JournalistI'm Jonathan Cheng, WSJ's Korea bureau chief. I recently returned from a reporting trip to North Korea. AMA!
Oct 2nd 2017 by jchengwsj • 24 Questions • 6256 Points
I'm Will Carless, a reporter at Reveal from The Center for Investigative Reporting, where I cover hate and extremism in the U.S. I recently embedded with anti-fascists and discovered that they have a "hit list" of alt-right activists, which they disseminate ahead of protests. Many of them believe that pre-emptive violence is the only way to shut down hate speech.
If you could ask anyone in the DPRK's regime one question and have it answered honestly and sincerely, what would it be?
What was the hardest part (mental/emotional/physical) of recovering from your injury? Thanks for doing this AMA!
Years ago you gave a talk in Denver. I got an email from CLIO inviting Colorado users for a beer. About 8-10 users showed up. Just wanted to say thanks for the beer.
Guess I need a question.
How's it going, eh?
What do you wish people would say or NOT say to you? I've read opinions from people with some horrible disease (especially cancer) write that they are absolutely tired of hearing the "But how are you really doing?" question and calling treatment a "fight" or a "battle".
Also, since I'm an anesthesiologist, what did you wish your anesthesia team knew or do differently for your surgeries. Did you have an ERAS (enhanced recovery after surgery) for your surgeries? Always interested to know, since anesthesiologists rarely get meaningful feedback from patients.
Thanks for sharing your story Dude! PS we went to med school together.
Most people think that non-violence is the way to go and that violent, aggressive responses could backfire, that is play into the hands of white supremacists by using violence. What do you have to say about that?
Hey guys! I'm back to answer this one. It's a tough one because there's so much that we want to know, and there are plenty of good questions that would be perfectly adequate, but you always want to find that perfect question, if you ever got the chance. Unfortunately, I'm not sure there is a perfect one. Most of the things we want to know are things that nobody knows, or that are likely to change quickly depending on circumstances, like, "How close are we to war?" or "Do you ever plan to use your nuclear weapons?" There are also a few that would fall into the unsolved mysteries category, like "What happened with Otto Warmbier exactly?" or "Did you order the hit on Kim Jong Nam, and why?" (North Korea has a lot of these unsolved mysteries, stretching right back to 1945 and beyond, but these would be two of the more recent ones.) Then there are the frivolous ones, like "Why Dennis Rodman?" or "Why that haircut?" I suppose I could also go down another line of reasoning: "What really keeps you up at night?" "Does your conscience ever nag you?" And I guess the one I'd really like to ask would be along those lines, and it'd be like this, for Kim Jong Un: "Did you ever contemplate a different path for North Korea when you took over from your father? You were educated abroad, and the country you inherited is in a very different position, and the world is a very different place, than when your grandfather founded the DPRK in 1948. Did you give any serious thought to a different path, and why did you ultimately choose this one?" I'm not sure how thoughtful and contemplative Kim is, but given the parameters of your question, Josh, with the prospect of an honest and sincere answer, that's probably what I'd ask. But hey, if anyone's got a better question, I'm all ears!
part (mental/emotional/physical) of recovering from your inj
Hi! Those are all parts of the journey, I would say at first it was such a sudden shift in my reality that emotionally I was a wreck, crying every day. It was also mental, because I was battling thoughts of depression. Will I ever get married? Will I depend on people forever? etc... The pain was also bad... So I can't really say what was worst, but that they were all very much a part of the journey. Thanks for the question!
I remember that meetup! I think it was about five years ago? Thanks for coming out, and no problem, eh. If you ever make it to a Clio conference, I'll buy you another one. :)
What do you wish people would say or NOT say to you?
Well, for me personally, I don't get upset when people try to say something nice/compassionate after finding out the diagnosis. They're just trying to be nice people, and it's not their fault that I might be in a shitty mood and take it the wrong way. I've heard other, very different opinions from other people with cancer, though. I think it depends on the person, really. Although, to be honest, the old "everything happens for a reason" thing is a pretty classic groaner to avoid.
As far as it being a "battle," I guess it is, kind of. But really it's more like just getting through each day. I operate about a week at a time now. I just look at the next thing on the horizon, take care of that problem, and then move on to the next thing. If you think about the overall situation too much you'll go crazy.
