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Published:October 28th, 2009 23:57 EST

Kim Jong Il's Dam Apology

By Geoff Dean

 The Washington Post has run an excellent story on Kim Jong Il and the behavior of the North Korean regime entitled "Kim Jong Il`s Scam" which suggests that all the brinkmanship of the regime, the provacative launching of missiles, followed by hints of a return to diplomacy in exchange for financial "carrots", followed by a return to belligerence, is just a clever "scam".

 Under this explanation, Kim Jong Il, far from being a "madman", is a con man extraordinaire. He has played the Clinton and Bush Administrations as suckers, threatening world peace, backing down when offered substantial gains, reneging on agreements, and returning to threatening behavior. Successive South Korean governments have fallen into the same trap, according to the theory, and the Obama Administration may well be next.

 As someone who lives just up the road, so to speak, from the "Maximum Leader" (I live in Tokyo and Pyongyang is closer than Okinawa, just a couple of hours flight away), I am pretty convinced by this line of reasoning. During the Koizumi Administration in Japan, Kim came clean as to the abduction of Japanese citizens. While this was long supposed, his direct admission of wrongdoing (although he blamed it on the previous North Korean regime and took no responsibility) was seen as a diplomatic opening and possible precursor to diplomatic ties. The talks ulitmately floundered when the Japanese side determined that Kim still had not released all the facts and had given false information and forged documents about some abductees who passed away in North Korea. Soon, North Korean missiles were in the skies, sailing over Japan and into the Pacific Ocean. Subtlety is not a North Korean strong suit.

 Still, if one takes a more cynical approach, as the Washington Post article suggests, Kim may have been saving the abductee issue, waiting for an opportune moment to reveal the information, planning to do so all along. He hoped for diplomatic and financial support from Japan and he was almost rewarded for releasing abductees, not exactly normal police practice in a kidnapping case.

 In a similar vein, the recent flooding case in South Korea, caused by a North Korean dam operator "accident" flooding a river and causing 12 deaths on the South Korean side, may have been no accident at all. The river was flooded, in this theory, to give the North Korean regime a chance to apologize and be appreciated by the recently, increasingly hostile South. After all, I heard no reports of flooding deaths in the North Korean part of the river. And indeed, South Korea responded to the belated and lukewarm apology with a resumption of suspended food aid. I could be wrong, of course, but it fits the pattern. 1) Do something bad, 2) Apologize or promise to stop, 3)Get rewarded, not for good behavior, but for the promise of stopping bad behavior, 4)After brief interval, return to step 1.

 I can`t prove this, as there is considerable mystery surrounding every action of North Korea (perhaps, another part of the "scam"), but maybe the "Dear Leader" and "Elder Brother" of the North Koreans is not so much crazy as "crazy as a fox".