Comments on Liu Xiaobo’s Attack on Nobel Peace Laureate [late South Korean President] Kim Dae-jung

This essay by Liu Xiao-bo is a  conservative broadside against:

– the Sunshine Policy of the Korean Democratic Party (referenced in the title as  a nourishing gift to the North Korea).

– the attempt to “buy” the Nobel Peace Prize for then South Korean President Kim Dae-jung;

– Beijing’s support for the attempt at peaceful reunification of the Korean nation;

-Corruption of the North’s communist regime that infects gullible ‘friends’ in Seoul and Beijing.

For the Nobel Peace Committee, this critique by a candidate for laureate should have raised prior concerns about his judgment and character, since Liu implies that the Nobel Committee was duped and manipulated by the Kim Dae-jung government and, morally at least, shares blame for involvement in international corruption in the  award of the Year 2000 Peace Prize. The only other comparable critique of the peace award was against Henry Kissinger and Le Duc Tho.

Liu, with his “purist” ethical posturing, should never have then accepted the nomination by such a morally compromised Peace Committee, which he in his view cannot tell the difference between a deserving fighter for freedom and a cunning collaborator of a bankrupt regime.

This controversy by one laureate against another poses a vexing question for the Nobel Committee. Either Kim Dae-jung or Liu Xiaobo should be declared unfit for the award. If Liu is correct, the Kim Dae-jung should be posthumously stripped of his Nobel medal and relegated as an undeserving fraud (and possibly worse) – or Liu Xiaobo should be expelled from the laureate list as a slanderer and character assassin. Liu’s words have left no space for compromise. 

A closer look at Liu’s argument against Kim Dae-jung shows his own ethical hypocrisy and ultra-rightist political bias. If Hyundai and the then ruling Korean Democratic Party were wrong to offer financial inducements via economic cooperation, then the entire structure of Western financial flows to “undemocratic” regimes (many of these being  conducted in secrecy and constituting bribery) is simply morally wrong, according to Liu’s own strict standards:

-Ronald Reagan, for example, encouraged not only vast amounts of bribery for Gorbachev’s perestroika  supporters but also covertly supplied computers to the Soviet Navy. 

– The NATO Balkans project was also another “generous” Western bid to buy friendship among former Yugoslavia’s politicians, military officers, intellectuals and journalists. 

– Likewise the Bushes Senior and Junior opened the floodgates of dollars to members of the Saddam Hussein government, including the Iraqi dictator himself.

What then can be so objectionable about inducing the Pyongyang government to establish economic cooperation with capitalistic Seoul, when Liu’s “heroes” like George Bush and Tony Blair, Reagan and Thatcher, did the very same with other objectionable regimes?

Liu’s attack on “bribery” is in hindsight faux naivete, considering the fact that he shares in the “corruption” of being awarded $1.4 million from the same Peace Committee that honored Kim Dae-jung. His ethical posturing is, of course, merely a means to promote his Manichean view of the world: The West is always Good, the East is invariably Evil. And by extension, the Good must triumph while  Evil  is to be destroyed. 

On the flip side of his argument,  Liu praises the South Korean defenders of “freedom”, who are hardly more than handmaidens of a defense industry and the military,  which has had its own history of dictatorship, corruption, repression (as in the suppression at Kwangju) and mass bloodshed as shown in the Korean War. Yet Liu still pretends to be a pacifist when this simplistic formulation has recurrently served as the rationale for war. (This “pacifist” has since called for everyone in the world to join the war against terrorism.)

Legal Eagles or Regal Beagles?

Apart from the annoying ultraconservative apologetics from the intellectual midget Liu Xiaobo, the suicide of the Hyundai chief and the ousting of the Korean Democratic Party illustrate the lethality of the US security arrangements in East Asia. National leaders who dare criticize the American military presence in Asia are routinely removed by state prosecutors on corruption charges. The system of US constitutional law and the judicial structure imposed on South Korea and Japan is an instrument of hidden colonial power enforcing obedience to Washington. 

Kim Dae-jung’s successor Roh Tae-woo was  also hounded by “blind” justice,  (which led to his “suicide” fall from a cliff), while the defense-industry agent President Lee Myung-bak is allowed by the “justice” system to egregiously violate the letter and spirt of constitutional law in the cover-up of the friendly-fire sinking of the corvette Cheonan  By no coincidence, Lee Myung-bak is a former Hyundai executive, aligned with the Construction division that builds military bases, who directly benefitted from the suicide of Hyundai president and the subsequent pro-conservative corporate coup. Early in his career, he was a protege (and later adviser to) the head of the Grand National Party Kim Young Sam, a fellow conservative Protestant. 

