Monday, October 19, 2020

New Novel Series: Kim Jong Un's Amazing Journey

There's big news in the world of North Korean fiction! A once-in-a-generation event! 

The Korean Writers Union has finally released the first novel in the official biography series for third-generation leader Kim Jong Un, and with it has announced the name of the new series. 

As all worthy fans of North Korean literature know, for decades there have been two series of novels, or 총서, that represent the apex of the party's literary canon. Only the very créme de la créme of KWU authors are permitted to contribute novels to these series: 

  • 불멸의 력사 (The Imperishable History) 
  • 불멸의 향도  (The Imperishable Leadership) 
The first series depicts events in the life of Kim Il Sung, beginning with the novel 1932 published way back in 1972, and includes the novel Eternal Life featured elsewhere in this blog. The latter series does the same for Kim Jong Il, beginning with the novel Morning Sun (아침해) published in 1988, and currently comprises 36 novels including blog favorites Great Flow of History and 2009

Doing the math, we find that second-generation leader Kim Jong Il's series began publishing six years before he took over as leader, but eight years after he was informally anointed successor.

Kim Jong Un's ascent to leadership was much more precipitous, so it makes sense that his series would not begin right away. But fully ten years after he was declared the successor and nearly nine years after he inherited leadership, I was beginning to wonder if it would appear at all. My sources tell me that as recently as 2015, the word on the Pyongyang street was that KJU had opposed having his own novel series, on account of he's so humble.

But at last, the big moment is here. The title of the third-generation leadership series of biographical novels is....

....  drumroll....

....  drumroll....

....  drumroll....

💂💃💪 불멸의 려정  👯💥👽

...which I am going to translate as "The Imperishable Journey."

The first book in the series is entitled 부흥, which is one of the big slogans of the KJU era and means "revival" or "revitalization."

The publication was announced on various North Korean print and online media last month, with statements implicitly connecting it to the 75th KWP founding celebrations. The formal KCTV announcement can be viewed here.

Its author is none other than Paek Nam Nyong, whose novel Friend was recently translated and published in English by Immanuel Kim, and who is probably the most internationally well-known North Korean author. Paek also previously authored four novels in the Imperishable Leadership series including 야전열차, which tells the story of Kim Jong Il's final year.

Star novelist Paek Nam Nyong with
Immanuel Kim in 2015. Src: VOA
For more on this author, check out Immanuel Kim's interview with him ("The Interview: Life of North Korean Author Paek Namnyong," Journal of Korean Studies, 21.1, Spring 2016) . The interview is a real treat to read, as Paek discusses his childhood, favorite Western novels, family life, and finding inspiration at a divorce court.

It will likely be some time before I can acquire a copy of 부흥 and review it for you, my devoted readers. But judging from the KWP media reports, it appears to focus on KJU's early education reforms and certain technical projects. 

I guess it was too much to hope that the author of Friend would pen a buddy-comedy of Trump and KJU tearing around Singapore together in the Beast, evading their security details and causing general mayhem. He could've titled it Friend II: 2 Fiery 2 Furious! 

*emojis added for emphasis

Wednesday, September 2, 2020

Eternal Life (Part 3): Kim Il Sung and Jimmy Carter on a boat

This entry continues my summary of select chapters of Eternal Life

Eternal Life is the final novel of the Immortal History series, which chronicles Kim Il Sung's life from his days as a guerrilla fighter through the country's founding, war and reconstruction, and on through his later years.  It was published in 1997 and co-authored by Baek Bo Hŭm (who later contributed the short story "Green Land" to the first anthology of stories about Kim Jong Un) and Song Sang Wŏn. The novel covers the events of the last seven months of KIS' life, including his 1994 summit meeting with former US President Jimmy Carter.

Jimmy Carter and Kim Il Sung in 1994
Devoted readers of this blog might recall that this same summit was also the subject of the short story "Enchantment" (매혹), covered in one of this blog's earliest entries. That story took the point of view of First Lady Rosalynn Carter. This novel was written earlier, and the summit chapters alternate between the perspectives of KIS and President Carter.

In Chapter 18, the Carter delegation is treated to a surprise boat ride on the Taedonggang River through the city. President Carter and KIS continue their negotiations and reach an astounding level of agreement.

The original Korean text is available here

Chapter Summary

The global news media waited with bated breath for news of the summit. After the first summit meeting, CNN announced that KIS agreed to hold off on expelling the inspectors if the US would provide a LWR, and everyone was waiting for the US response. CNN’s main office in Atlanta had postponed its evening news program twice, and The New York Times had delayed its evening print run. All the correspondents deployed to Pyongyang were tuned to Chosun Central TV, awaiting word.

While the media waited, a ferocious debate was playing out across board tables and conference calls. The pro-dialogue moderates, led by Clinton, debated the hardliners, led by Senate Republican leader and future presidential candidate Bob Dole. The debate revolved around 3 main points: 1) Is it better to spend $80 billion and just go to war with NK, or spend a tiny fraction of that to provide a light-water reactor; 2) If they do provide the LWR, how will they contain SK’s objections at being completely ignored; 3) How can they prevent the US from losing face by appearing to accede to Pyongyang’s demands.

The debate raged on into the early morning hours.

Just past 5am that morning, Jimmy Carter got Washington’s response: they would withdraw the UN sanctions resolution and hold  a 3rd round of talks to discuss the LWR. 

But in return, NK had to make important “concessions.”

That morning, Carter's delegation arrived prepared to play hardball; but they were surprised when the driver took them to the river instead of Kumsusan Hall. The change of plans was swiftly explained by Mun Sŏn Gyu, who was waiting to greet them. “Premier Kim Il Sung heard that you like boats, Mr. Carter, so He decided to take you out to the West Sea Battery on this pleasure boat.” 

Hearing this, the Carters looked delighted. “If we’re on a boat, he’ll have to sit still!” Rosalynn exclaimed, eyes sparkling at her husband.
Taedong River view with Juche Tower and 
May 1 stadium

KIS was waiting on the dock in front of his luxury river cruiser, the Moranbong. “Mr. Carter, why don’t we take a pleasure cruise to the West Sea. Along the way, we can say what we need to say.”

So they boarded and enjoyed a leisurely cruise through the city; KIS played tour guide, pointing out famous sights like the Okryugwan restaurant, KIS' childhood home on Mangyongdae hill, and Pyongyang's Arc de Triomphe.

A scrum of foreign reporters followed on a separate boat. At one point KIS suggested, “Before we get down to the main discussion, why don’t we give your media something to shoot?” Carter agreed, and they let the other boat pull alongside to take photos.

