Saturday, April 30, 2011

State Department rejects Carter's claims of human rights abuse over food aid

The US State Department has clearly refuted the idea stated by former President Jimmy Carter that South Korea and the United States withholding food aid constitutes human rights violations:
The U.S. State Department on Friday refuted charges by former President Jimmy Carter that the United States and South Korea were withholding food aid from North Korea for political motives.

The blame for North Korea's food shortage belongs to the North Korean government, a State Department official said.

The State Department's response came the same day that the United Nations World Food Programme announced plans to begin emergency food distribution to 3.5 million North Koreans, primarily women and children, who are starving after a harsh winter decimated crops.

Carter rankled U.S. officials this week after accusing the United States and South Korea of human rights violations by withholding food aide. He made the comments at the end of a three-day visit to the North Korean capital, Pyongyang, a visit that had been intended to promote north-south dialogue on the Korean peninsula, revive a denuclearization process and assess food shortages.
The State Department is absolutely right that the onus is on Pyongyang and Pyongyang alone. However, I think Carter does have a point that it may be unethical or immoral to withhold aid that would otherwise have been provided, simply because of a hardline stance against North Korea over their recent actions.

That is, providing the food aid does not prop up the regime or allow it to continue, right? And withholding it only causes innocents to suffer, right?

Only if withholding the food hastens North Korea's peasantry and rank-and-file party members to stop supporting Kim Jong-il's rule would I say it's a clear-cut case.

Korean Finder 2011-06

This is a tough one. You either know it or you don't. LOL..

Overheard on "Community"...

The dean explains how a race kerfuffle broke out among the various food truck vendors at the World Food Festival on campus.
I was just trying to feed hungry foodies.... I didn't even know there was a difference between North and South Korean barbecue.

I mean, M*A*S*H lasted longer than that war! Get over it, amiright?
Of course, this is meant as satire (the dean is a goofball), but it did get me to thinking that maybe so many Americans ask if you've come from North Korea or South Korea is that they actually think North Koreans really are represented in substantial numbers anywhere outside North Korea, neighboring northeastern China, and perhaps Japan.

Friday, April 29, 2011

What's wrong with this picture?

Click to enlarge.

No, Trump, he really did go to Harvard...

Now I'm not so sure I should be a birther. Donald Trump is now seems to be suggesting that President Obama didn't go to Harvard, or at least was grossly unqualified:
“I heard he was a terrible student, terrible. How does a bad student go to Columbia and then to Harvard?” Mr. Trump said in an interview with The Associated Press. “I’m thinking about it, I’m certainly looking into it. Let him show his records.”
Uh-huh. It took me all of three minutes to go into the Harvard Law Review archives (on PDF) and look at some random edition during his tenure there (in this case, December 1990) and see his name listed in several places as the editor and president of the Harvard Law Review, a highly coveted and prestigious position one would scarcely imagine going to some dunderhead.

Below are images I snapshot from page iii.

This is the upper part of the page (it's too big to snapshot at once).
See if you can find Barack Obama's name. Click to enlarge.

His name appears a second time. Can you see it?
Click to enlarge.

This is now just getting ridiculous. Maybe since Trump has more money than all his own lawyers he assumes he's also smarter than they are (and not just incredibly lucky, starting with massive seed money from his dad), so he doesn't really grasp that Obama might actually be his intellectual superior.

Of course, if Obama were Trump's intellectual superior, that would make some folks like Trump all the more, since there is a disturbingly high number of folks out there who decidedly distrust and dislike "intellectuals." They're like the Khmer Rouge that way.

By the way, I have the entire PDF to send to anyone who'd like to see it. It lists dozens of people also on the HLR who could probably attest to having known him there.

And finally, we have this (the whole thing is good, but the exchange in question starts just after 2:00)...

Letterman versus Dr Phil: Is Trump a racist or just an idiot?

Echoing what I wrote here, I'm guessing just idiot.

By the way, this is interesting:
A government file on Barack Obama Sr. said that Harvard University, where he was studying, told immigration officials it would “cook something up” to force him to return to Kenya in 1964.

The immigration file, which was released under freedom of information laws, contains records of Mr Obama Sr.’s time as a student at the universities of Hawaii and Harvard between 1959 and 1964.

It may solve the long-running mystery, described in the President’s memoir, of why his father really left the US, only returning to see his son once before he died.

An April 1961 memo said that a University of Hawaii employee called to report that Mr Obama Sr. had married Ann Dunham, the future president’s mother.

She warned that he was already married to a woman in Kenya and had been “running around with several girls” since arriving and that he had been warned to curb his “playboy ways”.
I guess that was too wordy even for the long form.

Welcome back, Carter!

Read all about President Jimmy Carter's third visit to Pyongyang on his blog:
We will be working hard in our few days in Pyongyang to learn as much as we can about the North Korean position. I hope we will be able to return to the US and Europe with a positive and constructive message. We have been told that our visit here is seen as helpful in establishing a positive atmosphere and that the people in both North and South expect a lot from us.

It is to my mind a tragedy that, more than 60 years after the Armistice that ended the Korean War, North and South Korea have not signed a peace treaty. My country, the United States, is South Korea’s guarantor, which creates enormous anxiety among the North Korean people and drains their political energy and resources.
Yup. The North Koreans were hoping Mr Carter would do two things for them: Bring food for them, and then carry water for them.

Anyway, we also get news (via Yonhap) that Kim Jong-il proposed to Carter that the leaders of the two Koreas hold a summit:
"He specifically told us that he is prepared for a summit meeting directly with President Lee Myung-bak at any time to discuss any subject directly between the two heads of state," Carter said, referring to a message he said he received from Kim hours earlier.

