Sunday, February 28, 2010

Last chance(s) to vote for LiNK

Today and tomorrow you can put in two votes (one for each day) for LiNK to win $250,000 from Pepsi. Click here for the reasons why this important, and click here to go and VOTE.

You can vote today and you can vote tomorrow. Hannah Song of LiNK wrote this to me:
Thanks so much for ... your tremendous support on the Pepsi challenge. We are SO close so we're in the office this weekend trying to rally last minute support and votes. We really appreciate all your help so far!
You can vote once today and you can vote once tomorrow, and unlike most other elections in America, multiple voting is legal! Go vote, now!

Tsunami crowds at Mickey D's

I guess people don't want to mess with cooking today.

Anyway, I thought this would be a good space for listing my lame, personal observations and experiences.

Anyway, I decided to hop in the car and head for the McDonald's on Waialae and Palolo. I usually walk there, but I decided to get in the car so that (a) I could listen to the radio and (b) I could head toward the eastern end of Waialae to assuage my concerns that 3rd and Waialae might be in a danger zone. After checking it out myself, the hump on Waialae around 12th avenue and Koko Head Avenue appears to be high enough to block any wall of water that would come from that direction.

The first thing I heard when I turned on the radio was Governor Linda Lingle telling us that we should stay off the roads. Yeah, I heard the same thing during the earthquake, too. But Waialae is not a hotbed of emergency evacuation activity, so I don't think I was impeding anything.

Actually, that was the second thing I heard. The first thing I heard was 93.1 playing pop music. It was KRTR that had preempted their music with emergency information.

The governor was deftly laying out what people need to do, assuring everyone that these emergency plans weren't drawn up last night, and telling us to get out of the way and let the police, fire, EMTs, etc., do their work. Governor Lingle really does sound like she's on top of things.

The DJs are passing along news and information, including reports that in Waikiki the civil defense sirens did not go off. Actually, they explained, the people who said this had it slightly wrong: They were just run for a second or two because, well, they didn't want to alarm people. Not at 6 a.m., anyway, when all they have to do is head up a few floors sometime around 11 a.m.

There are some worries about people living along the beaches (we don't call them homeless here, apparently) and whether they can be reached. The DJs also noted that on this warm, sunny day, it sucks because the beaches are closed, but so are the main shopping venues — Ala Moana Mall, Ward Center, Waikele Outlets, Windward Mall on the other side of Oahu, etc.

[above: The Subway sandwich shop right here closed in the morning and stayed closed all day.]

But if you really need to shop, Kahala Mall is open. That's a bit of a relief for me because Kahala is not far from here, and it probably is a good indication of the safety of this area.

They already have reports of six-foot tsunami waves hitting French Polynesia, but no major damage reported so far. They're pretty confident that that means similar sized waves will hit us.

Meanwhile, McDonald's was pretty crowded. The drive-thru line spilled out onto Waialae, which is the longest I've ever seen it, and I couldn't get a parking spot in their too-tiny lot, so I had to park along the nearby residential street (Palolo). The line was about three times longer than usual, but it went fairly quickly. They still had breakfast burritos and, yes, their Spam™ offerings. They've also got coffee, so head there, Goku!

While I was parking, I get a text from one of my brothers in California telling me that his call wouldn't go through. I texted him back telling him I was inland and at reasonably high ground, so not to worry. I texted my mother and told her the same, but for good measure I called her. I was able to get through — maybe because we both have AT&T but my brother and I have different service — and assured her that everything's okay. Apparently a lot of people are trying to make calls like that, hence the problems. I imagine right around 11:30 it will be the same.

And now the 10:30 a.m. siren is going off, and this one is long. They're taking this seriously. Now you have less than an hour to get out of harm's way.

UPDATE (11:07 a.m.):
That was a really long siren. Lots of helicopters overhead a minute ago.

UPDATE 2 (11:50 a.m.):
I'm trying to get online to see if I can see anything, but Honolulu Advertiser links seem to be down, and KHNL and KHON don't have anything about stuff being struck yet. Just a moment ago I heard a strange "distant whisper" kind of sound, and I don't know if I'm just sensitive to every little sound or if that really was something.

UPDATE 3 (12:18 p.m.):
In hindsight, I think that "whisper" was just my imagination. The live feed at KGMB is showing the police blocking people from driving into Waikiki.

UPDATE 4 (2:23 p.m.):
As of 1:38, the tsunami warning has been canceled. I'm only posting that just now because that's how exciting this was after a while (plus the were waking me up with sirens from early this a.m., so what do you expect?).

I hereby declare this the H1N1 of tsunami warnings: A lot of preparation for just a little punch — but as a public health person, I mean that in the nicest way. Meanwhile, I wish I'd had plans to see the UH-versus-Nevada basketball game, which is now back on.

[above: You can see from this graphic how far the Hawaiian Islands are from the epicenter of the quake in Chile, some 7000 miles away. Even farther is the Honolulu Advertiser, which is located closer to Antarctica, a fact that would explain their serious troubles.]

Hawaii's tsunami advisory now a TSUNAMI WARNING

UPDATE 7 (2:26 p.m.):
The warning has been canceled and it appears no damage has been reported (see update #4 here).

UPDATE 6 (12:29 p.m.):
The Honolulu Advertiser has a story on the tsunami waves making its way up the island chain, with reports on what has happened where and what we could expect (whether we're still in danger and when it will be over):
The leading edge of a tsunami generated by an earthquake in Chile is surging through Hilo Bay and Kahului Harbor and advancing up the island chain.

At noon, water was receding rapidly in Kahului Harbor, and there were reports of similar activity in Barbers Point and Hawaii Kai on Oahu.

Gauges monitored by the Pacific Tsunami Warning Center suggest that ocean levels rose 3 feet before noon today during a state-wide tsunami warning and people should remain on alert.

