pageok
pageok
pageok
Huh:

The AP reports:

In a novel effort targeting the lifestyle of North Korea's eccentric president, the Bush administration wants to make it tougher for him to buy iPods, plasma televisions, Segway electric scooters and more.

It is Washington's first-ever attempt to use trade penalties as a way of personally aggravating a foreign leader. They target items believed to be favored by Kim Jong Il or presented by him as gifts to the roughly 600 loyalist families who run the communist government....

The ban would extend even to musical instruments and sports equipment. The 5-foot-3 Kim is an enthusiastic basketball fan; Secretary of State Madeleine Albright presented him with a ball signed by Michael Jordan during a rare diplomatic trip in 2000. Kim's former secretary, widely believed to be his new wife, studied piano at North Korea's Pyongyang University of Music and Dance....

Experts said the U.S. luxury sanctions would be the first ever to curtail a specific category of goods not associated with military buildups or weapons designs -- and the first tailored to annoy a foreign leader. They acknowledge that enforcing the ban on black-market trading would be difficult.

"He's got folks who can move around nuclear weapons. If he tells these guys to get him a case of Scotch, they're going to pull it off," said James A. Lewis, a former State Department official who worked on arms controls. "Unless it's too large to fit into the cargo hold of a commercial aircraft, it's going to be tough to restrain him." ...

rosignol (mail):
"Unless it's too large to fit into the cargo hold of a commercial aircraft, it's going to be tough to restrain him." ...

Kim is unlikely to care about the details of how something he wants is procured, be it by hook or crook. Why are we bothering?
11.30.2006 1:11pm
rbj:
Just tell the RIAA that he's downloading pirated music.
11.30.2006 1:16pm
guest:
"the first tailored to annoy a foreign leader."

Hard to beleive we've never done this before.
11.30.2006 1:17pm
jk:
Isn't past time to impeach Bush for gross incompetence?
11.30.2006 1:27pm
Dick King:
This sounds feeble and yuk-yuk, but in all fairness, his ability to smuggle must be finite. The space and other resources he's using to import Segways cannot be used to import krytrons.

-dk
11.30.2006 1:35pm
KeithK (mail):
Isn't past time to impeach Bush for gross incompetence?

Can we stop throwing around comments like this? You don't like Bush. We get it. He's not going to be impeached.

Even if this ban has no practical effect, it's far from a sign of gross incompetance. Governments make symbolic actions all the time.
11.30.2006 1:38pm
JRL:

They acknowledge that enforcing the ban on black-market trading would be difficult.

You don't say?
11.30.2006 1:38pm
Ahmed (mail):
Incompetence? Hardly. They are simply increasing the amount of things DPRK has to smuggle so that we can learn more about their smuggling operation. Segways and iPods would be very easy to track electronically, and DPRK must have a very limited ability to smuggle materials.

Certainly, this doesn't cause any harm, so even if a longshot it's a great idea.
11.30.2006 1:41pm
DanTheFish:

Certainly, this doesn't cause any harm, so even if a longshot it's a great idea.


I have no idea whether or not this is worth the harm (what is the revenue fromt these products which are currently exported to North Korea?) but if you can't realize the money from these exports that you previously could, it certainly causes harm.
11.30.2006 2:03pm
Fub:
"North Korea's eccentric president..."
Dear Prof. Volokh,

Please have mercy on your readers. Telling us before we've finished coffee that this isn't an Onion story, no matter how truthfully, violates all the principles of human rights we'd hoped to find here. Think of all the poor readers who now must replace their keyboards.

But rjb above is right. The State Department should just notify the RIAA about his downloads.

Thank you.

A Faithful Reader
11.30.2006 2:14pm
ReVonna LaSchatze:

See now I always heard you want to encourage problem children to pursue many varied activities... Keeps em out of mischief, redirecting that competitive spirit.

And really, who knows what history would be like if the Castro had signed a pro ball contract.
11.30.2006 2:36pm
Stephen Aslett (mail):
I think Ze Frank has the right take on this. (Relevant comments about halfway through the show.)
11.30.2006 2:38pm
CJColucci:
Please, bring in some grown-ups.
11.30.2006 2:53pm
Mr L:
I have no idea whether or not this is worth the harm (what is the revenue fromt these products which are currently exported to North Korea?) but if you can't realize the money from these exports that you previously could, it certainly causes harm.

Unless they're actually robbing electronics stores an iPod is going to be paid for whether smuggled or not, and regardless the revenue is near-zero. While Ahmed may be onto something (though AFAIK we've known that NK has been smuggling through China for ages), I think the real reason is propaganda. After all, the ban emphasizes to his poverty-stricken people that Fearless Leader's got a taste for expensive Western consumer electronics.

