STTB: The Upside to Iranian Nukes, One Lucky Kid, and the Return of Human Scum

April 10, 2015 6:30 AM

When writing about North Korea one is tempted to say “no news is good news.” But today I update three stories we’ve been following—and two of them have happy endings! Of sorts. This is North Korea, so let’s not get carried away.

So there has been lots of discussion of the Iranian nuclear deal, or the temporary framework agreement to see if we can stop disagreeing so vehemently, or whatever you want to call it (Steph Haggard had a nice post earlier this week covering this territory), and much of the discussion understandably has focused on knotty issues of sequencing and verification. But leave it to Maeil Business Daily, sort of the Wall Street Journal of Korea, to figure out how South Koreans can make money off of it!

According to the Maeil story:

“Once Western sanctions are lifted and Iranian oil exports rise, foreign capital are expected to escalate for infrastructure projects in the country. This means Iran with 80 million population could be a new land of promise to Korean companies.

After the nuclear deal, the Iranian government is expected to place construction and plant orders worth $150 billion, creating considerable business opportunities to Korean general trading companies which are involved in oil and resources development, along with local exporters of cars, home appliances, petrochemicals and steel products. Industry sources said detailed negotiations due late June are required but this must be good news to companies in pursuit of exports to the Middle East and infrastructure business.

Korean builders, which are expected to be most benefited, began to prepare for their re-engagement in petroleum plant and infrastructure business in Iran, which was suspended due to sanctions.”

Hey, there has to be a silver lining in every mullah’s turban!

We had run several posts about the case of the young man in Sweden who claimed to be North Korean but was facing possible deportation to China. The case raised issues of both the professional competency of the outfit hired by the Swedes to do a linguistic evaluation of the youth as well as his possible fate were he to be deported. According to reporting by VOA, last month the Migration Court of Sweden ruled that the Migration Board had indeed mishandled the case and ordered it to be re-investigated. The lawyer for the plaintiff, who goes under the pseudonym Han Song, expressed the expectation that his client would be granted refugee status once the case was reviewed.

My late father-in-law was a Ghanian diplomat. One day, trying to make small talk, I asked him over the course of his career, which country had the best diplomats. His response stunned me: “South Korea. They were well-trained, spoke effective English, and you could talk to them about anything and they would give you a frank answer.” That response knocked me back on my heels. Ok, well, then what country had the worst diplomats? “North Korea,” he responded, proceeding to tell me about getting harangued by his North Korean counterpart about the Great Leader Kim Il Sung every morning while doing some work at the UN.

Well, if reporting by Julian Ryall in the Telegraph is any indication, the tradition continues. His lede says it all:

Pyongyang's ambassador to London has labelled defectors from North Korea as "human scum" and insisted that his government is willing to use its nuclear weapons against its enemies.

Hyun Hak-bong, who heads North Korea's diplomatic mission from a seven-bedroom family home in Ealing, told Sky News that testimonies by defectors that they were mistreated in the North were "fabricated".

"Those allegations are based on fabricated stories by the defectors from the North", Mr Hyun said.

"Do you know the difference between human beings and animals?" he asked.

"Human beings have a conscience and morality. If they do not have a conscience and a morality, they are like nothing.

"They're animals. They are no better than animals. They are human scum".

Human scum? Yawn. Definitely losing their edge. Can’t they come up with anything better? They used that one years ago on John Bolton, subject of a recent Dana Milbank piece in the Washington Post “For John Bolton, war is the answer.” (Last week he wanted to attack Iran.) Back when I was in college, I read a great book on the origins of the First World War, The Long Fuse by Laurence Lafore. One passage, characterizing Austro-Hungarian Field Marshall Baron Franz Conrad von Hötzendorf, has stuck with me through the years:

“The crisis lasted—officially, as it were—from October of 1908 to March of 1909. During that time an attack on Serbia was the subject of constant debate in Vienna. Conrad von Hötzendorf was violently in favor. He was indeed in favor of attacking everybody in sight; he favored the “solution” of “the Italian problem” through a war against Italy too.”

John Bolton, the Baron Franz Conrad von Hötzendorf of the 21st century!

Have a good weekend. And don't lose your edge.

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Marcus Noland Senior Research Staff

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