Sunday, December 26, 2010

Korea Society keeps a tight zipper on its lips

During the last two months of 2010, the two Koreas exchanged fire along the NLL [Northern Limit Line], a watery boundary in the Yellow Sea imposed by the US after the 1953 armistice, which the North never recognised but did not challenge.
For the first time in 47 years, salvos of shells hit the South Korean island of Yeonpyeong - which houses an important military installation and a small fishing community and which lies hardly 10 km from North Korea's territorial waters. The South naval drills conducted under live fire, with US participation, hit North Korea, in spite of Pyongyang's warning that heightened Southern military activity in and around the NLL, would riposte. It did to the utter surprise and consternation of Seoul and Washington.
GuamDiary, in plumbing the New York Korea Society's webpage, found no sense of alarm or urgency in the implication of such events. In fact, it discovered, in its programme commentary, this society of note is, in a leisurely fashion, sponsoring, in a leisurely fashion, a series of lectures entitled 'Korea in depth' beginning in mid February 2011. And the first gathering on 10 February 2011 will feature a lecture by an old, reliable friend, Charles Armstrong of Columbia University. He is scheduled to speak on 'North South Korean issues'.
In contrast, hardly 8 weeks after the sinking of the 'Cheonan', the Korea Society kicked off the publication of the CFR's [Council on Foreign Relations] recommandations for US policy towards Korea, calling for 'rolling back' North Korea. Among the 24 US North Korea clerisy who unanimously agreed with the report's finding was the Korea Society's CEO former ambassador Thomas Hubbard,now working for the influential law firm of Akin Gump.
Why has not Ambassador Hubbard requested the Korea Society's president former ambassador Mark Minton to call a meeting on the shelling which might have been a tripwire to reopening the Korean War?
The Korea Society has, over time, become more and more secretive. It has established a two or three tier structure of 'need to know' among its members. The real discussions do take place behind closed doors, and they become open when it is necessary to push the Administration's line of events on the Korea peninsula. Best examplied of this trend is the big hoopla in promulating the CFR's report on Korea.
But you would think that the crisis along the NLL would stimulate discussion by the Korea Society's member. Wrong! Discussion would challenge it's full support of 'rolling back' North Korea.
Otherwise, as GuamDiary has observed, the Korea Society has become more and more irrelevant. Films, exhibitions on old Hollywood war film posters, ancient Korean hats and locks, the influence of Christianity in Korea, or the building of a Tae Kwon Doh museum or modern Korean architecture are the meat and potatoes of a once vibrant and curious organisation about the political and military and economic events North and South.
As such, the Korea Society keeps total silence unless it receives its marching orders from Washington. It is a weather vane of the way the political winds are blowing by its funders and it lack of independent thought and its role of defender of the status quo.

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