Though he uses the term "justified anger" in this article, Clark has in the past tried to excuse the kidnappings by claiming that they were in revenge for the use of forced Korean labor by Japan during its colonization of the Korean peninsula. And while trying to appear sympathetic, it is utterly repulsive that he finds nothing wrong with first forcibly abducting the five Japanese nationals, and then demanding that they be returned to North Korea as the price for letting them see their loved ones in Japan again after the long enforced separation. In Clark's world, it is the Japanese political right which is almost solely to blame.
After casting doubt on the North's attacks on the South last year, Clark moves on to why the DPRK has pursued the development of nuclear weapons:
"With his hopes of closer relations with Tōkyō and Washington dashed, Kim seems to have had no choice but to resume rocket and nuclear testing, and to turn increasingly to China, which North Korea had previously distrusted. His son and successor Kim Jong Un will almost certainly have to follow the same path while giving even more power to North Korea's hawkish military."
Again, Japan and the United States are to blame, for the North Korean regime had no other choice but to pursue the nuclear option. And it is interesting that Clark fails to make mention of the fact that it was the collapse of the Soviet Union, and with it the generous aid the USSR had provided to Pyongyang, that forced North Korea to become more dependent on China.
The Khrushchev comparison mentioned in the article's headline comes in the next-to-last paragraph:
"History will show the late Kim to have been North Korea's Khrushchev. The former Soviet leader also sought detente with the West only to have his hopes dashed by U-2 flights and other U.S. hawk activities, which in turn strengthened the hand of the Soviet hawks. Khrushchev was ousted and that cruel, wasteful and meaningless exercise called the Cold War had to continue for another two decades. Presumably the same will happen over North Korea, with the regime there able to use foreign threats as an excuse for continued domestic repression."
History, apparently, shows a different face to Gregory Clark. Nikita Khrushchev came to power in 1953 following the death of longtime despot Josef Stalin. Though he was one of the dictator's closest advisers, and a supporter of the bloody purges of the 1930's that turned the Soviet Union into a nightmarish police state, Khrushchev made his mark on history by repudiating the worst excesses of Stalin's reign of terror. Though certainly no democrat, he was responsible for lessening the repression within the USSR through what is now known as the Khrushchev Thaw. Nevertheless, the "Gulag Archipelago" remained in existence, and despite his pursuit of detente with the West, it was Khrushchev who ratcheted up Cold War tensions by approving the construction of the Berlin Wall and the stationing of nuclear arms in Cuba, the latter leading to the Cuban Missile Crisis in October 1962. Nor should it be forgotten that in the same year he made his secret speech denouncing Stalin (1956), Khrushchev sent in the Red Army to brutally crush the Hungarian Revolution.
Kim Jong-il also succeeded a brutal dictator, succeeding his father, Kim Il-sung, upon the latter's death in 1994. Unlike Khrushchev, however, there was no attempt to launch a North Korean version of "De-Stalinization". Rather, Kim Jong-il played the Confucian role of dutiful son, elevating his deceased father to the status of "Eternal President of the Republic". Under the rule of the junior Kim, North Korea remained one of the world's most repressive societies, with an extensive gulag system of its own which imprisons thousands of its subjects in internment and reeducation camps (Human Rights in North Korea). The population, of course, has suffered in other ways as well, namely as a result of the food and famine crises (hunger is still a serious concern in the DPRK) and the crippling power shortages. Despite the breakdown in the functions of the centrally-planned economic system, Kim Jong-il made few attempts at reform, clinging to the elder Kim's policy of self-reliance, known as juche (link). And as for detente, it can be argued that the younger Kim played a far more dangerous game of concessions, threats and brinkmanship than his father ever did, at least in the last few years of Kim Il-sung's life. Khrushchev was overthrown by more conservative elements in the Soviet leadership, who feared his reforms had gone too far. What followed Khrushchev's ouster was the stagnation of the Brezhnev years, and the eventual downfall of the USSR. In North Korea's case, however, the stagnation set in long before the senior Kim left the scene, and greatly worsened during the rule of Kim Jong-il. History is going to remember Kim Jong-il, but not as the bright, rational Khrushchev-like figure Gregory Clark imagines him to have been.
Not that this will matter to Clark, though, who concludes his commentary in such a way as to leave a bad taste in the mouth (and by blowing his own horn in the process):
"The one hope is that the shift to China will have a moderating influence. China, too, once had to suffer the same hawk on hawk confrontation as the former Soviet Union, until rescued by China's Gorbachev — the moderate and intelligent premier Zhou Enlai relying on the 1971 so-called ping-pong diplomacy ( in which I was able to participate). For what it's worth, the "En" in Zhou's name is the same ideograph as the "Un" in the name of Jong Il's son. It means benevolent and kind."
It took 27 years of stagnation and decline following the forced retirement of Khrushchev before the peoples of the Soviet Union finally able to break free from a failed economic, political and social experiment that resulted in the needless deaths of millions of people (and with the exception of the Baltic states, the struggle is arguably still continuing in the former republics of the USSR). Can the people of the socialist paradise that is the Democratic People's Republic of Korea afford to wait that long?