Posts Tagged ‘Korea’

Going Rogue. Obama’s State Department.

Thursday, March 5th, 2015

We have had a series of stories about the State Department lately, from Obama’s approach to Iran, to ridicule of Spokeswoman Marie Harf.

The latest is about the attack on the US ambassador to South Korea, Obama intimate Mark Lippert. He was attacked by a man with a razor just before giving a speech.

The attack may have been prompted by another Obama foreign policy initiative.

The attack comes amid growing anti-U.S. protests here over comments made last week by State Department official Wendy Sherman.

Sherman, undersecretary of state for political affairs, angered many South Koreans with comments that seemed to tell the country to give up hardline nationalist policies toward North Korea and to seek closer ties with its neighbor.

The South Korean government issued a formal diplomatic protest to the State Department over the remarks, sources said.

“Nationalist feelings can still be exploited, and it’s not hard for a political leader anywhere to earn cheap applause by vilifying a former enemy,” Sherman said Friday in a speech at the Carnegie Endowment, a think tank.

“But such provocations produce paralysis, not progress,” she said. “To move ahead, we have to see beyond what was to envision what might be. And in thinking about the possibilities, we don’t have to look far for a cautionary tale of a country that has allowed itself to be trapped by its own history.”

The comments were interpreted by critics here as criticism of South Korean President Park Geun-hye’s hardline stance against North Korea.

Apparently, North Korea is next on Obama’s list of potential allies.



Wednesday, September 17th, 2008

I just finished reading Robert D Kaplan’s second book on his travels with US military forces all over the world. It’s called Hog Pilots, Blue Water Grunts and was published in 2006. Like the first volume, Imperial Grunts, it describes the US military and ruminates on the 21st century American Empire. Toward the end of Hog Pilots, he has an interesting section on Korea.

The Korea War is poorly remembered by most Americans younger than I am. Worse, it is apparently poorly remembered by younger South Koreans, who trend toward anti-Americanism in spite of the fact that we saved them from the grinding tyranny that their cousins in the north endure. Kaplan’s discussion concerns the future of what the US military in Korea call “The Kim Family Regime”, or KFR.

Kim Il Sung, founder of the KFR, was a nationalist patriot when Korea was occupied by Japan from 1905 to 1945. Kaplan compares him and his regime to Enver Hoxha, the Stalinist tyrant of Albania who fought the Germans in World War II with little help from the Allies. One unusual feature of the KFR was the succession of the son, Kim Jong Il. Most communist states did not see this passing down in families of the same zeal and control from parent to child. The children of Soviet leaders usually turned out to be spoiled sybarites. Not so in Korea where the regime resembles a crime family with several generations within the warlord culture that is part of it. Kim Jong Il has studied his enemies and succeeded in getting the US and South Korea to help prop up his regime in the 1990s when it was near collapse. One reason for the support was fear of the consequences of collapse.

The KFR nomenklatura has noted the consequences of the opening to the west in East Germany. It is unlikely that such a scenario could be managed. North Korea has a 1.2 million man army, much of which is not much better fed than the civilians. There is a 100,000 man special forces contingent that is well fed and well trained. In the event of war, they would use chemical weapons and would devastate the Seoul area, where nearly half of South Korea’s population lives. This is a great fear for the south and the huge KFR artillery emplacements aimed at Seoul reenforce the danger. What does the future hold ?

An expert, who outlined the current thinking about the KFR and its recent history, described the situation in five (or seven) phases.

Phase One- Resource depletion. That has gone on for years as forests are cut down and people are reduced to eating bark

Phase Two- Failure to maintain infrastructure in the country. That has gone on for years except for the military.

Phase Three- The rise of independent fiefdoms or warlords. That has occurred and contributes to corruption and the Mafia-like state.

Phase Four- The rise of such fiefdoms to the point that the KFR tries to suppress them. That was occurring in the 1990s and was relieved by subsidies from South Korea and China plus our own contributions in the farcical attempts to delay North Korean nuclear weapon development.

Phase Five- Resistance against the central government. That has not yet occurred. Kim Jong Il has been able to control his regime thus far although it is failing.

Phase Six- The regime fractures.

Phase Seven- New national leadership.

The conclusion was that the KFR had reached Phase Four in the 1990s but is now back to Phase Three, as of 2006 when the book was written. So far the regime is controlling the army and that is how it rules.

What are the likely scenarios if it collapses ?

Will the army fight for the KFR if there is a warlord rebellion ? Only the elite units are well fed. The civilian population, of course, is starving. The Romanian example can be used for guidance. A revolt by workers in 1987 was crushed by the army but another, by ethnic Hungarians in 1989, resulted in the army deserting the regime. A US army colonel Kaplan spoke to, felt the regime might collapse but the army remain intact. That might involve a combination of humanitarian relief and combat. An ugly situation and similar to Somalia but on a larger scale. The difference is that KFR has nuclear weapons and who knows who might get control of them ?

China is a huge player in all this. Koreans are united in their hatred of Japan, a cruel master for a half century. China has been propping up the KFR, all the while building infrastructure in Manchuria in anticipation of controlling at least part of North Korea when the collapse comes. They want the ports that will become available. There are thousands of North Korean refugees in China, most living as illegals but some may be a nucleus for a puppet state after collapse of the KFR.

Russia is weak in the East but has been a sponsor of the KFR which considers China a mixed blessing.

The possibility of an attack on South Korea as part of the death throes of the KFR regime has to be considered. It would make Iraq look like a softball game. There may even be an attempt to draw a reaction by the US by some action by the KFR, followed by a limited attack (possible shelling of Seoul) on South Korea to produce a schism between the US and its ally. It is an extremely dangerous situation.

And Kim Jong Il has had a stroke this week.