"It's not an all-clear," said Ed Teixeira, state Civil Defense vice director. "... We're not out of the woods yet."

"The build-up of this particular seismic event ... is slow in building," Teixeira said.

The warning center said the wave on Maui is 2 meters from peak to trough, or a 1-meter wave. On the Big Island, it was 1.7 meters, peak to trough.

"This could get bigger," said Nathan Becker of the National Weather Service. "We don't know yet. This clearly is a tsunami taking place in Hawaii right now.

"We could still see a larger wave."

When waves start getting smaller, officials at the Pacific Tsunami Warning Center may consider canceling today's warning, Becker said.

"We're not there yet," he said.
I had hoped to listen to a government update on this, but my live feed is now stuck.

UPDATE 5 (12:06 p.m.):
A one-meter difference in water was reported at around the predicted time, but they are warning that that is not at all necessarily the worst or last of it. The "oscillations" are typical and may indicate something more severe coming over the next hours, and they're reminding us that in the Samoa and in a past Hilo tsunami, it was the third wave that did the most damage.

I'm guessing things that are closed will stay closed for most or the rest of the day.

KHNL was also reporting damage in Ventura, California (Orange County was warned of three- to six-foot waves), and I guess that was something they were warned about for a while over there, though in Hawaii and in other Pacific islands it was considered more serious.

UPDATE 4 (11:58 a.m.):
I don't know if this is live, but the KGMB/KHNL live feed is saying that "water has been sucked out" of Maui's Kahalui Harbor, which would be a prelude for another tsunami wave coming in. They're saying this difference in feet is significant, because usually the tidal changes are just inches.

Here are evacuation maps for Oahu, Maui, Kauai, and the Big Island (currently not working). Hilo on the Big Island is looking like a ghost town, but the Honolulu Advertiser link to the story isn't working. We're now past the ETA of the tsunami hitting, but I'm not seeing any reports of anything. Here's the CNN report on the story.

Here's the "live" feed from local television KITV. KHON's main story on this is here. Actually, I'm having trouble picking up live feed from either place, maybe because everyone on Oahu and his mother is doing the same.

KHON has a list of cancelled events.

I don't want to pollute this semi-informative post with my own lame observations and experiences, but if you really want to read that, here they are. Some of it might be informative, but I'm not sure.


The massive 8.8-magnitude earthquake that struck Chile last night is expected to bring tsunami waves of about two meters high. Honolulu's NBC affiliate, KHNL, has a streaming broadcast from the night before when the news first broke (sadly, with a dearth of late-breaking information).

The civil defense sirens (air raid sirens) just went off, warning people of a tsunami coming, though it's not expected to hit the state for four more hours (11:25 a.m.). The distance from Chile to here is to our advantage, preparation-wise, whereas an earthquake in relatively nearby Alaska gives us only four and a half hours to prepare for a tsunami, which travels at the speed of a jetliner.

Barry Hirschorn, an expert from the Pacific Tsunami Warning Center being interviewed on KNHL, is explaining that this is not a normal surf wave: it is a whole column of water rising that high, and not once but in multiple waves. He also explains that because of the distance, the waves would wrap around the entire island, making even North Shore vulnerable. As I'm listening, he emphasizes that it's not over after the first wave. You have to wait for the all-clear siren.

Dr Hirshorn says that, for the expected tsunamis this time, getting to an elevation of thirty feet (about nine or ten meters) should be okay. If you are near the coast and can only go up, not inland, then that would be the third floor.

And in case you're concerned for my safety, here's a Google map of where I'm coming to you from:

View Larger Map

The Honolulu Advertiser site this morning has an entire litany of news items about this. The message is: get out of the evacuation zone and then try to stay there. If you don't have one, the City & County of Honolulu has a handy dandy PDF list of items you should have in case of emergency (and sadly Costco is now closed because of the tsunami warning).

Early indications are that a wave will hit Hawaii and it will be about two meters high. Bear in mind that this is a side of the island where such a wave doesn't typically occur, so they are expecting damage.

The authorities are treating it as a "destructive-type tsunami." Waikiki hotels are evacuating at 6 a.m. (this actually ruins plans we had to go to Eggs 'N Things), as are the homes near shore. People across Oahu are buying up emergency supplies (a lot of folks got burned when a moderate earthquake led to a nearly 24-hour power outage). Even inland facilities, like the University of Hawaii at Manoa, are closed.

On the Big Island, Hilo Airport is closing down. On the island of Kauai, people who signed up for emergency alerts started getting calls at 5:30 a.m. (such systems are all the rage on college campuses, especially after the botched handling of the situation when Cho Seung-hui had first started his horrific killing spree).

Meanwhile, we finally have news about the conditions in earthquake that was actually hit by the massive quake. The Advertiser is carrying an AP story saying that so far at least 78 people have died and a number of buildings have collapsed. Chile is much better prepared for earthquakes than, say, Haiti, so it doesn't appear that damage will be on that scale. My prayers are with them.

Saturday, February 27, 2010

When in Rome, do as the Koreans do

Apparently Apolo Ohno has learned more from his South Korean coach and competitors than just skating technique: after being disqualified, he is whining about the bad, jingoistic judges who disqualified him:
There was no grand finale, no gold medal – and sadly, no class from Apolo Anton Ohno as the final moments of his career ticked away Friday night.

Ohno went down as the greatest short-track speedskater in history when he took what are likely to be his final Olympic laps here, but he did nothing for his reputation with a needless and baseless swipe at a celebrating host nation.

By lashing out at the judges who disqualified him from the 500-meter final, Ohno ended his Olympic career much as it began in 2002: with controversy.

“You know, it is the head Canadian referee [Michel Verrault] out there,” said Ohno, with a smirk and a shrug. “And there were two Canadians in the race.”

