An interview by Dennis J. Bernstein with writer, activist and regional expert, Kay Jay Noh, about the big-power politics swirling around the Olympic Games now being held in South Korea.
By Dennis J. Bernstein
By many accounts, the Koreans – North and South – have prevailed over the disruptive desires of the United States, coming together in a series of very public actions, clearly meant to turn down the political heat generated by President Donald Trump and the U.S. pressure for military action. This pressure can be seen as a continuation of President Barack Obama’s “Asia Pivot,” a policy that called for full U.S. dominance in the region, including by containing China and the new emerging regional powers through a set of expansive, coordinated, and aggressive military alliances with Japan and other Pacific Rim countries.
The high-profile actions taken by the North and the South – both acting independently of Washington – left U.S. Vice President Mike Pence pouting and twiddling his thumbs on the sidelines during some very effective international diplomacy. In this regard, there does indeed seem to be a new and genuine desire on the part of the president of South Korea to forge a more peaceful and cooperative relationship with the North, even though U.S. officials and commentators seem to be dead set against it, portraying the warming relations between North and South as an attempt by the North to subvert the long and close relationship with the South.
In congressional hearings this week, the moves toward North-South de-escalation were dismissed by a leading Republican, Sen. James Risch of Idaho, as a “smile campaign.”
“The South Korean people seem to have been charmed to some degree, some of them seem to have been captivated by it,” Risch fretted.
Meanwhile, on the media front, CBS reported that its rival network NBC “was forced to fire one of its Olympic analysts after he inexplicably said Koreans are grateful for Japan’s role in their economic development – while ignoring the one-time imperial power’s brutalization of the peninsula.”
I spoke to writer and regional expert, Kay Jay Noh, about the Olympics and the big-power politics swirling around the Olympic Games in Seoul. Noh is a special correspondent for Flashpoints show on Pacifica Radio.
Dennis Bernstein: Welcome back Kay Jay Noh. We want to get to some of the bigger political issues but let’s start with a media story. We’ve heard that NBC fired one of its analysts because it turned out he didn’t have a clue about Korean history and ended up insulting Koreans while trying to somehow curry favor with Japan.
Kay Jay Noh: This commentator, Joshua Cooper Ramo, is the Co-CEO of Kissinger Associates and a supposed expert on the geopolitics and culture of Asia. The history is that Korea was brutally colonized and subjugated by Japan for three and a half decades. As the Japanese athletes were coming in, Ramo said “Now representing Japan, a country which occupied Korea from 1910 to 1945. But every Korean will tell you,” he went on to say, “that as a technical, cultural and economic example, Japan has been so important to the transformation of Korea.”
This didn’t go over well with Koreans. As one Korean put it, “After decades of human rights violations, exploiting our resources and attempting to destroy our heritage, Japan is not in a position to expect our gratitude.” This is just one example of the extraordinary ignorance surrounding Korea, by so-called “experts.”
DB: What do you think was the significance in terms of diplomacy between the North and the South? You have the United States swearing up and down that this is a ploy by the North to get in the way of our tight relationship with the South Koreans.
KJN: As you know, the Winter Olympics are usually not as well attended as the summer games and not as much a source of interest for the general global audience. But these Olympics, held in the South Korean county of PyeongChang, have reached out to the North Koreans. And the North Koreans have responded.
In fact, they responded very rapidly, sending over 500 of their citizens, including a cheerleading squad, an orchestra, a Taekwondo demo team, the head of the North Korean assembly, 22 athletes, and most surprisingly, Kim Yo Jong. Kim Yo Jong is a high-ranking politburo member, and Kim Jong Un’s younger sister. Just the fact of the North Koreans defying expectations and showing up was a propaganda coup.
