Earlier this month the Ministry of Unification reported that production at the Kaesong Industrial Complex had nearly re-attained pre-shut down levels, reaching $35.2 million in December 2013, 94 percent of the December 2012 level. The government of North Korea responded by agitating for higher wages, demanding a 60 percent increase in the monthly base salary from $67 to $107. How much of this money actually reaches the workers is unknown, as I pointed out in a paper released last week by the US-Korea Institute at SAIS.
To my chagrin, the South Korean press focused exclusively on a single paragraph in the paper addressing the issue of KIC wages and completely ignored the broader point of the paper that there is little evidence of current labor relations delivering the sort of broad transformative effects of engagement posited by Kim Dae-jung and others. USKI has posted the video of the event so you can decide if the press coverage was accurate or not.
Speaking of videos, the Commission of Inquiry has put together a compilation video from the hundreds of hours of testimony that it heard. Not sure if I made the mixtape. In a fusillade of illogic, China rejected the report at the Human Rights Commission, reducing the chance that the case will be referred to the ICC, but the report and the video testimonies will endure as a lasting indictment of the North Korean regime, and one should expect this issue to reappear in the Security Council.
Last month Steph and I provided separate accounts of the Brian Myers-Joel Wit bout; my write-up focused on the parallels between North Korea and South Africa, a parallel that plays an important role in Myers’ argument, and makes many center-left supporters of engagement deeply uncomfortable. (For the record, I consider myself center-left and support engagement but without any illusions.) Wit, who manages the 38th North website, apparently wanted to extend the donnybrook a couple more rounds, commissioning James Hoare and Erich Weingarten to attack Myers’ position. Reminded me a bit of the practice of 19th century gentlemen hiring others to do their martial duty. Whatever. The line that left me speechless was in Weingarten’s essay: “A recent article featured on NK News entitled “Subverted Engagement” elicited an angry exchange between the author, B.R. Myers, and an American who shall go nameless.” An American who shall go nameless? How about “Joel Wit, the guy who manages this website,”? Maybe it’s a Canadian attempt at humor. Beats me.
But I digress. Christian Caryl has a wonderful piece at FP.com on how to spot a genuine fascist.
Deification of the state. Check.
Cult of the supreme leader. Check.
Idolization of the military. Check.
Dismissal of rationality. Check.
Self-identification of unique political culture. Check.
Caryl’s conclusion: “There is, however, at least one modern-day regime that might actually qualify as fascist (even though it's rarely described in such terms). It remains unapologetically totalitarian in its outlook, and despite its presumed adherence to communist ideology it openly espouses its own people's racial superiority while indulging in an extravagant führerkult that has no parallel elsewhere in the world. If anyone has got the fascist vibe down pat, surely it's the North Koreans. Compared with them, everyone else are just dilettantes.”
Who loves ya, baby?