Friday, July 31, 2009

Are restrictions about private teaching a way to stick it to foreign teachers?

I think I might take some of my comments at other blogs and turn them into kernels of posts over here. In that spirit, over at KoreaBeat, someone writes:
I think the intention of the law against foreign teachers doing private lessons is to keep people from being in the country illegally.
No, the restrictions against private tutoring have everything to do with trying to maintain an egalitarian playing field in a country that has that as a goal but which is forever realizing it is nowhere near that.

Private tutoring has long been seen as a way for the rich to maintain an edge over everyone else in the hyper-competitive race to get into top-tier Korean universities. By making it illegal, they have tried to level the playing field. The illegality of private tutoring has been tried in varying degrees — with most Korean nationals also being prevented from doing it at different times. Only recently have some of the restrictions been loosened, with college students, for example, being able to teach privately (if they report it) but not teachers and certain other individuals in a position of authority.

Though the laws also apply to different foreign nationals in different ways (depending on visa), the laws themselves were created for an entirely different purpose. 

At some point, when I have a body of resources to support it, I plan to write a piece on the origins of egalitarian narrative in South Korea and the efforts to strive toward that goal, since it informs a lot of policy in the ROK. Of course anyone can look and see that there are myriad ways in which Korea falls short (Korea's gap between rich and poor, particularly in housing costs and quality), but there are also some ways (universal health care) where it is much closer to the mark. 

Much of the egalitarianism, I feel, stems from providing a counter to the communist or socialist rhetoric that appealed to much of the masses during the days of Japanese military rule and in the post-liberation era when a throw-the-opportunist-collaborators-out mindset was dominant, and then in the ten years or so after the Korean War, when North Korea was seen as more affluent than the South. With direct democratic elections starting in the late 1980s, bolstered by direct local elections in the 1990s, egalitarian ideals gained new traction for much of the electorate, with politicians recognizing that addressing the needs of a wider constituency was a more effective (and legal) way to stay in office. 

One reason I think Obama is a cool guy (and good for the country)

I spent part of yesterday complaining how the likes of Lou Dobbs are tearing apart the fabric of American society by perpetually demonizing and scapegoating those who are different from them, particularly on ethnic lines, which is why I'm happy to present an image to counter that. 

To be honest, I thought it was perhaps a bit beneath the President of the United States to get involved in a controversial arrest when he was asked about it at a press conference, even if it was that of a friend of his. 

Sure, the arrest seemed to epitomize the real concerns of Blacks (and Hispanics) of perpetually being regarded with suspicion solely on the basis of their apparent ethnicity or race, and that was a teachable moment. The Black guy was arrested for disorderly conduct after showing ID to a White police officer who thought the Black man might be breaking into what was actually his own house, in an upscale neighborhood. But it did seem to me a bit like the POTUS was using his pulpit to bully the Boston bobby, and that seemed a tad wrong, just for reasons of proportion. 

Well, I think Obama brought us another teachable moment, and that was when he brought two sides, each with grievances of their own, together to talk things out over a beer. When this whole thing could have been left for pundits and partisans to bitch and moan about in the media, and when he realized he perhaps had stepped over the line by going after the police officer, Obama took time out of his schedule and modeled the kind of behavior we need if we are going to mend the tattered fabric of an increasingly divisive society. Good on him.

Thursday, July 30, 2009

Was Obama born in Korea?

No. And he wasn't born in any country beginning with a K. But Lou Dobbs and other "birthers" are leading the cry to get President Barack Hussein Obama declared ineligible to be president

Really, the question has been asked and answered. Move on. Please leave Hawaii State Health Department director Chiyome Fukino alone. She needs her rest. 

Seriously, I don't get these people. They are arguing a case that doesn't hold water. Why would State of Hawaii officials lie about this? Why would they risk their own liberty and profession to be complicit in this? And even if it were proven that Obama's mother left Hawaii to go give birth in Kenya, Obama would still be a natural-born United States citizen, so what's the point? Have these people thought that far ahead? 

Things like this make me just scratch my head and wonder if I even understand the United States. In October 2004, when Osama bin Laden released a tape designed to frighten the American electorate by reminding everyone he was still out there, voters responded in fear by voting for the person who had spent the past three years not being able to find bin Laden. In 2008, when the two major candidates were one born in Hawaii (Obama) and one born in Panama (McCain), many responded by making a huge deal out of the citizenship eligibility of the one born in the United States

As some have mentioned, this is a real credibility problem on the part of the GOP. If this were a handful of ultra-conservatives or fringe Republicans blowing this bugle, the Republican Party could ignore their rantings, but this has become a mainstream sour-grapes battle cry whose rattling threatens to knock the GOP off the table and into the trash heap of history.

[above: Lou Dobbs hates you.]

And while we're at it, I want to add that Lou Dobbs's prominence on television and his regularly scheduled rants, not to mention the similar message voiced on Fox News and throughout talk radio, makes the xenophobic reports on E2 visaholders' pot smoking look like a freakin' walk in the park. Not that that makes it right (it probably just makes it normative), but geez freakin' Louise, there's a really serious problem with demonization of Hispanics in general — not just "illegals" — and it is festering. While the Chosun Ilbo is a throwback to the bad old days, Korea is marching forward; I'm not so sure I can say the same about the United States. And that makes me very sad. 