The allegation was that the North Koreans were going to use the Olympics as a propaganda offensive. Actually, that battle was lost before it even started, because so much of the Western media has gone overboard to portray the North Koreans as brainwashed zombies or belligerent monsters. So when these representatives of North Korea show up and they are not cowed zombies or desperate monsters, but rather vivacious, congenial, and self-possessed women, that shattered a lot of received stereotypes.
DB: It does seem that there is a strong spiritual push by the new leadership in the south to bring the two countries together. There have been some pretty warm words, haven’t there?
KJN: Absolutely. To give some more background, although technically North Korea and the US are still at war, North Korea and South Korea signed a Treaty of Reconciliation, Cooperation, and Non-aggression in 1992. The letter of that agreement has not always been observed and, especially during conservative administrations, the hostilities have escalated. But the current president of South Korea, Moon Jae In, was the chief of staff of Roh Moo Hyun, who headed a progressive administration and worked very actively toward reconciliation with the North in a program known as the “Sunshine Policy.”
To a certain extent, this small break in the clouds is an attempt to return to that policy of reconciliation. What is notable is the congeniality with which the hand was extended toward North Korea. For example, when the North Korean and South Korean athletes entered the stadium as one team, under a single flag, a standing ovation erupted as 35,000 people rose to their feet in a celebration of this very powerful coming together.
DB: Just watching on my TV, I was totally moved.
KJN: The other thing that was notable was that Vice President Pence was the only person who did not stand up. Here’s a man who criticized African American football players for “taking the knee” and has said that sports should not be politicized. An American writer in the centrist Korean Times described Pence’s gesture as “mean-spirited and stupid arrogance, making America look bad in the eyes of the world.” Professor Alexis Dudden at the University of Connecticut, called it “a new low in American bullying.”
DB: These Olympics come in the context of some pretty crazy policy on the part of the United States government. The permanent war government wants this kind of policy because it helps the weapons industry. Can these meetings at the Olympics mean anything in this context?
KJN: It’s hard to say right now. There seems to have been a bit of an about-face on the part of Pence, some have said because the enormous criticism he has received. He has now said that he is willing meet and talk with the North Koreans without preconditions. At the same time, he has said that he intends to maintain maximal pressure and that there are even more extreme sanctions in the pipeline. Meanwhile, South Korean President Moon met with the sister of Kim Jong Un on four occasions over three days, including a performance by the North Korean Orchestra. During a state luncheon, Kim Yo Jong extended an invitation to President Moon from Kim Jong Un to visit North Korea for a summit meeting “at the earliest date possible.”
In the visitor’s book, she wrote: “I hope Pyongyang and Seoul get closer in people’s hearts and move forward for the future of a mutually prosperous unification.”
Dennis J. Bernstein is a host of “Flashpoints” on the Pacifica radio network and the author of Special Ed: Voices from a Hidden Classroom. You can access the audio archives at www.flashpoints.net. You can get in touch with the author at [email protected].
I urge that anyone interested in the current Korean situation read Bruce Cumings book “the Korean War: a History”. It provides historical context that is totally missing from our current discussion. Although it was several years ago that I read the book I vividly remember Cumings description of a North Korea in which every town and city was carpet bombed(think back to the good ol’ days when Air Force General Curtis LeMay, and others, spoke of bombing everyone the US had a problem with “into the Stone Age”-that is exactly what we did to North Korea). Another important aspect of this county’s historical context is the fact that all those who had collaborated with the Japanese occupation fled to or remained in South Korea where they became the genesis of today’s government there. Contrariwise, all those resisting the occupation became the nucleus of North Korea’s government.
Sadly, I’m convinced that any effort on the part of the two Korea’s to move toward a peaceful settlement will be aborted by the US
It is with great relief and satisfaction to witness an example of true statesmanship and diplomacy in the age of western decline expressed through military barbarism.
