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30 May 2009

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Sidney O. Smith III

Somewhat as a successsful and heroic Korean lady (mentioned above, if interested) use to say to me from time to time, “You think you so smart American. You got double digit IQ. You think you know Korean feeling. You know nothing. Take look at this.”

http://tinyurl.com/qu46zk

And she’s right, as I was later to discover. Also, evidence is overwhelming (speaking empirically and certainly corroborated via Michael Breen’s extraordinary work) that the concept of Kibun would play a crucial role in decision making, including going nuclear.

Not sure I would apply traditional Western thinking to determine Korean intentions, but to each his or her own.

Neil Richardson

"Somewhat as a successsful and heroic Korean lady (mentioned above, if interested) use to say to me from time to time, “You think you so smart American. You got double digit IQ. You think you know Korean feeling. You know nothing. Take look at this.”

http://tinyurl.com/qu46zk

And she’s right, as I was later to discover. Also, evidence is overwhelming (speaking empirically and certainly corroborated via Michael Breen’s extraordinary work) that the concept of Kibun would play a crucial role in decision making, including going nuclear.

Not sure I would apply traditional Western thinking to determine Korean intentions, but to each his or her own.

Posted by: Sidney O. Smith III | 03 June 2009 at 01:58 PM"


Well "han" isn't necessarily a cultural sentiment unique to the Koreans though. And I'm well aware of its avowed significance as I have kept up with their popular literature going back to 1972. Note that I say avowed because I've never seen it affect their decisionmaking when it comes to non-security matters such as FDI, trade negotiations, etc etc (And I've also heard plenty of Koreans say "Kibun i napado halsu up suh.") And I would refrain from generalizing too much on nuclear matters, because we used to infer possible Soviet willingness to risk a nuclear war in the 1950s. Khrushchev was constantly threatening then while their ideologues were putting together favorable trends in their correlation of forces (thank goodness we had Ike who refused to take them seriously even when his own generals were urging a much harsher response). Well, we saw the limits of Soviet (nuclear) warfighting doctrine during the Cuban Missile Crisis. The thinking in the 1950s and early 60s was that Massive Retaliation was flawed and the US needed a more flexible nuclear warfighting doctrine (cf. the works of Kissinger, Wohlstetters, and to a lesser degree Thomas Schelling). That later led to PD-59 under Carter and a general move toward counterforce doctrine during the Reagan era because we were hedging on the possibility that the Soviets didn't value its own people but its political leadership, C3I, state control apparatus, nuclear arsenal, etc. Well in the end that probably was a lot of wasted resources.

As Robert Jervis would say nuclear deterrence is relatively simple because the potential cost is extraordinarily high. A lot of these theoretical mumbo jumbo that some at RAND and elsewhere came up with overlook the most primal aspect of a potential nuclear exchange with limited options. No one can ever be sure how it would all end. THAT is what makes nuclear deterrence relatively simple to achieve provided one can guarantee the survivability of a retaliatory force. I don't agree with Kenneth Waltz and John Mearsheimer that nuclear proliferation is a stabilizing development for international politics, because I worry about "normal accident" possibilities as well the usual problems associated with securing command and control (cf. Scott Sagan etc). However, from the NK leadership's point of view, initiating a nuclear exchange against a vastly superior enemy that would guarantee its obliteration doesn't serve its purpose. Managing to survive on meager means while staving off starvation of its people is a lot more attractive than certain annihilation. To borrow a popular Reagan era term, we hold the "escalation dominance" in any crisis. However, we are self-deterred because the cost isn't worth the trouble. How about Mao in the 1950s and early 1960s? Khruschev himself told us that Mao was crazy as he'd constantly criticize the Soviets for "playing by the rules" of the West and refusing to use nuclear weapons. If the Koreans have their "han", the Chinese certainly had their shame from two centuries of humiliation at the hands of the Western colonial powers and Japan. Was their behavior after proliferation any worse than that of the US/USSR? When Kissinger conveniently relayed the Soviet inquiry on our reaction to a potential Soviet nuclear preemption, Mao's China reacted the way any threatened state would. It aligned with the enemy of its enemy and Nixon went to China.

There's another very popular Korean expression ("Jip uh bo jah.") that roughly translates to "Let's pinch him". I'd translate it as "Let's probe a little" in order to get a reaction. IMHO that is what the NK regime is doing with its recent set of provocative behavior. I think the administration's response has been the right one as we ought to ignore them just as the previous one did.