Say hello to Laura and Euna while you're there

We're getting reports that a South Korean fishing boat was intercepted by North Korea and towed into a North Korean port. The crew of four are being ransomed for several hundreds of thousands of dollars each held indefinitely.

Reportedly, it was their GPS navigational system that gave out. And that can only mean one thing: They were probably down in Inchon trying to get on the expressway and after waiting and waiting and waiting while none in a stready stream of taxis, buses, and Ssangyong SUV drivers would let them in, they were forced to go all the way around, somehow ending up crossing the NLL, the de facto maritime frontier. We've all been there. 

If past handling of such incidents are any indication, they will be released in days or weeks, but not until they've had a chance to sample a few local delicacies. Meandering across an unclear maritime border is not as serious as crossing a clearly marked border in order to internationally embarrass the regime: twelve days versus twelve years.

In all seriousness, I have in the pipeline a lengthy post on why the maritime borders enforced by South Korea are an extralegal "land grab" perpetrated by the Republic of Korea. I might wait until I'm safely back in Hawaii, lest I get Gerry-remanded (assuming his unorthodox views are really the reason he lost his job). 

[above: In centuries past, dolphins would guide mariners on the open sea toward land or to large schools of fish. Nowadays, however, they're just as likely to lead you into territorial warriors patrolled by enemy forces, payback for decades of driftnet fishing. This playful porpoise is mocking a local tuna boat by repeatedly hopping back and forth over the Northern Limit Line (shown in blue).]

"I should have gone to college."

That's what I'd be thinking every minute of rehearsal if I were doing this:

Then again, with today's job market what it is, maybe they did go to college. 

Follow the money

When the Mad Cow demonstrations erupted last year, the K-blog love lines were all lit up with fingerpointing commentators. It was feverish anti-American sentiment that was a sign the US should pull out its troops once and for all, said some. It was all a ploy to embarrass 2MB into stepping down (yeah, like he even has a sense of shame), or to get him impeached. I myself blamed the machinations of Pyongyang's fifth columnists, who are always plotting to find issues that might resonate with the public enough to throw out the government and allow the liberators from the DPRK to march victoriously through Tongnimmun and down Sejongno. 

But after a trip to Costco, I realized we all had it wrong. Completely, horribly wrong. 

Who really stood to benefit the most from keeping American beef out, especially if a whipped-up public would ensure that no market growth would occur for seventy-five years? It's the Australians. Whose beef was rushed into replace American beef from Montana and Nebraska when that Canadian calf tripped across the BC-Washington border in 2003 and was immediately diagnosed with Mad Cow? It was the Australians. 

Evil, evil people. Descended from rapists, buggerers, and thieves, so should it be any surprise to anyone that they would plant a disease-ridden cow onto the back of someone's Ford F-150 and sneak it across the border from Canada. Canada, which is part of that same British Commonwealth entity thingee and is naturally complicit? 

When ground-up American beef was no longer available in your Big Mac™ in Myŏngdong, Korea's premium hanu didn't go up in sales, since it remained a high-price specialty item. Korean pork was used as a substitute, but it was cheap Australian beef, raised on land stolen from Aborigines, that was the biggest gainer. 

So when I saw that smugly posted sign over the heads of the beef mongers at Costco and the purchasers of their pastoral product, I vomited in terror. Well, not literally, but in my mind's eye I did, though that might have been suggested by a little aftertaste of the sample of grapefruit-flavored wine spritzer that had managed to make its way back up my throat (grapefruit-flavored wine spritzer, like lemon soju, tastes much better going down than going up). 

How long are we, the good people of the US of A, going to let the Aussies have a free ride militarily while they secretly plot to destroy Middle America? I say set them adrift... let them crash into Antarctica for all I care. When they're calling Obama on the red phone (or Palin, if the drift takes a while), screaming in agony as rabid penguins peck their eyes out, we'll just say, "Oh, yeah? Oh, yeah?! Stop undermining American beef, you kangaroo-diddling inbreds!" Then hang up and make them call back, just to show we're in charge. For good measure, let it go to voice mail once or twice.

The only thing wrong with my plan is that the Australians — too undignified to die an honorable death at the hands of flightless seabirds — will seek refuge in New Zealand, our true ally, inundating those hapless islands and screwing everything up there. Expect ovine STD crossovers to explode. 

I should add that taking the above photo with my iPhone involved no small amount of risk, especially considering all the molka (hidden camera) arrests lately. And lots of skill: I had to point it in such a way that it would look like I was just checking out the meaning of some word in the American Heritage Dictionary (AmeriHeriDic in the trade). The escalator attendant whose job was pulling carts of the cart wheel grabby thingee™ spotted me and told me to erase all the pictures I'd taken inside the store. I said sure, but I was on a mission, so screw her. 

And to be honest, this bit of corporate espionage has given me a rush. Now that I've taken on the evil forces of capitalism, I'd like to head to Pyongyang and see how I can put my iPhone to work bringing down the evil forces of communism. I could like accidentally walk into one of Kim Jong-il's lavish palaces or a market full of empty shelves and snap hundreds of pictures while pretending to look up symptoms of pneumonia on the WebMD app. North Korea now is part of the 3G network, so it's the perfect cover. 

And one other thing: We were told that the Australians were providing grass-fed beef, which is more natural and requires no antibiotics. But here's the Australian sign proudly touting its "grain-fed" goodness. Could this be another of those Canberra tales? 

