A short article released on January 10 in Pyongyang was fairly enervating, though no news media outlet seems to have picked it up yet. Nor, as Daniel Pinkston has pointed out already, has any Western media picked up on any of Pyongyang’s bellicose statements before, during, or after the Google visit. That’s an awfully odd way to report (or, more accurately, not report) on a country.
Near the end of this Rodong Sinmun attack on US gun culture wherein modern things like skyscrapers and electricity are just means by which America’s “jungle nature” is concealed, there lies a very curious, and what appears to be a somewhat personalized, attack:
“It is too natural that people should spit at the American gentlemen who are crying for human rights.”
I thought this was interesting, since “the American gentlemen” (as in, in English, a group of gentlemen) sounded like a reference to our favorite Google delegation which has been doing so much to advance the interests of open societies and mankind. Since I believe they departed the DPRK on the very day this piece was published, those gentlemen might themselves be looking for signs of hope from the great oracle in Pyongyang.
Being a Sinologist and consumer of the often-rudely rigorous anti-American writing of the Huanqiu Shibao, I went to the Rodong Sinmun’s Chinese version first, where the sentence in question reads as follows:
After trying on a few different versions, I came around to rendering it as:
“Looking like venereal disease patients, those American gentlemen are prattling about their respect for human rights.”
Now that’s not very nice, is it? Especially if such language were aimed at specific individuals who were prattling on about human rights in North Korea. Especially if such individuals were Eric Schmidt and Bill Richardson.
But perhaps this was just accidental.
So I did a bit more research and found that in the year or so since Rodong has been publishing in Chinese, they have never before used the phrase “these American gentleman,” though, in their defense, the phrase was used once in English back in June 2012 with reference to Osprey accidents. Chae Il Chul [蔡日出], the author of the Jan. 10 2013 editorial, has been responsible for other anti-American diatribes should you care to explore his indelicate oeuvre.
This tidbit might be interesting since it indicates explicitly what was already fairly obvious: the North Koreans told Richardson and Schmidt to go bugger off.
At least that is my take, having been through several permutations during the visit, during which a great many other important things occurred, like Chinese jets buzzing the Senkakus and great agitation of various kinds in my own partitioned archipelago, but that is neither here nor there.
Now having read the article for the 15th time and successfully hypnotized myself, I can suppose the whole thing could be completely pro forma. While the staff at Rodong Sinmun must have known about the Google delegation (since they finally reported on it), we should never underestimate the unstoppable and wanton intellectual violence of any repetitive job, such as writing editorial content for Asia’s angriest newspaper must undoubtedly be. Which is to say the whole publication process could be numb to the kind of interpretation I’ve suggested.
The citation, just to cauterize this while wondering if I shall ever set foot in Pyongyang with a German pianist, and what purpose that would serve as a scholar and a gentleman, is Chae Il Chul, Rodong Sinmun, “Hell on Earth,” January 10, 2013, reproduced now in its full bellicose Chinese glory:
For a more constructive and far more creative set of proposals regarding Google in China, I recommend this essay by the never-less-than-brilliant duo of Peter Hayes and Roger Cavazos, both of the Nautilus Institute. I have the pleasure of working with Cavazos closely in the SinoNK group and this piece has got a great deal to recommend it.
Apologies for the spacing in the post. This is the kind of chaos that is encouraged by cutting and pasting Rodong Sinmun’s aberrant code, which clings to its own logic, rather like North Korean official language.