Wednesday, July 21, 2010

North Korean Anti-American Art Makes the Headlines

The above North Korean poster reads "We Will Smash You with a Single Blow if You Attack." It was photographed by a Chinese businessman, and reported on the website of Radio Free Asia last week. The RFA article speculated that the poster, whose publication date is unknown, might be an attempt by the North Korean government to brag about sinking the Cheonan, the South Korean warship sunk by an explosion this March. The sinking of the South Korean warship has been blamed by the South Koreans and their U.S. sponsors on the DPRK, and was responsible for marked worsening of relations between the two countries.

Somewhat lazily, the article was hastily rewritten by The New York Times the day after it appeared on the RFA site, with the same idle speculation that the poster was a cloaked claim of responsibility. The Times article was then promoted by gossip website Gawker. The Times article repeated completely unsubstantiated claims the North Koreans "secretly" awarded medals to the crew of a North Korean submarine after the sinking of the Cheonan.

Though the Times does say that North Korea vehemently denies sinking the Cheonan, it leaves it there. It does not mention the speculation that the Cheonan was sunk by an American mine either intentionally placed or left over from recent military maneuvers. This alternative speculation is documented on NewAmerican Media, and by an unofficial North Korean spokesperson in the Asia Times online. It doesn't seem to me any more of an outrageous conspiracy theory than the one that has North Koreans torpedoing random South Korean warships and then secretly rewarding the devilish underwater crew.

It seems bizarre given the volume of quite violently imagined North Korean propaganda--many pieces shown here on The Cahokian--to suggest without any actual evidence that the DPRK is admitting in a public piece of propaganda something it in general denies. Given the number of American, South Korean (and Japanese?) weapons pointed at North Korea, it's completely understandable, on the other hand, that the DPRK would use a propaganda medium to announce its intentions to retaliate for any attack.

The question needs to be asked why, if the New York Times is reporting completely unsubstantiated speculation, it's not covering both sides of this coin?

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