Book Mention: A River in Darkness . . .

. . . One Man’s Escape from North Korea is the memoir of Masaji Ishikawa, born in Japan in 1947, taken to North Korea by his parents at the age of thirteen, who survived, to escape in 1996.

His father, a native of southern Korea, had been virtually kidnapped by the Imperial Japanese during the colonial period and taken to Japan to bolster the labor force. His mother, Japanese with education and prospects, nonetheless went along with the plan to take the family to North Korea in 1960. Why did she agree to this? I have no answer.

Why did his father consider such a plan? His father was not allowed to assimilate, study, or advance. An organization of Koreans in Japan worked on people in his situation to get them to answer the call of Kim Il-sung to come to North Korea and enjoy paradise on earth. They got on that boat, were dumped off onto a cold concrete floor, and hell began.

So who organized these boats? Let the man tell the story:

After Kim Il-sung’s statement, the General Association of Korean Residents started a mass repatriation campaign in the guise of humanitarianism.  The following year, 1959, the Japanese Red Cross Society and the Korean Red Cross Society secretly negotiated a “Return Agreement” in Calcutta.

Secretly? Calcutta?

Four months later, the first shipload of returnees left the Japanese port of Niigata.  Shortly after that, people affiliated with the League of Koreans in Japan started showing up on our doorstep, eager to persuade us to make the journey.  They were all in favor of mass repatriation. 

Did the International Committee of the Red Cross know anything about this? Did the United States?  The UN?  Yes, yes, and yes.  And what did they do about it?  Nothing.

The Wayback Machine dredged up a 2007 article in Japan Focus, which contains a great deal of Cold War history related to this mass emigration. Big players were busying themselves with Cold War tactics, strategies, and what sound like games, while refraining from blinking a few times and actually looking at what they were actually doing. Here is one snip from the dense and informative piece:

The US appears to have been unaware of the secret contacts between Japan and North Korea in 1956 and 1957. When it first became aware of the repatriation plan a couple of years later, the Eisenhower administration regarded it with concern. But once the Japanese and North Korean Red Cross Societies reached an agreement on a mass “return” in mid-1959, the Eisenhower administration did not take any practical steps to halt the unfolding tragedy.

US Ambassador in Tokyo Douglas MacArthur II (who played a key role on the US side) told his Australian counterpart in 1959 that the “American Embassy had checked Japanese opinion and found it was almost unanimously in favour of ‘getting rid of the Koreans'”. At this sensitive moment in US-Japan relations, the State Department was clearly cautious of intervening in a scheme that was an obvious vote-winner for the Kishi regime.

There is a well-written essay on a personal blog called This Angelena, giving detailed summary as well as a feel for the tragedy, the crimes, and the suffering.

A 2004 Japan Times report of his attempt to re-enter North Korea to rescue his sons includes a frank allusion to continuing problems:

Since returning home, Miyazaki [Ishikawa’s pen name in Japan] has blamed the mass media for fouling up his rescue operation by bringing his activities to the attention of Chinese authorities, who considered them illegal.

Amazon published this memoir in early 2018; it is available in multiple formats. My reading was of the Kindle edition, which had nothing objectionable in the formatting.


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Otto Warmbier’s treatment and death resulted in this summit

From Breitbart: President Donald Trump said Tuesday that the death of American hostage Otto Warmbier led to the summit with Kim Jong-un taking place.

President Donald Trump said Tuesday that the death of American hostage Otto Warmbier led to the summit with Kim Jong-un taking place.

Warmbier was the American student who was imprisoned in North Korea for taking a poster off the wall in his hotel. Not a framed picture, but a poster, a keepsake. For the love of God!

So, what happens next? How can we stand to be in the same room with people who treat others — both foreigners and especially their own citizen-slaves —  like animals. How will this progress after this? Will Kim round up the beasts in his country and make an apology? Will he apologize to his own people? Or will this all collapse back into the comfortable channels of business as usual?

It seems that Kim really does want to change things and he doesn’t like his life as it is. Dennis Rodman cried as this was all happening (wearing a MAGA hat). There are signs that this is real and that this spells the beginning of a new era for the Koreas. But, there’s so much cleanup to go through.

We will find — if we ever get in there in large numbers — conditions similar to Nazi Germany after the war. There are many many more horrific stories yet to be learned. In a way the cult of personality of the Kims will be seen more similarly to what the end of the war with Japan was like. The first thing will be when (or if) the North Korean people have to realize that the Kims are not gods, not divine at all.

MacArthur gets a lot of credit for his handling of the toppling of Hirohito’s image. The first thing that clued in the Japanese was the picture of Hirohito standing next to MacArthur. What we in the rest of the world saw was two leaders standing having come out of a meeting. What the Japanese saw was a breach in protocol of titanic proportions: MacArthur towered above Hirohito and this caused a disconnect in their brains. This just had never been done before — it was seen as a grave disrespect to the emperor. And it said in visual language that the emperor wasn’t a heavenly leader but an ordinary man.

The North Korean people have been told over and over again that they are lucky to not live in any other country because there are riots and destruction in the lives of other citizens. They are told that Kim’s family watches over them like doting parents. If things are bad, just think how much worse it is for other people and thank goodness you live in the safe confines of North Korea.

But, this will be much different because we can’t just go in and start the cleanup — this will instead be orchestrated by people with much to hide. There are more outrages to come.

