Why Oh Why Can't We Have a Better Press Corps? Simon Winchester/Times of London Edition
Outsourced to Alex Massie:
Alex Massie: [H]ere is a piece of Simon Winchester's column (£) today:
The State’s founder, Kim Il Sung, claimed that all he wanted for North Korea was to be socialist, and to be left alone. In that regard, the national philosophy of self-reliance known in North Korea as “Juche” is little different from India’s Gandhian version known as “swadeshi”. Just let us get on with it, they said, and without interference, please.
India’s attempt to go it alone failed. So, it seems, has Burma’s. Perhaps inevitably, North Korea’s attempt appears to be tottering. But seeing how South Korea has turned out — its Koreanness utterly submerged in neon, hip-hop and every imaginable American influence, a romantic can allow himself a small measure of melancholy: North Korea, for all its faults, is undeniably still Korea, a place uniquely representative of an ancient and rather remarkable Asian culture. And that, in a world otherwise rendered so bland, is perhaps no bad thing.
I'm not sure I've read a more revolting pair of paragraphs this year. Just gawp at the casual glibness of waving aside the horrors of a gulag-famine state in this fashion, all so the world-weary "romantic" can be cheered-up by the refreshing local colour that makes North Korea so charmingly unique. And, as a commenter at Samizdata notes, it's not as though Winchester's hideous admiration for North Korea qua Korean culture is in any way accurate either. There's precious little "authentically" Korean about the Kims' dreadful totalitarian prison. Most of it is borrowed from the USSR and China, albeit then lacquered in the vulgar Pyongyang style.
Mick Hartley makes the other point: Better a starving slave state, it seems, than this ghastly modern Americanised culture. Quite.
Newspapers, of course, are free to publish whatever they like but one does wonder if anyone at the Times paused to think, "Hang on, we don't have to publish a piece that doesn't just defend the Kims from their detractors but actually makes some kind of fucking "case" for them."
Plucky little North Korea going it all on her lonesome? Please. Get a grip.