Tuesday, June 30, 2009

Because KJI deserves it, I guess.

The K-blogs are an incestuous place, with most blogs seeming to list the same usual suspects in their own blog role. Even the hated apologist sock puppeteer Kushibo is on many blog rolls (if only so people can feel better about themselves). Consequently, the only place I get much exposure to new blogs is through List of the Day, but those rarely have anything to do with Korea. 

But sometimes they do, like when the individual responsible for "People Who Deserve It" rants about Dear Leader Kim Jong-il seemingly twice a week in his "biweekly gangbang." On June 12:
#1- North Korea (again): WTF you crazy Koreans??? The rest of the world calls you a bunch of hogwild terrorists after you decide it’s a nice day to test your nukes and your rebuttal is to kidnap two innocent journalists and sentence them to 12 years of mining and whipping? That seems like a great way to rebuild your image. Maybe next you could rape some babies while they’re still in the womb.
Ouch. And on May 29:
#5- Kim Jong-il: Well, duh, right? But guess who just joined Twitter? That’s right, everyone’s favorite nuclear warhead operator. But don’t worry, Kimmy doesn’t post anything but butterflies and unicorn lies on his page, which wouldn’t even matter, because most Koreans are banned from using the internets anyway. Tweet. Tweet.
Feeling as misanthropic as I do lately, perhaps Kushibo should begin a "those who deserve it" weekly post or something. And I would start with people who twitter, particularly those who would correct me and say, "No, it should be people who tweet." Oh, yeah? Tweet this, mưþher fü¢ker! (It's a neologism, aßßhole, so there is as yet no set-in-stone way to say it.)

Really, why do we even tolerate such unearned smugness, much less encourage it, as The Marmot does on his blog now?! When did we start letting people with so much time on their hands and so little real-world responsibility feel like they were superior to us? 

Look, if you want to impress me with your ADD-fueled thumb-tapping, take down a government with your tweets. For a while there, it looked like you might succeed with Iran, but as that dies down (apparently) I'd say you dropped the ball. Who looks foolishly full of themselves now, huh? (And please don't reply that I'm an apologist for the Ahmadinejad just because I'm mocking you and I can spell his last name.)

But you have another chance, twitteristas. On July 23, they're holding a presidential election in Kyrgyzstan, an incredibly corrupt country that is also so fearful of Moscow that they'll fall to their knees and do whatever Putin wants if a bevy of Russians even threatens to fart flatulate in their country's direction.  

By the way, Kushibo is on Twitter. But don't expect any tweets out of me. I'm really doing it just to piss off and/or fluster the perpetual twittererers, since I suspect me not tweeting kills off small clumps of the twits' brain cells every five minutes or so.

News from the 56th state

The Winnipeg Free Press is reporting that global warming has been claiming fishing piers all across Canada. 

Also, a tornado reportedly tried to have sex with Saskatchewan. 

It was last seen near Regina. 

A man, a plan, a canal – Korea!

Crap! Now I'll never be able to use that headline ever again. President Lee has rooted out his canal idea. Get it? Root... canal... I'm here all week. 

President Lee's actual $100-billion Grand Korea Waterway plan would have been about as painful. Truth is, it would have been one of those things that would have been way cool if it had succeeded (loads of technical feats to be accomplished, especially for the 20-kilometer stretch that would be bored through mountains, that could have put South Korea on the engineering map, inspiring "Discovery" program ideas for years to come) 

But at the same time, it would have, perhaps, come at a huge environmental expense. You see, like actual root canal, it would have involved destroying much of the living, throbbing stuff beneath the surface in order for it to work.

A belated commemoration of the 잊혀진 전쟁

I was so busy and rather sick (a cold, mostly fended off with Zicam) during this past week that I entirely missed the 59th anniversary of the start of the Korean War. It's times like these that I wish to express gratitude to all the men and women in South Korea, the United States, and UN Forces member countries who died or otherwise risked their life for the defense of the Republic of Korea, without which the southern half of the peninsula would not enjoy the freedom and prosperity it does today. 

I make it a habit to tell any Korean War veteran I encounter how grateful I am and, if time permits, ask them a bit about their service. You'd be amazed how few people actually do that. 

Here's also hoping that someday soon the other half will also enjoy these benefits. And what better time to link to my June 2006 post on the same subject.

Kushibo's laugh-out-loud comment of the week

Linkd is one of my favorite Marmot's Holeians, if that is even a word. In the comments section on The Marmot's post on plans to set up a foreigner-only prison, this remark made me bust out loud and startle a nearby cat:
How much will Kangnam ajummas pay to get their kids into this place?
Well done, Linkd. I hope you will continue to grace the Marmot's Hole with your presence after you open up that liquor store on the Canadian steppes. 

I also thought KrZ, who spent time in a Korean jail awaiting extradition to the United States, provided an interesting perspective:
Korean jail, and from what I heard while there Korean prison, are delightful places compared to the U.S. I was housed with a Korean with American citizenship and two Chinese and we all got along splendidly for the four months I was there. The KA had been there the longest and was the oldest so he sort of set rules on keeping the place clean and tidy, which is necessary when you have four guys in 4m^2, but he wasn’t a dick about it, nor was he bossy. We mixed with Korean prisoners on the yard and when going to visitation/the doctor, and they too were generally very friendly and sociable. I would much rather have stayed in Korean prison for 3.5 years than in US prison for 2.5 years, even the food alone would make that a good deal.
Interesting. My own thoughts on the segregation of foreign nationals in the Korean prison system are in this post's comments at Brian's.

Oh, and don't expect anything that's entitled "of the week," "of the day," or "of the month" to necessarily be presented every week, day, or month. Kushibo just doesn't have that kind of attention sp... That dog has a fluffy tail!

Kushibo (and others) on Romanization

Thanks to Brian in Jeollanamdo Chŏllanam-do, Kushibo pops up in the media quite a bit, and not because of anything illegal or untoward. 

(Not yet, anyway. The evidence in those corruption, armed robbery, and sexual harassment cases is buried so deep, it's likely to pop out the other side of the Earth.) 
Anyway, here are some of my thoughts on Romanization systems, but you might have to scroll down a bit to get the full argument (spoiler: Kushibo is a big McCune-Reischauer fan, for good reason that has been put to the test). 

