Friday, March 10, 2006

I like North Koreans

Sing it with me the tune of Monty Python's "I like Chinese..."

For the past year + I’ve been working on writing a paper on N. Korea.  It’s getting to the point where 4 friends have asked me in the last week if I was done yet.  I’ve wondered, why have I been working on this for so long.  And then, reading the news today, it became clear.


I like North Koreans.


Wait.  No, really, wait.  It’s not some sort of allegiance transferring fixation.  I share approximately none of their fervor for socialism, nor do I have a great deal of respect for the cult of Kim Jong-Il that is pervasive in the Hermit Kingdom.


But how can you not love a people who’s government is so brazen, has such little regard for consequence, that they’ll release a statement with the conditions like the one below.  North Korea left negotiations about their nuclear program a while back, over the perceived insults that the United States wasn’t being an honest broker: we had stopped all U.S. transactions with a bank in Macao believed to be used by North Korea to launder money and transport counterfeit U.S. currency into the world market (because when you’re a country that doesn’t believe in trade, but you have a leader who likes Japanese chefs, you have to pay them with something… and the drug market is already busy supporting your military).


So, because they don’t believe the U.S. has been fair towards their put-upon and much maligned repressive regime, North Korea has placed some “reasonable” stipulations on its return to negotiations (from the Washington Post):


“Li Gun, the senior North Korean official at the meeting, made four requests, according to a U.S. official familiar with the talks. They included demanding that the United States remove what he called "financial sanctions," form a joint U.S.-North Korean task force to examine the counterfeiting concerns, give North Korea access to the U.S. banking system, and provide North Korea with technical help on identifying counterfeit bills.”


There are four demands.  We’ll take them 1 at a time for easy reasoning.

  1. The U.S. should remove “financial sanctions.”  First of all, either there are financial sanctions or there are not.  What are “financial sanctions”?  Maybe North Korea is talking about the fact that it doesn’t really like to trade with the outside world, except under enormously circumscribed situations (though there are bright spots of change).  So North Korea would like the U.S. to end its trade sanctions, so North Korea could sell us all thing things it makes—like starving people.  Or nuclear weapons.  Or Heroin.  Hmm…
  2. Form a joint U.S.-North Korea task-force to examine counterfeiting concerns.  Actually, sounds good.  Get U.S. and North Koreans to work together on something.  My only concern is—apart from POW-MIA remains joint-ventures—no U.S.-DPRK cooperation has led to anything besides vituperation from both sides.  So this might just be a short-circuit to conflict as opposed to a way to resolve differences (like, U.S.: “You counterfeit our currency, please stop.”  North Korea: “We don’t counterfeit your currency.  Here, I’ll pick up the lunch tab with my shiny new $100 bill from Pyongyang.  I got it from a nice shop-keeper in Pyongyang, where it is illegal for North Koreans to have U.S. currency.”)
  3. Give North Korea access to the U.S. banking system.  Because that’s exactly what a country (the U.S.) which has concerns about another country (North Korea’s) money laundering plans is going to do.  Especially when a country (the United States) closes down another country’s (North Korea) international money-laundering bank in Macao.  Right, North Korea.  You don’t need to counterfeit U.S. currency any more, and then launder it through Macao.  We’ll let you launder directly in the U.S.  Mmm hmm.  


Oh, and how do you have any international currency?  What do you sell on the world market?  You don’t have, officially, any exports.  Ohh!  Wait!  More Heroin and illegal drug-running money.  Just the kinds of things Uncle Sam (and the Heartland) want you to be able to deposit in our banks.  Good try though.


  1. Provide North Korea with technical help on identifying counterfeit bills.  Yes.  This is exactly what we need to do.  We need to help a country that has—through some miracle of twisted government resource allocation (theirs, not U.S.)—become a leading counterfeiter of U.S. currency, learn what the U.S. does to catch counterfeiters so they can do it better.


Can I just say that this whole chain of stipulations is one of the greatest acts of diplomatic nicety I’ve witnessed in a while that is actually no more than a great, and giant nose-thumbing at the recipient country.  And when the country you’re flicking off has a whole slew of bombs, guns, and big people standing ready to jump into, drop on, or shoot at your country, sticking it to them requires more than a little bit of hubris.  Go North Korea.  Way to be a shining light for reason and progress to all those less fortunate than yourself.

1 comment:

alektra said...

Oh, they're not Muslims, so they don't have to worry till at least 2008. They can have 2 more years of fun for now!