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How The Worm Turns

The US Government seems to be saying nowadays “we can’t get Kenneth Bae out of North Korea, but we can go after Denis Rodman for “breaking sanctions”.  Who says the US doesn’t do trivial-stupid?

About the author: Psst, want to buy some used marble cheap?

  • Sumo294

    I honestly think the Rodman trip was far more beneficial to opening up North Korea than most people realize. First–Rodman and company put on a show for North Korea, which has real significance for its impact on the North Korean elite. The presence of such an athlete will start minds working and wondering on the exact nature of forces that led to such an event. The children of the elite can confirm and relate their perspectives on the outside world if the older ones wish to have an honest dialogue about experiences. I do not think North Korea is crazy–the young dictator is trying to create a new world for himself and the new elite and trying to earn sustainable currency. Many scoff at his ski resort, but imagine a ski resort with two thousand pleasure ladies, high end booze and every type of drug with perfect security. The curious and the rich will definitely pay cash for such an experience.

  • RElgin

    You may be right; I’m not sure, but it seems that the US has their own petty minded creeps judging by this sort of story, and they are far less entertaining or enlightening than Rodman’s adventures.

    It’s almost like the American 50s have returned.

  • Sumo294

    Most Americans cannot find Korea on a map and the elite running DC is hardly conservative–the guys running policy on Korea at the State Department are simply very misinformed about how North Korea works–which is very similar to how clueless they were about how the Soviet Union actually worked.

  • http://kimchilaw.com/ Kimchi Law Blog

    Without taking a value-judgment stance on NK sanctions (sanctions generally are a mixed bag – blunt tool at best; tempting to say they don’t work, but then there’s South Africa…) or The Worm’s escapades in the Northern Paradise, there’s quite a bit of logical consistency to this particular “trivial-stupid” behavior.

    Rodman’s gifts to K3 (assuming, safely, they were given sans license) were very blatant and very public violations of laws re sanctions on North Korea (UN and, more importantly from a punitive standpoint, U.S.). Not only are these gift items explicitly specified as “luxury goods” in relevant U.S. regulations, the intended recipients were the exact people these sanctions aim to prevent from receiving luxury items.

    In these circumstances, adherence to the rule of law kind of demands enforcement. If Justin Bieber is caught drag racing under the influence, the public is justified to expect he’ll be booked. Rodman’s imports to North Korea are, in many ways, analogous.

  • Anonymous_Joe

    “Many scoff at his ski resort, but imagine a ski resort with two thousand pleasure ladies, high end booze and every type of drug away from the scrutiny of any media.”

    The two thousand pleasure ladies would likely be, given that North Korea is a dictatorship, sex slaves, or no one could be reasonably sure that they weren’t. Also, the revenue generated from the pleasure ladies, booze, and drugs would go to KJU’s coffers and further his ability to repress the North Korean people.

  • Anonymous_Joe

    I agree. Rodman seems to have violated international and American law. If Rodman is in the right, Rodman has the resources to test the validity of such laws and will reap huge benefits from the side show on his reality show. If he’s wrong, he gets his just desserts. Rodman is perfect to either free us from an unjust law or go to prison for breaking a valid law. This is the first Rodman reality show I’ll watch.

  • RElgin

    I reject your thought as being dead wrong.
    Someone in DC thinks they need to draw a line so as to avoid those panic attacks that comes with the feeling of not being in control of everything. This sanction talk has nothing to do with “law” or the need to enforce what little control someone thinks they have.

    Medicine helps that funny feeling too.

  • BadBob

    Wrong, wrong, wrong. Get your head out of the right wing media machine and spend some time in the US government if you wish to know what goes on. The Chicago school has failed, but communism is not anyone’s option; there are better alternatives.

    And the only Berkley grad I knew in over 30 years in government was a chem/bio defense dude. Not a hippie. Try again.

  • Horace Jeffery Hodges

    Let’s spell the word “Berkeley” — just to show we can!

    Jeffery Hodges

    * * *

  • Sous Phos

    “I reject your thought as being absolutely dead wrong.”

    What a silly statement.