Kushibo's advice is to return to McCune-Reischauer (with the shi instead of si), work with Microsoft and Apple to ensure that ŏ/o and ŭ/u yield the same search results, and educate the population on how to utilize the system properly. If I hear one more person say they're flying into In-CHAY-ahn Airport, I'm pulling someone's hair out. 

"At the mercy of her mind"

The most emailed story in the Los Angeles Times today is the story of a six-year-old girl who has been diagnosed with schizophrenia. The accompanying video is especially touching.

Though this is a particularly severe case, it underscores the problems experienced by loved ones of those suffering from mental illness, the virtual full-time job caring for that person and the hope against hope that that child, parent, sibling, grandparent, aunt, uncle, cousin, or friend will find some happiness. 

The parents of January Schofield clearly have a sympathetic audience — to some degree at least — but imagine the same scenario in a culture such as Korea or most of East Asia where mental illness is a shameful thing, almost as if the family has done something wrong to cause it, in this life or another (and indeed, a similar cultural norm still lingers in North America). That is just one more huge hurdle toward solving it. 

I have worked with a psychiatrist in South Korea at a prominent medical facility, which gave me the chance to discuss mental health issues in the Korean context. Delivery of mental health care in Korea today, she said, is a decent sytem. The problem, she emphasized, is that too few of the people who need it are actually using it. 

Monday, June 29, 2009

Michael Jackson media frenzy spills (back) over into South Korea

I guess when the King of Pop suddenly dies right before he was to start a major comeback tour, it's reasonable that the American and global media would be falling over itself to find new ways to report on this. Like the death of the troubled Princess Diana, it's initial effect will last for days if not weeks, and it will still be discussed — even debated — in great detail long after the soul has left this Earth. 

And so it should be no surprise that stories of the Gloved One visiting Korea, as he did in 1998, are popping up even in the American media. Indeed, I found two such references, completely by accident, the Orange County Register picture above, where he is visiting cancer victims in South Korea, and in the Washington Post article below:
Two dozen people, mostly Japanese women in their 20s, stood in the lobby of the Shilla Hotel in Seoul, all dressed as Michael Jackson -- the black fedora, the Sgt. Pepper coats with all the faux-military doodads and the Ray-Bans.

Then Jackson himself appeared, and the dressed-up ladies started screaming as if they were on fire: Michael! Michael! Michael!

It was February 1998, and the King of Pop was in town for the inauguration of President Kim Dae-jung. It was never quite clear to me why one of the century's great fighters for democracy, the Korean Mandela, was buddies with the eccentric American pop star. But there Jackson was, waving itty-bitty waves in the middle of a wedge of enormous bodyguards moving quickly through the jampacked lobby. He swept by all the people dressed like him as if passing through some distorting hall of mirrors, and stepped into a minivan waiting just outside the main door.
Heh heh... "the Korean Mandela"... A reminder, perhaps, that President Kim Daejung's Nobel Peace Prize was awarded as much (if not more) for what he did before he became president than his controversial and expensive overtures to North Korea as president. 

Sunday, June 28, 2009

"The world is a better place today!"

I don't know if it's just Orange County, just California, just the on-line commenters of the Orange County Register, or if this is indeed an increasingly common thread in American public discourse, but the quote in the title was in response to someone with a Spanish surname — presumed to be "Mexican" — who was killed in an incident involving road rage when he was shoved or hit and fell into oncoming traffic.

No news is bad news

This kind of thing is something that makes public health specialists pull their hair out — and then write papers:
"No news is good news" is what most patients assume when they're waiting to receive test results. But "no news" actually meant "bad news" for one out of 14 patients with troubling labs, according to a study published Monday in the Archives of Internal Medicine. [snip]

The patients had received common blood and screening tests, including mammograms, pap tests, cholesterol tests and red blood cell counts. Almost 35% of the patients had abnormal results that fell well outside the normal range. But in 7.1% of those cases, practices did not inform -- or document that they had informed -- the patients.
That's a very serious problem for a lot of people. And I doubt the situation is much better — and possibly worse — in Korea, where patients are often expected to do their own follow-up check. 

Just curious

I plan to do a lot more fact-finding on HIV/AIDS policy, particularly testing, once I'm back in the ROK, to affirm or refute the claims made by Ben Wagner (of ATEK's no-testing-for-all campaign) and the activist AIDS/HIV report used for the human rights campaign he spearheaded. The above graphic, which appeared in Ben Wagner's Korea Herald article on the subject, is related to the following claim from the report:
As of 2004, there had been 459 HIV/AIDS cases reported among foreigners in Korea. Once a non-Korean is found to be HIV-positive, he or she is forced to leave the country without any care or counseling. Between 1985 and 2002, more than 200 foreigners were deported from Korea under the Immigration Control Law (Article 2, Paragraph 1) after their HIV/AIDS diagnoses became known.
I do not want to make light of the issue, but the claim (cited by Ben Wagner in various places) doesn't entirely jive with the statistics presented. Specifically, if an HIV-positive non-ROK national is "forced to leave the country," how did the 200 or so HIV-positive people cited in the above paragraph or the 126 people (647 minus 521) end up not being deported?

I'm not asking to be glib or to catch Ben Wagner in a "gotcha" moment. I am asking because I want to know about the actual process and its enforcement? Are these people who were found to be HIV-positive before or shortly after they arrived in the Republic of Korea? Are long-time residents who test positive for HIV also kicked out? Are people of certain visa types more likely or less likely to be deported? 

The same report seems to suggest that the Korean government does something a lot of other countries don't, which is to pay for fairly expensive treatment to keep the HIV-positive healthy:
The KNIH monitors the immunological status of PLWHA free of charge, and the Korean government pays for 100% of the cost of highly active antiretroviral therapy medication for Korean PLWHA. Seven AIDS shelters throughout the Korean peninsula are available for PLWHA. The shelters provide board, counseling, rehabilitation services, and education.
PLWHA refers to "people living with HIV or AIDS." 

Even though the above part of the report uncharacteristically paints the ROK authorities in a positive light, I probably should investigate this claim as well, including seeing how much (if any) the Korean health insurance scheme pays for people suffering from full-blown AIDS (i.e., the latter stages of the disease when patients are quite sick, a point that the antiretroviral regime hopefully will prevent). 

