Tuesday, February 28, 2006

Subtitles and subtext

I need to get a new digital cam so I can have a pic blog like this guy.

At the very least I should start posting .mpg files from my camcorder. Last night I was trying to find some video from which to capture a pic of Halmoni.

I also need to start watching more television. Yeah, my dad scream bloody murder to hear me say that, but I need to watch more Korean dramas. This girl and her enthusiasm have inspired me (or rather, re-inspired me) to do this.

I can comprehend most (let's say around 80%) of what is being said in a Korean drama or movie, but the 20% or so I don't get is often what's important. So I'd rather wait and watch these things on DVD, where I can go back and check the subtitles if I want.

The problem is, I just don't have time. The Korean movies on Catch-On run without subtitles, and that's all I watch right now.

God, please make there be 26 hours in a day (but without the nasty meteorological effects that would come from slowing down the spinning of the Earth on its axis).

Friday, February 24, 2006

Fun fact

For all the mileage finger-chopping gets in the Korea-related blogosphere, the number of people who actually cut off a small part of their finger as part of a Tokto protest is only one more than the number of US vice-presidents who have shot someone in the face.

Photo above: Tokto protestor Park Kyŏngja
Photo below: her son, Cho Sŭnggyu

Photo below: It's funny until someone gets hit in the eye, is peppered with birdshot, or later has a heart attack.

Although this post talked specifically about the number of people chopping off part of their pinky over the Tokto/Takeshima issue, in the interest of full disclosure I should acknowledge here that I was unaware that twenty people had done something similar at Tongnimmun (Independence Gate) in protest of Koizumi's visit to Yasukuni Jinja Shrine in 2001 (that was also a year in which the textbook issue was quite heated). As I mentioned at Marmot's I was away at that time, and there was some confusion when what happened was later explained to me (basically someone mixing up "cut" and "cut off").

The existence of these twenty extremists does not negate anything I've said here. Nor do the self-immolaters (there was a rash of these in 1992, not in protest against Japan, but in protest against the ROK government), nor the commiters of harakiri over labor disputes. These people are psychologically ill, and rather than using them for one some political purpose (and both sides can use the same person—they can be seen by one side as virtuous and self-sacrificing patriots and as nutty extremists by the other) people should be getting them help.

At any rate, I was partly wrong about this—I knew of two actual finger-choppers since last year's orgy of anti-Japanese sentiment in the media and at least one "attempt," but I thought these were the only ones this decade—and it's usually best to come clean about something like that, hence this addendum.

In the upper 10%

Here's a secret about me: I really don't care much for kimchi. Never have. Cucumber kimchi is tolerable to me, and I will eat cabbage kimchi to be polite, but if I never had to eat the stuff again for the next century or so, I wouldn't complain.

It's not the smell (I sort of like the smell). It's not the spiciness, although some of my lack of enthusiasm may have stemmed from my younger days when, as a child, I didn't even like to drink Coke because of the way the sharp bubbles hurt my mouth (also, my older brother loved cola and he was the mother of all monstrous older brothers, so I often took a dislike to things he enjoyed).

I do like some spicy things. My all-time favorite Korean comfort food is sundubu, which is not too heavily spicy but it's enough to put off a lot of people who grew up on nothing less bland than meatloaf. I don't really care much for the kochu-less kimchi either, so I really don't think that's it. I've never been a fan of cabbage, so that may be where this comes from.

I love kyŏja, that wasabi-like mustardy liquid that I so liberally squeeze into my naengmyŏn that any bite will cause a numbing sensation to shoot through my nose — I can't tell you how much I love that feeling.

Ask a group of adult KoKos (Korean-Koreans, born and raised) if they dislike kimchi, and no one will answer yes. Ask the same group of people with their eyes closed (yes, I've tried this) and you will get about 10% admitting that they don't like kimchi at all.

We are the upper ten percent.

[photo: Makes me want to have pizza]

Thursday, February 23, 2006

Long memories and short apologies

Something more to fisk later, but the Economist has a story on what Japan can do (or not do) about its past in East Asia.

Korea's forced laborers to receive compensation

I'm a bit busy right now, so I'll fisk this later. It is pregnant with subtext.

SEOUL--In an attempt to resolve problems lingering since World War II, Seoul decided Wednesday to compensate Koreans forced to work for the Japanese military or companies during Japan's 1910-45 colonization of the Korean Peninsula.