In neighboring Japan, meanwhile, Yukio Hatoyama and Ichiro Ozawa (rather tame and timid critics of US military bases in Okinawa)  were ousted under unrelenting procuratorial pressure – joining the long list of deposed Japanese politicians more loyal to Japan’s  regional diplomacy and national interests to Washington’s dictates. American-style “Democracy” in East Asia cannot be authentically democratic when the judicial system is neither truly just. 

The idealistic Sunshine Policy, which had a chance to foster the reunification of Korea without war, did not fail from internal “corruption” – it was dismantled by the Pentagon and its Asian agents  to protect the defense industry and preserve U.S. domination over Asia. Now, with an emerging South Korea-Japan military alliance, we are witnessing the formation of a Second Greater Co-Prosperity Sphere. Back in the bad old days, this sort of alliance was called militarism and fascism. In today’s post-1984 double-speak, it is presented as liberal democracy at its finest and most courageous. 

Liu and the Nobel Committee are at least in agreement in their Orwellian view that “Some  Dictatorships are More Equal than Others..”

(Appendix)

“Kim-Jong-Il Swallows the Sun”

by Liu Xiaobo”

Kim Dae-jung’s sunshine policy led to a corrupt relationship between the North Korean leadership and the late Hyundai Motors Chairman Chung Mong-hun. Under enormous pressure of the resulting corruption scandal, Chung committed suicide.

The Korean Central News Agency claimed that this tragedy was an “indirect murder”, but the South Korean and international media stated that the cause of death was suicide.

His suicide was the consequence of Hyundai’s investment of 1 billion US dollars in North Korea’s Mount Kumgang region, which ended in a total loss. Even with a 450 billion won grant from the South Korean government, the project could not be revived.

Among political circles in South Korea,  allegations were made that the 1 billion dollars was the price that the Kim Dae-jung government had to pay Kim Jong Il to  participate in the historic North-South summit of the two leaders. To cover up the fund transfer, Kim Dae-jung was nominated for the Nobel Peace Prize.The Hyundai chairman falsified financial records,  engaged in corruption, and paid bribes of a total 12,000,000 US dollars.

I was fascinated by the story of Kim Dae-jung’s political persecution, especially his near drowning in the eastern sea.. (Editor’s note: Kim was abducted in Japan by the KCIA and put on a boat to South Korea). Thanks to the intervention of the United States, he was able to survive, and with his status as opposition leader, he was elected South Korean president. 

The Kim Dae-jung administration took the biggest political gamble, that is, to promote the implementation of a common North and South “sunshine policy.” The underlying reason is that it would enshrine Kim Dae-Jung’s reputation in political history. 

Kim Dae-jung lusted in his heart for such a great reputation and so had to keep up his dealings with the North Korean dictator. This, in turn, required him to maintain the illusion that exchanges with the tyrannical dictator Kim Jong Il were in the Korean national interest and had the support of foreign countries.

Thus Kim Dae-jung was willing to pay any price for the first North-South summit. The “sunshine policy” of providing assistance to the DPRK was done in total disregard for the North’s campaign of political and economic expansionism. For the noble purpose of national unity, any means was acceptable, including illegal bribery of the dictator, providing a billion U.S. dollars even though  it would enable Kim Jong Il to play more dirty tricks. With Chung’s death, the enormous cost of black-box payoffs was exposed.

The North-South summit three years ago became the focus of world attention. The sight of the Democratic Party leader shaking hands with the autocratic tyrant made Kim Dae-jung into a political celebrity, and as a result he won the Nobel Peace Prize. 

What else arose from this event? The black-box transfers of cash gradually came to light, as well as escalating tensions on the peninsula, with embarrassing consequences for Kim Dae-jung:

1. Kim Jong Il’s bad faith. He received  a lot of dollars but did not keep his promise before Kim Dae-Jung and his son were arrested in the bribery scandal and had to step down. Kim Jong Il had no intention of fulfilling any joint projects when he shook hands with the South Korean president. The “gold” dictatorship probably just assumed the 100 million U.S. dollars was a trade-off for a Nobel Peace Prize. He may have actually thought the Prize was worthy of Kim Dae-jung, but we cannot at all honor Kim Dae-jung’s award.