Now here is where it gets sticky. If South Korea is paying such a significant amount of money for each HIV-positive individual, can it afford to take on the health care costs of non-citizens who became infected with this deadly virus prior to ever residing in the country

From a national policy perspective or an insurance theory perspective, such a thing would become unsustainable. It would create a moral hazard of sorts, where HIV-positive individuals would have a tremendous incentive to get themselves into the system, which could end up with dire fiscal consequences that end up adversely affecting the citizens and legal residents for whom the insurance scheme was set up. 

I am not trying to justify deportation of HIV-positive foreign nationals. If I were forced to formulate an opinion right now, it would be that foreign nationals who became infected with HIV while living in the Republic of Korea should not be deported and should be covered by the National Health Insurance Corporation the same as any ROK national. Ditto with the "vouched for" foreign nationals (i.e., F2, F4, and F5 individuals), at least those whose spouse, parents, or children were ROK nationals. 

Anyway, this post is not meant to make a statement, but to ask the questions listed above. I'm writing this largely for my own notes, so I know what questions to pursue, along with my investigation as to what testing regimen is part of mandatory health checkups for teachers (both "regular" and "irregular") in the schools ("public," "private," and "extracurricular"). 

Thus far, it appears that both regular and irregular teachers at the public and private school level are given health exams that include testing for HIV, syphilis, and several other STDs, contrary to the report often cited by Ben Wagner as evidence of unequal treatment faced by E2 visa holders. 

Teachers at extracurricular schools (i.e., hagwon), however, are not faced with this kind of thing as part of their employment, though it appears that most would be subject to HIV testing through other activities in their life (e.g., military service and later military training, other types of health checkup, etc.). 

End of a (film) era

Kodak (yeah, they still exist) has announced that, after seventy-four years, they will no long be making Kodachrome film.

My first serious camera was a Minolta X-700 (which was stolen in Seoul twelve years ago by a native English speaker who was kind enough to tell me he/she was stealing it). I bought a lot of Kodachrome film for that thing. 

In honor of the lost Gloved One

The 1980s holds several dear memories for me, besides getting to various bases, most prominent being the Star Wars films and Michael Jackson videos. In honor of the death of Michael Jackson, the following combines two of those three (HT to LOTD).

"Swine flu" confirmed cases hit 142 in South Korea; up 27 from two days earlier

Officially confirmed* H1N1 cases, though still small in number, jumped 23% in the last two days, to 142 as of June 26. So far, there have been no deaths reported. 

The 115 figure as of June 24 was itself a 9.5% jump from the previous report two days earlier.

The June 22 report of 105 cases was exactly a 25% jump from the 84 cases on June 19 (about which I did my most recent post on this). 

Meanwhile, the US has reported a total 21,449 cases and 87 deaths, meaning the fatality rate is holding steady in the US at about 0.4% (1 death in 250 cases). The US cases are being updated less frequently than the Korean cases, with no new cases reported from the June 22 to June 26 period (two updates), but almost 4000 cases and 44 new deaths reported on June 22. 

Australia is also showing large leaps of over 10% in its number of cases, now at 3280 with three deaths. The cases in Australia and the US were the justification for declaring H1N1 a pandemic, which causes certain public health protocols to kick in, such as governmental release of money for developing and stocking vaccine. 

Next-door Japan is up to 1049 cases, a 156 increase from the previous week but, like Korea, with no deaths. Despite it's lower number, Japan's figure may be of more significance than Australia's or the US's because of the especially high rate of travel between the two countries. 

Japan and Korea have both remained especially diligent (though not perfect) about tracking down and then quarantining even possible cases, which may explain the low mortality rate so far (currently zero — knock on wood).

* "Officially confirmed" refers to those registered in WHO statistics for H1N1 infection (see links). 

Thursday, June 25, 2009

In defense of the UN

Normally I don't like to give too much kudos to people who apparently use an infamous porn star as their avatar, but aaronm echos some of my sentiments with this comment:
Here we go with the whole “the UN is useless” trope issued by the dreary, right-wing, don’t-give-a-hoot-about-what-goes-on-outside-the-heartland remoras of the board. First, I should issue disclaimers, lest the this gets the Brendon Carr treatment, but I am not a member of the left and I do have a pile of stories, from first-hand witnesses about abuses, sloth and graft in the UN. However, before we go throwing the baby out with the bathwater, consider that some constituent organisations, such as, let’s say, the IOM, do some outstanding work where governments fail. Again, disclaimer, my partner and several friends work within, but that is another thing. But rest assured, in our patch of SE Asia, given the goings on in Iraq, Iran, Pakistan and Afghanistan, we are slowly being swamped by asylum seekers and despite the best efforts of the Australian government to cash up the Indonesians to resist the onslaught, it’s still a losing battle. When we are getting 40-odd arriving by boat a day, mostly via Malaysia whose lax immigration laws (vis-a-vis arrivals from Muslim countries) and general lack of desire to do anything about the problem exacerbates it beyond control, someone has to step in and fill in the cracks. It is to that end that I see this particular branch of the UN stepping in where nobody else can. So before we bag the whole shemozzle, and heck I agree Ban is bad for the organisation and lots needs doing to reform it, remember the odd bit of good does come out of it.
Indeed, it was just today that I was at the UCI library gathering immigration data from the International Organization for Migration for some 

And guess what our president thought of your kids

The way some people carry on about any "Korean attitudes" toward interracial marriage and other race- or ethnicity-related issues, you'd think Korea invented racism. Or at the very least that somehow the United States, Canada, or whatever country they hailed from had become completely color-blind societies. 

I hate saying things like that because I hate tu quoque retorts, but when some problem — like opposition to interracial marriage or the children of interethnic or interracial unions — is held up as something that is especially a problem in Korea when in fact it's a fairly global phenomenon, it just makes me want to pull my hair out. Even more so when we see an anecdote about one Korean then applied to all Koreans. (If being regarded with stereotypes of Whites or other non-Koreans is a source of irritation, it's more than a tad hypocritical to then proceed to bash Koreans as a group based on individual cases, but that's a matter for another time.)

