What is disturbing to me these days is that while the media’s focus on the violent actions and rhetoric of a few during the Vietnam era led many undecided Americans to support the presidents because they did not like the looks of those they saw on television opposing administration policy, the undemocratic neo-Marcusian rowdies at the health-care sessions have not received much criticism from conservatives, have been cheered on by elected officials and radio talkers, and, apparently, have produced more and not less support for their opposition. At the least, that is what the public opinion polls suggest. And this is one reason why I reject the facile comparisons between the undemocratic tactics of some on the left in the sixties and comparable tactics employed by some on the right today.
This summary of health care in other countries helps to underscore how many ways there are to try to fix this. What I particular liked was the last section which highlights the diversity of approaches currently operating within the United States.
Of course, being for reform is not the same thing as supporting the current proposals. While the Republican Big Lie about Death Panels deserves condemnation—particularly because it incorporates a second lie, which is that the current system does not condemn people to death even when proper health care could save them—its success in generating unease has underscored several key weaknesses in the push for health care reform.
One is the problem that many Americans have decent health insurance, and many of them they fear its dilution more than they support its reform. Not everyone so blessed rejects the notion that good reforms would strengthen their current situation—otherwise there would be a lot less support than there is—but that is hard to feel certain about when the reforms themselves are still in flux. That is the second major problem with the effort toward reform. The result is the sort of unease that reduces vocal support.
This quote from a Republican strategist captures the problem well.
"The lack of a specific Obama plan has created an imbalance in the emotional energy between the two sides," Schnur said."So it's relatively easy for the opposition to find the least desirable aspect of any of those bills and go to town on it."
From the reform standpoint, there is a bit of good news here. It suggests that if decent reforms are passed, the support will be greater than the polls presently indicate. But I don’t know how many politicians with divided constituencies will find that sufficiently encouraging.
Another problem is that many Americans want contradictory things. This summary of an AARP survey is a nice example. Here’s the key quote:
Poll results indicated nearly 65 percent of those surveyed said they oppose increasing taxes to pay for covering the more than 46 million uninsured Americans, the business journal said. However, a majority polled said they believed all people should be covered and 73 percent said they are unwilling to see private health insurance premiums rise to cover those costs.
This is the sort of thing that Rick Shenkman loves to point out.
As I said above, from a standpoint of social justice and from a standpoint of cost controls, the present system is broken. What angers me about the Republican Party leadership is not that they have rejected Obama’s approach; it is that they have embraced that broken system.
The Republican leadership showed no interest in attacking this problem when they controlled the presidency and Congress. In fact, the manner in which they expanded Medicare to include prescription drugs arguably made it worse, because it did not allow the government to negotiate drug prices effectively. They now have made defeating any major Democratic proposal their defining issue for 2010. This is clearly indicated by their proposed “Seniors’ Bill of Rights,” which is dedicated to maintaining the broken status quo, including their own flawed approach to prescription coverage for seniors.
If Obama scales back--going for reforms that improve the current system but that fall short of the “public plan option” that many people, myself included, considered important--can he pass something good? ( This article summarizes what “good” might be.) Maybe. Not all Republicans want to follow their leadership on opposing any successful measures, and some of the wavering blue-dog Democrats could claim a victory. I would support it, too.
But it’s a messy situation out there. And I truly have no idea where we will go from here.
When I asked him for an interview for Johnson, Nixon, and the Doves (1988) in April 1983, I received my original letter back with a tiny handwritten note scribbled in pencil along the top border—“I would be happy to talk to you but it is unlikely we will be able to find a convenient time during the next several months—e.g. I will have made 5 round trips to Europe within 10 weeks.” Over the next year, and well after those ten weeks, on the four occasions when I called his office to tell his secretary that I would be in town for the interview, he was always unavailable. When I later informed McGeorge Bundy, another interviewee, that I was planning on talking to McNamara, he asked, “Didn’t you know that Mac never talks about the Vietnam War?” I had not been aware of that fact until that point and never did find out why he responded positively to my initial inquiry.
I find more interesting a Wall Street Journal article on the decline in Rest Areas. This is a case of budget woes accelerating a trend already in place. I particularly liked the insight that there are no poets or historians of rest areas like there are for Route 66 or other icons of our automotive past. Google for Route 66, and the site just linked comes up first. Search for Rest areas and you get a list of rest areas. (I am amazed that a Wikipedia entry did not come first in either case.)