Russia and China are dangling some huge carrots in front of the noses of the N. and S. Korean governments, respectively, in terms of integration into One Belt One Road. The economic benefits are not only real, but huge. There is nothing, nothing, that the US can offer that can match those benefits. Typically, in order to both understand human psychology and to predict the future, the first option to rule out is “Follow the Money.” In this case, the money is OBOR and reunification – not continuation of a militarily-based relationship with the US. Therefore, I see the support for war lessening in the south, and without the cooperation of S Korea, any strike on N Korea becomes increasingly less likely. While we are hardly out of the woods, all of these are favorable signs for both peace and a reduction of US military dominance in the far Pacific.
I fervently hope you are right.
You are quite correct that the many South Koreans are extremely interested in the new silk road initiative (OBOR or BRI as it seems to have been renamed). This would integrate Korea into the the Eurasian landmass and change its de facto island status. The road would include rail, highway, gas and oil lines and cable. The economic benefits to the South would be huge.
I find it interesting that this is a story that I have yet to see any discussion on this issue by the western establishment news or think tanks. Before South Korea can join the Belt Road Initiative it seems obvious that US troops and bases in South Korea will have to be withdrawn. That will be very difficult.
US is conducting vicious propaganda operation in SK against North under guise of SK intelligence agencies that produce black propaganda lies like executing TV star by AA battery , the same star who led preparation to the Olimpics FROM NK ,embarrassing so much and in fact unveiling SK as US colony and US true role On the Korean Peninsula to prevent Korea’s war with Japan that repeatedly insults Korean nation south and north with honoring mass murderers of WWII but even pre WWI FROM THE START OF LATEST JAPANESE OCUPATION THAT LASTED at last 35 years.
In fact just recently US revealed itself as colonist and apologist for genocide by claiming that Korea benefited from Japanese occupation shutting down any discussion of $trillon reparations from Japan who again few weeks ago again denied systematic mass rape and murder of Korean women which put their mutual relations on real war footing, suspending all political and diplomatic contacts putting coast guard military on alert.
If today US disappears tomorrow would be a peace on Korean Peninsula 90% of north and South Korea want nation united strong even nuclear to be protected from Japan, US and China.
All about keeping the engines of commerce and capital going. USA defense contractors are not the only winners. The elite in financial circles holding to transnational corporations’ desire for controlling all markets, all parts of the world. Think about that average Californian or Texan living high off the hog working for those military weapons, et al companies — every microchip, every screw, every guidance system, every coat of paint, everything tied to the American Costco War Machine is what drives these Christians like Pence and the Trump elites and Zionists and all those others who see gold in those immolated citizens.
Way way back, former general, War is a Racket:
War Is A Racket
WAR is a racket. It always has been.
It is possibly the oldest, easily the most profitable, surely the most vicious. It is the only one international in scope. It is the only one in which the profits are reckoned in dollars and the losses in lives.
A racket is best described, I believe, as something that is not what it seems to the majority of the people. Only a small “inside” group knows what it is about. It is conducted for the benefit of the very few, at the expense of the very many. Out of war a few people make huge fortunes.
In the World War [I] a mere handful garnered the profits of the conflict. At least 21,000 new millionaires and billionaires were made in the United States during the World War. That many admitted their huge blood gains in their income tax returns. How many other war millionaires falsified their tax returns no one knows.
How many of these war millionaires shouldered a rifle? How many of them dug a trench? How many of them knew what it meant to go hungry in a rat-infested dug-out? How many of them spent sleepless, frightened nights, ducking shells and shrapnel and machine gun bullets? How many of them parried a bayonet thrust of an enemy? How many of them were wounded or killed in battle?
Out of war nations acquire additional territory, if they are victorious. They just take it. This newly acquired territory promptly is exploited by the few — the selfsame few who wrung dollars out of blood in the war. The general public shoulders the bill.
And what is this bill?
This bill renders a horrible accounting. Newly placed gravestones. Mangled bodies. Shattered minds. Broken hearts and homes. Economic instability. Depression and all its attendant miseries. Back-breaking taxation for generations and generations.