[above: In addition to running the country, Richard Milhous Nixon deejayed the White House's amateur radio station every Wednesday morning in the 3 a.m. to 4 a.m. time slot.]

At any rate, thoughts like these were going through my head when I heard our illustrious 37th president, Orange County homeboy Richard Nixon, had said on one of his infamous tapes, released yesterday, that abortion was not only justifiable but "necessary" in certain cases, like those of interracial babies:
On Jan. 22, 1973, when the Supreme Court struck down laws criminalizing abortion in Roe v. Wade, President Richard M. Nixon made no public statement. But the next day, newly released tapes reveal, he privately expressed ambivalence.

Nixon worried that greater access to abortions would foster “permissiveness,” and said that “it breaks the family.” But he also saw a need for abortion in some cases — like interracial pregnancies, he said.

“There are times when an abortion is necessary. I know that. When you have a black and a white,” he told an aide, before adding, “Or a rape.”
Nice. He was our twice-elected president, you know. (And there go my plans to have John Wayne Orange County Airport renamed Richard Nixon International Airport.)

Sure, sure, none of that compares with the dirty looks one gets when some blond guy dates a Korean. That's super ultra racism! Nixon was just being a Tricky Dick and we all know that. 

Besides, if you really want to see racism among the Korean elite, take a look at former ROK President Rhee Syngman. That guy was so opposed to interracial babies that he and his Austrian wife refused to have children at all! Bigoted monkey fu¢ker.

The Koreanization of UCI

Wouldn't have seen this type of ad at UC Irvine in the 1990s.

Wednesday, June 24, 2009

What is it with digging up Seoul hillsides for a handful of rich expats?

Seriously, do we need to deface this "green belt" in southern Seoul, known as Umyŏnsan (우면산, or Umyeonsan, shown above), just to accommodate a group of foreigners who can't be bothered to learn Korean or live amongst people who don't speak English like them?

I'd hoped that when they razed the Namsan Village or whatever it was called across from the Seoul Grand Hyatt, that this kind of thing was a thing of the past. I mean, I don't mind if people who don't speak Korean much or at all (which is most foreign residents) feel the need to coalesce in neighborhoods where goods and services are offered in their native tongue, especially since model that works so well back in the United States, but do we have to destroy Seoul's greenery in order to do it?

Here is nb's trip to Umyŏnsan.

A note on Naked News

The Marmot says "that Naked News has finally arrived in Korea." 

He is correct if he means that the Korean-language edition of Naked News has finally arrived in Korea, although even that is not quite correct, since the Korean version is produced in Korea. 

But if he thinks Naked News is new to Korea, he's wrong. In fact, Naked News was for close to a year (I think) a regular feature on the pay cable station Catch-One.

Every night at about 11 p.m., this premium movie channel would turn into the Korean equivalent of the Playboy channel, showing erotic foreign movies (usually French) and a steady stream of low-quality Korea-produced soft-core porn with simulated sex scenes.

The late-night programming often started with tamer fare, including a naked cooking show (I forgot the name, but it might have been "Get That Cleaver Away From Me" or "Hey, Watch It With the Grease Splatter") and, of course, Naked News.

Me, I never got it. I like news and I like naked women. But I want the two together like I want cute kittens in my tiramisu. 

And to be honest, I don't get it. Is there some point to it, other than an excuse to show naked breasts? Are they cynically showing that even the press — the pillar of any free society — is not above self-serving gimmicks in order to boost ratings? If so, that idea gets old real fast. On the other hand, are they trying to show that smart women (or, rather, smart-sounding women) can also be sexy?

I think in the end this is just a silly, stupid gimmick. And sorta demeaning.

Is Kim Jong-un the Edith Bolling Galt Wilson of North Korea?

Discuss (source material here and here).

A disturbance in suburbia

That's right: Kyochon Chicken is coming to California (if it isn't already here and this is just the first time I'm noticing it.) The location, by the way, is at the food court of a famous shopping mall in a high-end community. In other words, though there be Koreans here, this is not Koreatown.

It's a good thing, I suppose, so now first-generation entrepreneurs have something to aspire to other than just sushi shops (not that that's a bad thing). And speaking of sushi, don't expect to find much of it in Pyongyang for the time being, not that that has anything to do with anything.

I wonder if Kyochon will do 24-hour delivery. I wonder also if they'll run those controversial ads on Korean-language television.

One thing I especially like about Kyochon Chicken, in addition to whatever addictive chemical they put in their sauce, is that they use a K instead of a G. McCune-Reischauer is not dead! (Even though Messieurs McCune and Reischauer are.)

I forgot to mention that I find the Kyochon chicken's experimentation with cannibalism to be a bit off-putting. In fact, that propensity for marketers to use beef-eating bovines (this is how Mad Cow Disease got rolling), pork-eating pigs, poultry-eating chicken, and seafood-eating fish was brilliantly satirized in this classic Saturday Night Live "commercial" for the fictitious Cluckin Chicken, featuring the late, great Phil Hartman.

And speaking of Phil Hartman commercials...

Oh, I miss that guy.

Tuesday, June 23, 2009

Public service: You may be annoying your friends with your computer

My mother and a good number of my friends back in Korea are doing this

Gratuitous bikini post

Kushibo remembers when 99% of Korean women wouldn't have been caught dead wearing a two-piece swimsuit in Korea (and only about half would wear one outside of Korea). 

In fact, Kushibo's former fiancée, who was extremely self-conscious about her body image, would only wear a "one piece." Each year when she announced I was to take her shopping for a "one piece," I'd ask her which one, top or bottom. Then she's call me a 변태 for the 4538th time. It was our "Say good night Gracey" moment played over and over again (and that's three!). 

Nice, but you’d think the mosquito sprayers would wait until after the fashion show was over. (That's right, Kushibo is a joke recycler. And if you don't like, fu¢k you, because Kushibo has recently become a misanthrope: I must work STFU and/or FU into as many posts as possible.)

Exhibit 62 why you shouldn't choose your cartoonist through contests involving submissions of box tops from Froot Loops packages

Kushibo is tired today. Be misanthropic for Kushibo in his stead. 