My anesthesia was pretty much the definition of "routine." General and then a dilaudid PCA + prn boluses for pain control. We didn't talk about the newer post-op regimens or things like an epidural. I do wonder if things would have worked out better with some of the more advanced anesthesia, but my pain control was adequate. I would have tried anything more they offered/recommended, but from my perspective, they treated all the surgeries as pretty routine cases.
PS we went to med school together.
Sweet! Geaux Tigers!
I agree. Most people do think that. But some elements of the antifa don't think that. I think we've already seen even targeted violence blowback onto antifa's image among the general public. But I also know that the people committing this violence aren't really concerned about their perception among the general public. I would agree that they have "played into the hands" of some white supremacists. I think that's kind of inevitable. And I know that's of concern to some within the antifa movement. I think that's why we saw so little violent action in Berkeley this week.
Hello, Mr. Cheng!
Looking back at the trip now, what would you say has made the biggest impression on youself?
Also a general question, if OK. How did you become interested in North Korea?
Hey David! Since your accident has happened, what has been your favorite place to go where you have shared your story?
ccident has happened, what has been your favorite plac
Hmm... Probably the Bijou Theatre in Knoxville. It's my hometown, and I knew quite a few people there. It was very special.
Thanks for your ongoing support, we always love hearing from our customers!
With the new Clio experience, we're trying to get away from one-off feature votes and trying to understand our customers' problems and workflows in a more holistic way—a feature-oriented view is a bit myopic.
If you'd be interested in getting on a customer interview with our product managers, let our support team know or shoot me a PM here and I'll be happy to put you in touch.
In terms of e-signing, stay tuned :)
Do the people want war? Nuclear war? Do you think they really know the ramifications of a nuclear war?
In general, what was it like?
Have you seen Freya Markowski again since April?
what was the socioeconomic background of most of the people you encountered? are any at risk of losing their jobs or livelihood because of their activities?
I don't think the people want war. I think what they would probably say is what you hear coming from the U.S. leadership: We don't want war, but we're not afraid of war if that's what it takes. Do they know the ramifications of a nuclear war? I don't know that any of us really do, on a visceral level. It's been 72 years since an atomic bomb was used to kill people, and I know a lot of disarmament and arms control experts have been working overtime to try and convey the seriousness and horror of nuclear war to a world that's a bit inured to it all, but I still think a lot of us don't get the ramifications. And in North Korea, I'm not sure they have any voices trying to convey this message -- not that I've seen, anyway.
Geoff Hinton made a point that we're very close to realizing the algorithmic potential of current machine learning capabilities. When it comes to negotiating contracts, there's a level of nuance required that machines just can't provide.
We'll get to a point where we'll have easily automated tasks being done by computers, and the leading edge of consumer machine learning capabilities will get pulled into the practice of law, but you'll never be able to fully remove lawyers from the legal process.
How many North Koreans do you think actually believe most of the propaganda?
but she was negligent, the fact they didnt press charges is disgusting IMO. she ran a red light and almost killed this guy. She got a pass because of the " lets not punish the junkies and mentally ill" bullshit.
ould have had to go to inpatient or som
Hi Hexxman. Thanks for the comment. And I totally agree that she doesn't deserve to be let off the hook. My reasoning was NOT because I wanted to be soft on a junkie. My reasoning was to help her, to show her that Love and Forgiveness are real and that she could have another chance. We had her do community service.
I really don't think jail would have been a good option for someone who already felt worthless. I'm not responsible for how she turns out, but I've done what I can to help. (FYI, she has been clean for a year)
Hope this makes a little more sense.
Young lawyer here in small firm (12 attys) who is having difficulty convincing my older, tech-adverse partners to move from Tabs and no practice management software to Clio. How do I convince them?
So as a radiologist do you get to input your opinion on things like X-rays and catscans taken of you?
What was your absolute lowest point throughout your Clio career?
Thank you for the post. Both my grandpa and great grandpa died of mesothelioma caused by working with asbestos, watching my grandpa go through it was the first experience that opened my eyes to the extreme pain some people must live with every day, and sobered my seven year old self right up. Good luck and stay strong.
What's the most benign looking/feeling early warning sign you can think of? If it ends up being what takes my father, I'd rather give him the best fighting chance he can have by being overcautious.
thank you, and yes. that is a different type of forgiveness. I encourage you to read through this thread, I've certainly been informed!
Great question! Trying to raise our first fundraising round was incredibly difficult and very disheartening. We launched in 2009 in the midst of the financial crisis and despite having what I was convinced was a great business, and receiving great feedback from investors there was no one writing cheques.
