Although few pay much attention to it or know much about it, the pro-Pyongyang movement in America is alive and well today.
Each of these “influence operations” embodied the same crucial revolutionary insight. They all recognized, per their great common teacher V.I. Lenin, that it is perilous for relatively weak radicals to confront much more powerful foreign adversaries directly; on the other hand, immense revolutionary promise awaits from penetrating enemy states and influencing their policies and decisions from within. By attempting to get a seat at the table in the domestic politics of hostile countries, Lenin-inspired regimes have always aimed—and still aim—at reaping concessions and gaining victories against international opponents that they could never win on the battlefield.
Just as with the earlier Soviet and Maoist overseas influence efforts, the current pro-North Korea influence movement abroad is akin to an orchestra—with different pieces playing their own roles in a political symphony ultimately conducted by the would-be maestro. Each of these bands always includes the same instruments: agents/directors from the motherland—and from the infiltrated target country, an assortment of true believers and fanatics; cheerleaders and activists; fellow-travelers and “useful idiots.”
The voices in the USA who evince sympathy or even enthusiasm for Pyongyang and its goals, or conversely animus for North Korea’s opponents or critics, are not simply a cacophonous chorus of disconnected malcontents and misfits. An animating logic links them together into a sort of “operating system.” In other words, apparently disparate pieces in the pro-North Korea movement in America actually comprise something like a functioning network. Call it a “United Front”, to use the famous old Leninist term.
Last month AEI was pleased to host two lectures on the pro-North Korea movement in America by Lawrence Peck. So far as we can tell, these were the first lectures on this topic ever delivered at a think-tank or university in Washington DC. You can listen to Mr. Peck’s lecture here, and read a transcript of it here.
Peck has been monitoring the pro-North Korea movement in America for over two decades. In spellbinding detail, Peck laid out the background, the makeup, the workings, and the objectives of the pro-NK movement in America today. He also named some names.
One of these names is Pak Chol, an operative once based at the North Korean mission to the UN in New York. A member of the North Korean Worker Party’s “United Front” Department, this “America watcher” figured prominently in the team of “Trump handlers” the North deployed for the Kim-Trump summits of 2019.
Before that assignment, however, he was busy helping with the launch of a 2015 march across South Korea’s DMZ border with the North by a group called “Women Cross DMZ”—an ostensibly feminist organization whose women always seems to come down on Pyongyang’s side in any Korean question.
The head of the group, Ms. Christine Ahn, is a presence of sorts in Washington nowadays, lobbying most recently for “a peace agreement” to end the Korean War. But as a North Korea escapee now in South Korea’s parliament, Rep. Ji Seong-ho, has pointed out, Ahn and her “phony Korean peace movement” only want Americans to stop defending the South—rather than genuine denuclearization or détente from the North.
Ahn, perhaps now to her regret, has left a paper trail online of her many debts to Pak Chol in bringing the 2015 cross-border march of “Women Cross DMZ” to life—proffering thanks for Pak’s advice, guidance, and support.
She is hardly the only Korea activist who almost never says an unkind word about Pyongyang. And today the “phony Korean peace movement”—which even includes such hardcore fanboys of the North Korean regime as the pro-Hamas group Nodutdol—enjoy an increasingly warm and increasingly respectful reception in Washington, both at think tanks (including Quincy Institute) and in offices of Congress. Rep. Brad Sherman (D-CA), the ostensibly moderate Democratic sponsor of the current proposal for Congress to declare peace in Korea unilaterally, has by no means distanced himself from the pro-North Korea movement’s praise. The pro-NK movement gains strength from joining cause with other radical or anti-American groups with no extant Korea focus: think pro-PLO and –Iran activists; old fashioned Israel- and Jew-haters like Code Pink. Through Code Pink, CCP propagandists too. And now that Kim Jong-un has wished Putin a “great victory” in his invasion of Ukraine, look for the pro-NK movement in America to be aligning itself with Kremlin apologists, as well.
Nicholas Eberstadt holds the Henry Wendt Chair in Political Economy at the American Enterprise Institute (AEI), where he researches and writes extensively on demographics and economic development generally, and more specifically on international security in the Korean peninsula and Asia. Domestically, he focuses on poverty and social well-being. Dr. Eberstadt is also a senior adviser to the National Bureau of Asian Research (NBR).
Reprinted with Permission from AEI.org – By Nicholas Eberstadt