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Despair is not the answer for North Korea

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Journalist Suki Kim spent nearly a year undercover in North Korea teaching English at the country’s only foreign-run school. South Korean-born Kim moved to the U.S. as a young teen and has visited North Korea several times.

She hid her notes in USB sticks and her camera’s SIM card during her teaching stint at Pyongyang University of Science and Technology (PUST), a school run by Christian missionaries and only tolerated by the Kim regime because of its excellent reputation.

Her verdict on North Korea’s prospects to join the civilized world: despair and catastrophe.

In a revealing interview with The Intercept‘s Jon Schwarz, himself no stranger to the Hermit Kingdom, Suki Kim painted a very depressing picture.

Unsurprisingly, then, Kim’s students were shockingly ignorant of the outside world. They didn’t recognize pictures of the Taj Mahal or Egyptian pyramids. One had heard that everyone on earth spoke Korean because it was recognized as the world’s most superior language. Another believed that the Korean dish naengmyeon was seen as the best food on earth. And all Kim’s pupils were soaked in a culture of lying, telling her preposterous falsehoods so often that she writes, “I could not help but think that they – my beloved students – were insane.” Nonetheless, they were still recognizably human and charmingly innocent, and for their part came to adore their teachers.

Kim saw a North Korea several generations departed from any ties to the South, which has prospered as a modern, technologically advanced industrial powerhouse. Everything about North Korea is an insulated, Godless, controlling and brutal cult.

It was paradoxical. They could be very smart, yet could be completely deluded about everything. I don’t see why that would be different in the people who run the country. The ones that foreigners get to meet, like diplomats, are sophisticated and can talk to you on your level. But at the same time they also have this other side where they have really been raised to think differently, their reality is skewed. North Korea is the center of the universe, the rest of the world kind of doesn’t exist. They’ve been living this way for 70 years, in a complete cult.

Parents have no agency or control of children, who belong solely to the State. No phone calls, no travel, no visits allowed at PUST, even for the most elite families. No exceptions. In 70 years of Kim family rule–the Juche cult venerates them as gods–even the language has become coarse and uncivilized. Schwarz described it as “like finding the words f*** and s*** in a presidential speech or on the front page of the New York Times.”

Kim agreed.

Yes, I think the language does reflect the society. Of course, the whole system is built around the risk of an impending war. So that violence has changed the Korean language. Plus these guys are thugs, Kim Jong-un and all the rest of them, that’s their taste and it’s become the taste of the country.

Kim blamed history, and that the United States, along with the allies who won World War II, set an arbitrary line dividing North and South Korea, each side installing its puppet dictator in a Soviet versus West iron curtain played out on the peninsula. She bitterly spoke of U.S. conduct before and during the Korean War, calling the air war against North Korea “barbaric.”

All of that may very well be true, and it may have given the underpinnings of the Kim family’s hatred of America merit. But the Kims have built that hatred into a doctrine of its own, and without access to the outside world, the only world North Koreans know is what they’re told.

Based on those facts, and her observations of young North Korean adults, for whom lying, surveillance, brutality and control are the only way of life they’ve ever experienced, Kim believes that the North is not a reliable partner in any negotiations, and will never give up nuclear weapons.

The only way North Korea can be dealt with is if this regime is not the way it is. No agreements are ever honored because North Korea just doesn’t do that. It’s a land of lies. So why keep making agreements with someone who’s never going to honor those agreements?

But regime change is not an easy option when the leader is seen by his people as a god. You can’t just take control. Kim murdered the most ready replacements in his bloodline, but there are others.

All roads, for Suki Kim, lead to catastrophe. But one thing she said offers an amazing hope.

Every path is a catastrophe. This is why even defectors, when they flee, usually turn into devout fundamentalist Christians. I’d love to offer up solutions but everything leads to a dead end.

I’m not sure here if Kim meant that fundamentalist Christianity is a negative in her mind–a perverted result of years under a cult. But to me, it represents freedom.

Many have written about Juche, and how it was originally designed to be a counterfeit Christianity. Missionaries are familiar with how North Koreans are inculcated, and even recognize Biblical truth because what they’re taught is so similar, albeit with different deities.