Later this summer, we will be taking a trip down to Texas and Oklahoma to visit relatives and old friends, so perhaps it’s natural for rest areas to be on my mind. It’s actually been several years since we took an extended car trip. It’s something we used to enjoy, and I will be curious to see how much we still do.
Perhaps we will also get a sense of the mood around the country, or at least along our route. There’s a lot of pain out there, and governmental stimulus, to the extent that it can help, is, at best, just beginning to arrive. The old rule of thumb that it takes at least 9 months for government spending to impact the economy seems not to have been superseded by the Obama administration’s attempt to move faster. (Or perhaps it has moved faster, and the situation would have been much worse without it. That’s a truly scary thought.)
Bad times are pruning winds. Closures like this one, a skating rink in Rice Lake, might have happened anyway, what with changes in taste and demographics. Still that it happened now is due to the recession, and it’s a community loss, as the comments below the story suggest. Multiply that by hundreds and thousands, and you have these times.
The theory is that, despite the mess, the pruning creates new opportunities. To continue the image, the sun hits the ground through the broken limbs, and new things can grow. But this wind is looking more like a series of hurricanes, breaking the good as well as the bad. There is no rule that the market will lead us to a better life. It has not taste, no morals, no sense of justice. In good times, the wealth that following the market creates makes these flaws acceptable, and people love the Invisible Hand. In bad times that acceptance changes. That’s why people support government intervention in bad times, even though they know that government is far from perfect either.
There is still much good here, in this country. This cover story about two upcoming fireworks displays in Rice Lake is a reminder of the joy that most of us share in this country. Standing out in the night air (hoping that the mosquitoes are not too bad) and watching and sharing is free. And the fireworks are about more than light and noise. They are also, always, about hope.
The hard grind of the present, and the growing sense that hard work won’t be rewarded isn’t going away. There are no guarantees that the belief in work rewarded won’t go away for good; hence the title of this piece. It refers to Rudyard Kipling’s poem that balances his love of country with his understanding that its time could pass. I reject many of the values that Kipling celebrated, but I share his sense that even at our height, some modesty is in order. We are learning about modesty these days.
Still, the 4th is about exuberance. And wherever you are and however you do it, celebrate what is good in this country, whatever you perceive that good to be. Take care, and have fun.
But honestly, the big reason I have not been around isn’t my day job. It’s that I have had so little to say about the big issues. I have lots of questions and precious little that sounds like an answer.
I don’t know if President Obama’s speech in Egypt will plant seeds of positive change though I would like to agree with Thomas Friedman that it’s possible.
I have deep concerns about his emerging policy in Afghanistan. I don’t see a resolution as possible without some deep changes in Pakistan, and I don’t see how his surge (or any surge) can accomplish that. I don’t have an easy out for him, either, at least not one that does not leave some pretty damaging chaos behind.
I am discomforted by many of Obama’s actions concerning enemy combatants. He is confirming my suspicion during the campaign that he would reject many G. W. Bush policies (a truly good thing) but not Bush’s claims of presidential power. In so doing, he is following the lead of perhaps all previous presidents regarding foreign policy and military conflict. They may have rejected a predecessor’s policies but they never rejected his claims of power. I voted for Obama in spite of that and not because of it, but still I hoped that I might be wrong.
Maybe I’m having second thoughts about Obama and don’t want to admit it, and that is keeping me quiet. I don’t think that is the case. Even if I knew in November what would have happened up until today, I would have been comfortable voting for him over John McCain. Right or wrong, Obama’s policies show a high degree of competence, and the more I look back at the campaign, the more the McCain of 2008 looks like a man who simply was not ready to be president.
For what it’s worth, I still think the McCain of 2000 might have been a good president, though far more conservative than I would have liked. Almost certainly he would have been a far better president than the man who won or than the man who McCain was eight years later. Sometimes age and experience don’t equal improvement.
Similarly, I have long wondered if the Richard Nixon of 1960 might have been a far more positive president than the Nixon of 1968. Perhaps the narrow and not-entirely-legitimate defeat of 1960 and the 1962 California campaign exacerbated the politics-is-war attitudes that were already part of his personality. If so, it might have been at the cost of what I think was a genuine desire to be a statesman in the better senses of the term.
Perhaps I am wrong and it is the day job stuff that has kept me from commenting, by limiting the time I have to focus what analytical powers that I have left on the current scene. And if someone want to suggest that my analytical powers were never all that hot, that’s OK, too.