Or, maybe he's accepting the electronics in lieu of cash? Used iPods and Playstations have a resale value very close to retail. If I wanted to pass US currency to the regime (for, say, drugs or nuclear secrets), severely discounted iPods would work very well; they could be easily sold or even used as currency in exchange for guns or whatever.
11.30.2006 3:19pm
Houston Lawyer:
Mr L

North Korea's primary money making business is printing counterfeit currency. The probable reason for his recent outbursts is the success of recently enacted sanctions to impede this business. He has limited resources, and the more things he has to smuggle in the better. While these sanctions won't personally hurt him, they may affect his cronies.
11.30.2006 4:11pm
A. Zarkov (mail):
"… Secretary of State Madeleine Albright presented him with a ball signed by Michael Jordan … "

I thought that was made up in a Republican attack ad. Perhaps the ball has a listening device.
11.30.2006 4:11pm
Beerslurpy (mail) (www):
I dont think this is the first foreign leader we have tried to annoy. JFK tried all sorts of harebrained schemes on castro. If I remember correctly, they tried to make his hair fall out, give him VD, give him an exploding or poisoned cigar and to overthrow him.
11.30.2006 5:27pm
Ahmed (mail):
I'm not sure how to respond to the rebuttal about my contention that this is at worst harmless.

When I think of North Korea, I think about a place where any resource is used as agressively as possible for the military and the luxury of the dictator. They have farmland in North Korea, but the government grows opium while at least a seventh of the people are dead from starvation.

There just isn't any way, in my mind anyway, that letting ipods flow into the country would help any of the innocent citizens of North Korea. I would see no harm in executing the people running North Korea, so depriving them of a Segway isn't a big deal to me.

And the quantity of these products that would flow into North Korea has got to be absurdly low - so low that I bet the publicity of this news article is more valuable than the sales would have been.

So just to clear this up, who is harmed by this?

I admit that it may seem far-fetched that the US would use these products to learn about DPRK smuggling, though I actually find that to be very likely. We have been surprised by the nuclear progress in North Korea on a couple of occasions. We need to know more.
11.30.2006 6:12pm
Eric Pickup (mail):

Why are we bothering?


It helps the PR war by pointing out his taste for luxury while his people starve. It also makes him waste resources that could be used for other purposes. Finally, it might just annoy him which is an opportunity that shouldn't be missed - psych-warfare is all about screwing with their heads.

Everyone of these elements are classic military/diplomatic strategies.
11.30.2006 7:46pm
Daniel Holmes:
If we are stopping iPods from being shipped, then some must have been already, so I'm sure the little despot already has one. Maybe we can infect his computer by tracing the IP address when he downloads his iTunes.
11.30.2006 11:59pm
Lev:
It might be that Kim...I keep wanting to type Lil Kim...uses luxury goods to reward his sycophants. If it is more difficult for Lil Kim to get luxury stuff, fewer of his sycophants will be rewarded with the stuff. They might start getting unhappy.
12.1.2006 12:31am
Alan K. Henderson (mail) (www):
Didn't Dubya once fall off a Segway? You'd think he would want Emperor Kim to have one of those...
12.1.2006 6:19am
Alan K. Henderson (mail) (www):
For reminders, the Segway vs. Bush story is here.
12.1.2006 6:21am
Harry Eagar (mail):
'Governments make symbolic actions all the time.'

That's true. This one signals that ours isn't serious.
12.1.2006 12:29pm
markm (mail):
"I would see no harm in executing the people running North Korea, so depriving them of a Segway isn't a big deal to me." If it's the model that suddenly runs out of battery power and tips over, we should make sure that Little Kim gets one. ;-)
12.1.2006 1:17pm
markm (mail):
More seriously, I can see military applications, not for the Segway itself (unless the enemy has paved the invasion route for us), but for the control system that actively keeps it in balance. OTOH, I don't see what good a leaky blockade will do in preventing them from getting models to try to adapt and copy for military use. If they were just ripping the circuitry out of Segways or Ipods and mounting it in military equipment, a blockade might restrict the number of units they got - but I rather doubt that the Norks can adapt many more than they'd be able to smuggle through.

So all the blockade will probably accomplish is to annoy Baby Kim with delays in shipping, and possibly to make him spend a little more of his scarce foreign currency to get his toys smuggled through. Not that this isn't a good thing, but it's not a big deal.
12.1.2006 1:26pm
David Maquera (mail) (www):
Why doesn't the CIA just poison some Scotch and let it slip through to this N. Korean nutball??
12.1.2006 6:39pm