Dang! 김태희 is everywhere!

Not that I mind seeing her visage everywhere, but really, is there any product she doesn't endorse? And while we're asking questions, does she even act anymore? While in the US, people do commercials hoping to make it big as actors, she is an actor making it big doing commercials and other endorsements. 

I suppose that's one of many ways where Korean market forces (and Japan's, for that matter), don't work quite the same as the US. So, add Kim Taehee to that list, right below furniture markets, electronics shops, or other specialty stores being clustered together in the same location instead of spread out across the city. 

If you're looking for a place to hang out ...

... try Yonsei's Severance Hospital. It's got restaurants, a Starbucks, and occasionally someone dressed nicely playing piano in the lobby.

There's also a Burger King located just outside this photo (to the right), which probably isn't the best thing to have in a hospital. That is, unless they're trying to drum up future business. Follow the money. 

Wednesday, July 29, 2009

Chinese show how it's really done

While P'yŏngtaekers get into a war of words over the sometimes violent strike going on over the closure and/or bankruptcy of the Ssangyong* Motors plant, they've got nothing on the Chinese.

When an executive from the private company taking over a state-owned steel factory announced to a throng of workers that they would be laying off thirty thousand people, what did the crowd do? They killed him.

Beat him to death, in fact, and blocked ambulances from saving him. They dispersed only when promised the sale would not go through. People's Republic, indeed.  

* Here's a cost-cutting idea: save 10% on logos and car name plates by dropping one of the S's. Non-Korean speakers would wonder just how the hell to pronounce that anyway. 

Monday, July 27, 2009

Coffee Bean Korea sucks

In the twelve months I've been gone, CB has dramatically expanded in Seoul. They seem almost as ubiquitous as Starbucks and McD's. That's good, since I love their vanilla lattes.

But what's bad is that they've systematically removed or covered each electrical outlet in their shops! Where am I supposed to go and spend four or five hours at a sitting doing work and blogging to avoid doing work?!

CB Korea, you now officially suck. CB Hawaii, however, still rocks.

Sunday, July 26, 2009

unwelcome passenger

I can't remember if I posted a picture of this creature or not, but this spider was living on the back of my car, over the rear license plate, for about two months. I didn't have the heart to kick him/her off.

If you don't like nature — spiders, mosquitos, mosquito-munching geckos, and moths the size of your hand — stay away from Oahu. I'll have pics of all those things later. 

Oriental market on King Street

A sign of Honolulu's own ethnic diversity, but also an indication of how increasingly dominant the Korean immigrant population is becoming. This is on King Street, in the heart of Chinatown, a bit of a ways from the areas of Honolulu close to Ala Moana where Japanese and Korean shops coexist side by side in large numbers. Indeed, I suspect the Korean-language signs are more geared toward tourists than Korean-speaking local residents. 

Kim Daejung moved back to ICU

This is a couple days old, but a the morning after being moved to a regular room at Yonsei Severance Hospital (they still have my appendix!), former President Kim Daejung was moved back to the intensive care unit and put on a respirator

According to hospital spokesman Lee Sung-man:
Kim Dae-jung was moved to a normal hospital room around seven in the evening on Wednesday at his request. However, he was moved back to the intensive care unit and under a respirator early this morning because of a pulmonary embolism, which can occur in elderly patients. Kim's vitals have been returning to normal since three in the afternoon today, but the respirator has not been removed.
A pulmonary embolism sounds quite serious, but it may be a manageable condition, since they are aware of it. Here's hoping and praying he's out of the woods soon.

Name that spot

This location is a household name. I spent quite a while traipsing through this area but saw no more than four people (two groups of two) over the course of an hour, despite the relative ease of getting to this place. Depending on how much you get around, the answer may surprise you.

An early preview of fall foliage. That peach-colored thing is a 'shroom. 

Gone fishin'

Can't get any fresher than that. 

This was a reasonably affordable restaurant in the Hondori district of Hiroshima, down a side street from the blocks-long covered market (below).

On the Miyajima ferry

I'm one of those people who owns a camera where people who own nice cameras say that people like me don't deserve a camera like that. Sure, it's a low-end Nikon digital SLR, but it does more than I know how to make it do and I haven't yet taken the time to figure all that out, so I probably am undeserving.

Nevertheless, I unleashed it on Hiroshima Prefecture recently, including the above shot of the sun setting over Honshu, taken from the ferry that plies the waters between the main island, a half hour south of Hiroshima, and the island of Miyajima, site of the famed Otori shinto gate (below). 

Noryangjin fish market

Some time ago (last week? two weeks ago? Time is a blur to me), I went with Daniel of Seoul Eats and two of his buddies to Noryangjin fish market. I was on a mission to re-enact a meal of maguro-over-rice I'd had with some relatives in Tokyo's Tsukiji fish market a few years back. 

Noryangjin is smaller in scale than Tsukiji, but it is still the same type of place: lots of fresh fish being unloaded, and then prepared and sold to numerous restaurants across the capital area (and beyond?). Lots of guts flying, and loads of things to make the squeamish squirm. As soon as I can figure out what's wrong with my SD card, I'll download a whole photo stream and add some narrative. 

Not the best habit to get into

I am stoked that McD's in Korea now has Egg McMuffins. For me and mine, this is "road food," but I've been eating this way for the past week.