But don't be stupid. The people who left comments at the Korea Times site were stupid. For starters, it appears one thinks the cartoonist is Korean. Not only is the cartoonist not in Korea, he's not even Korean. He's like a French guy living in Bangkok (heh heh heh... bang... kok). 

And then there's this guy:
North Korea has no business in Internations Sporting Events. For one, they are a Menus to all Mankind. They are sub-human, full of filt, North Korean s should be ban from travel or the particpation in all World Sports.
"Menus to all Mankind"? Those menus would come in handy if you had some Twilight Zone-esque restaurant who specialized in serving man. 

Kushibo is on a roll today: That's the second reference to black-and-white classic television I've made in the last six hours.

What Detroit sees in the rear-view mirror

Or should I say, "back mirror"?

According to the New York Times, Kia and Hyundai are leading the pack of smaller automakers that are benefiting from Detroit's woes, and it's not just because of lower price but greater attention paid by American consumers to quality. An excerpt:
In addition to the recession, and the bankruptcies of Chrysler and General Motors, a new threat has appeared in the rearview mirror.

Many smaller automakers are gaining a bigger share of the market, most notably Hyundai and Kia.

Together, the two Korean brands, which are both owned by Hyundai, hold 7.3 percent of the American market, the same as Nissan, which ranks sixth in American sales, behind G.M., Toyota, Ford, Honda and Chrysler. Last year, Hyundai and Kia had 5 percent of the market.

Their gains appear to be a replay of what occurred four decades ago, when upstart automakers from Japan started selling cars in the United States. At the time, American carmakers dismissed them, but today they control nearly 40 percent of the American car market.

Analysts see two main reasons that smaller companies are capitalizing on the auto industry’s downturn. One is that the shrinking of the overall market — the current selling rate is about 10 million vehicles a year, down 40 percent from two years ago — has created opportunities for carmakers that do not need to sell millions of cars to make money.

“You can be profitable at a much smaller market size, selling to much fewer numbers of people,” said Ron Pinelli, president of Autodata, which tracks industry statistics.

Second, he said, buyers have become much less focused on brands and more on the quality of the vehicles themselves.

“There are so many good cars out there to choose from. Everybody’s building a good car right now,” Mr. Pinelli said. “The average person who punches out of work and picks up some fast food and goes home to watch reality TV is oblivious to which auto brands are owned by which corporation.”

Hyundai, in particular, has struck a nerve with its Hyundai Assurance plan, which allows buyers who finance their vehicles to return them if they lose their jobs. Other auto companies have adopted variations on the plan.

Hyundai has also received an image boost from its luxury Genesis model, which was named the North American car of the year at the 2009 Detroit Auto Show.
Indeed, here in the US, Kia America has been running commercials focusing on its 15th anniversary in the United States, emphasizing that it sells more cars now than a number of "established" brands, including Lexus, Volkswagen, etc. Basically, making it sound legit to own a Kia (to counter the "killed in action" crap).

Your mission, should you choose to accept it, is to guess how the usual suspects in the K-blog commentariat will dismiss this. Will it be an accusation of a pay-off? Will it be that Korean cars have a lot of Japanese parts? Will it be that after the economy returns to normal, Americans will go back to buying gas guzzlers, leaving Hyundai and Kia with egg on their face?

Is Neda the Yu Kwansun (유관순) of Iran?


More selective misanthropy from Kushibo

Brian in Chŏllanamdo has linked to a Korea Herald piece by Benjamin Wagner that relies heavily on information from a highly activist paper on HIV/AIDS in Korea by Shin Surin that may in fact contain false information about HIV testing rates in Korea.
Stigma and discrimination toward HIV/AIDS has also greatly hindered prevention efforts. For example, the HIV/AIDS testing rate in Korea is low because people are afraid of the stigma attached to the disease.
If my contention is correct, the sentence might be accurate if it said voluntary testing is low, but HIV/AIDS testing — according to my preliminary analysis — is actually quite high because it's routine or mandatory in many professions, performed during annual health checkups that are required for employment. Along with syphilis and other STDs. Including teachers, by the way (but not at hagwons). 

Now, like I said, this is a preliminary finding. It may turn out that my sources are completely wrong. And if I am wrong about this, I will be the first to admit it, publicly and unequivocally. There will be a blog post — which I will link to wherever I have stated this contention — with a big fat headline entitled, "KUSHIBO WAS FULL OF SHIT ABOUT HIV TESTING." But, if I'm right, there will likely be the headline, "BENJAMIN WAGNER IS BULLSHITTING YOU ABOUT HIV TESTING." 

Unfortunately, comments are not allowed at this particular post of Brian's (just like here, where Benjamin Wagner went in and removed all the comments he made, including the insults and the questionable information), because we can't say things that will be critical of Benjamin Wagner, Tony Hellmann, or ATEK. 

All hail ATEK! Bow down to ATEK! 

You know, this is shaping up to be one of those things that if the Korean media were doing it, we'd be all over it.

Monday, June 22, 2009

One of these days, Yobo... Bang, zoom, straight to the Moon!

The Marmot presents one theory why the director of the upcoming film Moon , starring Sam Rockwell and Kevin Spacey, has chosen to name the base "Sarang," after the Korean word for love:
Is there a reason you chose to make the moon harvesting company a Korean American collaboration?

One reason for that is my girlfriend at time was Korean and the name of the base- Sarang- is Korean for love so that was me being a bit of a romantic. Korea also has one of the most developed robotics programs and it’s one of the nations you could accept would be involved in this technologically ambitious program.
The reason may actually have something to do with the real Korea-Moon connection

When Barry met some Lee

Here's Barack Hussein Obama and Lee Myungbak's news conference at the White House. If you want to watch two heads of state sound really, really goofy, check out the first ten or twenty seconds where BHO attempts Korean and 2MB attempts English.

On a totally mostly unrelated matter, Kushibo is full of anger and consternation about something right now, which is, ironically, the reason why I'm sticking around for now. I'm feeling extremely misanthropic (for me, anyway) and it might just spill over here. Such as comments making fun of BHO's Korean attempts or 2MB's English.

I don't know which Gen-X pop reference is more appropriate here: "Just when I thought I was out... they pull me back in" or "Don't make me angry. You wouldn't like me when I'm angry."

