Chosun Ilbo Goes Nuclear
I celebrated the March 1 holiday by making a pilgrimage to March 1 Independence Movement-related sites. The Chosun Ilbo, meanwhile, celebrated much more properly by calling for a nuclear-armed South Korea:
We cannot sit idly by waving a denuclearization treaty that has now become null and void while North Korea stockpiles enough nuclear weapons to turn South Korea into a “sea of fire.” The time has come to present North Korea with a specific deadline to abide by the treaty or risk seeing a nuclear-armed South Korea. If the North makes palpable progress in denuclearization before the deadline, then South Korea will scrap its plans to redeploy tactical nuclear weapons, or once in place they can be pulled out again any time the North decides to scrap its nuclear arms.
OK, it’s a bit of a mistranslation — what the Chosun actually suggested was that the North be presented with a deadline to abide by the 1991 denuclearization deal or risk seeing US tactical nukes redeployed to South Korea. The JoongAng Ilbo said something similar recently, and it seems to be the default position of South Korean conservatives.
More interestingly, influential Chosun Ilbo columnist and conservative polemic Kim Dae-joong is calling for a discussion on whether Korea should develop its own nuclear deterrent, presenting some decent counterarguments to concerns expressed by those opposing a South Korean Force de Frappe. Namely, he argues:
- The United States won’t oppose a South Korean nuclear program forever, and at any rate, it needs to answer if it’s really prepared to trade mushroom clouds with China to retaliate against a North Korean nuclear first strike against the South;
- Sure, South Korean nukes could lead to Japan and Taiwan going nuclear, too, but a balance of terror might not be such a bad thing;
- China is already surrounded by nuclear powers (India, Russia, Pakistan), so what’s one more?
- Arguments that North Korea’s nukes are aimed at the United States, not the South, are rubbish, and when the shit hits the fan, nobody wants the only guy with his finger on the button to be Kim Jong-il. Even if South Korea unifies the peninsula in the end, if it has to suffer a North Korean nuclear strike in the process, what’s the point? The key is deterrence.
Mind you, even a proponent of a nuclear-armed South Korea like myself realizes these arguments aren’t airtight, but they’re a lot better than the current calls for a redeploying US tactical nukes at a time when South Korea needs to be working on becoming less dependent on Washington, not more. Moreover, not to make too fine a point of it, but I’m not particularly comfortable with South Korean politicians and journalists talking about what they’re going to do or not do with somebody else’s nuclear weapons, especially when the owner of said weapons is saying no and the Lee Myung-bak administration isn’t considering asking:
A high-ranking Cheong Wa Dae (the presidential office in South Korea or Blue House) official said Monday, however, “Redeployment is not at all being considered, and we have never even considered asking the United States.”
“South Korea made its position known regarding the issue of redeploying tactical nuclear weapons back in the early 1990s, and nothing has changed since then,” said Foreign Ministry spokesman Cho Byung-jae in a regular briefing on Monday.
In fact, the majority view within and outside the government is critical of the utility of a redeployment of tactical nuclear weapons.
“South Korea is currently under the U.S. nuclear umbrella, and while 5 to 10 minutes could be saved on a response if nuclear weapons were introduced into South Korea, this is militarily meaningless,” said a South Korean government official in response to whether a redeployment could deter a North Korean nuclear attack.
“South Korea’s lack of nuclear weapons gives South Korea a moral advantage over North Korea, and through this has been calling for North Korea to denuclearize,” said another official. However, the official also expressed concerns that if nuclear weapons are brought back into Korea, the nuclear issue would never be resolved.
I agree that redeploying American nukes to the South would be pointless, of course, but an independent South Korean arsenal changes the deterrence dynamic considerably.
Adventures in Multi-Culti
In the Korea Herald, John Power wonders if the government ministries are all playing according to the same playbook concerning multiculturalism, and more specifically, over a plan by the Ministry of Education to open a public high school for multi-ethnic by 2012 (a plan, I should add, that seems like a really, really bad idea):
According to the Division of Education and Welfare Policy of the Ministry of Education, Science and Technology, the school, pending public and parliamentary hearings, will primarily cater for older children born outside of the country who have been brought to Korea with limited knowledge of the language and culture.
The school was agreed upon in conjunction with The Presidential Commission on Social Cohesion. According to the ministry, it will help children of multicultural families adapt to Korean society and further their future job prospects.
Reaction to the school from the Gender Ministry has also been negative. Despite the Education Ministry education and welfare division’s insistence that the decision to open the school was taken with the endorsement of the Gender Equality Ministry, the latter denied this and said it did not support the principle of separating multi-ethnic students from the general school population.
On the other side of the really big pond, multi-culti in the workplace is apparently being tested in Philly:
The Philadelphia Inquirer reported that workers at a factory that manufactures railcars for the Southeastern Pennsylvania Transportation Authority (SEPTA) have filed complaints with the National Labor Relations Board (NLRB) related to the treatment they face from their managers – who are South Korean.
The manufacturer is Hyundai-Rotem USA Corp., a subsidiary of the Hyundai-Kia Automotive Group, which received a contract to build the railcars in South Philadelphia.
The facility is scheduled to manufacture 117 railcars, but it has fallen far behind, allegedly due to shortages of materials, design flaws and inadequate equipment. However, a unique feature of this labor dispute has to do with what is being perceived as a “culture clash” between the Korean bosses and their American labor force.
Black, Hispanic and female members of the factory were particularly aggrieved by the disparaging treatment they received, including alleged acts of physical abuse.
A lack of communication between the Koreans and Americans, as well as a lack of respect for Americans, are also huge problems, the complaint alleges.
Huh, delays at an American factory and alleged racial and gender insensitivity on the part of Korean bosses. Go figure.
On a somewhat related note, check out Robert Fouser’s column on international understanding in the Korean workplace in the Korea Times — it’s a good one. Here’s just a sample:
By contrast, intercultural understanding is rarely discussed and rarely taught in Korea. The assumption is that things will work themselves out because people will understand and forgive each other when a misunderstanding occurs. When discussed, language and intercultural understanding are oddly framed as an English problem, implying that Koreans bear the burden of intercultural understanding by improving their English ability. Over time, this causes Koreans to ignore foreign professionals because involving them takes time and patience amid busy schedules.
A Night on the Town with Hannibal Gaddafi
According to the Hankyoreh Shinmun, Hannibal Gaddafi secretly visited Seoul last year on a business trip and was, according to the report, a total prick, which I understand is very much in character. He reportedly demanded to change hotels in the at 10 at night, bitched that the restaurants were beneath him and complained about his seating at NANTA.
While Hannibal was in town, he also sampled Seoul’s nightlife, going to a nightclub in Gangnam were he enjoyed the “booking” experience: the clothing company official he was with complained that he spent the night going from table to table looking for girls who could speak English.