Let's be honest: The Democratic People's Republic of Korea is better understood as a criminal racket. Its 'diplomats' are drug runners. Its intelligence officers are thugs, sent to kidnap and murder for money. Its elites allow Kim Jung-Il to continue extorting the population only because the each profit greatly from it. They live in luxury, acquiring Western goods they ban their own people from possessing. And best of all, it's all in the family: With the youngest Kim son being appointed as heir, North Korea has become a monarchy.
The most recent glaring example of the North's criminal behavior has been with its customs officials and border guards. The long border North Korea shares with China is accessible to many curious tourists. Some are Chinese, but many are Western. Never at a shortage for new ways to steal money, the border guards have made their border irresistible for naive tourists. They lure them close, and then kidnap them. They are released when ransom is paid. These allegations have come from South Korean groups that work with refugees from the North (i.e. Chun Ki Won). Other times, the North Korean border guards will shoot tourists for no reason. Well, you have to keep your street cred up or else others won't take you seriously.
Which brings us to this. Two American citizens, reporting on North Korean refugees close to the Chinese/NK border have been detained in the North. And as far as we can tell, they happen to work for Current TV, ran by former Vice President Al Gore. Oops. Joe Pesci found out the hardway in Goodfellas that keeping the tough guy image up can sometimes lead you to harm the wrong people. My guess is the border guards didn't really know the reporters were connected like that.
Even for a country that routinely goes to 11, the rhetoric emanating from the North has shown signs of desperation. With a sattelite/would-be missile launch rumored for April, Kim Jung-il's questionable health, the severing of the military hot-line between the North and South, one wonders if North Korea is desperate for leverage and want a 'read' on President Obama
South East Asia is heating up, and the Obama administration needs smart coherent policies to deal with it. All sensible options inevitably lead to China - and unforunately they're busy reading Obama as well.