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I suppose this would be a bit morbid for television commentators to get into, but I'd really like to know what it is the DPRK is doing to ensure that their gymnasts don't defect while in Athens.

August 22, 2004 | Permalink

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Comments

Just a guess, but probably holding a member of their family (or the whole family) hostage, or perhaps just the "threat" that something will happen to a family member if they don't get back on the plane.

Now that's something that fits the Kleiman paradigm you wrote about earlier:

a really convincing threat will virtually eliminate the activity it's directed at (or crime by the person it's directed to), thus eliminating the need to deliver on the threat

Posted by: SoCalJustice | Aug 22, 2004 11:37:21 PM

According to the State Department:

The Penal Code is draconian, stipulating capital punishment and confiscation of all assets for a wide variety of "crimes against the revolution," including defection, attempted defection, slander of the policies of the party or State, listening to foreign broadcasts, writing "reactionary" letters, and possessing reactionary printed matter.

Posted by: SoCalJustice | Aug 22, 2004 11:51:17 PM

More from the State Department link:

The regime reportedly retaliates harshly against the relatives of those who manage to escape. According to the Penal Code, defection and attempted defection (including the attempt to gain entry to a foreign embassy for the purpose of seeking political asylum) are capital crimes. Defectors have stated that DPRK border guards have received shoot-to-kill orders against potential defectors attempting to cross the border into China. Other defectors have reported that some defectors who have been involuntarily returned have been executed

Posted by: SoCalJustice | Aug 22, 2004 11:54:36 PM

Ditto with SoCalJustice on keeping family members hostage. But in least some cases, you also have to make room for a remarkably effective and pervasive propaganda/brainwashing program in North Korea. See the recent article by BR Myers in the Atlantic, where he shows that even NK defectors can still get teary eyed about the regime's slogans and the "heroic leadership" of founder-god Kim Il Sung.

Posted by: rd | Aug 23, 2004 12:16:15 AM

What does that say about the harshness of the regime that they want to defect to CHINA?!

That would be like escaping Hitler by defecting to Franco.

Posted by: Adam Herman | Aug 23, 2004 1:52:35 AM

There was a fascinating documentary on the BBC recently about young gymnasts training for the "Mass Games" (which are both beautiful and terrifying). They seemed genuinely infatuated with the Dear Leader. There wasn't much background info. given (you had to remind yourself about the GULAGs), but from that I would guess the answer is 1) lifelong indoctrination, destruction of all critical faculties, 2) the children who are trained from youth probably come from Party backgrounds, 3) (therefore) their standard of living is actually relatively good.

People can be perfectly happy under totalitarianism. Ignorance is bliss after all, especially when you don't know your ignorant. Life without responsibility is a fine thing - this is why men create Gods, in heaven or on earth.


Wow, you'd almost swear I knew what I was talking about.

Posted by: DC | Aug 23, 2004 4:17:19 AM

What does that say about the harshness of the regime that they want to defect to CHINA?! That would be like escaping Hitler by defecting to Franco.

i.e. 'quite a sensible move'. Franco oppressed and killed his political opponents, whereas Hitler and Stalin killed people either at whim or on the basis of their ethnicity. Similarly, you can have quite a nice (and reasonably free) life in China as long as you don't actively oppose the government.

Posted by: john b | Aug 23, 2004 6:34:57 AM

Heh, heh - at least they get some things right:

North Korea rejects new talks with US, calls Bush an "imbecile"

In an unusually strong attack, a foreign ministry spokesman slammed Bush for calling North Korean leader Kim Jong-Il a tyrant during campaigning last Wednesday in Wisconin.
[...]
"He is a political imbecile bereft of even elementary morality as a human being and a bad guy," said the spokesman, quoted by the official KCNA news agency.

The spokesman accused Bush of trying to topple the legitimate government of North Korea, branding him "a tyrant that puts Hitler into the shade" as well as "an idiot, an ignorant, a tyrant and a man-killer."

Posted by: abb1 | Aug 23, 2004 6:46:50 AM

Heh, heh - at least they get some things right

Idiot.

Posted by: j.scott barnard | Aug 23, 2004 9:03:16 AM

What does that say about the harshness of the regime that they want to defect to CHINA?!

Further to John B's comment, China is the most realistic option, given that the patrolling of parts of its border with the DPRK (particularly the Tumen river) is somewhat lackadaisical. The Chinese government has signed a pact with DPRK whereby they repatriate any defectors they discover, so many of them carry on down to Vietnam and request asylum from the South Korean government there.

Posted by: Simon | Aug 23, 2004 9:07:08 AM

J. Scott Barnard,

No, really, they got it right.

Posted by: El Gringo Loco | Aug 23, 2004 9:37:42 AM

J. Scott Barnard -- Even a stopped clock is right twice a day. The North Korean government is loathesome, but they've got George Bush's number in more ways than one. They've played his administration like a violin on the NK nuclear development program.

Posted by: S. Anderson | Aug 23, 2004 10:58:50 AM

Usually there's plenty of carrot for Iron Curtain celebs as well. They get (relatively speaking) VIP status, nice crib, wheels, etc. And it's not like the fame of a free-world Olympic gold medalist lasts more than 15 minutes, anyway.

abb1: just because Bush is unquestionably the worst president in USA history doesn't mean he's comparable to Hitler, or that the pronouncements of loony dictators are "right" in any meaningful sense.