"Although we did not meet with the leader of North Korea, when we had already departed from our guest home, we were asked to come back to receive a personal message," Carter said in a press conference. ...

South Korea, which has repeatedly said it is open to a summit with North Korea, had yet to respond to the proposal. On Tuesday, South Korean Foreign Minister Kim Sung-hwan had downplayed the Elders trip, saying Pyongyang should rather speak to Seoul directly.

Kim Jong-il "sent word he is willing and the people of North Korea are willing to negotiate with South Korea or the United States or (the other powers involved in six-party talks) on any subject at any time and without any preconditions," Carter said.
GI Korea at ROK Drop had some clear opinions on the subject:
Kim Jong-il is just making this announcement because he knows President Lee won’t agree to it until the North Koreans apologize for sinking the Cheonan and shelling Yeonpyeong-do island last year. This make Kim Jong-il look like the reasonable party and he can let the useful idiots like Jimmy Carter and company to criticize President Lee for not agreeing to the summit. What President Lee should do is agree to the summit request but only if Kim Jong-il comes to Seoul for the summit like he promised the late former Korean President Kim Dae-jung.
I think GI Korea may be right that there is a strong possibility this is the Pyongyang regime's attempt to look like the reasonable one (and let's face it: both Tokyo and Pyongyang are often very good at playing off of Seoul in order to look like the rational one), but part of me believes this is sincere. That is, if President Lee agrees to meet with the Dear Leader, maybe KJI thinks he stands to gain something material from it.

Kim Jong-il, you've just succeeded at
subjugating your people into a cowering mass.
What will you do next?

"I'm going to EverLand!"
My recommendation would be to agree to meet, pushing for Seoul or Kanghwa-do (or some place north near Panmunjom) as the venue but not sticking to it if it has to be in Pyongyang. If KJI insists it must be in North Korea, make it Kaesŏng. Don't go to the capital.

The reason I say this is that we are at a crossroads. Kim Jong-il has had a major brush with death (i.e., his stroke and possibly cancer or at least a cancer scare) and he is smart enough to read the writing on the wall. If he really is grooming his son to take over — and if he is actually allowed to — it may be that he's being set up to be the kinder, gentler North Korea leader. Heck, Kim Jong-il himself may be poised to make a grand gesture.

At the very least, now is the time to start rebuilding personal relationships, allowing each side to start seeing the other as someone they can work with. It is in our best interest if North Korea starts to trust us.

But don't bring anything more expensive than a bottle of Chivas Regal. The most expensive item for this summit should be train fare for Lee and his entourage (if it's in North Korea) or three nights of accommodations at the Shilla Hotel (if it's in South Korea).

Birthers rip birth certificate to shreds

Well, as I said yesterday, it looks like we can conclude it's a fake (HT to reader).

click image to enlarge

And now I hope the birther movement goes after Chester A. Arthur. That fat-ass, even if he was born in the US and not in Canada, had an Irish father who was a British subject at the time of his (Chester's) birth.

And he hid that fact! Boy, did he ever try to hide that fact. In fact, some say his morbid weight gain was so that he could stand right in front of the documentation and no one would see it.

The proof he was trying to pull one over on the nation? That's easy: to this day, most Americans today have no idea who Arthur even is! How's that for proof?

Dangit! it looks like the PDF layers and stuff are easily explained, according to the National Review Online.

But (and this is me channeling the Tea Party), you can't spell RINO without N, R, and O.

Thursday, April 28, 2011

Newly released Obama birth certificate is fake! (UPDATED)

Click to be fooled
The big news this morning — announced in bold Helvetica by a Huffington Post alert on my iPhone — is that President Barack Hussein Obama has finally released his full, long-form, tits-to-the-wall birth certificate that is legally required for anything you do in America, from getting a driver license, to obtaining a passport, to seeing a copy of the smaller and less Constitutionally acceptable Certificate of Live Birth, like the White House foisted on us all these months and years.

So they released it and I immediately saw that something was wrong: This purported long-form "Certificate of Live Birth" doesn't list what religion Barack Hussein Obama is. Not that we don't already know, but that's how I instantly knew it was fake. The whole reason he'd spent $5 million of taxpayer money (it was thought to be $2 million, but that number was not shocking enough, so it was doubled... then tripled... but that didn't sound "round number"ish enough, so it was 2.5led) was to hide the fact that he was born a Muslim.

And while I'd hoped to have an Internet scoop (I haven't had one since I successfully scuttled Brangelina's plans to adopt an entire African country in 2009), it turns out that people who wake up earlier than we in the Hawaii-Aleutian Time Zone beat me to it:
After much of the excitement for everyone regarding Barry's birth certificate that he spent over 5 million dollars in lawyer fees to hide from the prying eye of the public. I stumbled upon someones investigation into how the newly released birth cert is in fact fake, and you can even do this yourself if you have the software to see for yourself. You see they left things in PDF format which can be imported into Adobe Illustrator. This is where things got interesting, see for yourself. This in itself shows that the birth Certificate given to the public wasn't scanned, it was pieced together digitally. Sorry, but you've been had! If you don't understand how Clipping Masks work I suggest you Google it to find out.
Damn straight, because Google knows fu¢kin' everything!

And as much as I hate to admit it, this development has firmly thrown me into the birther camp. I have looked into this issue before, and while I wanted to believe local Hawaiian officials Chiyome Fukino and Linda Lingle that they really saw this thing, they are Republicans, and ever since Iran-Contra, I don't trust Republicans.

Besides, if these state officials are incapable of fixing all the frickin' potholes in Honolulu that make this city's streets look like a lunar landscape, then how do I know they didn't muck up this task too? They probably found some guy named O'Barry's birth certificate and declared "Mission Accomplished!" (because that's something Republicans like to say).

