Friday, April 23, 2010


What an interesting day. I got a chance to hear Michael Breen, a foremost authority on North Korean affairs, address our group of 30 people about leadership. He talked about the differences between the two Koreas and about how individuals need to make choices in leadership - look at the stark contrasts between the decisions made in the North vs South.

Regardless, the opportunity to meet and discuss North Korean affairs in Seoul with one of the foremost authorities was fascinating. He has actually met and had dinner with Kim Il-sung (father of current dictator Kim Jong-il). He mentioned the North Koreans are paranoid, brainwashed to a degree and are made completely dependent on the state through poverty.

One story he mentioned was about this North Korean farmer who lived near the Chinese border. While out walking he got lost and ended up knocking on a door of a nearby farm, not realizing he was in China. When the people answered, as he asked for directions he could see the dog eating rice. He was dumbfounded why someone would feed a dog rice when it is such a rare commodity in North Korea.

Another anecdote was that the people haven't been told that people have landed on the moon, because it would appear pro-American.

I asked if Kim Jong-il was rational: would he press the button? The answer was yes, but he is just strange. Everything is for a specific, well planned reason. For instance, the recent sinking of a South Korean vessel was probably provoked by a North Korean missle. Why? We don't know - why in the world would he do such a thing? Yet there is probably a reason. Maybe it's a show of force to his people becuse there is an imminent transition of power to his son? Maybe it's to distract another internal situation? We don't know. But he wouldn't press the button becuase he would lose what he prizes most: power.

Utterly fascinating. He has an article in today's Korean Times, go here to get it: