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Alleged North Korean Cyber-attack and “The Interview”


Sony Pictures pulled plans to release The Interview – which includes a fictional plot to kill Kim Jong-Un – after threats from hackers. (photo: AFP)

KPI | December 22, 2014

Recently, KPI Board Member Christine Hong and KPI Advisory Board members Christine Ahn and Tim Shorrock spoke on the issues of the alleged North Korean cyber-attack on Sony Pictures and the film “The Interview.”

Host: Pyongyang says it wants to team up with Washington and carry out a joint investigation into the cyber-attack. How do you expect the U.S. to react to this offer?

Hong: I mean the obvious answer is that the United States will laugh it off. It has been this administration’s policy for the past several years to dismiss any overtures by Pyongyang just out of hand. But I think that we should recall the fact that this administration too just announced a major policy shift toward Cuba and stated that the U.S.’s policy of isolating Cuba hasn’t worked and that trying the same policy of non-engagement, sanctions, embargo and isolation for five decades desperately needed to be changed.

The fact of the matter is that the United States has maintained a policy not just of regime change toward North Korea since the inception of the North Korean state but also, with this administration, a policy of “strategic patience” which basically translates into non-engagement.

Host: The language is quite strong, isn’t it, the rhetoric, because North Korea has even threatened the U.S. with quote “grave consequences” if Washington refuses this joint probe and keeps blaming Pyongyang – is there any substance to this threat in your opinion ?

Hong: Well, I think if you are going to locate the substance to the threat, you have to read it a little against the grain – and maybe even read it below its overt meaning. You know, the policy of the United States toward North Korea during the Obama administration has to be understood in the context of Washington’s Pivot policy toward Asia. All policy analysts understand this as a policy to contain the rival sort of threat and growing power of China. Yet within the region, Obama’s Pivot policy, which is intensely militarized, is not justified explicitly with the rationale of containing China. It’s actually justified against the North Korean bad guy – so whether in Hollywood or in Washington DC, a North Korean bad guy is enormously ideologically useful for U.S. designs within the larger region.

Host: Let’s bring in another aspect here because the FBI has basically announced that North Korea is guilty, haven’t they? But we haven’t seen the evidence for starters, nor has there been an independent investigation, of course. How can we know if Pyongyang is really behind this attack or not?

Hong: Not only can we not know, but we have to hold up any intelligence assessment by the FBI, the CIA, with the highest degree of suspicion. Let’s not forget that in recent history, Colin Powell, who was then Secretary of State, after 9/11, went to the U.N. Security Council claiming that Iraq possessed weapons of mass destruction and “intelligence” backed him up. The two forms of intelligence that he presented were defector intelligence and satellite imagery. Those are the two primary ways that the United States and the U.S. intelligence community knows Korea, North Korea. So I’d say that when the FBI says it knows something with certainty about North Korea, we should be suspicious.

Host: Just finally Christine, Barack Obama has vowed to retaliate against North Korea, but North Korea is already living under these sanctions from the US for the past 50 years or so. Can life get much worse for worse for them?

Hong: Well you know, it’s a really interesting question, because Barack Obama has tried everything but engagement. And so you know, right now, in the last years of his presidency which is usually when U.S. presidents get vision with regard to North Korea, they usually entertain the possibility of some sort of plan of engagement. And let’s not forget that North Korea, when Barack Obama was initially elected, Kim Jong Il (previous North Korean leader) in his New Year’s address, welcomed President Obama and actually reached out an olive branch. And even though in unconventional ways, Kim Jong Un, for example, through Dennis Rodman, has also offered an olive branch, the United States has never been willing to listen to that and I think that has less to do with North Korea per se than with U.S. designs within the region.

Other links:

Christine Ahn spoke with the Institute for Public Accuracy and Sam Husseini: “Despite the entire cyber security community discounting North Korea’s role in the Sony hack, Washington is spreading lies to justify its pivot to Asia. The connection between Sony and U.S. military and intelligence officials should make us all wary of how much the U.S. needs Hollywood to sell its greatest export: weapons. For those who understand the modern history of Korea, ‘The Interview’ is beyond offensive. The film’s plot of assassination of the North Korean leader — and with input from Obama administration officials — is so twisted — not just because of its CIA coups that forced anti-imperial guerrilla fighters such as Castro and Kim Il Sung to pursue closed non-democratic systems — but the tremendous destruction the U.S. wreaked on the northern half of Korea during the Korean War and continues to do through war games and sanctions. It’s beyond words for those of us who are offended by the film and then now see how Washington is exploiting the hack to further isolate North Korea.

Christine Hong spoke with the Institute for Public Accuracy and Sam Husseini: “There’s almost a total dearth of knowledge about North Korea in the United States. It has been called a ‘black hole’ by U.S. intelligence, and it’s against this backdrop of near-total ignorance not only about North Korea but also the brutal legacy of U.S. involvement and intervention on the Korean peninsula that Hollywood churns out films that walk in lockstep with a U.S. policy of regime change. North Korea as a ‘bad guy’ is not only the stuff of U.S. fantasies, but also serves as the cornerstone of Obama’s ‘Pivot’ policy toward Asia, in which intensified U.S. militarism in the region that is actually aimed at containing China is overtly justified by an ‘armed and dangerous North Korea. The discussion of ‘freedom of expression’ when it comes to the film, ‘The Interview,’ is a total red herring. Culture when it comes to U.S. enemies has always been a terrain of manipulation and war. During the Korean War, which has never ended, 2.5 billion propaganda leaflets were dropped by the United States on North Korea, and the National Endowment for Democracy, which is completely Congressionally funded, sponsors defector narratives about North Korea as the truth about North Korea. For those who profess to be so concerned about democracy when it comes to the release of ‘The Interview’ as ‘freedom of expression,’ it’s important to consider the profoundly undemocratic implications of Obama’s militarized ‘Pivot” toward Asia and the Pacific. In this case, consider the collusion between Sony executives, the State Department, and Bruce Bennett, a North Korea watcher at the military-funded RAND corporation in the endorsement of The Interview as a regime-change narrative.”

Christine Hong and Tim Shorrock (KPI Advisory Board member) spoke with Democracy Now on December 22, 2014, The Interview” Belittles North Korea, But is Film’s Backstory and U.S. Policy the Real Farce?


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