Saturday, June 20, 2009

Hanging it up

I think I'm done blogging. I just had an epiphany (mixed with a little anger and annoyance) and I think I'm through.

I'll see if I feel better come Monday. 

Well, it's a sure bet Jessica Simpson will never date a Korean guy

And this, ladies and gentlemen, is why Koreans are amazed when White people can say anything in Korean. 

Megan Fox shows Jessica how it's done. Sorta. 

I guess it's true what they say: Blondes have more fun... damental communication difficulties. 

Korean iPhone sneak peak

Kushibo has connections. I promised them I wouldn't blog about this but since they didn't fix my stuff for free last time, I'm just evening things out karma-wise. I just got a hold of the new Korea-based iPhone 3Gs and it is way cool. 

It's set for a July 4 release for the 3G-s (the newest one, "s" for speed) with an "Independence Day" themed publicity campaign (independence from mundane phones). The regular 3G (now on sale for $99 in the US) will be released on August 15 ("Independence for everyone else"). But they will be randomly giving away iPhone stuff (but not phones) on July 3 to people who walk by, as an enticement. The best thing about it is ...


"Swine flu" confirmed cases hit 84 in South Korea; up 19 from two days earlier

I haven't updated this for a week, and we've seen a big jump in H1N1 infections: from 65 on the WHO's June 17 report to 84 on the June 19 report (these will not include confirmations from the the last news cycle or so). 

The US, which had been reporting a majority of cases, has dropped to 40% of all cases as the virus moves to more regions. While Mexico and the US have experienced the lion's share of deaths, a total of ten countries have had experienced fatalities. This may point more toward how the infection spread or was handled than the actual virulence (mortality is about 0.4%). 

Australia's 2200 cases is the very reason South Korean authorities (and their neighbors) are so skittish right now. In case you forgot, the reasons are here

From a public health standpoint, it is interesting to note that no deaths have been reported in Australia; health care delivery systems and public health networks should take a look into what similarities or differences between the US and Australia may be factors. 

Inchon Airport is #1

I do like Incheon International Airport (and when writing about the airport, that's the only time you'll see me write that extraneous ee for evil, I say! Otherwise it's Inchon). My ex loved that place, and we'd planned several times to go out to the airport just to hang out all day (my ex was quirky; I'd only go along with it if we were already picking someone up). There's bowling, spas, E-Mart, affordable eats, etc., etc. And the parking is way cheap.

Anyway, it's nice to know that this great airport — clean, efficient, not too crowded even when it's full of people — is getting recognition. I recall the disastrous predictions about how bad the airport would be and how ill-prepared things were for the upcoming World Cup. Kudos to Linkd and globalvillageidiot for admitting they were on that bandwagon and they had been wrong. 

I do agree, though, that the airport needs that airport-to-city-centre railway line (AREX) to open up posthaste, though the limousine bus system should remain in place, of course. As r.rac mentions, there needs to be more good Western food (and good Asian food) on the airside as well as the main part. And while he's wrong that you have to travel to Kimpo Airport just to get a domestic flight, the airlines do need to expand some of their domestic air service from Incheon International Airport to better serve such people. Not everyone lives in the capital.

And speaking of the discussion at Marmot's Hole, I also want to give a shout-out to Hong Kong's airport. It's railway system is excellent, especially with the network of hotel-bound buses that feed into each terminal in the city. My mother was impressed. 

And I will defend Honolulu's airport, which has plenty to do once you're on the inside, and instead of ensconcing passengers in an air-conditioned hermitage, it basically is a giant lanai, using the air from outside to cool the passengers inside the terminal. That is Hawaii, and it distinguishes the airport from all the other look-all-the-same airports in the US. 

And if it may seem like an Asian airport, well, that's Hawaii, too. In many ways Honolulu reminds me more of Seoul or Hong Kong — with just a little Los Angeles thrown in — and that's nothing to be ashamed of, since that's the culture and flavor of this central Pacific metropolis. 

Maybe one of these days I should re-check out Orange County Airport (which I would like to have renamed from John Wayne Airport to Richard Nixon International Airport or Junípero Serra International Airport), which I haven't flown in or out of since high school. Ontario is nice, though, it does resemble a glorified bus terminal.


North Korea going to South Africa

In 2002, when the South Korean team did unexpectedly well in the Korea/Japan World Cup, many people cited the equally surprising success of the North Korean team in 1966 (above). 

North Korea will have a chance to repeat that performance next year, since their draw against Saudi Arabia was enough to give them an automatic berth. South Korea will likely go to the World Cup as well, but if they don't, I wonder how many in the Republic of Korea would unfurl their sky-blue hanbando flags and cheer for D... P... R... K! [Kushibo shudders]

NYT editorial on North Korea's brinkmanship

It's a few days old but worth a read, if for no other reason than anything the New York Times or the Washington Post says about North Korea policy probably has the most influence over the public perception — and perhaps policymakers as well.
Whether new sanctions adopted unanimously by the United Nations Security Council can deter even more dangerous actions is anyone’s guess. We know there is no chance if they are not implemented. The resolution leaves a lot of room for governments to avoid enforcement should they choose.

The resolution bars North Korea from selling weapons (ballistic missiles and parts are exports) or buying them. It authorizes states — but does not require them — to inspect cargo vessels and airplanes suspected of carrying North Korean weapons or nuclear technology. The North has sold missiles to Iran and other unsavory customers and a nuclear reactor to Syria.

It also calls on — but does not require — states and financial institutions to stop providing banking services, loans and credits that could support its nuclear or missile programs. That could have the biggest impact, if countries and banks heed the call.

It is encouraging that China, North Korea’s top supplier of food and fuel, and Russia were heavily involved in drafting the resolution. China’s ambassador endorsed what he called the international community’s “firm opposition” to the North’s nuclear ambitions.

But talk is cheap. China and Russia exposed their continued ambivalence by blocking efforts to make certain elements of the new sanctions mandatory. China also insisted on carving out an exception so that it could continue selling small arms to the North.
I'm glad China's role as North Korea's willing benefactor is getting highlighted. Anyway, as the Marmot always used to say, read the rest on your own. (And my apologies for not going through this in detail; I'm on the Mainland doing academic stuff, visiting scattered relatives when I can, and generally without my normal Internet connection, so I'm sorry if I seem lazy and my analysis a bit cursory lately.)

