq before the invasion. All kind of stories to build up political will for US Iraq policy.

Washington Post should write more in-depth stories to educate the public than a simple one-dimensional "How bad is N. Korea!" type of stories. Perhaps, they should write about US policy changes before and after nuclear testing. That would be far more interesting.

Colton Peterson:

Please read my whole comment. ok listen i live in korean and im an american marine child and yes i dont like koreans at all and yes we should pull out but i dont like watching you people sit here and insult people that you've never even seen except for on the news and nroth korean citizens didnt choose to be trapped in a communist government and many of them have south korean family members, and they all dearly wish they could peacefully live in south korea. If you wanna judge and throw around your stupid politcal reviews go ahead but you should really come here and judge them even though i dislike them sometimes i dont like to see them insulted by people that have never seen them except from thousands of miles away on the news and they love us only very few dont want us here me and my family have korean friends that are very nice and they are so desperate to learn english here because they need it to be well off in life. anyway if you actually read this comment i hope it makes you think that maybe you should know before you judge. thank you for your time!

Berne:

Joe, as to the question "What is the point of this story?", can I hazard a guess in the effect of "Thank America, it can make your dreams come true!"?

Anyways, generally, I guess it can also be easier to imply an attribution of North Korea (NK)'s economic woes (including the resulting starvation) to their "Great Leader" and NK's apparent protectionist economic policy (as implied by the phrase "To stop famine, North Korea opened up slightly..."), than in part to a US-led economic embargo against NK as a result of the Korean war and NK's development of nuclear weapons. It can't be propaganda if the former deduction is articulated in open press in a "free" world, isn't it?

And John, something about your comment reminded me of a speech by your namesake John Quincy Adams (4 July 1821): The United States of America "goes not abroad, in search of monsters to destroy. She is the well-wisher to the freedom and independence of all. She is the champion and vindicator only of her own. She will commend the general cause by the countenance of her voice, and the benignant sympathy of her example. She well knows that by once enlisting under other banners than her own, were they even the banners of foreign independence, she would involve herself beyond the power of extrication, in all the wars of interest and intrigue, of individual avarice, envy, and ambition, which assume the colors and usurp the standard of freedom. The fundamental maxims of her policy would insensibly change from liberty to force. She might become the dictatress of the world. She would be no longer the ruler of her own spirit." This appears to be a perception antiquated by American colonialism in the 20th century and no longer shared by a majority of modern Americans, true?

mike s:

Because we are human beings, we will have to continue to attempt to help the North Korean people who simply cannot do it themselves. The political situation there is awful and intransigent. Nothing will change, but that can't be an excuse for ignoring the plight of the people. Until the Dear Leader passes, NK will be an unpluggable leak on the world's resources. I, for one, can tolerate that.

I have a greater problem with the anti-Americanism prevalent among the young in South Korea. I'd like that country to step up to its obligations to defend itself, so our boys can come home.

mlee:

North Korea has an enormous military and I feel that any uprising would be brutally squashed. I don't think some people are grasping that since birth the people are braiwashed and told that America is evil and all their problems is because of America they're entire lives. They don't know what else to think. They are probably the most isolated country in the world. They even had a clothing drive to donate their clothes to "poor" south koreans b/c they thought they had it so much better b/c that was what the government was telling them. I don't think they've ever had a chance to think for themselves truly as individuals just spit back the lies the governemnt has told them. They thought they were so much better off than the U.S. or South Korea. . .I think its starting to leak that they're life is not so great.

pappy:

-Amar- Sorry about the language, sometimes a spade must be called a spade.

pappy:

Most of these posts show a severe lack of geo-political knowledge. The sad truth is that China and Japan want North Korea to stay just like it is. China desires a buffer between itself and a strong American ally, South Korea. Japan fears the economic, political, and military might of a united Korea. The sad truth is that North Korea is the living example of Orwells'1984. I believe that people should overthrow oppressive governments, but I just do not think that the North Koreans can do it on their own. However, any external military force will be repelled by China.
-Mark- Your are a dumbass.

