tv Chung Min Lee The Hermit King CSPAN January 1, 2020 11:15am-11:58am EST
embarrassing takes in our past, so many we don't want to talk about it. this was my one good take and because i think i was onto something. >> to watch the rest of this program visit our website, booktv.org. search for liz lens or the title of her book god land using the box at the top of the page. [inaudible conversations] >> good evening and welcome to politics and prose. my name is cody walker and i will introduce tonight's speaker. if anyone could silence their cell phones and any other
electronic devices, we will be using microphones for tonight's q&a after the presentation. c-span is recording so it would be excellent if everyone could use the microphone to question so we could have the audience track and if you purchase a copy of tonight's book we have plenty on to and -- on hand. tonight's speaker is chung min lee, author of "the hermit king: the dangerous game of kim jong un". in this comprehensive study of north korea, chung min lee puts kim jong un illuminates how the family is record brutal control shape the current leader's elevations, goals and choices. drawing on three decades of experience, kim jong un -- chung min lee, chairman of the international advisory council of the international institution of strategic studies shows how kim's aggressive stand up with world powers put him at a crossroads. with north korea create a viable nuclear arsenal or not, the increasing vulnerability to famine and humanitarian crisis in the region, please join me in giving doctor lee a warm
welcome. [applause] >> thank you, it is a pleasure to be here. i know i would have had a different time. it is a pleasure to be here at politics and prose. i think the people most responsible for making me write this book two are sitting in the audience, my good friends phil rosenthal and chip rogers. the reason i wrote this book when it came out on november 5th is i wanted to tell the story of the american audience, for most americans north korea is a major issue, the north korean leader is somewhat of a different leader and donald trump as you know has fallen in love with this guy. you ask yourself how does donald trump managed to fall in
love with kim jong un and hoping he will denuclearize? i have been studying this for 30 years. there were many people, very good ones, books on north korea and why should i write one more? part of the reason is as someone who was born in korea but raised in ten countries and having lived and studied in the us for many years i wanted to connect with a broader american audience. as i recall, in the summer of 2017, there were missiles going back and forth, and a bigger nuclear button, and kim jong un said i will blow up the white house and went on and on. people were scared and friends in south korea, americans preparing for an exit if there was a major crisis.
it took until 2017. as i said the book was published last week. one of the key messages i want to get from this book and there were a number of motivations forming, the first is i want to describe what -- to give the american people a sense of what the regime is about you hear snippets from cnn or fox news or see this guy with the funny haircut who has nuclear weapons and yet most people who are not really specialists don't know much about north korea. i want to give a broader picture. i think for me as a korean, as you recall, 38,000 americans died in the new your in 1953.
i remember several years back i wrote i think it was in the wall street journal commemorating the korean war. imagine 18, 19-year-old dies in milwaukee, has never been out of his state, spent a couple weeks in the snowman's land. in the middle of the winter, you ask what is this guy doing? he must've asked what the heck am i doing in this land where i have no recollection of hearing about it? 40,000 americans died and died for a reason which was in a nutshell preserving liberty and democracy. as those words may sound light, particularly these days, i certainly believe they gave their lives for a cause and one reason is among all the countries american forces spill
their blood after world war ii, north korea is the only one that has become a modern economy and democracy, driving american partners so i am coming back full circle because my father spent part of his years in the korean war and he wanted north korean officers to be trained in the us. i saw pictures of him as a young lieutenant. in fort benning in georgia. how can i tell this story to koreans back at home and in the north as well as to americans. why is north korea important? you don't want another bloodied korean war and that is something americans are trying very hard to prevent by having 28,000 american forces in the
rok. north korea is not just nuclear weapons, icbms, biochemical weapons, ballistic missiles, cyber weapons. the only country in the world i would argue had a comprehensive department store towards military threats. everything from a-z, that is what north korea has. the rok is worth preserving. the second is at stake because regardless of how this comes out i hope there will be a unified korea and in november 2019, the 30th anniversary of the fall of the berlin wall. going to berlin is a 1990 i was working at a think tank, east germany was still around. i asked myself at what point