Oh, and it's way cool that I'm able to connect wirelessly with my iPhone -- without any paid service -- from quite a few places. (taken with iPhone)

Saturday, July 25, 2009

맛있는 돌솥비빔밥

I really should start a food blog. (taken with iPhone)

"Cash for Clunkers" rules announced

Two weeks ago I mentioned Hyundai getting a jump start on the so-called "Cash for Clunkers" program whereby Washington will offer incentives of $3500 to $4500 per vehicle if the owner of these older gas guzzlers trades it in for a more fuel efficient car. 

Well, the government finally announced the official rules, so if you have a car in the States worth less than $3500 or $4500 and you've been looking into getting a new car, now's the time. Fortunately for Hyundai, the official rules are pretty much the same as the proposed guidelines that had been announced. Otherwise they'd have a few jalopies on their hands. 

Friday, July 24, 2009

Baseball-playing robots

University of Tokyo professor Masatoshi Ishikawa has created two robots, one which can throw pitches and the other that can hit them:
The pitching robot, with its three-fingered hand, can throw 90 percent of its pitches in the strike zone, won't need any relief from the bullpen and never asks for a pay raise.

The batting robot, which has a sensor to determine if pitches are strikes or balls, hits balls in the strike zone almost 100 percent of the time, doesn't swing at pitches outside the strike zone, and is guaranteed to pass all drug tests.
Ninety percent of the pitches are in the strike zone and hitting one hundred percent of all balls in the strike zone? Wow, so we have the answer to an age-old question: Is it possible to make baseball any more boring?

The other age-old question: When are you going to make the sex robots? Come on, you can call them botstitutes. Seriously, though, it's doubtful any Japanese company (or Korean) would come up with a sex-providing robot: Right now the prospect of getting laid is the only thing that makes geeks get married, so if there were another avenue for sexual fulfillment, Japan's pancaked fertility rate would drop even further (ditto with Korea). 

[above: The only time nerds ever watch baseball.]

Did you know?

America has a vice president. His name is Joseph Biden and he used to be a senator from Delaware, although he was raised in Scranton, Pennsylvania, which is where "The Office" takes place

Seriously, either Obama is so high-profile or Biden is so low-key, but I actually go through periods of time where I forget — literally forget — we have a vice president. Sure, it could be Early Onset Gen-Xer Dementia, or maybe the fact that I just have way too much sh¡t falling apart in my life (Kushibo has some major personal things going on, but that's a story for another day). 

When he warned — in the New York Times no less — that we should expect sacrifices in Afghanistan, I did a double-take. We have a vice president. And he speaks!

Really, does anyone pay any attention to him? I think the White House sort of keeps him under wraps. Even the Georgia Honor Guard (below) seems more inclined to show off the camera-glamming skills they've learned thanks to the Korea Wave than they are to pay the frickin' VP of the greatest country in the world some frickin' respect!

Seriously, when Bush43 was president, we paid attention to Cheney, if for no other reason than to see if Dick's lips moved when Georgie talked. Al Gore, though a bit stiff, was a major player in Clinton's White House (my favorite headline in the 2000 campaign: "Clinton feels Gore's woody"), and Quayle was always there to be Quayle. Biden, he's just below the radar. 

Anybody have any thoughts on how we can put Biden to good use? I mean, he takes in a huge salary, so we should have him do something besides the occasional getting up in front of a microphone and stating the obvious. At least wash my Honda. It's pretty dirty. 

[above: This bald man has no ideas. Some nerve, telling us how to run the country. He doesn't even have hair!]

Good cop, bad cop

(My apologies if the above graphic choice trivializes the intended seriousness of this post.)

I would like to offer this post as a forum for people to describe their bad run-ins with Korean law enforcement. I'm not asking for names of victims (though a way to follow-up by email would be nice). In particular, it would be good to list the specifics of what police station, time of day, type of situation, etc. If you have "my friend one time..." story, please encourage that friend to tell their story. If you wish to be anonymous, email me and I'll remove any identifying details (or not post the story at all but save it as part of the corpus of complaints). 

These can include cases where you felt the police abused their powers (even in cases where you violated the law) or did not follow proper procedure, or when they were negligent or dismissive in cases where you were the victim or reporting a crime.

Criminologists in Korea are concerned about foreign residents not being treated properly by the authorities. Instead of griping in English-language K-blogs, it might be more useful to present a corpus of information to people in a position to do something. 

Of course, good stories are also welcome. When I get a little time, I'll try to include some of my own (mostly good, but some bad things, too). Be as lengthy or as concise as you want to be.

Wednesday, July 22, 2009

Boa on Enertainment Weekly

Wow, it looks like this girl's career is really taking off in the US. Well, it's already a huge-mega-hyper-ultra success in Korea, Japan, and much of the rest of Asia. The girl has smarts and talent — and pretty decent looks — so I hope she does well. Now if only the banking crisis will take down Bank of America so that all Google searches for "BoA" will go to her and not to that teetering financial institution.

Frankly, though, I'm not a big fan of the look she adopted for this video, though. I like the "pure" BoA look.

Does California have an 8.15 amnesty in its future?