Ohno, who could have skated into the sunset simply thankful to be adorned with yet another medal-gaining Olympic Games, instead offered remarks that were unfair and unfounded, that came across as an attempt to take some sheen off a truly golden night for Canada.
When did anyone ever expect class from the smugly self-satisfied Apolo Ohno?

I feel bad for Sung Si-bak (the guy in dark blue up above), who spilled yet again when he was somewhere in the vicinity of Ohno. The poor guy can't get a break... except for a leg, a knee, or a toe.

[HT to LastnameKim, even though I had to dig up the link myself]

Tsunami advisory for Hawaii

I have since put up two posts, one related to general information about the tsunami and one about my own personal (and highly mundane) experiences.

The massive 8.8-magnitude earthquake that struck Chile about two and a half hours ago apparently produced a local tsunami wave at least nine feet high. And while Chile is thousands of miles of open ocean away from Hawaii, there is concern of a wave coming here:
The Pacific Tsunami Warning Center has issued a tsunami advisory for the state following a strong earthquake this evening near the coast of Chile.

At 9:45 p.m. Hawaii time, the warning center said sea level readings indicated that a tsunami was generated.

The magnitude 8.8 earthquake was reported at 8:34 p.m. Hawaii time and was centered near the coast of Chile.

An advisory was issued for Hawaii and forecasters said there is a possibility that the advisory could be elevated to a watch or warning. If tsunami waves reach the Islands, their earliest arrival time is estimated at 11:19 tomorrow morning.

A tsunami warning is in effect for Chile and Peru. A tsunami watch was in effect for Ecuador, Colombia, Antarctica, Panama and Costa Rica.

The Associated Press reported that buildings shook and collapsed in Santiago, Chile. Phone lines were down in the country, making confirmation of damage difficult, especially further south toward the epicenter. The quake was felt in Argentina as well.

The quake hit 197 miles (317 kilometers) southwest of the capital, Santiago, and at a depth of 36.9 miles (59.4 kilometers) at 3:34 a.m. Chile time.

Its epicenter was just 75 miles from Concepcion, Chile's second-largest city, where more than 200,000 people live along the Bio Bio river, and 60 miles from the ski town of Chillan, a gateway to Andean ski resorts that was destroyed in a 1939 earthquake.
These things are always a bit unnerving, but they rarely turn out to be anything. It's a bit like the "tornado watch" that would flash across the screen during the summers I spent in Minnesota when I was a kid. At any rate, I'm a mile or so inland, so I'm sure things will be all right.

Of course, our prayers should be with the people of Chile, especially when we are only now finding out how extensive the damage has been from this quake.

Ohno gets disqualified after he trips up other skaters

Well, karma has been noticing Ohno lately, enough that he hasn't yet been able to stretch that most decorated winter Olympian record yet:
Short-track speedskater Apolo Anton Ohno didn't add another medal to his collection Friday night, when he was disqualified for pushing in the final of the men's 500 meters at the Vancouver Winter Olympics.

Ohno appeared to push Francois-Louis Tremblay of Canada on the final turn, causing Tremblay and South Korean skater Sung Si-Bak to fall.
My understanding is that the judges took quite a few minutes trying to decide whether to disqualify Ohno, or to strip the Team Korea of every medal ROK athletes have ever won at the winter Olympics. It was a close call, but Jim Hewish had gone out for a nosh, so they went with the former.

In the end, Canada's Charles Hamelin won the gold, Sung won the silver, and Tremblay the bronze.

Ohno has one more chance to win a medal later tonight, in the men's 5,000-meter relay, during which he will employ a three-pronged strategy of throwing up his hands in horror whenever someone passes him, using a crowbar on the knees of his worst skating threat right before the race, and dongchim.

The LAT on Kim Yuna: "A champion for all time"

If you can stomach any more of this, the Los Angeles Times has a piece on the enduring greatness of Kim Yuna:
The skater and her coach were in a car going from post-competition doping control to a press conference that would be aired live in South Korea, where half the country's 48 million people already had watched TV broadcasts of their national hero becoming their first Olympic figure skating champion.

During the 20-minute ride, Kim and Orser simply could have sat back and looked at the gold medal she won three hours earlier with a performance of record-breaking, mind-boggling quality. Instead, as Orser sat in a front seat and Kim in the back, they leaned together to study details on the score sheet, talking about places to improve in her next competition, the March World Championships.

That discussion speaks to the particular greatness Kim displayed in the Olympics.

If, at age 19, she already has joined the sport's legends, it will owe not only to Kim's lighter-than-air grace in her movements on the ice and her huge jumps but also to Team Kim's grounding in the demands of figure skating's scoring system.

Never have athlete and artist been more perfectly balanced than they are with Kim. Never has a skater with both those qualities displayed them so flawlessly in the sport's most important competition.

"I always wanted to be Olympic champion and do clean programs," Kim said. "This was the first time I have done both programs clean, and I am very joyful it was at the Olympics."

That achievement alone sets her apart from many of the sport's greats, especially because they had to do far fewer defined elements in a four-minute program that used to embody its title: free skate.
I forgot where I read it, but someone in one of the K-blogs made a point that Kim Yuna represents a worthy goal for so many Korean girls and women now: She achieved what she did through her own hard work, her wits, her intelligence, her perseverance, etc., not a trust fund, a rich husband, or going to the right school (I'm paraphrasing).

As she alludes to above, this was a victory devoid of controversy or even mistake: No one (except for a few disgruntled Mao Asada fans whose lack of class does not represent Japan as a whole) questions that she earned it. That makes it kinda neat by itself, even if she weren't a "queen" of skating: It's a demonstration that thoroughgoing attention to detail and doing things the right way (versus cutting corners to get ahead, is the path to good things (although it might add fuel to the fire for South Korea's we-must-be-perfect-or-else-we've-failed crowd).

Friday, February 26, 2010

A message from Robert Park?

