Louis Proyect: The Unrepentant Marxist

December 31, 2010

Marty Hart-Landsberg on Korean tensions

Filed under: Korea — louisproyect @ 10:26 pm

What’s Happening On The Korean Peninsula?

by Martin Hart-Landsberg

What’s happening on the Korean peninsula?  If you read the press or listen to the talking heads, your best guess would be that an insane North Korean regime is willing to risk war to manage its own internal political tensions.  This conclusion would be hard to avoid because the media rarely provide any historical context or alternative explanations for North Korean actions.

For example, much has been said about the March 2010 (alleged) North Korean torpedo attack on the Cheonan (a South Korean naval vessel) near Baengnyeong Island, and the November 2010 North Korean artillery attack on Yeonpyeong Island (which houses a South Korean military base).

The conventional wisdom is that both attacks were motivated by North Korean elite efforts to smooth the leadership transition underway in their country.  The take away: North Korea is an out-of-control country, definitely not to be trusted or engaged in negotiations.

But is that an adequate explanation for these events?  Before examining the facts surrounding them, let’s introduce a bit of history.   Take a look at the map below, which includes both Baengnyeong and Yeonpyeong Islands.

full: http://media.lclark.edu/content/hart-landsberg/2010/12/31/whats-happening-on-the-korean-peninsula/


  1. I first heard about the controversy over the corvette sinking from a South Korean–of course, the MSM in the US simply parroted the most hostile account toward North Korea possible. Despite the very significant strictures on free speech in Israel, the debates in the pages of HAARETZ over Israeli colonialism continue to be much more substantial than those we see in the NYT. It is a continuing bafflement that authoritarian countries have a livelier and more truth-oriented public sphere than does the US. Or perhaps not a bafflement, if one simply sees the US as a more “advanced” capitalism that has more effectively integrated the news media into capitalist profit-making. There’s more actual journalism in a week of Glenn Greenwald’s web columns than in a month of the NYT.

    Comment by Jim Holstun — January 1, 2011 @ 1:39 am

  2. Hello,

    Hi hope all are well.

    What should you expect from a country that tells us to “remember the Maine” and never even mentions the “Liberty”?

    Who would loose in another Korean War. The masses of North and South Korea first and foremost. Many US soldiers and Chinese troops as well. Only weapons makers, and their ilk would benefit. I always reasoned that the United States could secure permanent peace with North Korea by simply using half of what it spends in providing the South in military support in food rations and basic supplies. But then why should the United States government use reason or for the matter unselfish kindness? Other of course than it would work.

    As for what it is like in North Korea who can say? I recall one day I was doing some field work in by Rutgers College, staking out borings. There was an African American man stranded with his car overheating on a hot Summer day. I finished my task early and invited the stranded motorist to hang out in my van which had working air condition. He turn out to be a Marxist. In our discussions he brought up Cuba? I thought I knew a little about Cuba until he asked me if I had ever been there? He knew somebody who had. So little I really knew!!

    Thus I will not accept the reports of what North Korea is like from a press that habitually lies and deceives us. Perhaps it is an oppressive place. But until I see it I will have my doubts.


    John Kaniecki

    Comment by John Kaniecki — January 1, 2011 @ 1:41 am

  3. Korea is a proxy between a nascent and inevitable Great Powers conflict between China (#2 on the billionaires list) and the U.S. (#1).

    Comment by purple — January 1, 2011 @ 6:37 am

  4. “It is a continuing bafflement that authoritarian countries have a livelier and more truth-oriented public sphere than does the US.”

    IIRC Chomsky makes a general point that in supposedly open societies with a “free” mass media, conformity of thought is more important to the ruling class than in an authoritarian state where controlling possible dissident actions by citizens is more important than uniformity of opinion.

    I might not be explaining this very well as I’m going on memory here, but I think the point is that in “open” societies dissident action is theoretically more available to citizens so preventing dissident thoughts via a more relatively uniform consensus of opinion from the mass media is the desire.

    Comment by meltr — January 1, 2011 @ 4:07 pm

  5. I got into a strange discussion on some other blog when I suggested that eventually the U.S. and China could go to war (again), possibly over Korea. War with China would solve so much for the U.S. economy that the socalled war on terror does not. Anyway, I’m no fortune teller so the merits of such an argument are limited but I was fascinated to realize that everybody who was arguing with me was saying “oh no, China would NEVER attack the U.S.” and my point was actually that the U.S. was more likely to attack — or provoke — China. It’s so interesting to read the conventional wisdom of people who describe North Korea as a “bully” when they live in the most powerful military power on the planet who happens to be camped on tiny North Korea’s borders. Americans seem to have an amazing ability to see themselves as the victim of the rest of the world’s unruly nations rather than as the primary perpetrator of much of the world’s violence.

    Anyway, I tried to briefly analyze the bizarre way the American media is representing American propaganda as truth on my blog a while back: http://thecahokian.blogspot.com/2010/07/north-korean-anti-american-art-makes.html

    Comment by ish — January 1, 2011 @ 9:33 pm

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