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Letters for November 25

Readers sound off on West Berkeley development, North Korea, and Dan Das Mann.


"Michael Moore's Action Plan," Raising the Bar, 11/4    

Moore to the Story

Jay Youngdahl tells us that Michael Moore wants an end to home evictions. To paraphrase Mark Twain, let's see what this prayer really means.

1) Rational or fiscally burdened tenants will stop paying rent.

2) Without money for repairs, landlords will allow buildings to become uninhabitable and

3) Without money to cover taxes, landlords will abandon buildings.

4) Loans underneath those buildings will crash.

5) Government services dependent on tax revenue from those buildings will be starved out

6) Homelessness will skyrocket

7) With the evisceration of the housing supply, the cost of living space will zoom.Like everything else Moore creates from the isolated aerie of his million-dollar Park Avenue penthouse, this is a movie I don't want to watch

David Altschul, Berkeley

"Understanding North Korea," Feature, 11/4


Thank you so much Kathleen Wentz, for your unusually informative reporting on Korean politics through the lens of local peace activists. The 1950 war napalmed Korean peasants — and scorched US voices of dissent — before massive civil rights and anti-war movements opened hearts and minds to the credibility gap. From Southeast Asia to Central America, from Iraq to Afghanistan, global warming and beyond, we've grown accustomed to full-throated debate over US policy conducted in our name. Yet too often discussion of Korea remains frozen in a Cold War Ice Age of arrested development.Thankfully, the political debate inside South Korea has grown much more diverse in tandem the country's dance with democracy. The local activists you featured blend their experiences as Korean-American peace instigators with what they learn from counterparts across the Pacific — often over spicy soup that begs to be shared family style.As one whose maternal grandfather immigrated to Hawaii from what is now South Korea and whose grandmother hailed from what is now North Korea, I say "Chotdah! Most excellent!" I hope the Obama administration will take advantage of this input and finally end the Korean War and the high cost of militarism on all sides.

Miriam Louie, Oakland

Being Right Isn't Wrong

As director of the documentary Kimjongilia, cited in the article "Understanding North Korea," I would like to set the record straight. The film received absolutely no funds from either the National Endowment for Democracy or the Citizen's Alliance for Human Rights in North Korea (incorrectly referred to as "Citizen Coalition" in the article.)  These groups were thanked in the credits because they were helpful in putting me in touch with defectors. Funding for the film came entirely from private donations and a grant from the Sundance Institute. Neither the many friends and family who loaned or donated money, nor Sundance, made any editorial demands. Whether the US is at fault in the current Korean peninsula situation or is cynically manipulating the Korean divide to its own ends are both questions that provoke arduous debate, but always seem to lead to conclusions that fall within hardened ideological lines. Meanwhile, it is difficult to see how US-led UN forces, no matter what they did during the Korean War, can be blamed for the DPRK's practice, sixty years later, of beating, torturing and starving its own children in political prison camps. Likewise, even if American restrictions on trade contributed to NK's Great Famine, which is a dubious assertion, this does not make them responsible for the DPRK's criminal practice of executing people who leave the country looking for food.  Joint military exercises by the South Koreans and Americans might explain the North's desire to test nuclear weapons, but it in no way can explain or excuse North Korea's truly dreadful human rights abuses. 

Defectors and refugees who have suffered under communist totalitarianism often drift to the right when they escape because the left can seem to be defending the regime from which they have fled. Simply because they identify with the right, however, does not make them wrong in wishing to see brutal dictatorships fall.

NC Heikin, Producer/Director KIMJONGILIA

Reunification Costs Too Much

I read with some amusement the article "Understanding North Korea" in your November 4-10 issue. Blaming the United States is easy when one fails to look at the larger picture of global politics. Consider North Korea's neighbors and their motivation to maintain the status quo.The People's Republic of China is happy to have North Korea as is, an almost proxy state that acts as a buffer to South Korea, Japan, the Russian Federation, and the United States. A united peninsula would bring no good to China. Japan would not benefit from a united Korea. With their historic animosity, the potential for a nationalistic and nuclear united Korea serves no purpose to Japan.The Russian Federation, like China, is served by a weak North Korea, the closest maritime neighbor to its most important Pacific port, Vladivostok. Neither Russia's economic or military needs would be served by the equivalent of the Berlin Wall falling in Korea. Lastly, South Korea's policy to look tough but then appease the North is nothing more than a means to maintain status quo. One need to only look at the cost of German unification to understand the reason behind this policy. The economic cost of Korean reunification is unpalatable to most South Korean politicians, business leaders, and trade unions.The questions asked shouldn't be what the United States did on the Korean Peninsula, but what can it do to convince North Korea's neighbors that a united Korea is in their best interest. To this, I am not hopeful ...