Wednesday, June 30, 2004

Hodges Reports on Censorship in South Korea

Dear Bill,

I have been unable to access your website since last week. Blogspot, it seems, is blocked in Korea. I also cannot access other great blogs, e.g., Belmont Club
(military analysis). Here in Korea, only one or two Korea blogs are accessible (to me).

I did manage to access your blog indirectly this morning and read it up to the 27th by clicking on Cache, rather than directly on your website.

So, I have now seen that Big Hominid sent you a letter concerning the Korean situation. The Koreans are all up in arms about the Kim Sun Il beheading video
(understandably), but (ironically) they had no problems allowing internet access to the beheadings of other countries' citizens. They even showed the Berg video on the national news here in Korea -- up to the moment just prior to the beheading.

Now, they turn to hamfisted censorship of the internet to stop the insidious downloading of the Kim video.

I haven't seen the video and don't really want to. I watched the Berg video online up to the moment Berg's captors went for him with a butcher knife (or so the blade appeared), but I quickly turned it off at the sudden realization that I didn't want to watch. Definitely not.

I don't need to see it. I understand what these fanatics are. The video wouldn't provide me with any new insights. Some people might need to see it, though. A lot of Koreans might better understand the
nature of the 'insurgents' in Iraq if they were to see it. But I don't wish its viewing upon them.

Here's a comment that I posted on censorship (brief) and Kim Sun Il (not brief) to Oranckay's Korea blog ( I CAN still access:

(Oranckay, Sunday, June 27, 2004, Kim Seon Il was to marry Iraqi woman...)

Comment Posted On: Tuesday, June 29, 2004, 08:51

From: Horace Jeffery Hodges

Lessons from Kim's Tragedy

I've been busy marking students' essays for the past week and hadn't paid much attention to the internet. I had noticed that accessing expat blogs in Korea was difficult, so difficult that the process timed out and left a message that I can't decipher (i.e., "can't
read") due to my poor Korean skills. Only last night did I have time to investigate further and discover that the sites had been blocked.

Now, that's annoying.

There's a lot to be said about this censorship, but others are saying it as well or better than I could.

Instead, I'd like to comment on the presence of Kim Sun Il in Iraq. His intention to marry an Iraqi Christian was news to me -- and I'll be interested to see if it is accurate. It is certainly consistent with
his expressed desire to work as an evangelical Christian missionary among Arabs, for which reason, he had spent considerable time learning Arabic.

In some respects, Kim was an atypical young Korean. He seems to have taken his studies seriously, if those reports are correct, and he chose to go to Iraq to improve his Arabic skills.

In other respects, he was typical of young Koreans -- anti-American, naive about the 'insurgents.' From reports about the early video showing him relaxed and answering questions posed by his captors, he seems not to have realized just how endangered he was.

How would his captors see him? Let's enter the minds of the Islamists who held him:

... This foreigner is from a country with personnel already in Iraq and with the intention to send 3000 troops, a country with close, long-standing ties to the United States. This foreigner has come to Iraq to
work for a company providing supplies to American troops. He is working to thwart our aims. He is an "infidel," and not only an infidel but a "Christian" infidel, and not only a Christian infidel but a Christian "evangelical" infidel -- just like that Christian evangelical infidel Bush! Moreover, he intends to work as a missionary among Arabs! He knows Arabic! Clearly, he is lying when he criticizes the Americans. Obviously, he is working with the American crusaders to undermine Islam. He must be a spy ...

That, more or less, is what his captors probably thought of him. That is why, regardless of what Korea might have done in response to their demands, they would have killed him. They wanted to kill him. They
were happy to kill him.

If this is hard to fathom, then read the following, which I posted a couple of weeks ago on Marmot's blog:


(From an interview with the "commander of the Al-Quds Brigade that took responsibility for the May 29 attack at Khobar, Saudi Arabia, in which 22 people were killed.")

"At the same time, we found a Swedish infidel. Brother Nimr cut off his head, and put it at the gate [of the building] so that it would be seen by all those entering and exiting.

"We continued in the search for the infidels, and we slit the throats of those we found among them. At the same time, we heard the sound of the patrols and the gathering [of the security personnel] outside. These cowards did not dare to enter. About 45 minutes or an
hour had passed since the beginning of the operation. "We began to comb the site looking for infidels. We foundFilipino Christians. We cut their throats and dedicated them to our brothers the Mujahideen in the Philippines. [Likewise], we found Hindu engineers and we cut their throats too, Allah be praised. That same day, we purged Muhammad's land of many Christians and polytheists.

"Afterwards, we turned to the hotel. We entered and found a restaurant, where we ate breakfast and rested a while. Then we went up to the next floor, found several Hindu dogs, and cut their throats."

If Mr. Kim had known of these actions, he might have been more wary and still alive today. Notice that what all of those killed had in common: they were "infidels." For that, they had to die.

In Kim's case, they showed how little regard that they had for him when they booby-trapped his beheaded corpse in the hopes of killing other infidels. What should Koreans learn from this? Regardless of
their opinion about the war in Iraq (about which,there is a legitimate range of views), they need to recognize that the insurgents are very dangerous people and share goals with other Islamist groups whose threats need to be known and taken seriously. Being Korean, anti-American, and pro-'Iraq' will not save your life if you fall into the hands of people like those who took Mr. Kim -- and then took his life.


I hope that Koreans come to realize these things without seeing the video, I hope that the censorship of the Internet soon ends, and I hope that Islamist fascism gets rooted out and loses all credibility.

Some of these hopes may have to stay with me for a long, long time.

Thanks for listening, Bill.




Assistant Professor Horace Jeffery Hodges [Ph.D., History, U.C. Berkeley]
Department of English Language and Literature
Korea University
136-701 Anam-dong, Seongbuk-gu
South Korea