Then, observing people fishing on the riverbank, KIS asked Mun to slow the boat down. At Carter’s puzzled look, he said:

   “Mr. Carter, do you like to fish?”
   “I do.”
   “Then it seems we have a common interest.” Glancing at the fishers on the riverbank, He continued, “As a fellow fisherman I’m sure you understand, there is nothing more annoying than a passing motorboat kicking up a wake. It wouldn’t do for us to earn their ire while holding our very productive summit.”
    Carter looked at the fishermen again with new eyes, amazed that the premier could spare a thought for them despite being at the center of the world’s attention on this historic day… Thinking back on his own time as president, his face reddened in shame, thinking “I was a ruler and an administrator. As president I governed over people, but the premier supports his people.”

Finally, with a pointed look from Dr. Creekmore, Carter quit stalling and got down to business.
With great fanfare, Carter revealed that the administration was willing to open a third round of talks with North Korea on providing a light-water reactor. They also discussed possible paths to reunification and troop withdrawals from the NLL, before the subject turned to the UN sanctions resolution. 

   [Carter] “I want to pass on the rest of the message from the administration. Premier, the US has decided to withdraw its sanctions resolution against your country at the UN.”
   Carter watched closely for the leader’s response.
   But Premier Kim Il Sung just regarded him silently.
   “This withdrawal,” Carter went on, thinking He had misunderstood, “was communicated to me directly from the White House. They asked me to inform you personally.”
   Premier Kim Il Sung just looked bored, gazing absently out the window. Finally He spoke. “I thank you for passing on this important news. But it’s just a nice change.”
    “The truth is we’re not afraid of sanctions. We’ve survived under sanctions all this time; we’ve never been without them. We’ve faced sanctions from you, and from Japan, and others. We’ve been under sanctions so long that we don’t really think about them any more.”
   Carter was speechless as Premier Kim Il Sung went on. “In other words, whether you cancel the sanctions or not, we’re fine either way. This confrontation is your fault, not ours. You wouldn’t trust us, so we can’t trust you. You’re always trying to make us poor, but that doesn’t mean we are poor. No matter how much you try to pressure us, we’ll get on just fine. Please pass that along to President Clinton and your colleagues.”

Following this exchange, the subject turned to North-South relations. Carter delivered a message from ROK President Kim Young-sam, expressing willingness to hold an immediate North-South leadership summit to discuss matters of concern, including unification.

KIS responded immediately in the affirmative. Again Carter was perplexed; he had expected heavy resistance. “Premier, I’m sure you feel a lot of anger toward the South Koreans; are you really willing to meet with them?” KIS replied their nationalist mission must supercede any ill feelings. Carter was overjoyed, but he felt a twinge of misgiving at the thought of "a mere political hack" like Kim Young-sam going up against a great statesman like KIS.

The river cruise concluded on a high note with a banquet featuring hot Kŭmchŏngju liquor. KIS delivered a heartfelt speech on Koreans' universal desire for unification and invited Carter to tour the newly uncovered tomb of Tangun "on your next visit." 

Foreign perspective

In addition to illustrating KIS' skilled statesmanship and clarifying policy stances, this chapter also takes advantage of the occasion of a foreign visitor to portray North Korea through an experienced world traveler's eyes. The text at times reads like a travelogue highlighting the famous sights of Pyongyang as the Moranbong cruises past them.

As the two leaders chat aboard Kim’s riverboat, the subject turns to the nature of the North Korean people.

   Carter suddenly became contemplative. “I’ve traveled all around the world, but I don’t think I’ve ever seen a leader who serves his people as sincerely, or a people who revere their leader as much as they do here.”
   “Thank you. It’s long been the way of our people to view loyalty and filial duty as virtues... We are a wise and sagacious people. It’s said that the Jews are the world’s most gifted people, but Koreans are actually even more gifted (재간있다). They say the Jews are special because they produced Jesus, who sacrificed himself for them. But it was because of Judas, a Jew, that Jesus was betrayed and nailed to the cross to die. So it seems that the Jews are a gifted people, but prone to betrayal. Our people have wisdom but also value loyalty (신의) as much as life itself.” 

In this passage, we see the North Korean people through Carter's eyes. KIS uses another race, the Jews, as a reference point to point out that Koreans are equally intelligent but superior in loyalty. It is telling that Carter is presented as a reliable witness to the virtues of the Korean people precisely because he has “traveled all around the world” and thus presumably has the global experience to compare Koreans against other races.

Carter's perspective also works to illuminate the contrast of North and South Korea. At one point, KIS presents his stance on reunification:

    “Our policy is to pursue unification as one people, one country, two systems and two governments. In other words, the separate governments of North and South will remain in place, with a common chairperson placed over them. That way we will stop fighting, and there will be no more unfortunate problems between us and the US. How about it? Will you lend your support to peace on the peninsula? Think how that would raise your profile as a master negotiator.”  
    “Great.” Carter felt pleased... “Premier, can I ask you something? ... Right now, the thing that worries South Koreans the most is that your side is insisting on unification without foreign interference, but they worry that if the US military withdraws you will attack them.”
    “As I’m sure you know, we have proposed a troop draw-down to 100,000 on both sides of the peninsula, along with US withdrawal. But the South Koreans don’t talk with you of our intentions.”
   “Really?” Carter looked thoughtful.
   “See here. It’s because you’ve been dealing only with them that these misunderstandings occur. But so far I haven’t complained about this unfair treatment. After all, it’s not Chinese or Japanese you are dealing with, but Koreans of the same blood as us."
   Thinking back, since his arrival, Carter hadn’t heard anyone say one bad word about the South... But what of the other side? Any time South Koreans so much as met an American they went crazy slandering the North. Carter had listened to them of course, but their calumny was so extreme that it was just embarrassing. It was frankly disappointing to see how far they had fallen from the spirit of national solidary compared to the Northerners. 

Here Carter again seems to serve as a reliable worldly witness to the superiority of North Korea. His perspective is a powerful tool because he is motivated to side with the South, yet he can't help but be swayed by the superior Northern manners.

Hidden Forces in US Politics

Toward the end of their ride, Carter discusses the current political dynamics in the US.