Posted by: son volt | Aug 23, 2004 11:07:09 AM

The NK government seems to still have a pretty tight hold on its elite members. They keep the athletes in line with privileges back home, tight security, and probably veiled threats against their loved ones. And all important ideological indoctrination. One of my friends at Moscow State University told me a story how back in the late perestroika days a teacher in a political science class initiated a discussion which turned critical of Kim Jong Il. The 4 or 5 North Korean students attending the lecture immediately rose en masse and left the room. My friend described their robotic-like response as "creepy."

Posted by: vanya | Aug 23, 2004 11:50:13 AM

They've played his administration like a violin on the NK nuclear development program.

And what would you have done differently? I would define "negotiating a toothless bilateral agreement, giving them tons of aid in exchange for broken promises" being played like a violin.

Posted by: Derek James | Aug 23, 2004 12:00:14 PM

Not invade Iraq for a start. NK needs a carrot and stick approach. Bush refused to let his administration conduct even the most basic talks with NK, preferring a lot of bluster. So much for the carrot. Then he tied down our military for the forseeable future in an unnecessary war. So much for the stick.

The main thing NK has learned from the Bush administration is that having a credible nuclear threat prevents invasion.

Posted by: S. Anderson | Aug 23, 2004 12:53:49 PM

"People can be perfectly happy under totalitarianism. Ignorance is bliss after all, especially when you don't know your ignorant."

I have a friend who was leader of his university Komsomol branch in the early 1980s. He says that in those days, he felt pity for us "Imperialists", as we didn't know the misery we were living under.

Posted by: Tom | Aug 23, 2004 1:22:27 PM

Uh, the fact that having a credible nuclear threat prevents invasion didn't need Bush to make it clear. Why do you think that various countries have spent so much time and money trying to establish said threat?

It's perfectly clear to anyone with two brain cells to rub together that we (and the South Koreans) would prefer both NK and Seoul extant, to NK invaded and Seoul nuked.

It's also perfectly clear that there's no percentage in us invading NK - nasty, nasty terrain, a VERY hostile populace, would anger the South Koreans no end. Iraq or no, it wasn't going to happen.

Posted by: Jake McGuire | Aug 23, 2004 1:23:23 PM

Uh, the fact that having a credible nuclear threat prevents invasion didn't need Bush to make it clear.

What Bush made clear is that the usually much cheaper method of not attacking the US and not assisting those that do doesn't work as it might have seemed previously, increasing the incentive to seek a nuclear deterrent.

Posted by: cmdicely | Aug 23, 2004 2:41:10 PM

Bush refused to let his administration conduct even the most basic talks with NK, preferring a lot of bluster.

What his administration preferred, if you've read even a single news story about the issue, is multilateral negotiations, with neighbors like China and Japan at the table, so that if we negotiated some sort of agreement, NK couldn't just blame it on American bad faith...they'd be beholden to their neighbors as well, who incidentally have a great deal at stake in the matter.

As Jake points out, it doesn't take a brain surgeon to figure out that nukes are an effective deterrent. That's why their program was going full tilt in the early 90's (do they have a crystal ball or something?). That's why they reneged on the "agreed framework" in the mid and late 90's and actually developed working nukes.

Again, I ask what you would have done differently. Not invading Iraq would have given us more available troops. Great. How was this supposed to work as a stick? And in terms of a carrot, it sounds as if you're in favor of bilateral negotiations, ala the previous agreement. Is this right? We give them tons of aid, with no credible assurances of compliance or verification, outside the auspices of any allies or any international institution.

Damn...that sounds like a fine idea.

Posted by: Derek James | Aug 23, 2004 3:34:09 PM

"NK needs a carrot and stick approach. Bush refused to let his administration conduct even the most basic talks with NK, preferring a lot of bluster. So much for the carrot."

Amazing comment. No discussion of the remarkable results of the carrot approach in allowing NK to develop nuclear weapons 1994-2001?

Posted by: Sebastian Holsclaw | Aug 23, 2004 4:09:03 PM

There is not going to be an invasion of North Korea, and there was never going to be an invasion of North Korea (regardless of U.S. policy in Iraq), unless South Korea decided it was a good idea, and expressed that notion in elections. Thus, there was never going to be, and there will not be, an invasion of North Korea, unless North Korea is so stupid as to launch an attack. The North Korean nitwit's (and nearly all totalitarians are nitwits) development of nuclear weapons was completely pointless from a military viewpoint.

Posted by: Will Allen | Aug 23, 2004 4:09:05 PM

Jake McGuire:

"It's also perfectly clear that there's no percentage in us invading NK - nasty, nasty terrain, a VERY hostile populace"

Gee, yeah, I'd hate to see Bush get us stuck in a war like that...

Posted by: El Gringo Loco | Aug 23, 2004 4:22:37 PM

Amazing comment. No discussion of the remarkable results of the carrot approach in allowing NK to develop nuclear weapons 1994-2001?

It's the opposite. The carrot/stick approach worked well in the 90s. The stick/no carrot approach in the last 3 years allowed NK to quickly develop nuclear weapons.

Posted by: abb1 | Aug 23, 2004 4:37:16 PM

The carrot/stick approach worked well in the 90s. The stick/no carrot approach in the last 3 years allowed NK to quickly develop nuclear weapons.

Yeah, if by "well" you mean "horribly". NK suspended production of plutonium at the Yongbyon site in 1994. By that time they probably already had enough for a nuclear device, and by some estimates they already had one. In all likelihood, they continuted enrichment of uranium in direct violation of the 1994 agreement, throughout the 1990's.

They've had nuclear ambitions going back to the 80's. This isn't a partisan issue, and NK's development of nukes isn't a direct result of Bush Administration policies. To suggest so displays a staggering lack of perspective and information.

Posted by: Derek James | Aug 23, 2004 5:32:09 PM

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