South Korea vs. Christine Ahn
I can think of very little—if anything—on which Christine Ahn and I agree. Our differences run the gamut from the causes of the famine (don’t blame the regime!), through her silences with respect to human rights abuses in the North, including with respect to women, to her proclivity to see much of what has gone wrong—but not right—on the Korean peninsula as a result of American intervention.
But principle is principle, and the recent news that Ahn was proscribed from visiting South Korea on the grounds that she might “hurt the national interests and public safety” of South Korea is far-fetched to say the least. I thought her efforts to organize the Women Cross the DMZ event in 2015 were criticized unfairly—despite some lapses—and as I wrote in a post on the march that generated a lively discussion, the sky hardly fell. What is the threat, precisely, that someone like Ahn poses?
Countries have the right to control who comes and goes. But when an advanced industrial democracy starts excluding foreigners on the basis of their political views—as South Korea did in 2015 with another American national Shin Eun-mi—it typically reflects some domestic lapses with respect to civil liberties as well. Perhaps the Moon administration can finally rid South Korea of its anachronistic national security laws and gratuitous judgments such as these. As Jong-sung You and I have argued with respect to the erosion of freedom of the press in South Korea, the best antidote for bad ideas is not official censure—which only burnishes the victim narrative—but public exposure.