Up to 100,000 South Koreans will be eligible for the individual compensation, government sources said. If those eligible have already died, their bereaved families will receive the payments, they said.

Forced laborer who returned to South Korea safely and without injuries will not be eligible, they added.

The South Korean government estimates that wages not paid by Japanese companies to the Korean forced laborers totaled 230 million yen.

But Seoul will not ask Tokyo to cover those expenses. Instead, it will seek Japan's cooperation in confirming the names of those qualified for compensation through lists of wartime laborers kept by Japanese companies, they said.

The decision by the government of President Roh Moo Hyun could affect lawsuits filed against Japan and companies by wartime forced laborers. The number of these lawsuits started increasing in the 1990s from Koreans demanding unpaid wages and other compensation from the Japanese government and the companies for which they were forced to work.

South Korea's move could also end decades of domestic criticism that the South Korean government did not do enough for those victimized during the colonization period.

When Japan and South Korea normalized diplomatic relations in 1965, they agreed that Japan would provide economic assistance worth $300 million in grants and $200 million in loans.

In exchange, South Korea, which was then under the control of the military government led by President Park Chung Hee, agreed to abandon its rights to claim compensation from Japan.

The "political settlement," however, sparked outrage among South Koreans.

Last year, the Roh government disclosed all documents concerning negotiations between Seoul and Tokyo on normalizing relations, and said it would resolve conscription-related issues by itself.

During the normalization talks, the South Korean government informed the Japanese government that 1.03 million South Koreans were forced to work for the Japanese military or companies, and that the financial damages they suffered exceeded $300 million.

From 1975 to 1977, the South Korean government paid 300,000 won (about 37,000 yen under current exchange rates) each to the bereaved families of 8,500 forced laborers who had died.

Seoul had used just 10 percent of the $300 million in grants paid by Japan to help the former forced laborers. Criticism erupted against the measure, and many South Koreans said the size of the payment and the number of people eligible were insufficient.

Some groups of war victims or their bereaved families insist that all $300 million should have been used for war victims. They are demanding that the South Korean government create a budget allocation for individual compensation.

Therefore, a decision on the actual amount of money to be paid will be delayed until March, the sources said.

The South Korean government said Wednesday the planned payments are intended to support the current lives of those who were conscripted or their bereaved families.

"It is effectively compensation," a government source said.

But the issue concerning women forced to provide sex for Japanese soldiers before and during World War II was not discussed in the bilateral negotiations in the 1960s. The South Korean government says Japan has a legal and moral responsibility to compensate these women.

North Korea has insisted that Japan offer compensation as well as economic assistance for its colonization of the Korean Peninsula.

However, the South Korean government's decision to pay individual compensation by itself could influence bilateral negotiations between Tokyo and Pyongyang on normalizing relations.

Wednesday, February 15, 2006

American jingoism in ads

This comment over at Marmot's made me think:
I think in the US (and Canada) there’s less of a tendency to buy merely for nationalistic reasons--after all, why is the US’s balance of imports/exports totally out of whack in favour of imports?
While I do think the average American consumer--no wait, I really can't speak for any place outside of where I've lived, like California--does tend to employ nationalism less commonly than the average Korean consumer, I don't think the gap is that wide. And certainly American companies are not above appealing to nationalism/jingoism/patriotism when it suits them.

How about Chevrolet, which bills itself as "
America's Brand" bringing "an American Revolution"? And not long ago, Ford also used to have advertising slogans that appealed to citizens of the USA to buy American.

This 2001 Businessweek article talks about the advertising aftermath of 9/11, in which many companies promoted how buying products from them will help the country:
In many cases, an overt appeal to patriotism isn't necessary or palatable. Take the Big Three carmakers. The Commerce Secretary asked them to pump up demand, which they've done with 0% financing. Given the state of the economy, these guys would be offering rebates and discounts right now in any case. So why does GM have to boast that it's aiming to "Keep America Rolling," while Ford pledges to "Help Move America Forward"? Free financing can slice up to $4,000 off the total cost of a $22,000 car. For many, that's reason enough to buy. Wrapping those sorts of deals in Old Glory, and doing so to the accompaniment of chest-beating rhetoric, just adds a saccharine tone to what is otherwise a great deal.
In all fairness, I think appeals to American patriotism can be forgiven in such a trying and scary time (and I would be somewhat forgiving toward some of the Korean corporate appeals to Korean consumers in the wake of the economic collapse of 1997 and 1998). My point was that corporate appeals to patriotism are not unique to Korea, and they are certainly not unheard of even in today's United States.