California's serious budget crisis may be bad news for most of you (if you live in California), but it could be good news if you're in prison. According to the Los Angeles Times, less money means fewer dollars to keep convicts locked up, so some convicts are to be sent to county jail while others are set for early release

On the plus side, I see the potential for an good action flick out of this. Townspeople, led by a no-nonsense warden who's just been laid off, form vigilante groups to fight back against the torrent of hardened criminals that have been released into their midst after the local prison closes down. Governor Schwarzenegger can play the ex-chief of the prison, let go by the budget cuts, right after we oust him in a recall later this year. (When he loses that election, I hope he deadpans this line: "Total recall.") 

[above: Most of the people in this picture are celebrating news that they may be released soon (the others are forcibly sodomizing prisoners smaller than they). Note the similarity of the response in the poster for the Korean movie Jail Breakers (광복절 특사), up above. Scary. That was a comedy, but this was effin' scary. I just hope that when they start releasing prisoners into the wild, they start with the potheads. The mellow, laid-back potheads who, like the Cha Seung-won character, have a fondness for donuts.]

Oh, geez. I don't know who to support

[above: Iran's Supreme Leader, Grand Ayatollah ali Khamenei, playing El Saint Nick at last year's Christmas party.]

We're often told that the real power in Iran is not in the presidency but in the ayatollah who is the Supreme Leader, and the clerics who support him. Reformist clerics have been criticizing the nature (and results) of the highly controversial (and contested) recent election, thus giving support to opposition candidate Mir-Hossein Mousavi.

I really don't like Mahmoud Ahmadinejad and have been hoping that the protests will pick up again and lead to his ouster (Joshua thinks they are), so I'm torn about how I feel about this recent news coming out of Iran: President Ahmeadinejad is defying his patron cleric by refusing to get rid of his new vice president.

Esfandiar Rahim Mashaei (above) is despised by hard-liners in the Iranian theocracy because he insisted that the Iranians have no quarrel with the Israeli people (something one imagines that the president himself might have trouble saying).
Ahmadinejad surprised many observers by defending the vice president, Esfandiar Rahim Mashaei, an in-law, in the face of a torrent of criticism from his hard-line allies.

News agencies confirmed Tuesday that Khamenei sent a letter to Ahmadinejad on Monday asking for the removal of Mashaei.

"The president should announce the dismissal, or acceptance of the resignation of Rahim Mashaei right away," said Mohammad Hasan Abu- torabi, the deputy speaker of parliament, according to the semiofficial Iranian Students News Agency.

But Ahmadinejad insisted on state television that Mashaei "will continue his job," adding, "he is very loyal to the Islamic Revolution and a servant of people."
So we have bad theocrats, bad president, but good VP. So is the bad prez a good prez for standing behind the good VP? My head is starting to spin. 

Capturing "that Kogi magic"

The Los Angeles Times is reporting on how the Kogi truck phenomenon — a 45-minute wait in a party atmosphere for a two-dollar fusion taco consisting of kalbi, or Korean barbecue — is spreading. And it's not just the Calbi truck, which the LAT calls "a blatant Kogi imitator, but dozens of others. 

The question is, though, whether this new phenomenon is about the truck or about Kogi's kogi (meat). I mean, people are going online to follow the Kogi Roja truck to find out whether it's going to be anywhere in the area or not. Ditto with Calbi, which essentially hijacked Kogi's business model, down to the logo layout and the tweeting

For stationary eats, Baja Fresh has started putting kalbi into their Mexican fare, so maybe it really is all about the Korean barbecue. (Baja Fresh, by the way, dropped kogi from their name, fearing a lawsuit. I wrote to them to urge them otherwise, promising even to be an expert witness if there ever were legal action. My hope is to get a free trip to California out of the deal, plus a stay in a nice hotel where I can legally play go-stop). 

[above: This is a food truck, but it's essentially an ice cream truck, which is really nothing new; I was chasing them down back in Compton (it was a more innocent time, when chasing down a truck was not likely to draw gunfire). But Coolhaus customer Jennifer Lien looked so cute standing there with her ice cream sandwiches that I decided to put this pic up instead of one of people standing around waiting for meat. After all, despite my recent efforts to reach out to a new demographic, I still have my liking-to-see-cute-smiles core demographic to pander to.]

Clinton says the US "is back" in Asia

So says the Associated Press, via WaPo. 

I wasn't aware the US had left, though for a while it seemed to be hanging about the exit. 

Annals — American versus Korean self-criticism

Every now and then, usually while looking for something else, I run across something I wrote on someone else's blog and think to myself that I should have made an entire post about that. Instead, I think I'll just reprint some of them right here, pretty much as. 

From June 2005, from a Mizar's Marmot's Hole post entitled "On Being an American Expat in Korea":
I don’t know where you went to college, usinkorea, but in classes where I went they were willing to talk as freely about the problems in other countries as about the US. But I know a lot of people have had something like the experience you mention (and some people in our school got a little goofy about Whites and racism, so some of that Ivory Tower loopiness invaded our campus, too).

American culture does have a self-critical streak (which counters and contradicts the “love it or leave it” streak). The result is that all America’s warts are out there in the open for anyone to see. Since US-based media (CNN, UPI, AP, NYT, WaPo, etc.) tend to be dominant world media, everyone outside the US sees America’s warts as well.

Not so with, say, Korea. In the Korean media, Koreans constantly talk about a whole bunch of Korean problems, including whether or not Roh is irresponsible for the things he utters, whether or not it is wise to try to make South Korea a “balancer,” and whether North Korean refugee problems should be downplayed in favor of better relations with North Korea and China. But since almost all of this is in Korean, it doesn’t get very far beyond the peninsula.