We got a cold email from a German investor named Christoph Janz who had heard about our product on a blog and expressing interest in being an angel investor—but the email was caught by our spam filter and sat there for two weeks (inadvertently slow-playing him.) Through what I can only describe as an act of God, Rian, my Co-founder, randomly checked the spam folder and saw the email, leading to a $1m Series A.
Moral of the story: always check the spam folder!
Not related to NK but to propaganda and how much people can actually believe it.
15 years ago or so a friend of mine studied in Europe as a transfer student, and his dorm roomate grew up in a very antisemitic area his whole life (cant rem the name of the place) and after finding out that my friend was of jewish origin the roomate was shocked and literally asked him where are his horns and why is his nose so small. Apprently his whole life he's been told and showed images of jews as they look like devils drink blood and what not. Took the roomate a couple of days to take all that and still looked at my friend funny everytime for the whole semester.
Just a glimpse on how much a person can believe when they grow up on this kind of things and i have no doubt that the majority there believe every word. Just imagine how weird it is to open a usb you found and seeing stuff that goes against everything you have ever been told, very likely that you'll ignore it and continue on your life as always.
Given how you've been injured in a bike accident, do you think there are changes to the infrastructure possible which would help prevent happening this to other people? Greetings from the land of the bikes and the red light district!
Thank you for this AMA. After spending time with antifa activists, how much do you lean towards the view held by some that both they and the (alt)right are "violent extremes" and practically the same?
Thanks for sharing. I think we can all agree that this kind of thing is possible all over the world.
David, What has helped you heal and forgive? How has your daily routine changed?
Softball question! I’m glad you asked, though the answer is complex. I’ve been to many games now, mostly in Seoul, since…well, that’s where I live. I’ve tried to get into Doosan and LG, the two obvious choices, but neither of them has given me a game that would inspire me to devote my allegiance to them. Maybe I’m asking for the impossible. But last game I went to was an LG game where I really wanted to love them…and then in the top of the ninth, they gave up a walk-off grand slam to the other team. I want so badly to want to cheer for them, but I’m not a masochist. And, per your handle, I’m a Toronto native, so the Jays are obviously my MLB team of choice.
The forgiveness I've expereienced in my own life, and the love I've received. And my days are actually pretty similar (I go the same places) but I just do things in a different way. Put clothes on a different way, still go to the bathroom a different way, etc... Thanks for the question!
Platt!!! What are biggest hopes and goals now that you have experienced so much healing?
We were invited guests of the Foreign Ministry, so our treatment was very good. Tourists are paying customers, so they are treated well, with a few notable and tragic exceptions. Aid workers, too, are bringing in things and providing services that the state is not, so they are also treated well. Foreigners from friendly nations are allies and comrades, so they too are treated well. With respect to Americans in particular, the line that we often heard is that they don't like the U.S. government, but they're fine with Americans as individuals. (Many Americans would say the same of North Korea.)
I want to tell the world that I AM NOT A VICTIM. The point being that although I was a victim of an accident, if I responded as a victim (complaining, holding resentment, just sitting and being depressed about my legs not moving) I wouldn't be where I am today. I want to encourage others to fight whatever challenges they are up against, and not see themselves as victims, even if they truly are.
what's the most surprising opinion you've heard from someone in North Korea?
Your hair is gorgeous, what conditioner do you use?
Hi Jack! Thank you for doing this AMA.
Does Clio do outreach at law schools to help students prepare to use the practice management software?
How do you run four start-ups at a time instead of focusing all of your energy on one?
Good luck and thank you!
This reply seems rather disingenuous. I think we've all seen videos of antifa activists engaging in unprovoked violence, and altogether seeming like they're enjoying themselves. That's far from a last resort protecting the greater good.
Those may well be a small minority of antifers, but to portray that minority as some defenders of the peace who only use violence when it's called for is just false. At least take the reasonable route and say there are bad people involved, just like pretty much every other group in human history.
I think what struck us as a group (and I’m just recalling this off the top of my head) was hearing our handlers at the Foreign Ministry complain, genuinely, about how obsessed their kids were with computer games and their smartphones. It’s just not something we were expecting to hear, I guess because we ourselves have our own conceptions about what life in North Korea is like. On the more conventional, political front, I think what was most surprising was a quote we included in our story last Saturday, which was a waitress/bartender telling us that she wished Pyongyang would fire off 20-30 missiles per day. It was a reminder that there may be even more hawkish opinions inside the country than we hear/read about.
lol. It tends to do better the less I try to deal with it. but I've tried a bunch of different stuff, and it seems the more expensive stuff is better.