The following  is from Tom Conyer's site. He says he can't vouch for the message's authenticity, but since it's from Dr Norbert Vollertsen (the German who has been working so hard to take down the DPRK regime), Mr Conyer says he thinks it may be authentic:
Am very sorry to you. This is my first direct email --- I have been tormented and I apologize for my insane behaviour lately. A friend has been managing my email account.

I don't call people easily because of my spiritual condition --- I've had bouts of rage and intense temptations to kill myself (because of inner torture) since leaving DPRK.

Here is what I need by tomorrow evening, if you can help me:

DPRK flag, lighter

A notebook of picture evidence of the North Korean Human Rights Crisis and Genocide (I will be going through the pages while speaking in the interview)

Two Signs:


And if this is authentic, I think we're seeing a clearer picture of a disturbed person, as many of us have long suspected. While it's noble to draw attention to the plight of North Korean refugees, Mr Park's actions seem more a cry for help than a call to action.

It occurred to me after posting this that, particularly given the apparently sensitive nature of Mr Park's condition, it may have come across as callous, insensitive, or even detrimental to Mr Park's well-being for me to have posted this private email for all to see.

Had this been sent to me privately, at which point it was not in the public sphere, I would not have posted it to my site, at least not without permission. This was a protocol I followed with Lisa Ling's recent email to me, and it stems from my staunch belief that even public figures do not deserve to have all the details of their private lives plastered across public spaces. The public does not have a right to strip away the personal privacy of a famous person just because they're famous.

But I decided it was okay to go ahead with this because it was already in the public sphere. I got it from Tom Conyer's site, and he got it from someone who, apparently, sent it to a number of places. I don't know if Norbert Vollertsen had permission to spread the email, or if he was in fact the person who did so, but that is an issue between Mr Park and Dr Vollertsen.

I have been a harsh critic of Mr Park's actions, but I do not wish any ill upon him, and if he is as troubled as this email makes him sound — whether that began before, during, or after his trip to the DPRK — I sincerely hope he gets the love and help that he needs. My prayers are with him.

金 = gold

A runaway, record-breaking 228.56 points for a gold medal! I hearby declare this 연아절! Congratulations, Kim Yuna! [ video available here]

From Sports Illustrated:
Kim Yu-na put one hand to her mouth and let the tears flow.

All that pressure, so many expectations. The "Queen" took it all on and delivered royally.

The South Korean won the Olympic gold medal Thursday night, soaring to a world-record 228.56 points and shattering her previous mark by more than 18 points. It may go down as one of the greatest performances in figure skating history, and it's sure to set off wild celebrations from Seoul to Pyongchang [Kushibo notes that SI wrote it that way]. It's South Korea's first medal at the Winter Olympics in a sport other than speedskating.

Even Kim seemed to be dazzled by the show she put on, gasping when she saw the monstrous score. Coach Brian Orser gave a Rocky-like victory pump, shaking his clasped fists over each shoulder.
And to all those in South Korea who use international sporting events as a proxy for national prestige, congratulations to you, too, I guess. I can hear your whooping and hollering all the way over here.

But much more congratulations to Kim Yuna (金姸兒, 김연아 for those of you looking to see how her name is spelled in Hangul), as well as to Japan's Mao Asada of Japan who won the silver with 205.50 points, and Canada's Joannie Rochette who won the bronze with 202.64 points (and who has been through an awful lot, so this undoubtedly means an awful lot to her).

As the SI hints above, this kind of performance in a signature Olympic event could bode well for Pyongchang (aka Pyeongchang) in its bid to host the 2018 Winter Olympics.

I was hoping that Laura Lepistö of Finland (#6 with 187.97 points) or Mirai Nagasu of the US (#4 with 190.15) might also medal (for a while, before the favorites skated, Ms Lepisto was #1), but no such luck. We'll have to see in 2014 (that is, if there's any ice available).

The nearly seventeen-year-old Ms Nagasu will be back, as will South Korea's next skating star (?), sixteen-year-old Kwak Minjung, who came in at #13 with 155.53 points.

And can the bloodthirsty netizens just suck it up now and stop harassing Mr Hewish? Please? Just take the rest of the day off like everybody else in South Korea and drink so much beer and/or soju you can't make it back to your car.

Friends of yours, Robert Park?

I'm not watching figure skating, me being a jinx and all, so I thought I'd briefly blog on this bit of news from AP (via the Wall Street Journal), about four ROK citizens arrested by the North Koreans:
Authorities "recently detained four South Koreans who illegally entered" North Korea, the North's official Korean Central News Agency said Friday. "They are now under investigation."

The brief dispatch didn't identify the South Koreans or say when they allegedly enter the North.

The National Intelligence Service, Seoul's top spy agency, had no immediate comment on the report.

The announcement came weeks after North Korea freed Robert Park, an American missionary detained for illegally crossing its border on Christmas Day to call international attention to the country's alleged human-rights abuses.

Last year, a South Korean pig farmer defected to North Korea by cutting through barbed wire at the heavily fortified border.
Were they trying to get into North Korea to deliver a message, à la Monsieur Park? Were they too close to the border and got lost, à la Mitch Koss et al? Were they hapless tourists or businesspeople snagged by the Norks so that they'd have fresh bargaining chips? Were they defectors?

That guy really has it in for South Korean skaters

I'm a little late to this controversy, having reported on the loss, but not the ensuing anger. You'll have to forgive me: In the wee hours of the morning, when I saw an email with the news headline, "South Korean female trio DQed in Vancouver," I thought it was spam for a porn link and I deleted it.

As of this morning, I have not read any blog entries on Jim Hewish, the Australian judge who disqualified both South Korean Kim Dong-sung in the 2002 Salt Lake Olympics and now the ROK women's relay team, except for this post at The Marmot's Hole, so my thoughts are my own and I don't know if anyone else has already expressed this.