    Rodman’s actions have either satisfied the elements of a crime defined by law or they haven’t.

    The laws in question are the US International Emergency Economic Powers Act (Executive Order 13551) and UN Security Council Resolutions 1718.

    Kimchi Law just points out how the elements of the crime have likely been met. How is this “thought . . . absolutely dead wrong”? The facts may be different, maybe Rodman had a license that no one is aware of, or maybe it wasn’t him who brought the goods. But the law is the law and Kimchi Law has accurately stated it no matter how much you may disagree with it.

  • http://www.bcarr.com/ Brendon Carr

    And the best part of the whole Rodman story is, from this Administration there is no question that a license would have been forthcoming had he applied for one.

  • RElgin

    The sanctions against the DPRK were meant to apply primarily to companies that might do business with the DPRK. Singling out an individual just because they may have given out a case of vodka or a nice bag as a gift is some petty nonsense that merely demonstrates the perceived lack of control felt by some one who is obviously disturbed that something is happening without their input or control over such. Further, your anonymous commentary behind this demonstrates how the mind of a pedant works that tries too hard to justify petty behaviour that disturbs their sense of order.

    “. . . the law is the law . . .”

    What tripe! Go try and save a fetus if you love social causes.

  • Sous Phos

    “The sanctions against the DPRK were meant to apply primarily to companies that might do business with the DPRK. Singling out an individual just because they may have given out a case of vodka or a nice bag as a gift is some petty nonsense…”

    Now you’re using actual arguments. Good work. If the law says, as you argue, that only companies can be prosecuted then Rodman’s not guilty. And the US government should be charged with malicious prosecution. Somehow though I think the lawyers have done their homework in this case unlike just shooting from the hip with their opinions like some people. But who knows, let’s wait and see how it plays out.

    “. . . the law is the law . . .”

    What a bunch of bollocks! That sort of thinking has caused more trouble than it has solved, though it may have paid the salaries of too many barristers.

    Is that what you want to said to you when you’re prosecuted for speaking your mind and defend yourself by citing your legal right to free expression?

    Has enforcing legal rights and protections “caused more trouble than it has solved”? Because that’s “the law” also.

  • RElgin

    I think Brendon once made the distinction herein about “rule by law” and “law by rule”. The US Government is really reaching here. Just because there is some means or technicality to prosecute someone does not mean that it is just or the best course of action.

    Rationalize it all you will but the US Government looks pretty feeble going after Denis Rodman.

  • http://www.bcarr.com/ Brendon Carr

    Rule of law and rule by law, actually, but your point is taken. Laws must be enforced evenhandedly to retain their moral force. Meanwhile, “arbitrary and capricious”, a phrase that us lawyers remember from law school, is what the Obama Administration does best. Ask Dinesh D’Souza.

  • seouldout

    Are you sure the law meant that?

    Resolution 1718
    [...]
    8. Decides that:
    (a) All Member States shall prevent the direct or indirect supply, sale or transfer to the DPRK, through their territories or by their nationals, or using their flag vessels or aircraft, and whether or not originating in their territories, of:
    [...]
    (iii) Luxury goods;

    I see a direct transfer of luxury good by a US national. Hope his teammates didn’t do likewise.

  • RElgin

    So, is Kim JongUn THE DPRK or does that resolution mean the country or state entity: DPRK? If I visited the DPRK and gave someone there some Channel toothpicks, would that be considered a transfer of luxury goods?
    No matter how you slice this, it is petty stupidity on the part of the government.

  • seouldout

    I saw a list of luxury goods elsewhere and toothpicks, branded or not, are safe. Have at it.

    It’s clear to me and likely everyone else in the world that the lardy leader is a member of the DPRK government. If you wish to give a luxury gift to a random citizen of the DPRK who isn’t a member of the party nor works for the state… you may want to check with a lawyer first.

    Anyway, since you asked… Channel toothpicks would be prohiited by the CITES convention rather than Resolution 1718 because they’re made of elephant ivory.

    And the “petty stupidity on the part of the government” would be caused by the “petty stupidity on the part of the UN”.

