President Carter goes to Pyongyang


Former US President Jimmy Carter and a working party of other elder world leaders travel to Pyongyang, N. Korea this week, bearing humanitarian offerings and looking for rapprochement on questions of inter-Korean relations and the inexorable expansion of that belligerent nation’s uni-purpose drive to arm itself with a range of nuclear weapons. We should all wish them luck, but what they need more is money.

The funds are not likely to be forthcoming from a world close to the brink in so many nations, of economic collapse, if we can believe an army of non-official or unaffiliated economists, and we like can. What N. Korea (and the rest of the world) needs is a rational development plan that enables the small country to thread a path through the tall timbers surrounding her on all sides. I have suggestions, already made at least once, that I want to trot out again, just in case there might be one reader out there with access to any the “Elders” on this imminent visit to the northern cousins (I live in Seoul), who might find them amusing, if not useful.

Suggest to Kim Jong-il and Baby Kim that they make it the national cause celebre to seek the status of most bicycle-friendly nation on earth. Others have a head start, so it’s a high bar to set, but that’s a good thing. It’s good because it will take many years of full-on development to bring N. Korea to the level of economic health of its neighbors, of which the far eastern provinces of Russia may be closest. This plan also renders undesirable a focus on the personal automobile as the leader of national economic salvation, the course taken by South Korea toward its “miracle on the Han”.

Automobiles aren’t going away soon, though, even S. Korea would benefit greatly in quality of life if a few million of them would, and that is the key to the next suggestion. North Korea should build two secure expressway corridors for motor traffic connecting S. Korea, Russia and China. Secure, because that’s what they seem to be obsessed with, namely preventing too much open contact between the free world outside, and their imprisoned and dark-closeted citizenry.

Finally, Development of a bridge or tunnel, a la the European “Chunnel” for rail and/or motor traffic between Japan and S. Korea would benefit the entire East Asian economic sphere, with North Korea at dead center. The sooner this inevitable project gets into the planning phase, the sooner is it likely to be completed. It won’t ever be any less costly to undertake than it is today.

These are not modest suggestions, because the magnitude of need (and the consequences of continuing to take small steps forward and back) demand no less. They offered in all sincerity, in the spirit of seeking a peaceful and prosperous future. It is an opportunity that, to be realized, will require the boldest and confident leaders of good will. It is possible for Baby Kim to become “Elder Kim” himself, one day, but it won’t happen if the best he’s got is lobbing artillery rounds at defenseless offshore (S. Korean) islands, or launching sneak submarine attacks against non-threatening military units. That’s the path to title of “Elder Lunatic Kim”

So, Be bold, Mr. President, and succeed at what all others have failed, otherwise we’ll have to add a verse to an old Yankee Doodle favorite:

Jimmy Carter went to Pyongyang riding Rocinante
Found the promise in his plan well-meant but still baloney.

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