Media Digest (1/30/2012)
Just a few interesting stories from a few places that interest me…
-B.R. Myers pens an editorial in the New York Times in which he explains why Kim Jong-un’s succession will proceed smoothly. Here’s the gist:
By Communist standards, the North Korean masses would have to judge both the government’s economic performance and the succession in the harshest possible terms. It is because they judge them by very different standards that Kim Jong-un was able to take over so effortlessly while promising to budge “not an inch” from his father’s line. We should therefore not make too much of the fraudulence of all that on-screen wailing. Just because North Korean TV never films anything before rehearsing all spontaneity out of it does not mean the average citizen was unmoved. By ultra-nationalist, militarist criteria, which have more to do with North Koreans’ perception of where the country stands in the world than material living conditions, the Dear Leader did a very good job indeed: the Korean Central News Agency may well be correct in saying he made the country virtually impregnable.
Yes, this article is a few weeks old. I am bringing it up now, however, because Joshua Stanton made the following noteworthy point in rebuttle:
As much as I respect Myers’s understanding of North Korea’s official pathology, I don’t see how he could possibly have enough information to know [that the people in power have an interest in seeing Kim Jong-un survive]. The premise is probably true, but it was just as true that a year ago, men who now make up the Free Syrian Army were invested in the survival of Bashar Assad. When the people rise against a system like this (or at least somewhat like this), as history suggests they usually do eventually, it’s always in defiance of most expert predictions. Repressive regimes are very good at concealing nascent discontent from foreign observers, and foreign observers who get access to repressive countries tend to be selected for how easily they can be fooled.
(Yes, I know, that’s also a few weeks old, but I just read it today)
-Michael Madden details Kim Jong-un’s latest on-the-spot guidance visit to Air Force Unit #378. Kim Jong-un, accompanied by his father, visited the unit in early December of last year. The 378th has been become part of the “Oh Chung Hup 7th Regiment,” named after one of the partisans who allegedly fought alongside Kim Il Sung against the Japanese. According to the DailyNK:
Being an ‘O Jung Hup 7th Regiment’ is among the highest military honors in North Korea. The country claims that O Jung Hup 7th Regiment was responsible for protecting Kim Il Sung with their lives during his anti-Japanese guerilla days. Hoping to make more members of the military want to be like the fabled regiment, North Korea began touting the ‘O Jung Hup 7th Regiment title movement’ during the 1990s, with those in contention for the decoration first having to undergo an evaluation of their political loyalty.
-Chosun Exchange offers some commentary on a North Korean comic book entitled “The Secret of Frequency A”.
-The China Media Project looks at the legacy of Wukan. The Wukan protests erupted in December of last year over government land grabs and the mysterious death of a local party official. For a few days, protestors wrested control of the town, drove out the CCP and the local police, and eventually forced provincial and central government authorities to bow to their demands.
-Mizzima reports that thousands turned out in Dawei as Aung Sung Suu Kyi kicked off her campaign for parliament and announced her intention to revise the 2008 military-drafted constitution. For photos, see here.
-24.kg also noted how the murder of an ethnic Kyrgyz by an ethnic Tajik in the village of Aidarken led to inter-ethnic tension that was defused only after the suspect’s family fled the village.
-EurasiaNet reports on the arrest of opposition OSDP party leaders Bolat Abilov and Amirzhan Kosanov following a two-hour, 500-person rally in Almaty yesterday. The rally was called in protest of the January 15th parliamentary elections and to “pray for those who died in Zhanaozen.” Both Abilov and Kosanov were given 18-day sentences.
-Eurasia Daily Monitor also has a rundown on the post-election crackdown.
-Brian M. Downing looks at the possible ramifications for Saudi Arabia in the event of a war with Iran.
-RFE/FL reports that the Azerbaijani government has broken up an alleged plot by Iranian-backed Azerbaijani citizens to kill the Israeli ambassador to Baku. Azerbaijan is one of the few [only?] Muslim countries that maintains close diplomatic relations with
-EurasiaNet looks at growing Armenian-Iranian cooperation, including the construction of a gas pipeline between Tabriz (Iran) and Yeraskh (Armenia), in the face of Western sanctions against Iran. The article notes that some believe the West may be willing to turn a blind eye to the pipeline project as it would help to make Armenia less dependent on Russian pipelines.
-RFE/RL discusses recent parliamentary attempts by opposition parties to introduce electoral reforms that would make parliamentary elections subject to a party-list only vote, instead of the mixed-system currently in place. The article says that the opposition held a press conference attended by “virtually all of the country’s major political forces.” President Serzh Sarkisian and his ruling HHK party have vowed to block the bill.
-Eurasia Daily Monitor reports on the latest insurgent attacks in Dagestan, Ingushetia, and Kabardino-Balkaria. Russia security forces apparently killed the “military emir” of the Caucasus Emirate (a terrorist group based out of Chechnya led by Dokka Umar that whishes to see the creation of a united Islamic state in the North Caucasus).
-The Economist discusses the growing discontent in post-Gaddafi Libya over the slow pace of reforms. In the intervening months, deadly clashes have erupted between rival militias who refuse to accede to central government control, NTC Deputy Chief Abdel-Hafidh Ghoga resigned following a protest in Benghazi, reports have emerged about the torture and extra-judicial confinement of former pro-Gaddafi fighters, and last week, a pro-Gaddafi militia managed to seize all or part of the major town of Bani Walid before surrendering. Such discontent is natural and to be expected following a revolution, especially because politicians tend to look political solutions when more often than not, the underlying drivers of the revolution were economic in nature. Nevertheless, it’s clear that the NTC is having serious problems consolidating their control over the country.
-Gene Expression asks: “Are social conservatives really less intelligent?”