Letters: Korea prank imperils research

These letters are published in the print edition of The Independent, April 17th, 2013

Share

We cannot condemn too strongly the dishonesty and irresponsible behaviour that endangered the liberty and possibly even the lives of the young people on a trip to North Korea.

Even though they returned unscathed, it appears to have escaped the notice of the BBC that it has probably caused even longer-lasting damage.

Many academic disciplines, including anthropology and archaeology, with which we are all concerned, undertake academic research not only in North Korea, but in other countries that are not favourably inclined to academic research at present. Now they will have a reason to reject research projects altogether. So future knowledge may well have been jeopardised as the result of the scandalous behaviour of a few. And for what? A film that shows nothing more than the normal tourist’s view of North Korea

Professor Emeritus Roy Ellen FBA

Immediate past President, the Royal Anthropological Institute, University of Kent

Professor Clive Gamble FBA

President, the Royal Anthropological Institute, Southampton University

Professor Mark Harris

Head of Anthropology Department, St Andrews University.

Dr David Shankland

Director, the Royal Anthropological Institute

Professor Emeritus Jean La Fontaine

Past President, the Royal Anthropological Institute,  London School of Economics

 

So what did the Panorama programme tell us? North Korea is an isolated, paranoid, militarised state. Its people are subjugated and impoverished. Its infrastructure is decrepit. Who did not know this? The justification for this programme that it was an informative piece of journalism is twaddle.

If the tour group had been banged up for being spies this could have escalated into a major incident. Does the BBC senior management not need to approve such activity? The members of the tour were fortunate to come through this prank unscathed. What of the fate of the North Koreans who were filmed? If the BBC wants to occupy the moral high ground surely they should also be considered.

Tony Taylor, Church Minshull, Cheshire

 

Would the BBC have been happy to compromise its own reputation and the current and future safety of its own staff by inserting Mr Sweeney and his crew as underground operatives in, say, a David Attenborough nature programme filming in North Korea? I suspect not.

Martin Slater  , Fellow in Economics,  St Edmund Hall, Oxford

 

Thatcher is gone, but the legacy is still with us

Should Big Ben be silenced for the Thatcher funeral? One might contend that this does not go far enough. An appropriate way of publicly recalling the deceased would be also for  the whole day to close our museums and public galleries, to stop work in our universities, especially their humanities departments, to cancel services on our railways, and so on. 

Of course we should bear it in mind that though these are all institutions she attacked, she was not personally responsible for all their subsequent forced deterioration, and is now just a symbol for the continuing damage inflicted by her ideological successors. So it would be better instead to do our best to demonstrate defiantly, clearly, and loudly that the values embodied in these things are still alive.

Ian White, Cambridge

 

The choice of hymns for Baroness Thatcher’s funeral is amusing.

Cecil Spring Rice, the author of “I Vow to Thee my Country”, was the son of a Whig MP. Gustav Holst, whose wonderful melody comes from the Planets suite,  was a lifelong socialist who, in between teaching at Morley College for working men and women, delivered Socialist Worker through letter boxes.

His lifelong friend Vaughan Williams was also a socialist and both men refused honours and knighthoods. VW adapted  a Sussex folk song he had collected from a farm worker to words rewritten from Bunyan by the Rev Percy Dearmer: “He who would Valiant be”. Dearmer, an energetic vicar from Primrose Hill, was passionate about socialism and his gifts and advancement were ignored because of his beliefs. He and Vaughan Williams were the editors of the English Hymnal, which appeared in 1906. Both were immediately denounced by the ultra-conservative Archbishop from the pulpit of Canterbury Cathedral for using folk tunes, among other things.

Philip Spratley, Deeping St James, Lincolnshire

 

Turned out nice again? It looks as if the weather for Mrs T’s parade will be a meteorological metaphor for her legacy. Fine and sunny in the South, nasty and inclement in the North.

Martin Wallis, Shipdham, Norfolk

 

The funeral of Maggie T is the ultimate insult to her memory and legacy, nationalised and heavily subsidised by the public purse as it is.

Dr Peter Smith, Watton-at-Stone, Hertford

 

If your electricity was on all day yesterday without three-hour blackouts.