2. No easing of tension on the Korean peninsula, just intensification. Following the North-South talks, Kim Jong Il’s image is of a rogue who, due to the cordial welcome into the world offered by Kim Dae-jung, can now smile with a ferocious roar. Perhaps Kim Jong Il, after receiving a large sum of dollars from Kim Dae-jung, has tasted the sweetness of nuclear blackmail. As for the big money bags of the international community, further extortion can bring in more dollars. Thus he ordered the escalation of nuclear blackmail through the six-party talks, which include the superpower United States and regional powers China, Japan and Russia along with fellow South Korea. Kim Jong Il now can hold talks and wage confrontations among these six countries. The United States is not going to be so naive toward a rogue tyrant, not to the extent of South Korea, and will avoid repeating the mistakes of Kim Daejung. Indeed, how can we talk with the DPRK until dictator Kim Jong Il is overthrown? He is not going to give up his nuclear weapons or his greed, because to maintain his rule he has to exercise nuclear blackmail to the maximum effect. Dialogue may be  good, but only to reduce the possibility of confrontation and armed conflict.

3. Fantasy and wishful thinking to flatter the dictator did not win any reciprocal favors. This fantasy also misled the younger generation in Korea into the narrow nationalism of making black-and-white choices, thereby causing the  rise in the South Korean people’s anti-American sentiment. This situation is tantamount to dictatorship. Treated like a rogue power just because it is foreign, the long-time benefactor and guarantor of the security of South Korea, the United States, became synonymous with evil hegemonism. Simply because North Korea is from the same family as the South, it is welcomed back into the family. Never mind that North Koreans were once the invaders and remain the biggest threat to the South. The irony is that for Kim Jong Il to be important to the U.S., his biggest trump card is actually the security of South Korea. The Kim Jong Il regime, if faced with a harder-line policy from the United States, would launch a devastating nuclear attack on only one country and that is South Korea . While Hyundai Industries scion Chung Mong-joon proudly pushes his fanatical nationalism by amassing political power, there was the criminal shadow of his brother Zheng Meng-joon, and so finally the family business was swallowed by Chung Meng-jung(??). To counter the anti-American sentiment of the Roh Moo-hyun, the opposition with its eye on returning to power have again turned to a pro-U.S. line. Whether in a democracy or a dictatorship, fanatical nationalism is a “haven of evil.”

4. On his resignation as the elected President, Kim Dae -jung went through the full spectrum of the “sunshine policy”. Starting with overtures to the absolute dictator Kim Jong Il, he engaged in a conspiracy to adopt the sunshine policy and to swallow the Nobel Peace Prize This brief flash was followed with a long shadow  – of covering up the illegal transactions, allowing the South Korean economy to plunge, and most important paying an intermediary to handle his problems.  Kim Dae-jung’s presidency will forever be cast in shame.

If Kim Jong Il kept his promise to visit Seoul and if North-South summit talks on the Korean Peninsula had eased the situation, then a billion dollars behind the transaction would not be a big problem. However, the combination of Kim Jong Il’s rogue lion’s wide-open mouth and Kim Dae-jung’s greed and ambitions for quick success doomed.the immoral exchange to failure.

Along with the liability of dealing with North Korea’s dictatorship, Kim Dae-jung’s personal misfortune lies in his freedom to live in a transparent society. South Koreans are fortunate to have the protection of a free system, under which politicians have a hard time of avoiding supervision and restrictions. Public opinion .monitored the “sunshine policy”, forcing it out of the shadows and made it impossible to escape the scrutiny of independent media and an independent judicial investigation. 

For Kim Jong Il, as the single individual in control of an absolute dictatorship and authoritarian system to protect his privileges as a dictator against the people, has ensured his unconditional immunity, no matter what evils are committed by his dictatorship.

As for Chung’s death, those in democratic countries who harbor fantasies about dictators, and support the trickery of politicians, this has been has been a thunder-like warning: When dealing with dictators, a free country must not disregard basic morals and adopt an expedient utilitarian focus, otherwise a high price will be paid for quick success. (August 6, 2003, written in my (Liu’s) home in Beijing)

Yoichi Shimatsu 

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