February 15, 2018

THE RADICAL CENTER | North Korea’s Olympics Distraction

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The media, like most all industries, can at times fall prey to groupthink. The latest example: the coverage of North Korean tyrant Kim Jong-un’s sister, Kim Yo-jong (pictured above).

Ms. Kim was carted to the Olympics in PyeongChang, South Korea as a transparent political prop for her brother’s violent regime. That reality was readily ignored by Olympics reporters eager to write about how the “Ivanka Trump of North Korea” had “outflanked” Vice President Mike Pence. In their telling, Mr. Pence’s standoffish attitude toward the North Koreans made America look cheerless and disrespectful. Ms. Kim, conversely, appeared likeable and “prim.” As one CNN headline put it, “Kim Jong-un’s sister is stealing the show at the Winter Olympics.”

Critics from the right and left promptly tore into the warped coverage. Rightly so. It is indefensible to compare a duly elected public official — even a detestable one, as Mr. Pence surely is — to a Stalinist apparatchik.

The squabbling over Ms. Kim would hardly matter if not for her brother’s nuclear ambitions. North Korea has in recent months advanced its nuclear weapons program at a breakneck pace. It illegally tests missiles frequently, and with impunity. Experts believe that North Korean missiles can now hit the entire continental United States.

Yet America can do little to prevent the Kim regime’s nuclear ascent. Mr. Kim is able to, with conventional artillery, rain fire down upon the 10 million residents of Seoul. America would be compelled to retaliate with the full force of its nuclear arsenal. The upshot would be millions of dead Koreans — an unmitigated disaster of historic proportions. This unthinkable reality takes most military options off the table.

With few workable military solutions, the U.S. has repeatedly tried, in vain, to negotiate with Mr. Kim. Bill Clinton traded about $4 billion in aid for the North dismantling its nuclear program. The North Koreans cheated on the agreement, and it fell apart. George W. Bush imposed sanctions and negotiated a six-member treaty that swapped aid for a freeze in the North’s nuclear program. Within a year, the North Koreans had tested their first nuclear bomb. So much for negotiation.

Barack Obama’s approach was worse still. Mr. Obama called for “strategic patience,” implementing mild sanctions against the Kim regime and little else. Under the Obama administration, North Korea’s nuclear program became ever more sophisticated. For all his bluster, Mr. Trump did not create the problem on the Korean Peninsula; he inherited it.

Back to the Olympics. South Korea’s dovish president, Moon Jae-in, has pushed for reconciliation with the North. Last month, a flurry of diplomacy between South and North resulted in the two nations fielding a joint women’s hockey team at the Olympics (which was crushed by the Swiss team). Athletes from both Koreas even marched under a blue-and-white unification flag.

But there is no indication that the North-South détente is anything but an Olympic-sized distraction. North Korea continues to run a permanent wartime state dedicated to the takeover of the South. Mr. Kim is playing Mr. Moon for a fool, using the South Korean president’s desire for appeasement to split him from America. Mr. Moon even got an invitation to visit North Korea — from none other than Kim Yo-jong herself.  

And that is what makes the adoring coverage of Ms. Kim so foolish. As Western reporters obsess over the North’s “charm offensive,” the brutal Kim regime is successfully wooing an American ally. No matter how many medals it claims, North Korea is poised to be the real winner when the Olympics draw to a close.