Assuming for a moment that there is no possibility that the guy really is on the take or really has it in for South Korean dominance of skating (like some do for Korean ladies pro golf), then South Korea's hardcore netizenry may be entirely to blame for this one. The call was one that, according to the link The Marmot provided, could have gone either way, but the orgy of hate unleashed by the hardcore super comment tribe and their hacker buddies in 2002 forced his hand in Vancouver: Were Mr Hewish to have sided with the ROK team this time, he would have left himself open to accusations of caving in against his judgement.

Shame on you. The chickens have come home to roost.

And a special notice to prosecutors in South Korea: take the full force of the law and go after anyone who broke the law by publishing private information about Mr Hewish. Show that you're serious that cyberstalking is bad no matter what the reason.

Now if you'll excuse me, I have whales to watch. No Daily Kor today, kiddies. You haven't earned it.

Jim Hewish is now under police protection at the Vancouver games. His house in Sydney is under armed guard, too. He took this serious enough that he bowed out of officiating the race where Ohno was disqualified, but he did watch it in the stands.

Thursday, February 25, 2010

Icing on the cake

Would South Korean fervor about Kim Yuna not exist or simply not be as, well, fervent if there were no Mao Asada or Miki Ando (or even Mirai Nagasu)? Is the existence of Japanese competitors and the prospect of beating them a major factor in Kim Yuna's runaway popularity in South Korea? Without Mao as a rival, would Kim Yuna not have made $8 million last year?

John Glionna of the Los Angeles Times seems to think so:
Wearing a sassy black dress, twisting and leaping to a medley of spy thriller songs, the queen of South Korean figure skating is continuing a quest her countrymen hope is no mission impossible:

Not just to win, but to beat the Japanese in the process.

Kim Yuna, the pouting 19-year-old monarch-on-ice, is poised to win South Korea's first Olympic gold medal in figure skating -- a feat that for many countrymen would prove to be a satisfying athletic and political victory over their Asian neighbors.

Because when it comes to sports competitions against Japan, their colonial-era overlords from 1910 to 1945, Koreans wear their fiercest game faces -- whether on a baseball or soccer field, or even within the graceful realm of the figure-skating rink.

"With South Korea versus Japan, it is all about one-sided nationalism," said Shin Kwang-yeong, sociology professor at Chung-Ang University in Seoul. "Of course, Japan's colonization of Korea and emotions between the two countries are instilled in sports.

"It's a phenomenon based on South Korea's group perception about its traumatic history. If you do not win a gold medal, other medals are not satisfying."

And medals are sweeter if snatched from a Japanese competitor.
I know I'm swimming against the current of K-blog public opinion here, but I think Mr Glionna is betraying a facile inspection that is so common in anglophone analysis of Korea as to be cliché: If some issue or incident involving Korea can be even remotely connected with Japan, then Korea's longstanding han must be a major factor if not primary cause of whatever that is.

True, the loudest voices among the netizenry may bring up such things — whether it's the much maligned Apolo Ohno being half-Japanese or the President of Korea being someone trying to make nice with Japan and who was born in Japan and lived there for five years — but for the general population, I submit, the Japan factor is merely icing on the cake if it's something being considered at all.

Let's go back to my original questions: Would Kim Yuna be loved any less, would she be any less possible or any less rich, if she had no Japanese competitors? I submit that the answer is a resounding no. There is no small dose of national(istic) pride in support for her — she is going to get a gold for our country and serve as a shining example of Korean skill, ingenuity, and coolness — but that patriotic passion would be there whether her primary opponent were Japanese or Jamaican, American or Armenia, Chinese or Chilean, North Korean or South African.

Let me demonstrate. Imagine that through a series of small miracles that the Korean national team were able to make it into the group of 16 at the World Cup in South Africa. Then through a series of luck and more miracles, into the final eight, then the final four, and eventually we see South Korea in the actual final game of the World Cup.

Anyone in South Korea in 2002 knows that the ROK would be going so crazy over this that the manufacturing base would virtually shut down for two weeks and the entire country would be a giant party zone full of hyped up people going nuts with the prospect of being the best team in the world in soccer. The entire country would be on edge like never before with each pass in the final game, with screams resonating across the peninsula with each near miss. The screams following a goal by Korea, Republic of would be deafening.

Okay, now imagine the final game is, through other miracles, being played against Japan. Would the anticipation and anxiety be greater? Probably some, but replace Japan with Brazil and there would still be national insanity. In 2002, no matches were played against Japan, but the country was still at a fever pitch.

Icing on the cake. But not the cake.

So while the Korea-versus-Japan aspect would be an additional element, it would be a superfluous element. And it's sloppy and lazy for anglophone reporters to use it as a standby. Let me use another illustration: let's imagine that there were a lot of public gloating in South Korea about Toyota's woes instead of the subdued response in which a lot of people worry that Hyundai and Kia are in a there-but-for-the-grace-of-God-go-I kinda situation (and I have no doubt some people are gloating, as they are in the US as well).

It would be easy for Mr Glionna or some K-bloggers to attribute that sentiment not just to national pride about Hyundai and Kia not having such problems (anymore), but to this stick-it-to-former-colonizer attitude that, in their minds, always prevails. And people would read that and nod their heads in agreement, going, "Yeah, South Koreans really hate the Japanese."

But here, where in actuality there isn't much of such gloating at all, we don't see a soul-searching discussion of why South Koreans aren't hating on the Japanese when they have the perfect opportunity to do so. Because that would mean dismantling this facile notion and putting its parts in a museum somewhere.

A few paragraphs back, I mentioned people who bash President Lee Myungbak for his pro-Japan geopolitical stance by pointing out that he was born in Japan (Osaka, to be precise). Yes, there really are such people (Google 이명박+일본놈 or some such), but they do not represent the norm at all. In fact, President Lee's Japanese-ness rarely is brought up in criticism. Yet it would be right there for Mr Glionna or K-bloggers to again talk up South Korea's eternal hatred of Japan if President Lee ever were the target of many South Koreans' wrath over something Japan-related.