John:

The US should not involve itself with the problems of North Korea other other than diplomatic efforts. If the people of North Korea want a different form of government they must be the ones to bring it about. The nuclear issue, human rights and economic reform should be addressed by the UN and not the US.

George in AK:

Leroy - try "On Faith" for your comments

No, Jesus does not rule America and neither do you. That in and of itself insures freedom of thought.

If you'd read the constitution or paid atention in class, you'd know that we do not have a "ruler".

George in AK:

Leroy - save your atheistic ranting for "On Faith"

BTW, neither do you rule America, which apparently is a real blessing for free thinking.

Joe:

What is the point of this story?
I don't find anything new here other than to describe the failure of N. Korea bringing out emotions among American readers and question US policy on NK.

More interesting story may be about the flee market that is creeping up every town and cities across NK and how the small business people manage to survive in such environment. Or the small group of surviving Christians who have managed to setup a church in PeongYang despite religeous ban.

How about the S Korean television shows that are making the rounds in NK.

One can write about pure darkness and death itself or write about how people manage to overcome such adversity. I think the latter is far more interesting and less depressing.

!Dan:

Dan,

That's an interesting post. Which post(s) do you mean? I can find some that are funny, naive, challenging and even insightful. I can't find one that is hateful.

You do realize that "hateful" doesn't simply mean "I don't agree with that opinion", correct? One of the key aspects of freedom of speech is that it inevitably makes everyone uncomfortable. This is a good thing. When you see an opinion that makes you uncomfortable, that's an oppotunity to see if it's because it challenges your core beliefs or it's wrong. If it's wrong, please demonstrate why it's wrong. If it just challenges your world view, then it's time to adjust and perhaps admit that your previous view(s) are/were wrong. It's part of the human experience. Jump in. The water is fine.

Dan:

Seriously, the utter stupidity and/or outright hatefulness of some of the posts in this thread are truly amazing.

Common Sense:

The hunger and poverty in NK could be fixed in about 24 hours.

They just have to open the borders.

Of course, the population would go down to 1 in about 16 hours, but hey, that's what happens when you're a psychopathic depot.

Seriously, of all you people out there, who think NK is a brave little island against the evil capitalists? Don't be bashful little Marxists, let's see a show of hands!

john:

Blame on China's goverment. Why they don't send food and medicine to NK. They are rich (goverment) and same communist party, so they have to do more than U.S.

milt:

Democracy goes from the ground up.Top down democratic movement help along and impose on nations not ready for it will fail, just look at iraq.
The N. Koreans have to do it themselves . Afterward, the world will help.

Célio Rodrigues:

I worked in South Korea in 1995. While living there I noticed that the South Koreans were a healthy, well fed and well clad people. One day, during a visit to the Demilitarized Zone, in the border of both countries, I saw that all North Korean soldiers in the other side were all skynny ones. I asked to my guide if they followed a diet to keep them in that slim figure, he ansewred: "There is only a fat man in North Korea; the Dear Leader.

Daryl:

Let's not forget how much people have in common, where ever they reside. Yes there are many North Koreans who hate the USA because they buy into what their leaders tell them. It is the same personality type as the Americans who buy into the Bush/Cheney lines that we are in Iraq because a) Hussein had WMDs b) there was a Hussein-al Qaeda connection or c) we are there to start the democracy dominoes tumbling throughout the Near East.

I'm sure there are many in NK who see right through the propaganda as well. What would you do if speaking up against the tyranny could get your meager food rations cut? You would make yourself invisible too.

Have a heart. Bombs are hardly ever the answer. The Berlin wall is gone, change can come. Promoting contact with NK wares down the lies. Patience, everyone.

