Wednesday, June 1, 2011

Western North Korea experts don't trust South Korean media on North Korea?

The Marmot highlights a very interesting English-language piece in the Kyunghyang Shinmun about how Westerner North Korea watchers (or American ones, at least) generally discount the truthiness of South Korean reports on North Korea:
Though I hate to admit it, among the so-called "Korea watchers" around Washington, who take interest in and observe issues on the Korean Peninsula, trust in the South Korean media is almost at rock bottom.

Since hardly anything that goes on inside North Korea is made public, not many articles are written based on clear facts. The result is a large number of articles that make deductions based on phenomena visible from the outside. In many cases, however, the grounds for such deductions are weak too.
I have to admit that this North Korea watcher (i.e., me) often dismisses or questions South Korean media reports about North Korea as speculative and based on flimsy evidence, but I say the exact same thing about Western (and Japanese) media reports on North Korea. In fact, you could say I've been making a career of this lately, what with me questioning the whole bandwagon thing of Kim Jong-un being so obviously elevated to leadership and deriding the media in general for ignoring the real story of China slowly but steadily and surely absorbing North Korea (i.e., "the Manchurianization of North Korea").

Anyway, the Marmot's post is an interesting read, and it linked to something from 2009, Mr Cullen Thomas, the author of Brother One Cell who managed to get himself arrested in South Korea for mailing himself hashish from the Philippines, going online and on air to discuss how his own drug-related legal problems in South Korea in 1994 were kinda sorta maybe just like Laura Ling's and Euna Lee's in North Korea fifteen years later.

I must have been traveling from Seoul back to California or Hawaii when this post was up, because it seems I completely missed both The Marmot's post and this gem where Joshua of One Free Korea fisks it.

Setting aside what an idiot Mr Thomas was and how he's trying to milk that for all it's worth, what annoys me about his appearance on CNN is the way they conflate South Korea and North Korea. Right off the bat, in CNN's introduction to Mr Thomas's appearance, I knew it would be unworthy of my time.

I loathe the journalistic media's laziness, both intellectual and structural.

While it's true that Mr Thomas makes a valid point that apology is a way for courts in South Korea to provide leniency (something that he did not do, by the way), this is something that could be gleaned from just about any North Korea watcher or Korea expert (see my "Who is Kushibo?" bio to see if I qualify) by reading their blog.

There's an analogy in there somewhere. 

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