And then I got to thinking, "Hey, self, you've lived in Hawaii for five years, have you ever encountered the Obama long-form birth certificate?"

"No!" I said back to myself. "I haven't."

And that is odd. Not even once in five years. I mean, this is a small island... I run into classmates and professors in the most obscure places. There was that Marxist student from my Stratification Theory class who was at Walmart, and my Microbiology Pathology professor at the Korean mega-spa. Sure, they were both running away and/or hiding their face in some guy's lap because they obviously didn't want me to see them (they both owe me money), but the point is that you run into people all over the place here because it's a small island (sorry for repeating myself but it's a really small island).

But yet, in all these five years, half a decade, I've never encountered Obama's birth certificate.

Come to think of it, I've never met anyone who knew Obama when he was a newborn. Sure, I run into Punahou graduates who say they were in class with him or had their ice cream scooped by him back in the day (that's not a euphemism; he actually worked at Baskin Robbins), but nobody knew him as a newborn, which is Constitutionally required for eligibility for our nation's highest office. What gives?

So yeah, with this second fake and/or inadequate "certificate of live birth," I'm firmly in the birther camp now, Mr Born-in-Kenya-as-a-Muslim Barack Hussein Obama. A few weeks ago I mocked some of my future fellow-birthers by saying that if the long-form birth certificate were released, the birther industry would quickly declare that as subterfuge as well...
What will be the call when/if that were to be released? Guaranteed, it will be called fake, and then some other supporting evidence will be demanded because the long form could be faked, etc., etc., ad nauseum .
... but now I realize ipso facto ex redacto that those pioneering birthers were just guarding our interests. They knew it would be fake because it is fake.

Holy wow! [epiphany hitting, please bear with me] The world is so much clearer when you accept birther logic. The air is fresher, the blues are bluer... the birds... I can really hear the birds.

So don't be fooled, America. Already O-bomb-America has not released his college transcripts, his passports, his senior thesis outlining an Islamo-Marxist takeover of southeastern Michigan, his ticket stub from that flight to Karachi when he was a teen, the second-grade drawing of King Kamehameha surfing that supposedly won an Honorable Mention, and other stuff he's hiding that I haven't thought of yet.

Ours is not a commander-in-chief but a counterfeit-in-chief. Not a POTUS but a pot-au-feu. I'm not sure what that means, but it's French, and ergo is bad. Very bad.

All across America, people are discovering for themselves what fakery this is:
  • Patriot Update (from whom I bought bumper stickers) notes that Obama is listed as African instead of Negro, which was a no-no in those pre-PC days. The PC backers of Obama are foiled by their own politically correct hubris. Winning!
  • Trump says he's very proud of himself and that now we should force Obama to reveal what a terrible student Trump heard Obama was.
  • Godlikeproductions notes that the supposed birth certificate is missing a seal. And if you have no seal, well, then what you have is Seal Beach (Orange County inside joke, sorry).
  • Market Ticker sees that there are problems with aliased pixels. And that sounds like alien pickles. Si¢k fu¢ks. 
  • Is Hawaii even a state? I mean, no place should be considered a state unless you can travel there from another state in a conestoga. I mean, that's just Being American 101. Also, Hawaii used to be a kingdom, and we don't roll that way. Statehood attempt FAIL!
  • Even if this fake birth certificate were accepted as genuine, Obama is still not a natural born citizen because he doesn't have two parents who were born in the United States. The new fake certificate proves it, because it proves Obama's father was Barack Obama Sr, who was a British subject, and that makes Obama Jr not eligible. This, apparently, was the whole point of the birther movement all along... if the birth certificate is real, which it is not. Yeah, I'm confused, too. 
  • I'd also like to add that this supposed birth certificate is green, and everything I've seen pictures of from 1961 was black and white. I'm pretty sure color wasn't invented until the late 1960s, unless you were a Nazi. Need I say more?
Is that a javelin in your hand or are you just happy to be a Nazi?

Dangit! it looks like the PDF layers and stuff are easily explained, according to the National Review Online.

But (and this is me channeling the Tea Party), you can't spell RINO without N, R, and O.

Wednesday, April 27, 2011

Super Spa

The Los Angeles Times has an article highlighting South Korea's on-going trend in 24-hour mega-bathhouses:
When Yang had his idea 11 years ago, Seoul had a large number of small mom-and-pop bathhouses, most of which closed by 10 p.m. When Yang opened a chain of six mammoth bathhouses, he changed the way South Koreans spent their leisure hours.

His idea of one-stop leisure not only brought more families out for a soak and a steam, but the practice also became popular for dating singles. Others soon followed his lead. Today hundreds of similar facilities dot the nation.

In a country where strangers rarely speak, the mega-bathhouse has become the great equalizer in South Korean society. In the bathhouse, everyone is dressed in the same utilitarian outfit.

"Customers come to the bathhouse and go through a simple transformation. By taking a complete bath and wearing uniforms, they immediately become a part of this strange world," said sociologist Kim Chan-ho, an associate professor at Seoul's Sungkonghoe University. "By being in the same outfit hanging out on the floor, people feel at ease. Here the hierarchy disappears and everyone is on the same level."

The newfound togetherness even extends to sleeping in bunkhouse-style overnight quarters.

"Sleeping is a very private act," Kim said. "And it's almost eerie to be sharing that private moment with complete strangers, but that is one of the charms of these bathhouses."
The article notes that the aforementioned neighborhood mom-and-pop bathhouses (called mogyokt'ang, 목욕탕) are dying out as a result. That's quite sad, as the neighborhood public bath has often been a central meeting place in East Asian countries where the practice is the norm. (One of my urban development professors tells me that when developers in Japan wanted to buy out a neighborhood where they thought the residents may be unwilling to sell, the first thing they would do was purchase and then close down the local public bath.)