Spitfires:

Gee, where are the other 138 countries on this one? Seems like a new cause for the UN to take up and solve. Oh?? They already knew about it??? Gee.. Maybe if all the member countries took up a collection the UN could respond. Oh?? The UN already gets regular funding to fight hunger, crime, and injustice from all its members?? Golly.... Maybe if the UN reps could give up their limos and perquisites for a week they could solve the problem with the money saved. Then they could collectively step back and say: "We did this all by ourselves". Obviously this isn't a bet I'd care to make.

Team America:

I love it when North Koreans sing "I'm so Rornery". It makes my heart cry.

Korean Question(?):

Will China allow us to take over North Korea(?) that is the question. It is certainly in all our interests (one way or the other) to do it; American, South Korean and Chinese.

It's a great competition and together with an ally like S. Korea the U.S. should be able to make enough havoc to cause the government there fall 'almost' all by itself - it's already doing a great job at that -- let's just make sure it's us, rather than the Chinese picking up the pieces.

I'm just hoping that the world community will not stand for yet another invasion by the Chinese imperialists.

The U.S. must assist uniting North and South Korea very soon before it's too late to act. This is the time and it requires bold decisions. Not to act would cost too much for the free world.

Anonymous:

When foreign aid is sent to North Korea, The North Koreans are told that it is tribute sent by other countries to the Great North Korea. The inability of these people to see through this kind of nonsense is so galling that I tend to feel our foreign aid dollars are better sent elsewhere. They will have to work out their own addiction to propaganda and "Dear Leader"

Kacoo:

America could not unite Korea. America could not divide Vietnam. America could not invade Japan. People remark on all the things that North Korea does not have.

The only thing it seems to have for sure is its independence. American children are taught sayings from Patrick Henry, "Give me liberty, or give me death," and from Nathaniel Hale, "I regret that I have only one life to give for my country." North Koreans live these slogans every day.

Joe:

I agree with many others writing here -- it's long past time we quit meddling in others countries affairs and problems and concentrate on our own.

I really don't care if all of North Korea starves to death. Several of my family members nearly died in military efforts in that miserable country and see what it got them and the rest of us. Nothing!

South Korea has the right idea and should be left alone to pursue it's chances. I don't expect much because the NK leadership will not give up it's privleges, just like many Muslim or other countries.

But one thing is for sure, we do not need to waste one more dime doing anything one way or the other there in the Koreas. Just get out and stay out!

Leroy:

Jesus wasn't the son of God. Evolution created the earth. There is no Heaven or Hell. Gays are born that way. There is no God.

You think the North Koreans have propoganda and are brainwashed. Try saying any of the above around most places in the US lately. The Great Leader would be proud of the Christian Right's propaganda machine.

Jesus doesn't rule America.

David:

To the Post editors: Thank you for changing the picture I mentioned in my previous post.

willandjansdad:

Only those people who have lived and died for their own freedom will appreciate and nurture it... The fiasco in Iraq shows you can't impose freedom and democracy.

IM AMERICAN:

How come people who hate us want our help? We give Pakistan, BILLIONS of dollars and they all hate us there. And locate Bin Laden because he is in the mountains on their borders. For our return of investment, we want Bin Laden and you to secure your nukes. If not, write us a check for a refund.

North Korea, Unforunately the are brainwashed by some loser who thinks he is Stalin/Mussolini hybrid.

:(:

On the bright side, the DMZ apparently has a thriving tiger population

js:

The North Korean get little information from the outside world so they think they are better off than other countries because of the Great Leader. Of course they don;t know he cornered the market on Cognac or has a bevy of women to keep him company. As along as he keeps the military happy nothing will change. Pressure needs to be put on China to take away any nukes NK has and to get rid of this guy. China put them in power so they are responsible. But the UN and US should be saying to China if NK causes any problems, CHina will be responsible. Yes there are rulers that don't care about their citizens. A lot of Amercian soldiers died because of the UN police action in Korea to keep the SOuth free. It is unfortunate that so many of our citizens do not know their history and always think the U.S is the bad guy. The U.S has done a lot of good for millions of people in other countries and that is not recognized enough. At least in Europe their citizens take meticuluous care of the graves of our servicemen.

gary:

north koreas problem belongs to russia and china. china wants us in there so we can buy them off. let the chi-coms break out their money.

