Good morning, Koreaphiles! Good day, Asia experts! Bon jour, witnesses to the absurd! Greetings, tangentially interested search engine visitors!
Glad you found us.
50% of The North Korea Blog team (that is your humble correspondent) is in Cambridge, MA today, typing, bleary-eyed, from the amber-and-coffee-colored armchairs of Spangler Hall at Harvard Business School and gearing up for a taste of this venerable institution’s classic fare, from the rigors of “financial control and reporting” (that is, accounting) to the joys of strategy, whose attendees will today be dissecting the case of airbnb, which I recently learned from a friend in the West Village has paid off her entire month’s rent in just three days. And so the discussion in class should be interesting indeed.
I was told that I would be introduced in the classes I attend (standard operating procedure for all guests), at which point my host will say a few words about who I am and why I’m there. “No need to do anything,” writes my friend at 8 a.m.; “We’ll just go a bit early and I’ll have to intro you to the class, and then they will clap, and it will be cute.”
Appropriate, then, that the impending cuteness was offset by an early morning announcement from North Korea that its missiles can hit the U.S. mainland, a move most likely made by the DPRK in response to Washington’s decision to allow South Korea to extend the range of its arsenal.
Astute readers of The North Korea Blog will recognize that arsenals (and other words like that, particularly with respect to South Korea) are not traditionally met with hugs and smiles from the North. Quoth it, according to The Guardian:
We do not hide [the fact] that the revolutionary armed forces … including the strategic rocket forces are keeping within the scope of strike not only the bases of the puppet forces and the US imperialist aggression forces’ bases in the inviolable land of Korea, but also Japan, Guam and the US mainland.
This sort of jingoistic saber-rattling is classic NoKo, with the added irony of a nuclear power defined by its exceptionalism basically copying its neighbor move-for-move just to keep up the game. Read the full story here if you’re interested in seeing history repeat itself interminably.
Back to Spangler. The amber and coffee are shining in the morning sun and a few more students are trickling in now, and one just left with a poster-board presentation and yelled I love youuuuu!!! to his classmate which I think is special and, well, cute, so apparently cuteness is a thing here – and I’m aware that the ambiance of business school, which churns out nimble technocrats and talented generalists with equal ferocity (and ones who aren’t afraid to tell their fellow technocrats and generalists how much they love them), coupled with the unique discipline of pulling apart cases to define the “up” in “start-up,” is a dramatic counterpoint to the amateurish shenanigans coming out of Pyongyang today, which shenanigans are not only reactionary and petty and hackneyed but also so very unstrategic.
Because here students are trained to reflect and assess and think ahead, among other things, and to opine and control and report on things financially and otherwise, and even I, just a guest, am introduced as an individual (and — this is important — publicly and unapologetically), so all of this — the amber and coffee, the I love yous, the introducing-the-guest policy, the science and the art of modern management and all that wonderfully accurate if cliche pamphlety stuff — is the antidote to the banal belligerence we see coming out of North Korea each week. This is its beautiful opposite.