will be unified if they do? the big difference is germany -- it occurred when soviets were on their knees. and if it does come by it will happen when chinese are at the apex of their power. you have a different geopolitical environment. lastly the rok is in my humble opinion a satellite. if you look at a map of asia or eurasia, on the far end of asia, if you pl. american forces, boots on the ground is in korea so you have 28,000 american forces inside korea with an air force contingent and small naval contingent and they serve not only to deter north korea but constraining
the actions of the chinese. going back to hermit king, if i had to talk to someone who doesn't know north korea, what are the 3 or 4 take aways i would like to have? the first is to give the impression that kim jong un is not a buffoon. he comes across as a different type of leader. he was born in 1983 and ever since he was born into the kim family he was groomed to be the next great leader or one of the key princes in the kim dynasty. you have to imagine how the psychology of this regime is. in 1948 when north korea was founded by his grandfather he was planted by the soviets. his son, kim jong il, became a great leader when son died in 94 and when kim jong il died in 2011 his son took over but -
kim jong il has three sons. number one son came from his first wife. he had four wives. he had a second son, the older brother of north korean leader kim jong un, he has concerts all over the world and then he has a younger sister we have seen in the news. in korea, bloodlines are really important because you are born from another mother. the mothers compete for who will be the next great leader and in this particular case kim jong un's mother made sure, though she also passed away, that her son would be in the running. life was made easier for her because the number one son who ultimately was assassinated by
kim jong un in 2017, he visited tokyo's disneyland in 2001 under a different passport, he came to the dominican republic, with his wife and maddie. he was caught at the airport carrying bundles of cash. the japanese got this guy and until then the number one son was considered the crown prince of the guy who would be the next king. as soon as he came back kim jong il got totally -- he lived in exile to china and so in a way the leadership fell to kim jong un's lap. his father had a massive stroke and in north korea when something happens, a leader
nobody knows, intelligence picks up the fact the guy was sick, they are not sure how bad it was. that is when kim jong il decided my third son will be my successor. at that time he was in his mid-20s. you are groomed to be the successor in north korea, the most retaliatory state on earth, you have 1.2 million forces in the army and the world's most pervasive security apparatus. regardless of the kim dynasty's aura how can you go through generals and say general kim or general we, i got all the goods so please trust in me and that is the problem he had. and over the last eight or nine
years kim jong un feels very comfortable but the catch 22, his dilemma is this. he looks at the world and sees china, the world's second largest economy, the biggest patron is the world's most dynamic economy. his arch enemy south korea right across the border is a market economy and vibrant democracy. the second archenemy, japan, is the world's third-largest economy and his real archenemy is across the pacific and all these enemies are doing well economically so he wants to transform north korea but how do you do that? that is the dilemma and the only way he can is become the next china by opening up north korea. the moment he opens it up you bring in information, capital, technology, people ask questions and his legitimacy begins to crumble. as a result although he wants
to become the next bombshell king i don't think it is going to happen. so the dilemma over time would become progressively stronger. i think in my book i talk about the fact that all north koreans have avatars. if you have seen the movie by james cameron, it is where you have a body double who actually is a real live avatar. in north korea since it is the most highly monitored and surveilled city in the world, country in the world, when you are three months old, for example, all children are taken to state nurseries and even kindergartners are told this marching song. if you see north korean tv there are 7 americans and you could kill five, how many are
there left? that is the type of problem they will give you so if you're and culture rated at that age to give this type of loyalty to the regime, you are thinking about you don't want to get caught talking bad about the leadership. in the book i described my so-called 10 commandments that every north korean must memorize by heart. in north korea, anything you do must be caused by the great generosity of the great leader. when you see north korean propaganda one of the most disturbing ones i saw was from national geographic and there are hundreds of north koreans in a big gymnasium and they are sitting down and all have cataract operations. the medical system has