I do hope to check in regularly now, with more to say. I’m curious about the emerging Obama/Democratic health care policy. There is a fine case to be made that the current system is not viable, and that a shift toward the public sector would have a powerful and positive impact on jobs. But the details, the details! Who knows what could actually pass at this point?
More questions than answers. So I end today as I began, but with a bit more hope that I can point toward an answer every once in a while.
And by the way, the most generous right-wing analyses today suggest a total crowd count as large as 200,000 in 800 cities. Lest we forget, without free advertising from Fox, the Moratorium on another Wednesday forty years ago, October 15, 1969, drew at least 2 million in 200 cities.
In the pages of the NYT they are flummoxed by the quietness. Like Bob Dole, some are wondering, where's the outrage?
(See the NYT letter to the editor page, 4/3/098.)
A pundit on the Times's op ed page suggested the other day that the clue lies in the new technology that has divided us from one another, leaving us to suffer in silent isolation.
Others suggest that the Obama administration's acknowledgment of the crisis and its obvious attempts to address it has taken the sting out of the reaction.
Here's a different explanation, from David Kennedy:
Among those who were perplexed by the apparent submissiveness of the American people as the Depression descended was Franklin D. Roosevelt. “There had never been a time, the Civil War alone excepted,” an associate recollected Roosevelt saying during the 1932 presidential campaign, “When our institutions had been in such jeopardy. Repeatedly he spoke of this, saying that it was enormously puzzling to him that the ordeal of the past three years had been endured so peaceably.” That peculiar psychology, rooted in deep cultural attitudes of individualism and self-reliance, worked to block any thought of collective – i.e., political – response to the crisis. Understanding that elusive but essential American cultural characteristic goes a long way toward explaining the challenges that faced any leader seeking to broaden the powers of government to come to grips with the Depression.
Kennedy's explanation doesn't account for the occasional outbursts of domestic violence that one finds in even the most staid US history textbooks. But it nonetheless has a lot of merit.
Whether Obama wins this second election is anybody's guess. If he loses I shudder to think what might happen.
If the bank bailout plan v. 2.0 goes over well with the Wall Street voters Obama will be able to take a brief bow before moving on to other matters of great importance. If it doesn't? He will be consumed by economic issues for the rest of his presidency, achieving little.
A "no" vote by Wall Street will be worse than the Bay of Pigs. It will be another Cuban Missile Crisis. Only this time the president will have made wrong choices, with disastrous consequences. Instead of a mushroom cloud there will be millions unemployed walking the street with dazed looks on their faces, wondering what the hell happened to them.
Say scenario 2 occurs. How might Obama recover? That's not clear. He would of course have to fire Geithner. That would in itself be a disaster coming so soon after he had appointed Geithner. But getting rid of the treasury secretary wouldn't staunch the bleeding. It would lead to disillusionment, fear, and chaos. Supporters would wonder if Obama knows what he's doing. His political enemies would belittle him and denounce him. In place of those photoshopped Lincoln-Obama images there would be Carter-Obama ones.
To whom would the country turn for leadership? Demagogues. It wouldn't be pretty.
This morning's stock market numbers are an encouraging sign that Geithner may finally have gotten something right. Let's hope so. The alternative is too horrible to contemplate.
I am returning from holidays in La Jolla and the Sarasota area where I listened periodically to talk radio to see how Obama was doing in that medium as I walked the glorious beaches. (I know I should be communing with nature, listening to the Pacific and Gulf tides and seabirds but I am a political junkie.) San Diego County went for Obama in November and McCain just eked out a victory in Sarasota. But in both locales I was unable to pick up NPR or Air America on my headphones. It was a steady diet of Rush Limbaugh, Sean Hannity, Michael Medved, Bill Bennett, Monica Crowley, Hugh Hewitt, Michael Savage, Mike Gallagher and others. And they all generally agreed that:
Obama was a socialist or communist (Barack Brezhnev); a puppet of evil forces (Axelrod, Emanuel) since he cannot leave his teleprompter; his administration is made up of incompetents and tax cheats; he is an appeaser abroad; he will soon take our guns away; he is a Chicago hack or thug; he lies and dissembles, he wants to kill babies; he is abetted by radical diva Nancy Pelosi; he wants to raise everyone’s taxes, but especially those entrepreneurs who will lead us out of the recession; the pork-laden stimulus package has failed; and the drive-by or mainstream media is in love with him. More generally, FDR’s New Deal did not help end the Depression, the Great Society was a total failure, the current economic crisis was brought about by Chris Dodd, Barney Frank, and Fanny and Freddy, Ronald Reagan’s presidency was a complete success, and above all, using the Fairness Doctrine, the Democrats will soon take all the microphones away from conservative talkers.