Neil Richardson

"Not sure I would apply traditional Western thinking to determine Korean intentions, but to each his or her own."

To Sidney Smith:


Let me add just two quick points about "kibun" and "han". First, unless one subscribes to a point of view that North Koreans and South Koreans are very different perhaps even to the core, we would have to assume that such cultural factors affect the Korean people similiarly. If anyone had suffered plenty and possessed even more than the usual share of "han" among Koreans, it would have been Park Chunghee. He was commissioned in the IJA (and as you know the Koreans were second class imperial subjects who were forced to change their names as well as to speak Japanese) and was seen as fiercely anti-Japanese by the Kennedy administration (that's one of the reasons why the US refused to support him). Yet this didn't stop him from improving Korean-Japanese relations and launching the indebted industrialization that in many ways paralleled the Japanese economic development. If anyone had terrible kibun in the latter part of his life, it would be hard to top Park as the North Koreans tried to assault the Blue House in 1968. And in 1974 an NK agent narrowly missed him but killed his beloved wife in an assassination attempt. Yet he showed remarkable restraint because he had to. How about the Rangoon bombing? Chun Do Hwan who was ruthless bit the bullet even though there were plenty among his KMA Class 11 (the ruling elite) who were urging him to retaliate.

As I had pointed out, the North Korean responses to potential escalations had been limited at crucial times. Finally after Hwang Jang-Yop defected (and I cannot emphasize how big an event this had been at the time because it had domestic reverberation in NK), an angry Kim Jong-Il ordered a hit on a minor defector Ri Han-Yong. Their responses tend to be measured as I pointed out. The outlandish North Korean rhetoric (esp. KCNA statements) is similar to Nixon's "Mad Man Theory" IMHO.

curious

However, from the NK leadership's point of view, initiating a nuclear exchange against a vastly superior enemy that would guarantee its obliteration doesn't serve its purpose. Managing to survive on meager means while staving off starvation of its people is a lot more attractive than certain annihilation. To borrow a popular Reagan era term, we hold the "escalation dominance" in any crisis.

Posted by: Neil Richardson | 03 June 2009 at 06:03 PM

ok. well my last post was censored. I think I said something off the chart.

But basically what I said, (with links)

1. There are a lot of case where large "shock", can radically change popular opinion. The techniques is used in practice till very recently. (search wikileaks.org -- death squad/counterintelligence)

2. The size of tactical nuclear makes it rather difficult in korean situation to predict how it will be used.

3. We tend to think we have a handle on things when it comes to escalating confrontation. But all previous confrontation was with large countries (large population where it has resources to analyse with more balance international relationship and outlook.) But North Korea is a small isolated country. decision making doesn't have a lot of redundancy without help of China and Russia.

On top of that we don't take NK issue seriously. (50 years of freak show, complete with tourists and tour guide?) We don't develop situation that cultivate stability. Instead we feed NK perception that we are tormenting NK. (from their point of view, a lot of things we seek to stop are vital to their regime. Instead of de-escalation, we increase their paranoia and anger.)

Consider yourself a small group of NK military planner. And you seek to a) regime survival b)open up your country economy. What the last 4-5 administration did to NK clearly were serious threat.

Suppose we start threatening them with military action, nuclear attack, etc. All of which they have addressed in the last meeting. But Bush just jerk them around.

North Korea is a very small issue to us, we put almost no analytical resource compared to potential magnitude of the problem. Policy maker and politicians just act like NK is some crazy sub-saharan country to be disciplined like 5 yrs old.


If the north Korean assume, shit, they gonna blow us up using cruise missile again. We need to hedge a bet so that it will never happen again.


The method and strategy are rational. BUT the result are psychotic.

Not only the north Korean, but we too. It is about the dynamic between the two sides.

We both agree that nuclear conflict is with NK unpredictable. And by corollary, MAD equilibrium is hard to achieve and sustain.

The only way out is to actually start the long peace process. The south Korean realizes that and they start the long and painful process. Guess which player decide that fragile and complex process weren't a good idea. Not South korea. But Both US and North Korea cummulative action over period of time.

Overall we are talking about building trust after 50yrs of conflict. where total casualty was in 500K to 1M range. it is a complete nonsense that it can be done with one document. Nobody trust anybody.