I'd also like to note that Korean-style super spas are becoming a thing in places with a large kyopo population, such as Orange County and Los Angeles. John Travolta and a host of other celebrities are known to frequent a Korean-run establishment called Lions Spa on Pico.

Um, that last link notwithstanding, back in Korea that is not — emphatically not — what the whole spa craze is all about. There are red light districts for the sex stuff, so the super spas are family fun (although in my first experience using a jimjilbang for overnight accommodations, a couple was — as quietly as possible — having sex in the corner of the crowded open sleeping area at about 2 or 3 a.m.). To be sure there may be some monkey business on occasion, but far and away mostly not. That's simply not the association in Korea.

Caption contest 2011-01

I won't start. Because it would just set the tone. [source]

Tuesday, April 26, 2011

Korea Finder 2011-05

Can you tell me where this is?

Note: Mark is disqualified, for reasons I outlined here. Sorry, Mark.

LAT on South Korea's renewed annoyance at Japan

I've already covered it in this post, but John Glionna of the Los Angeles Times brings it to a larger audience than I can:
For two decades, the weekly protest has come as sure as the changing seasons: a handful of graying Korean women picketing Tokyo's embassy here, demanding an apology and compensation for being forced into sexual slavery during Japan's World War II-era occupation.

But soon after a magnitude 9 earthquake and tsunami last month killed more than 20,000 people and caused nuclear mayhem in Japan, something changed here. The so-called comfort women felt moved to hold another kind of rally: a vigil for Japanese victims.

"We hate the sin but not the people," said Lee Yong-su, 85. "We hope Japan will stand on its feet soon."

Suddenly, there was a sense that a bitter nationalistic rivalry might be replaced by something the Korean peninsula has rarely felt for its former conqueror: empathy.

South Korea was the first country to send a rescue team to the disaster area. The Korean Red Cross has raised $40 million, one of the largest nongovernment contributions to Japan after the quake. The newspaper Chosun Ilbo, which has often been critical of Japan and its policies, raised $10 million. Even the comfort women chipped in $15,000.

Many compared the moment to the brief window after the 9/11 attacks when many hoped that Democrats and Republicans might finally put aside their differences.

That, of course, didn't happen. And in the case of South Korea and Japan, the rapprochement also appears short-lived.

The two countries seem to have fallen back into old habits — like a couple in an abusive relationship where one has lorded over the other. They've gone to counseling, tried all the couples therapies. And just when one spouse is about to forgive the other, another unforgivable event comes to pass. Once again, signals are misread, and the relationship is back at a dysfunctional impasse.
I would emphasize that the South Korean view of Japan is highly dichotomized: among most SoKos, there is a mental separation between individual Japanese and the Japanese government itself. Despite Tokyo continuing to lay claim to territory they grabbed at the beginning of their brutal four-decade rule over Korea, there is still great sympathy and concern for the people of Japan who have been affected by the Tohoku earthquake, the ensuing tsunami, and the on-going nuclear crisis.

I just wish that both sides would stop doing things to poke the other in the eye, because with China rising and North Korea raving, we need to see more things like this.

Monday, April 25, 2011

Trouble abrewin'?

Considering what I wrote in this post about the growing possibility of North Korea launching an attack, this bit of speculative news from the Chosun Ilbo does not bode well for peace on the peninsula in the coming weeks:
North Korean leader Kim Jong-il secretly visited a building where agencies engaged in military operations against South Korea are clustered and the General Reconnaissance Bureau last month, a source said Sunday.

The so-called Building No. 3 houses the United Front Department and the Workers Party's international affairs department. The General Reconnaissance Bureau, an agency in charge of armed provocations against the South, is believed to have supervised the sinking of the Navy corvette Cheonan last year.

"Kim Jong-il inspected the areas and encouraged agents" on his visits, a North Korean source said. "It seems highly likely that the regime will provoke again in case its charm offensive falls on deaf ears."
Seriously, I hope I'm wrong about a springtime offensive, but there really are some ominous signs.

Straight outta blogdom: Kushibo's personal encounter with the court system

This is going to be an occasional but on-going feature here at Monster Island: taking lengthy or significant comments I left on other blogs and bringing them "home" to this blog. Back in the day, before preparing to leave Seoul for Honolulu, I wrote a lot of comments, especially at The Marmot's Hole. Here's one from March 2006...

It reminds me of my personal run-in with the court system. Most foreign nationals, apparently, are funneled through a certain court so that interpreters and what-not can be more easily pooled.

I was there because I was challenging a 1 million won fine for driving without a license (which I successfully got down to a 100,000 won fine for not having my license in hand), but some of the other “foreigners” there were in for violent crime or theft. While I drove myself to the courthouse, some of these people were marched in through a special entrance in the back.

There was this one guy who was huge: NBA tall and NFL wide, built like that really big guy on Green Mile who cures everybody of their hacking cough.

He took advantage of his time before the judge (his was a preliminary hearing of some kind) to make a complaint about the prison food: he wasn’t getting enough. Apparently the rations were tantamount to starvation for someone of his size. Also, he couldn’t eat any of the spicy stuff, and he asked the judge to give him a different diet. Green Mile Dude was very soft-spoken and polite throughout.

The judge, however, said he has no control over the prison food. Next!

UPDATE (present era):
I learned a lot from that encounter with the judicial system, including that the court system seemed to try to go out of its way to be fair to the "foreigners" who'd gotten arrested (which included a few kyopo).

I also learned that even if your Korean is pretty good, take advantage of having a translator, because they know their stuff and they just might couch things in a way that helps your case (which also makes it in your interest to be nice to them).

Also, be respectful and contrite when facing the judge. It is not the place to cop an attitude (and I really could have, considering why I was there).