  • Sous Phos

    The US Government is really reaching here.

    Reaching? It’s not like the US is trying to prosecute Rodman for giving free basketballs to disadvantaged North Korean kids. Rodman put luxury goods right into the hands of exactly the person that these laws were supposed to keep luxury goods out of.

    It was stories of Kim Jong-il indulging in Martell cognac and sporting Moreschi shoes while his people starved that got these laws passed. And now Rodman comes and gives the heir to the throne exactly the same stuff and it’s “petty” to go after him? Rule of law means that every citizen is subject to the law and no one is above the law, not even celebrities like Rodman.

    Seouldout gave you the UN resolution so I’ll give you the US law:

    “Luxury Goods” include:

    “luxury automobiles; yachts; gems; jewelry; other fashion
    accessories; cosmetics; perfumes; furs; designer clothing; luxury watches; rugs and tapestries; electronic entertainment software and equipment; recreational sports equipment; tobacco; wine and other alcoholic beverages; musical instruments; art; and antiques and collectible items, including but not limited to rare coins and stamps are subject to a general policy of denial.”
    http://www.law.cornell.edu/cfr/text/15/746.4

    Executive Order 13551 says that

    “All property and interests in property that…come within the possession or control of any United States person” – not business like you said – “are blocked and may not be transferred”. This pertains to any “any person determined by the Secretary of the Treasury, in consultation with the Secretary of State…to have, directly or indirectly, imported, exported, or reexported luxury goods to or into North Korea”
    http://www.whitehouse.gov/the-press-office/2010/08/30/executive-order-president-blocking-property-certain-persons-with-respect

  • Sanshinseon .

    FWIW, and i know that ain’t much, I completely disagree with you on this REljin, and i agree with KLB, AJ and SousPhos. Your OP and comments seem downright bizarre and totally off-base — your notion that this investigation towards prosecution results from anyone at the US State Dept having any anxiety or insecurity or jealousy seems 100% made-up, just something you invented in imaginary projection. Any least shred of evidence for this fantasy?

    Similarly, your notion that the law applies to companies and not individuals, and that “the DPRK” does not mean its government leaders, and that this world-famous case is “petty”, and that ex-sports-stars get a free-pass to do whatever they wish, are all clearly false — again, just some private fantasy that you’re having.

    Rodman and his handlers clearly broke some very clear laws, and out to be prosecuted for it just the same as anyone else. What they did was a morally reprehensible crime against global human rights, and the common NK people in particular, and the cause of peace in Korea — but there are no laws against that, public condemnation will have to suffice as-usual.

  • Anonymous_Joe

    Sanshinseon ” * (if we assume that he’s mentally competent to be responsible for his behavior, which is questionable; that he wasn’t might be his only defense).”

    He seems to have laid the groundwork while in China at his first press conference after leaving North Korea with his “I was drunk” defense.

  • http://www.bcarr.com/ Brendon Carr

    A government not bound by law, but by some “higher cause”. You would love it in DPRK, ironically enough.

  • Anonymous_Joe

    Your overreaching hatred for all things Obama makes your comment, even if in sarcastic jest (which I’m doubtful), more a comment on you than on Obama.

    I don’t know whether you realize this, counselor, but if you hammered Obama on the issues that he legitimately deserved hammering on, your opinion might hold sway.

  • RElgin

    . . . those aren’t the higher causes you were looking for . . .

  • RElgin

    Do you really think that any good or change can come of prosecuting an often silly basketball player over sanctions aimed primarily at the DPRK – as a state!? Maybe someone in the Treasury Department has time to kill over this sort of legal exercise, which in context to the whole issue of North Korea and nuclear weapons and the human suffering inflicted upon the Koreans as a whole, is pretty useless and achieves nothing in addressing
    “a morally reprehensible crime against global human rights”. That is your own fantasy perhaps.

    There is nothing “off-base” or “bizarre” about picking and choosing your causes and towards what ends one’s energies are spent and I would like to see the US spending its resources on better projects that promise more than merely punishing a famous basketball player.

  • RElgin

    Thanks for the background information. There is clearly a legal means to go after Rodman – and waste more money and time to achieve – nothing.

