Carol Reed of the Keck Center for International and Strategic Studies recently sent an email to all of Claremont McKenna's government majors.
It read that the center is "honored to sponsor a lecture by Bruce Cumings" of the University of Chicago. Why are they "honored" to have him come and speak? Should they be?
I've read a bunch of articles that Mr. Cumings has written. To put it bluntly, he's a North Korean apologist. That's a strong charge. Let's see if I can back it up.
Let's look at some of the more egregious things he's said over the years. Some of them are from this website.
- America's leading leftist historian on Korean history
- Blames mostly the U.S. for starting the Korean War
- Wrongly denied that the Soviet Union sponsored North Korea's invasion of South Korea
- Minimized the horrors of North Korea's famine of the 1990s
- Refuses to acknowledge that communism has been the cause of North Korea's economic catastrophes
- Blames the U.S. for its current political tensions with North Korea
- Says that 9/11 "bears comparison to the sick individuals with some sort of grievance who have shot up schools, malls or the Capitol Building in the U.S., and who are later shown not to have taken their daily dose of thorazine"
- Says that the Bush administration overreacted to 9/11 by pouring "billions into 'Homeland Defense' while showing a callous disregard for civil liberties, the rights of the accused, and the views of America's traditional allies
- Cumings compared the North Korean gulags to "longstanding, never-ending gulag full of black men in our [U.S.] prisons" -- which ought to preclude Americans from "pointing a finger" of condemnation at North Korea.
- B.R. Myers, a Korean scholar, has pointed out many of Cumings' egregious scholarly errors in The Atlantic. These include
- Saying the Soviet Union did not support the North Korean invasion, even though Myers points out that since-declassified Russian documents "revealed that [North Korean President] Kim Il Sung had sent dozens of telegrams begging Stalin for a green light to invade, and that the two met in Moscow repeatedly to plan the event."
- Extoling the North Korean economy by praising its "miracle rice," "autarkic' economy, and prescient energy policy. The book, Myers notes, "went on sale just as the world was learning of a devastating famine wrought by [North Korean capital] Pyongyang's misrule."
- Declaring that the North Koreans are "an incredibly simple and hardworking life but also [had] a secure and happy existence, and the comradeship between these highly collectivized people [was] moving to behold" -- even though millions of North Koreans vote with their feet by escaping into China or through minefields into the South.
- Anders Lewis has more on Bruce Cumings, including Cumings's glorification of Kim Jung Il and Kim's love of Super Mario. (It's worth reading in its entirety, but I'm trying to make this blog post short.)
- Paul Hollander, a Harvard professor and escapee from communism in Hungary, has laid bare Cumings overly sympathetic treatment of N. Koreans political system in his review of Cumings' North Korea: Another Country.
- I recently emailed Professor Hollander for a statement on Cumings and his scholarship. Professor Hollander pointed me to the National Review review, but he also talked about scholarship generally. Here's what he said.
"Scholarship is influenced by emotional-psychological predispositions. Cumings, for reasons not known to me, is sympathetic towards N .Korea, including itsCumings started his drift towards apologizing for evil. At Columbia, where Cumings got his dissertation, Cumings belonged to the Committee of Concerned Asian Scholars, a group which Tibetan political dissident and activist Jamyang Norbu calls,
"a now discredited organization of left-wing Mao-worshipping American sinologists who subscribed unquestioningly to the belief that Mao and the Communist Party of China had not only solved the problems of China but that of humankind as well; and that Communist China should be regarded as a model not just for developing nations, but also the United States."I wonder if they would like to withhold that invitation. I doubt they will, but they ought to.