   “Our country now has a president with a Senate majority for the first time in many years. This means our current president can consider new approaches that would never have been possible for Bush or Reagan.”
   “That’s good.”
   “But unfortunately, the president faces many political obstacles, both domestic and foreign. Of course, his election victory means that the political forces supporting him are on the rise. Among them are many people who are very sensitive to ecological and technological issues; they are strongly opposed to the spread of nuclear weapons. On the other hand, there are people who feel differently, too many for the president to ignore. Our relations with Europe are more complicated now too, meaning he has to deliberate with them on foreign policy more than in the past. In my view, these and other factors limit his ability to compromise on the Korea issue. But I can give you my personal guarantee that President Clinton is making a good faith effort to ensure that all these issues get resolved fairly.”
   After thinking quietly for a moment, Comrade Kim Il Sung replied solemnly, “I believe you.”
   What He was referring to was not Clinton or his administration, but the deeper forces directing the superpower from behind the scenes, the forces that had no choice but to wave the white flag before our Republic. And His belief was based on faith in the might of our Republic that no force on earth could hold back. 

This passage illustrates a recurrent theme in NK fictional depictions of summit diplomacy. Anyone who meets KIS in person is immediately won over by him; but this presents a problem when the diplomat is a foreign leader with actual power. If KIS' summit diplomacy is such a resounding success, why didn't the whole conflict end after the Carter summit? Here is where mysterious "deeper forces" step in to block further progress. 

It would seem that North Korean fiction writers are big believers in the "deep state."


Dr Creekmore's book, A Moment of Crisis, tells the story of this summit from the US viewpoint. C-SPAN has video of Creekmore and Carter reminiscing about the trip while promoting the book in 2006. 

Monday, May 4, 2020

"Emergency Measure": The Scholarly Soldier-Bookworms of the Korean People's Army

"Emergency Measure" (비상작전) is a story by Kim Ryong Yŏn that appeared in Chosŏn Munhak in February 2006 and was reprinted in Chŏngnyŏn Munhak in August 2012. The story chronicles the Leader's generosity in ensuring that his soldiers are well supplied with high-quality reading material, at a time when his advisors are absorbed by the dire external threat of war.

This story gives good insights into the Party's views on literary fiction (both foreign and domestic), the ideal of the literate citizen soldier, and the function of the small libraries (covered in the previous entry) attached to various offices throughout the country. It also glancingly mentions joint military exercises, material shortages and book printing. There is a nice parallel between the US-ROK OPLAN for military readiness and KJI’s own “emergency plan” to send good books to the soldiers.

The Plot

KJI travels to a front-line military outpost with two trusted advisors, a Central Committee member in charge of propaganda named Pak Yŏng Hun and Politburo Deputy Director (총정치국 부국장) Ryu Sŏng Min. They are curious why he has brought them along, but assume that it has something to do with the grave security threat the country is facing.

    It's a time of extraordinary military tension. The US is pulling out all the stops to realize its expanded "Plan 5027-04" for war. It's different from previous plans in adapting new technology and speedier deployment for a quick decisive war. It focuses on capturing Pyongyang. They're redeploying the F-117 stealth fighters from Iraq and moving missile-equipped Aegis destroyers and nuclear-powered aircraft carriers into Korean waters. War is imminent. 

To their surprise, KJI seems more interested in a minor kerfuffle over a book. Pak is confused, so KJI fills him in on the story: 

At the army outpost they are about to visit, a platoon leader named Choi Yu Jin had been fostering an “our outpost-our school” program (우리 초소우리 학교) with the local middle school. One day when he had taken his platoon to construct a fitness training course at the school, he saw that the literature teacher Kim Suk had a copy of the old Soviet classic Zoya and ShuraA voracious reader, Choi immediately wanted the book so badly that he boldly approached the young female teacher.

   “I’ve heard of this book, but I never actually saw a copy before. I heard that Zoya is a hero like our Cho Ok Hee [a partisan fighter in the Korean War], and Shura of course is a brave soldier who sacrifices for his fatherland… Might I borrow it? Not only for myself, but to share with my soldiers and broaden their horizons.”

Teacher Kim was conflicted, explaining she’d like to help but she was barely able to borrow it from the county library herself; “There’s just this one copy and it’s really old.” But Choi seemed so dejected that she took pity on him and said he could have it if he promised to return it in 3 days.  

Having so promised, Choi took the book home to read; but the next day, it mysteriously disappeared from his desk drawer. He searched everywhere; he couldn’t sleep or eat; the brigade political division got involved; his sterling record was in peril.

Fortunately, the book thief finally came forward. Another platoon commander had filched the book, fully intending to return it, but then misplaced it. He, too, had been searching for days to no avail and felt terrible.

KJI assigns to Pak the "homework" of deciding how best to handle this case.

North Korean-style newspaper display rack (신문걸개)
Arriving at the base, they tour the library. KJI flips through the rack displaying the latest KPA newspaper; he asks which articles the soldiers read, and learns that they most eagerly follow the serialized novels. They recently enjoyed the novel Green Mountains (푸른 산악).

Then KJI quizzes the base librarian on his stock. The librarian looks distraught as he explains that several of the books KJI asks for are missing or not stocked. KJI interrupts, saying he understands the difficulty, and then makes a speech about his father's love of books and their revolutionary value. 

On the ride back to Pyongyang, KJI asks Pak if he’s solved his “homework.” Pak replies, 

“It’s because we didn’t do our job properly that there are so few books. Following you on this trip, my eyes have been opened. We must strive to print more books to send out, especially the novels that the soldiers are so longing for. After all, the officer wouldn’t have caused such a problem if there had been plenty of books in the brigade library to begin with.”

KJI says that this is the correct answer to his “homework.”

Pak remarks that he had expected this trip would be about concocting some “emergency measure” to deal with the current security crisis, not some minor trouble with books. But KJI says producing more books is precisely the “emergency measure” he had in mind. He orders Pak to make up a list of good books and work to print them ASAP. Ryu’s job is to select the best foreign novels, in terms of ideology and artistry (사상예술적으로 우수한 작품), for printing.

Some days later, KJI reviews the plans that Ryu and Pak have drawn up; he concludes that they are far too miserly and lack ambition. "I too value practicality," he says, "But there’s a difference between being practical and penny-pinching." Again, he declares that printing books for the soldiers is just the "emergency plan" they need to combat the enemy's moves.

Working together, they put forth a new plan to print all the books the soldiers want – both domestic and foreign. Pak is astounded when KJI insists on using the best quality vellum paper and binding: “We must spare no expense for our soldiers.” KJI himself selects the cover art for Zoya and Shura, and the new edition swiftly goes to print.

