MEETING REPORT 27th MAY
Chair: Sat Mishra
Visiting Rotarian: Welcome again to Peter Duras
Announcement: George Mackey advised the club has sponsored Alek Hillas as a candidate for the Rotary Peace Scholarship.
Community Service Report: Report by Alan Seale, standing in for Roger Thornton.
On July 15 there will be an Iftar Dinner held in conjunction with the Australian Intercultural Society. Iftar is Arabic for “breakfast” and refers to the evening meal when Muslims break their fast at sunset during the Islamic month of Ramadan. The Australian Intercultural Society will allow the Club the use of their venue in St Kilda Road for this function. There will be no cost to the Club for the venue. There is an expectation that we will have some 100 attendees – there will be no regular Tuesday morning breakfast that week. This is an important Club initiative to promote intercultural understanding.
The Club has donated $1,800 to the Lentara “Mentoring for Asylum Seekers” project. District 9800 has matched this donation. Allan Driver and Kevin Love will pilot the programme, which is aimed at assisting asylum seekers to prepare for the difficult task of seeking employment in their new cultural environment.
President’s Announcements: Jillian Cavanagh has resigned from the Club. Jillian’s research activities are increasingly taking up her time and she feels that she can no longer give priority to RCCMS activities.
The new, modern banner now adorns the lectern
Sergeant’s Session: Michael Bromby advised that there were only two members who had yet to contribute to the “Epic Poem”. These contributions will be made over the next couple of meetings. The filming of members’ “two lines” is nearly finished.
Michael then highlighted some significant events that had occurred on May 27 and went on [and on] to use his time telling us that also on this day the “sins” of the American tele-evangelist Jimmy Bakker entered the public domain. Bakker’s sordid behaviour and his ability to attract millions of dollars in donations, essentially for his private benefit, became an international scandal. Bakker was succeeded as the leader of the “Praise the Lord” movement by Jerry Falwell, another famous tele-evangelist. Falwell is reputed to have said of Bakker that he was “a liar, an embezzler, a sexual deviant and the greatest scab and cancer on the face of Christianity in 2,000 years of church history". Quite a recommendation!!!
Guest Speaker: Sat. introduced Professor Nick Bisley who spoke on “North Korea and its Nuclear Ambitions”.
North Korea is somewhat of a conundrum as it is generally considered to be a “dark spot” with a lack of publicly available information. However, Professor Bisley advanced the contrary view that quite a lot was known about the country and the ruling regime.
In August 1945 the two Korea’s were established with agreement between the USA and the Soviet Union, the “38th Parallel” being the dividing line. The Korean War started in 1950 with North Korea invading South Korea. Some 3 million combatants and civilians were killed during the war at the conclusion of which nothing had really been achieved. The Korean War is generally considered to be “the most futile war” in modern times. The War effectively ended following the intervention of China but there was then and still remains, no peace treaty. Therefore, both Korea’s remain officially “at war”.
The Demilitarised Zone is only one hour’s travel from Seoul, has some 750,000 troops concentrated in the area and remains a particularly tense environment.
Under successive regimes, North Korea can be described as a military state at war with the world.
Summarising Professor Bisley’s main points about the country:
- In 1950, North Korea was the “rich” part of the country as it had been industrialised under Japanese colonial rule.
- North Korea is still in the 1950’s, being a Stalinist command economy.
- It is governed through a cult of personality centred on the ruling “Kim” family.
- There is much internal propaganda that is deeply racist, emphasising the supremacy of the North Korean people. It has much in common with the Fascist states of the 1930’s.
- The break-up of the Soviet Union caused a major economic crisis in North Korea when Soviet subsidiaries were withdrawn.
- As a consequence, there was widespread famine with some 2-3 million people dying of starvation.
- Militarisation has priority over all sectors of the economy.
- Kim Jong-un is “cut from the same mad cloth” as his father and grandfather.
- The economy is heavily dependent upon coal and mineral exports to China and South Korea.
- An “illegal” economy built around the export of counterfeit US currency, methamphetamine production and export and the export of short-range missile technology in critical to the country.
- There is significant drug addiction amongst the population.
- Poor farming techniques necessitate importation of food staples.
Turning to the nuclear question:
- The development of nuclear technology started in the early 1990’s.
- By 1994 there was an “International Framework” agreed that stopped nuclear weapon development in return for foreign aid.
- This framework was really a case of “bad behavior gets rewarded” but it did curtail the country’s nuclear ambitions.
- However, by the early 2000’s North Korea felt that it needed more foreign aid so it recommenced its “bad behavior”.
- This was a particularly dangerous development with 3 nuclear tests being conducted.
- New, Six Party Talks were initiated as the international community considered it preferable not to continue the policy of rewarding bad behavior. These talks aim to find a peaceful resolution to the security concerns as a result of the North Korean nuclear weapons program.
- Today, North Korea has a stockpile of nuclear material that would allow the building of 4 to 10 weapons.
- However, it probably is incapable of deploying a nuclear weapon as it lacks the three enabling technologies, viz – the ability to initiate the explosion, the ability to miniaturise the warhead and the delivery platform
- Why does North Korea persist with nuclear weapon development? Essentially for security reasons and for international prestige.
- North Korea is most unlikely to hand over its nuclear weapons to an international “monitor”. So, there are two options – “wipe it out” or “live with it”.
In Professor Bisley’s opinion time will solve the problem and North Korea will ultimately go the way of other totalitarian regimes.
Question time was grasped with enthusiasm by several members.
President Doug closed the meeting.
Sat. Mishra, Nick Bisley, Doug Robertson and the new banner.