We may not need the Fairness Doctrine but there should be some way to encourage or compel stations, in the public interest as per federal regulations, to present an occasional dissenting view, even if polls currently show majority support for Obama. It’s a wonder that any talk-radio listeners in my two locales voted Democratic in November.
Back ton the old days? A Reagan could pick off conservative Democrats and claim therefore to have bipartisan support. But when the Dems are nearly all pretty liberal and the Repubs are pretty all nearly conservative, it's a lot harder to cross party lines.
Therefore Obama's approach is deeply flawed. There aren't members of the other party whom he can turn to for support out of ideological sympathy.
You want bipartisanshjip? Then restore the old party system. Put conservative Southerners back in the Democratic Party. Put Northeastern liberals back in the Republican Party.
Short of that, appeals to bipartisanship are doomed to fail (except in foreign affairs, where a national consensus may be possible on some critical issues).
A majority of Americans believe everyone should have access to basic health care, even if the person in need cannot afford it. If a nation truly wishes to achieve that, it precludes a solely market-based approach because the market alone would shape health care in a way that maximizes profit. Caring for the poor is never going to be profitable in this context.
So the question is what mix of public and private organization does the best job or providing basic care to all, while researching new treatments and otherwise maintaining or improving public health. It is hard question to answer for a range of reasons. Here are three:
Health care treatments evolve.
Public expectations as to what care should be insured evolve with the treatments.
Someone or some mechanism has to draw the line between what care can be covered and what cannot.
Different countries have different answers and accept different trade-offs in addressing these challenges.
Our current mix rations health care on the basis of a combination of wealth (usually augmented by private insurance), access to government insurance, or access to workplace and retirement benefit policies. Emergency room care acts as a stop-gap for many of the people who fall outside of the above, but this is highly expensive and still misses millions.
The result is a wide range in access and quality from among the best in the world to basically non-existent. Within the realm of insurance, decisions on what is or is not affordable are likewise scattered and can often be contradictory.
By way of comparison, the British system makes the rationing decisions consciously for everyone under the National Health Service (NHS). This provides universal care. This is also far from perfect, but it's not the abject failure that some people make it out to be.
My wife got an unexpected tour of the NHS in Scotland last summer by virtue of some poorly-timed gallstones. She ended up at the Royal Infirmary of Edinburgh, (a teaching hospital with a long history). She went in very early Sunday morning ( a sign that Murphy’s Law is in force on both sides of the Atlantic).
The emergency care was first rate, as was the diagnostic unit. Fine care and no questions about insurance. (Foreign visitors get free emergency room care along with everyone else.) Once she made it to a regular ward, you could begin to see where they cut some of their costs. Nearly all patients were in ward units of 4. These were comfortable, with privacy curtains, and well staffed. Sue’s roommates were pleasant, and we could compare notes on treatment. Some of that information is reflected here. Still, that comparative lack of privacy is very different from the semi-private and private rooms that dominate in the States.
More significantly, the tests that Sue needed came more slowly than would have happened in many U.S. hospitals. That’s a clue to another way they cut costs: the trade-offs that they make between advanced diagnostic and treatment facilities and the length of stay is different than in many US hospitals.
She was in five nights and six days, and she might have been in longer if there had not been a cancellation that allowed them to get the stones out on Thursday as opposed to the Friday (they hoped) that had been the original schedule. In fact we felt a bit bad because we suspected that Sue had been moved ahead of some other patients to get that spot precisely because we were visitors. No US hospital would have moved faster on Sunday, but at our regional hospital, it seems likely that she would have been out by Thursday at the latest, and possibly Wednesday.
So, assuming that our experience was at all typical (and that’s a big assumption) here are the trade offs in what was a pretty standard situation--treatment for gall stones—and what seems customary at our regional hospital.
NHS: universal care, usually strong emergency room care, slower in-patient care, slower access to non-emergency procedures for both patients in hospitals, and probably for out-patient care as well.