For a great many years, as a soldier, I had a suspicion that war was a racket; not until I retired to civil life did I fully realize it. Now that I see the international war clouds gathering, as they are today, I must face it and speak out.
Secretly each nation is studying and perfecting newer and ghastlier means of annihilating its foes wholesale. Yes, ships will continue to be built, for the shipbuilders must make their profits. And guns still will be manufactured and powder and rifles will be made, for the munitions makers must make their huge profits. And the soldiers, of course, must wear uniforms, for the manufacturer must make their war profits too.
But victory or defeat will be determined by the skill and ingenuity of our scientists.
If we put them to work making poison gas and more and more fiendish mechanical and explosive instruments of destruction, they will have no time for the constructive job of building greater prosperity for all peoples. By putting them to this useful job, we can all make more money out of peace than we can out of war — even the munitions makers.
TO HELL WITH WAR!
By Major General Smedley Butler, 1935
Vice President Pence & Tillerson are extremely afraid that “peace might actually break out” between the two Korea’s? Both Korea’s are now talking to each other, despite America’s sabotage techniques & they are using diplomacy rather than bomb’s, to ratchet down the tension & improve relations? This diplomacy is inherently dangerous for the US Nation & it’s endless MIC warfare actions & narrative because if peace could somehow break out in Korea it might breakout in other parts of the World such as the Middle East & the US can’t allow that to happen as they depend on War, killing & murder to justify the existence of their dying Empire via War profiteering? It was hilarious to see VP Pence at the pre- Olympic ceremony with both Korea’s officials, wincing in displeasure, looking as if he had a bad case of hameroids with a face like a spoilt child whose mummy wouldn’t let him have that candy bar? Boo hoo it was pathetic & childest to observe! Give Peace a chance, for a change, rather than War?
After having been bombed into the Stone Age by more tonnage than all the bombs dropped by the allies in the Pacific Theater during WWII, there is no doubt or reason not to believe NK would behave any other way than what they have for the past 65 odd years without a signed peace treaty, especially one including all proxies involved.
It is highly hypocritical to expect overtures from the US to finally conclude such a war when it and NATO are effectively the only remaining cold war relics used to justify the outrageous DOD and CIA budgets, and unknown trillions of dollars wasted and unaccounted for over the decades in “black budgets”. The simple fact is the US does not want peace and reconciliation despite the better wishes of the Korean people. The people of Korea will do their own thing – with or without the US.
We can now begin to count the days until Pres. Moon is deposed. This is guaranteed – regardless of the schizophrenia inside the Trump administration, or for that matter, any administration the US electorate could place in office.
How right you are about the money. Years ago I from time to time did some small business with a guy who had a Raytheon outsourced contractor deal. I never really cared to find out to just exactly what this fellow’s company did, but this guy owned 24 classic antique cars, and 16 motorcycles, a million dollar recreational vehicle, and a few houses scattered across the American continent, plus a huge garage for all his boy toys. I might add he was fun loving to talk to, but he treated his employees terribly (I could hear him over the phone yelling at them…I think he thought he was impressing me) and I might add he was terrible at paying his bills. I think the only reason he liked me, was I dealt strictly cash with him. So, seeing a outsourced vendor who only works for Raytheon’s interest, made me think to what in the glory of heaven does Raytheon do in financial numbers?
This Korean business is just that Korean business. No one gives a darn about the Koreans, neither the South nor the North. Korea is a weapons market, that’s it, and that’s all it will ever be.
The sad part is, is that if companies like Raytheon were to be manufacturing products, and equipment, for infrastructure, or ecology concerns, besides the many other things that need done, and products mankind could use, would be money much better well spent. Oh and with my plan no one dies.
A Situational Ethics question for those here who adamantly believe in a “Deep State” intrusion / assault on Trump’s presidency… ?