Reviewing the freshly printed editions, KJI takes Pak aside and asks if he can have 3-4 extra copies of each book. Pak and Ryu are puzzled until he explains that the copies are a gift to Choi Yu Jin and Kim Suk; one for each, plus a library copy.

The next day cheers rang through the countryside as books were delivered to various outposts. The joyful shouts rolled over the DMZ, dispersing the clouds of war and drowning out the enemy’s guns. KJI concludes:
“These aren’t just books; they are artillery, and tanks, and planes, and warships. They are the General’s own special warheads that can crush the strongest enemy in a single blow.”

Book Shortages

This story is relatively forthright in exposing the shortages associated with recent economic problems, particularly in publishing materials. In the car with Pak and Ryu, KJI recounts:

    “Once I visited the home of General Staff Chief Choi (Choi Kwang?). His father, a veteran of the anti-Japanese struggle, had just passed away, so I found time to pay my respects… I noticed the bookshelf had been completely cleared out. His youngest son, a political officer deployed at the front, had come a couple days earlier and taken them all, heh heh. Saying his brigade wanted books. After all, since the Arduous March began we haven’t been able to print as many.” 
   He paused, too pained to go on... It was true the Arduous March had caused a shortage in both Korean and foreign novels. Though foreign literature was being translated and published in new collections, the lack of paper made it hard to keep up with the people’s voracious demand. This current trouble reflected the reality that the publishing divisions were far too busy working on new translations to care about reissuing old books like the Soviet classic Zoya and Shura

KIS reportedly favored delivering propaganda via
poetry and novels; KJI carried on this work but put
more emphasis on film.
The story also mentions that KIS had always said that novels were far more precious than gold, and KJI was constantly inquiring about library usage at every factory, office and army unit he visited.

When the brigade librarian begins apologizing profusely for not having certain books, KJI interrupts:
   “Comrade, thank you. Don’t worry about the missing books. This is just as I expected. I’m not ignorant of the problems with our book stocks. We want this library to have enough copies to lend any book to any soldier at any time. Both our Korean books and foreign books. 
   There should be many, many books.
   I’ve said it before, revolutionary novels have an extremely valuable effect in forming people’s world view.
   The Great Leader said novels, plays and films play a very important role in revolution, and that the biggest influence in His revolutionary struggle were the novels He read in middle school. The Great Leader told me many times of how He learned of the perils of capitalism, class inequality and other social vices through such books as Gorky’s Mother, Serafimovich’s The Iron Flood, Jiang Gwangci’s On the Amnok River, and Lu Xun’s short stories; those books were what elevated His class consciousness and led Him on the path to revolution. 
   People never forget the characters they meet through revolutionary novels.”

A good read (in Korean) on KIS' abiding interest in libraries:

Zoya and Shura

 Zoya Kosmodemyanskaya
Src: Wikipedia
These historical figures, Zoya in particular, seem to be well-known to older Russians, though my sources were less aware of the novel than the general historical incident.

Apparently Zoya was a young Russian pyromaniac recruited by the Red Army to burn facilities used by the invading Nazis and generally raise hell along their supply lines. She was captured and hanged by the Germans, but not before giving a rousing speech to the onlooking countryfolk and inspiring them to defend the Motherland. Her brother Shura became a soldier and died somewhat later in similarly heroic fashion; then their mother wrote a book about them.

The Korean Workers Party seems to have taken an abiding interest in the novelization of this story; this is not the first time I have seen it referenced favorably in a KWP publication. The official KJI biography "Benevolent Sun of Love" (은혜로운 사랑의 태양) repeats the story that KJI ordered a reprint of the book after noting its absence during a 2005 visit to a certain brigade library, claiming it had been particularly beloved by his father.

Given the KWP's well-documented aversion to most foreign literature, even that of friendly socialist countries, the ostentatious praise for this novel is even more remarkable and suggests that one of the Leaders may indeed have taken a direct role in approving it.

In an interesting coincidence, Shura was the nickname of KJI's younger brother who drowned in front of him at age 4. Both boys were born in Russia and initially given Russian names.

Government Spending 

This story is a good example of a common motif on issues of government spending. The officials are all stingy with funds until KJI gets involved; then they are awed and shamed by his generosity. 

When Pak and Ryu present their initial, overly conservative plan for printing, KJI chides them for being too cautious and calculating in their work (타산을 앞세우며 소극적으로 일하는). Pak responds

[Pak] “General! I was just thinking that we shouldn’t overdo it [with books] while people are still struggling just to live. And I thought we should focus on our Korean novels first before foreign ones, so for now – just five –”
[KJI] “We need to get these books out right now. It’s a fact that lately some people have been ignoring foreign things, saying they’re practicing Juche. That’s wrong. Of course, loving our own things is all well and good, but it’s also vital to understand Korea’s place in the wider world (자기것을 귀중히 여기고 사랑하는것은 좋지만 세계속에 조선이
있다는것을 알아야 합니다). Only by knowing the world can we truly take pride in our own things.”
[Pak] “General! You are wise.”

There is no self-awareness in such stories of what would seem obvious to us – that Kim spends money because he can. There is no hint of discomfort or resentment that KJI can afford to be generous, while officials have to be responsible and count every penny. Kim is like the fun grandpa who blows into town twice a year and buys the kids all the candy and junk food they can eat and takes them to the movies, while teasing the parents for being so strict.

Though the officials are reluctant to spend money on books, it’s unclear if this is because they lack funds or are diverting them to less-worthy causes. In this way, an imaginative reader could perhaps interpret the story as much more subversive than it was likely intended.

Saturday, February 29, 2020

Forbidden Titles from Bureau 100: Nazis, First Ladies and Fidel

In an earlier post, I introduced Kim Ju-song's memoir on writing fiction for the North Korean Writer's Union. In his book, he described a secret stash of Western literature kept at the KWU offices where he worked for North Korean writers to reference.

I was recently able to contact Kim Ju-song and get more details on this mysterious "Bureau 100 Books" (100部図書). He sent me a few precious images that he had, showing cover art and a few preface pages. He writes, "These are some books from the Bureau 100 collection. These kinds of restricted materials are also available to Party officers and various Party organs such as State Security (FBI) and Public Security (police)... These images came from a certain party branch office."

According to Kim, most of these books are translations of existing books published in other countries; some are compilations of several books into one volume. The cover art seems to be original to North Korea. The authors and original titles are never mentioned, but with a little detective work it is often possible to determine what the original text likely was.