basically just gone. it is almost impossible to get good medical care. in the front row you have a young lady and her 20s and her doctor comes up with his assistant, takes off the bandage off her head and open your eyes and this young woman sees for the first time. a noble family, dad or mom, thank you or whatever and the father holds his daughter and the next nanosecond the father says i praise the great leader for this gift and there is a huge portrait of kim jong un and kim ill song go in front of the picture and they bowed 90 ° with tears flowing down their
cheeks, great leader, thank you so much. but of course deep down inside she is a 23-year-old girl with her own ambitions but she can only say those things when she confides in her parents or her siblings or her closest friends so in a way although all north koreans have avatars, it really is the fact that it is a different personality. there are 30,000 sitting in north korea today from all walks of life and you would think coming to freedom would be a lot easier but it is not because if you are used to a particular lifestyle for 20 or 30 years when they come to south korea, they are let into society they cannot adjust to
the tempo of modern life, like getting a job, the party doesn't tell you you will go to call it, they will tell you which school to go to and what you are going to major in and when you graduate - there isn't much of a personal individual initiative and that is what i tried to show in the book. one of the most harrowing aspects of north korea, four gulags, up to 200,000 north koreans are are incarcerated in these jails. one of the most pervasive things i look at in north korea is the personality cult. you may think hitler or stalin or maybe linen if you go back a little more.
but in north korea, the personality cult surrounding kim jong un and his family is like nothing you have everything. a few weeks ago you may have seen kim jong un riding his white horse across the holy grail of north korea. legend has it his father, kim jong il was born in 1941 and it was a cloudy day, suddenly when he was born in a log cabin like lincoln, the skies parted and this ray of sun went right into his house and he was born. in reality he was born in russia and so everything about the great leader is all made up so one of the great stories i saw was there are two golf courses in the capital and kim jong il, the late great leader
got up one day and said i will play golf. the first time he got his hands on a golf club he got four holes in one and he was so good he told the club master lessons how to take off. so kim jong un visits this orphanage and in front of this orphanage a big banner with a big red star and the red star is where the great leader stood and there is an arrow that tells you where he went in the orphanage and in one particular place there is a chair in a black box because he sat in the chair. i'm sure there are some people in this audience, if i could live like that it is a pretty fun life.
that is only for the very very tough. the vast number of north koreans - what i want to talk about is what would happen in north korea. what is not going to happen is despite donald trump's relationship with kim jong un he's not going to get north korean weapons. north korea saw what happened to saddam hussein and qaddafi. they think those guys had nuclear weapons was the americans and nato never would have attacked. they believe with nuclear weapons you have regime security and with nuclear weapons you are able to threaten your enemies so why give them up? in the end like all states, for example in the killing fields in cambodia, there are 1.5, even more cambodians killed by
khmer rouge, they thought it would last forever but it didn't. in north korea today what is happening is ironically you have a number of they facto marketing economies. in the 1990s you have 2 million north koreans died so it basically melted away. all north koreans have to fend for themselves so this generation, the millennials of north korea are going to change north korea from the bottom up. although they have been indoctrinated they don't give a darn about the regime were the leader. ngo in south korea hit a number of videos including younger north koreans and she said when i first heard of kim jong un who will become our next leader she thought he was bleep. the action you would not expect from your average north korean because how could you be so
anti-regime? this is why i think over time once more money flows in, once the regime is unable to control every nuance and step of citizens things will have to change and that is my hope but managing north korea is very crucial because if there is another war there are millions of casualties not only north and south korea but also involving americans and chinese so maybe i will stop here and take questions from the audience. if there's a particular aspect you want me to elaborate, i would be happy to.