Thanks to Otto Warmbier who unwittingly played a role in this very odd story. And condolences again to his parents and thanks for giving the world their son in sacrifice to a higher goal. I hope we can see the lives of the North Korean people improve step by step over the next few years.


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Trump Triumphant

Look at this picture and tell me he’s not in charge. Trump is the Colossus astride the world now — kicking ass and taking names.

And if you click the 4 links listed you won’t be disappointed.

But, what really got me was the “NEXT: KIM” – that seemed to stir things up in me. There’s a new sheriff in town, people of the world. Get the kids off the street and let’s watch the showdown.

Liz and Hypatia (at least) — I’d like to hear an Amen to my title.


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Presidential Libraries: Locations and Ephemera

I’ve had the opportunity to visit several Presidential libraries, homes and historic places.  Most of the ones I have visited are centered around a home. Visiting Spiegel Grove, Rutherford B. Hayes’s home in Fremont, Ohio, is a quiet affair…a lovely home, a library for research, his final resting place.  Mount Vernon, the magnificent home and final resting place of George Washington, has a sprawling museum and estate and has been lovingly cared for by the Mount Vernon Ladies Association since the 1850s.  Other homes include those of Harry S. Truman, Richard Nixon, Ronald Reagan, and FDR.

Some Presidential libraries lack a home, but have outstanding museums and artifacts.  The Abraham Lincoln Presidential Library and Museum in Springfield, IL tends toward the Disney-esque, with life-size dioramas and high-tech holographics along with a rotating display of artifacts in a more traditional portion of the museum.  The outstanding Library is across the street from the museum; Lincoln’s home, operated by the National Park Service, is across town and his tomb is also nearby.

The newest Presidential center will apparently be Obama’s. There is some controversy regarding the location, appearance and function of the center.  John Kass, a reporter for the Chicago Tribune, calls the proposed Presidential center, to be built on public land near the golf course in Jackson Park, “The Barack Obama Temple of Adoration and Fealty.” The center won’t house any Presidential papers, nor will it be a center for research.  Kass even has a couple of suggestions for the inevitable shop at the center, “Presidential golf clubs or a Michelle Obama vegetable peeler for nutritious school lunches would be nice.”

Regardless of what ends up in the Obama center, I would like to suggest that there only be one item in the future Donald J. Trump Library:

This document captures everything about the current President…all anyone needs to know.  American can-do bravado, shades of General McAuliffe’s memo to the German command “NUTS!”, captured in a letter so clearly dictated by Trump that I can imagine the hand of a nice Katie Gibbs secretary flying across the page in perfect Gregg shorthand.  Presented on the finest Crane Presidential stationery, he signs it with a graffiti-esque Sharpie. Permanent. Bold.  Yes–this is all we need, in so very many ways.

I guarantee his feet weren’t on the surface of the Resolute desk when he signed it.


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The Right Stuff

Trump nominated for Nobel Peace Prize

There are few people I admire more right now than our president who is not afraid to play hardball. I had expressed some private concerns to a fellow member that I was adamantly opposed to even a handshake between POTUS and a homicidal maniac who allowed his people to starve to death and lead such desperate lives.

Perhaps I was wrong because Trump may be strategizing to strong-arm a dangerous ego while making the Dear Leader feel like a major player on the world stage. Trump may even be plotting to make Kim Jong-un believe himself a reasonable man for saving the world from nuclear destruction. In any case, I think that in addition to imposing severe sanctions, Trump has planned a highly complex psychological approach.

Of course my preference is to eliminate the Kim regime altogether and allow South Korea to unite the peninsula. This will most likely never happen because China will not allow it and most South Koreans do not want to take on that enormously expensive project.

I’d be interested in receiving feedback from fellow members on this topic.


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Kim Jong-un and the Hotline to Peace

“The call quality was very good and we felt like we got a call from our next-door neighbor,” South Korea’s director for the Government Situation Room, Youn Kun-young, told reporters after the four-minute call.

That four-minute call was a test call this morning on a hotline phone.   It is a direct wire connection between South Korea and North Korea.  The test was this morning (yesterday if you live where 10 Cents hangs out).

This indication of a potential for rapprochement between North Korea and South Korea comes at a really interesting juncture.   President Trump famously taunted Supreme Leader Kim Jong-un about having a much bigger nuclear button.  Remember all the histrionics about that?  Trump said that in the runup to his meeting with President Moon Jae-in, at which they spoke openly about needing to see progress towards peace from North Korea.

President Trump just hosted President Shinzō Abe of Japan, and they both spoke openly about a strong posture towards North Korea, discussed openly about military cooperation and readiness, and said stuff that the elites said was alarming saber-rattling .

But this hotline test comes in the context of the announcement today on North Korean state media that Supreme Leader Kim is halting further nuclear weapons development.  He said he is satisfied that they have achieved the capability that he had sought.   Then he went on with this jaw-dropping bit:

North Korea has “reached the target stage, where the nation and people’s safety is reliably secured,” Kim said. The next stage, he said, is building on efforts to denuclearize, “which is the peace-loving platform of our party.”

Wow.   Does anyone recall happy peace-talk from North Korea?   Ever?

When peace is achieved, they will give the Nobel Peace Prize to Kim and Moon.

But it will be President Trump who deserved it.

Go, Trump, go!   Swagger like a cowboy.

Make America Great Again.


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