In the end, whether buying a Hyundai Sonata being selected as MotorWeek's Best Family Sedan of 2006, or an Apple Computer that consistently produces great machines and excellent software to run them, a patriotic consumer is going to do more for his or her country by rewarding domestic manufacturers who make their product well rather than rewarding those who do little more than make an appeal to nationalistic connections.

Tuesday, February 14, 2006

Room with a view

I have a digital camera, but it's old now and I fear it is near death. I must buy a new one. In the meantime, I have been taking pictures with a more reliable film camera (yeah, they still make those). It was only recently that I got around to digitizing them for posterity.

Here's the view from the front door of my apartment on a clear day:

Actually, the view has changed, since the old houses in the lower middle part of the photo have been razed to make way for two more high-rises like the ones in the background. It will suck to not be able to see the church in the background, which on many days is my only connection to spirituality. The tower on the left has a Coffee Bean & Tea Leaf, which is great, except they have lousy hours (they're closed on Sunday!), which is not great.

I like taking pictures of traditional things, even though a lot of the traditional things are remakes. This is a walkway down a reasonably authentic-looking Chosŏn-era home at the Minsokchon (Folk Village) in Yong-in. It looks so inviting, I think. The folk village is a nice re-creation of life back then, but without the syphilis and the cholera.

In October 2004 I went to Italy with my parents, traveling around what is my #1 favorite country, seeing the sights, trying to get by with barely passable Italian language skills. This scene is the cliffs on the island of Capri, one of the most mispronounced places in Italy (the accent is on the first syllable). I am proud of myself for having ordered Caprese salad (mozzarella and tomatoes) while in Capri, for which it was named. That set me back about six euros. Capri is expensive.
While in Capri I saw these cats, two of whom look like the cats I had in Korea, who were named Tomato and Mozzarella. Here's an interesting bit of trivia: because of the highly magnetic iron found in the rocks that form Capri, the balancing system that causes cats to always land on their feet also makes those sitting on the ground face precisely south-southeast. Frankly, in some other life I wouldn't mind being one of these cats, because they do nothing all day except sit in the Capri sun, and I'm sure someone feeds them Caprese on occasion.

Monday, February 13, 2006

Playing in the mud without getting dirty

I have said it several times now: Dr. Hwang Woo-suk is almost certainly a charlatan who — for whatever reason — chose to deceive Korea and the entire world. This negative characterization is not really in dispute by reasonable people.

I state that because I also think Dr. Gerald Schatten, whom I began to
skewer here, is also deserving of considerably more criticism than he has been getting (along with others involved in this mess), but I want to make it clear to those who think I am somehow an apologist for Korean attitudes in the Hwang cloning scandal that attacking Dr. Schatten does NOT equate letting Dr. Hwang off the hook.

Here are some choice quotes from the
University of Pittsburgh investigation into Dr. Schatten's role:
In his second interview, he denied that he was senior author, saying that his only specially designated role as a co-author was as one of the two co-corresponding authors. This second version does not correspond with the fact, for example, that he is the one who responded to reviewers’ comments. 