Sunday, April 24, 2011

Hermit Shmermit

fThe BBC has a "Korea of yesteryear" piece worthy of Marmot's Hole's own Robert Neff. This one is about a missionary named Robert Jermain Thomas who became an important Protestant martyr in 1866 when he decided to spread the gospel from the deck of an American merchant vessel, the ill-fated Sherman, which was most unwelcome in the Hermit Kingdom:
In 1866 Thomas joined an armed US trading boat bound for the Korean city of Pyongyang, intending to spread the gospel in a country with little contact with the outside world.

When the ship ran aground on a sandbank, Thomas began to throw his consignment of bibles onto the shore.

As uninvited trading boats were forbidden in Korea, Thomas was executed along with members of the crew as the country's first Protestant martyr.

However, the bibles he threw overboard were picked up by locals and are credited with fuelling a revival of Christianity in Korea fifty years later.
And thus began a Korean tradition of getting yourself killed by going into inhospitable territory that isn't quite socially ready to accept your proselytizing.

The BBC is reporting on this because Koreans have been flocking to the good reverend's chapel back in England.

Meanwhile, sometime during the Japanese colonial period, the Thomas Memorial Chapel was built on the site where the Sherman was attacked. Though it was destroyed in 1946 (Communists, you may have heard, aren't terribly fond of churches, them being opium-dispensers to the masses and all), the site is now the home of the Christian-organized Pyongyang University of Science and Technology (where I would totally consider teaching once I get my PhD, at least for a while, just for the bragging rights).

Is North Korea's ominous warning serious this time?

There was a time when Pyongyang's threats to rain fire down on the South Korean capital, their claims that such-and-such by Seoul or Washington was an "act of war" that would be responded to in kind, or their other various forms of menacing behavior was just so much bluster: it was a de rigueur for North Korea's mouthpieces to regularly threaten the neighbors to the south.

That was, of course, before the sinking of the Ch'ŏnan last spring, killing dozens of ROK seamen, and then the shelling of Yŏnpyŏng-do Island last fall, which killed ROK military personnel and two civilians.

Now that the envelope has been pushed, one wonders if we should take threats like these a little more seriously:
North Korea warned yesterday that it will launch full-fledged attacks against people sending propaganda leaflets over the border, and it won’t give any advance warnings.

The threat to anti-North Korea campaigns by South Korean activists came amid rising hopes that the two Koreas will join China, Russia, the United States and Japan to revive the stalled six-party talks on the North’s nuclear weapons program.

“Under this situation, our army officially informs the south side that it will expand the scope of direct fire, already declared, into full-scale destruction fire at any area, any time,” said the North Korean military in a report from the state-run Korean Central News Agency.

In March, the North said through Korean Central Television that it was losing patience with groups sending propaganda leaflets via balloons across the border and would open fire on certain South Korean sites used to launch the balloons.

Despite the warnings, some civic groups continued to send the balloons. On April 15, the birthday of North Korean founder Kim Il Sung, groups dispatched around 200,000 leaflets containing pro-democracy, anti-Kim family messages.
They are talking about anti-Kim Jong-il leaflets containing news of the Jasmine Revolution in the Middle East, along with dollar bills and DVDs, being floated over North Korean territory as a way to erode confidence in the regime. Pyongyang has made no secret that it is angry about the leaflets, which it considers psyops and therefore an "act of war." In fact, they have made threats in February and in March that they may attack these positions.

While I'm not saying that these leaflets shouldn't be sent out, I do think it is prudent to expect that North Korean might make good on its threat, with at least one or two shells lobbed in that direction (too many might invite a serious response from the Lee Myungbak administration, which is reeling from anger over its milquetoast response to the shelling last fall).

North Korea's have comfortably lowered the threshold at which they would act, and that alone should have us on guard. Moreover, the way North Korea is talking about this may indicate they are making a case (for their own people at least) why such an attack is not only justified but necessary. Here's North Korea's Central News Agency (KCNA) report on the same news above (朝鮮語):
The south side is persisting in the dirty action of scattering anti-DPRK leaflets, despite the north side's repeated warnings, while committing such reckless military provocations as firing bullets at it.

It scattered more than 200,000 leaflets at Rimjin Pavilion in Phaju City on April 15 and 1.2 million around Samgot-ri, Jung-myon, Ryonchon County in the central sector of the front on April 14, stealthily acting like a cat burglar for fear of merciless counteraction by the army of the DPRK.

It also perpetrated unpardonable military provocation such as firing 12.7 mm large-calibre machine gun in direction of the north side at random from 516 gendarme post at 19:38 on April 15.

Those facts prove that the present puppet authorities are getting evermore pronounced in the bellicose stand to escalate the north-south confrontation and finally bring the situation to the brink of war, the head of the north side pointed out.

Then he solemnly notified the following principled stand of the Korean People's Army:
As already and evidently clarified, leaflet scattering is a form of psychological warfare and it is just a clear-cut war provocation to a warring side.

Accordingly, it is our invariable stand that direct fire at the area where leaflets are let fly will be a legitimate punishment by the army of the DPRK, a warring side, to the breakers of the Armistice Agreement.

Moreover, the south side resorts to scattering of leaflets, moving places in a cunning way for fear of counteraction by our army. Under this situation, our army officially informs the south side that it will expand the scope of direct fire, already declared, into full-scale destruction fire at any area anytime.
Indeed, the KCNA story is a far more ominous read, for it combines the following elements: (a) a declaration that they consider leaflet spreading psyops and therefore an act of war, (b) an official warning of retaliation for said act of war, and most gravely, (c) a concomitant shooting incident that bolsters the case. That last one, left out of the English-language reports in South Korea and the Western media, may seal the deal by providing pretext.