"The Nazi Conspiracy"

This appears to be a spy novel disguised as a true account of imperialist intrigue. The Korean preface to this book reads:

   In all of human history, there has never been a war that was not accompanied by a separate, secret war. Secret wars are constantly ongoing, even in so-called peaceful times.
   The secret war known as the 'dark gentlemen's world' is a conventional tool of imperialists, employing all kinds of espionage and intelligence actions enabled by modern technology, with various plots and cunning schemes involving murder, sabotage and arson.
   Through their secret war the imperialists gather information of all sorts – political, economic, military and so on – in order to uncover secrets and corrupt the popular will in pursuit of their military and political objectives.
   'The Nazi Conspiracy' is one such real-world example.
   Today the US-Japan imperialists' secret plots have reached an extreme point.
   In order to confront this, it is more vital than ever that we raise our revolutionary consciousness.
   The editorial division will continue to introduce real-world examples of espionage under the series title 'Secret Wars.' 
"White House Wives"
This book purports to tell about America's First Ladies. I only have the cover, but I like to imagine that perhaps this is where the author of "Enchantment" got the idea that Rosalynn Carter had "Spanish blood" and earned the nickname "ultra-political Rosalynn." It is unclear if it is a translation of a single book or a compilation of several sources.
"Fidel and Religion"
This appears to be a Korean translation of the book "Fidel and Religion," originally published in Spanish in 1986. Communist Cuba's approach to culture and religion offers important insights that would likely be of interest to North Korean Party cadres.

"The KGB and Power"
This is a translation of a KGB defector's memoir. From the Korean preface:

   This volume is a translated and edited version of a book published in Russia. The author was a long-serving member of the Cheka (State Security or KGB), formerly heading the 5th Directorate and serving as 1st deputy director before retiring in the Gorbachev era. In this memoir he looks back on his life in the Cheka organization and offers his own analysis of what caused the once-powerful Soviet Union to collapse and the Soviet Communist Party to fall apart.
   Due to the author's limited political understanding, the book is deficient in many areas, but it still has some value as a reference material.

"Sun Yat-sen"
I have no further information about this book, but it appears to be an autobiography of Sun Yat-sen, China's first modern president and nationalist leader. I can imagine many reasons why information about early China's pre-communist history would be restricted for average North Koreans.

Friday, January 31, 2020

2009 (Part I): Introducing North Korean Readers to President Obama

2009 is the penultimate novel of the “Immortal Leadership” series, which chronicles the life of Kim Jong Il. It was co-authored by Song Sang Won and Kim Yong Hwan, published in 2014, and recently made fully available online at North Korea’s website.
As suggested by the title, the novel covers the events of the year 2009 – particularly the April Kwangmyŏngsŏng-2 satellite launch (also covered in the story Sky, Land and Sea) and KJI's brief summit meeting with former President Clinton. 

This post will summarize Chapter 4, which dedicated readers may find online in the original Korean here. This chapter is fascinating both for the biographical details it gives about US President Obama and for introducing one of the most truly sinister POV characters I’ve yet encountered in North Korean fiction.

Chapter 4 Summary

The chapter begins with a biographical sketch of “America’s 44th president and the first black man elected to that office” (see below). It particularly notes that his anti-war rhetoric has gained him popular support from poor Americans weary of endless wars.

On the eve of his election, Obama’s maternal grandmother "Marylin Damhum" (매럴린 담험) passes away from cancer, and Obama suspends his campaign activities to attend her funeral in Hawaii. A CIA operative named Conan seizes the opportunity and flies to Hawaii for a private word with the man he anticipates will be the next president.

Conan is your prototypical deep state operative, an old government hand who has “hung around like a fixed asset” through successive administrations. He’s hated Korea ever since his father died in the Korean War, but he’s learned to respect North Koreans after watching them outfox every American president since Truman. Now dying of tuberculosis, he is determined to see that the new administration takes a hard line. He’s disturbed by Obama’s peacenik rhetoric and feels the need to nip it in the bud, before America loses its position at the top of the unipolar world order (일극세계).

President Obama scattering his grandmother's ashes
in Hawaii. Src: DailyMail
After the funeral Conan and Obama have a long walk on the beach talking. Playing on Obama’s vanity, Conan calls him “Mr. President” and acts as if the election is already won. Conan gives the candidate a long-winded account of how past presidents have failed to rein in North Korea, at times growing so animated that spittle flies from his mouth. In the process, the reader gets a nice overview of the North Korean evaluation of post-war global events. Conan makes frequent references to how America has “invited God’s punishment” by failing to use its nuclear weapons to seize global supremacy. Obama is surprised at the calumny Conan levels against the current Bush administration, which he still purports to serve. 

   “Conan, aren’t you criticizing yourself?”
   At the unexpected interruption, Conan realized he had said too much.
   “My apologies, Mr. President, my intent was to criticize historical presidential policy. I suppose that includes the current administration and myself as well.”
   “Go on.”
   “With every new administration, the CIA and intelligence corps have hoped for a more hard-line uncompromising policy. We’ve advised this again and again. But they always went their own way.” 
    Conan began to lose heart. How could they entrust the country to this political newcomer lacking all knowledge and experience, who was a black man and a Democrat to boot? It was a tragedy, but he’d come to Hawaii to try to fix it.

Eventually the two men seem to reach an understanding. “God will not forsake us,” Obama assures him before they part. The next day is the election, and Obama wins as expected. A few days after the election Conan’s dead body is discovered on a Hawaiian beach, dead from apparent shock. But his work will be carried on by his son (Conan II) in a later chapter…
President Obama in Hawaii

Obama biographical details

The first several pages of this chapter are taken up by a biographical sketch of President Obama. The text notes his parents’ divorce, his brief education in Indonesia, his subsequent upbringing by his white grandparents in Hawaii, his work supporting low-income families in Chicago and his status as the first black editor of the Harvard Law Review, before going on to describe his entry into politics. 

   During his time as an Illinois senator, he caught the attention of the media and society with his witty speeches. This was at a time when the US was fighting successive wars in the Balkans, Iraq and Afghanistan. Domestically, there was high unemployment and inflation due to the severe economic downturn and financial crisis, and the poor were having a harder time than ever. It was precisely this suffering and anti-war fervor that Obama was able to skillfully manipulate through his speeches, evoking public sympathy by presenting himself as an anti-war champion.
   He also gained popularity among blacks and Americans opposed to racism by speaking out about racism and vividly expressing his own experiences as a black man.

