Kelly Family Press Release on the ‘BBC Dad’ Viral Video


Today, my family and I conducted a select set of interviews, with the BBC for the international audience, with the Wall Street Journal for the American audience, and with the Korean media for the local audience here. Here is our statement on the video incident. Thank you. Robert E. Kelly

“My family and I would like to thank our many well-wishers. We are just a regular family, and raising two young children can be a lot of work. Because of that, it seems that the video has resonated with parents around the world, and we are flattered at the many gentle sentiments about our children. Thank you. We love them very much, and we are happy that our family blooper brought some laughter to so many.

We would also like to thank the British Broadcasting Corporation for its gentle and tactful treatment of the video. We are grateful for their professionalism in handling the exposure of our young children. We especially thank James Menendez, the announcer in the clip, for his kindness during the interview itself.

To the media, we would like to apologize for our reticence. We have been deluged with requests since Friday. We were unsure how to respond, and as the attention accelerated, we became genuinely unnerved. We had no idea how to handle this. We therefore decided to return to the BBC for a follow-up interview for the international audience, to speak with the Wall Street Journal for the US domestic audience, and to hold today’s press conference for the Korean audience. We apologize to the many outlets that seem to find this dissatisfactory. We are doing the best we can. Some have asked for interviews in our home. At this point, we are unready for that. We are hoping to return to normality in the next few days. Perhaps next week if there is still interest.

Finally, we would like to clear up a few of the rumors and controversies around the video:

– Yes, the woman in the video is my wife, Jung-A Kim/김정아, not my nanny.

– The first child to enter is our daughter, Marion Yena Kelly/켈리 매리언 예나, age 4.

– The second is our son, James Yousup Kelly/켈리 제임스 유섭, age 9 months.

– No, Jung-A did not use too much force in removing the children from the room. It is quite apparent from the video that she is frantically trying to salvage the professionalism of the interview. The children were not injured. When Marion speaks in the clip, she says, in Korean, ‘why Mom?’ She is responding in surprise, because we normally do not treat our children this way. Marion’s willingness to comfortably traipse into my home office illustrates her usual ease with her parents.

– No, I was not shoving Marion out of the way. I was trying to slide her behind my chair where there are children’s toys and books, in hopes she would play with them for a few moments until the interview ended.

– Yes, I was wearing pants. I choose not to stand, because I was trying to salvage the interview.

– No, this was not staged.

– Yes, the flat surface to my left was in fact a covered-up air-mattress. Our children like to play and jump on it.

– No, the map was not hung there as a prop. It was a gift and genuinely helps me learn world place names in Korean.

– No, we did not fight about the blooper afterward, nor punish our children. Rather, we were mortified. We assumed that no television network would ever call me again to speak.

– No, Jung-A did not hug the floor, because she was being ‘servile.’ She was trying to stay out of the line of sight of the camera in hopes saving the interview.

– Yes, our floors are hardwood, which is why Jung-A slid into the room. The floor is slippery after mopping, and my wife was wearing socks, not shoes, in the house, as is customary in East Asia.

– We have no comment on the many social analyses of the video. We see this simply as a very public family blooper, nothing more.”

North Korea Survives. Start Hardening South Korea for a Long Contest


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This essay is a local re-post of an essay I wrote last month for The National Interest. Basically this is my sketch of how to deal in the medium- and long-term with North Korea. North Korea is not going to collapse anytime soon. It has some source of strength we don’t fully grasp, and China is willing to bail out North Korea indefinitely. That means South Korea needs to start hunkering down – hardening itself – for a long-term conflict of attrition. There is not magic bullet – barring China pulling the plug, which, honestly, doesn’t look like it is going to happen soon.

So it’s time for South Korea to get more serious about winning the stand-off with North Korea and carrying the costs and inconvenience to do so. On the other hand, if South Korea only continues to manage North Korea, it will still be here in 20 years. If the ROK wants to win this stand-off – not manage, but win – then it needs to do a lot of things it doesn’t want to do, such as spending a lot more on defense, moving the national capital (so that it’s not right on the border, which makes it so vulnerable that South Korea can never hit back when North Korea provokes), consider drafting women (due to precipitous birth-rate decline), nuclear civil defense, and so on. This will be hard.

So far, South Korea has ducked these sorts of dramatic steps in the permanently short-termist expectation that North would just collapse one day, or that it could be bought off and somehow go away. But of course, it won’t. So if South Korea doesn’t still want to be ‘managing’ North Korea in 20 years, it needs to start thinking long-term now. For example, it should have moved its capital 40 years ago, like West Germany did during the Cold War, but it never did. And now North Korea has a massive city hostage it can threaten whenever it like to prevent South Korea from taking any kinetic action, like airstrikes on its missile sites. Yes, it will take a long time to unwind that, to decentralize South Korea, but then, North Korea is not going to collapse. Constantly hoping/expecting it would, and therefore taking no steps to check Seoul’s growth, is exactly the problem. Time to think long-term.

The full essay follows the jump:

What Have We Learned from Kim Jong Nam’s Death? Nothing We Didn’t Already Know


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This is a local re-post of an essay I wrote this week for the Lowy Institute. I wrote this, because I was getting tired of reading or hearing on TV about how this poor man’s excruciatingly painful death changed things. It did not. Quite the contrary. The assassination, along with the February rocket test, just reconfirmed, for the zillionith time, what we all already know – that North Korea is a lying, brutal, norm-less regime that has no compunction about violating international law (the missile test is prohibited by UN Security Council resolution) or releasing a hugely dangerous toxin (VX) in an open, heavily travelled public place.