Doing the AMA was my pleasure. First time doing one, but I'm having a ton of fun!
Does Clio do outreach at law schools to help students prepare to use the practice management software?
Absolutely! We launched our Clio Academic Access Program (CAAP) over seven years ago, and have seen over 150 law schools, including 13 of the top 20 law schools in the US, adopt Clio as part of that program. As part of CAAP we offer Clio access free of charge and provide education and support resources to the law schools that are member of CAAP.
Fun fact: we donated over $6m in free Clio access to law schools that belong to CAAP in 2017.
As a result of the success we've seen with CAAP, we've seen two major textbook publishers, including Cengage, Pearson, and Wolters Kluwer, that include chapters describing how Clio can help run a technology-enabled law firm.
How do you run four start-ups at a time instead of focusing all of your energy on one?
My attempt at humour in my Twitter bio might be a bit too subtle: Clio is the only true startup I'm working on, but I have three young children (Ian, 8; Patrick, 7; Isla, 5) that I need to juggle as well :-)
I said elsewhere on this page that there was a lot of indiscipline in early months. I think antifa are working on that! And yeah, I'll agree that there are people within the movement who act rashly and stupidly, as there are in almost any group of protesters. So, yeah, wasn't meaning to downplay that.
What do North Korean people think of South Korea and is the goal of reunification on their minds?
Is there anything you can't do at the moment that you used to do but are working towards doing again? On a side note, I think it is both courageous and amazing that you were able to forgive so quickly such an inspiring story!
Whats CLIOs Origin Story? How did you End up down this path?
After spending time with members of antifa are you more or less sympathetic to their movement and why?
Officially, many of them are repulsed by South Korea because, in their minds, it's not a real country. It's a puppet state propped up by the U.S. after the Korean War. But obviously, there is a lot of pathos and intrigue with the South as well, since -- more so than in South Korea -- they still keep very much alive the dream of unification. Not to say they don't in South Korea, of course, but you feel it and see it more when you're north of the DMZ. At least, based on my limited interactions...!
I'd love to play soccer/wakeboard/mountain bike. I need quite a bit more strength for that... But I'm working toward it! Who knows at this rate someday I might.
I was extremely honored to recently be named an Entrepreneur of the Year by Ernst & Young, and they did a pretty fantastic job summing it up here: https://www.bcbusiness.ca/Entrepreneur-of-the-Year-2017-Software-as-a-Service
Not included: the life-altering encounter with a cave full of bats.
Good question. And a difficult one to answer. I would honestly say that I'm sympathetic to an overall fight against fascism. And I would say that traditionally, some sort of violence has inevitably been an element of any successful struggle against fascism. But I would say that the antifa, especially those practicing violence and property damage, have been more damaging to their movement than positive. I think in the early part of this year, there was a lot of indiscipline within the movement. I think that's changing.
Hi David, I really just want to tell you what an inspiration you are! But, rules are I must ask a question... So here it is: have you done any speaking engagements talking about your accident? If so, what was it like for you? If you could do a TED talk about the power of forgiveness, would you do it? I'd love to see it! (I'm not affiliated with TED or anything remotely similar!)
On the second night, three of us from the Journal went out on an evening stroll from our guesthouse (circa 10pm). It was pitch black outside, and we were in a rather remote rural guesthouse. Why did we walk out? Because the Foreign Ministry officials said we should, and we wanted some fresh air and to stretch our legs after a long, grueling day of being shuttled around Pyongyang in cars. We wandered down a hill in the darkness (I had my phone flashlight/torch on), and I definitely heard someone coming towards us. It was just four armed soldiers marching past us. Didn't glance up at us. Didn't seem to pay us any mind. Just doing their marching thing. It made me recall the 2008 shooting death of a South Korean woman who had gone up to Keumgangsan (Mount Keumgang, Diamond Mountains), a resort set up just north of the DMZ on the east coast, where South Koreans were -- until the shooting -- able to visit the North on vacation. While the circumstances of that death remain a pretty bitter source of dispute between the two Koreas, we figured it was a good reminder that we should probably get back inside.