Well, duh.

The Korea Herald reports that Japanese lawmaker Motohisa Furukawa of the opposition Democratic Party is urging South Korea and Japan to work toward further strengthening their economic cooperation in order to offset efforts by China to gain more clout in the Asian economy.

The two countries, he says, could become leaders of the region "only if the two sides boost economic relations," says the KH.

Kushibo's been saying that for years. 

Speaking in Seoul at the World Economic Forum on East Asia, Furukawa said, "So far, South Korea and Japan have been in a stage of competition with each other. But if they broaden their vision and cooperate, they can create huge profits."

Apparently the Ayatollah's have never read a book on modern Korean history

Iran's supreme leader, top cleric Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, has ruled out massive election fraud and told the hundreds of thousands of people protesting last week's contested election to get off the streets, saying the consequences will lie with them.

Uh-huh. This is an on-going struggle that just doesn't seem to peter out, so what are the odds the Ayatollah will be out of a job by the end of the year? Well, he could always try to get work as a department store Santa. But not in California (or Michigan, Oregon, Rhode Island, or South Carolina).

WaPo on North Korea's insurance fraud

The Washington Post outlines insurance fraud allegedly perpetrated by North Korea. Some of it is downright comical:
For Kim Jong Il's birthday, North Korean insurance managers prepared a special gift.

In Singapore, they stuffed $20 million in cash into two heavy-duty bags and sent them, via Beijing, to their leader in Pyongyang, said Kim Kwang Jin, who worked as a manager for Korea National Insurance Corp., a state-owned monopoly.

Kim said he helped arrange the shipment and watched in February 2003 as the cash was packed. After the money arrived, Kim Jong Il sent a letter of thanks to the managers and arranged for some of them to receive gifts that included oranges, apples, DVD players and blankets, Kim said.

"It was a great celebration," he said.
Well, after all they did, it was nice of him to send the fruit. 

Friday, June 19, 2009

iPhones suck

According to Marmot (see below), the iPhone may be coming to Korea, or not.

cm says not to buy one, citing the keyboard. "Try to type something in iPhone," he says... And though I'm doing just that right now, it's probably far worse than the Blackberry.

Heed the words of cm's salesman, who said the iPhone he sold "was crap."

I mean, sure, you can type whole blog posts on your iPhone and the picture quality is pretty good, how many times do you really need to find the nearest Coffee Bean? How often do you really need to settle a bet with one or two pushes of a button to get into Wikipedia or elsewhere on the Web?

Overrated piece of crap. Don't get one. 

"Cash for clunkers" a good idea?

My ten-year-old Honda Passport is a bit of a gas guzzler, which never really bothered me since I only drive about 3000 miles per year in Hawaii (I live and work and study on campus). But if I could get $4500 (on top of the trade-in value) just for getting something more fuel-efficient, I might consider it. 

But no one's taking my LPG-powered Kia Carnival from me. 

Dodgers sign Korean teenager from Inchon

Eighteen years old, six-foot-one, and two hundred pounds, Inchonite Nam Taehyeok has signed a minor league contract with that other Southern California baseball franchise. From the article:
“I’ve been watching him throughout his high school years and believe that his excellent work ethic will push him up to the big leagues,” Byung-Hwan An, the Dodgers’ scouting supervisor in Korea, said in the press release.
From a totally bottom line-oriented cynical point of view, it's good business sense to have Japanese and Korean players on the team, because Dodger games (or Angel games) then become must-see events for tourists to the area, and this has some serious potential once the economy picks up again. Park Chanho taught me that.

"Megan Fox prays for Rain"

I know it's old news in the K-blogosphere by now, but that headline made it irresistible. And this line was pretty cute:
Can you see Megan, who is openly bisexual, and Rain, who clearly likes to wear lipstick, together?
Male pop stars wearing lipstick. Phht... That's so 1980s. 

I'm going to go cry in my macchiato now. 

Megan Fox apparently came to Korea and didn't completely mangle basic Korean greetings (see below). Megan, before you come back to Korea for the launch of Transformers 3: Avenging the Recycled, contact me and let me be your Korean coach. I'll show you exactly how to move your lips, tongue, etc., as you pronounce those difficult Korean syllables. 

Well, at least that was better than Jessica Simpson. Maybe it's one of those things where the darker your hair, the better you do. 

Ooh! And I just thought of another one of those connections: While Megan Fox is openly bisexual, Rain romanizes the Korean pronunciation of his name as "bi," which looks like a truncation of "bisexual." 

How does the K-blog commentariat react when someone hot (both in terms of attractiveness and money-earning popularity) has something good to say about a Korean male? Yeah, you probably guessed it

Japanese media: "I'm hot for leader!"

The Chosun Ilbo reports on the Japanese press's apparent obsession with finding out what they can about Kim Jong-un, the Dear Leaderette who will supposedly be given the reins of power when the next counterrevolutionary blood clot manages to reach daddy's brain. 

[above: Kim Jong-un (circled) and the rest of the cast of "How the Food Pyramid Helps Build You!" at the future Light and Hope of All Humanity's former elementary school in Bern, Switzerland. L'il Kim's social studies teacher, Frau Sophie Gruttman, recalls his attempts to amend the play with a bloody third act where the pyramid workers join together to crush an insurgency by the bourgeois Gang of Four Food Groups.]

It's a sure bet they won't be doing the same in Pyongyang anytime soon

Showing that comedians have cojones the size of beach balls, or no brains, or both, The Daily Show — that's a comedy show that trades in fake news — has sent a "reporter" to Iran — that's a theocracy run by very unfunny ayatollahs who don't like being ridiculed by decadent infidels. 

Their correspondent is in Iran to report on things like the election, the demonstrations, the violence, the weakening of the grip that an increasingly desperate ruling elite has on the agitated populace. 

Funny stuff, I'm sure. They're calling it "Access of Evil." 

This may make things a little less tense, but only a little.

North Korea has said that interception of its ships on the high seas would be considered an act of war.* 

Whether it's in response to that threat, I'm not sure, but the Obama administration "will order the Navy to hail and request permission to inspect North Korean ships at sea suspected of carrying arms or nuclear technology, but will not board them by force."