Vote for your favorite blog at 10 Magazine

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And vote for LiNK in the Pepsi thing (see link for LiNK in upper right corner). That's actually more important.

ROK women's skating team disqualified after coming in first

The following article explains what happened, which was protested by the South Korean coaches:
VANCOUVER, Feb. 24 (Yonhap) -- South Korean women's team was disqualified in the 3,000 meter relay short track event on Wednesday for impeding a Chinese player.

South Korean team -- Lee Eun-byul, Park Seung-hi, Cho Ha-ri and Kim Min-jung -- raced for five consecutive Olympic gold medal in the event, finished first in the relay event at the Pacific Coliseum, leaving China in second and Canada in third.

But the referees declared South Korea's disqualification, saying that a South Korean skater pushed a Chinese skater in the final lap, lifting the China to the first place. South Korean team officials strongly protested the controversial decision, but the referees did not reversed it.

As a result, Canada won silver and the Unites State took bronze.
Yonhap has been writing this story in waves. First there was a one-line report, now there is this detailed story above, and eventually the refined (i.e., proofread) story will appear. Yonhap is usually pretty good at presenting well edited articles, so I'm guessing the writer was trying to get this out as quickly as possible.

Lee Seung-hoon got gold when the Dutchman in front of him was disqualified, so I hope these lumps will be taken in the spirit of "win some, lose some" (judging decisions, that is). Get psyched up for Kim Yuna to perform instead.

Where are they now: Kim Dong-sung

Since the ROK-Ohno rivalry is fresh again, I thought I'd do a little focus on the person who was disqualified and lost his gold medal to Ohno, which sparked the anti-Ohno hate fest at the 2002 Salt Lake Winter Olympic Games.

That would be Kim Dong-sung:
After playing a reluctant role in one of the most controversial races in Olympic history seven years ago in Salt Lake City, South Korean speedskating star Kim Dong-Sung vowed never to return to the United States.

Kim was in the middle of celebrating what he assumed was his gold medal victory in the 1,500 meters when he learned he had been disqualified for interfering with U.S. star Apolo Anton Ohno, who ended up receiving the first-place medal. Kim was so upset he needed oxygen in his hotel room that night. The South Korean delegation challenged the result, then threatened to boycott the Closing Ceremonies. Some 16,000 angry e-mails from South Korea crashed the U.S. Olympic Committee's computer system.

But there he was this week at the Kettler Capitals Iceplex in Arlington, wearing baggy jeans, a navy coat and gold-bladed skates, chasing speedsuit-wearing American children around the ice during an evening practice session. "Push, push, push!" he exhorted.

Kim's life since the 2002 Winter Games has unfolded with all of the unexpected twists of a typical final in short-track speedskating. Agonized at hearing the U.S. national anthem seven years ago, Kim now wants to ensure it is played. He aspires to create a U.S. Olympic champion in the Washington suburbs.

Ten of Kim's students will compete next weekend at the sport's national age-group championships in Midland, Mich., a competition that will help Kim evaluate his students' progress and his own proficiency in a profession he didn't consider pursuing until just more than two years ago. That's when a Maryland speedskating parent who heard he was in the country called him up and invited him to coach.

"I came here not as a player, but as a person looking for a future career," Kim, 28, said partly through an interpreter before the start of Tuesday's training session. "I didn't even bring my skates."

Now he doesn't plan to leave.

"My goals have changed," he said. "I want to make a national team member out of one of my young kids."
Sorta unexpected, wouldn't you say?

Anyway, it's good to see Mr Kim put all that nastiness behind him. He may or may not have justification to have been bitter at the time, and it may or may not have been controversial, but for him there's no reason to keep dwelling on it. I'm happy to see he's doing some good with his talent for skating.

Lisa Ling responds to my criticisms

Ms Lisa Ling, the noted broadcast journalist whose sister Laura Ling, a journalist for Current TV, was held in North Korea along with colleague Euna Lee after both crossed into North Korean territory last year, sent me an email regarding strongly worded criticisms I made on this blog  with respect to upcoming release of the book she and her sister wrote about the ordeal, Somewhere Inside.

With her permission, I am reprinting that letter below (but with minor edits done by her), with comments closed. Sometime soon I will offer my response to her letter [UPDATE: My lengthy response can be found here]. I have offered to let her have the final word with any rebuttal to my response, if she sees fit. At that time I may consider opening comments. [UPDATE (May 18, 2010): Comments can be left at this "final" post in our correspondence.]

Hi there,

Saw your latest blog and though you have very right to write what you please, I just thought I would give you a bit of context from our side so that you have it.

First of all, though I am a co-author on Somewhere Inside, I am not making a penny from the book sales whatsoever. I am donating my entire portion to LiNK, CPJ and RSF.

While my sister and her team made a mistake by setting foot onto NK soil, they were used as political bargaining tools by the North Korea government. Since their return and President Clinton's visit, there have been a lot of positive movements. The North Koreans released the Hyundai worker as well as the South Korean fishermen they had been holding not to mention Robert Park after 2 months of detention.

North Korea also allowed Steven Bosworth into the country and a top level NK diplomat is scheduled to visit the U.S. next month to discuss nuclear disarmament.

How you can say that we have blood on our hands is so upsetting. Talk to the people at LiNK and ask them if they have noticed an improvement in the tone coming out of North Korea since my sister and Euna's return.

I am deeply proud of my sister and believe that her story will provoke people to think differently about what can happen when human beings get the opportunity to interact with one another despite that fact that their countries may consider each another enemies.

Thank you for using your voice. You are a very passionate person and I admire that. Know that my intentions have never been about self-aggrandizement. I have been lucky that God bestowed a path for me that I take very seriously, and that is for telling stories. I realize that there will be many who will be unhappy with some of the things I tell, but I feel compelled to tell them nonetheless.