Omar:

Karr, Justice, Kamdog, Dunnage:

You guys are idiots.

Jeff:

Mark - What on earth is your point? Are you implying that because there have been incidences of US service personnel raping South Korean women that people in North Korea are better off than there neighbors to the south? Take off your anti-US blinders and read a little history. This sort of thing has happened anytime troops from any nation are stationed in a foreign country for a protracted period of time.

You are aware that the Soviet army raped its way across Europe in 1944-45, or do you refuse to acknowledge when communist nations commit atrocities? Millions of Germans desperately tried to reach the western allies’ zone of occupation for reason.

An old lady in the Blue Ridge:

Kang Soo has no one to blame but her ancestors, members of a shortsighted athiestic priviledged and intellectual class that left this legacy of hate and starvation to their children.

There are no easy answers and unfortunately, the North Korean people will continue to pay for the sins of their fathers until someone worthy and wise risks everything to lead the masses to revolt against their unworthy leaders. I pine for the day when "TO LEAD meant TO SERVE"

Hugh Williams/Bradenton FL:

There is no reason whatsoever for North Korea to exist as a political/sovereign entity.

Mark:

I'm sure Kwang Soo would be singing to a different tune, if her body had been crushed by a U.S. military humvee, or had she been raped by a U.S. servicemen like so many other south Korean girls. BTW, Kwang Soo sounds like a fake name for a North Korean; A name like that would belong to a taiwanese, rather than a korean.

anon:

Zartan - fyi, regarding the documentary you are referring to, the doctor was not American, I think he was Nepalese. The journalist following him for a National Geographic show was American. Just thought I'd clarify.

datdamwuf:

I find some of the comments uninformed. Apparently you are not aware of the stranglehold the NK government has on information there. Try to put yourself in their place, where the only info you have is state sponsored propaganda. Try to understand that these people are underfed, uneducated and unable to get true news. And they aren't walking around with weapons. How the hell do you expect them to stage a revolution?

On the plantation:

It's like humankind did not learn the primary lesson of the 20th century.

If there is no global authority in some recognized organization like the once gloriously idealized but now failed United Nations, then we need to disassemble the pretense, because the illusion gets in the way of addressing realities.

NK is exactly what Cuba would be like if Cuba were far from the U.S. The decades-long lack of regional leadership from South Korea, our purported friend, speaks volumes.

David:

In an article about North Korea, it's disappointing that the Post has a picture of a South Korean border guard in its link on its main web page. Please try to maintain the Post's standards for accuracy in journalism.

James:

Maybe if they starve there will not be anymore North Koreans

tmurt:

Fuji -
I can understand how you could feel the way you do - very little we do in this world are we thanked for, but that shouldn't deter us from doing whatever we can to help others, After all, we don't it for the accolades - we do it because it's the right thing to do.

Having been born in the midst of WWII, grown up during Korea, served in the Army during Vietnam, and now watching the Iraq and Afghanistan wars on TV, I am still not as cynical as you seem to be. Lighten up, dig down deep inside yourself and find the American I know is in there.

Charles:

Fuji: How can such regulated tour be a "danger" tour? An Auzie bunjee jumping tour would be more dangerous than that. And when people say "And they will hate us for it" it seems like there is some kind of self-hate to begin with.

ca:

Unfortunately in a country where the government has brainwashed their people it's difficult for them to even have an opinion of their own without fear of retribution from the police/military. A majority of the people are uneducated or taught from an early age to hate the US and anything un-North Korean. The people of N.K. have no clue what the outside world is like, save for the few who have successfully left the country and found a new life. Everyone deserves a chance to live free and live by their own free will without fear of retribution. We may not have it as great here as we wish, but at least we have the right to choose our leaders, make our own decisions without fear of being taken away in the night by state police and we can live a comfortable lifestyle with and enjoy the fruits of capitalism and democracy.