anyone? yes? >> if you foresee an inclination toward a market economy or an evolution in that direction, what must be the forces that will sustain the status quo ante and what way might and economy survive under those? >> a great question. in north korea it is difficult to get a clear sense. if you go to the capital of north korea it is a modern city because it is the model city for north korea and so he wants to make north korea rich without opening up north korea to foreign ideas. how many of you think north koreans have cell phones? actually there are 25 million north koreans, 7 to 9 million cell phone users. however they don't have wi-fi, they can only make domestic
calls but north korean apps are in the north korean apps store which looks similar to apple and so they download this stuff and exchange information and to your point they are able to see the benefits of modern technology. in these the fact market economies they exchange 90% of consumer goods from china. you exchange rice cake, you get shampoo and move on to the next stall. the system doesn't exist. if you can't feed your people they must fend for themselves but the irony of that is more of these markets flourish the states ability to control the diminishes so these markets are not just for exchange of goods and services. that is where information gets
exchanged. every single north korean has seen a south korean movie which is against the law. if you're caught watching a south korean drama or american show you will have to go up for reforms. kim jong un wants to have his cake and eat it too but this is why he cannot make up his mind. whether he to be the next vietnam or china or pull back and see the markets are becoming too strong. my final comment is people in north korea, moneylenders or money leaders so these are the new capitalism of north america who are allowed to exist by the government because they pay huge bribes to the government.
these people are the ones who start up new businesses. if you want to open a new hair shop, beauty shop you go to the bank and say give me money and go to this guy, how much do you need? $1000? in exchange i will get 20% of your equity or profit in the next 5 or 10 years. again, this is something we never saw in north korea 20 years ago. this is an experiment in the making. >> fascinating talk. here's a question for you. look at china which has liberalized economically but a 1-party state that has grown even more repressive, similarly vietnam where the workers party is in absolute control. the dissent in north vietnam is relatively nonexistent but both of these states have vibrant --
couldn't they be models for kim jong un? >> many south koreans who believe in engagement with the north think exactly like the question you post. of the chinese have done it why not north koreans? many north korean watchers in co and elsewhere argue when we were in college you would think this must be the stone age in china, no running water, all people were wearing now suits, people speaking in the same voice and in my lifetime, china has transformed, the possibility exists it could become a small china but the reason i think it will not is because of the political reasons for the simple fact, it happened only after he died and
the gang of four had been arrested. you can blame the legacies of an era on mao, in north korea's case, your grandfather was involved too. how can you be a god? the political legitimate flies in the face of north korea's restraint. the second one is a right model, in vietnam you have a self korean vietnam capitalist before she was overtaken by the north, the new the capitalist model. heaven for bid it was unified by north korea, we have a vibrant economy 10 or 20 years because south korea continue to exist. and how things will pan out, i
don't think as much as he wants to he will be able to emulate the chinese. >> terrific talk. you mentioned the korean war, the soviets played an incredibly important role before the ascent of china but do the russians continue to play a role in north korea? >> in my book i talk about the interest in korea, a general audience, people in this room, korea is the only place in the world, where they converge geographically. china, russia, the us and japan. everything that happens on the korean peninsula by definition has original condition. russia is a different country because she put kim bill song
into power but since the ussr chip in 1991, russian influence went down. and you cannot ignore russia for two reasons, the russians have a lot of influence politically north korea and they said on the un security council. whatever happens politically the soviets or the russians have a feed zone. in that sense, the importance of russia on the korean question, russia is important too. >> 100,000 people a year our
slave labor in russia, with those people -- i was astounded that billions of dollars is repatriated, 90% of their pay, would laborers ever come back to north korea, and you see things, you have access to the internet, in poland you have access to the internet, even if you are not bringing back videos and things like that you are bringing back the ideas of things you see it heard about. >> we they don't mix with local inhabitants. all the workers are placed in barracks following movement of the general population.
and until and now weekends, no holiday, no nothing. for the duration of the time track, two or three or four years. and when they attempt to escape and once they are caught they are repatriated in north korea and they face harsher penalties. and polish companies hire north korean workers because they don't complain, the other person will do a good job. but they see poland, to your point and we see couples talking. if you are human being you must ask yourself why is it that every day life is so desperate here.
and that kernel of information he takes with him to north korea will be the seed of change and you multiply that by hundreds of thousands, in a hushed voice they will say in poland they used to be communists but 30 years after communism they are doing pretty well. that is the question the authorities don't want those guys to ask their brethren back home. >> it is hard to bring power to do that. how do they manufacture that? >> in 1950 when the korean war began -- please go ahead.
