No self reflection.
No addressing of the core questions and issues.
Wilful blindness? Or does he simply not believe that what he saw was carefully selected? Or does he have a cunning plan that he isn't mentioning? (!)
I don't know.. but let me have a go, respecting that he no longer wishes me to engage on his blog. So I will respond to his comments, which say a lot in view. Particularly an unwillingness to read. He deleted my responses to the halfwits who claim the DPRK is "misunderstood" and even apologise for Assad. That is "spam".
“Liberty” I have no idea re your ignorance in general, nor care. However it was clear immediately on this subject that your approach was deficient. A number of signals were very loud.
(a) Despite the fact I don’t know you from a bar of soap you open with an ad hominem attack. Abuse is the lowest form of engagement, it points to
II. anger management issues
III. logical relapse
IV. emotional capture
V. juvenile delinquency
Says the man who starts by saying I am ignorant! Who calls me a fool, but doesn't engage on the questions I asked or the position I took except to be dismissive, not thoughtful. Pot meet kettle Gareth. In fact what you JUST said could be seen as abusive. Illiterate? Anger management issues? I'm gobsmacked. Playing the man, not the ball is most of your response.
(b) You deduce that I am somehow sympathetic to the form of governance in North Korea. This apparently you conclude because
I. we have been there twice. I have also now been to South Korea 7 times but apparently visiting the North is to your mind a crime.
I NEVER said going there is a sign of sympathy. I have been there, but you ignored that comment. I never said visiting the DPRK is a crime, in fact I encourage people to visit and engage with people. Your "crime" has been to swallow the facade and to not have a critical eye. What you said that I agreed with is blanketed by the absurd comparisons to Singapore, Russia and China. I cannot believe any reasonable person can compare the personality cult prison state to any of the others, except the latter two for earlier periods of their history.
II. we suggest the West has a stereotypical depiction of people from the North that is misplaced – this was not a commentary on what the West thinks of the regime but you couldn’t see the difference
I agree. Indeed I have said that to others. However, you can't see behind the curtain, you didn't notice the minders everywhere. You appear to have read little about what life is for people there in terms of surveillance, self criticism and the overweening threat of punishment. You didn't ever reflect on the Kim cults, which are stifling, or on what locals do not know about world history or events. Maybe you had profoundly interesting conversations you can't share, which I respect. I've had the same with people there, that tells me volumes about how the elite know or do not know about the outside world. However, don't even start to think you met anyone who isn't very carefully vetted for loyalty.
III. our observations re Korean people we met (not the regime on which we haven’t commented) don’t fit your preconception. If you had any sense of perspective you would know there are 25 million people there and they do not all fit the caricature of evil monsters or tortured victims. These are the people we met and whom we commented on. You have missed that utterly in your gush to read yourself.
Ad hominem attack at the end, well done. Your experience of people fit some of my experiences, but it is a shallow view. I don't know if you had a one on one conversation with anyone there away from spooks where they opened up. I don't know if you talked to anyone about their fears and hopes, away from spooks or anyone else. If you did, you wouldn't report it I hope. However, you didn't seem to note at all that what these people show you is what they have been trained to show. Did you ask to go to a shopping centre or a supermarket? You don't seem to realise the heavy weight of oppression of totalitarianism - not just an autocracy - but a system where 9% of the population are formally political police and everyone else is meant to report on each other. Why not mention that? You said it isn't a prison state. I am lost for words as to the naivete.
(c) Your lens is seriously that of an anglophile with no understanding whatsoever of the pan-Korean perspective. If you had that you would know that this mission is being hugely received in South Korea as well where we are currently riding to Hallasan to complete the journey. We have four television crews in tow, everyone who gets to hold the rocks from the summit of Pakteausan is moved emotionally, some to the point of tears, and everyone thanks us for what we are trying to achieve here – a move to peaceful co-existence of two Koreas.
Peaceful co-existence is all very well and lesser tensions on the peninsula are to be welcomed. Of course it would be more helpful if the army of 1 million people didn't shell a south Korean island and threaten a sea of fire across Seoul. It is obvious who threatens who here. The rhetoric and action gets escalated because of one side. That isn't the view of an anglophile, it is mainstream Korea watcher understanding. Want to tell Andrei Lankov he is wrong? Why not ask him what he thinks of your views?