US: access based on ability to pay (via income or insurance), strong emergency room care, emphasis on moving people quickly through hospitals aided by investment in diagnostic equipment and associated staff. Decision making based in part by the standards of HMOs/insurance companies.
Both: Competent but often overstretched staffs. Also, I think the site of senior doctors trailed by junior physicians and nurses rather like acolytes is universal at teaching hospitals.
Moral: As I said above, no approach is perfect. How important is universal coverage to Americans? How good should it be? What are they willing to trade—or invest—to get it? These questions mingle resource considerations and moral choices in the most unsettling ways. We should not make light of them by either demonizing or idealizing any particular approach, but look at them all with open eyes.
PS: For those who are curious, the meter starts running on foreign tourists after they clear the diagnostic unit (called “Combined Assessment” there) and are formally admitted to the hospital. The cost looked much like the costs at a US hospital—though I have made no attempt to do a procedure by procedure comparison.
We, that is Sue’s employer-based insurance, did cover it. I did have to purchase a Scottish cell phone in order to call the states and the Infirmary’s overseas representative repeatedly to make sure that they played well together. In the end, they did, though there was at least a day in which everything was stalled because the folks at Blue Cross Blue Shield Worldwide did not understand the Scottish reps accent when she gave them our policy number.
PPS: I do hope that phone access is easier in Scotland. I think it took a full day before I could figure out which number on the back of Sue’s card actually reached the people I needed to talk to.
PPPS: Sue’s gallstone removal went well. Within two days she felt better than she had in months. We even managed to salvage a portion of our trip and tramp around the Royal Troon golf course watching the British Senior Open. The weather was even sunny!
But it is already clear that he has adopted an approach that is baffling.
How is it possible that he is having trouble giving away hundreds of billions of dollars? This is usually easy to do. It takes no talent.
He shouldn't be using up any of his political capital to get his stimulus plan through Congress.
So what's up?
He has made 2 mistakes. 1. He has given the Republicans a chance to define him: Unless they cooperate he's a failure by his own post-partisan standards. 2. He hasn't been bold.
The country elected him to be different. The stimulus plan is boring. It's money for a thousand little programs no one can keep track of except an accountant.
How about one clear objective, say, building a transcontinental railroad system that is the envy of the world.
Or giving us national health insurance.
I know, I know. National health insurance is hard. It's almost impossible to create a plan quick enough to have any impact on the economy. Even FDR waited a few years before proposing Social Security. But when will he be in a better position? A year from now or two years from now?
We'll still be in hard times.
This isn't 1993 where he has to prove himself with a few victories as Clinton needed to do to establish his legitimacy.
Obama is the elected president.
He should hit one out of the park.
One more point. He needs to address those toxic securities that are like sand in the gears of the economy. Mark Zandi says it will cost a minimum of $500 billion to get them off the books of the banks. He should do it. Now. If he doesn't and dawdles with less robust efforts we'll still have to do this but it will a year from now when things have gotten far worse.
Do it now!
The day began with President Bush's visit to a church.
During his address he referred to the Author of Liberty, God, and the Maker of Heaven and Earth.
What's going on?
America is being treated to its usual quadrennial outburst of religious pageantry.
Religion has always been a part of inaugurations. Most presidents have ended their address with the words, "so help me God." (FDR forgot in 1933.) All the presidents mentioned God or some vague equivalent in their address. All but J.Q. Adams, Franklin Pierce and Calvin Coolidge put their hand on a bible while taking the oath. (Adams put his hand on a book of laws.)
All but one swore an oath to uphold the Constitution. (Pierce affirmed the oath.) (Only 3 presidents referred explicitly to Christianity, none mentioned Jesus by name.)
But religion is more evident at inaugurations now than in the 19th century.
The change came with FDR. He was the first to go to church inauguration day, the first to include a prayer in his own address, the first to have an invocation and a benediction. FDR ended his last address with a prayer. Ike and Bush I began their addresses with a prayer.
Why the change?
There are a couple of explanations. 1. FDR sensed the momentousness of World War II and felt he needed all the help he could get in rallying public opinion in defense of his policies. (Lincoln, the other president who held office during a similarly challenging period also invoked God more explicitly than other presidents, tailoring his second address to the jeremiads of the old Puritan preachers.)
Ike in the 1950s explicitly included a prayer because he felt the country was becoming materialistic. The more prosperous we became the mre we eagerly embraced public symbols of religion to reinforce our sense of our own worthiness.
