A CiF piece by...Englebert Stockhammer. I don't much care for the argument - as one commenter remarks, Englebert Humperdinck could have written a better article - but that's one very fine name.
From the Daily NK:
Open Radio for North Korea (ORNK) and the International Coalition to Stop Crimes against Humanity in North Korea (ICNK) have moved to internationalize the fight for the return of Daughter of Tongyeong Shin Suk Ja and her two daughters with the unveiling of an online petition in English.
The petition organizers are hoping to gather a million signatures from around the world to help highlight the case of Shin and her daughters, and with it those of the approximately 200,000 North Koreans currently incarcerated in political prison camps in remote areas of the country.
Speaking about the idea behind the petition with Daily NK today, ORNK international affairs head Kwon Eun Kyoung explained, “ICNK and Open Radio, which acts as the ICNK Secretariat, are now involved in this ‘one million postcard petition’ as a channel by which to connect with the international community.”
“We plan to urge UN Secretary General Ban Ki Moon to help take care of Dr. Oh’s family by deploying an envoy to North Korea to confirm their whereabouts,” she went on. “In order to bring this about, we need the support of the world as well as South Koreans. Therefore, we are trying to expand this domestic campaign, to make it an international one.”
ICNK and ORNK believe that an online petition represents one of the most feasible and cost effective ways to move the international community and bring more attention to bear on the issue.
“We are also releasing specific cases of crimes against humanity committed by the North Korean regime including Oh’s case on the ICNK website,” Kwon noted.
You can sign the petition here.
From the In Focus gallery Population Seven Million:
Public residential buildings are seen in Po Lam, one of the "satellite towns" in Hong Kong, on September 14, 2011. This southern Chinese city is described as a concrete forest, famous for the number of high-rise commercial and residential towers. About 25 percent of the world's tallest 100 residential buildings stand in the territory.
By the end of the month the world's population, according to the UN Population Fund, will reach 7 billion. Which is, I think we can all agree, a lot of people. But at least - look on the bright side - it's "the world's population", not "the population of the planet". "The tallest buildings on the planet...", "the largest moth on the planet...", "the deepest lake on the planet...". Bah. I blame David Attenborough.
At CiF there's an open thread under the title "Is it OK for a film to rewrite history?" on the subject of Roland Emmerich's new film Anonymous, which - as everyone is now probably aware - argues the case that Shakespeare's works were in fact written by the Earl of Oxford: a suggestion first mooted by the appropriately named Thomas Looney some 90 years ago.
The CiF piece compares Anonymous to such historically dubious films as Braveheart. A major difference here though is that Sony has actually been distributing material to literature and history teachers to support Emmerich's case, which takes this beyond a mere case of rewriting history in the cause of entertainment. These guys are serious. James Shapiro in the NYT highlights the problem that, apart from a total lack of historical evidence, and the class-based snobbishness that underpins it ("only an aristocrat could have written such works"), the Oxfordian thesis does profound damage to the nature of the plays themselves:
The most troubling thing about “Anonymous” is not that it turns Shakespeare into an illiterate money-grubber. It’s not even that England’s virgin Queen Elizabeth is turned into a wantonly promiscuous woman who is revealed to be both the lover and mother of de Vere. Rather, it’s that in making the case for de Vere, the film turns great plays into propaganda.
In the film de Vere is presented as a child prodigy, writing and starring in “A Midsummer Night’s Dream” in 1559 at the age of 9. He only truly finds his calling nearly 40 years later after visiting a public theater for the first time and seeing how easily thousands of spectators might be swayed. He applauds his art’s propagandistic impact at a performance of “Henry V” that so riles the patriotic mob that actors playing the French are physically assaulted. He vilifies a political foe in “Hamlet,” and stages “Richard III” to win the crowd’s support for rebellious aristocrats.
De Vere is clear in the film about his objectives: “all art is political ... otherwise it is just decoration.” Sony Pictures’ study guide is keen to reinforce this reductive view of what the plays are about, encouraging students to search Shakespeare’s works for “messages that may have been included as propaganda and considered seditious.”
But one comparison that the CiF piece misses in terms of historical inaccuracy - and also, as it happens, of distortion in a decidedly Anglophobic direction - is much closer to home: Emmerich's 2000 film The Patriot, starring Mel Gibson. British redcoats are here portrayed as brutal sadistic killers. The film was, as Jonathan Foreman noted, a supposedly authentic historical epic that in fact radically rewrote the known history of the American War of Independence:
It does so by casting George III’s redcoats as cartoonish paragons of evil who commit one monstrous — but wholly invented — atrocity after another. In one scene, the most harrowing of the film, redcoats round up a village of screaming women and children and old men, lock them in a church and set the whole chapel on fire. If you didn’t know anything about the Revolution, you might actually believe the British army in North America was made up of astonishingly cruel, even demonic, sadists who really did do this kind of thing — as if they were the 18th century equivalent of the Nazi SS. Yet no action of the sort ever happened during the war for independence, but an eerily identical war crime — one of the most notorious atrocities of World War II — was carried out by the Nazis in France in 1944....
By transposing Oradour to South Carolina, and making 18th century Britons the first moderns to commit this particular war crime, Emmerich and [screenwriter] Rodat — unwittingly or not — have done something unpleasantly akin to Holocaust revisionism. They have made a film that will have the effect of inoculating audiences against the unique historical horror of Oradour — and implicitly rehabilitating the Nazis while making the British seem as evil as history’s worst monsters....
