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Argo 2.0? Former NBA star and noted weirdo Dennis Rodman told ABC News' George Stephanopoulos today that he returned from a trip to North Korea arranged by VICE with a message for President Obama from Kim Jong Un:
“He wants Obama to do one thing: Call him,” Rodman told ABC’s George Stephanopoulos on “This Week.” “He said, ‘If you can, Dennis – I don’t want [to] do war. I don’t want to do war.’ He said that to me.”
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Google Maps has added notorious, secretive North Korean prison camps to its maps of the country. The data is gleaned from user contributions, including a first-person account of Shin Dong-Hyuk, who escaped from Camp 14, a death camp where he was born and raised.
Called Map Maker, Google’s information for the country’s layout comes primarily from visitors and from former citizens who defected, according to a Wall Street Journal report.
The mapping idea stemmed in part from a 28-year-old South Korean who tried to use Google maps on a trip to Laos four years ago, but found it unhelpful, at best. He ultimately helped devise the Google map application for North Korea.
“I thought if I could fill in information on North Korea, it might be useful in an emergency or tragedy if Google can provide a map for aid agencies,” the South Korean told the Wall Street Journal.
Retro DPRK is a blog that collects images of North Korea from the 1950s, 1960s, 1970s, and 1980s. Getting into North Korea from the United States and Western Europe is not easy today. But up until the collapse of the Soviet Union, it was even more difficult. If you weren't also from a Communist country, chances were good that you weren't going to get even a glimpse of the place.
But, at the same time, North Korea was also promoting itself through propaganda, and as a tourist destination for citizens of the USSR. Christopher Graper — who leads tours into North Korea today from Canada — has scanned scenes from postcards and tourism brochures — rare peeks into the little-documented history of a secretive country.
The collection blends familiar scenes that wouldn't look terribly different from American advertisements of the same era with an amusingly odd sensibility (who wouldn't want a whole book of postcards documenting every detail of Pyongyang's new gymnasium?) and quietly disconcerting scenes like the one above, where a seaside resort town appears eerily empty — like a theme park before opening time.
Thanks for pointing me toward this, Gidjlet!
What you are about to see is a bunch of stultifyingly counterfeit Disney characters performing at a concert where Dear Leader, Jr. of North Korea, Kim Jung Un, was in attendance. I'm wondering if he was, perhaps, slightly underwhelmed.
Bonus: right smack in the center of an "Oh SNAP" bullseye. The following is an image of several "rejected" designs for Mickey Mouse, a most beloved creation of Walt Disney because he'd always considered the happy little rodent a reflection of himself. Warning: one of these Mickeys has a penis.
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A trusted insider source writes, "A real blockbuster of bizarre at WIPO [ed: The World Intellectual Trade Organization, the UN body responsible for copyright and patent treaties]. It seems that [WIPO director general] Francis Gurry has personally approved payment for new computer equipment to go to North Korea to modernise their patent office, and that WIPO have tried to do it by going around the UN office in South Korea designed to ensure that UN sanctions are not broken. The only thing that stopped this transaction taking place was that the Bank of America was prevented from transferring WIPO's money to China. The bizarre bit is that WIPO is trying to argue that what they were doing is inherently legal because it is development assistance. Development assistance, in this case, designed to help a rogue state violate patent protection, is what it looks like. The US and a few other countries are objecting to this, for obvious reasons, but it seems to me this is an example of WIPO doing the opposite of what is in the interest of patent holders and really everyone else as well."
In that letter, also obtained by Fox News, Kateb declared that so far as WIPO staffers could tell, WIPO’s member states “had not been consulted and have no knowledge of this project. Thus, they were not given an opportunity to review or object to it.” The project, Kateb said, “was allegedly approved directly by the director general.”
Gurry denied at the meeting with diplomats that WIPO’s technology transfer violated any international sanctions efforts. He subsequently circulated to the attending ambassadors a WIPO legal memorandum -- written by the office of WIPO legal counsel Edward Kwakwa -- which claimed that the computer exports were “part of WIPO’s technical assistance program,” which “does not violate any U.N. Security Council sanctions.”
The memo acknowledged that payment for the computers had been blocked by U.S. sanctions laws “enacted in part to implement” the binding U.N. sanctions. But it also declared that “WIPO, as an international organization, is not bound by the U.S. national law in this matter” and was still looking for ways to pay for the shipment.
North Korean leader Kim Jong-Un aims a rifle at the Sporting Bullet Factory, built in 1996 at the order of the North's late leader Kim Jong-il. The factory produces "sporting bullets" for developing military sports. Its exact location is undisclosed. Undated picture released by the North's KCNA news agency in Pyongyang, on February 23, 2012. Wonder what sort of computers those are, and what they're running? (REUTERS/KCNA)
As Dean told you this morning, Kim Jong-Il is dead. (Side note: This has been one of those great moments for me, where I learned about a news story from Facebook first, at least a good 10-15 minutes before stories started popping up on Google News last night. Shout-out for that goes to Kyle Whitmire, the new media editor and main political writer at WELD, a Birmingham, Alabama, based weekly.)
With that news in mind, I'd like to take a moment to remember one the weirder aspects of North Korean politics under Kim Jong-Il's reign. During the Clinton administration, and to a lesser extent, under Bush as well, one of the primary ways the United States conducted diplomacy with North Korea was through Bobby Egan, owner of a barbecue joint in Hackensack, New Jersey. No, really. Here's an excerpt from a 2006 NPR story on Bobby Egan:
... a few customers know that Bobby Egan is North Korea's man in the U.S. Not that Egan hides it - he'll tell anyone how he tries to help North Korea. He's become a sort of unofficial ambassador. He says he's in contact with government officials, though he declines to be specific. Egan says that twice the North Korean regime authorized him to offer a full end to their nuclear programs in exchange for money and diplomatic relations with the United States.
He says that back in the Clinton years, he used to have phone conversations with presidential advisers while he was at Cubby's register, taking orders. But he says, he does a lot more than just negotiate for North Korea.
Mr. EGAN: I'm a trusted friend. I have access to the country. You know, so there's a lot of difference. We're friends, but whichever role as a friend, you're a friend. You know, there's a lot of roles friends play. You know, not just one role and too specific. We're friends, which is multifaceted.
DAVIDSON: Egan hosts trips. He says he's taken several prominent U.S. politicians to the country, although he says most of them don't want their names made public. He was the official host for the North Korean team at the 1996 Atlanta Olympics, and, he likes to hint, that he often plays a more covert role.
Mr. EGAN: Well, I don't want to get into specific details at this time because I'm still right now on a, you know, an operation mode with North Korea.
Thanks to the Slacktivist blog for reminding me of this story!
I think I just heard every venture capital firm fire up their private jets.
Sam Gellman's tourist photos from North Korea's Mass Games are wonderful and weird studies in repetition at scale, where all sorts of pomp and spectacle are performed with thousands of identically dressed performers in close-order drill, which echoes the enormous housing blocks and all the other mass-scale motifs of Stalinist bureaucracy.