And as Susan Jacoby reminded us in a piece published in the NYT the other day, the Supreme Court decision abolishing school prayer in 1962 shocked much of the country, inspiring leaders to compensate by publicly praying.
So don't blame George W. Bush for the religious atmosphere of today's events. They have strong roots in our cultural garden.
It may explain why he's talking now about entitlement reform.
This would seem to be an untimely time to address shortfalls in social security. Haven't we enough on our plate already? Obama might be planning a grand bargain: marrying concessions to the right on social security reform to national health insurance.
Could be interesting!
Riding on his eyes,” Ricki Lee Jones, “Juke Box Fury”
It’s hard not to gag at the excess of hype and attention preceeding today's inauguration. My throat reflex moment came when someone on Sports Center compared Barack Obama’s run for the presidency with the Cardinal’s run for the Super Bowl. Enough already.
No more coins, either. Please.
I have to consciously dig through the rubble of praise and opportunism to get down to the truths that propel this excess. This is an extraordinary moment. The fortuitous coincidence that Martin Luther King Day immediately precedes this inauguration has underscored just how historic the election of Obama is. It has also had the fortunate side effect of making MLK Day a true memorial to King. Tributes that seem dutiful in most years have a far greater resonance in this year. The fulfillment of one dream seems a bit closer today.
Now Obama has to make a speech. Some people are expecting a cross between John Kennedy’s “Ask Not” with Abraham Lincoln’s “Better Angels and Franklin Roosevelt’s rejection of fear. Those are tough acts to follow. He has shown the skill to equal them, but whether his words ring down in history will not depend on the eloquence and truth in those words.
The success of this speech and of his presidency will hinge on the nation’s economy and on his handling of crises both known and unforeseen. It will hinge on the intelligence of his advisors and even more on his capacity to weigh their strengths and weaknesses. It will hinge on the spirit of the populace and Obama's capacity to touch what is good in it. It will hinge on luck, always remembering that luck favors the prepared, but not by much.
Still, despite the the wall-to-wall hype and the outsized expectations, I look forward to this moment. I look forward to it for the good that his election has already accomplished and in the hope that his administration helps America to listen to the “better angels of our nature.” I also hope that Americans (including myself) remember over the next few years that all any person can do is act “with firmness in the right, as God gives us to see the right." May we remember in humility and mercy that the vision of no human is perfect but that, despite our limitations, we still have the obligation to do what good that we can.
What is this recession's purpose?
I don't yet have an answer.
It may be it has no purpose.
That makes enduring the hard times ... harder.
Anybody want to suggest a purpose?
Already we are in an era when no worthwhile skill is ever lost, if it can draw the eye of some small corps of amateurs. Today there are more expert flint-knappers than in the Paleolithic. More sword makers than during the Middle Ages. Vastly more surface area of hobbyist telescopes than instruments owned by all governments and universities, put together.
On that note, whatever the holy days that you cherish, may this season bring light.
But other stories don’t get the headlines they deserve.
Last week, the Senate Armed Services Committee issued providing new confirmation of the United State’s use of torture and links that to the highest levels of the outgoing administration. Big news? Hardly. As Glenn Greenwald at Salon points out the major TV outlets have largely ignored it. It’s old stuff about an outgoing administration, and no one in it—or, apparently, in the incoming one either—seems to want much to do with it. As for the media, It’s not a bomb threat; it’s not money; it’s not even corruption under a bad toupee. It’s something that the majority of Americans, and the majority of their leaders, wish to ignore. The silence of the media enables that desire.
Such silence isn’t limited to Americans. This utterly painful story of a North Korean’s escape from a prison camp ought to have a spotlight on it. A really bright spotlight, as it makes clear that North Korean prison camps far exceed even the post-Stalin Gulags in their cruelty.
The escapee, Shin Dong-hyuk, has written a book, Escape to the Outside World. It’s only sold 500 copies in South Korea. (There is no English version.) The article does not say how much the Korean media have (or have not) discussed it. The clear implication is “not much.”
Perhaps his book does not have the genius of a Gulag Archipelago. Perhaps some people don’t believe him; escapees from these camps are few and far between. But mostly, like the stories about the American use of torture here, it’s just not what South Koreans are interested in right now. Silence enables them to ignore the pain just north of their border and focus on what they believe really matters.