Be well,

19-year-old OC kid headed to law school

Another case of education being pushed too hard and too fast in a Korean family? I don't know. Maybe Kate McLaughlin really wanted to get into college and really fast, and then move onto law school as quickly as possible. Maybe she'd be really bored if she took courses at a slower pace.

But I do wonder if maybe her future career in law — or creative writing — might not be enhanced if she, say, took a year or two off to see Korea, Italy, or somewhere else.

My own cynicism aside, I wish Ms McLaughlin the best of luck. From those who receive the greatest gifts, great things are expected.

No pressure there.

Daily Kor for February 25, 2010: Golden girl (and boy)

Well, Lee Seunghoon's fifteen minutes of fame lasted just about fifteen minutes — the time between his rival's alchemic mistake that turned Lee's silver into gold and skating superstar Kim Yuna getting her own world record for best scored performance ever in figure skating's short program. Don't worry, Seunghoon, I'll remember you, if for no other reason than it seems South Koreans need to be named Lee in order to win Olympic gold medals in speed skating.
  1. South Korean golden girl Kim Yuna takes commanding lead in women's figure skating event after record-breaking performance in short program (LAT, NYT, AP via WaPo, BBC, WSJ, Yonhap, Korea Times, Joongang Daily, Chosun Ilbo)
    • Broadcasts of Kim Yuna and Mao Asada cause markets to freeze in South Korea and Japan (Reuters)
  2. Disqualification by Dutch skating star allows Lee Seunghoon to win gold medal in men's 10,000-meter speed skating (WaPoMonster Island post here)
  3. Hyundai Motors, in cautious move reflecting heightened sensitivity over Toyota's troubles, recalls 47,000 new Hyundai Sonatas over minor door latch issue (AP via WaPo, Reuters, Bloomberg, Yonhap, Korea Times, Joongang Daily)
    • Does Korea Inc have to copy everything Japan Inc does?!
  4. Ailing Kim Jong-il said to be "increasingly reliant on inner circle" (Chosun Ilbo)
  5. Kia Motors sets a target of 15% increase in US sales (WSJ, Korea Times, Joongang Daily)
  6. South Korean consumer sentiment falls to seven-month low (Reuters via CNBC)
  7. Chinese President Hu Jintao meets North Korean delegation (Bloomberg)
  8. Michael Moore chides Kim Yuna for promoting gun violence, plans documentary about ladies' figureskating industrial complex (San Francisco Chronicle)

Loose change for February 25, 2009

 Economic news 
 North Korea news and stuff 
 Other Korea-related stuff 
  • The number of newborns in 2009 hit a four-year low of 445,000. The article doesn't make clear if that's just Caucasian-looking babies like in the graphic at right.
  • The suspected Taliban-affiliated fake imam who was arrested in Taegu apparently took a page out of Andrea Vandom's playbook and filed a complaint with the National Human Rights Commission of Korea (HNRCK) that he was being unfairly tailed.
  • The Blue House has joined the micro social networking service me2day. 
  • South Korea's meteorological body will hold a forum this week in Seoul regarding earthquake safety.
  • A third child has been found dead inside a model of LG washing machine that can't be opened from the inside. 
  • Respondents to a poll say that incumbent Seoul Mayor Oh Sehoon is the most qualified candidate for the job.
  • An HSBC economist is encouraging South Korea to focus its tourism on China's middle class. There's a joke in there somewhere about the middle class from the Middle Kingdom. 
  • Official records of South Korean nationals born abroad will now reflect local time of birth instead of Korean time of birth to prevent confusion caused by discrepancies between documents from Korea and those of the birth country. In accordance with "Korean age," however, children will continue to be two years old just months after their birth.

Wednesday, February 24, 2010

Countdown to completion of LiNK's Pepsi challenge: Vote early, vote often!

I got an email from Esther Lee, the Communications Manager at LiNK, the site organization that assists North Korean refugees and is trying to win $250,000 from Pepsi to set up a facility to better serve the refugees. Until the voting is done, you'll find a direct link to vote for LiNK at the top of the right-hand column. Here is her email:
Hi Kushibo,

I wanted to ask if you could urge your readers to vote for us every day this week at We've been stuck in 4th place and we only have one week left to place in the top 2. Sunday is the last day to vote.

An easy way to get the word out is through our facebook group and cause. Here are some links that make it easier:

Thanks for your consideration and help!
I'm more than happy to do whatever I can. Please, people, these folks at LiNK do good work, so vote early, vote often (at least vote once a day).

Kim Yuna performs adequately in Vancouver

I didn't watch it, me being a jinx and all, but I knew right away something big happened because Ms Kim Yuna's form was splattered all over the news sites, including the New York Times above.

Indeed, she not only came out on top in the women's figureskating short program, she set a world record with her score. But the medal work is not over, and we'll have to see how she does tomorrow (and then I'll watch it online after that... the whole jinx thing).

UPDATE (two days later):
Kim Yuna has won the gold!

South Korea's Lee Seunghoon wins gold in men's 10,000-meter after Dutchman disqualified

As Ohno supporters might say, a gold is a gold (as I said of Ohno being a good skater who deserves his medal, "a silver is a silver"). Lee Seunghoon [Yi Sŭng•hun, 이숭훈] was four seconds behind Sven Kramer, but he did come in ahead of everyone else (setting a new Olympic record) and he avoided being disqualified.

And just as Kim Dongsung threw his country's flag down in 2002, the disqualified Dutch skater "threw his goggles down in disgust."

From the AFP:
Korea's Lee Seung-Hoon was gifted the men's 10,000m speed skating gold medal on Tuesday after Dutchman Sven Kramer was sensationally disqualified after coming over the line first.

Russia's Ivan Skobrev took the silver and another Dutchman Bob de Jong won the bronze.

Kramer, who won 5,000m gold last week, was the hot favourite and he lived up to his billing by powering around the Richmond Oval more than four seconds faster than Lee in the gruelling race.

