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Blindness to North Korean’s plight?

In the Korea Times, Andrew Salmon discusses what he feels is the insensitivity South Korea’s protesting classes have for the plight of North Koreans, citing in particular the relatively small protests held in front of the Chinese embassy over China’s repatriation of North Korean refugees.

It’s a good column that answers what I have to think a lot of outside observers are wondering.

Of the factors cited by Salmon, I think the left-wing nature of Korean street protests is the most important one. Generaly speaking, right-wingers prefer other avenues of political expression/mobilization, and at any rate, there’s no need to take to the streets when you’ve got the three largest newspapers in the country (and, if you ask their unions, the major broadcasters) on your side. In fact, if anything, the fact that there were protests at all in front of the Chinese embassy was something I found to be a pleasant surprise.

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  • SomeguyinKorea

    Way off topic, but I strongly recommend Mr. Salmon’s books.

  • cm

    What, leftists don’t have their own papers and their own broadcast media? They even control the education in the country. What more control do they want?

  • http://bcarr.com Brendon Carr

    All of it, just like the leftists in my country.

  • http://www.cfekorea.com nayaCasey

    I agree with much of what Salmon wrote, just a few notes to myself.

    1) It is dangerous when you are a regular commentator to point out that people aren’t focused on a serious issue. Before his latest NK piece, Salmon published “De-caffeinated courtships”…about Starbucks? Relationships?
    http://www.koreatimes.co.kr/www/news/nation/2012/02/351_105284.html

    2) I also attended one of the “Save My Friend” protests, like Salmon, I wondered why there weren’t more people out there protesting. I was thinking that I needed to start a rumor that the U.S. government was having U.S. soldiers (holding “Tokdo is Japan’s” flags made in China) force-feed American beef to North Korean escapees in China. But the 100,000 would show up at the U.S. embassy so that would defeat the point while making the point…

    3) I understand the sentiment behind calling for actors to join a protest, but wish people would stop calling on singers, actors, athletes to join causes and to speak out on issues. If they want to, fine, but leave them alone. Perhaps the K wavers in black face might show up? I still recall that the athletes and entertainers weren’t always the swiftest kids in school, but once they became successful, people look to them to speak out…

    4) Salmon writes: “Secondly, street politics here, with its roots in trade unionism and student activism, is chiefly the province of the left, not the right.” I can’t recall where I read it, but one American political commentator noted years ago that American liberals could have demonstrations ready in just a few hours with placards and numerous people, but that conservatives, before the Tea Party, were lucky if they could get a dozen folks out carrying American flags.

  • DLBarch

    Salmon gets it pretty much right, but who can find the whopper in this paragraph?

    “Granted, the heydays of mass protests, the 1980s, are past. But students ― “the conscience of the nation,” the idealists who protested Japanese occupation in 1919 and who overthrew authoritarianism in 1997 ― still mobilize en masse.”

    Nothing like adding an extra decade of dictatorship among friends.

    DLB

  • http://askakorean.blogspot.com thekorean

    I understand the sentiment behind calling for actors to join a protest, but wish people would stop calling on singers, actors, athletes to join causes and to speak out on issues. If they want to, fine, but leave them alone.

    Typical libertarian fallacy. Singers, actors and athletes do not exist in a vacuum. They owe their fame to the people who consume the entertainment that they provide. It is perfectly natural for them to be asked to leverage their fame into something good for the world. And if they do not want to do it, they can always say no.

    Nothing like adding an extra decade of dictatorship among friends.

    At first I thought it was a typo. Then I realized it was a subtle dig at the traitorous nature of the Kim Young-Sam administration… ;)

  • DLBarch

    That occurred to me, too.

    But that would be mean, man, mean!

    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=BKHoMi-U8g4

    BTW, ya at least gotta give KYS credit for ushering in the real name financial transaction system, which, let’s not forget, was a real earthquake in Korea’s cozy, look-the-other-way approach to financial “irregularities” (my favorite Korean euphemism).

    Cheers,
    DLB

  • http://askakorean.blogspot.com thekorean

    BTW, ya at least gotta give KYS credit for ushering in the real name financial transaction system . . .

    Indeed. I jab at KYS, but I do think of him pretty highly for doing that. The real name system also led to the slush funds of Chun Doo-Hwan and Roh Tae-Woo.

  • http://www.cfekorea.com nayaCasey

    thekorean #6, you are so wrong in this particular case that you will probably continue viewing it as a “libertarian fallacy.”

    Anyway, just for fun!

    1) I certainly agree with you that entertainers can always say no, some are probably waiting to be asked, some will join just because other stars are there. I noticed that some race girls were at the Chinese embassy protest on Monday. That kind of thing gives media a reason to report on something, I know.

    I have actually met some race girls, had dinner with a few of them, shared a bucket of chicken with one at the protest, there are a few who are into politics. So when they step forward because of their interests, fine, but a lot of them show up even though they don’t have anything to add to the conversation, they do it because they are asked. Some are just a “why are you here” question from being stumped. I don’t respect that.

    Quincy Jones got involved with our education effort in DC, did a promo for us, stayed in touch with us during the campaign, learned about the issues involved, made trips to DC not on his itinerary to participate in a few of our rallies.

    So when celebrities, athletes and others find a cause they are interested in, get involved, I certainly welcome them, but you know it is more of “calling ‘em out” than just asking them. I have much more to say about that but I recognize you are strong in your opinions and I’m talking for my own amusement.

    2) I forgot to add children to the list. Even when I was arguing in DC for children to get more education options, I was opposed to bringing kids to talk at events. I didn’t fight it, others thought it was cute, so I would just think or write about other things. I definitely wanted youngsters to have more education options, but that didn’t mean I thought they had anything important to say about education policy (even when they agreed with me). This is not a new thing with me. I spoke at an event shortly after the Iraq War started, in response to the question, “What do we tell children about the war?” meaning small children, my response was “nothing.”

    Anyway, you are a tough debater, so I understand that you may continue to view it as a “libertarian fallacy” regardless of any explanations from me.

  • http://askakorean.blogspot.com thekorean

    I forgot to add children to the list.

    I am not a fan of children in protests either.

    . . . a lot of them show up even though they don’t have anything to add to the conversation, they do it because they are asked. Some are just a “why are you here” question from being stumped. I don’t respect that.

    This is different point from your initial one. Your first point is that people should not ask celebrities to participate, and that is the point to which I responded. Now you are making the point that celebrities should not participate unless they can articulate their reasons for doing so. I have no objection to the latter point.

    I know it is more like “calling them out.” So what? What’s wrong with that?

  • http://bcarr.com Brendon Carr

    I’m not altogether certain that racing girls fit the bill as “celebrities”.