If the Nazis had won the war in Europe, and their propaganda ministry had decided to make a film about the American Revolution, “The Patriot” is exactly the movie you could expect to see — minus the computer-generated effects, of course. (Doubters should take a look at Goebbels’ pre-Pearl Harbor efforts at inflaming isolationist Anglophobia.)
So yes: the man has form.
Here's an update on the story of Oh Kil-nam, the South Korean who made the decision to move to North Korea in 1985 with his reluctant wife and two young daughters. They'd been living in Germany, where Oh was studying for a doctorate. As a young radical he was tempted by the prospect of a socialist alternative to the right-wing authoritarianism of the then South Korean government, but as soon as they arrived he realised the true horror of his mistake, and defected at the first opportunity when he was sent back to Germany to recruit more South Koreans. It was at his wife's insistence:
"She hit me in the face when I said I would come back with some South Koreans," Oh said. "She said I could not have that on my conscience. She told me to leave North Korea and never come back. She told me to think of her and our daughters as being dead from a car accident."
The fight to save ‘Daughter of Tongyeong’ Shin Suk Ja and her two daughters arrives in Europe today as Dr. Oh Gil Nam begins a visit to Germany, the country where he and his family last lived in freedom in the 1980s, immediately prior to their disastrous decision to move to North Korea.Oh is accompanied by Free NK Gulag head Kim Tae Jin as representative of the International Coalition to Stop Crimes against Humanity in North Korea.
Speaking before their departure this lunchtime, Kim told The Daily NK, “Dr. Oh is very excited because he is hopeful that he will open the way to requesting the assistance of the current German government and related parties.”
“The domestic feeling regarding mother-of-two Shin Suk Ja is heating up, and so this visit to Germany is mainly focused on spreading news of this problem in the international community,” Kim added.
Dr. Oh and Kim are set to spend 5 days in the country, appearing at various events and hosting meetings to bring pressure to bear on North Korea to both return Shin and her daughters to South Korea and shut down its political prison camp system.
A hopeless quest, perhaps, but an extraordinary man...
Spotted above the shop front on Great Eastern Street yesterday (bottom pic), and now here we are again, on the Greenway District Line bridge at Plaistow:
Gaddafi was 69 when he was killed. You know who else is 69?*
"Kim Jong-il and Gadhafi are very much alike in many respects," a South Korean government official said. Gadhafi's brutal killing "must have had a lot of psychological impact on Kim."
Born in the same year, the two dictators maintained their stranglehold for about 40 years. Kim has held onto power for 37 years since he was designated his father's successor, compared to Gadhafi's 42 years since he toppled the Libyan monarchy in a military coup.
"They're alike also in that they established idiosyncratic political systems that are unparalleled in modern history," said Han Ki-beom, a former deputy chief of the National Intelligence Service.
Kim invented the "songun" (military first) policy, a doctrine he created by mixing regime founder Kim Il-sung's "juche" (self-reliance) ideology with his own reign of terror. Gadhafi propagated what he called direct democracy while calling his regime "Jamahiriya" (a nation of the people)....
The North tends to keep the death of other dictators very quiet. There was no mention of Gadhafi’s killing, and in December 2006 the official Minju Choson newspaper carried just a brief report 18 days after Iraqi strongman Saddam Hussein was executed.
There is speculation that Kim Jong-il is likely to keep a low profile. When the Iraq War broke out in 2003, he disappeared from public view for about 50 days, and after Mubarak was ousted in February he vanished for 10 days.
According to a South Korean government source, Kim deployed tanks around his residence and imported riot equipment from China right after Mubarak's ouster. "The regime will further tighten controls because of Gadhafi's death," another South Korean government official said.
On the other hand the Dear Leader will doubtless take note of the fact that Gaddafi yielded to Western pressure to give up his nuclear weapons program, and a fat lot of good it did him in the end.
"Kim Jong-il is probably going to think he'll have to hold onto his nuclear arms to avoid Gadhafi's fate," said Ryu Dong-ryeol of the Police Science Institute.
[* According to the official North Korea record, that is, where Kim's birth at sacred Mt. Baekdu was supposedly foretold by a swallow, and heralded by the appearance of a double rainbow over the mountain and a new star in the heavens. In fact he was born in 1941, in Russia.]
In Iran, as reported by the Tehran Times:
A number of students from universities across Tehran held a demonstration outside the Swiss Embassy on Saturday to express their solidarity with the Occupy Wall Street movement. Iran and the United States do not have diplomatic relations, and the Swiss Embassy in Tehran hosts the U.S. Interests Section in Iran.
The demonstrators chanted slogans in support of the protesters and denounced the crackdown on the protests. The students also set the flags of the United States and the Zionist regime on fire and chanted “Down with the United States,” “Death to Israel,” “Down with Capitalism,” and other slogans.
A number of students also delivered speeches at the event, in which they said that true democracy could only be established under the banner of religion.
That's "students" as in "members of the Basij militia, a part of the Iran Revolutionary Guard":
Like the old cold war joke: the American says, "Here in the US we're free to demonstrate against our government". The Russian replies, "Yes, here in the Soviet Union we too are free to demonstrate against your government".