  • Sous Phos

    “Is keeping luxury goods out of the hands of anyone in the DPRK going to solve any real problems?”

    Here’s another cause you can get behind:

    “North Korea calls Switzerland’s refusal to sell it ski lifts a ‘serious human rights abuse’”
    http://www.washingtonpost.com/blogs/worldviews/wp/2013/10/07/north-korea-calls-switzerlands-refusal-to-sell-it-ski-lifts-a-serious-human-rights-abuse/

    Damn Swiss, do they really think they’re solving any problems?

    According to a report submitted to the South Korean parliament today, imports of luxury goods to North Korea amounted to $645.8 million in 2012, a sharp increase from the average of around $300 million a year under his father, Kim Jong-il.

    Most of his people may be lacking food, medicine and access to most basic services, but the reclusive regime’s luxury purchases included pets, pet food, bathroom fittings, sauna systems and maternity products, Yonhap News quoted Yoon Sang-hyun, of the ruling Saenuri Party, as telling the parliament in Seoul.

    http://www.telegraph.co.uk/news/worldnews/asia/northkorea/10377154/North-Koreas-Kim-Jong-un-splurges-on-luxury-goods-in-bid-to-strengthen-rule.html

  • seouldout

    “Is keeping luxury goods out of the hands of anyone in the DPRK going to solve any real problems?”

    Personally, I think not. I reckon the intent of this is to show
    Kim and his henchmen that they can’t have their cake and eat it too. And if this squeeze removes some of life’s luxuries from the hands of tyrants I’m all for it.

    In the Quincy Black case someone wrote that he believed the gov’t went after him forcefully because he thumbed his nose at Korea. Perhaps the US authorities are doing so with Mr. Rodman for the very same reason. Put yourself on the radar and you’re likely to get noticed.

  • Sanshinseon .

    Well, myself and possibly others continue to disagree with you that this case is petty, unimportant, trivial or “feckless posturing”. You’re just quite wrong about that. The very fact that it’s such a high-profile case (we’re discussing it here! and it’s been such a big story all over global media) is exactly why it’s a very big deal indeed.

    If such a flagrant, public, blatant violation of both letter and spirit of the sanctions is allowed to pass-by, then the entire sanctions regime collapses, right? The fact that sanctions were openly violated while conducting open propaganda in favor of the Pyeongyang regime (and not in any noble or charitable cause) makes it much worse. You don’t seem to support the sanctions at all, and seem to desire that they collapse; and that’s your right to express such an opinion, but for those who support them this case is hugely important.

  • Sanshinseon .

    Also, your image of US government activities as a zero-sum game — that attention paid & resources devoted to one matter automatically means that less will be paid & devoted to some other associated effort — is clearly a false premise.

    Should be abandoned along with your assertion that US diplomatic & Treasury policies are made according to the whims of individual officials experiencing immature emotions — I rather think that they are made soberly, deliberately, according to regulations. There is some discretion exercised on the upper levels, but it’s not the High School stuff of anxiety, insecurity or jealousy that you are imagining.

  • seouldout

    Three killer comments. Wish you would comment more often.

  • RElgin

    Yes, I would tend to agree with him too.

  • RElgin

    I have reasons for making certain remarks though I won’t explain everything. Though there are some really stand up professionals that work in government, there are also some professional jackasses with little imagination too. What I find galling is that too many seem to admire the worst choices or “discretions”, as you put it, and don’t seem to know 된장 from 똥. Contrary to your beliefs, I can not give the government that much credit in this affair.

    Again, what should I think of a government effort to go after a silly, famous basketball player who can’t sing very well either? It is more like how someone like Martha Stewart can be put into jail but people like Jamie Dimon are given raises.

  • RElgin

    Yes, that is appropriate for a company and country to not sell to the regime, especially since that is quite a lot of goods. This is a bit different though than the case of the famous basketball player who can’t sing.

