North Korea: The Struggle Against American Power
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- North Korea: The Struggle against American Power
Book for Pluto Press of London. Published September 2005
Changzoo Song, University of Auckland
North Korea is a totalitarian society ruled by one family. It keeps an outdated and non-functioning socialist economy, which fails to feed its people. Hundreds of thousands of residents flee away from the country in search of food and freedom, which is evidence in itself that the regime has failed. Despite such a starving population, the country has been continuously building up its military. In particular, the country has been developing weapons of mass destruction such as missiles and nuclear bombs. Desperate for money, this country smuggled drugs, circulated counterfeit US dollar bills, and has been selling missiles to other countries. There is a danger that it might sell weapons of mass destruction to terrorist organisations.
This is the popular image of North Korea as we know of in the west. The book under review, North Korea: The Struggle Against American Power, challenges this popular view, claiming that our views of North Korea are distorted by people and agencies with anti-DPRK agendas (p.133). The book therefore aims to demonstrate that the western media is prejudiced (p.9) and how the US government, just as it deceived us regarding Iraq’s possession of weapons of mass destruction, has manipulated our views about North Korea. Why, then, does the US government distort facts about North Korea? First of all, the author argues, the US has a ‘grudge’ toward North Korea -- the first country that the powerful US did not win against (p.54). In addition, the current US administration needs a “demonic and demonised North Korea” (p.27) for its political agenda. What is the political agenda of the US? Using an enemy like North Korea, the US intends to justify its military expansion and expensive projects like the Missile Defence (MD) in the post-Cold War era. In particular, the US wants to contain China (p.77), for which it needs continued crisis with countries like North Korea.
The Struggle Against American Power
[Book Review] North Korea's nukes as a reaction to American threat
Timothy Savage (yamanin)
Published 2006-08-13 10:44 (KST)
If the ongoing nuclear crisis with North Korea has accomplished nothing else, it has provided a great deal of employment to the chattering classes. Thanks to the widely accepted image of North Korea as a black box, just about anyone can claim to be an "expert" on the subject, even if they lack any background in Korean studies, knowledge of the language, or experience actually visiting the country. People like Jasper Becker, Gordon Chang, Michael Horowitz, and Jay Lefkowitz get book contracts, speaking engagements, and government jobs based solely on their willingness to accept and propagate the most negative views on the Pyongyang regime. In such a situation, it's refreshing when someone comes along who is willing to look at things from the other perspective, as Tim Beal does in his recent book.
The basic premise of Beal's work is an undeniable but oft-overlooked truth: namely, that the balance of military and economic power on the Korean Peninsula vastly favors the United States and its allies. While hawks in Washington make much of the threat posed by Pyongyang's small arsenal of nuclear weapons (if indeed they even exist), the reality is that the United States enjoys absolute superiority in ever measure of military power, both nuclear and conventional. This fact, well known and well understood by all parties in the dispute, serves as an effective brake on any aggressive action by North Korea, and has done so for the past 50 years.
Comments on review:
"The typo rises again," said ernest Big Bear
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Big Bear, 2006/08/13 13:48
Reviewer also has a typo like "Park Yon-hong" that should be read as "Park Hun Young" in south Korea, "Pak Hon Yong" in north Korea. If nation were under one flag, his "Englsih" name would be surely one. As for me, typo is pardonable for it adds to a serious book-reading. Beal did a good job. I love his website that shows his sincerity on his field of study. And reviewer also did his best job though not to my satisfaction.
Fact checking not needed or desired
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Ryan Masters, 2006/08/13 12:34
Of course there are errors in the book that even a cursory fact check would catch. You cantt write a book from the North Korean perspective AND use facts. North Korea, just like the Bush administration, exists in its own reality. Facts are not welcome in that reality.
Two writers, two very different North Koreas
By GLYN FORD
NORTH KOREA: The Struggle Against American Power, by Tim Beal. Pluto, 2005, 352 pp., £18.99 (paper).
NORTH KOREA: The Paranoid Peninsula, by Paul French. Zed Books Ltd., 2005, 352 pp.,£17.95 (paper).
