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LETTER TO THE EDITOR (Regarding Article on North Korea)
I’ve been greatly impressed with what you’ve accomplished over the last seven years, and have been honored to contribute to it.
However, I am extremely concerned and deeply troubled by the special section on North Korea in the latest issue, and have been mulling it over a lot.
Certainly there is room to criticize some of what the U.S. has done in Korea. This includes its support for Syngman Rhee and its lack of support for Korea during the Japanese occupation. Further, war being what it is, there undoubtedly were American atrocities during the Korean War. However, the extreme views of some of the articles is disturbing.
Of particular concern was the "North Korea holds a peace conference" article by George Katsiaficas. His article implies there is nothing seriously awry with the North Korean state and portrays the so-called International Conference for Peace on the Korean Peninsula as a fair, broad-based event. Such extreme bias should not go unexamined or unanswered.
The conference's extremism is revealed by one of its participants, the World Federation of Trade Unions. The WFTU has published its own summary of the "International Conference for the Maintenance of Peace on the Korean Peninsula from the 23 to 25 July, and the celebration of the 50th Anniversary of the Great Victory of the War of Liberation." Posted on the web site of the Blacktown Branch of the Communist Party of Australia, www.agitprop.org.au, the WFTU account says this about the conference:
"Participating organizations…denounced the war policies of
the Bush Administration which have put all humanity in peril."
"Speaking on behalf of the WFTU, Comrade Valentin Pacho…paid
homage to the [North] Korean heroes who defeated the North American invaders 50
years ago and condemned the resurgence of neo-fascism headed by the Bush
"Evidence of the crimes committed by US troops 50 years ago
were presented, on the mass killing of millions of Korean citizens, including
thousands of children….[T]he People's Tribunal issued the verdict which
condemns the United States for crimes against humanity committed against the
people of Korea."
"[T]he participants of the International Conference…visited
the Memorial Palace of the Kumsusan, to pay homage to the Great Leader Kim Il
Sung, who died 10 years ago and who led the victory of the Korean people in
defeating the imperialist invaders headed by the United States."
· "[T]he International Conference for Peace on the Korean Peninsula in the framework of the 50th anniversary of the great victory of the War of Liberation, in the city of Pyongyang, was one of the definitely transcendental events for the strengthening of the struggle for Peace in the world, and the rejection of the belligerent and neofascist policies of the Bush government."
Praising a conference that—at least according to one of its participants—paid homage to the dead dictator Kim Il Sung while being unable to distinguish between George Bush and fascism isn’t the article's only bias, however. Mr. Katsiaficas also alleges American troops massacred 35,000 civilians in Sinchon, starting on October 17, 1950. However, an Internet search for evidence about this alleged massive massacre yields only sources that are from the far left, which are not exactly unbiased sources. If a massacre of 35,000 had indeed occurred in Sinchon, shouldn't there be one unbiased, non-political source for the information?
This dearth of evidence contrasts markedly with the abundant substantiation for the Rape of Nanking. Many Japanese to this day deny their troops massacred hundreds of thousands of people after the Japanese seized the old capital of China in December 1937. Nonetheless, there are numerous lengthy, verifiable accounts -- including photographs and eyewitness accounts, some of them from high-ranking Japanese officers. These accounts are not limited to Iris Chang's 1997 book, but include Honda Katsuichi's 1971 book and accounts published in Japan in the 1950s and 1960s.
Mr. Katsiaficas also claims, "The system in North Korea seems nowhere near collapse. Food is growing everywhere, and hopes are high for a bumper crop." At best, this is a partial truth.
According to Agence France-Presse, an Oct. 4, 2003 report of the South Korean Unification Ministry concludes, "Impoverished North Korea needs some 1.1 million tonnes of food aid to avert famine this year....the communist state needs a bare minimum of 6.32 million tonnes to feed its 22 million population. Domestic production of 4.13 million tonnes supplemented by imports of 580,000 tonnes and food aid of 510,000 tonnes from abroad leave a shortfall that could leave more than three million people facing hunger."
An October 30, 2003 news release of the World Food Programme and the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations says, "despite better harvests this year, the Democratic People's Republic of Korea (North Korea) will have another substantial food deficit in 2004….A combination of insufficient domestic production, the narrow and inadequate diet of much of the population and growing disparities in access to food as the purchasing power of many households declines, means that some 6.5 million vulnerable North Koreans will require assistance next year."
In spite of these dire conditions, a Sept. 30, 2003 report by the (South) Korean Information Service says, "So far, North Korea has limited outside inspection of its food distribution system, arousing speculation that the country may be diverting aid to its military."
Giving over whole pages of Korean Quarterly to extreme views, partial truths, and unsubstantiated claims disguised as a journalistic account undermines the credibility of a wonderful publication.
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