The Pyongyang regime is starting to feel under siege, with much of the population outside the capital feeling very disgruntled following the Great Currency Obliteration of 2009 and the deprivation that followed. Simply put, the leaflet launchings make it harder for them to keep the people in line (which is one of the reasons for doing the leaflet launching in the first place!), perhaps to the point that the regime is under threat itself, and they have to do something.

It's no wonder, then, that some residents of P'aju (written as Phaju in the KCNA article) in the northern part of South Korea, are annoyed that the activists are launching the balloons from their neighborhoods. North Korea has recently demonstrated that they have no qualms about shelling civilian targets, and they could be next.

Now, this is not to say that the leaflets should not be sent. I'm sounding the alarm for preparation more than anything else. Perhaps also the leaflet-launching groups could pick some more isolated areas and perhaps even a maritime location (though I have no idea how feasible this is).

I'm just saying: This could get very, very ugly in the near term.

Plan... ahead...

This doesn't bode well. Apparently Kim Jong-il has paid a recent visit to the government agency that is responsible for the attack on the Ch'ŏnan.

Saturday, April 23, 2011

Greater East Asia co-prosperity military alliance?

It seems Japan is suggesting a stronger military alliance with the US and South Korea in order to counter the growing threat from China.

From AFP:
Japan's defence minister said his country needs stronger military ties with the US and South Korea to balance China's growing might, the Wall Street Journal reported.

In an interview with the paper, Defence Minister Toshimi Kitazawa said relations with the United States were strengthened by the help its military provided in the aftermath of the March 11 earthquake and tsunami.

He said Japan was particularly concerned about China's increasing naval capabilities.

"Our priority is to make our bilateral relationship with the US rock solid," he told the paper.

"In order to maintain the right balance in our relationship with China, we need to also solidify the ties between Japan, the US and South Korea," said Kitazawa, of the centre-left Democratic Party of Japan.
This is something that has been in the works for some time already, and it's nice to see it coming to fruition.

Okay, I'm all for a very strong Tokyo-Seoul-Washington-(Taipei) alliance. So can you please stop claiming Tokto already?

Try this for a solution:
Japan officially acknowledges South Korea’s claim on Tokto while South Korea tacitly acknowledges Japan’s EEZ claim around Okinotorishima. This would tick off China, so it has to be done when Korea doesn’t care about ticking off China, or they need to tick them off as a tactical move (like in response to China rounding up North Koreans).
South Korea would, of course, maintain the 12-nautical mile territorial waters around Tokto, but it already does now anyway.

My point is that if the Tokto issue could be resolved and Japan's politicians can manage to hold their tongue on, say, Comfort Women being volunteers and Imperial Japan having been a wonderful influence on Korea, the two could be close allies, like France and Germany today.

Good Earth Friday

It's quite unusual for this to happen but, thanks to the rare late Easter we have this year, Earth Day and Good Friday (marking the date of Christ's Crucifixion) have fallen on the same day.

But ask the animals, and they will teach you, or the birds of the air, and they will tell you; or speak to the earth, and it will teach you, or let the fish of the sea inform you. Which of all these does not know that the hand of the Lord has done this? In His hand is the life of every creature and the breath of all mankind.
— Job 12:7-10

I've read the Bible from cover to cover, and many parts multiple times, and I have always found it head-scratchingly baffling that purported Christians would be so antagonistic toward protective stewardship of God's creation (i.e., the environment). I also find it perplexing that so many Christians are so married to the idea of unfettered capitalism, when so many parts of the Bible run counter to its values and dictates, but that's another post for another time. Maybe on Adam Smith's birthday. Or Karl Marx's. Or Jesus's, since He and His Dad were quite the socialists.

Good Friday, by the way, is a state holiday in Hawaii (!). Never sure how that passed muster Constitutionally, but if the birthers are right, we don't really care about that kind of thing anyway.

Speaking of socialists and environmentalism, the People's Daily in China, according to North Korea's KCNA news agency (朝鮮語):
The DPRK government has attached importance to environment protection, the article said, adding:

Pyongyang is taking the lead in it. It is taking a series of measures to improve the urban environment.

It is giving priority to preventing the environmental pollution and tree planting and afforestation are brisk at all institutions and industrial establishments and in different parts of the city.

Big successes have been gained in environmental protection of the city and the city was spruced up.

The green foliage in all places of the city, the blue sky and the clean river add to its landscape.
That, of course, is what's happening in Pyongyang. Outside the capital where the elite live (and are held hostage in order to guarantee loyalty to the regime), there is massive deforestation thanks to a lack of fuel and food (trees don't always survive so well when starving people are stripping away their bark for food).

Friday, April 22, 2011

Upgrading the national image

Only in Korea (and possibly Taiwan) would introducing the filibuster be an improvement to national image and political discourse.

Snark aside, this article makes some nice points on improving national image. (HT to Wangkon, though I would likely have seen this article eventually).

New rule: If you can't pronounce fisticuffs,
then you're not allowed to
do fisticuffs.
피스티컵스... 휘쉬티커후스... Damn!

Sakong Il a good candidate to run the IMF?

The Korea Times op-ed staff seems to think so. There may be reservations, though:
He has a few barriers to running the Bretton Woods institution, and must get endorsement from the United States and the EU. Another hurdle is UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon. Other countries could believe that it is not desirable for Koreans to head both the UN and the IMF.

Picking a European as IMF head may be discomforting with the bloc in a deep economic malaise. Will member countries be willing to accept IMF policy recommendations from a European leader when the European economy itself is in trouble?