We believe that Dr. Schatten was disingenuous in his second interview in harping on strict definitions of ‘writing’ and ‘senior author’. Furthermore, taken together with written commentsto the committee, this appears to be part of a concerted and deliberate effort on the part of Dr. Schatten to further distance himself from Dr. Hwang and their joint publications. This is in sharp contrast to the full participation of Dr. Schatten in the media spotlight following publication of the paper.
So we have backpedalling, attempts to deceive, and self-aggrandizement. There's more:
We believe that Dr. Schatten entered into this relationship with Dr. Hwang on the 2005 paper not only to help a colleague whom he admired, but also to gain some authoritative input and reputational enhancement from a paper which he thought had high potential of being a major breakthrough.
Reputational enhancement? Here U Pitt is saying essentially that Dr. Schatten thought that the research might be significant, so he latched himself on. He also tried to help increase the limelight. You know all those Koreans hoping Dr. Hwang would be a future Nobel laureate? Dr. Schatten was helping that go through:
He obviously had high expectations of the impact the paper would have. For example, he nominated Dr. Hwang for foreign membership in the United States National Academy of Sciences and, with others, for a Nobel Prize.
U Pitt seems to suggest there were questionable financial dealings on Dr. Schatten's part:
He was not averse to accepting honoraria totaling $40,000 within a 15-month period from Dr. Hwang – including $10,000 paid in cash while attending a press conference following publication of the 2005 paper – amounts that seems to us as far above normal honoraria for consultation.
Hmm... it gets even messier:
Nor did he hesitate to help to relieve Magee’s financial responsibilities in supporting his work, when he could not call on federal funds for his activities with human embryonic stem cells, by submitting a proposal to Dr. Hwang for laboratory support amounting to $200,000 for the last four months of 2005, an amount which he hoped would turn out to be the amount of an annual subsidy in subsequent years.
And what about the criticism by some in Korea that Schatten was trying to patent things he had no business patenting? U Pitt says this:
Also, Dr.Schatten’s patent application of 2004, submitted through Magee, presents claims that likely could not be fulfilled by inventions developed at Magee alone, but might plausibly be supported by technologies reportedly developed by Dr. Hwang’s group between the filings of provisional and actual patents.
Are we done? Even Dr. Schatten's involvement with Snuppy causes us to scratch out heads:
We comment just briefly on the 2004 paper and the 2005 communication to Nature about the cloning of the dog. Dr. Schatten was not a co-author of the 2004 paper and, at his own request, he was not even acknowledged. A full manuscript had already been written, and rejected, before Dr. Schatten became involved. He may have contributed with suggestions and with political influence to help the paper through to acceptance, but we have no basis to associate him with any of the substantive work described in the paper. Nonetheless, he lobbied hard for publication of this paper in Science, without any direct knowledge of the veracity of the data. Dr. Schatten’s role in successfully getting the 2004 paper published in Science is likely to have provided considerable encouragement to Dr. Hwang to offer him authorship on the 2005 paper. As for the brief communication to Nature about the cloning of the dog Snuppy, for which Dr. Schatten was a listed co-author, we have no reason to doubt Schatten’s statement to us that his major contribution to the paper was a suggestion that a professional photographer be engaged so that Snuppy would appear with greater visual appeal. It is less clear that this contribution fully justifies co-authorship.
So we've got a guy who got into Dr. Hwang's good graces by helping him publish stuff about the dog (which so far appears to be the only legitimate thing Dr. Hwang did in 2004 or 2005). Technical stuff? No: political and cosmetic.

So what are U Pitt's conclusions?

We conclude that Dr. Schatten likely did not intentionally falsify or fabricate experimental data, and that there is no evidence that he was aware of the misconduct reported to have occurred in Dr. Hwang’s group in Korea. Given his dominant role in the writing of the 2005 paper his authorship is not unreasonable, but his positions as co-corresponding author and senior author were determined with considerable care and deliberation. Dr. Schatten’s listing as the last author not only conferred considerable credibility to the paper within the international scientific community, but directly benefited Dr. Schatten in numerous ways including enhancement of his scientific reputation, improved opportunities for additional research funding, enhanced positioning for pending patent applications, and considerable personal financial benefit.
If only it hadn't all fallen apart.
However, these benefits are accompanied by responsibilities for the manuscript as a whole, approval of the manuscript by all co-authors, and the veracity of the data reported. Dr. Schatten shirked these responsibilities, a serious failure that facilitated the publication of falsified experiments in Science magazine. While this failure would not strictly constitute research misconduct as narrowly defined by University of Pittsburgh policies, it would be an example of research misbehavior.
Okay, so maybe Pitt is not letting him off the hook. Or are they?
Finally, we would like to acknowledge Dr. Schatten’s expeditious and appropriate actions upon learning of allegations of Dr. Hwang’s misconduct. The first instance was his finding on Friday, November 11, that at least one of Dr. Hwang’s staff had been an egg donor, although Dr. Hwang had forcibly denied this only three days earlier. Dr. Schatten publicly dissociated himself from his collaboration with Dr. Hwang on the next working day. The second instance occurred on December 10, when Dr. Schatten first received direct testimony that NT-hES cell lines 4-11 did not exist. This discovery prompted Dr. Schatten to write to Science on December 12 to initiate retraction of the paper.
I think I'm a little less generous than Pitt. I think, given Dr. Schatten's savvy and connections that helped Dr. Hwang get the once-rejected Snuppy paper accepted, I think it is plausible that some of the ethical corner-cutting that led to wholesale dishonesty may have been instigated by Dr. Schatten himself, who knew how to massage research to get it accepted. As I have said before, I don't think Dr. Schatten is some babe in the woods who was awestruck by Dr. Hwang and got taken in by him. I think that he may have been the one who showed Dr. Hwang the easy path to the dark side, though ultimately it was Dr. Hwang who chose to run willy-nilly down it.

