Changing China

Giant on the move

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from Global News Journal:

Interview with North Korea border crosser Robert Park

KOREA-NORTH/CROSSING

 (Photographs by Lee Jae-won)

North Korea said on Tuesday it had  detained a U.S. citizen who entered its territory, apparently confirming a report that an American activist crossed into the
state to raise awareness about Pyongyang's human rights abuses.   Robert Park, 28, walked over the frozen Tumen river from
China and into the North last Friday, other activists said. The Korean-American told Reuters ahead of the crossing that it was his duty as a
Christian to make the journey and that he was carrying a letter calling on North Korean leader Kim Jong-il to step down.

Park had an exclusive interview with Reuters last week before starting on his journey. The following are excerpts from the conversation. He requested that the comments be held until he was in North Korea.  

Reuters: Why are you planning to go into North Korea?

Robert Park: The North Korean human rights crisis by murder rate is the worst in the world. An estimated 1,000 people a day die by starvation and starvation is a murder case. North Korea has been sent more food aid than any nation in the world but the food has not gone to the people who need it. So this is murder.

But not only that, there are concentration camps in North Korea that are of the same brutality as in Nazi Germany.

North Korea, through a shopwindow darkly

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North Korean soldiers.jpg

 

When people want to know what’s happening in North Korea, their first stop is often the Chinese border city of Dandong. It’s one of the few places where North Koreans interact with the outside world. There are truck drivers and traders, and also spies, missionaries and refugees, not to mention reporters.

 We went to Dandong this week to see if we could find out about the impact of North Korea’s currency change. The government has capped the amount of old currency that could be traded for new, effectively lopping off the savings of many small traders and a new merchant class.

from Global News Journal:

North Korea’s Great Leader knew his cabbage

One of the primary aims of North Korea’s propaganda machine is to show its founder Kim Il-sung and current leader Kim Jong-il as all-knowing, parent-like (and at times god-like) figures who devote themselves entirely to bettering the lives of every citizen of the state.

Kim Il-sung, known as the "Great Leader" is also the eternal president of the state formed at the start of the Cold War. His son Kim Jong-il, who took over when his father died in 1994, is known as the "Dear Leader."

Grandpa Wen, so happy to see you!

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North Korea knows how to put on a show for honoured guests. Visiting Chinese Premier Wen Jiabao was this week treated to a special performance of the “Arirang” mass games, the world’s biggest choreographed extravaganza with as many as 100,000 participants.

Part circus act, part rhythmic gymnastics, the display features dancing girls, goose-stepping soldiers and a massive flip-card section animated by ranks of performers, which this time included one-off Chinese messages added for Wen.

from Global News Journal:

How Ill is Kim Jong-il?

Photo:A compilation by Reuters of pool photographs and images provided by North Korea's KCNA news agency showing North Korean leader Kim Jong-il from 2004 to 2009. The photograph in the lower right was released this week by KCNA

By Jon Herskovitz

The image the world once had of North Korean leader Kim Jong-il, with a trademark paunch, platform shoes and a bouffant hair-do, is gone and may never come back. He has now become a gaunt figure with thinning hair who has trouble walking in normal shoes, let alone ones with heels 8-10 centimetres (3-4 inches) high like he used to wear.

Waiting for the IAEA

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There is a strong element of farce to covering the North Korea story, which should perhaps come as no surprise considering what an unusual, isolated place it is and how hard verifiable news is to come by.

One never knows quite what to believe, with all the strange stories that seep out about Kim Jong-il’s love of pizza, the rants of North Korea’s official KCNA news agency and numerous other bizarre tales, including these two.
(http://www.reuters.com/article/sportsNews/idUSSEO26227220080314)

from Global News Journal:

North Korean Revolutionary Tunes Sink to Bottom of the Sea

                                              By Jon Herskovitz

North Korea says somewhere up in the sky, a satellite it launched at the weekend is beaming to earth two revolutionary paeans: "Song of General Kim Il-sung" for the founder of the reclusive state and "Song of General Kim Jong-il," for the son who succeeded him when he died.

The war that changed China

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Thirty years ago today, China invaded its one-time Communist ally Vietnam to “teach it a lesson”, to the delight of Beijing’s newfound friend, Uncle Sam, which was still smarting from having lost its own Vietnam War.
 
The attack came on the heels of Washington switching diplomatic recognition from Taipei to Beijing and a closed-door meeting between China’s paramount leader Deng Xiaoping and U.S. President Jimmy Carter in Washington.
 
Three decades on, it remains unclear just how much Deng told Carter about the incursion and whether Washington offered any assistance such as satellite imagery of Vietnamese troops and military bases.
 
Until the Chinese Foreign Ministry and the U.S. State Department declassify minutes of the meeting, the world will not know for sure whether the United States offered to back China in the event the Soviet Union rushed to Vietnam’s rescue.
 
Now the great wheel of history has turned again, and 30 years on, the United States is seeking China’s help in applying pressure on another Communist neighbour, North Korea.
 
China’s foray into Vietnam was brief yet in some ways disastrous. Its troops suffered terribly against the battle-hardened Vietnamese who were fighting on their home soil.
 
But there is no arguing that the invasion was a watershed event that smoothed the way for China to mend fences with the West.  American investors, tourists and students flocked to China.  Western and Japanese aid and loans flowed in, while trade and investment mushroomed, helping to transform the world’s most populous nation from an economic backwater into an export powerhouse and the world’s third-biggest economy.
 
In an apparent quid pro quo, China abandoned its longstanding policy of “liberating” Taiwan and offered “peaceful reunification” in an overture to the self-ruled island it has claimed as its own since their split in 1949 amid civil war.
 
Also in 1979, Deng invited Tibet’s exiled spiritual leader, the Dalai Lama, to visit, prompting the latter to renounce advocacy of Tibetan independence, beseech CIA-armed and -trained Tibetan guerrillas to end their struggle and send his older brother to China on fact-finding trips.
 
The United States softened its criticism of human rights abuse in China, including the imprisonment of dissident Wei Jingsheng for challenging Deng at the height of the Democracy Wall movement.
 
American Sinologist David Shambaugh described as a “marriage of convenience” the teaming up of the United States and China to curb Soviet expansionism.
(http://www.iht.com/articles/2009/01/06/opinion/edshambaugh.php)
 
On a lighter note, American culture invaded China. Many Chinese traded their Mao suits for jeans or business suits and dined at McDonald’s and KFC outlets. Hollywood movies and rock ‘n’ roll — once considered decadent by China’s ideologues — swept many Chinese off their feet.
 
The honeymoon abruptly ended on June 4, 1989, when Chinese troops crushed student-led demonstrations for democracy centred on Beijing’s Tiananmen Square. China slipped into diplomatic isolation in the face of U.S. sanctions.
 
China broke out of isolation and forced the United States to deal with it after menacing Taiwan with war games in the run-up to the island’s first direct presidential elections in 1996. Bilateral relations see-sawed in the ensuing years, hitting low points when NATO bombed the Chinese Embassy in Belgrade and a U.S. spy plane collided with a Chinese jet fighter over Chinese airspace.
 
Fast forward to February 2009. When U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton visits on Friday, she will be dealing with a richer, more confident and assertive China.  Again, but now in peacetime, it will be a China that needs the United States as much as the United States needs China.
 
The United States needs China to help rein in a nuclear North Korea and help nurse the global economy back to health. But China’s abrupt slowdown in growth and exports shows that it remains yoked to U.S. fortunes.

Photo Credit: A Vietnamese border guard stands next to a border marker between China’s Guangxi and Vietnam’s Lang Son provinces on Jan. 13, 2009. REUTERS/Kham

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