Media Bias against North Korea

The Need to Challenge Centers of Power across the Board

The Real News Network recently took on the propaganda surrounding the hack of Sony’s electronic data. Why the US government should be so concerned about the security of a foreign firm (since everyone knows that Sony is a Japanese firm, and since the US is probably spying on Sony anyway) is interesting in itself. Nonetheless, the mere fact that TRNN discussed this topic in the manner it did sets it apart from the corporate media.

The choice of Lawrence Wilkerson as an analyst, however, is perplexing giving his obvious animus to the regime in North Korea.1 Why not seek out a Korean viewpoint?2

After casting a shadow of doubt over North Korean involvement in the hack of Sony information, TRNN interviewer Paul Jay asks: “And why does the United States care what goes on in North Korea? I mean, how does it have any significant importance to U.S. policy?

Wilkerson replies: “I think the only reason we care that seems to matter to people from time to time is a humanitarian reason. And that’s a genuine reason. There are a lot of people in North Korea who were treated quite badly, if not as badly as any other people in the world, we saw that during the famines, for example, earlier, where hundreds of thousands of them died.”

The question was posed about “the United States,” but Wilkerson responds with “we.” It seems he is responding as a former Washington official.

Wilkerson’s assertion is on its face preposterous. How could a nation that has been spilling so much blood ever since its genocidal inception, a state that bombs, maims, kills, and destroys on humanitarian pretexts (look no further back than Libya3,4 ) seriously be portrayed as being concerned about humanitarian reasons?

Why accept at face value Wilkerson’s assertion that people in North Korea are treated badly? Wilkerson is casting stones from his glasshouse in the US. First, before disparaging the governments of other nations, one ought to consider the government in one’s own messy backyard and clean that up. Second, North Koreans enjoy comparatively better treatment from their government when it comes to medical care and education. Healthcare is universal and even university is without tuition. In the US 45 million are without health insurance.5 The student debt regime has reached $1.2 trillion; each graduate will owe on average almost $30,000.6

And what about the famines? Are we supposed to believe that the North Korean regime orchestrated the famine? Nhial Esso7 writes, that the North Korean famine was caused by extreme natural disasters (described as “a deluge of biblical proportions”8 ) and outside forces.9 The North Korean government policies, as attested to by the United Nation’s Organization and the World Food Programme,10 alleviated the impact of the food shortages.11 What was the American humanitarian response to a famine in North Korea? The US withheld food aid. The Atlantic‘s subheadline, “The American policy, meant to punish the regime, is worsening a humanitarian crisis.”12 So why did Wilkerson criticize the North Korean regime? Furthermore, something ex-military man Wilkerson should be aware of is that during the US-China-Korean war the US destroyed crops, stored food reserves, and power grid when it attacked North Korea13 – actions designed to cause food shortages.

Wilkerson continued, “I think the security reason has to do with South Korea, of course, South Korea’s position opposite the Demilitarized Zone and the fact that the North has deployed major artillery forces and other forces next to the DMZ and could in effect start a war that they would ultimately, I think, lose, and most military people do think they would lose ultimately, but in the process they would destroy the capital city, which is just kilometers away from those artillery pieces, and do major damage to South Korea, one of the most successful countries in the world today, a country that in a generation has gone from being a debtor nation to being a creditor nation, which is unheard of in history. I mean, incredible what South Korea’s done. So to see all that put in jeopardy or majorly set back by attack from the North is a horrible thing to contemplate for South Koreans and for their patron state.”

Wilkerson is unaware or ignores that North Korea’s economy outperformed South Korea until the 1980s and without the massive injection of US dollars that South Korea benefitted from. Wilkerson also does not mention that the North ‘s economy is beset by sanctions (so much for humanitarian concerns because who suffers from economic sanctions?)14

If the US had not split Korea in two, the present security situation would not exist.15,16 If the US had not meddled in the affairs of Koreans, the situation in Korea would be incomparably securer. I submit the security of the Korean peninsula would be further heightened if the US withdrew its military. Moreover, if the US signed a peace treaty or non-aggression pact with North Korea — which it refuses to do,17 and this includes Wilkerson’s former boss: “We won’t do nonaggression pacts or treaties, things of that nature.”18 — this would provide a basis for a ratcheting down of tensions. So why does Wilkerson, without providing any evidence or rationale to support his supposition, stigmatize the North as a threat to the South? After all, it was the US which wreaked enormous destruction during the war on the peninsula,19 a war that some aver was started by the US and South Korea.20

Jay, who quite often assumes the role of a devil’s advocate, challenged none of this: “Well, then, it makes even less sense to raise the level of–to inflame the rhetoric.”