ADDENDUM TO ORIGINAL: I am adding a little more, an edited version of something I wrote at Marmot's Hole when someone linked to the post you're now reading.

cm wrote:
Schatten got off easy. Too easy. Read Kushibo
I wrote that post after checking out U Pitt's actual report (Brendon's link above), which has a somewhat different take on the matter than the article ("Peers supporting Schatten, consider him a victim of fraud") Marbert cited in the original post.

The actual report ("University of Pittsburg Summary Investigative Report on Allegations of Possible Scientific Misconduct on the Part of Gerald P. Schatten, Ph.D.") has some rather unflattering things to say about Dr. Schatten, and includes suggestions of misbehavior that would belie the picture of duped innocence painted by the "peers supporting Schatten."

It appears that some of the "peers supporting Schatten" read only the second-to-last paragraph of the report, and not the several paragraphs before that or the details before that.

The last sentence of one of those paragraphs...

While this failure would not strictly constitute research misconduct as narrowly defined by University of Pittsburgh policies, it would be an example of research misbehavior.
...shows how narrowly he dodged this bullet. I wonder how narrowly he dodged it in Wisconsin, during the last major scientific scandal in which Dr. Schatten happened to be involved.


Thursday, February 9, 2006

Liar! Liar! You are fired!

News agencies are quoting a Yonhap News report that Seoul National University has fired (AP says "suspended") disgraced cloning scientist Dr. Hwang Woo-suk and six other professors on his team today, for their involvement in fabricated stem cell research.

According to Maclean's, Yonhap said the university's disciplinary committee would also discuss more punitive actions for those involved in the falsified work published in the journal Science. They will meet again February 21 to question the professors. (AP quotes Yonhap News as saying the researchers would retain their professor positions until the university's disciplinary committee decides on final punitive actions.)

This expected development is on top of other problems for Dr. Hwang, whom South Korea's state audit board is investigating on suspicions of misusing government funds. Prosecutors are also conducting their own investigation into the scandal.

Western professors defend Kang

I will get more into this later, but for now...

Western professors protest punishment of leftist Korean colleague

A group of Western professors protested to South Korea on Wednesday, urging reinstatement of a university faculty member sidelined over his pro-North Korea writings.

A letter, obtained by Yonhap, was endorsed by 33 professors from the United States, Norway and New Zealand and sent to Dongguk University and to South Korea's education minister, demanding that professor Kang Jeong-koo be allowed to continue teaching.

The group, calling itself the "Alliance of Scholars Concerned about Korea," also criticized South Korea's National Security Law that restricts unauthorized contact with North Korea and pro-North Korean activities.

Kang, a 59-year-old sociology professor, was indicted for violation of the National Security Law in December.

He insisted in his columns that the 1950-1953 Korean War, started by North Korea, was a "war of unification." In another column, he claimed that American Gen. Douglas MacArthur, whose successful amphibious landing in the South Korean port of Incheon turned the tide of the Korean War in favor of the South, was an enemy who caused the division of the Korean Peninsula.

Kang still retains his professorship but was barred from all teaching positions and stripped of research funds.

"As scholars involved in Korean issues, we are deeply concerned about the chilling effect this action will have on scholarly activity and the teaching climate at Korean institutions of higher learning," the letter said.

"Without full freedom to research, publish controversial articles, and voice controversial views, the university environment will become characterized by a suffocating uniformity," it said.

The professors also accused the South Korean government of using the National Security Law to "curtail the expression of free speech in Korean society."
"In this age of heightened inter-Korean cooperation, the NSL (National Security Law) is a Cold War anachronism," they wrote.

"It is the height of absurdity for North Korean books and materials to be available in South Korea, but for a South Korean professor to be criminalized for 'pro-North' opinions."

Show me more money

As a sequel to this post, I thought I should scan the first new 5000-won bill I have received.

I like the bamboo motif. And I'm glad they kept the original color scheme, unlike they did with the upcoming 1000-won bill (though I do like the new colors for that).