I have played shows where we show a 20 minute documentary of my story, and then I play an hour set and share more of the story. I'd LOVE to do a ted talk
Did you feel any kind of tension in Pyongyang? Is the population aware of Donald Trumps recent threats against North Korea? Does the state-run media mention it?
Hey David! You can probably guess who this is by my handle! My question is this: has the accident affected how you are physically able to play music, as in mobility?
Unfortunately, we were in Pyongyang just before Donald Trump's UN speech, which really raised the heat. We've seen DPRK's state media come out ferociously since then, in a way I haven't seen in my four years watching North Korea closely. (Nicholas Kristof was in the country after me, so maybe he'll have some thoughts on this...) While we were there, though, in mid-September, it really was quite calm. Yes, there are posters and cakes and all sorts of other messages plastered all over Pyongyang warning of destruction and war and all of that, but you don't see it in the people -- unless, of course, you ask them how they feel about the U.S.
ally able to play
Hey Gardner :) Ironically, I'm touring and playing more than before the accident! Just played last night in Nasvhille! Lots on the horizon as well :) So no. That said, I can't kick a bass drum pedal very hard. But I was never a good drummer ;)
I've seen a number of folks on twitter talk about the danger that reporters put people in when they report and take pictures at anti alt-right demonstrations. Did you encounter any resistance towards your reporting due to similar criticisms?
When they present you with a warning cake, you know it's serious.
I believe in God, and I believe it's the God of the Bible. I also think faith is a deep and difficult subject, so I don't know the details. But I believe I have first hand experienced some of God's redemption in my own life.
I did. On a couple of occasions, I was told not to take photos of antifa. And I think there is some legitimacy to the fear antifa have of getting doxxed. Read up on what happened to Eric Clayton for more details!
'm not scared of death, I'm scared of being unable to
Thank you so much for sharing, and I'm sorry about your condition. The phychological part is hard, and I have no idea how to cope with what your struggle will be, I do know that "Man's search for Meaning" by Viktor Frankl has meant a lot to me. It's a book by a guy who survived the holocaust, and you should read it for sure. He says that there is a certain kind of purpose you can only find through suffering. I've latched onto that, and It's been quite rewarding.
My point was that Clanton was doxxed (if it was really him) via 4Chan. It was a pretty massive, organized effort.
Are you into gaming?
Yeah this is definitely happening. There is very little actual organization or coordination going on between different antifa groups, as far as I have witnessed. (Although of course, that may have been kept out of my sight).
I've heard many people talking about how marijuana is both legal, and socially accepted in NK. Is that actually true?
One more, probably stupid. Have you always been a forgiving person? Many people take small sleights against them to heart, and take a while to let them go. Have you always been able to rationalise and forgive? Or was that a conscious decision? I guess I'm asking if you're naturally hyper-empathetic, or if you learned it along the way!
I've read that as well, but it's not something I know for sure either way -- and I must confess, we neglected to ask our Foreign Ministry counterparts about this while we were there. All I can say is that we didn't catch any whiffs of weed while we were there.
Good question: honestly, maybe I've just made the right friends, or maybe it's the way I view people, but I've never been so offended that I couldn't forgive someone. I don't think anyone's done something so bad to me that was truly evil that I couldn't forgive. Closest thing would be the person who stole my laptop from the scene of the accident........ That was low.
We first started seeing antifa as an interesting group after the big protests in Berkeley in the Spring. As a reporter covering extremism, this seemed like a group I should look into. So I did!
You wake up in Kim Jong Un's body. You can speak and understand Korean. Without getting assassinated by your commanders, how do you transition North Korea and its people from an Orwellian state of despair to a prosperous nation so you can then ride your fame to launch your career in music?
Former Nashvillian - where is your favorite local place to perform?
I JUST played City Winery two days ago! it was incredible, they feed you and make wine with your label on it :)
Not really. I was with known antifa when I was in crowds.
I saw a few photos from another group that just visited NK and I was surprised at how modern some parts of the country seems. What are some misconceptions that the US public may have about NK that you, having taken this trip, would like to help clear up?
Did you take and courses on or practice any sort of mindfulness exercises to come to terms with everything that had happened and everything you felt/feel?
If we need an 'antifa' movement to fight fascists, that assumes that there are fascists around every corner just waiting to take over the country. How many fascists (on a percentage basis) does antifa think there are in the US and how close are the fascists to taking over?
