Wednesday, June 02, 2010

North Korea -- sending and receiving messages (UPDATE AT BOTTOM)

Earlier today, I talked about Israel's attempt to control the message in the aftermath of the flotilla raid from Monday. An even more obvious effort to dictate the media message comes from North Korea.

One BBC reporter found a surreal land when she visited there, and her 15:00 report is one you should watch. As you do, pay attention to the number of times that she encountered overt attempts by North Korean officials to limit what she reported.

Of course, North Korea's attempts to thumb its nose at the world are growing in number. And you can add the potential for reprisals. However, the international community continues to struggle with finding the right mix of economic, political or other forms of sanction that will be endorsed by all.

One opportunity for a symbolic protest could come later this month. This is a fascinating editorial, as it points out how the world can use soccer's upcoming World Cup tournament as a loud megaphone to tell North Korea it is heading down the wrong road.

Granted, the North Korean squad has very little chance for success this year. But that misses the point -- the power of sports as a vehicle to show off what the world thinks (or what a society thinks of itself) is part and parcel of any international event. In this context, North Koreans can receive clear messages that Dear Leader is not as revered as they might think.

Let's face it, diplomatic efforts to punish North Korea for torpedoing a South Korean ship are likely futile; China will continue to stonewall any severe penalties against its ally. The recent meetings between the U.S. and Chinese underscored the difficulties in getting Beijing to commit to sanctions.

The situation is further complicated because of attempts (probably successful) by Pyongyang to circumvent already existing sanctions.

The contrast between the images of North Korea from within and the potential for external messages coming in are striking. The latter might not do much to change the situation in North Korea, but they can send a symbolic message.

UPDATE: 3:10 p.m. EDT: ABC News is reporting that the U.S. Navy will hold joint exercises with their South Korean counterparts next week. Dear Leader ought to love that!





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