Relevant? Interesting? Neither?

Friday, May 19, 2006

Relevant? Interesting? Neither?

Earlier this week I began reading "Under the Loving Care of the Fatherly Leader: North Korea and the Kim Dynasty" and learned of an interesting event that, in some ways, seems to have relevance to events today.

In January 1968, thirty-one North Korean commandos crossed the DMZ in order to assassinate the South Korean president. The attack was foiled and many of the commandos were killed while others fled back across the border. At the same time, a US Navy spy ship - the Pueblo - was off the coast of North Korea gathering intelligence. For reasons nobody really knows - perhaps it was an attempt to test US resolve, or perhaps it was an attempt to distract the world for its own failed assassination attempt - North Korean warships fired on the Pueblo and ultimately captured it and its crew.

No US effort was made to help or rescue the Pueblo, in part because all the US fighter planes in the area were equipped with nuclear weapons. This did not sit well with some members of Congress, such as Rep. L. Mendel Rivers who called on the Johnson administration to nuke a North Korean city in retaliation or South Koreans who wanted to use it as an opportunity to attack the North in order to drive out Kim Il-Sung's communist regime.

Anyway, the most interesting part is that the Pueblo's crew was held for 11 months by North Korea and beaten and tortured into signing "confessions." The crew subtly fought back, filling these "confessions" with references to their co-conspirators such as cartoon character Buzz Sawyer and TV spy Maxwell Smart.

But, as the book states
Such stunts backfired when Time ran a photo of Pueblo captive extending their middle fingers. The magazine explained that this was "the US hand signal for derisiveness and contempt." That was an unpleasant surprise for Pyongyang, since crewmen had described the gesture as a Hawaiian good-luck sign. The crew's treatment during the following week, according to its commander, was "the most concentrated form of terror that I've ever seen or dreamed is possible."
I'll leave it up to others to decide what, if any, relevance this has for current events - I just wanted to share it because I thought it was interesting.

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