Just to be clear, somebody is taking the piss here, right?

Check out “Eric Schmidt and Bill Richardson’s First E-Mail from the Glorious Empire of North Korea!” in Vanity Fair. (HT to Liz)

Meanwhile, check out Donald Kirk’s take on Schmidt’s trip to North Korea at 3WM:

Once again the North Koreans are scoring a propaganda coup by exploiting the presence of a high-level American delegation. This time it’s Google Chairman Eric Schmidt traipsing off to Pyongyang in the hands of Bill Richardson, the former New Mexico governor, and Richardson’s long-time adviser, Tony Namkung.

Richardson has said the visit is “humanitarian,” but if there’s one thing it will not accomplish, it will not do a thing about the tens of thousands of North Koreans enduring the hell of one of the cruellest prison systems on earth. It’s very unlikely, in fact, that the topic of real “human rights” for North Koreans will come up at all in whatever Schmidt, Richardson, and Tony Namkung get going in Pyongyang. They wouldn’t think of anything so gauche as to raise a topic that they know very well will only annoy their North Korean hosts.

  • http://www.facebook.com/douglas.binns.73 Douglas Binns

    Very nice.  Exposes this trip for the folly that it is. 

  • Hamilton

    Nonsense, it will be a fabulous trip! 

    They will be able to enjoy Pyongyang noodles along with a great Pyongyang Beer served in the skull of a former hostile class resident of camp 14.

    And as Google is famous for pointing out, not being evil does not extend to directly supporting evil.  That’s okay as long as you are really snooty and like shaking hands with dictators.

  • dlbarch

    I don’t know what’s happened to Donald Kirk in the decade since I knew him in Seoul, but among other things, he’s apparently become something of a dick. He used to be a good reporter.

    The proprietary nature that “old Korea hands” in government, academia, and, now, the media have toward North Korea is truly astounding. Gawd forbid that folks like Richardson or Schmidt should presume to take a role – modest or not – of engaging North Korea. ‘Cause, you know, the old hands have done such a great job handling North Korea policy all by themselves!

    For one thing, Schmidt did not “traipse off” to Pyongyang, and certainly not “in the hands” of Richardson.What a prick! This kind of “second tier” engagement is not at all unusual. There is a steady stream of academics, NGO types, and, yes, even journalists in and out of North Korea on a regular basis. Indeed, if anything, this kind of Track II engagement should be increased.

    Second, Pyongyang most certainly has not scored any PR coup by this trip…or any of the others (Clinton, Carter) that Kirk mentions. No one…repeat NO ONE…is fooled into thinking that these trips improve NoKo’s international standing or prestige. Rather, all of the reporting coverage of these trips invariably highlights just how odious the North Korean regime is. If this constitutes a PR coup, then maybe we need more of these trips!

    If, and I repeat if, North Korea can eventually be coaxed into some kind of perestroika and rapprochement with its neighbors — a long term project, to be sure — then these kinds of trips will likely play a foundational role to that end.


  • babotaengi

    Aren’t they referring to PR with the frogs in the well? It’s not like the NK regime gives a shit what the birds and the bees think of them at this stage.

  • http://profiles.google.com/dcmusicfreak DC Musicfreak

    North Korea tends to “earn” these visits, though, by taking hostages, like Kenneth Bae. Here is a better piece than Kirk’s, in the same vein: http://www.theatlantic.com/international/archive/2013/01/engaging-north-korea-the-moral-hazard-factor/266962/

  • dlbarch

    Yes, absolutely, Armin Rosen’s nuanced “Atlantic” article is the one that Kirk should have written. And for the record, no one — and certainly not I — denies that there is an element of moral hazard built in to any engagement approach to NK.

    On the other hand, I haven’t seen any photos of Richardson, Schmidt & Company driving across the North Korean border with a convoy of trucks with 500 unification cows, a la Chung Ju-yong. A few MHers will know what I’m talking about. Not sure if Kirk was a snarky with Chung at that time as he is with Schmidt now.

    BTW, is that Moon Chung-in to the right of Schmidt in that Atlantic photo?

    Finally, is it just me, or has anyone else noticed that Kenneth Bae is not receiving anywhere near the attention — and vitriol — that Euna Lee and Laura Ling received? Hmmmm.

    Anyway, good link.


  • http://profiles.google.com/dcmusicfreak DC Musicfreak

    I think it’s Tony Namkung.

  • ChuckRamone

    Completely unrelated to the topic but “taking the piss” seems to be one of those Britishisms that’s becoming pretty popular among Americans. 

  • dogbertt

     Comment of the year, Mr. Barch.

  • Don

    Mr. DLBarch,
    With all due respect, I don’t recall meeting you, as you say, have no clue who you are, what you do or anything about you. Nor am I sure I want to know. You seem pretty set in your views so guess there’s no point in engaging in further discussion.

  • Koreandumbdumb

    I think they are at NK to test some of their “top secret” gears.  It may be a location tracker that can be used in the future to help bomb NK nuke sites.   NKs are so stupid.   Korean dumb, dumb.

  • dlbarch

    That’s fine. I’m an imminently forgettable person! But, yes, we’ve met on about half a dozen occasions (in the late 90s), once argued over Hyundai and the legacy of Chung Ju-yong, and went to North Korea on that first foreigner’s cruise to Mt. Keumgang.

    But whatever. That’s ancient history. I stand by my statements above. That 3 Quarks piece was spectacularly bad.


  • Don

    DL Barch — You saying you’re “imminently forgettable” or “eminently forgettable?” Either way, no need to revive the memory.

  • dlbarch

    Did Don Kirk really just proof-read a comment on a blog? Wow!

    I will grab a screen-shot of that. Thanks!


  • dogbertt

    Given that the U.S.’s stance toward North Korea over the past 40+ years has failed spectacularly, as has its stance toward Cuba during the same period, it is the height of arrogance for Sen. McClain or anyone else in the U.S. government to criticize Schmidt for using his God-given right as a U.S. citizen to freely travel outside the U.S.  You’d think after so many decades, the U.S. government would be smart enough to try something different, but when your only tool is a hammer, problems do seem to all resemble nails after awhile.

    Do we still consider that Jersey BBQ place owner to be a North Korea expert?