The United States and Europe desperately need the support of cash-rich China to power the global economy. Beijing may be more sympathetic to a non-European IMF leader than to a European head. It may also know that it has limits in installing a Chinese IMF leader. Its alternative might be an East Asian like SaKong who can better represent the views of the emerging member countries. Unlike former British Premier Gordon Brown, SaKong may enjoy a bipartisan support in Korea for his candidacy.
Maybe it's just me, but KT analysis always has this just-pulled-out-of-my-hangmun feeling to it. I mean, all this speculation may be about as valid as two newbie English teachers deciphering what their academic director is saying to the head custodian.

Anyhoo, if a Korean heads the IMF, I wonder if the kimcheerleaders will have to rethink the "IMF era" label.

Frankly, I don't mind that pejorative label so much, as a lot of the IMF-mandated "reforms" apparently really did make things worse than they otherwise might have been. And it makes for the nice little "I am fired" joke, or its variant, "I am f---ed."

Thursday, April 21, 2011

Sea turtle at Laniakea Beach

It was "M's" idea to go to this beach along Kamehameha Highway on the North Shore, and I'm glad we did. I took this video with my iPhone4, accidentally covering the mic with my finger in the first few seconds.

Anyway, this is a way cool thing you can see here on Oahu.

Moonsoo season

The governor of Kyŏnggi-do Province (Gyeonggi) is saying the biggest threat to South Korea is not North Korea or China: it's the lack of new South Koreans that will become economic producers later on.

From Bloomberg:
The biggest threat to South Korea’s economic health isn’t from North Korean aggression or Chinese competition, according to Kim Moon-Soo, governor of the country’s largest province and a potential presidential candidate. It’s from the country’s low birthrate.

South Korea will face “a very big obstacle to our growth” unless families have more babies, Gyeonggi Governor Kim said in an interview at Bloomberg’s headquarters in New York. The government needs to be “more active” in providing child care and lowering families’ education cost, he said.

Women with careers, who tend “not to marry and not to have children,” have added to this “difficult” issue, said Kim, the third-most-favored candidate from the ruling Grand National Party for next presidential election, according to a Realmeter poll this month. Gyeonggi province has introduced incentives for encouraging government employees to have more children, Kim said.

South Korea’s fertility rate was 1.21 per woman in the last five years -- the fourth-lowest in the world, according to United Nations data.
Yup. It's not the fault of corporations that don't make it easier for college-educated women to work and raise children. It's not the fault of SoKo husbands who, on average, do very little housework. It's not the fault of real estate speculators who make home-buying so ridiculously expensive that a married couple needs two incomes just so they can move away from mom-and-dad (or mom-in-law).

Nope, it's the fault of those selfish career-minded women. I'm sure Governor Kim will do just fine in next year's presidential race.

Another pirate attack on a South Korean vessel?

Hanjin Shipping is reporting that a container ship holding 6500 of them nifty metal storage units was attacked by Somali pirates as it journeyed from Europe to Singapore. They're not yet sure what's going on with the vessel or the crew:
The Hanjin Tianjin, which can carry 6,500 20-foot containers, was attacked 250 miles (402 kilometers) east of the Yemeni island of Socotra around 5:15 a.m. today Korea time, the Seoul-based company said in an e-mailed statement. There are 20 crewmembers on board the ship, it said.

The shipping line is still working to determine the fate of the vessel, which was heading to Singapore from Europe, it said. The company dropped as much as 3.9 percent to 29,350 won and traded at 29,850 won as of 10:18 a.m. in Seoul trading, while the benchmark Kospi index rose 0.8 percent.

An increase in Somali pirate attacks, spurred by a 36-fold jump in ransoms in five years, has threatened vessels carrying 20 percent of world trade and raised expenses for shippers. Costs linked to piracy may reach $13 billion to $15 billion by 2015 as global trade rebounds and pirates operate over wider areas, according to consultants Geopolicity Inc.
I've said it before and I'll say it again: South Korea (and Japan) can really boost its role as a full-fledged partner with the US (and its other allies) by upping even further the amount of resources it expends on its anti-piracy efforts. When a major chaebol like Hanjin can drop by nearly four percent over something like this, it's definitely in the national interest.

Wednesday, April 20, 2011

South Korea's per capita GDP near that of Japan?

Well, yes and no. No if you count just regular old GDP, whereby Japan's is twice that of South Korea's (which is slight over twenty grand). But if you're talking about purchasing power parity (PPP), then yes, South Korea's is only about ten percent smaller than Japan's:
According to the Bank of Korea on Wednesday, Korea's per-capita GDP in 2010 was around US$20,500, but its per-capital GDP based on the purchasing power parity was estimated at $30,286.

The PPP is the currency conversion rate that eliminates the differences in price levels between countries. The reason why Korea's PPP-based GDP is larger than its actual per-capita GDP is because public utility fees and other consumer prices are cheaper than in advanced countries.

The gap with Japan is narrowing. Japan's PPP-based per-capita GDP in 2010 was $33,828, around $3,500 higher than Korea and ranking 20th in the world, one notch ahead of Korea. Luxembourg ranks first with some $80,000 and the U.S. fourth with $47,000.

But without considering consumer prices, Japan's per-capita GDP is $42,325, according to an IMF estimate, more than twice Korea's.
This is not a new phenomenon, but it's important to take note of when South Korea's nominal GDP goes up or down based on the fickle exchange rate. Simply put, your $20K per capita GDP in South Korea can go an awful long way... as long as you keep the money in South Korea.

Tuesday, April 19, 2011

Like a good neighbor...

Reuters has an article on some South Koreans thinking twice about their financial outpouring of support for Japan after Tokyo pushed its claim to Tokto (Takeshima in Japan) yet again:
At first, Korean pop singer Kim Jang-hoon, dubbed "the angel of donation" for his habit of donating many of his concert proceeds to the poor and campaigns to promote his country, asked his fans to put aside their decades-old animosity toward Japan over Dokdo in the wake of the 9.0 March 11 disaster that has left nearly 28,000 dead or missing.