Yeah, that'll show 'em. 

* And for those of you keeping score at home, if we were to publish a list of all the things that Pyongyang has declared would be acts of war, we'd have a volume so thick that it would blow out your Kindle. I'm not even sure if North Korea knows what all North Korea considers an act of war, which may be why no war has ever been enacted because of these supposed acts of war. I mean, we destroy their boats, and they still don't declare war. Heck, the threat of Pyongyang waging war seems so low at this point that the area between Seoul and the DMZ has become prime real estate lately. Okay, I'll stop now, because I'm seriously tempting the Karma gods. 

Contemporary Korean artists highlighted at the Los Angeles County Museum of Art

From the Los Angeles Times:
The artists selected by the curators were born in the 1950s, '60s and early '70s. They grew up amid political turmoil and emerged in an international art scene that offered visibility in worldwide exhibitions and fairs. After studying in the U.S., France, Germany and England, some of the artists returned home, where they participate in a small but active art community.

Others maintain studios outside Korea. Koo Jeong-A, who will be represented by a tiny landscape made of powdered stone, studied art in Paris and now divides her time between Paris and London, claiming to live and work "everywhere."

Further clouding the picture of nationality, the exhibition includes a Seoul-based partnership between Korean artist Young-hae Chang and Marc Voge, an American of Chinese heritage.

They met in Paris and their primary shared language is French, but their art -- edgy digital poetry that flashes to the beat of fast-paced music -- has been published in 16 languages on their website and exhibited in galleries around the world.
Sounds interesting. I may try to make time to see this myself, after it opens this Sunday. Any takers?

Thursday, June 18, 2009

Jack O'Melons

Courtesy of the Joongang Daily, here are jack o'melons:

Typical Korean fluff in the yellow journalism tabloids known as the Korean press. There are millions starving up north and South Koreans are ignoring the whole issue and playing with their food. Blood ties, my aßß! Disgusting! What a waste! This whole country makes me sick.*

* This is what I would have written about this cute picture if I were a mindlessly Korea-bashing kvetchpat. 


Apparently the previous completely empty post was someone's way to show me that they've hacked into my Blogger account and can make, alter, or delete my posts. 

Wednesday, June 17, 2009

Not even the illegals want us!

The Orange County Register reports that illegal border crossings are at a 36-year low.

Sh¡t! Who are we going to blame for all our social problems?!

Kim Jong-il is stalking me.

Fear-mongering or cold hard analysis? In today's Los Angeles Times:
North Korea may be capable of hitting West Coast cities with its missiles within three years, a top defense official warned today, but is unlikely to be able to deliver a nuclear warhead in that time frame.

The U.S. assessment came as North Korea's rulers show signs of preparing for additional weapons tests in the face of international condemnation and new United Nations sanctions.

The estimate of three to five years, given in congressional testimony by Marine Gen. James Cartwright, the vice chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, is somewhat longer than previous ones from the U.S. military.

It follows North Korea's most recent weapons tests, including a nuclear detonation last month and a multi-stage missile launch in April that indicated progress but also highlighted flaws in the country's missile technology.
I've spent much of my life in the gunsights of North Korean weaponry. In Seoul, of course, and now in Honolulu, which is apparently within range of DPRK missiles. And soon they'll be able to find me in Orange County, too. 

Frankly, I'm sick of this. The Dear Leader is like a frickin' stalker. Next he'll be hacking into my email and reading my messages, trying to figure out who I'm talking to and what I'm saying. Bastard. 

Korea, France, and the fertility rate

This is something I will expand upon later, but for now...

I thought this Marmot's Hole comment by WeikbuBoy on the problems with Korea's fertility rate was interesting:
Korea looking to the French for the secret to having more babies is like post-Reagan America looking to liberal Holland for the secret to winning the drug war.

Humorous, nevertheless, that a country which demonizes unwed motherhood, criminalizes adultery, and makes it a virtually impossible for men to marry until they are 30, meanwhile treating women as children until they day they suddenly find themselves stuck at home with the requisite one child and no career and no one to help them and a husband who “works” till long after she’s fallen asleep exhausted (assuming his company is benevolent enough to even post him in the same city), and generally whether as a matter of policy or not does everything humanly possible to increase the misery of its citizens and crush the possibility of love (which is taboo in all but the narrowest instances, while prostitution flourishes and is perfectly OK) ~

[pause to take a breath]

~ should then turn around and wonder why its stressed and exhausted citizens have stopped having kids. Here’s a clue: let your employees go home to their families at the end of the day.
Actually, the Korean planners do recognize a lot of this, which is why they're focusing on the French model. This Washington Post article provides a good description of the French system, which has considerable applicability to Korea (if laws are enforced — a big if). 

Anyway, I thought it was a rather innovative idea to decriminalize adultery in order to increase the fertility rate. I'm not so sure, though, if the social problems associated with fatherless children raised by single mothers is such a good trade-off. 

And then there's this question: Are Muslims driving up the fertility rate (or rather, are French women producing as few babies as, say, their Italian counterparts)? Here are some thoughts:
An interesting observation by Toulemon (2007) is that immigrant women from Muslim countries in France have high fertility, 2.5 compared with 1.65 for French-born women, but that immigrant women are much more likely to give birth during the first two years of their residence in France than later, apparently waiting to conceive until they arrive. Adjusting lifetime fertility rates for this tempo effect suggests that "immigrant fertility is about 2.2, not much above average.
The 1.65 for French-born women is rather high, and this is before the new policies were implemented in full force. The link above also mentions that the "Eurabia" fears may be overblown:
Immigrants are not pushing up the birth rate as much as they seem to be" (The Economist, 16 June 2007, p. 32). Similar findings are reported for Sweden (Andersson 2004): "Most immigrant groups tend to display higher levels of childbearing shortly after immigration" (p. 747), but immigrants' fertility behavior rapidly adapts to that of the native population, suggesting that the fertility and population impact of immigration "might be less important than is sometimes assumed" (p. 772).
Anyway, these are some preliminary thoughts. There's a whole bunch of stuff I'd love to write about this, but don't have time right now.