  • seouldout

    I do get your point about how some skate free. I think this being a binding UNSC resolution, one pushed by Washington, forces the US hand a bit. Ignoring Rodman’s “generosity” may appear to many in the diplomatic playground that the US has a different set of rules for its own nationals, and this would likely undermine credibility, particularly in Moscow and Beijing.

  • Sanshinseon .

    Yes, seouldout is right again, there. I continue to disagree with how you trivialize & infantilize Mr Rodman — “a silly, famous basketball player” and proclaiming “accomplishing nothing” (you know this, how?) when i’ve repeatedly pointed-out what a very serious & important case this really is. Rodman (or his facilitators, if you accept that he is so mentally handicapped as to not be responsible, and was ruthlessly exploited by the facilitators, who are definitely not “silly” people) carried out a very serious & deliberate attempt at breaking the sanctions system and propagandizing to improve the global-public image of the Pyeongyang regime (to improve its leverage against sanctions, give some cover for its continuing attacks on SK soon to re-peak in Spring).

    Hapless Rodman might just be trying to peddle vodka but his handlers have some extensive future business profits in mind, to both support the regime and to line their own pockets from the “access to The MARSHAL” they’ve gained — some have already been boasting of this on FaceBook, posting photos of themselves schmoozing with K-ligula & wife as if they’re partying with Brangelina at the Oscars (even while they knew that Jang’s relatives & associates were being mass-murdered at the time).

    Nothing at all “silly” or “of no importance” going on here RElgin; this case is highly significant to all future dealing-with / policy-towards the DPRK. If you had or had ever had any position of responsibility for NK policy you would recognize that, like the US gov officials you so casually insult.

    I would have to think that the tortured inmates of Yodeok and the other camps wouldn’t think this is silly or unimportant at all. I can only hope that if they are ever liberated, Rodman and all his helpers & supporters are brought to face them, to explain what great partying fun this adventure was, how tasty the “absolutely top-shelf tequila” was, what a great guy The MARSHAL really is…

  • http://www.bcarr.com/ Brendon Carr

    Who says I’m hammering Obama? All I’m saying is that this Administration is more huggy with America’s sworn enemies than past Administrations, and past Administrations have also given licenses for “cultural” dealings with North Korea. Ergo, had Rodman asked, the answer most probably would have been yes.

  • seouldout

    “K-ligula”… that’s a keeper.

  • RElgin

    Personally speaking, I would not go as far as Rodman has done in his antics, but if Rodman’s “handlers” and other “facilitators” have really tried “breaking the sanctions system and propagandizing to improve the global-public image of the Pyeongyang regime”, then they should be the target of any enforcement efforts.

    Though I don’t know Rodman’s POV, without indulging in hyperbolical references to the human suffering inflicted by the DPRK leadership, Rodman could still be a useful means of communication, even though he seems a bit flakey. The state department should do more of an outreach to Rodman to help them, unless this threat is a part of their carrot and stick routine.

    A steady stream of “US gov officials” have come and gone and not much has been accomplished. If the players in this story are not willing to wait for the inevitable change that time brings, then it is time for something different and the willingness to try it.

  • RElgin

    It makes good copy.

  • SalarymaninSeoul

    Then I believe you haven’t got a clue on how the government runs, or at least how this one runs. Elgin claims below that there are stand up people in government, and I can’t shake the feeling that he is referring to fairies and elves hiding in closets and under desks. If there ever was a government acting on vindictiveness and power-lust, it would be this one.

  • seouldout

    Worse than the Lincoln administration?

  • SalarymaninSeoul

    Only because there are more people now to fuck over, yes

  • seouldout

    Rodman’s sponsor is an Irish online bookie.

    Questions have been raised about the gifts given to K-ligula by it.

    http://www.telegraph.co.uk/news/worldnews/asia/northkorea/10564722/Paddy-Power-gifts-to-Kim-Jong-un-could-have-broken-UN-sanctions.html

    It remains to be seen whether the Irish authorities will investigate. I reckon Washington is discussing this very issue with the Taoiseach.

  • seouldout

    Fewer deaths.

  • RElgin

    Yeah, I know some fairies and at least one gnome.

  • SalarymaninSeoul

    Only in the physical sense. In the larger sense, far more