I'm not really big on the gourds and the butterflies. By the way, if the texture of this bill looks a little weird, it's because the bill got crumpled in my ski jacket.

A step against identity theft in Korea

Starting in 2008, the Korean government will be issuing new Republic of Korea Identity Cards (신분증 or 주민등록증) that do not include the unique thirteen-digit identification number (주민번호) that is based on one's birthdate and gender.

This type of information is prominently displayed on the current cards and could easily be picked up by an identity thief posing as a passerby. The information could then be used to obtain goods, services, or even money based on fraudulent use of the number.

I wonder when and if the Korean Immigration Service will make such a change with the Alien Registration Card and the Driver License Bureau will do the same with driver's licenses.

Wednesday, February 8, 2006

Japan's next heir? (This story is not what you think)

There has been a bit of buzz about the possibility that Japan might change its way of choosing the next emperor, allowing for the first time in (what's 2,006 minus 1,771?)... a very long time a woman to become empress. This would pave the way for Aiko (whom I like to call Aeja, to honor her Korean heritage).

But wait, that's not what this post is about, because all the talk that maybe the Imperial Household would be dragged kicking and screaming into the 20th century may be for nothing, because the wife of Crown Prince Naruhito's brother (Prince Naruhito) is pregnant at the age of 39.

Kiko already is the mother of two daughters, aged 14 and 11. If she produces a boy, and Crown Prince Naruhito's wife Masako is not able to produce a son, then guess who Aiko will lose her throne to?

To be honest, she'll probably be better off.

[photo: A large-screen television shows a beaming Princess Kiko. Judging by the English subtitle, she is apparently telling the Japanese press what a sizable and capable man her husband is.]

Thursday, February 2, 2006

Plunge proliferates

[photo: non-nude Ha Jiwon]

A funny thing happened on the way to the on-line forum...

The data from sitemeter.com is always fun to peruse. It gives me a sense of what kind of people are visiting, why they are coming, and sometimes even where they are located. It also lets me know that most of the crazy commenters who leave a few weird messages are all one person in Thailand. I also know that a certain controversial commenter is leaving an electronic trail leading to his Inchon-based academic institution—a fact about which this person might not be aware—and this blogger could be setting things up for a world of hurt if the wrong person decided to abuse that information. I urge this person to use an anonymous connection while at school.

Anyway, since Pope Plungius returned to the pulpit, links to my blog directly from the Plunge Pontificates have surpassed those from From the Naktong to the Yalu, the bloggist formerly known as the Marmot (well, maybe he still is known as "the Marmot," but his blog is no longer the scatalogical-sounding "Marmot's Hole").

I still get a lot of hits from the Marmot, and that hasn't changed, but there is that huge jump from Plunge Pontificates. What is it about the pontiff of pontification? Though I can agree with some of his critics that at times he can seem a bit too singularly anti-Japanese government (a very different thing from being anti-Japan), I guess we might attract a similarly moderate readership when it comes to Korea-related issues, as opposed to the knee-jerk Korea bashers that frequent some of the Korea-related blogosphere.

After Marmot said that Plunge essentially put him on the map (a map on which Marmot's pretty much represents the capital of Korea), I wonder what it is that concentrates so much influence within Plunge's blog. Maybe Marmot can share with us what he meant.

I also get a lot of hits from AsiaPages. I thought it was because of the prolific comments I used to leave, but more often the hits come from AsiaPages or Marmot's threads where I haven't even written anything. I get hits from Oranckay and Coming Anarchy, but usually only when I have written something or my post is linked.

And then there are the google searches. As I jokingly predicted, I actually am getting hits at this post from people doing a search for "nude Koreans" (I'm listed at #5; Marmot's is also listed, at #3; AsiaPages is listed at #7).

[photo: nude Koreans]

Surprisingly, a lot of people (a couple dozen a week) link to my site after searching for info on Haan Kilsoo. This archive piece is what they find. Apparently interest in this enigmatic person has jumped since a movie about him is in the works.

Finally, my favorite surprise link is the people googling "pimped-out minivan," who get to read about my Kia Carnival and its spoiler. Believe it or not, this actually happens about ten times a week. Who on Earth, besides me, would want a pimped-out minivan?

[photo: haenyŏ,also non-nude Koreans]

Kim Daejung 2, Kim Jong-il 0

Reuters is reporting that Seoul and Pyongyang are in talks to allow former South Korean President Kim Daejung to visit North Korea in April. , an aide to Kim said on Thursday.