The subtitles of these books reveal the sharply differing points of departure on North Korea for writers Tim Beal and Paul French. For Beal, North Korea is a product as much of American ill will as it is of its own internal ideology. Beal takes on the despairingly bad press it gets by challenging Western-accepted wisdom across the board. North Korea may spend the highest level of gross domestic product in the world on its military, but that's still less than 0.4 percent of the spending by the U.S.-Japan-South Korea axis combined.
As with any author writing on contemporary issues, French's and Beal's books threaten to age quickly. Now the final phase of the six-party talks are under way with the North being asked to swallow the U.S.'s reneging on the 1994 Framework Agreement, which was concluded when imminent collapse of North Korea was forecast by the U.S. intelligence community. French, like the vast majority of Western authors, paints the North in dark colors and so, inevitably, says little that's new. Beal, by contrast, takes the white road and therefore is a fresh voice that will deservedly endure much longer.
REVIEWS: Two Koreas
Reviewed by M. Abul Fazl
Dawn (Pakistan) March 12, 2006
Tim Beal rendered a valuable service to the students of international relations by bringing to light the case of the weaker side in a region of constant tension. Perhaps North Korea is, after all, not weird.
As to the solution of this tension, it lies in the gradual unification of the two Korean States. But the US is opposed to it. Hence the first problem to be resolved is the contradiction within the US policy itself.
Recommended Reading---North Korea: The Struggle Against American Power
Sunday, February 19, 2006
I highly recommend Tim Beal's insightful analysis, North Korea: The Struggle Against American Power (2005). As you may know, the relationship between North Korea and the U.S. was improving in the 1990s, with South Korea's President, Kim Dae Jung, even receiving the Nobel Peace Prize for his work related to the Sunshine Policy. Beal's important book illustrates the almost immediate reversal of U.S. policy as George W. Bush took office, which escalated tensions as quickly as it unraveled years of relationship building. Bush's hostile policies are discussed in a way that you would find surprising from a U.S. publisher; therefore, you will not be surprised that the publisher, Pluto Press, is based in London. Beal teaches at Victoria University in New Zealand, where the view of the Unites States' curious/dangerous/violent tendencies seems particularly accurate.
posted by Lee Herrick at 7:38 PM
LOCATION:CALIFORNIA, UNITED STATES
Born in Seoul, S. Korea. Poems published in the Haight Ashbury Literary Journal, Berkeley Poetry Review, Hawaii Pacific Review, The Bloomsbury Review, and others. Pushcart Prize nominee, LA Poetry Festival Award finalist, founding editor of In the Grove. I teach at Fresno City College and serve on the Board of Directors for The English Council]
North Korea against Whom?
Erik Mobrand - 3/8/2006
Gordon G. Chang, Nuclear Showdown: North Korea Takes on the World. New York: Random House, Jan. 2006. 327 pp. $25.95 hardcover.
Tim Beal, North Korea: The Struggle against American Power. London and Ann Arbor, MI: Pluto Press, Sept. 2005. 342 pp. $80.00 hardcover, $29.95 paperback.Test
In October 2002 the Agreed Framework that supplied North Korea with U.S. aid since 1994 in return for promises not to produce nuclear weapons broke down and led to the current standoff on North Korea's uranium enrichment program. Since then, rounds of six-party talks involving the United States, North Korea, South Korea, China, Japan, and Russia have sought to deal with the impasse. The United States refuses to talk with North Korea directly. The world is faced with the question of what is to be done with a secretive country that may or may not have nuclear weapons.
What are we to make of the current situation? Two recent books on the Democratic People's Republic of Korea (DPRK), both written for general audiences, offer widely divergent views on the nuclear problem. Tim Beal, a New Zealand-based academic and host of a website on North Korea, provides a guide to sifting through the sparse and often-politicized information on the reclusive country. Gordon Chang, lawyer and author of The Coming Collapse of China, has produced a polemical treatise on the crisis, claiming that the need for decisive action trumps any gaps in knowledge.