Yes, indeed! Keep in mind that you're probably looking at photos of the capital, Pyongyang. That's not to say that things are filthy and awful elsewhere, but the most modern parts are generally in Pyongyang. We published a bunch of photos of this too in our Saturday essay last week, if you want to have a look. The main misconception I think that persists in the U.S. about North Korea is that everyone is struggling and wants to get out (that's a bit of a blanket statement, but there are many people in the U.S. who feel this way). There surely are North Koreans who want to get out -- 30,000 have resettled in South Korea, and there may be many more who would like to leave but can't. But there are also many millions who don't want to leave. For one thing, they don't know much about the outside world, and what little they do know isn't positive (you can thank North Korean state media for that). And many of them may believe that life is much better outside the country, but the risks, and the costs, of trying to leave are simply prohibitive. And life is definitely improving for the higher classes in North Korea, so arguably there is less reason to leave. I could go on and on, but I hope this makes sense. And to be clear, I'm not saying everyone is happy there (or that everyone who is happy would remain happy if they knew more about their own country and about the rest of the world), but if you got to ask people freely how they feel about their country (and if they were allowed to freely answer), I think most of them would genuinely tell you that they like where they are.
Good question, and obviously the answer is different for each individual. But I will say that many antifa feel that there's been a remarkable increase in proti-fascist sentiment, rhetoric and activity since the election of Donald Trump. I've heard that time and time again. Antufa point to the fact that Hitler's political party was tiny when it started (a few dozen people) and they look at groups like the Alt-Right and it worries them. My point is that these people are legitimately concerned about what they call "the fascist creep." It's not just some crazy concept to them.
Do you feel antifa would be better served using a more leaderless resistance model, ala the weathermen, to be more effective?
The biggest problem in the western media, I think, is the same thing that bedevils western media coverage of other parts of the world: resources are few, and they're not likely to get any better. That means that you have very few people on the ground trying to cover a country of 23 million people (in North Korea's case) or of 50 million people (in South Korea's case). Many western media outlets don't have anyone permanently stationed, or permanently focused, on Korea. That's not to say good work can't be done, but it does make it more difficult for in-depth work and careful consideration to be given to the issue. We have a bureau of five in Seoul, which is pretty good all things considered, but I'd sure love to double that size. (I'm dreaming, I know.) And then, of course, there are some things that even adding more bodies can't fix: access to North Korea is extremely limited, and even when it's granted, it's debatable how helpful it really is, since that access does come with serious strings attached.
As for policymakers, it's hard for me to know, not being a policymaker. I know that senior U.S. officials have far more sources of information than just the WSJ, or NYT/Washpost/FT/Bloomberg/Reuters/AP/etc., at their disposal. I presume we are one factor in that, and that we are read by policymakers as much for the impact it'll have on public sentiment as we are for the actual content of what we write.
Will your answers to this questions effect your next visa in anyway?
Hey, David. Been a while since I've seen you. Just wanted to say hi. How's your dog?
To be honest, it's impossible to know what they read, how much of it they read, and how much they care. There's certainly plenty that I've written and said prior to our trip last month, in the WSJ or on Twitter or otherwise, that I suppose you could argue would be dealbreakers, depending on what one considers a dealbreaker. But there we were in Pyongyang. I do always try to be careful and measured with what I say and write, knowing that it's a complex and delicate situation, but if they don't want me there because of something I've written, then that's a price that I'm willing to pay.
Hi!!! He's great :) My parents have been taking care of him.
What’s the feeling among South Koreans right now? How’s it impacting their political environment? Thanks!
How do you process Anger?
Good question. Many South Koreans are definitely concerned (though not all of them, not by a long shot), but life goes on. This is life in the shadow of a North Korean threat that’s existed since the 1950s, just like I imagine life in NYC or London rolls on under the threat of terrorism. (Not the same, I know, but perhaps the mentalities are the same?) As for the politics, the most striking thing we see is just how left out and wrong-footed the new administration has had with the crisis. Moon Jae-in is a left-leaning president, the first in nearly a decade, and he had a very different vision for how things would play out on the inter-Korean front under his watch. I don’t think he expected things to play out this way. And the feeling of being left out is very real here. Donald Trump seems to portray the issue as one either between himself and Kim Jong Un, or at most, one that involves China and Japan. South Korea and Russia, it seems, are more tertiary players in the way he’s framed things, or at least that’s how it often feels in Seoul.
Don't supress it, but don't let it linger. Honestly it's been less frequent recently.