So one again, because the US has a new president and South Korea will likely have one soon too, we hear that we must engage North Korea and all that. Honestly, I keep wondering how this is supposed to work after 25 years of failure. What about North Korea has changed that suddenly makes it more likely to take negotiations more seriously? Who cares if the leadership in other countries changes. What matters is NK, and in February, it violated two major international norms – a missile test and an assassination. Yet at the very same time (!), we hear that talks should resume. Really? Isn’t that a glaringly obvious contradiction? The murder some poor guy and shoot a missile toward Japan, and we…reward them with talks? .

But honestly, talks in themselves are a concession to NK given its appalling behavior. So tell me why this time is different? I am not completely hostile to negotiating with NK; I could be talked into it. But there needs to be a compelling, this-time-is-different element.

The full essay follows the jump:

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Cancelling TPP, Protectionism Not Necessary for a Restrained Foreign Policy


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This is a local re-post of an essay I wrote for The National Interest a few weeks ago. Basically I argue that a restrained political and military foreign policy does not imply an isolationist or protectionist economic foreign policy.

This strikes me as an important distinction. There is a lot talk that Trump’s election implies a less interventionist foreign policy, that the white working class doesn’t want to fight neocon wars anymore. I am sympathetic to that. But a greater caution in military choices does not have an economic correlate of withdrawing from free trade, or picking foolish fights with allies. Restraint is neither economic protectionism, nor bashing allies Trump-style. Those tow together are more like isolationism.

As I say on this site regularly, the concern of foreign policy ‘restrainers’ is not to abandon American allies, but to get them to take their own defense more seriously. But I see no reason to extend that to trade. Greater protectionism will simply drive up prices for the white working class at Walmart, while re-shoring a few jobs at most. Recall that it is technology that wiped out smokestack jobs in the Midwest, not China. Worse, protectionism has a powerful long-term negative impact on security. States which seal themselves off start to fall behind technologically. That impacts military tech too, as one can see in the communist states during the Cold War. It is critical for American military pre-eminence that it remain a free-trade economy that regularly absorbs the most recent technologies, no matter how much dislocation they bring, no matter where they come from.

The full essay follows the jump:

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Does Secretary of Defense Mattis Speak for President Trump, and Co-President Bannon?


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This is a local re-post of an essay I wrote for the Lowy Institute earlier this month on US Secretary of Defense James Mattis’ trip to Japan and South Korea. It was your fairly typical meet-the-allies thing, but under Trump nothing is what it seems. In brief my argument is, why would US allies listen to SecDef when the president is this erratic and impressionable? What really matters, especially if Michael Flynn is on the way out, is what Steve Bannon, Trump’s very own Dr. Strangelove, thinks. Creepy. I still can’t believe this guy is POTUS.

The full essay follows the jump:

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Obama did about as well in E Asia as could be Expected: One Last Defense of Strategic Patience


I know the only thing people want to talk about now is Trump, but here is a parting review of Obama in Asia. I wrote this a few weeks ago for the Lowy Institute. All in all, I’d say he did about as well as you could expect.

Yes, he didn’t prevent North Korea from getting a nuclear weapon and missile, but no one knows how to do that barring kinetic action which is off the table because of South Korea’s ridiculous decision to place its capital, and allow it to flourish, just 30 miles from the border. And no he didn’t slow China’s rise, but no president could do that without kinetic action either. And that’s even crazier than bombing North Korea.

There are no good solutions to our challenges out here, just as there were none to communist power in the 1950s. Hawks calling for ‘toughness’ and ‘leadership’ should remember that rollback was a catastrophe (in the Korean War) that almost ignited WWIII. We then settled for hanging tough’ until communist power imploded, which it did. The contemporary Asian analogue of hanging tough is Obama’s ‘strategic patience.’ Everyone criticized it, but no one has a better option that isn’t hugely risky. So stop complaining about strategic patience until you’ve got a better, genuinely workable idea.

The full essay follows the jump.

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What are the Chinese Telling Us by Bullying South Korea so Much over Missile Defense?


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This is a local re-post of an essay wrote for The National Interest about 10 days ago. Basically, I’m curious why the Chinese are making such a huge deal out of THAAD missile defense. They’ve been bullying South Korea relentlessly for a year or so now over this. But THAAD doesn’t even impact them, as everyone knows now. That graphic over, from the Heritage Foundation, nicely illustrates that.

So the big question is why. Why is China making a huge deal of something where it’s so obviously on the wrong side of the debate? (Everyone can see North Korea’s nuclear missile program and South Korea’s obvious need for a ‘roof.’) Why does China think something this minor – THAAD has no impact on Chinese strategic forces – is worth wrecking a decent relationship with South Korea, one of the few regional states that is not that scared of China’s rise? Is this coercive diplomacy to prove Chinese regional hegemony, with South Korea being the first target to be bullied into knuckling under? Is Vietnam next? Or does China really care about North Korea so much that it wants NK to be able to blackmail South Korea with nuclear missiles?

I can’t believe that latter explanation is right. To me, this is China feeling its oats. It’s rising; no longer feels it has to keep its head down per Deng’s early advice. Now it’s number 2 in the world, on the way to being the world’s largest economy. So it’s going throw its weight around, and the states closest to it will feel the hammer of its prestige-seeking fall first.

The full essay follows the jump:

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