If your train was modern, on time and not on strike.

If your son or daughter did not have to sit on the German front line waiting to be incinerated in the first hours of the Red Army attack.

If you woke up free to elect your own government and express your own views in Poland, Bulgaria, Hungary or the former East Germany.

If your telephone or power company connected up with some competitive enthusiasm rather than a wait of months.

If you didn’t lie awake in Britain knowing that hundreds of Soviet nuclear missiles were targeted at your home.

If you could go to school in the Falklands and speak English, not Spanish.

If you could choose your best local school instead of being ordered to a failing sink school by town hall prodnoses.

If your British-built car – such as Nissan or Honda as well as Jaguar or Land Rover – is world-class instead of the unreliable rust-heap national joke.

If you can get an operation on the NHS within six months of being diagnosed.

If you are free to go to work without being bullied by thuggish pickets from a completely different industry.

If you are not forced to give hundreds of pounds a year to union bosses you cannot control.

If you could take home half and probably much more of your wages without the state using it to subsidise hopeless industries.

If you know that your daughters can excel in the highest offices in the land....

Thank Margaret Thatcher.

Benedict le Vay, London SW19

 

I keep reading about how Margaret Thatcher saved Britain from the greed and power of the trade unions.

But today the problem is the greed and power of corporate elites, as is made clear by the huge salaries and bonuses routinely paid in Britain’s company boardrooms and the City. These people now dictate to governments what they will and will not accept, accompanied by threats that they will emigrate if they do not get what they want.

So who will save us from the tyranny of big business, which now effectively runs the country?

Pete Dorey, Bath, Somerset

 

Politics of the short term

Willie Walsh is absolutely correct (“Government under fire over Heathrow and visa regime”, 11 April). Governments of all persuasions are unwilling to take decisive actions which might be unpopular but necessary. In the time taken to come to a decision on a third runway at Heathrow, the French had practically built Charles de Gaulle airport. The cost of the consultation was not insubstantial either.

It has been recognised for at least 10 years that a decision was required immediately on nuclear or other power generation, but we are hardly any further forward and still in thrall to a cartel of mostly overseas power companies.

We need a system of government in which strategic decisions are taken on a 10- or 15-year time frame, not one based on winning the next election.

John Laird, Harrogate

 

Sign up to press regulation, or else

Evan Harris’s letter refers to incentives for newspaper and magazine companies to join the new system of press regulation (16 April). It would be a disgrace if the newspaper groups who have behaved the worst refuse to participate, as some are threatening. I believe it would be justifiable to link the current  0 per cent VAT rate for newspapers to the new regulatory system.

Just as charities have to comply with charity law to receive their tax advantages, newspaper or magazine groups should have to sign up to regulation to receive theirs.

Richard Mountford, Hildenborough, Kent

 

Discredited views on MMR

While we applaud your editorial, “Andrew Wakefield’s baleful legacy” (13 April), we are very concerned about the resurrection, on the front page, of old claims repeated recently by disgraced doctor Andrew Wakefield. All of the accusations made by Dr Wakefield are false, were answered repeatedly many years ago, and have been comprehensively discredited.

In the light of the measles epidemic in South Wales, it is particularly worrying that your story gave a platform for Dr Wakefield to air his discredited views.

Professor Dame Sally Davies

Chief Medical Officer

Professor David Salisbury

Director of Immunisation

Department of Health, London SW1

 

Unfair pensions

James Crosby and Andy Hornby both left with huge pensions after relatively short periods of service. When defined-benefit pension schemes are regarded as unaffordable, senior executives are walking away with pensions far in excess of what they would have received under the rules of the now defunct schemes. Is there any integrity left in the corporate world?

Jim Donnelly, Edinburgh

 

Expensive claim

Whatever the merits of Jim McGovern’s expense claim, it is a scandal that it took a £27,000 tribunal to make a decision on a claim worth less than a hundredth of that. Any manager in the private sector could expect to be fired if lawyers and a tribunal judge were required to settle a run-of-the-mill issue like this.