He thought he had won but a lane infringement with eight laps left saw him disqualified, ending his dream of completing the first golden treble by an Olympic speedskater since Norway's Johann Olav Koss in 1994.

Kramer, the 23-year-old son of two-time Dutch Olympic speedskater Yep Kramer, threw his goggles down in disgust and was a forlorn figure as Lee celebrated an unexpected victory.
Kramer also blamed his own coach:
"Usually, I don't want to blame anyone else, but this time I can't do anything else. I wanted to go on the outer lane then just before the cone Gerard shouted 'inner lane,' I thought he's probably right and went to the inner lane," he said.

"At first I thought my skates passed the cone on the wrong side, I will be disqualified. Then I noticed in the stadium something was wrong.

"You have to decide in a split second. Afterwards I should have gone with my own thoughts, but I was brought into doubt. This really sucks. This is a real expensive mistake."
There may be some truth in what he's saying, so I'm not about to write that off as unsportsmanlike activity. As I said before, the biochemical rush going through these skaters when they finish provides reasonable cover for their post-race tantrums:
Lee Dong-sung, back in the 2002 Olympics, was unsportsmanlike for throwing down the t'aegŭkki when it turned out he got disqualified after coming in first in Salt Lake. I'll excuse him, though, based on the undoubtedly high level of adrenaline pumping through his veins just then. Some will say I'm a hypocrite, because I'm not willing to accept the same excuse for police officers who shoot suspects they've chased into an alley, but come on, there's a difference between throwing down a flag and putting twenty-five bullets in someone carrying an ice cream cone you thought was a rocket launcher.
No doubt some will see hypocrisy in Lee happily accepting this gold medal, but I don't think it is, for a variety of reasons. First, Lee Seunghoon was not (to my knowledge) one of those saying Ohno was undeserving. Second, Lee Seunghoon was not instrumental in Mr Kramer getting disqualified in the way that Ohno was instrumental in getting Kim Dongsung disqualified so he could win the gold in 2002. Rather different cases, methinks.

Of course, I have yet to see the race, and I don't know if I would recognize a foul by Lee if he'd made one, but from what I have to work with now, I don't think there's hypocrisy.

Daily Kor for February 24, 2010

Sometimes the Lee administration — actually the entire Hannara Party — seems to get its playbook from conservative Republicans. Indeed, there are some similarities, particularly the hardline policy on North Korea, but it seems that this means also that very American Republican issues are being grafted onto the Korean context where they're not necessarily the best match.

Two issues below — abortion restrictions in South Korea's don't-ask-don't-tell wink-and-nod de facto abortion legality and the steady march toward banning the death penalty — seem to be out of place in South Korean society today.
  1. ROK and US nuclear envoys each meet with Chinese counterpart in Beijing to discuss six-party talks (AP via WaPo, Yonhap)
  2. South Africa tells UN Security Council it intercepted North Korean arms shipment headed for central Africa in November 2009 (Reuters via WaPo)
  3. South Korea opens multicultural prison in Chonan specifically for foreign convicts (BBC, Korea Herald)
  4. ROK Constitutional Court to decide whether to keep death penalty in criminal code (Yonhap, Korea Herald)
  5. Doctors caught performing illegal abortions three times to lose membership in Korean Association of Obstetricians and Gynecologists (Korea Times)
  6. Hyundai Heavy Industries signs $1.4 billion deal to develop gas facilities in Myanmar (Korea Herald)
  7. International urban design conference opens in Seoul (Yonhap)
  8. South Korean exports expected to rise 20 to 30% in first quarter of 2009 (Yonhap)
  9. Government opposed to state-run firms raising retirement age (Korea Times)
  10. SUNY Stony Brook opens IT research facility in Inchon (Korea Herald)
  11. Spending on private education rose in 2009, despite government efforts to rein it in (Yonhap)
  12. Canada's loss to US in ice hockey "inevitable result of failed universal health care," says Utah's Orrin Hatch in proposed Senate resolution (AP via WaPo)

Loose change for February 24, 2009

 Economic news 
 North Korea news and stuff 
 Other Korea-related stuff 

Tuesday, February 23, 2010

Kia Motors unveils new sedan

Yonhap released the above artist's rendering of Kia's new mid-sized sedan. It is to be called TF, and I think they're going for a bold, shocking, bet-you-never-expected-this-from-Kia sorta look.

So to help them with that endeavor, here's a little more pro bono advertising work I'm throwing their way:

Daily Kor for February 23, 2010

All eyes are on the winter Olympics, but there's some interesting news about America's summer pastime. Who knew Park Chanho could command so much cash this late in his career?
  1. Park Chanho signs one-year contract with New York Yankees worth $1.2 million (Reuters, ESPN, Bloomberg)
  2. A belligerent Pyongyang seeks military talks with Seoul next week (Reuters via WaPo, Bloomberg, Yonhap)
  3. Report by National Human Rights Commission of Korea details plight of North Korean women fleeing DPRK, saying they are subject to sexual violence and human trafficking in China and other countries (AFP)
  4. North Korean census data indicates drop in life expectancy and increase in child mortality over past fifteen years (AFP, Bloomberg)
  5. Ministry of Health, Welfare, and Family Affairs says H1N1 flu vaccine now available to everyone in South Korea (Chosun Ilbo)
  6. Gallup poll says half of South Koreans feel US-ROK alliance is strong (Chosun Ilbo)
  7. Police say suspected Taliban operative forged his identity several times (Korea Herald)
  8. Declassified documents show that US President Carter expressed deep regret over South Korea's 1979 coup, fearing it could invite military attack by North Korea (Korea Times)
  9. Korean short track fans enraged after Apolo Ohno uses Hollywood fellatio action to alert Olympic skating judges that Lee Jungsu should be disqualified as a co¢ksu¢ker (ESPN)