Self-criticism of one’s nation is not a uniquely American trait, but the unique position of America means that Americans’ own criticisms of their country (which are often right) are magnified for all the world to see. And then the great and the good of America are forgotten or obscured.

God forbid if the radical leftists really do succeed in pushing USFK off the peninsula, it will be as much to do with people like Bruce Cumings, a self-loathing American who tried so hard to paint the US presence in Korea as near-evil while depicting the North Koreans as misunderstood patriots, and whose books became a bible for the student movements as they formed their anti-American sentiment. It’s an American telling us the truth about America, so that’s all the credibility checking that’s needed.

And not just people like Bruce Cumings, but also the American who was helping the “Eradicate US Crimes” group with their English-language resources, who I once called up (2000?) about getting data about violent crimes committed against Korean nationals by USFK personnel. After asking about murder rates, I asked if he had similar data on USFK personnel killed by Korean nationals. His incredulous response: “Does that even happen?”

Of course it does, but he didn’t care. He was part of the matrix of Americans who respond to excessive American patriotism by trying to depict America to others in the worst possible light, even if that requires ignoring at least half of what America is and does.

Yeah, I do believe that if the US were to leave Korea, it would be a disaster for Korea, for the US, and for its other allies here. But if that ever happens, we’ll have Americans like Bruce and this other guy to thank for it.
Now if only I could summon Lost Nomad and Asia Pages from the great beyond. 

Is North Korea helping Burma go nuclear?

That question is being asked in influential circles. Is there any substance to the idea, or is it more of the pile-on we've been seeing lately? 

Certainly any export of North Korean nuclear technology or weapons — if that is really what is happening — is a game changer, and such a thing should be stopped. That prospect might give impetus for China and Russia to allow the UN sanctions to really work. 

70 million won for baby-swapping mistake

I don't know how I would possibly handle something like this. A mother in Kuri discovered that her sixteen-year-old daughter couldn't possibly be her biological child based on hers and her husband's blood type. The daughter is type-A but the parents are both type-B. 

It turns out that, back in 1992, a nurse in the hospital had accidentally switched the babies. A court has recently ordered the hospital to pay the family 70 million won (about $56,000) for mental suffering. According to the BBC, the court has refused a request for the mother to see the other daughter's records — those of her biological daughter — out of privacy concerns. This is still being sorted out.

What a Hobson's choice facing both families: The daughter you raised is still your daughter, and to reject her for your biological daughter is cruel abandonment. Yet how do you just ignore your own flesh and blood? It would take the most patient and wisest of parents to find a way to jointly be involved in both girls' lives, but sadly such parents are often in short supply.

Wendy Williams and The Wonder Girls bridge Korean-Black divide

[above: The Wonder Girls show off the gun-pointing pose they learned during their stay in New York City, much to the amusement of Wendy and the twins.]

International pop sensations The Wonder Girls have made their American television debut on the Wendy Williams Show. The show will no doubt go into the annals of pop music events, along with the Beatles' appearance on the Ed Sullivan Show

For her next stop on the "Feel the vibe from here to Asia, dip trip flip fantasia" tour, Wendy Williams will invite the Gosperats (above) and The Bubble Sisters (below).

[HT to Brian in Chŏllanam-do, which is where I get all my The Wonder Girls news]

Cloned sniffer dogs

The Los Angeles Times has a piece on cloned dogs being used at Incheon International Airport. The Labrador retrievers are genetic copies of a successful Canadian sniffer dog, created by Lee Byung-chun, a former colleague of disgraced cloning specialist Hwang Woo-suk.
Seven cloned puppies were born, and six completed the 16-month training program to become sniffer dogs. (The seventh had to drop out of the training program due to injury.) Three of the six Labradors that completed the training program have now reported for duty at South Korea's main airport, Incheon International Airport. The other three are assigned to customs checkpoints in Incheon and two other cities.

As was the case with previous dogs cloned at Seoul National University, the cloned sniffer dogs don't have the most creative of names: All six are named Toppy, a not-terribly-clever amalgam of "tomorrow" and "puppy." ("I'd have thought that would be Tomoppy," was one BBC reporter's comment.)
BBC reporter, keep your day job. 

[above: The biggest problem with cloned dogs is that they all go to the exact same place at once.]

Threat level raised as H1N1 infections officially cross 1000 mark

So says the Korea Times. This means a shift in how the growing epidemic is being tackled:
The government said Tuesday it was upgrading the level to orange, indicating alarm, from yellow, meaning alert, at a Cabinet meeting. The level is comprised of four steps ― blue (attention), yellow (alert), orange (alarm) and red (serious).

"We are seeing an increasing number of patients'' an official from the Ministry for Health, Welfare and Family Affairs said. "The possibility of mass infection is now growing due to students coming home from overseas study, summer vacation and international events. We concluded that the flu could become a pandemic here in the latter half of this year, with the weather getting colder, so we are hiking the level.''

The current preventive system, which monitors those entering from other nations, will be changed to focus on treatment rather than prevention, it said.

Patients will be isolated at major hospitals nationwide. If the numbers increase, the authorities will isolate only serious patients. Others with minor symptoms will be asked to stay at home and visit hospital for treatment.

The central government will also secure as much vaccine as possible and inoculate infants, children, the elderly, soldiers and quarantine officers from November.

