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Tuesday, August 04, 2009


North Korea's "bargaining chips"

For months we heard that North Korea was holding journalists Euna Lee and Laura Ling as "bargaining chips." The idea that they might have actually been holding them because they violated a law and were tried, convicted, and were serving a sentence was simply not entertained. The proposition that it was North Koreans who actually snuck across the border and seized Lee and Ling in South Korean territory was (and no doubt still is) seriously entertained.

And now today, Lee and Ling were released ("pardoned," technically) after Bill Clinton showed up to ask for their freedom. And what is the conventional wisdom? I've been listening during the course of the day to CNN, MSNBC, and FOX. Without exception there is only one explanation for what North Korea "got" in exchange for their "bargaining chip" - a photo-op with Bill Clinton. Man, if that's the best thing North Korea can do with their "chips," I want to go play some poker with them. They're obviously not too clever about getting value for money.

There's another thing we've been hearing about for months - Kim Jong Il is sick. He's dying. He's never seen in public. That picture the North Koreans just published - it's really an old picture, doctored to make it look new. Or it's a new picture with Kim photoshopped in.

Now today, there he is, standing next to Clinton, smiling, looking for all the world in perfect health (as much as one can tell by looking). And you know what? Not a single person in the hours of coverage I've heard so far has bothered to mention how all that talk we've heard for month and months was just so much nonsense, just one of the minor elements in the continued demonization of North Korea.

In the course of the day, I've heard how North Korea has been "threatening the world with nuclear attack" (balderdash), has been holding Lee and Ling in a "gulag" (nonsense, they were in a "guest house"), and how "North Koreans love Bill Clinton" (really? was there a poll?). Why do I subject myself to this?

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