But isn’t that what Wilkerson has done: inflamed the rhetoric?

*****
It is precisely because TRNN presents so much excellent analysis with background information in so many of its reports that I feel compelled to comment when it strays from good journalism and monitoring centers of power, and instead starts giving the imperialist narrative without any substantiation.

The Jay-Wilkerson interview presents an open-minded exploration of an issue outside monopoly media discussion, and then it delves into parochial acceptance of monopoly media propaganda. Authentic independent media needs to probe the history and background of Korea, a background where the military imperialists of the United States split up a homeland against the wishes of the people, occupied the southern half, installed a dictatorship, and engaged in a war using torture, rapes, and slaughters of the civilian population. It was war in which the US used biological and chemical weapons.19 It was a war in which US military commanders sought permission to use nuclear weapons.21 If this anti-imperialist narrative bears out, then for what purpose does demonization of the regime in North Korea serve other than for self-described independent media to mimic centers of power?

  1. See Kim Petersen, “Independent Media as Mouthpiece for Centers of Power,” Dissident Voice, 28 May 2010. []
  2. Democracy Now! Made a stab toward this: “‘The Interview’ Belittles North Korea, But is Film’s Backstory and U.S. Policy the Real Farce?.” []
  3. Grégoire Lalieu, “Libya in the Face of Humanitarian Imperialism
    Interview with Jean Bricmont
    ,” Dissident Voice, 19 April 2011. []
  4. Andrew Gavin Marshall, “Lies, War, and Empire: NATO’s Humanitarian Imperialism in Libya,” Dissident Voice, 8 September 2011. []
  5. See “Health Insurance Coverage,” Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, updated 28 February 2014. []
  6. Nicholas Smaligo and James Anderson, “The Student Debt Regime,” Dissident Voice, 22 September 2014. []
  7. I have been unable to ascertain who this person is, but important is whether the facts as he presents them are accurate. []
  8. Don Oberdorfer, The Two Koreas: A Contemporary History (Basic Books, 2001):  370. []
  9. Nhial Esso, What You Don’t Know about North Korea Could Fill a Book (Intransitive Publishers International, 2013), 58-68%. []
  10. Nhial, 69-71%. []
  11. Nhial, 69-82%. []
  12. Morton Abramovitch, “Why Is the U.S. Withholding Food Aid From Starving North Korea?The Atlantic, 6 July 2012. []
  13. Nhial, 65%. []
  14. Nhial, 42-54%. []
  15. See Carole Cameron Shaw, The Foreign Destruction of Korean Independence (Seoul: Seoul National University Press, 2007). []
  16. Nhial, 11-22%. []
  17. Agencies via Xinhua, “Bush Rules out Peace Treaty with Pyongyang,” China Daily, 20 October 2003. []
  18. In Steven R. Weisman, “U.S. Weighs Reward if North Korea Scraps Nuclear Arms,” New York Times, 13 August 2003. The article noted that North Korea sought a nonaggression in exchange for dropping its nuclear program. The Bush administration reserved its right for a pre-emptive attack on North Korea. []
  19. See (23 June 2001). Korean International War Crimes Tribunal: Report on U.S. Crimes in Korea 1945-2000, (Korean Truth Commission). [] []
  20. See Ho Jong Ho, Kang Sok Hui, and Pak Thae Ho, The US Imperialists Started the Korean War (Foreign Languages Publishing House, 1993). []
  21. Bruce Cummings, “Korea: forgotten nuclear threats,” Le Monde diplomatique, December 2004. []
Kim Petersen is a former co-editor of the Dissident Voice newsletter. He can be reached at: kimohp@gmail.com. Twitter: @kimpetersen. Read other articles by Kim.