It recommended schools avoid after-hours programs during vacation time and halt them immediately when a patient is confirmed. Private tutoring institutes were also advised to suspend classes when a student is confirmed to have contracted the virus.
As a few in the English-teaching field have mentioned before, hagwons that mix students from a variety of area schools can become nodes of infection, so the authorities should be ready to pounce on them if they have infected students (or teachers). Loss of revenue is an incentive for them to stay open, though the prospect of their school being a Typhoid Mary nexus of a local outbreak could provide a significant disincentive. 

MMA fighter fakes death to avoid community service

Well, that's what this article from the Orange County Register seems to be saying about Ultimate Fighting Championship star Kimo Leopoldo, who has been reported dead from a heart attack at the age of forty-one:
On the same day of his reported death, Leopoldo was sentenced to 10 days of community service and mandatory participation in a drug diversion program, stemming from a February arrest in Tustin for possession of marijuana while wearing a Long Beach police officer jumpsuit.

Two plainclothes detectives found Leopoldo in a Tustin parking lot dressed in the suit, playing with a yo-yo and leaning against a car in which he had been a passenger.

Leopoldo was waiting for the driver of the car who went into a pharmacy, defense attorney Victor Hobbs said.

The woman who owned the car disappeared after seeing police outside of the pharmacy.

Detectives then searched the vehicle and found a pipe and a small amount of marijuana.
If you're going to impersonate a cop — and I can't emphasize this enough — lose the effin' yo-yo. Cops hate yo-yos. Everybody knows that!

Anyway, Kimo's plan was as simple as it was brilliant: Fake his death, avoid that pesky ten days of community service and the drug diversion program, and watch on the telly one's Michael Jackson-esque funeral and life celebration, replete with weeping fans, before heading down to a retiree village in Baja California's seaside town of San Felipe to live out one's life under the assumed name of Juanito Burns. At least, that's what I assume he's plotting.

[Note: While there is no Korea connection to this story, Leopoldo's first name is Kim, and the guy has lived in both Orange County and Hawaii, which makes a Kushibo connection. If only he'd also lived in Compton, then it would be like we're the same person, man.]

Kimo shows up at the Orange County Sheriff's Department to show he is alive and, apparently, will serve his time. Will Michael Jackson be far behind? (I must admit, I was sort of hoping the Gloved One had pulled a fast one.)

Mean Girl

After likening North Korea to a child needing a time-out, Clinton has gone a few years into the future and is sounding more like the leader of a high school clique. Specifically, she's saying she won't talk to North Korea if they both show up to the upcoming ASEAN Regional Forum in Thailand. 

It's all good, I suppose, since her stated objective is to only talk with the NorKs if they come to the party six-party talks. I just hope Clinton and North Korea aren't wearing the same dress, because then all hell would break loose. 

In all seriousness, I respect the idea to try to get North Korea back to the six-party talks, but that will only work if Beijing and Moscow are completely on board with the geopolitical ass-whipping that Pyongyang needs, and I'm not so sure they are. The advantage of direct one-on-one talks is that it's easier to dangle carrots under Pyongyang's nose (diplomatic recognition, etc.) with clear guidelines for how to get them and how to lose them again, without worry of China and Russia undermining that. 

From the "things that are funny when taken out of context" files

Courtesy of today's Korea Herald:

Try to avoid them all you want, but the ajummas will find you.

Colleges that look like Hogwarts

Yeah, I know the "Harry Potter" books and movies are a major cultural phenomenon, but I wonder if this is taking things too far. The Los Angeles Times has a small piece focusing on American colleges that look like Hogwarts. If you're in too much suspense to even click that link, the five are the University of Chicago (above), Yale University, Kenyon College, Bryn Mawr College, and Cornell University. In the comments section, readers list others. 

In Korea, I'm not even sure if five places of higher education could make the list. Having attended Yonsei, a school with a 125-year tradition (or so), I have experience with the oldish buildings toward the back of the campus, like Yŏnhŭi-gwan (연희관), which give the school a whiff of Ivy League-ishness, but just a whiff. 

Since I attended, in my UCI undergrad years, a university campus that was constructed only four decades ago — and one whose buildings were so modern-looking that they were used in films to look like the future — I appreciated walking around Yonsei's old stone structures, though the brief time I took classes in them, I was not too happy about the oil-burning heaters that could stink up a room if not used properly (GSIS didn't move to Millennium Hall until 2000, a move we all greatly appreciated). Indeed, it was easy to see why the school year was designed around not having students in classrooms during the two coldest months of winter and the hottest months of summer. I think they have since "modernized" the interiors.

Sadly, few of the universities in Korea have a "Hogwarts" look, though Ewha boasts some interesting old structures. So does 600-year-old Sungkyunkwan, but that's so old, it's pre-European. 

For a Hogwarts-like feel, I think the closest one would get is Korea University, which I am always careful to pronounce as Koryŏ University, per its actual spelling [photo source for above]. One thing that is especially nice about KU is that they have done a pretty good job of making sure the new buildings on the main part of campus fit in with that old style, for the most part. An example would be Centennial Hall, below.

Of course, instead of Hogwarts buildings, what would be a far more interesting find would be someone who looks like Hogwarts students, say Hermione but of legal age (Emma Watson is nineteen, old enough to be sent to Vietnam), though I suppose Cho Chang would be a bit easier. 