----------

The negotiating positions taken by North Korea can be summarized as follows:
—North Korea will not give up its nuclear weapons in return for normalization of diplomatic
relations with the United States and economic aid from the United States. Normalization of
relations must come before denuclearization as a step toward denuclearization.27 North Korean
officials rejected Selig Harrison’s proposal that North Korea turn over its plutonium stockpile to
the International Atomic Energy Agency in return for U.S. diplomatic recognition and U.S.

economic aid and trade credits. They asserted to Harrison that North Korea wanted U.S.
recognition of its status as a nuclear weapons state.28
—North Korea no longer has a plutonium stockpile of 31 kilograms that it declared in June 2008
because North Korea has “weaponized” all of its plutonium. This implies a North Korea position
that future negotiations on final denuclearization must deal only with North Korea’s plutonium
atomic weapons.29
—Denuclearization must include the entire Korean peninsula and must include the elimination of
the “U.S. nuclear threat” to North Korea.30 Pyongyang’s apparent position that a final
denuclearization negotiation must deal only with its atomic weapons appears to aim at giving
North Korea more negotiating leverage to press its demand that the United States must agree to
measures to eliminate the U.S. “nuclear threat.” North Korea repeatedly has defined the “U.S.
nuclear threat” to include the composition and major operations of U.S. military forces in South
Korea and around the Korean peninsula and the U.S. “nuclear umbrella” over South Korea
embodied in the U.S.-South Korean Mutual Defense Treaty. North Korean strategy seems aimed
at proposing that a final denuclearization agreement with the United States constitute the
document that regulates the future U.S. military presence in and around the Korean peninsula,
thus superseding the U.S.-South Korean Mutual Defense Treaty.
—Any system of verification and inspections must include inspections inside South Korea,
including U.S. bases in South Korea. If North Korea holds to that position, negotiating an
agreement on verification that would include sampling would pose additional difficulties and
likely delays.
These negotiating positions, plus earlier positions laid out by Pyongyang, suggest that North
Korea might assert that the next round of nuclear negotiations should focus on only an agreement
for the complete dismantlement of the Yongbyon installations.31 Pyongyang likely will assert that
negotiations over its nuclear weapons should be postponed until a later phase of the six party talks
or that the issue be negotiated in separate U.S.-North Korean bilateral negotiations. Pyongyang
also may take the position that verification procedures, especially inspections and sampling, must
be dealt with in this later, denuclearization phase of negotiations.

http://www.nkeconwatch.com/nk-uploads/nuclear-development-anddiplomacy.pdf

curious

btw. remember that "cooling tower being blown up"? And we were so surprised the NK actually did it? Then Bush jerk them around about putting them off the terror list for months?

To the North Korean, it was a test case. The were wondering, to go with the big US demand. (1 to 1 exchange. nuclear vs. the whole nuke program). But they are afraid that they will be bamboozled, that US will never normalize relationship and keep finding excuse about they are not giving up nuke. (for good reason. because nobody trust anybody)

So they do a small test case. cooling tower for off the terror list. Guess what? We fail that trust test.

And nevermind Hillary Clinton, The north Korean don't trust her because of Clinton era policy. The russian and chinese don't trust Zbig. And Obama is an unknown quantity.

so... that is another 4-5 years. or about half a dozen plutonium bomb. And another reactor.

No doubt we will muddle around and maybe try to make south Korean do the bombing. Which reinforce distrust and make the game even more complicated.

Conventional is stalemate (within the context of SK economy and NK nuke). Nuke is unstable.

Probably, south Korean should lead. But we have a wacko in charge. so that's another 4-5 yrs of nowhere.

Sidney O. Smith III

Mr. Neil Richardson

Thank you for the extraordinary and one-of-a kind insights into Korean culture, particularly as it relates to nuclear proliferation.

Best I can do is try to study and absorb all that you have described so well and try to relate some of your observations to my own experience, which is vastly more limited. That said, I may have somewhat of an understanding of what you mean by the concept of “Jip uh bo Jah” (on a strictly personal level).

One quick anecdote that may or may not capture part of the collective Korean character. The grandfather of the woman I mentioned, apparently, was an extremely successful businessman in the North but, for obvious reasons, had to move South, losing everything.

When she described this event, she said something to effect, "We like snowman toy you push over and it always bounce back straight. Can't keep down."

In any event, I am glad to know that they are people who have served in the goverment who have as deep an understanding of Korean culture as you.

Again, many thanks and I look forward to reading your subsequent posts.

Sid

Neil Richardson

"One quick anecdote that may or may not capture part of the collective Korean character. The grandfather of the woman I mentioned, apparently, was an extremely successful businessman in the North but, for obvious reasons, had to move South, losing everything.