By the way, ever wonder why no north Koreans can do your trip? Take a guess.
(d) Your core competency appears to be transport planning which has about as much to do with socio-economics and the political economy as macramé.
Actually post-graduate degree in international relations/politics, and law. A Ph. D in economics means what then? This from a man who doesn't like ad-hominem attacks, yet decides to attack my credibility rather than my arguments.
The evidence of your ignorance is overwhelming as is your cowardice and your insulting of Korean people. If you’d been subject to any kind of editorial review your blog wouldn’t have seen the light of day – but sadly the barriers to entry in that sphere are so low that prejudice disguised as knowledge is common.
Yet another ad-hominem attack. You insult the Korean people by claiming all they do they did for you, they do it because they love their government and have such choices that they are showing you this wonderful system that is only faltering because of what others do or say about them. You insult every single child in a gulag because of this system. I find it utterly vile.
You might not like an unregulated media, the DPRK doesn't. Only Eritrea comes close to the total state control of all publishing and media. It's a blog, get over it. Yours equally would be a laughing stock if it is to be seen as a serious reflection of the DPRK.
By the way, not once have you actually taken on a single point I have made about the DPRK. Prove I am wrong.
Insofar as the books you mention I have read all the accounts of North Korean camps and have no reason whatsoever to doubt them, particularly those that have been corroborated. Your accusation that I do is totally without any basis and of course is libellous.
Fine, good, I apologise for that claim and will delete it. You didn't mention that. A regime that incarcerates children is on another level of utter evil, yet you ignored that elephant in the room. It is like visiting Nazi Germany, knowing the concentration camps are there, but ignoring them and talking about the great Potemkin farms. The reasonable assumption I made was that someone who knew all of the horrors would actually show some insight into how a totalitarian regime works on the psyche of those there, and how they act around you. I haven't seen any evidence that you have. A threat of libel? Really?
Reunification by both Koreas has to be on their terms which is why it’s a non-starter from either perspective. Why you suggest I think it is, is yet another straw man you’ve constructed in order to puff your chest. The whole thing we’re doing over here is all about peaceful coexistence rather than the current animosity that prevails and discussing with ordinary Koreans in the north and south how that might be achieved. According to you every Korean we met in the North, even in the fields and working on the roads was a stooge. What a jerk you really are.
Ad hominem again. How did you speak to ordinary north Koreans? How could you tell? Many DPRK watchers and those who live and worked there find that almost impossible, why would you suddenly be allowed to do so? You spoke to them without there being a guide or other person present? Can you even begin to understand that failure to spout the party line is unthinkable there? It is VERY hard to get under the skin of people there. I did a tiny bit. If you did, I seriously salute you and I expect you not to mention details. I don't think they are stooges, but people who know what they must do when a foreigner turns up - show loyalty and do their leaders and country proud. They have to report on this afterwards you know. Call me a jerk? You can't even say anything critical about the regime. The luxury of a man free to undertake a trip nobody else in that country, barring a tiny number of the elite. Ever think you feel a bit of a jerk being able to leave but none of your guides could?
I don’t suffer fools and you sadly are in the major league on that account. Try thinking for yourself instead of trying to forge a grab-bag of hackneyed stereotypical pre-conceptions into coherent commentary.
Go on, criticise any point I have made, rather than an insult.
Due to your abusive engagement and propensity to spam, this correspondence is closed. Have your low level discussions elsewhere or try and get yourself independently published and see how far your truculent polemic gets you.
Propensity to spam? You mean take on the halfwits who think criticising north Korea makes one a stooge of an international financial conspiracy led by the US?
I've been published, in NZ and the UK.
SO people, there you have it.
He insults me and threatens me with libel, his main criticism being that I attached him personally. He has not made any serious attempt to take on my key points.
He has been playing the man, not the ball.
I'll leave it up to you to judge.
I still think he meant well, but has shown unbelievable naivete. I point it out, and I'm a jerk.
Apparently the rules he sets for engagement don't apply to him when he feels hurt.
I'm not a coward. I'll happily publicly debate this with him if the occasion arose, even by phone if necessary.