According to an aide:
Kim Dae-jung hopes to visit Pyongyang by train some time in April. The South Korean government has relayed that wish to the North.
The Dear Leader has yet to reciprocate Kim Daejung's visit, even though this was apparently promised. He probably fears what might happen to him while he's here, or perhaps what will happen to his control while he's away.

The visit in June 2000 was as controversial as it was historic. My Halmŏni told me President Kim should be thrown in jail for treason, while others thought that it heralded a future of peace.

"Peace in our time," is how one person put it, with a note of sarcasm.

Kim later won a Nobel Peace prize in part for orchestrating the unprecedented and so far unrepeated meeting of the leaders of the two Koreas, which set the stage for greater inter-Korean cooperation, including work to relink roads and railway lines through the fortified Demilitarized Zone border that has split the peninsula since the 1950-53 Korean War.

But critics of "Sunshine Policy" said the visit was made possible by a bribe amounting to about $10 per South Korea resident. That and the fact that there is little or no reciprocity for what the South provides the North have led to a great deal of criticism against Kim Daejung and especially his successor, President Roh Moohyun and his preening former Unification Minister, Chung Dong-young, who arguably have distorted Kim Daejung's original intent to the point that Roh-style Sunshine Policy revolves around bending over backwards to not offend the North. Often to the point of going against the South's very interests and causing its alliances to deteriorate.

[photo: North Korea strongman Kim Jong-il and then ROK President Kim Daejung embrace at Sunan Airport near Pyongyang. Though it went undetected at the time, the Dear Leader, in an adept sleight of hand, apparently stole Kim Daejung's wallet, which contained a $200 million check and some family photos.]

Wednesday, February 1, 2006

The destruction of Yasukuni Jinja

This is a work in progress. It is not at all finished, nor is it refined. It will include a number of other ideas, including my own impressions upon my visit to Yasukuni Jinja last year. I am not allowing public comments on this, but if you would like to make a comment to me directly, email me.

Let's start with a little history about Yasukuni. I am not writing out everything, since much of it is quite innocuous. I encourage anyone interested in Yasukuni Jinja to go to their link and read the Q&A section..
Under the reign of His Imperial Majesty the people of Japan sought to join in spirit to revive the beautiful traditions of the nation. They desired to create a modern, yet wonderful country, that sought good will and understanding with the people of the world.
A country that sought good will and understanding with the people of the world. It is my belief that there truly were Japanese who believed in this noble goal: Japan was on the verge of reforming itself and modernizing itself and becoming a light across Asia. Unfortunately, militarists got hold of the country and mesmerized many across the land with their visions of Japan not as an enlightened partner but as a controlling ruler of Asia. And these people brought Japan to ruin. And it is these destroyers of Japan, among them the Yasukuni-14, who the Yasukuni Jinja shrinekeepers chose to honor in 1978.

Here's a blurb on the history of the Shrine:
During this time of rebirth for the nation an unfortunate dispute arouse (Boshin Civil War). Many gave up their lives for the sake of the nation. To convey to posterity the noble sacrifice of those who worked for the Imperial Restoration, the Emperor Meiji decreed in June 1869 that a shrine be built in Kudanshita of Tokyo called Tokyo Shokonsha. In 1879, Tokyo Shokonsha was renamed Yasukuni Shrine.
What does Yasukuni Shrine mean?
The name "Yasukuni" was designated by the Emperor Meiji. In this name is His Majesty's sincere hope for the eternal peace and tranquility of the nation.
Note that this is not the world, but the nation. Peace for Japan, as we can see in the Sino-Japanese War, the Russo-Japanese War, and the lead-up to World War II, does not necessarily have anything to do with peace for the rest of the world.
Later, also enshrined were those who had gave up their lives for the country in the 15 year period of the troubled times starting with the coming of Commodore Perry and his four warships to Uraga in 1853 to the end of the Tokugawa Shogunate.
So these people are enshrined and worshipped because they "gave up their lives for the country," something we see with the Yasukuni-14 does not necessarily include giving up one's actual life.
In the process of building a firm foundation for the nation several domestic struggles occurred such as the Saga Rebellion and the Satsuma Rebellion. Those who offered their lives for the country during these struggles were also worshiped at Yasukuni Jinja.
So the enshrinement leads to "worship." Okay, as long as we have that straight. It is not just honoring, but worshiping, which makes sense since it is a religious shrine.
Nevertheless, to defend the independence of the nation as well as the peace of Asia, the sad development of wars with other countries arose. In the Meiji Period there was the Sino-Japanese War and the Russo-Japanese War. In the Taisho Period there was the First World War. Then in the Showa Period occurred the Manchurian Incident, the China Incident and the Greater East Asian War (Second World War).
Japan launched a war of conquest against Korea, China, and then other parts of Asia, yet the Yasukuni shrinekeepers seek to teach that these conflicts were "defending the independence of Japan" and "the peace of Asia."

