NK's Nobel stunt

Yonhap News
April 21, 2016


Three Nobel prize winners are scheduled to visit North Korea from April 29 to May 6, about the same time as Pyongyang will be holding its seventh Workers Party Congress.

Basically, it is up to the three ― British biochemist Richard Roberts, Norwegian economist Finn Lydland and Israeli chemist Aaron Ciechanover ― to decide whether to make the trip or not.

They should be aware of how they can be used by the world's most brutal regime as propaganda props ahead of its party convention. The convention is widely expected to serve as the "coronation ceremony" for its young dictator Kim Jong-un as the leader of the impoverished country.

The trip's organizer, the International Peace Foundation, says the trio will give lectures at Kim Il-sung University and that their activities will have nothing to do with ideology and politics.

The foundation's noble objective can't be found fault with, but it should bear in mind that the North is a master in turning acts of generosity by outsiders into public relations stunts aimed at propagating what they claim is the superiority of their system. Oftentimes, when you feel regretful, it is too late.

The timing of their visit can't be more inauspicious. Its young dictator has put himself and his nation on a collision course with the rest of the world by detonating its fourth nuclear device and launching a long-range missile earlier this year. It is part of its effort to force the world to recognize it as a nuclear weapons state. In the face of the toughest-ever U.N. sanctions, it now has threatened to turn Washington and Seoul into bowls of fire with their nuclear-tipped missiles.

Pyongyang has now been relegated into an international pariah, but the Nobel delegation's visit could be used as a stamp of approval that could be used to mislead its people into believing that their country is not as isolated as they fear.

Although we wish to be proved wrong, it is still possible that these high-minded scholars may unwittingly impose on themselves a mission to resolve the North Korean conundrum during their trip. If so, their free will should be respected and good intent recognized, but they should be reminded that the Korean tragedy is comparable to that between Palestine and Israel in its complexity with the two Koreas having waged a war that killed millions on both sides and that can't be solved overnight. So we suggest that if they can't cancel their trip, at least they should postpone it until after the party convention.