The far better-informed Beal is more honest about unknowns. The situation with North Korea is not only complicated; it is unclear because information is scarce and sometimes manipulated. But there is danger in the view, expressed by Chang, that "When there's not much to go on, the simplest explanation is often the best" (p. 63). Chang does well to remind us of U.S. "responsibility" to the world, but he neglects the other side of that responsibility - to show restraint in resorting to its superior coercive power.
Review by Br. Benet Exton, O.S.B.
In this informative book, Tim Beal suggests that the conflict between North Korea and the U.S. is more of President George W. Bush’s making than it is of the North Koreans. During the Clinton administration, relations between the U.S. and North Korea seemed to be heading in a more positive direction. By contrast, in January 2002, during the State of the Union speech before Congress, President Bush declared North Korea to be part of the “Axis of Evil” along with Iraq and Iran. Throughout this book, Beal compares North Korea’s situation with Iraq before it was invaded. He strives to show similarities in how President Bush has dealt with both countries. If so, it would make sense for North Korea to be concerned that it might be next on the Bush hitlist, whether before or after Iran.
Beal presents a condensed history of North Korea to help the reader better understand today’s North Korean culture and its apparent belligerence. China has had a great influence on the Koreans in several positive ways, on Korean religion, language and civilization. Japan has had a negative influence on Korea by conquering it and keeping it as colony. The Japanese were brutal toward the Koreans, and this animosity is likely still very much alive, especially in the North where the government has greater control on those who live there.
Beal details American hypocrisy on several issues like human rights, religion, and nuclear arms. In North Korea, religion is said to be tolerated - as long as it does not cross over into politics. The government is reportedly cruel to its own people and controlling of their lives. Starvation seems to a major problem for the North. Beal and others fault the U.S. for holding back food from the North as leverage. While the U.S. has the nuclear capability to destroy the world many times over, an ironic complaint against North Korea is that its military is too large and too costly. The North feels threatened by the U.S., and possibly by South Korea, so it is on guard against invasion at any time.
This insightful book dishes out food for thought. Beal provides many timelines, charts, and quotes from various sources. Copious endnotes, a good-sized bibliography and an index round out the book’s extras. Three maps are found in the front of the book, but otherwise no illustrations break up the text. The top half of the front cover pictures Vice President Dick Cheney speaking to an audience of American soldiers in South Korea; on the bottom half is a picture of North Korean soldiers on parade.
This book on North Korea is recommended to those interested in the present tenuous North Korean situation.
And from the frequently bizarre world of blogs...
The cheap option
In a recent review of the book NORTH KOREA: The Struggle Against American Power, by Tim Beal, Glyn Ford, who is bio'd as a "Labor member of the European Parliament for Southwest England and member of the delegation for relations with Japan" (which must not be much of a job, seeing as how Ford finds enough time to write regularly for The Japan Times), we are treated to the following jewels of logic about the NORK nuclear weapons program. . .
* First of all, whether one really exists is doubtful. Charles Kartman, the former head of the U.S.-led Korean Energy Development Organization (KEDO), is quoted as saying "the number of proven weapons is zero."
* Second, if it is developing one, it was forced to do so by the U.S. and South Korea, primarily the threat of American use of such weapons.
Got that? Kind of like the old "You can't prove anything! You made me do it!"
But point three is the real kicker. . .
* Third, nuclear weapons are the cheap option that could enable North Korea to release hundreds of thousands of conscripts into civilian life to kick-start its failing economy.
So that's the problem with the NORK economy.
NORTH KOREA: The Struggle Against American Power is published by Pluto Press. Pluto, I believe, is a dog owned by Goofy.
When academics become DPRK apologists
By Richardson on 6 Feb 2006
Appeasement & Engagement, Media Criticism & Fiskings, WMD
For years I have occasionally used resources listed on Tim Beal's DPRK - North Korea site, which is a wealth of links. And for years I noticed his strong dislike of the Bush administration in the newsletter section, which is why I rarely read it; such strong biases tend to overshadow relevant facts in analysis. The latest newsletter (January 2006), concerning the October 2002 Kelly-Kang meeting, and why North Korea might have decided to illegally process uranium, is a case-in-point:
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