HONG KONG — The two Koreas swept the board with the most Asian Institute of Discord Analysis (Aida) “awards” for 2002, in a way reminiscent of the glory days of the Indo-Pakistani antagonism, before those two South Asian nations won the “Rivalry of the Year” award in perpetuity.
South Korea trounced Taiwan for the “Most Masochistic Nation” award when Seoul persisted against all the odds with outgoing President Kim Dae Jung’s “sunshine policy” toward North Korea. The South also garnered the “Appeasement of the Year” award when its voters decided in December to sustain that policy for another five years by electing dovish Roh Moo Hyun president.
As the judges tartly observed in their commendation: “This award is given to make nations better aware that appeasement never pays. South Koreans were fully aware that they were paying too much for the sunshine policy while getting little, if any, return, but they still voted to sustain it.”
It has long been Pyongyang’s position that the United States must sign a peace treaty with the North alone, since the South did not sign the 1953 Armistice and since the communist North is in any case sees itself as the only legitimate Korean nation.
South Korea and the U.S. have always rejected this. “Almost certainly,” the judges suggested, “both Washington and Seoul failed to note that a nonaggression treaty would be Pyongyang’s way of getting a bilateral North-U.S. peace pact through the backdoor — something it could not get through the front.”
For exactly the same reason, Kim Jong Il was awarded the 2002 “Persistence in Adversity” prize, along with two crates of his favorite French red wine. He also won the “Starvation in Asia” award for having the highest percentage of malnourished children in his nation.
Initially the “Oversight of the Year” award was to go to North Korea for failing to inform China in advance that Chinese-Dutch entrepreneur Yang Bin was to be appointed chief executive of the Sinuiju special administrative region.
Had they done so, then China might have informed North Korea that Yang was way behind in his tax payments. But in the end, the judges felt that the U.S. and South Korea deserved to share the oversight prize for generally failing to note what lay behind North Korea’s strident and oft-repeated demand that the U.S. sign a nonaggression treaty with North Korea.
A new award for “Diplomatic Mystery of the Year” was deservedly won by South Korea.
This was given for the puzzle about whether the first-ever summit meeting in Pyongyang in June 2000 between the South Korean and North Korean leaders was actually purchased with roughly $400 million worth of South Korean cash secretly funneled to Pyongyang.
The transaction was alleged by the Grand National Party as the presidential election campaign got under way.
Any attempt to dismiss the allegation — as preposterous as it was — was diminished as President Kim’s sons were both convicted for corruptly mishandling large sums, and as North Korea kept on behaving as if it expected another hefty handout.
Since Roh of Kim’s Millennium Democratic Party narrowly won the presidency, the allegation seems likely to remain a mystery forever, unless the GNP becomes particularly adept at using its parliamentary majority to promote full disclosure. The North Koreans collected the “Quickest Reaction Award.” As the citation for the prize put it: “No sooner had the South Korean electorate voted for peace at any price in their presidential election, then the North Korean propaganda machine immediately informed them that the price would be very high.”
“North Korea also won the “International Gamble of the Year” award for correctly anticipating in its propaganda that anti-Americanism would outweigh anti-North feelings for a majority of South Korean voters.
The Bush administration, on the other hand, took the “Miscalculation of the Year” title on three counts. First, for failing to appreciate how anti-Americanism had taken hold in South Korea.
Second, for holding courts martial, in the runup to the election against two U.S. soldiers who had accidentally killed two South Korean girls.
And third, for refusing to clearly articulate its Korean policy in the belief that silence would put North Korea in a corner when, in fact, it now looks like the United States itself is cornered.
All things considered, it was inevitable that the Korean Peninsula won the “Crisis of the Year” honor, while North Korea won the trophy for “International Brinkmanship” with its off-again, on-again pursuit of nuclear weapons.
But the judges added a caveat: “We are not fully convinced that North Korea will once again carefully avoid going over the brink. On this occasion, it is possible that it may fail to sustain that past skill.”
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