The text notes somewhat misleadingly that Obama was the only black senator in the US Senate (he was the only black senator at the time, but not ever). It states that he defeated “Hillary” in the primaries and secured the 218 delegates needed for the Democratic nomination. The chapter then includes a segment of Obama’s famous 2004 Democratic Convention speech, with one interesting mistake:

   "There is no free America, no conservative America, only America (자유로운 미국보수적인 미국이 따로 있는것이아니라). There is no black America, white America, or Asian America, only America. There are patriots who oppose the Iraq war. On the other hand, there are patriots that support the Iraq war. We are all citizens who swear allegiance to the Stars and Stripes and defend the United States.” (direct translation)

Explaining that this speech is what made Obama “instantly famous,” the text adds:

  By transcending race and ideology, Obama’s speech rang deeply in the hearts of Americans who had been divided over the Iraq war. In his clear and convincing words, there was a passionate call for a return to the founding spirit of the US.

Concerned about this anti-war stance, the deep-state spook Conan studies Obama’s biography and identifies weaknesses and character flaws that he believes he can exploit.

   He found helpful “Barack and Michelle: Portrait of American Family” by Christopher Anderson, a writer famous for his coverage of Princess Diana’s death. According to the book, after completing his first year at Harvard University Law School, in 1989 Obama went to receive training at the famous Chicago law firm Sidley Austin, where he met Michelle for the first time. 
   A graduate of Princeton and Harvard, Michelle was reluctant to guide a first-year student. But Obama fell in love with Michelle at first sight and pursued her despite her haughty attitude. Michelle eventually gave in. After four years of marriage, Obama became an Illinois senator, but in his wife’s eyes he was a useless husband. When he came home he threw his socks and underwear anywhere and filled the room with cigarette smoke, even burning a huge hole in the rug.
   He was always going around in a plain suit jacket and jeans boasting about “changing the world,” but to Michelle he was a “lazy idiot” (게으른 바보). She told him politics was a waste of time and he should instead work at a big law firm and make lots of money. Obama would joke to friends that “My wife’s nagging is killing me.”
   Conan delighted inwardly. Obama would no doubt show the same habits in his politics. Hypocrisy and two-facedness, two essential facets of any US president.

Nuclear History

This chapter contains some excellent insights into North Korea’s perception of American attitudes toward nuclear weapons, through the thoughts of the malevolent Conan:

   Fate had made the US first to obtain nuclear weapons, which were like the fire of Zeus. Nukes were power, and power was everything. It was this power that had allowed Truman to defeat Japan and raised the US above all the world.
    With nuclear weapons, there was nothing the US could not do. But still it had not done all it should. It failed to secure a nuclear monopoly. It shared nukes with other countries. It betrayed the gods (or God) and paid the price. Other powers emerged, and America’s unipolar might was eroded.
   In the world of power, nukes could make anyone a superpower.
   In July 1945 Truman appeared at the Potsdam Conference to discuss the end of WWII and the post-war order, confident that the world was at America’s feet. Then the USSR had been able to match the US because it, too, developed nukes.
   The UK, once known as a great empire with colonies all over the place where the sun never set, lost its empire status in WWII but luckily escaped from becoming another middle-power because it, too, had a successful nuclear test in 1952.
   When France had its successful nuclear test in 1960, President de Gaulle shouted “Hooray for France! (프랑스 만세!) France is a greater and prouder nation as of this morning!”
   Experts believed that the reason China achieved equal power status with the USSR and détente with its erstwhile foe the US was because it had conducted a successful nuclear test in October 1964.
   Nukes were the reason why India had reached a nuclear accord with the US; why Pakistan, which had leaned one-sidedly toward China, was now embraced by both China and the US; and why Israel was able to brazenly take on the whole Arab world of 3 hundred million people. All was made possible by nuclear weapons.
   Conan felt himself heating up again. “Mr. President, when God gave us these weapons they were not intended for display or storage. They were meant to be used. But our past presidents have failed to follow God’s wishes.” 
    He returned to Truman. Truman should have used nukes in Korea in 1950. If he had, not only Korea but also its allies China and the Soviet Union would have been reduced to rubble, and the US would be rid of its two greatest foes. France and the UK might be potential rivals, but at present they are our allies. India and Pakistan may have nukes but they would not dare challenge the US. Israel gets its nukes from us, so they shouldn’t be a problem.
    Conan continued. “There were plenty of chances to use nukes in Korea even after the war. The US started deploying tactical nukes to Korea in the mid-50s, and by the mid-70s we had over a thousand over there. Beginning in the 1960s there was the Pueblo incident, the EC-121 incident, the Panmunjom incident – God kept giving us opportunities, but we just let them pass….”

The above passage is intriguing not just for its geopolitical outlook but for the way that this outlook is revealed through a truly nefarious POV character. In previous entries I have noted that North Korean-style socialist realism seems incapable of producing an unreliable narrator, but perhaps I spoke too soon.

The sinister Conan implies that Truman was too soft-hearted to use nuclear weapons in Korea. One can’t help but wonder how much North Koreans are aware of the conflict between General MacArthur and Truman over just that issue. Do they think well of Truman for overriding MacArthur’s wishes?  If “bad guy" Conan disparages past American presidents for being weak, are North Korean readers supposed to feel the opposite, that they had some virtue in restraint?

Monday, December 2, 2019

Eternal Life (Part 2): Kim Il Sung and Jimmy Carter at the table

This entry continues my summary of select chapters of Eternal Life

Eternal Life is the final novel of the Immortal History series, which chronicles Kim Il Sung's life from his days as a guerrilla fighter through the country's founding, war and reconstruction, and on through his later years.  It was published in 1997 and co-authored by Baek Bo Hŭm (who later contributed the short story "Green Land" to the first anthology of stories about Kim Jong Un) and Song Sang Wŏn. The novel covers the events of the last seven months of KIS' life, including his 1994 summit meeting with former US President Jimmy Carter.

Devoted readers of this blog might recall that this same summit was also the subject of the short story "Enchantment" (매혹), covered in one of this blog's earliest entries. That story took the point of view of First Lady Rosalynn Carter. This novel was written earlier, and the summit chapters alternate between the perspectives of KIS and President Carter.

In Chapter 16, the  formal summit between Kim Il Sung and former US President Jimmy Carter begins. Carter is shown as a sincere but weak-willed negotiator floundering with the difficult task his president has given him. KIS comes to his rescue and comes up with a solution for all. 

Chapter 16 Summary 

The morning of the summit, Carter wakes from a fitful sleep and preps for the 10am meeting with his aide, Dr. Marion Creekmore. Both Carter and Creekmore are pessimistic. Carter instructs Creekmore to phone the State Department from the secure phone line at the DMZ to tell them not to get their hopes up. 