Paul Rex, South Warnborough, Hampshire

React Now

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

C# Developer (HTML5, JavaScript, ASP.NET, Mathematics, Entity)

£30000 - £45000 per annum + Benefits + Bonus: Harrington Starr: C# Developer (...

C# Integration Developer (.NET, Tibco EMS, SQL 2008/2012, XML)

£60000 - £80000 per annum + Benefits + Bonus: Harrington Starr: C# Integration...

Biztalk - outstanding opportunity

£75000 - £85000 per annum + ex bens: Deerfoot IT Resources Limited: Biztalk Te...

Trade Desk Specialist (FIX, Linux, Windows, Network Security)

£60000 per annum: Harrington Starr: Trade Desk Specialist (FIX, Linux, Windows...

Day In a Page

Read Next
 

i Editor's Letter: The final instalment of our WW1 series

Oliver Duff Oliver Duff
 

Simon Usborne: The more you watch pro cycling, the more you understand its social complexity

Simon Usborne
A History of the First World War in 100 Moments: Peace without magnanimity - the summit in a railway siding that ended the fighting

A History of the First World War in 100 Moments

Peace without magnanimity - the summit in a railway siding that ended the fighting
Scottish independence: How the Commonwealth Games could swing the vote

Scottish independence: How the Commonwealth Games could swing the vote

In the final part of our series, Chris Green arrives in Glasgow - a host city struggling to keep the politics out of its celebration of sport
Out in the cold: A writer spends a night on the streets and hears the stories of the homeless

A writer spends a night on the streets

Rough sleepers - the homeless, the destitute and the drunk - exist in every city. Will Nicoll meets those whose luck has run out
Striking new stations, high-speed links and (whisper it) better services - the UK's railways are entering a new golden age

UK's railways are entering a new golden age

New stations are opening across the country and our railways appear to be entering an era not seen in Britain since the early 1950s
Conchita Wurst becomes a 'bride' on the Paris catwalk - and proves there is life after Eurovision

Conchita becomes a 'bride' on Paris catwalk

Alexander Fury salutes the Eurovision Song Contest winner's latest triumph
Pétanque World Championship in Marseilles hit by

Pétanque 'world cup' hit by death threats

This year's most acrimonious sporting event took place in France, not Brazil. How did pétanque get so passionate?
Whelks are healthy, versatile and sustainable - so why did we stop eating them in the UK?

Why did we stop eating whelks?

Whelks were the Victorian equivalent of the donor kebab and our stocks are abundant. So why do we now export them all to the Far East?
10 best women's sunglasses

In the shade: 10 best women's sunglasses

From luxury bespoke eyewear to fun festival sunnies, we round up the shades to be seen in this summer
Germany vs Argentina World Cup 2014: Lionel Messi? Javier Mascherano is key for Argentina...

World Cup final: Messi? Mascherano is key for Argentina...

No 10 is always centre of attention but Barça team-mate is just as crucial to finalists’ hopes
Siobhan-Marie O’Connor: Swimmer knows she needs Glasgow joy on road to Rio

Siobhan-Marie O’Connor: Swimmer needs Glasgow joy on road to Rio

18-year-old says this month’s Commonwealth Games are a key staging post in her career before time slips away
The true Gaza back-story that the Israelis aren’t telling this week

The true Gaza back-story that the Israelis aren’t telling this week

A future Palestine state will have no borders and be an enclave within Israel, surrounded on all sides by Israeli-held territory, says Robert Fisk
A History of the First World War in 100 Moments: The German people demand an end to the fighting

A History of the First World War in 100 Moments

The German people demand an end to the fighting
New play by Oscar Wilde's grandson reveals what the Irish wit said at his trials

New play reveals what Oscar Wilde said at trials

For a century, what Wilde actually said at his trials was a mystery. But the recent discovery of shorthand notes changed that. Now his grandson Merlin Holland has turned them into a play
Can scientists save the world's sea life from

Can scientists save our sea life?

By the end of the century, the only living things left in our oceans could be plankton and jellyfish. Alex Renton meets the scientists who are trying to turn the tide
Richard III, Trafalgar Studios, review: Martin Freeman gives highly intelligent performance

Richard III review

Martin Freeman’s psychotic monarch is big on mockery but wanting in malice