How do you balance a mythical or ethical “scale of justice” vis-a-vis Trump’s kiss-ass avoidance of addressing Russian (Putin’s) meddling in our election, along with his shady/unscrupulous Deal Making/Money Laundering and Pandering Deal Making with Russian AND Chinese business men…? ? ?
As weighed against his Hulking, Threatening, Bellicose/Bullying taunts & tweets against North Korea’s puny ‘boasting in self-defense’
In this sort of situation, Money and Power speak with the loudest voice.
And the little guy gets ostracized and bites the dust.
That’s Trump’s typical mordant , Me-First, narcissistic affect—
threaten the little guy with annihilation / sanctions (or lawsuit)
and hide behind his crew of dirty lawyers OR nuclear annihilation
and walk cleanly away as owner of the Larger Button, that’s Trump.
I’m asking the devotees of “Deep- State” adherents to weigh the balance.
Is a ‘secret gov’t’ weighing in on Trump? or
is the President stridently in pursuit OF HIS OWN AGENGA????
Deep State: Inside Donald Trump’s Paranoid Conspiracy Theory
–Everything you need to know about the supposed forces within the federal government that the President believes are out to get him
It is important to remember that people in both Koreas have friends and relatives on the other side of the dividing line. Re-unification would be so wonderful for all the people of Korea on many levels.
It’s time the long suffering people under Uncle Sam’s boot gave him the boot and create a peaceful co-existence of all people in the world. Let the bullies go sulk in a corner.
So the CEO of Kissinger Assoc, Ramo says this “Now representing Japan, a country which occupied Korea from 1910 to 1945. But every Korean will tell you,” he went on to say, “that as a technical, cultural and economic example, Japan has been so important to the transformation of Korea.”
The Korean people also know the role of the US in that period from 1910 to 1945. Let us recall. President Theodore Roosevelt (the first US president to win the Nobel Peace Prize) while negotiating the end to the Russo-Japan War of 1904, in a secret side agreement, said that the US would not object if Japan colonized Korea. Japan signed the agreement ending its war with Russia and then promptly began the occupation of Korea.
Not just that but during the 35 year period that Japan occupied Korea many Koreans willfully agreed to serve Japan’s imperial interests in the colonial administration and the puppet military. The US occupation forces after 1945 organized these Japanese collaborators into forming the new ROK government of Syngman Rhee.
The US does not realize that there are many Koreans (alive and well in the South, not just the North) that have not only a visceral dislike of Japan but are also extremely distrustful the US. It is unbelievable that this Ramo character is oblivious to this history or not aware that many Koreans have not forgotten.
I just learned something new today. Thanks ToivoS. Joe
Here is a great commentary on the years of sabotage that the US has spent trying to halt any peace process on the Korean peninsula: http://www.brianwillson.com/history-of-u-s-sabotage-of-korean-peace-and-reunification/
I am going to go to my local T-shirt, sign, or do-dad shop and order some of the Korean unification flags. I plan to go to as many public events as I can and give them away for free. It’s not much, but it is something I can do.
Forward and pass this on.
It is very encouraging that President Moon of South Korea has the courage to stand up to the United States for the good of his people. After all, they are the ones in the crosshairs should the shooting war begin. Why wouldn’t they want peace with their neighbors?
On msm, quite a lot of attention to protests in ROK against the North Korean delegation and contacts, saying it is propaganda, the cheer leaders had masks of Kim il sung as covert propaganda etc.
Would be interesting to know how the sentiment in the south is, how many support vs categorically dismiss the contacts.
A recent poll in SK shows that about 60% of the nation support the government’s North Korea policy.
American foreign policy is the catalyst for immigration. American foreign policy is the catalyst for immigration. American foreign policy is the catalyst for immigration. Syria, Iraq, Libya, Honduras, Venezuela, Guatemala, Mexico, etc.