Meanwhile KIS moves from his offices in Kumsusan Palace to the summit room. Passing the area where the American reporters are busily setting up their live broadcast equipment, he exchanges pleasantries with CNN VP Eason Jordan, who had visited Pyongyang several times before. Jordan is stunned that the Leader not only knows his name but graciously invites him to come back with his whole family for a holiday trip to Kŭmgangsan or Myohyangsan.

President Carter and his retinue walk in on this scene and are also amazed by the warmth and unaffected charm of the Great Leader. The two leaders spontaneously embrace and then take their seats around the summit table, flanked by their aides. KIS speaks first, with Carter’s aide and newly appointed State Department Deputy Director for Korean Affairs Christenson translating.

They exchange formal greetings, both expressing regret that they could not have met sooner, when Carter was still US president. Carter is amazed by KIS' kind and easygoing manner, so at odds with what he's been told to expect. 

Carter reads a personal message from President Clinton, laying out the sequence of events as the US sees it: First, the US asked for a 3-stage process to resolve the nuclear issue; second, NK completed its core replacement last April too quickly for the inspectors to check it, leading to UN sanctions; third, NK threatened to withdraw from the IAEA. The letter makes it sound like everything is NK’s fault. KIS responds with his own side's view of events [the story gives no details].

Carter struggles to bring up the US' true objective, which is to stop NK from expelling the two IAEA inspectors and to postpone NK’s withdrawal from the IAEA. KIS jokes "I think your friend gave you a tough job," referring to Clinton, and Carter bashfully agrees. 

Finally KIS breaks the impasse: 

  “Okay, let’s speak freely. The issue of the IAEA delegation that you struggle to speak of, right now it’s just a Korea-US problem. I’m sure you understand this. It was reported to me that you brought this up with our side at yesterday’s meeting. I can completely understand your feelings on this.”
   “Thank you.” Carter sighed. Ever since his arrival he’d gotten the impression from various meetings that they had no chance of movement on this issue. He had struggled with how to bring it up before Comrade Kim Il Sung,  but now He had just kindly introduced it. So thinking, he let the discussion be pulled along by Comrade Kim Il Sung.
   “But there’s another issue I’d like to discuss with you first.... Our move to expel the two inspectors was on account of the unfairness of the IAEA. It’s no secret that the Agency is backed by the US. This unfairness has extended to ‘special inspections’ of two of our military assets. That’s what I’d like to discuss first.” 
   Comrade Kim Il Sung went on to explain how this perverse insistence on "special inspections," going against international law and the IAEA’s own rules, represented the hidden ambition of a certain class in America to put "pressure" on our Republic.
   Then, raising His voice, He went on, “Mr. Carter, if we were to ask to see inside ‘Hwinsŏn’ (referring to the secret US military base), would you show it to us? When you return home, I’d like you to pass that on to President Clinton.”
    “What you say makes sense, Premier Kim.”

KSI agrees to allow the inspectors remain, preserving the IAEA status quo, as long as they keep out of the two military facilities. Carter is happy with this as it can be interpreted as "continuing limited inspections.” 

While KIS' aides are inwardly rejoicing that this issue is resolved so easily, the interpreter Christenson is cringing. He had been instructed by the State Department to use those two facilities as a pressure point and their main bargaining card. But now his boss has conceded so quickly that he can only sit back dumbfounded. 

KIS says the US is stuck on the issue of inspecting the two nuclear facilities, but there is a deeper problem that they must overcome first - the lack of trust.

   “The whole problem between our two countries originated from your mistrust of us. We’ve told you time and again that we are not trying to get nuclear weapons, nor do we have the capacity to do so, nor have we given any indication of doing so. The US already has thousands of nuclear warheads, so what would we do if we even managed to get a few? The US has planes, submarines and ICBMs capable of delivering nuclear bombs; we have nothing like that. And we certainly have no intention of slaughtering our own fellow Koreans with such weapons. Let me state our position clearly once again today.
   "We will never engage in double-dealing (일구이언). If you cannot trust the leader of a country, who can you trust? If you really cannot trust my word, I’ll put my seal on it.
   "We must tackle these issues from a point of mutual trust. If you don’t trust us, we can’t trust you, and the problem will not be resolved for a billion years. If you really think about it, the fundamental Korea-US problem is a lack of trust. The US is a big country; I want to see it act like one (나는 미국이라는 큰 나라가 명실공히 큰 나라로 되여주기를 바랍니다).”

I have to admit, that last line is pretty bad-ass.

Anyway, Carter is completely won over by this speech. Then KIS throws in the kicker: he proposes that the US provide North Korea with a light-water reactor to replace their graphite reactor. He explains that it is more difficult to extract plutonium from a light-water reactor for use in weapons, so this should resolve any concerns. 

Carter is unprepared to answer this and thus they reach an impasse. KIS then suggests they go to lunch. 

In the banquet hall, Carter admires the flower arrangements and is informed that these are "Kimjongilia," a new breed of begonia named after Kim Jong Il. Carter seizes the opportunity to ask if the stories he's heard about KJI are true, like how he personally tore up and redesigned the plans for Mangyongdae Youth Palace and also helped design Kwangbok Street, which Carter was greatly impressed with on his earlier tour. KIS says it's all true. Carter says he'd very much like to meet with KJI during this summit, but KIS replies that that won't be possible - he's off inspecting an army outpost.

Then they sit down to a lunch that features rainbow trout. KIS regales his guests with the story of how these trout came to be in North Korea:

    “It’s an interesting story. Early in this century, before our country was liberated, some Americans operated a mine in Woonsan County, and they brought in some rainbow trout. Until that time, rainbow trout did not exist anywhere in China or Korea. Then the Americans were ordered out by Japan, and the Japanese took over the mine. The local Koreans were not aware that the Americans had brought the rainbow trout; they thought they came from Japan. After liberation, the locals despised the Japanese so much that they didn’t even care for the trout. By the time I visited the area on some business, only five were still alive. I told the locals: no matter how much you hate the Japanese, you shouldn’t take it out on the fish; and anyway these trout are not Japanese but American, so breed as much as you can from the five that are left. Those five fish were the many-times-great-grandparents of the fish we eat here today. The US is their ancestral homeland, heh heh.”
    Carter couldn’t help but join in KIS’ infectious laughter. Still chuckling, he said, “In the Bible there’s a story about how Christ fed tens of thousands of people with just two fishes and five loaves of bread.…” 

The chapter concludes with a brief look at what KJI is up to at the military post. After getting briefed on the summit progress, he asks to see the weekly forecast for electro-magnetic phenomena, which his aide apparently carries around in a briefcase. He is relieved to see that there are no harmful electro-magnetic currents this week that could impact the Great Leader's health. But he's still worried, so he writes up a note to KIS' head nurse, instructing that no matter what happens at the summit, the Great Leader’s schedule of injections and medication must be meticulously followed.

