This little North Korean boy jeering at me with his fist at the Bridge of No Return at Panmunjom in 1972 is the reason North Korea continues to represent a threat to world peace.
The children were brought in on a bus from North Korea and toured the North Korean side of the truce village of Panmunjom. They were told propaganda and twisted facts to inflame their hatred of America. On their departure from the area back to North Korea, they not only made fists and shouted abuse, but pelted myself and two others at Checkpoint Three, called the Loneliest Outpost in the World, with little balls of refined sugar, given them to suck as candy.
I made a joke at the time that they sucked.
This could be a comic moment. I mean, it wasn't exactly a page of glorious history in warfare to be pelted with candy by children. However, this is near the same spot where a mob of North Korean (grown up) soldiers attacked a party of Americans and chopped two officers to pieces, an ugly incident that has been labeled the "Panmunjom axe murder."
What is important is that this boy is now about 50 years old and still believes the lies he was told and still hates America. He has no doubt taught that hatred to his own children.
I'm not going to maintain America is blameless in the world or not guilty of wrongdoing. We've made our mistakes.
But this kid is brainwashed in a closed hermit society in which freedom is impossible, a regimented police state where the cult of the newest infallible leader (Kim Jong Un) is pervasive. Perhaps no other children anywhere in the world would react the way this boy is without plenty of indoctrination. Hatred is something that has to be nurtured and cultured like growing a plant in a pot.
If it takes root and grows, it will spread.
In our dealings with North Korea, we have to remember we're dealing with an extremist state and a brutal dictatorship. It's very difficult to reason with such people. To them, the world is whatever they say it is, and truth is however it can be bent.
To them, up is down, square is round, and black is white.
The Korean Peninsula is still the most dangerous place in the world, more dangerous than the Middle East because two huge armies face each other in an unresolved situation in which a spark or a miscalculation can set off a conflagration. As you look into the face of this boy remember. They remain our committed enemy, and attempting to reason with them should take this into account.
Although the North Koreans lie as a matter of custom, they are not particularly good at it, and there have been comic opera moments to their insane stupidity. For example.
During a meeting of the Military Armistice Commission (MAC) held at Panmunjom to discuss violations in the Demilitarized Zone (DMZ), a North Korean delegate back in the 1970s held aloft an automatic machine gun he claimed Americans had smuggled into Panmunjom. If they thought anybody would swallow this, they were fooling themselves.
North Korean delegate
A North Korean delegate at Panmunjom holds aloft a weapon and clip he claimed Americans smuggled into the truce village. It is probably of European manufacture. | Photo: |
was clearly not an American make as we had nothing even remotely resembling this kind of weapon in our arsenal. The weapon he is holding for all to see was probably of Russian, Chinese or Czech manufacture. We did not need such a weapon anyway. We had a whole rack of hidden M-16s with plenty of ammunition at our headquarters in Panmunjom in violation of the rules which said there would be no automatic weapons in the area.
The North Koreans for their part had an entire room of AK-47s in violation of the same rules. This kind of one-up-man-ship was endemic and peculiar to the kind of standoff and propaganda circus that was Panmunjom. The most notable insanity of many was the little-known "Battle of the Flags."
During negotiations and talks held to discuss serious incidents and breaches of the peace a table flag was brought in representing the United Nations. The North Koreans then brought in their own table flag, but it was an inch or so taller.
The UN negotiators brought in a new table flag that was taller than the one the North Koreans had brought in. The North Koreans not to be outdone then brought (for the next meeting) a new table flag bigger than the one the UN had brought.
This continued on and on until the flags were too big to fit inside the building. Discussions were held and a size was agreed upon by both sides for the flags. The UN delegates brought in the correct sized flag. The North Koreans brought in the same size flag, but with one little difference. Their table flag had a third tier in its base, making it just slightly higher than the UN flag.
The Americans decided enough of this foolishness was enough and stuck with their flag.
So ended the Battle of the Flags.