When she described this event, she said something to effect, "We like snowman toy you push over and it always bounce back straight. Can't keep down."


Posted by: Sidney O. Smith III | 04 June 2009 at 12:52 PM

I would certainly agree that her grandfather's story is very representative of the Korean experience in the 20th century and earlier. You know the Eighth Army is in the process of leaving Yongsan after all these years. Of course before the US Army settled in, it was a major garrison for the Imperial Japanese Army. And for many years following the Imjin War (Imjin Waeran) the Chinese forces were garrisoned on the same location after they helped to drive out Hideyoshi Toyotomi's invasion forces. Had the Russians won the Russo-Japanese War, who knows how the 20th century would have unfolded on the peninsula. When the New York Philharmonic performed in Pyongyang last year, I was watching the reactions of the Rodongdang elites in the audience. As usual I saw the expressionless faces, but when the orchestra played "Arirang," it certainly struck a collective nerve. They became visibly emotional and it hearkened back the memories of those heart-rending scenes back in 1974-1975 when many families were reunited for a few hours.

The second and third verses are:

"Just as there are many stars in the clear sky,
There are also many dreams in our heart.

There, over there that mountain is Baekdu Mountain,
Where, even in the middle of winter days, flowers bloom."

This popular version refers to so many Koreans who left their country following the Japanese annexation as they marched to Manchuria and the Russian Far East. Some fought the Japanese as guerrillas and many others merely sought to survive. More than any other song, Arirang seems to elicit the same reaction whether they're Korean Chinese or Korean Russians. Since we're on the eve of the 65th anniversary of the Normandy invasion. Let me refer you to this vignette about the resiliency of the Korean people. Unfortunately I cannot guarantee its veracity as Stephen Ambrose was a bit sloppy in his scholarship toward the latter part of his life. However, I'd like to believe it to be true.

http://tinyurl.com/qwzclf

curious

small simple submersible. not that hard loading it up with nuke. and sail up river.

http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/content/article/2009/06/05/AR2009060503718.html?hpid=topnews

MEXICO CITY -- When anti-narcotics agents first heard that drug cartels were building an armada of submarines to transport cocaine, they thought it was a joke.

Now U.S. law enforcement officials say that more than a third of the cocaine smuggled into the United States from Colombia travels in submersibles.

An experimental oddity just two years ago, these strange semi-submarines are the cutting edge of drug trafficking today. They ferry hundreds of tons of cocaine for powerful Mexican cartels that are taking over the Pacific Ocean route for most northbound shipments, according to the Colombian navy.

The sub-builders are even trying to develop a remote-controlled model, officials say.

curious

Count down to Korean peninsula escalation, then full blown war.

It's who blinks first game phase.

http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/content/article/2009/06/07/AR2009060700717.html?hpid=moreheadlines

Clinton says U.S. mulls putting North Korea back on terror list

WASHINGTON (Reuters) - The United States is looking into putting North Korea back on a list of state sponsors of terrorism in response to its nuclear test last month, U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton said in an interview on Sunday.

"We're going to look at it. There's a process for it. Obviously we would want to see recent evidence of their support for international terrorism," she said on ABC's "This Week with George Stephanopoulos."

Asked whether she had evidence of the North's support for international terrorism, Clinton said: "We're just beginning to look at it. I don't have an answer for you right now."

Neil Richardson

Count down to Korean peninsula escalation, then full blown war.

It's who blinks first game phase.

http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/content/article/2009/06/07/AR2009060700717.html?hpid=moreheadlines

Clinton says U.S. mulls putting North Korea back on terror list


Posted by: curious | 07 June 2009 at 10:52 AM


Well, I guess it's time for you to make a fortune by shorting KOSPI products.

Best of luck

Norman Rogers

Among my Korean friends who have boys who are nearing military service age, some have openly questioned whether they are tough enough. I suspect that's just part of growing old as to old farts like us, the young people always seem inadequate. Provided the ROKA junior officers and field grades develop and maintain enough unit cohesion (it's a bit more tricky with conscription obviously), I think they'll do fine if fighting erupts.

I have long been of the opinion that we are not in South Korea to "deter" the North; we are there to keep the South from attacking the North and reaching some form of closure.

This is not grandpa's ROK army. They are tough as nails and live an austere, rough life in barracks no Western soldier would put up with for more than a day. Let the North come South; by the time they exhaust themselves and reach blown tunnels and intricate fields of fire that can't be breached, the real business of rounding up a malnourished army of midget soldiers will begin.

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