Here, the Yasukuni shrinekeepers again demonstrate their revisionist view of Japan's war-mongering past:

War is truly sorrowful. Yet to maintain the independence and peace of the nation and for the prosperity of all of Asia, Japan was forced into conflict. The precious lives that were lost in these incidents and wars are worshiped as the Kami (Deities) of Yasukuni Jinja.
So Japan's wars were to "maintain the independence and peace of the nation" and "the prosperity of Asia"? Japan's incursions into Korea, China, and then the rest of Asia were "defensive" and were "to promote prosperity"?! Despite millions of deaths, the Yasukuni shrinekeepers hold tight to this nonsensical wartime propaganda.

And this is one reason why it is disturbing that modern-day Japanese leaders worship here. At best they are turning a blind eye to this distorted logic, and at worst they are actually supporting it. If it is justifiable for Japan to have launched such a horrific war in the past, what is the threshold for doing so again in the future? If Japan thinks that the Allies "forced Japan into conflict," that threshold for future conflict might actually be pretty low.
Do you know how many Kami are enshrined in Yasukuni Jinja? The answer is 2,466,000 Kami. There are these great many Kami in your presence when your worship at Yasukuni Jinja. Allow me to speak about these Kami.
The article goes on to talk about how the kami are not just soldiers, but tens of thousands of women, thousands of children even, cameramen, etc.

Here's where they make no secret about the war:

Moreover, there were those who gave up their lives after the end of the Great East Asian War, taking upon themselves the responsibility for the war. There were also 1,068 "Martyrs of Showa" who were cruelly and unjustly tried as war criminals by a sham-like tribunal of the Allied forces (United States, England, the Netherlands, China and others). These martyrs are also the Kami of Yasukuni Jinja.
Ah, but some of the Yasukuni-14 did not "give up their lives." About half were sentenced not to death but to life imprisonment or a limited sentence and two died before their trials were even over. In particular, one died a free man after being released from prison a year later! Let's think on that man. Why is he even enshrined in Yasukuni? Doesn't his enshrinement betray the political motivations of the Yasukuni shrinekeepers? [more details on that later]

It is they who have corrupted Yasukuni. If they in turn say that kami cannot be disenshrined, then it is they who have effectively destroyed Yasukuni and what it stands for. They have two choices: disenshrine the Yasukuni-14, something they say they cannot do, or not have enshrined them in the first place, something they plotted to do. By taking a symbol of peace and turning it into a far-right, historically revisionist mecca, they themselves have destroyed the shrine as a place for the nation's leaders to come and honor the nation's dead. Many Japanese leaders recognize this, including the Imperial Family and most prime ministers since 1979, when it was revealed to the public that the Yasukuni-14 were enshrined.
Yasukuni Jinja is a place of worship for all people of Japan. I hope you now know about the Kami enshrined here.
The Kami of Yasukuni Jinja offered up their lives in battle with prayers for the eternal independence and peace of Japan, and the sincere wish that wonderful history and traditions of Japan, left to us by our ancestors, will continue to be conveyed to future generations.

The peace and prosperity of Japan today is the fruit of the noble work of the Kami of Yasukuni Jinja.
Not quite. The peace and prosperity of Japan--those who make Japan of today an excellent member of the world community--are those who recognize that self-serving, unwarranted wars of aggression are a very bad thing. They are the ones who stand in opposition to the current teachings of the keepers of Yasukuni Jinja.

Let us have greater love for "Our Japan" that the Kami of Yasukuni Jinja sacrificed even their lives to defend.

Finally, let us worship at Yasukuni Jinja and offer our gratitude to the Kami and resolve to become fine citizens of our nation. The white doves that fly above the Jinja also await your visit.