November 2 2007
On the wall of Donald Rumsfeld's office when he was heading the Pentagon was a photograph of the electric lights lighting up $outhern Korea at night.(1) He had a contrast with the picture of northern Korea, his point being that it is better to be a U.$.-client state than an independent one like northern Korea which has suffered economically. This contrast inspired Rumsfeld and other neo- conservatives to undertake the Iraq adventure, but the picture that Rumsfeld, Cheney and Bush have in mind when thinking of Korea is a great irony of history.
The united $tates imposed an "Anti-Communist Law" on the $outhern Korean regime. Today the NSL--"National Security Law"--supersedes the anti-communist law.(2) These laws originally imposed by the U.$. military in Korea successfully produced two generations of $outhern Koreans ignorant of their own history and critical concepts of political power. This $outhern Korean ignorance accentuated by Confucian conformity to U.$.-installed McCarthyism in turn fooled Amerikan leaders decades down the road. It was a case of McCarthy- era war propagandists fooling their own children.
This is not to say that $outhern Korea is any less free than the united $tates. What it lacks by way of press and cultural freedom, $outhern Korea makes up for in having a lower imprisonment rate than the united $tates.(3) That is not our point here.
Rather, the irony is that the united $tates imposed anti-communist wartime propaganda, and then people such as Bush, Rumsfeld, Cheney and Ann Coulter actually forgot that it was wartime propaganda and started believing their own stories. When they went to Iraq with their fantasies from Korea protected by restrictions on Korean parties and the press, they appeared simply inept; although, Naomi Klein would point out that such shocks as the Iraq War provide U.$. business opportunities.
If in fact, Rumsfeld and Cheney had lived under $outhern Korea's U.$.- imposed laws, they would have spent the 1980s protesting torture and seeking the release of their comrades from prison. That might be an exaggeration, because one of them, Irving Kristol was a Trotskyist in 1940 before the Korean War happened,(4) but transport Kristol 30 years forward and then the analogy holds. Then again, maybe it would not hold, because maybe the CIA would have bailed out Kristol, $outhern Korea being such a lackey regime, and the CIA with an historical soft spot for Trotskyists. Then again, maybe not, because as recently as 1998, Amnesty International says the following happened:
"At least 10 members of a group called International Socialists were arrested and charged under Article 7 of the National Security Law in May for forming an organization which "benefits" the enemy. In reality, Amnesty International believes they are held solely on account of their left-wing ideas. In a related case, student Ha Young- joon was arrested in April for sending a Trotskyist article to the homepage of a computer discussion group."(5)
Another neo-Trotskyite Burnham founded the "National Review," the flagship of U.$. conservatism.(6) Things start to get touchy in reference to Richard Perle and Paul Wolfowitz, two prominent pro-Iraq War neo-conservatives tied to Trotskyism and the Pentagon. However, even in this touchy situation, what Alan Wald says is that the "New York Intellectuals" had a Trotskyist culture.(7) That's what he says by way of denying that the neo-conservative connection to Trotskyism is as large as claimed.
That is exactly enough of a point for our discussion of the law in $outhern Korea. Whether or not Perle and Wolfowitz were card-carrying members of an organization, the fact is that they enjoyed the freedom to discuss Trotskyism or communism more generally. In $outhern Korea, there is a law against "praising" anti-state ideologies--the NSL. While there is page after page of U.$. articles discussing the connections of today's neo-conservatism to Trotskyism and neo- Trotskyism, such articles would be considered organizing anti-state activity in Korea. We won't even mention what would have happened to the large portions of recent Labour Party cabinets in England with pro-Stalin backgrounds.
Nor is this just a matter of Confucian Korean conformity. Koreans now have Amerikan-style divorce,(8) but whether videogames should be allowed to depict characters blowing away police with the weapons commonly found in Amerikan games is still debated. Last we checked-- $outhern Korea banned games depicting violent attacks on the state.