Fuji:

tmurt:
We will send food and aid wherever people are starving. We will send our doctors and nurses to save lives, eyesight, hearing, organ function and whatever else needs their attention. We will donate funds to "adopt" severly underprivileged children around the world. We will send tools and building materials for disaster-torn countries to begin to rebuild. And we will send our soldiers, sailors, airmen, marines and coast guardsmen to fight the fight of those who cannot fight for themselves, because that's simply what we do.

-- You are correct, Tmurt. And they will hate us for it.

Fuji:

A guy I know who likes to go on "danger" tours went to N. Korea about three years ago. He said the trip was heavily regulated. He kept a diary, and the cute thing was that a communist Swede who was also traveling informed on him to the N. Korean police. They confiscated his journal.

Communists are studid.

tmurt:

We will send food and aid wherever people are starving. We will send our doctors and nurses to save lives, eyesight, hearing, organ function and whatever else needs their attention. We will donate funds to "adopt" severly underprivileged children around the world. We will send tools and building materials for disaster-torn countries to begin to rebuild. And we will send our soldiers, sailors, airmen, marines and coast guardsmen to fight the fight of those who cannot fight for themselves, because that's simply what we do.

Believer:

I believe in self determination. The people in represed countries like North Korea may not know any better, but at some point instinct and desire must win over. They will never appreciate the gift they are not willing to earn themselves. Much like in the USSR (which is on its way back). Because nothing was sacraficed, there was no knowledge of the effort required to be free.
However with a starving animal like north korea who holds a few nukes, I'm more likely to feed the dog until I can get his bones away from him so he can't hurt anyone or worse, sell them.

charles:

Just a thought to add:

There are more selfish reasons why we can't ignore the hungry, helpless, and the oppressed in comparison to our tarnished principals: International terrorism. Those people who are left out would tend to join forces with those who would be our enemy.

CC:

What I really enjoy seeing is the burning flag in the graphic header on this blog. Just lovely. What 19-year-old Daily Kos-ite created that? And for those who have commented that we should just leave the people of North Korea to starve: The world thanks you for your compassion. This North Korean crackpot has to go, and all you have to say is "revolution." So much collected brilliance here!

CC:

What I really enjoy seeing is the burning flag in the graphic header on this blog. Just lovely. What 19-year-old Daily Kos-ite created that? And for those who have commented that we should just leave the people of North Korea to starve: The world thanks you for your compassion. This North Korean crackpot has to go, and all you have to say is "revolution." So much collected brilliance here!

Rory:

It's always amusing to read Post articles and see how many people twist them in an effort to attack Bush and/or the United States. A communist country not actually being a Socialist Paradise? Life better in modernized, Western countries, where your children don't starve to death in front of you? That can't be right! Just like Homer said when leaving Cuba, "It's hard to believe there's a place worse than America, but we found it."

I guess the reason North Korean soldiers plaster over the American flags on the hundreds of thousands of sacks of grain we give them every year is because we're so evil.

charles:

Karr, Justice, Kamdog, Dunnage:

Let's read history a little.

Well, Bush tried to ignore the North Koreans (and South Koreans) for much of his administration, instead focusing on invading and occupying Iraq. Difference? Iraq has a lot of oil and maybe Bush had a personal thing for Hussein due to Hussein threatening his father.

Now the North Koreans have successfully tested a nuclear weapons device and we now back pedal and talk to the North Koreans. Difference? North Koreans left alone may wittingly or unwittingly share/sell their nuclear assets. By the way, Bush's ally Pakistan gave some good stuff to the North Koreans.

Why do Koreans blame US for their division? It was the Americans who arbitrarily drew the 38th parallel to draw the Soviets sooner into the Pacific War: Americans would disarm the Japanese south of the line; the Soviets would disarm the Japanese north of the line.