The son of Christian parents and the grandson of a Christian pastor, Kim Il-sung was intimately familiar with Christianity and witnessed Christians choose martyrdom over worshipping the Japanese Emperor during Japan’s 1910-1945 colonization of Korea.

Recognizing the power of Christianity, Kim wanted it to be directed at himself. So he took Christianity, removed God the Father, Jesus Christ and the Holy Spirit, set up himself, his wife and son as the new trinity, and called it Juche. At its core, Juche is a counterfeit Christianity that is deathly afraid of the True Gospel, and rightfully so.

There is no truth the North Korean regime is more afraid of than Biblical truth. Even possession of a Bible is grounds for banishment to a work camp or execution. Yet Christian missionary organizations infiltrate thousands of Bibles into the North every year. They use balloons, electronic devices and other methods to smuggle the Bible from South Korea and China.

Pastors have been targeted for assassination (and have in fact been assassinated), who run house churches, hospitality homes, and shelters for defecting North Koreans along the long border with China. Defectors don’t flee, then become fundamentalist Christians–they meet Christ, then they flee. But some stay and share the Gospel, on pain of death.

This is the power of Christianity to transform nations. South Korea is openly Christian, given to prayer and Bible study. South Koreans have been praying nonstop for their brothers and sisters in the North for decades.

Ultimately, all the military weapons in the world will accomplish nothing but kill more North Koreans, most of whom are more than willing to die for their country and their gods. The answer to this unsolvable problem must come from outside human understanding. The war is spiritual in nature and can only be won in a spiritual context.

Don’t think that God cannot reach North Korea. He is reaching China, Cuba, and the Middle East, sending dreams and visions where missionaries cannot go. God can and will reach North Korea.

Whatever happens in our global security and military context, we have to believe and have faith that God is sovereign and it is His will to save North Koreans. We must not compromise, but we must have compassion. The only real solution in North Korea is to increase efforts, by a thousand-fold, to pump the Gospel into that land of despair.

We should not despair, but trust in Him who can save.

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Democrats

2020 hopefuls lurching leftward to appeal to radical progressive base

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2020 hopefuls lurching leftward to appeal to radical progressive base

The great primary evolution is already starting. We saw it in 2016 as every Republican candidate tried to “evolve” their views to cater to the conservative base. No evolution was more striking than candidate Trump’s, who went from supporting gun bans and partial birth abortion as a younger man to being one of the most conservative candidates during the primaries.

We’re seeing it now with the Democratic candidates and potential candidates as they try to plant their ideological flags as far to the left as possible. Former Trump pollster John Mclaughlin gave his opinion on the leftward lurch of the field, focusing on Elizabeth Warren, Cory “Spartacus” Booker, and Kamala Harris. Each has attempted to paint themselves as the radical progressive the primary-voting base desires. All of them were much more moderate in the past. Warren was even a Republican in the 1990s.

The thing that makes this trend most disturbing is that the “far left” of the past is nothing compared to the radical progressivism of today’s Democratic base. By the time the primaries really heat up, most if not all will be full-blown socialists.


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Foreign Affairs

NY Times invokes Martin Luther King Jr. to attack Israel

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NY Times invokes Martin Luther King Jr to attack Israel

When a nation the size of New Jersey is surrounded by enemies and is the subject of incessant condemnation from the United Nations, it’s natural to assume thoughtful people will take a complete look at its circumstances before deciding which side of a contentious debate to support. This is why many Americans still choose to support the nation of Israel despite mainstream media’s efforts to frame it as evil.

Unfortunately, the debate is so complex, most Americans form their perspectives based on very limited data. Passions are so strong on both sides that it often comes down to which side’s message is loudest in the ears of those deciding who to support. The Israel-Palestine debate has been ongoing since the tiny nation was first formed and ramped up greatly following the attacks on Israel in 1967 that resulted in necessary expansion.

Today, the West Bank, Gaza Strip, and Golan Heights are all considered “occupied” territories by a majority around the world, at least among those who are paying attention. Despite clear evidence that the very existence of Israel would be threatened if these lands were “returned” to the Palestinians, most of the world calls for the two-state solution as the path to peace.

