The Accursed Sovereign

Clash in the Koreas

Posted in Criticism by bradishn on November 10, 2009

A naval exchange between the Koreas was my waking news this morning.  Nothing like waking up and experiencing the shock of thinking that a war between two nations is a-brewin.

Once again, I was reminded of another movie I’ve seen.  Very good Korean flick that intersects the tension concerning North-South relations with forbidden friendships.

However, you’ll note that the BBC article mentions how similar standoffs have occurred without military escalation, and that the South believes this to be another shenanigan by North Korea to gain leverage in negotiations by raising tensions.  Such an accusation seems to be a knee-jerk reaction, since it presupposes a contiguity, or a wholeness, in the chain of command.  Navigational errors seem a likely culprit in this event.  Shoddy navigational equipment gives out while a North Korean ship is out on patrol, before you know it there’s a firefight.  Of course, it would upset the normality of North-South relations for such a story to be true.  Instead, both sides must assert themselves.

I’m reminded of a passage from Zizek’s Did Somebody Say Totalitarianism? (Verso publishing, New York: 2001.)

About a year ago, Austrian television staged a debate on Kosovo between a Serb, an Albanian and an Austrian pacifist.  The Serb and the Albanian each presented their view in a consistent and rational way (consistent and rational, of course, if and only if one accepts the basic premiss [sic] of each of them: that Kosovo is the historical cradle of Serbia, to which the Serbs have an inalienable right; that the Albanians, oppressed by the Serbs for decades, have the right to a sovereign political entity).  The Austrian pacifist, in contrast, tried to play a conciliatory role, imploring the two opponents: ‘Whatever you think, just promise that you won’t shoot at each other, that you’ll do your best to resist the temptation of hatred and vengeance!’  At this point, the Serb and the Albanian, the two ‘official’ opponents, briefly exchanged glances in a solidary gesture of shared perplexity, as if saying to each other: ‘What is this idiot talking about?  Does he understand anything at all?’  In this brief exchange of glances, I see a glimmer of hope: if the Serb and the Albanian, instead of fighting each other, had been able to join forces and knock out the stupid pacifist, there would still have been some hope for Yugoslavia. (pp 234-5)

It seems that perhaps the best thing for the Koreas (Korea) would be a revisiting of colonialism.  Through the imposition of external force, Korea could once again stand united.  Also, it seems that Zizek is speaking of a distance between the performance of a claim and the function of that performance, a distance which removes the truth of a statement from the explicit statement.  So what do we do when analysts have already placed the truth of a statement at it’s strategic goals (see quote below)?  It’s been too long since I’ve read any speech act theory, though perhaps I should be looking to psychoanalysis for a framework here.

One will also notice some awkwardly worded sentences in the BBC article: “Multilateral disarmament talks have broken down, and the North is seeking bilateral talks with the United States, a forum analysts say it sees as more likely to win it the concessions it seeks.”

Perhaps one might say, ‘While multilateral disarmament talks have broken down, North Korea is seeking bilateral talks with the United States, a strategy that, according to analysts, the North believes will result in concessions in their favor.”  Perhaps.


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