by Austin Bay
May 25, 2010
In an essay written in 1945 titled "Funny, But NotVulgar," George Orwell argued that "a thing is funny when ... itupsets the established order." Toward the end of the essay, Orwell added,"To be funny, indeed, you have got to be serious."
Radio Free Asia (RFA) took Orwell quite seriously when, in2008, it asked North Korean defectors if there was humor in North Korea. RFAreported they answered with "a resounding "yes."" Thedefectors provided jokes that RFA used to spice Korean language programs.
RFA's website provides this particularly rich example:
An Englishman, a Frenchman and a North Korean are having achat. The Englishman says, "I feel happiest when I'm at home, my woolpants on, sitting in front of the fireplace." The Frenchman says:"You English people are so conventional. I feel happiest when I go to aMediterranean beach with a beautiful blond-haired woman, and we do what we'vegot to do on the way back." The North Korean says, "In the middle ofthe night, the secret police knock on the door, shouting, 'Kang Sung-Mee,you're under arrest!' And I say, 'Kang Sung-Mee doesn't live here, but rightnext door!' That's when we're happiest!"
Military, police, medics and others who work inlife-and-death situations use 'gallows humor' to cope. In Kim's Korea, everyonecopes using gallows humor because a literal gallows waits for them. If they getto laugh one more night, it's a good joke.
The sinking of the South Korean warship Cheonan in lateMarch is no joke, however. The North Korean torpedo that sank the ship andkilled 46 sailors is a wake-up knock from a nuclear-armed police state thatstarves, jails and murders its own people, runs a global weapons and narcoticssmuggling ring, and uses assassins, kidnappers, terrorists, ballistic missiles,soldiers and nuclear weapons to extort cash from neighboring South Korea andJapan.
Consider the record. Kim Il-Sung, who launched the KoreanWar 60 years ago, waged a low-level war along the demilitarized zone (DMZ) from1966 to 1976. In 1983, North Korean assassins detonated a bomb in Rangoon,Myanmar, that killed 17 South Korean officials.
After his father's death in 1994, Kim Jong-Il threatenedviolence during the various 1990s nuclear negotiations. This decade, Kim firedballistic missiles and detonated a nuke. South Korea and its allies rewardedthe regime's armed tantrums with food and economic aid. Liberal South Koreanpresidents dubbed it The Sunshine Policy -- an outreach to North Korea'ssuffering people. The policy sought to demonstrate to Kim the benefits ofeconomic cooperation. Critics like current South Korean President LeeMyung-bak, however, argued gifts met with insistent belligerence was stupiddiplomacy.
The North Korean police state's midnight torpedo knockcompletely kills the Sunshine Policy.
Why the torpedo? In a column written three weeks ago, Isuggested that the attack might be a macabre 60th anniversary commemoration ofNorth Korea's attack on South Korea, one appealing to the malign psyche ofNorth Korea's dictator, Kim Jong-Il. After all, Kim gets his sexed-up jolliesby sending commandos south to kidnap movie starlets whom he then enslaves asconcubines. He's a sociopath who uses violence to get what he wants.
Kim can't handle real sunshine -- the truth. In the 60 yearssince the Korean War began, South Korea has decisively defeated North Korea inthe social and economic spheres. Only in military terms, in the basedestructive power of Pyongyang's large armies and nascent nuclear weaponsprogram, does the North challenge the South. War is all Kim has. Violence ishow he controls his own people -- assassination and threats of nuclearimmolation are how he relates to the rest of the world.
As we enter the summer of 2010, the risk of all-out war onthe Korean Peninsula is quite high, and possibly the highest it has been sincethe armistice was signed in 1953. The armistice suspended major combat -- it isnot a peace treaty. The situation is quite serious. It's time to end the KoreanWar, and that means ending the Kim regime, not placating it. That's the messageto send Pyongyang. Until South Korea and the Obama administration face thatfact, the wicked joke is on us.