On top of the disputed lands, the way that Israel maintains peace within its own lands is labeled as oppression against Palestinians living there. The core of the BDS (Boycott, Divestment, Sanctions) movement’s message is that the Palestinian people are being persecuted. To support this premise, an activist at the NY Times is invoking Martin Luther King Jr and his opposition to the Vietnam War as the roadmap by which BDS activists should muster their own courage and build more support to fight the nation of Israel.

Time to Break the Silence on Palestine

https://www.nytimes.com/2019/01/19/opinion/sunday/martin-luther-king-palestine-israel.htmlReading King’s speech at Riverside more than 50 years later, I am left with little doubt that his teachings and message require us to speak out passionately against the human rights crisis in Israel-Palestine, despite the risks and despite the complexity of the issues. King argued, when speaking of Vietnam, that even “when the issues at hand seem as perplexing as they often do in the case of this dreadful conflict,” we must not be mesmerized by uncertainty. “We must speak with all the humility that is appropriate to our limited vision, but we must speak.”

To be clear, King was opposed to a war that resulted in the deaths of 1,350,000 people, which is nearly the same amount of Arabs living in Israel currently. King was opposed to a war in which no Americans were attacked prior to us getting involved. Israel is attacked regularly from multiple groups in and out of the nation who support the Palestinian movement. King was opposed to a war that took focus and resources away from his cause.

As he said, “We were taking the black young men who had been crippled by our society and sending them eight thousand miles away to guarantee liberties in Southeast Asia which they had not found in southwest Georgia and East Harlem.”

To be fair, the author of the NY Times article, Michelle Alexander, was using his anti-war speech to demonstrate the courage King displayed as inspiration for the courage she feels BDS supporters need today. Had she left it there, then there wouldn’t be much of a need to respond. However, she continued in the article to speculate King may not have been happy with Israel back then. Worse, she implied that he could have been a supporter of the BDS movement today.

This opinion is beyond questionable. King’s motivations for not wanting to outwardly support Israel’s actions following the Six Day War were for the sake of his movement, not based on personal feelings on the matter. It made sense to not take a side in a debate in which many of his supporters of African or Middle Eastern descent may have objected.

It is becoming increasing common in the BDS movement to point solely towards the actions of the Israeli government while ignoring the reasons for these actions. They often talk about homes being bulldozed, but they ignore the fact that punitive demolitions are a result of terrorist attacks. I am not in favor of these demolitions, but I would never hide the facts to support my claims. The BDS movement realizes calling out Israel for bulldozing Palestinian homes is most effective if the reasons are never mentioned.

As pro-BDS articles go, this one was strikingly coherent. This is a bigger problem than the unhinged hate articles we often see from BDS supporters. It’s easy to see how this one-sided portrayal in a publication as strong as the NY Times that invokes an icon like Martin Luther King Jr can garner support for the movement from those who would otherwise never consider it. The article is very careful to cut off cries of antisemitism and is written for rational thinkers rather than emotional feelers.

But therein lies the problem. It invokes King and his famous speech knowing full well few will actually read it. If they take the time to read or hear it, they’ll wonder what any of that has to do with the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. The NY Times is betting on the easy odds that nobody’s going to take the time.

None of the seven reasons King gives for opposing the Vietnam War could be applied to Israel. Invoking the speech and insinuating he would have been a BDS supporter is a disingenuous attempt to equate his righteous activism to the BDS movement itself.


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Entertainment and Sports

Harden scores 48 points, Rockets beat Lakers 138-134 in OT

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Harden scores 48 points Rockets beat Lakers 138-134 in OT

HOUSTON (AP) — James Harden was the star for the Houston Rockets as usual on Saturday night, but he and the team got a big boost from Eric Gordon in his second game back after recovering from a bruised knee.

Harden scored 48 points, Gordon added 30 and the Rockets overcame a 21-point deficit to beat the Los Angeles Lakers 138-134 in overtime.

The Rockets trailed for most of the night and were down by 18 in the second-half. Gordon sent it to overtime with a 3-pointer, and made four free throws in the last seconds of the extra period.

