Sunday, February 09, 2003

What idiotarianism looks like

Instapundit links to a U.S. News article on Korea. Many Koreans are not too happy with U.S. presence and policies on the peninsula, which is both fair and understandable. No one is expected to particularly relish the idea of having foreign troops present on his soil, regardless of their intentions. Korea, which has been walked over by Asian powers almost as much as Poland was by Europeans, can certainly be expected to resent a foreign intrusion.

That said, intelligent adult Koreans are supposed to be better than this:

"A North Korean attack is not possible," insists Jung Sun Ok, 23, a student at Yonsei University in Seoul.
The emphasis is mine, because that one phrase emphasizes the sheer stupidity of this argument. It's nothing more than a bald, undefended assertion, as baseless as it is demonstrably false. (Who does Ms. Jung think fought in the Korean War, anyway?) But more than that, it's a dangerous delusion. North Korea maintains a giant army and is openly working on nuclear weapons even as its own civilians are starving; why would the Kim Jong Il regime suddenly blanche at killing a few hudred thousand South Koreans if that suited their aims?

Another young woman, Choi Sun Jung, "explains" why a North Korean attack on the South is impossible:

The 32-year-old science teacher is confident that the North would never attack this busy metropolis 35 miles from the demilitarized zone. "We are brothers. We are the same blood," she says over a steaming cup of tea.
This is tribalism at its very worst and most delusional -- they can't hurt me, they are my people! It seems that Ms. Choi likewise missed the lesson in school where they explained just how that DMZ came to exist. There is a good bit of unstated racism in this assumption as well: surely Ms. Choi has heard of civil wars in other places on earth, so why does she believe that Koreans are immune? It's never explained, because both Ms. Jung and Ms. Choi don't really think any of this -- they feel it. It's this substitution of feelings and warm fuzzies for cold, rational, and sometimes unpleasant thoughts that defines idiotarianism.

Of course, no progressive cause purveyors can go home without sticking it to The Man™, and our heroines are no exceptions.

The real problem, Choi explains, is the United States, which has been "arrogant" and "continually threatened" the North. The North Koreans, she says, are pursuing their nuclear program "to defend themselves, not to attack other countries."
I will resist the temptation to ask how Ms. Choi actually knows this, how nukes are supposed to help the North defend against an American invasion (what are they going to do, nuke themselves?), why the U.S. would want to spend even a single soldier to invade North Korea, or if that's indeed the dastardly American plan, why we waited 50 years to do so. I'll just move onto Ms. Jung's statement, which I find more amusing:

"The U.S. enjoys inducing the crisis with the North Koreans so its forces can stay here."
That's it. That's the extent of the conspiracy: the U.S. is constantly stirring up trouble in Korea so that we can continue to spend billions of dollars per year to base our troops there. Why? No idea. To what end? No answer. Perhaps it's time someone started a new movement stateside, to get the U.S. out of Korea. No blood for kimchee! -- it has a certain ring to it.

The honor-shame complex that we often see in the Arab world rears its ugly head here, too:

She has joined in months of candlelight vigils near the U.S. Embassy, sparked by the deaths of two Korean schoolgirls accidentally crushed by a U.S. Army vehicle last June. The weekly vigils have been winding down, but the student activists at Yonsei want to keep them going until, as one campus poster says, "the arrogant U.S. bows its head and apologizes."
The emphasis, again, is mine. In fact, the word "arrogant" appears twice in this article, both times used to describe the U.S. It annoys me not so much because it's unfair -- it may very well be true, in fact -- but because it is so irrelevant to the discussion at hand. The South Koreans are facing a starved, lunatic Stalinist outfit not seen since the days of Pol Pot, their family members in the north are chattel and they themselves are de facto hostages, and Seoul's "best and brightest" are worried that the U.S. hurt their feelings? Here's a hint: try this kind of protest against Pyongyang some time, m'kay?

(For the record, the U.S. ambassador to South Korea did apologize, for something that was nothing more than a traffic accident. Has Pyongyang ever apologized for kidnapping South Korean and Japanese citizens? Right...)

Hang on, though, it seems that plenty of people in the South do want the Americans to stay. Perhaps it's because they've been disabused of the fantasy that Koreans can't hurt other Koreans:

A few miles away, Kim Young Il thinks he knows the North Korean regime a bit better. Fifty years ago, on a freezing day in January 1953, the 13-year-old Kim saw North Korean troops execute his entire family--his parents and seven sisters--with bursts of machine-gun fire. Kim managed to escape his village a few miles north of the DMZ. He caught a lift on a U.S. Army truck headed south and never went back. "I hate the Communists. You can't trust them," says Kim, who survived at first by shining shoes and then drove trucks and taxis. "The younger generation needs to wake up. They don't understand war."
No. They are too worried about their feelings. And their fantasies.

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