Tuesday, July 21, 2009

Time Magazine on the evolution of the dormitory

Time has an interesting photo essay on how dorms in America have changed over the years, and I say that not just because my alma mater, the University of California at Irvine, was mentioned twice. 

Although it lacks a climbing wall like that found at Boston University, UCI has long had some innovative places to stay, including the hippie-led trailer park commune where I lived in my last two years there. I especially like the outdoor fireplace at the newish Vista del Campo Norte, which I think is for grad students and married students: 

Nice. And of course there's the swimming pool, which is de rigueur in master-planned Irvine:

This makes me almost want to quit school in Hawaii and head back to Orange County to continue my studies. The dorm I'm in now, while it commands a nice view of downtown Honolulu and the top portion of Diamond Head, is basically a cement box with few amenities. 

To make this Korea-related, while Korean universities have made considerable strides in attracting students from abroad, they will have to come up with more innovative housing options if they want to keep that flow coming. 

Korean universities are decidedly unfriendly in terms of student housing: Small, crowded, utilitarian dorms remain the norm for the provincial students who have no relatives with whom to stay in the Seoul area; students from the capital are usually expected to live at home and commute.

The UCI trailer park with the $100/month rent that included water and electricity, by the way, has been paved over for a parking lot.

Nothing can be done about North Korea

Though I really don't care much for much of Jonah Goldberg's facile arguments about stuff in general, one can read through this piece on how saying "never again" about places like North Korea is meaningless and get a profound sense that nothing will change North Korea except North Korea itself.

Invading them and using military might to push out their leadership didn't work (China intervened), undermining them politically and economically didn't work (the Soviet Union and China intervened), smothering them with kindness didn't work, nudging them toward a market economy hasn't worked (China intervened), and so far a return to a hard-line stance hasn't done anything. 

The regime is still in power. They still thumb their nose at what Washington, Seoul, Tokyo, Europe, and even Beijing want, and this will go on for some time. 

Let's say "never again" to theories about how to topple or change North Korea. Nothing will work until the current regime is gone or fundamentally changed from within. Maybe that change will come with a regime shake-up when Kim Jong-il dies, if not sooner, but maybe it won't. 

And that means we can do little more than contain their toxicity to within their borders. 

Kushibo officially throws up his hands. 

This doesn't mean that every effort shouldn't be made with Beijing to get humane treatment for North Korean refugees outside North Korea, but I fear that there is, for now, nothing that can be done for those inside. 

I hate this feeling. It makes me sick.

The Poker-8 call foul on police conduct

I don't know how I missed this article in the Korea Herald two weeks ago, but it mentions the claims by the Poker-8 that they were abused by the police:
Foreign nationals booked for illegal gambling have raised complaints about the investigation into them by police.

Police say they caught eight foreign nationals gambling illegally in an apartment in Itaewon-dong and following further investigation and questioning, five more were booked without detention. One man was detained.

Two of the suspects tested positive for marijuana, but suspects say none was smoked at the apartment and none was reported found there.

However, the accused say that the police entered the building by force and threatened them with physical violence.

One of those booked said that two officers had to physically restrain another from attacking her boyfriend.

"When we first entered the office area, I sat down on a desk. The same officer that pushed me earlier came up from behind me and pushed me hard so that I fell off the desk," she added.

She also said that the police officer used aggressive tactics to influence her statement.

"I added, at the end of my statement, details about the unfair physical and verbal abuse which I mentioned previously. When the officer read what I wrote, he yelled at me, told me that I had to change my statement, and tore it up," she said. "I feel that I was forced to omit relevant information from my statement."

The suspects also say that seven out of the eight originally booked were told they had tested positive for marijuana, although five insist that such a result was not possible.
To be honest, the second paragraph and the last bit sounds like the same self-servingly deceptive stuff we've heard from them, (e.g., one of the arrestees' comment that "poker was allegedly being played"): They don't out right deny that they'd smoked marijuana in Korea recently, only that none had smoked at the apartment and no marijuana was found there, as if that technicality will help them wiggle out of the charge borne by the drug test.

Nevertheless, good on them (and the Korea Herald) for taking public their claims of police misconduct. If the accusations are true and not some exaggeration or misrepresentation, that certainly warrants some attention. Some serious attention, even if they are guilty of the charges.

But even if they're not accurate, it's one of those things that, due to the age-old adage that South Korean authorities often care — perhaps excessively — about foreign impressions, might lead to changes in police behavior, at least when dealing with foreign suspects. We've already seen that in some cases there is concern of certain tactics "violating human rights," even with "third-world" residents in Korea.

Clinton to give North Korea a time-out

That's right, US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton has likened Pyongyang's leadership to "unruly children." 

And knowing the Dear Leader's fondness for aging blondes, I think he may take her up on any offer for North Korea to drop its nuclear weapons program in exchange for direct talks, just so he can get a spankin'. He been a bad, bad boy. 

For those of you readers eating dinner right this moment, my apologies for the following mental image, but I'm pretty sure that as Kim Jong-il is reading this post (according to SiteMeter, someone from Pyongyang visits Monster Island every day), he's probably already got his belt loosened and he's dropping his Dear Leaderhosen, so he can practice sticking out his tushy in front of the giant mirror on the west wall of the Chamber of Enlightened Brilliance. 

Tip for Hillary: Stroke damage probably means he has more feeling in his right buttock. Use that information as you see fit.