We would probably approve of the Koreans' banning of "Mercenaries: Playground of Destruction."(9) In 2007, $outhern Korea is considering unbanning a number of games involving war with northern Korea.(10) We have no way of knowing if Koreans will go on deleting police from getting killed in their games. The Wikipedia encyclopedia reports: "Splinter Cell: Chaos Theory was also banned in South Korea due to the destruction of the South Korean capital Seoul in the game. However, the ban was recently lifted in late 2006."(11) More significant than these bans is what would be inconceivable to even submit for consideration as a videogame.
Arriving in 1994 in Korea, punk rock actually coincided with a decrease in politics in music, unlike in England and the united $tates. Rock music came with individualism in style to Korea, not an anti-state challenge.(13) This again is another proof that certain things are just out-of-bounds in $outhern Korea. After all, the average opinion is more anti-capitalist in $outhern Korea than England or the united $tates, but it shows up in music less than it does in the united $tates.
After getting out of prison for "praising," the famous neo-cons could also receive long sentences for "infiltration," which means working for the government. Their sentences would be even worse than for "praising" or "organizing." If they were not dead when they left prison, they could finally go to prison for spying for northern Korea, sort of like having Floridians arrested for spying on Alabamans.
The Amerikan fantasy about Korea has three parts:
1) It was a regional thing where northern Koreans wanted the communism thing, not in southern Korea.
2) It was a matter of some communist infiltrators from the Soviet Union and China.
3) The U.S. Army arrived and simply imposed freedom.
In truth, socialist and communist ideologies spread through southern Korea at the time. Influenced by China, the Soviet Union and even the U.$. occupation in Japan, Koreans also had already undertaken radical change by 1950 when the Korean War started. There was not some artificial property of Korean land that below a certain latitude Korean culture generated no socialists or communists.
The trouble arose in years subsequent to the Korean War when a rigidness of thinking sank in deep in $outhern Korea in regard to communism. The war had ended in actual fighting terms, but the war propaganda never did. It became illegal to acknowledge people of socialist or communist beliefs in $outhern Korea. Opinions were actually more anti-capitalist but also more repressed in Korea than in the united $tates. It is not just liberals hiding their opinions or pasts, because there are also many Ann Coulter-type GNP figures yet to be outed. Connections to reality exist everywhere, but as time goes on, participants from the Korean War die off. Probably dedicated academicians will see to some documentation, but there are many ordinary people held in terror for what revelations about their past or the past of others might reveal.
We will not deny the economic advances in $outhern Korea, only point out that only two factors explain their existence: 1) the land reform carried out by radical Koreans just before U.$. troops arrived; 2) intercourse with the widest and deepest economy in the world. (14) It mattered not a whit whether it was capitalist or socialist, just that it was willing to trade.
Of course, the Ann Coulter-style retort is that northern Korea is not a "free country." In the first place, Kim does not claim to be leading the "free world," only the world's national independence movement, with his "juche" ideology.(15) It is the united $tates and its $outhern Korean lackey regime making claims about "freedom."
Leaving aside that the united $tates is the world's prison leader, not northern Korea, northern Korea never spent $2 trillion(16) invading other countries based on 50-year-old wartime propaganda it fed its people. Ironically, the greatest beneficiary of abolishing the Korean NSL would probably be the Amerikan people, who have an artificial view of $outhern Korean history. If Amerikans would learn a little more about the truth, that for instance Koreans were even more likely than "New York Intellectuals" to chew on communism, they would have a better understanding of why their Iraq War went wrong. That could save Amerikans a lot of money, now, and in the future, more than $outhern Koreans are going to save when they finally learn the truth about the foundation of their own country.
3. At 133 prisoners per 100,000, the $outhern Korean imprisonment rate is one-fifth that of the united $tates at 686 per 100,000 in 2001.
6. http://www.nationalreview.com/comment/comment-schwartz061103.asp ;
8. http://www.divorcereform.org/nonus.html There were 143,922 "amicable divorces" in 2004 and 310,944 marriages in 2004 in Korea, contrary to Confucian custom.
16. http://www.harvardmagazine.com/on-line/050682.html ;