“He’s playing unbelievable,” coach Mike D’Antoni said of Gordon.

Coming off 57- and 58-point games, Harden had his 19th straight game with at least 30 and he’s had 40 in 10 of the last 13. He was 14 of 30 from the field, going 8 of 19 on 3-pointers, and hit 12 of 15 free throws.

Harden was asked if Gordon being back after missing eight games before his return on Wednesday night eased the burden on him a little bit.

“A little bit? It takes a lot of burden off me,” Harden said. “He’s so offensively gifted and talented being able to shoot the basketball, being able to get to the rim, being able to make plays for others. You get a guy like that on the floor with you it makes it easier for not only myself but for everybody.”

Brandon Ingram missed a 3 for Los Angeles before Harden hit 1 of 2 free throws to make it 132-130 with less than a minute left. Ingram tied it with a basket, and Harden again made 1 of 2 free throws to make it 133-132.

Los Angeles missed a 3 before Gordon also made just 1 of 2 free throws to leave Houston up by two with 12.6 seconds left. Kyle Kuzma lost the ball and it went out of bounds to give Houston the ball back. Gordon added four free throws after that to secure the victory.

It was the second straight overtime game for both teams after Houston lost to Brooklyn on Wednesday night and Los Angeles beat Oklahoma City on Thursday night.

Kuzma had 32 points for Los Angeles and Ingram added 21 in a game where coach Luke Walton was ejected in the third quarter.

Already without LeBron James and Rajon Rondo, the Lakers have another injury concern after Lonzo Ball sprained his left ankle in the third quarter. Walton said his X-rays were negative but that he’d have an MRI and “we’ll see where we are after that.”

Four straight points by the Lakers stretched the lead to nine in the fourth quarter, but Harden and Gordon made consecutive 3-pointers cut it to 112-109 with about two minutes remaining.

Los Angeles made four free throws to make it 116-109 about a minute later, but Harden made two 3-pointers around a basket by Ivica Zubac to get Houston within three with about 30 seconds left.

Lance Stephenson missed a 3-pointer and Harden made two free throws to cut the lead to 118-117 with 5.7 seconds left.

Zubac made two more free throws before Gordon’s off-balance 3-pointer with 2 seconds left sent it to OT.

“I saw Kentavious Caldwell-Pope running out to me and I thought he was going to fly right by me, but he stood right there,” Gordon said. “So I had to try to shoot it with confidence and I’m glad it went in.”

The Lakers built a huge lead early and were up 64-46 at halftime, with Kuzma scoring 24 points.

They were ahead by 17 with about eight minutes left in the third quarter after scoring five straight points capped by a basket from Kuzma before Houston scored the next 15 points to cut it to 74-72 three minutes later. James Ennis had five points in that stretch and P.J. Tucker capped it with a 3-pointer.

Ball was injured just before Houston’s run began. He remained on the court for a couple of minutes talking with trainer’s before he was helped to his feet where he hopped on his right foot for a few steps before being carried off the court and to the locker room by Stephenson and Michael Beasley.

Walton was ejected a couple of minutes after that when he got two technical fouls after yelling at officials during a timeout.

Ingram pointed to losing Ball as when things started to get away from the Lakers.

“Right when Lonzo went out,” he said. “That’s exactly when it went away. We lost momentum a little bit.”

TIP-INS

Lakers: James was out for the 13th straight game with a strained left groin and did not make the trip. … Stephenson finished with 16 points.

Rockets: Harden also had eight rebounds, six assists and four steals. … Ennis returned after missing Wednesday’s game after cutting his left leg in a fall at his house. … Chris Paul missed his 14th game in a row with a strained left hamstring … Clint Capela had surgery to repair a torn ligament in his right thumb and is expected to be out 4-6 weeks.

THEY SAID IT

D’Antoni on Houston’s comeback: “Words don’t do it. That was just our guys showing a lot of heart.”

UP NEXT

Lakers: Host Golden State on Monday night.

Rockets: Visit Philadelphia on Monday night.

___

More AP NBA: https://apnews.com/tag/NBA and https://twitter.com/AP_Sports


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