Wednesday, September 27, 2017

North Korean Tourism

Them 'dedly' Norks.

Some screwballs can visit North Korea - talk to the locals and even act silly  - without falling afoul the NKVD or the evil that is Kim.

Other tourists - generally 'returning' Korean ones - particularly the 'born again' variety,  have run afoul Korea's draconian espionage and sedition laws and have spent considerable amounts of time in what we style 'Korean gulags'.

And then, sometimes, bad things happen to people who really, on the surface, didn't do all that much wrong - like a young Chinese-American tourist shot when she entered a restricted border zone a few years ago   or a kid who just wanted a souvenir.

A visit gone bad: OTTO WARMBIER

Otto Warmbier a young American visited North Korea as a tourist in 2015.  Whatever he was like when arrived in North Korea,  was at some very noticeable odds with how he was when he came home.  He died within a month of his arrival back in the USA. His parents refused an autopsy and any medical studies that might have explained what happened to him are, so far, inconclusive.

 It seems evident that something did happen to him.

The first thing is that he was arrested after removing a 'propaganda poster' from his hotel to, I imagine, take back home with him.  By the time he appeared in a North Korean court he was exhibiting some noticeable psycho-physical affects.  At times he appeared alert and normal, at other times he appeared dazed and detached. At one point he seemed unable to walk on his own. He was visibly emotional admitting his 'crime' and asking for leniency.  The court gave him 20 years.

The North Koreans claimed that, at some point during his imprisonment, he contracted botulism and "after taking a sleeping pill" - no timeline defined here - he went into a coma.  He was 'comatose' when he arrived back in the USA but his family claim he was howling like an animal,  unresponsive to them and "disfigured".  Doctors treating him noted that there was significant loss of  brain tissue.

Warmbier's parents were on the news and talk show circuit almost immediately, claiming that the Koreans and brutally tortured their son,  after a 'sham' trial in which he was 'unfairly' convicted.    Donald Trump tweeted sentiments   corresponding to theirs.

American government agencies decried his arrest and trial and incarceration but there are no diplomatic ties to Korea, so Warmbier was essentially left on his own.  There were no US representatives available in North Korea to see to his welfare  - no 'good offices' of other nations on which the US could call to look after the interest of a US citizen.

The USA is looking after his interests now,  as Warmbier  seems to fall into the 'beautiful baby' classification that resulted in Syria being attacked.  Warmbier's treatment probably has as much to do with North Korean isolation as does their nuclear threat and rocket tests.   He isn't however an 'icon' - so far he isn't a Davy Crockett or a Nathan Hale.

What he is,  is a victim of 60 years of  US intransigence. If North Korea isn't being ignored, it's being classed as a threat. 60 years in which a couple of generations of American have stood guard on the ramparts of Democracy on the 38th  parallel - hostile to North Koreans and best allies to their southern cousins. That, as much as anything, has stopped Koreans from solving their purely political, but now 'time honored' differences.

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