>> i heard for a long time they counterfeit us currency. how do they deploy that? >> in 1951 the war began, north koreans received military aid from the soviets, tanks and everything else. when the war began on june 25th, the south koreans retreated until poussin and that is the famous tucson perimeter, the second largest port city and after macarthur intervenes and truman says go do so, then south korea is saved but what happens, the us had massive airpower in the korean war and bombed north korea's industrial sites, military installations so kim bill song, the war ended and
53, vows to himself i will never let this happen again, i will never let the americans bomb me back to the stone age and he vowed that i will have nuclear weapons and missiles so bit by bit how does he do it? he reverse engineers russian or soviet missiles, short range missiles and then his real partner, missiles, from the pakistani so the pakistanis dare the north koreans missile technology and in return the north koreans give the pakistanis nuclear technology. when pakistan tested in 1998 nuclear weapons there were north koreans in pakistan watching that test. in 2006 they get their first nuclear test. there is a place in office 39, the piggy bank of the kim family. every hard currency earning
enterprise, it goes into office 39 and he decides what to do with that money including payoffs to his cronies. in north korea although there are embassies overseas when you have an embassy in london or paris or elsewhere you only paid a very meager salary, they are told go out and make money in the black market so what do north korean diplomats do? they bring in banknotes, $100 bills, it is a fraction of the price, they sell wegener, liquor, cigarettes, traffic in drugs and human smuggling because not only do they have to raise money for their own mission but they have to give a portion of that to the great
leader. every north korean diplomat doesn't just write cables, he or she is busy raising money in the black market. that is where these people work, it is very very sad. a friend of mine told me the north korean ambassador just months away from $500 which imagine doing any job as an ambassador with $500, it is nearly impossible but that is how it is. >> i think one more question. >> i can't control myself. here is another one for you. us policy for decades towards north korea has had one priority, denuclearization. as you suggest, as other expert north korean watchers, that is
not going to happen. it is too intimately tied to regime survival so from the point of view of the united states, what would you advocate that we have to worry about their nuclear weapons but they having of artillery to obliterate see all -- soul with very conventional means. how would you reorder some of our priorities? what would you do first? >> i would appoint us secretary of defense but since i don't have the authority what i would say is i agree that you must engage the north koreans. without negotiation or discussion how can you do that? and all government including the trump administration have used a mixture of carrots and sticks to pressure or entice north korea but this is where south koreans have to come in. if you want to play ball with the americans, play ball with us.
in other words the stakeholder in this enterprise i would argue the first thing is you have to coordinate your policy with seoul and washington but apparently that is not always the case that we see. the second thing is you have to filter into the people and how do you do that is very difficult because north korea has a harsh surveillance state but as i said, rivals gone to north korea, usbs with information and all sorts of goods and services are going into north korea today. if usaid took a more rigorous approach in north korea, that is one way of infiltrating that particular space, the final
point is the global community including the eu must get together. north koreans are great at divide and rule, divide south korea from the us, divide americans from european partners but on this particular note the trump administration must look at foreign-policy so the europeans and south koreans, japanese, australians and the americans singing from the same sheet of music. let me close by saying as i said earlier, i don't think i would be standing here if not for the fact that americans gave their lives for the defense of my country and and my dad is 2 years old. at some time, i do believe it will take many more decades that all north koreans in south and north korea will live as
free men and women but thank you very much for making time and sitting through this talk, thank you so much. [applause] >> thank you, everyone. books are available at the register and he will be at the table answering any questions you might have. [inaudible conversations] >> booktv recently visited capitol hill and asked republican senator john boozman about his reading list. >> i have got several books that i'm working on right now. one of them is called our dams 1944. myself and some other senators represent the united states, the battle of the bulge, 75th anniversary this year. i am excited about that and i wanted to bone