[KS] Brian Hwang's Discussion Question

Frank Hoffmann hoffmann at koreaweb.ws
Tue Apr 17 09:52:28 EDT 2012

The debate about the claimed necessity of wars won't come to any 
result here, I fear.

But I like to make another point--a direct response to the original 
"mercenaries" question:
By (a) accepting war as an inevitable part of human civilization at 
all ages, and by further, and as a logical consequence, (b) accepting 
something like the "Geneva Conventions" as the moral, even ethical or 
humanistic treatise on how to go about war and war crimes--THAT 
really limits any historical analysis, as the rhetoric frame with all 
its definitions is then already set. (If you do that you can as well 
discuss child abuse in a Catholic monastery and hope for the truth to 
be revealed. Here the result is history as it is being produced by 
military historians.) The very internal logic of the "Geneva 
Conventions" is in my eyes deeply inhumane as their existence 
inevitably produces (in the interest of national powers) the idea 
that a war can be fought in an ethical way rather than being the most 
barbaric thing humans are able of. Why then shall we *as historians* 
or cultural historians care how e.g. the "Geneva Conventions" define 
"mercenaries"? The "Geneva Conventions" are a politically 
*negotiated* and re-negotiated and permanently updated set up 
contracts among the most powerful nations. We all can certainly have 
different understandings of how we get to the truth, our truth, but 
one thing for sure: truth is by definition nothing that is 
negotiable, and forgive me, I do not know about you, but I at least 
do not care too much if I get killed by a "clean" bullet or a "dirty" 
bomb, and not even what nationality that bomb has. Dead is dead, and 
that is a rather unpleasant state to be in, even if the Geneva 
Conventions won't find fault with conventional clean bullets.
In short: whatever one thinks about that claimed necessity of 
wars--negotiated international contracts seem rather problematic as 
dictionary of terms if and when we want to research and explain 
reality (as are religious and political belief systems). There is 
much more to say about this, but I stop it here.

Since we are already in Switzerland, let's move from from Geneva to 
Berne--no, not the Berne Convention--just the other unrelated thread 
about Kim #3: that Daily Mail newspaper article Kwang On Yoo just 
mentioned, and there were other very similar ones in other papers in 
the past several months ... just wanted to add that Kim #3 must have 
been in Swiss schools before 1993. A Swiss friend of mine, a 
hobby-journalist who had interviewed and written about Korean A-bomb 
victims in Japan, and who I had first met in Korea, asked me in 1990 
or 1991 to join him in setting up an interview with Kim Jong Il. That 
was after the World Youth Festival and still several years before Kim 
Il Sung died, but it was already clear then that Kim Jong Il would be 
the new strong man following Kim #1. We went to the North Korean 
Embassy in Berne to talk about details. We spent half the day there, 
and then seemingly a vase went into pieces outside and a maybe nine 
years old boy came in, didn't say a word, no 'hello' no nothing, but 
when I asked him some harmless question he just, for the fun of it, 
but unexpectedly, throw the football in his hands at my face. That 
was Kim #3. The ambassador had talked around it, but there was no 
doubt that this was a son of Kim Jong Il. And I do clearly remember 
that he also said that the boy would be in a boarding school there, 
but would stay in the embassy during the summer. (His cook, mentioned 
in the article, was also with him and kind of baby-sitting him.) ... 
What do I want to say with this? Nothing, really nothing. Just 
interesting, as he must have indeed an extensive experience of 
Europe, possibly other countries.


Frank Hoffmann

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