CNN viewers aware of Ms Amapour’s decade long championing of the righteous foreign policies of the U.S. and Britain, understand well her meaning, namely, that North Korea should hopefully join the community of nations that duly accept that only the United States should have atom bombs (tens of thousands) and the right to bomb, invade and occupy any nation it considers necessary to its national interests.
Before the broadcast of the New York Philharmonic concert on public television, there was an hour of videos of Pyongyang, and its surroundings, of public events and of interviews by Western reporters of citizens in various walks of life and venues of work and school. The Koreans all appeared very modest, kind and sweet in their behavior and answers, but, as was brought, out were extremely nationalistic and all expressed the same attitude, seemingly as something obvious and taken for granted, that Americans were a dangerous enemies of their country.
During this pre-concert part of the telecast the viewers heard various commentators and experts on North Korea describe a kind fantasy world wherein all citizens and children sincerely worshiped their nation’s founder Kim Il-sung and happily declared dedicating their work and lives lovingly to him and their present leader, his son, Kim Jong-il. Explanations were illustrated with many short video examples of this all-pervading sentiment among the North Koreans.
Even the political lecture on North Korea’s hermetically “sealed-in” society, sometimes referred to as “The Hermit Kingdom” was not as heavy and much less disparaging as what is usually seen on U.S. major network TV. But of course people either old enough or conversant with the history of the West sealing-off and trying to strangle or ‘contain’ a young Soviet Union for decades starting in the 1920’s and lasting until the USSR became our ally in WWII; and familiar with the same effort to quarantine a new Chinese Revolutionary government in 1949, again for decades, until the famous ping-pong diplomacy of 1971, would recognize that it would be more correct to say North Korea, like China and Russia before it, had been originally punitively ‘sealed-off’ from the rest of the world rather than to say that they had intentionally arranged to have their countries 'sealed-in' from the beginning.
But the most poignant perspective missing for Americans watching this spectacular televised concert, scenic description and didactic lecture on North Korea, is that during what was a Korea civil war that began in 1950, the United States leveled from the air, if not already torn up by ground artillery from both sides, every town in Korea, both North and South with the exception of Pusan, which is located at the extreme southern end of the peninsula - the only area that the North Koreans had not taken in the first weeks of its invasion of the south.
North Koreans have the memory of the most brutal of bombings, protracted war, the U.S. and allied invasion of its land, the further devastation incurred in expelling the U.S. Army and Navy with the aid of the Chinese, plus all the terrifying rumors (if not actuality) of bacteriological warfare and threats of atomic bombing endured. These Koreans, have also experience terrible suffering during the postwar rebuilding of their scorched land while under duress of strict U.S. sanctions. Progressives in the West attribute the some the responsibility for the severity of the government in the North and the lack of freedom of its people to the effects of the merciless and vindictive foreign policy of the U.S., which has kept tens of thousands of troops near its border all these years, while decrying the North’s massive build-up of its military.
Of course all this is justified with an American shrug of the shoulders and, 'The North attacked the South first.' Simple. Maybe so, but this writer remembers photos of U.S. Senators and Congressmen visiting the trenches separating the Korea divide on the front pages of issues of the New York Times during the months prior to the North’s armed forces sudden invasion. Remembers as well the captions and accompanying articles of tough talk of some of these in calling for ‘cutting the ropes’ holding back the unpopular dictator Sigmund Rhee from going north.
Remembers seeing in an Australian produced documentary, The Forgotten War, still- shots of young South Korean young men roped together after capture for running away from induction into the army of the Sigmund Rhee government; newsreels of substantial amounts of Koreans lining the streets welcoming the troops from the North. Remembers reading dozens of articles throughout the Korean War, bewailing the lack of will to fight of much of the South’s forces during the war, as the U.S. continually bore the brunt of the fighting. Remember the accounts of Sigmund Rhee eventually fleeing his country and the many years of military dictatorship under which the economic miracle of South Korea took place. Of course at the same time reading of the despicable behavior and inhumanity of the government in the North. But at the same time disturbing events like the head of the South Korean CIA assassination of his country’s president; reading of so many citizens, students, even a famous composer, who was a German citizen being imprisoned for having merely visiting in North Korea. One remembers a massacre of considerable proportions of students, before kinder civilian dominated government finally came to power by the end of the 1980s. In recent years have come revelations of various massacres of Koreans, inadvertently, in the South by American troops during the war.
All this is to point out the perspective of Koreans regarding Americans, Americans who tend to forget they are all Koreans, whether in the North or South. That is to say, the Koreans in the concert audience in Pyongyang all have at least knowledge if not memories of all the almost insufferable happenings that played out with their country a pawn in the cold war, a cold war that has not yet ended on their peninsula.
Lastly regarding perspective, it is sobering for Americans to contemplate Picasso’s Cheju Massacre painting, for the massacres that Picasso sought to portray occurred in 1948, two years before the Northern invasion during a civil war between pro-communist and anti-communists on the southern island of Cheju far off the mainland, and during the time of the American occupation. The death toll was in the tens of thousands, many brutally executed after surrender. Whether many deaths can, or should not be, attributed to American military forces, the rebellion on Chuju island shows that story of the U.S. war should not be naively justified in all its length and breadth with a simple, ‘they attacked first’, for there was great turmoil and dissatisfaction being expressed in the South long before the North invaded.
Americans may go on thinking of themselves as the good guys doing good. But they might like to remember that the good was done in Korea, to Koreans, all of whom obviously were not in agreement that it was for their own good.