One of the keynote speakers is Jong Kun Choi of the Institute of East-West Studies, Yonsei University. Yesterday he gave an address entitled, “Modelling the Nordic Peace: Perspectives from Northeast Asia”. In it he presented an informative, entertaining and unusual viewpoint on one of those seemingly perennial facets of “the North”: peace.
As he talked I started to surf the internet. My searches were informed by a text I have written as part of Nordic Spaces.(1) It focuses on the burgeoning and highly profitable Swedish arms trade. And, sure enough, I quickly discovered the sorts of things that go on under the radar of “Nordic peace”.
Last year, for example, the Swedish arms company, Saab AB and the Republic of Korea secured a deal worth 450 billion Swedish kronor.(2) This concerned the purchase of an advanced weapon-locating system. The firm’s website indicates that this product has been “developed by Saab in Gothenburg, Sweden”.
It is, therefore, as authentically Nordic as Saab’s Carl Gustaf, an 84 mm multipurpose, man-portable, reusable recoilless rifle which shares its name with the King of Sweden.
Saab AB seems to like sweet-sounding weapons of mass destruction. The weapon-locating system making its way to the border between North and South Korea is called ARTHUR, which stands for ARTillery HUnting Radar.
Isn’t it wonderful that a region so synonymous with peace feels morally able to contribute to political disputes and simmering conflicts elsewhere in the world?
Oh, how the management of Saab AB must love the mantra “Nordic peace”!
But be in no doubt: below the radar of our banal expectations is an utterly different conception of “the North” – one that certainly merits “remodelling”, to quote Jong Kun Choi.
(1) Stuart Burch, “Banal Nordism: Recomposing an Old Song of Peace”, forthcoming in Performing Nordic Heritage: Museums, Festivals and Everyday Life (Aronsson, P. & Gradén, L., eds.), Ashgate: Farnham, 2012.
(2) “Saab Receives Order For Weapon-Locating System”, press release dated, 31/01/2011, accessed 24/08/2012 at, http://www.saabgroup.com/About-Saab/Newsroom/Press-releases--News/2011---1/Saab-receives-order-for-weapon-locating-system1.