A small sample size, but my girlfriend's family is concerned mostly about Donald Trump's responses rather than NK threats
I haven't done the research, but I suspect your girlfriend's family is not alone on this one.
Hi Mr. Cheng, thanks for doing an AMA!
I have a couple of questions: First, is the North Korean regime (whether it's Kim Jong Un calling the shots or not) actually nutso, or are they playing with a Madman policy, or are their actions actually fairly reasonable/logical? Secondly, what is your take on the sanctions in place on the country (and its leaders?)--do they impact the leadership in any meaningful way, or do they end up just falling on the people anyway?
Thanks for the question. I personally do not believe they are nuts. Nuts can work for a little while, but it generally doesn't work for three generations, over the course of 72 years, when stacked up against the world's biggest political and economic powers (the U.S., Japan, China, Russia, South Korea). I'm not saying it's reasonable or logical, per se, but I do think they know what they're doing, and they're very smart about it.
And I'm not sure on sanctions, to be honest. It's been a hot debate for, oh, years and years and years. No question the leadership have ways to ensure that the pain to them is minimal.
What do you think is the maximum provocation North Korea is likely to undertake?
Thanks Fred, that's a tough, almost unknowable question, but I think the answer, roughly speaking, is that North Korea will find ways to come right up to the line -- whatever that may be -- without crossing it, and it will probably do so in a way that we don't necessarily expect. Take an example from recent weeks. They threaten Guam with a pretty specific scenario, and then they test-launch a missile over Japan (and then do it again). Now, they've threatened an H-bomb detonation over the Pacific...my hunch is that it's a red herring and they do something else instead. Not that I know for sure, of course...
Vanilla. But please don't overinterpret that. I really do just like vanilla ice cream.
Love reading your coverage of Korea in WSJ every morning (well, not every morning, you need a day off too, but you know what I mean).
How did you get the DPRK to even agree to this? I would think WSJ would represent everything that they hate about this country. Do they see this as a win? I'd think they'd find it quite easy to just say no way. Why do they see this as a good thing?
Great question. I think they really had a message they wanted to get out there: We have nukes, we've won, give up and sign a peace treaty with us already. And we were far from alone in being invited -- as I've mentioned elsewhere, the New Yorker went in before us, the NYT after us, and I suspect the message was quite consistent. We at the WSJ have an extra edge, in the sense that we're perceived as being the paper closest to the current administration, and are therefore a good conduit of this message. (I'm not going to go into a long spiel here on the differences between our news and opinion pages, but suffice it to say that the four of us who went in for the WSJ work for the news pages, and aren't aligned with any political party or ideological commitments.) That's my best guess of why they wanted us there.
Hi Jon. RHHS represent!
If NK was to welcome any North American boyband, which one would it be?
And which boyband member would get caught doing something ridiculous to sabotage the event?
Edit: one letter of the alphabet.
RHHS was a great place! North Korea has brought in some pretty strange acts over the years. I'm going to vote for 98 Degrees and Nick Lachey, because Kim Jong Un is a child of the 90s and I can just kind of picture that happening.
How far did your observations differ from the reality of North Korea being a place of poverty and famine? Did the North Korean officials stage anything?
I don't think they staged anything for us in particular (beyond little things like the orphanage visit and children's musical performance), but that's overlooking that all of Pyongyang is a stage in a sense. Evan Osnos of the New Yorker, who went in a week or two before us, made that analogy. North Korea did indeed suffer a famine in the 1990s, which it has been quite open about (though it hasn't been upfront about all the causes of it), but it's not in famine any longer. Poverty, though, surely exists, though we didn't see much of it in the showcase capital.
What effect do the sanctions placed on NK have on their missile program? Considering that they have seemed to largely ignore them
I think Vladimir Putin put it best when he said a few weeks ago that the North Koreans will eat grass, but they won't give up their weapons program (that's a paraphrase). That's not to say sanctions have no place in policy, but if anyone's expecting sanctions alone to make Pyongyang give up its nuclear weapons, I've got bad news for you.
What do you think the US could do to calm the situation? What do you think would be helpful at all to get to some kind of peaceful resolution or at least de-escalation?
Many of us who live in South Korea and the region would certainly sleep more easily with some kind of deescalation. But it seems like the current U.S. administration is trying to use escalation as some kind of a policy tool. But I haven't spoken with the president lately, so I'm not sure exactly what is going on.