This doesn’t appear to me to just more “sunshine.” The ROK is a government that since its inception, to vastly understate, has had a special relationship with the U.S. Do the Koreans of the south now see that a future of peace and prosperity is to pivot more north towards China and Russia? It was enlightening to read that the originator of the NBC comment wasn’t just another prettyboy t.v. airhead but a spokesman from the imperial center. As for Pence, pathetic is to also understate. He was sent to threaten and as a thug isn’t too bright so got caught sitting, doing more for Korean unity than any single act. So maybe the fool inadvertently contributed to world peace. I think this is a very big deal and needs more coverage.
Yes, agreed, it is intriguing o what extent ROK (and Japan) are their own masters in their foreign policy and what their purposes in terms of peace and regional cooperation are.
On the other side, how much do North Koreans get to know about the Olympic diplomacy?
Very positive to see these contacts,
and saddening to see Pence. Very hard to find any high ranking politician make such a total fool of himself that thoroughly and that fast.
This administration is just like all those before, completely controlled by and focused on their uni-moral purpose, to maximize the MIC profits, regardless of the human costs.
They are frustrated by any hint of a lessening in ‘tensions’, much less steps toward actual peace, anywhere on the planet, or the space around it, because it undermines that very purpose.
When you spot the North Korean cheerleaders and North Korean athletes, be sure to notice how emaciated and miserable they are and how awful, unhealthy and oppressed they appear, and how obviously over exploited they all look. They shouldn’t even be shown on primetime network television since the sight of them will be so traumatic it could disturb millions of viewers in the West.
Drew without a ‘sarcasm disclaimer’ the trolls are going to believe you are one of theirs. Joe
Haha! Yeah, you’re spot-on with that assessment. Indeed, I should have put a “(sarcasm)” at the bottom.
Thank you, Joe, I was a bit taken aback with that comment. I still fall for trolls occasionally. The arrogance and contempt of Mr Pence was stunning. .
Sorry for the confusion. I meant it as sarcasm.
So true! Every smile like a cyber bot penetrating the minds of good Americans and undermining our democracy.
Well, I’m sure they’ll look worse when we impose new sanctions, and the worst ever. Sanctions imposed on a nation should be considered a war crime, since they target civilians, and it is the children of the nation, the ill and infirm who suffer the most. Not to mention they generate hate towards those that impose them.
Anytime any nation-state imposes any type of unilateral sanctions or unilateral embargo against another nation-state it’s rightfully considered a crime against humanity. After all, it’s one of the key reasons Tokyo said the ‘heck with it’ in the early 1940s and essentially declared war against the United States — prior to the attack on Pearl Harbor Washington had instituted draconian sanctions on the Japanese people by completely restricting the flow of several vital resources and materials into that island nation, the most important of which was oil.
Annie, thank for making that point.
Pence was a perfect example of a warmonger showing contempt for a sincere gesture towards peace. The standing ovation expressed the desire of the people for peace, in spite of the war propaganda of their “leaders.” This was a truly unprogramed and inspiring moment that should go down in history as a shining occasion of peacemaking.
If there ever was a suitable example of the nasty brother in law who over stayed his stay, America in Korea is that fine example of that metaphor if any.
Here is an interesting look at how Rex Tillerson measures the effectiveness of sanctions against North Korea:
There’s nothing like sacrificing civilians to accomplish America’s political agenda.
The post you link to is excellent, Sally Snyder. Many thanks.
Tillerson’s position is in the best tradition of previous Secretaries of State, such as Madeleine “500,000 dead Iraqi children was worth it” Albright.
Has there ever been one of these “starve the people until they overthrow the ‘bad guy’ government” programs that has actually succeeded in achieving that end?
Madeleine Albright says 500,000 dead Iraqi Children was “worth it” wins Medal of Freedom:
Clinton laughs about Albright’s ‘special place in hell’ remarks, says folks get offended too easily
Fascinating to see these women reserving their “special place in hell”, as they make hell for both women, children and men around the world right here on earth.