Chapter Characters

Summit delegation at Nampo Dam. From left: Dr. Marion Creekmore,
Rosalynn Carter, KIS, Eason Jordan, President Carter, Richard Christenson,
KIS' wife Kim Song Ae, Carter aide Nancy Konigsmark

In addition to the main characters KIS and President Carter, the story features several cameos by real-life individuals: 

Ambassador Marion Creekmore, Carter's aide on the trip, wrote of the summit in his 2006 book A Moment of Crisis: Jimmy Carter, the Power of a Peacemaker and North Korea’s Nuclear Ambitions, and also spoke of his recollections of the summit in a 2007 podcast for the Korea Society. 

CNN VP Eason Jordan resigned from CNN in 2005. He apparently did visit NK and meet KIS twice in 1994, though if he received an offer to vacation with KIS at Kumgangsan he never took him up on it. A 2012 NK News article by Mark Barry, who witnessed one encounter, gives this account: "Eason Jordan, president of CNN International, greeted Kim on behalf of Ted Turner, founder of CNN, and expressed hope for a face-to-face interview, which did not materialize."

Former State Department Deputy Director for Korean Affairs Richard Christenson does, in fact, speak fluent Korean and Japanese, and reportedly did serve as an interpreter at the summit. 

Also mentioned is Chang Se-dong, who headed Chun Doo-hwan's NSA from Feb 1985-May 1987 and met KIS in November 1985 to discuss a possible Chun-Kim summit. Carter recalls reading that he gave a particularly flattering description of KIS' negotiating skills. In real life, Chang was convicted for his role in sending thugs to disrupt an opposition party meeting in 1987; at the time of this summit, he was in prison.

There is also a passing reference to Japanese botanist Kamo Mototeru, who created the Kimjongilia hybrid begonia. Oddly, in the story his name is given as "Kamamodo" (가마모도). The two leaders' interaction over the flowers was also told from Rosalynn Carter's perspective in the short story "Enchantment" (매혹), indicating that this had some significance for North Koreans (or else both authors simply spotted an opportunity for another nature metaphor while scoring bonus points with a mention of Kimjongilia).

Another character present in this chapter is Mun Son Gyu, a high-level North Korean diplomat helping with the nuclear negotiations. Mun, one of the novel's recurrent POV characters, is likely a pseudonym for Kang Sŏk Ju, then First Vice Foreign Minister. He has a seat at the negotiating table, and the perspective periodically shifts to him to show his private impressions of the two leaders. Christenson plays a similar role from the US side.

Mark Barry has compiled a helpful list  of all the Americans who met KIS, with useful links of various summit participants.

Describing KIS

As Carter observes KIS, he recalls various things that he has heard about the North Korean leader during his presidency, including high praise from Egypt’s Sadat and Yugoslavia’s Tito.

He also recalls once being in a discussion on the subject of Stalin. Someone told him it was said that the godfather of the global socialist movement always talked down to other communist heads of state – save for the youngest, KIS, whom he addressed using honorific speech.

Midway through their summit meeting, Carter reviews his information on KIS:

   Carter glanced at the papers his secretary had given him. “A skilled conversationalist who overwhelms his audience,” “a voice like someone giving a proclamation,” “completely controls the environment and makes everything go his way, adapting quickly” “superb diplomatic skills are part of his political genius,” these were observations of people who had met Premier Kim Il Sung. Particularly insightful were the recollections of the former head of the South Korean NSA, Chang Se-dong.
   When Chang said “Thank you for donating the flood aid,” the [KIS’] response was “It took more courage for you to accept it than for us to give it.” Impressed, he replied, “Such is the strength of a 40-year regime!” Referring to the fact that the North developed its own Juche system while the South remained dependent on foreign help, Chang said “Our leaders stand far apart in terms of gaining independence from foreign interference.” But instead of criticizing the south Korean government’s subservience to the US, Comrade Kim Il Sung simply replied “Let’s try to close that distance,” showing the graciousness of a truly great man.

KIS' negotiating style is depicted as putting his counterpart at ease by empathizing, frankly broaching difficult subjects, and generally dominating his weaker-willed opponent. He always appears more knowledgable and prepared, while Carter appears timid and reluctant to say what he really wants. Crucially, in the story it is North Korea, not the US, that first proposes light-water reactors as a solution:

   Comrade Kim Il Sung continued, still smiling, “We must return to this issue of trust. We have one 5mw graphite moderator, and your side is insisting that we are extracting plutonium from it to construct nuclear weapons. …. Because of this, at various meetings our side has proposed exchanging this graphite reactor for a light-water reactor. In this way we would eliminate the ‘nuclear problem’ once and for all. Is that not so, Mr. Carter?”
    “That’s reasonable,” Carter agreed.
    “We didn’t originally intend to use a graphite moderator. Back in the Chernenko era of the USSR, we had an agreement to install a light-water reactor. But there were delays, and then the Soviet Union went and collapsed, so it was no longer possible."
   Comrade Kim Il Sung went into the details of nuclear reactors, explaining that while graphite reactors produced a large amount of plutonium spent fuel that could be turned into weapons, light-water reactors produced only a small amount.
    Carter listened intently, surprised that the Premier had such a clear grasp of the details of nuclear technology, surpassing even himself, who had been a nuclear expert.
    “It was not easy for a small country such as ours to develop graphite moderator technology while blocked by international economic sanctions,” He continued. “We spent a great deal of time, effort and capital to autonomously develop a nuclear power industry. But we have a good incentive to freeze it. As our side has already proposed in bilateral meetings, we must be provided with a light-water reactor. Then the ‘nuclear problem’ will cease to exist. And we will have taken a big step toward resolving the fundamental issue of trust."

Here it becomes clear why the preceding chapter lingered on Carter's early-career experience with nuclear submarines. As "a nuclear expert" himself, Carter is able to appreciate KIS' genius in coming up with this solution. KIS is thus depicted as not only a canny negotiator but also an expert in nuclear technology.