But of course, the Koreans have it wrong. The ultimate perpetrator is the Cold War, the Japanese who weakened them through their brutal colonial policies, and their past inability to fend for themselves. The Japanese still deny their experience. So ultimately, they have nobody but themselves to blame.

Still why should Americans care about the hungry, helpless, and oppressed? Because despite our failings as exemplified in the current administration, we are still Americans, we are still the beacon of hope and liberty for the rest of the world.


Paul:

China has an economic interest to improve the situation in North Korea. They should be leading the effort to open up NK, to make things better for their people, thereby creating new markets for their goods. The US needs to participate in a major way, but China should be pushing harder.

Paul:

China has a economic interest to improve the situation in North Korea. They should be leading the effort to open up NK, to make things better for their people, thereby creating new markets for their goods. The US needs to participate in a major way, but China should be pushing harder.

Jack:


Kwang Soo, if more Americans were to read newspapers and books written outside the United States, and heard news from foreign reporters, they too might understand your plight.

If things continue as they are in the United States, its citizens might be in the same situation as you.

Zartan:

I remember watching a documentary on US doctors that were allowed to enter N. Korea to perform simple cataract eye operations to same the eye site of many N. Koreans. Even this gesture of goodwill was twisted by the N. Korean government to heap praise on Kim Jong-Il. They gave no thanks to the American Doctors using every minute of their time there to perform as many operations as possible. While I hate the thought of people starving, only a people's revolution can overthrow the current regime in N. Korea.

from a Korean American:

Dear Krenz-
You are correct in many ways but the propaganda tactics in North Korea are extremely powerful and isolates a lot of information from the general public. This is how a country such as North Korea maintains control.

Do not hate the people for what they know as it is what they are told to know. Having lived in South Korea and understanding more details to the atrocities in the North. They did not just simply "choose" to hate.

I do agree that just handouts are probably not the most impactful way to resolution but resenting the people is also ignorant. If anything, hate their government and their "Dear Leader".

dunnage:

At least she doesn't recommend bombing.

Anonymous:

North Korea represents a terrible tragedy on many levels. Beyond the more obvious human costs, one thing is clear: Kim Jong Il is holding his own people hostage, knowing that the International Community cares more about their well-being than he does. He will us food aid and financial aid to strengthen his military and ensure his survival.

The fact of the matter is that the only way to deal with the North Korean problem is to force Kim Jong Il to bring about significant economic reforms (like China). Failing that, we will have to stomach the continued suffering of many innocent civilians until someone decides that enough is enough dispatches Kim and his haircut once and for all.

Dan:

The only ways a regime change have been successful have been when people risked all in revolution; when people have realized their gov't was wrong and tried to atone; or when the opposition was killed off or tortured to the point of capitulation. No amount of food aid or such will change hearts and minds, not in N Korea or anywhere. This is not to say that sending food isn't the right and morally just thing to do; it is just not an effective tool of foreign policy. Even if the government allows the food, they use their media to exclaim what a great victory it was for their ideology to stick it to the USA and obtain this food for the people, and that their ideology will conquer all, ad nauseum. They don't have the same American Legion approved history books that we do. There will be people that hate us (the USA)for centuries after we are long gone. Send the food to feed the hungry, but accept it only prolongs the evil that rules that land.

Kamdog:

There is little reason for us to help them out. It is time we got out of the business of going around the world doing good as we see it only to be hated for it. We saved South Korea from this fate, helped them become a prosperous democracy, and now, only the older South Koreans have a good thing to say about us.

It is time for us to disengage and take care of our own problems. Cut the cord.

krenz karr:

Sure, now she and the rest of her countrymen want more international handouts. Just because she has now seen the light, maybe we still harbor some resentment against her and her countrymen. After all OUR real people died over there trying to protect her and her people. They chose to hate us (America) for that.

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