Many ordinary South Koreans responded generously, and a dozen K-pop stars donated more than $5 million.

But the mood soon darkened after a Japanese education panel authorised the publication of school textbooks that assert Japan's claims to the islets, which act as a stark reminder of Japan's brutal colonial rule over Korea from 1910-1945.

For many, this meant all donations were off.
Yeah, I agree that Tokyo really should have just let it go, at least this once, but I think that when it comes to responses like this...
A Seoul district office that raised about $10,000 for Japanese disaster relief changed its mind and sent most of the funds to a civic group promoting Korea's claims to the islets, which are also a symbol of South Korea standing up to its neighbour.

"I asked myself, why did Japan do this at this tragic moment. We had to discuss what to do next with this fund," said Ra Tae-sung, an official at the office in southwestern Seoul.
... I'd like to point out to whatever ku office that was, that the people in Japan who are suffering and in need of help from South Korea and other countries are entirely different from the right-wing politicians who feel obliged to keep bringing up Tokyo's historically questionable and currently unenforceable claim to the Tokto Islets and the seas surrounding them.

"Nuclear Boy has a stomachache"

This is how the on-going nuclear crisis at Fukushima (aka "Fu¢k You Island") is being explained to kids who have already been rattled by the earthquake and tsunami.

Three Mile Island Boy looks suspiciously like a drunken partygoer with a lampshade on his head. That would explain a lot.

(HT to "M," who first showed me this in Japanese and then alerted me when she found it with English subtitles. She notes that it's a bit of a whitewash, but that the animator-artist was going by what the Japanese government had been revealing at the time.)

Monday, April 18, 2011

Now you know why no birth certificate

Um, yeah. Pretty offensive. It's not mine, of course, but it does come to us courtesy of someone else from OC. In this case, it's a Republican official in OC, who says it was just a joke.

To their credit, other California Republicans are saying that it's not acceptable as "just a joke":
Among Davenport’s detractors (including, one would hope, “everyone else”), local news station KCAL caught up with former California Republican chairman Michael Schroder, who correctly posited: “no average person would send this out and feel comfortable with this, that this was just a joke.” Then again, Schroder also notes Davenport doesn’t come into this embarrassment with a clean slate– among the people in Orange County Republican politics she has defended are an official who sent an email with an illustration of the White House covered in watermelons and an official who opposed the installation of grass near beaches on the point that “grass attracts Mexicans.”
Ah, yes, the watermelon controversy, by a local mayor who simultaneously claimed that his watermelon-themed Obama email was just a joke and that he didn't know about stereotypes involving Blacks and watermelon. But Obama seems to bring the worst out in some Republicans (see this for another example).

But I try to look on the bright side. If they're busy sending racist emails to each other, that leaves less time for Orange County Republicans to intimidate Hispanic American voters at polling places or suppress their vote with targeted mailings.

Mardi Craw

We here at Monster Island are proud to bring you the latest, hardest-hitting, most pertinent news and comprehensive analysis on Korea and Korea-related issues.

Mmm... sexy.

Plus things like this. A 100-pound Korean woman is clawing her way up the competitive eating ladder with her latest win: a crayfish-eating contest in New Orleans.

From UPI:
But Sonya Thomas didn't win her championship easily because Baton Rouge native Adrian Morgan forced her to an eat-off at the Rouses World Championship Crawfish Eating Contest on Saturday, The (New Orleans) Times-Picayune reported Sunday.

She and Morgan each downed 3 1/4 pounds of crawfish in 10 minutes, but Thomas bested him in a tiebreaker.

"I'm the seafood champion," Thomas said after the contest.

Her seafood appetite is nothing if not prodigious. She set records of 44 lobsters in 12 minutes, 26 dozen raw clams in 6 minutes, 46 dozen oysters in 10 minutes and 46 crab cakes, also in 10 minutes.
A crawfish or marine crayfish, also known as a spiny lobster, is called a kajae (가재) in Korean. Loosely translated, it means "sea cockroach." No, I'm making that up... Or am I?

After the BP oil spill, I'm guessing Louisianans have been reduced to eating creatures like this en masse.

You'd think if there were a Korean willing to eat pounds and pounds
of these disgusting-looking creatures, it would be a
North Korean.

Stop me if you've heard this one

It seems that Rain is the most influential person in the world. Again. Who saw that coming?

For entertainment value, read Time's description of this man whose far-reaching influence they don't actually seem to grasp:
This South Korean sensation has been making waves in his native country for years, but his catchy beats and hot dance moves have made his popularity soar internationally. Who can forget that dance-off with Stephen Colbert, or his parts in the movies Speed Racer and Ninja Assassin? His army of fans helped him stay on top of this poll last year; let's see if there's still enough love to keep him on top today.
There is nothing left to say I didn't already say... back in 2006.

Geez, man. Buy a shirt already.

Nazis. I hate these guys.

Courtesy of Brian's website, we get news of Hitler Walkers. These are trendy-looking casual walking shoes that are storming their way through Korea. Sort of like a blitzkrieg.

Okay, bad joke, but I don't know what else to say. Naming a consumer item after one of the worst mass murderers in world history is so blatantly wrong that at first I thought there might be some mistake. Maybe they say 틀러 instead of 틀러, or maybe they were trying to Hangulize Heathrow and it got all mucked up (히드로).

But nope. They're really shoes named after Hitler, looking a bit like jackboots lite. And they're fashionable shoes named after Hitler, so it's only a matter of time before they invade other East Asian markets or, worse, they end up in a Korea soap opera for every sensitive person in North America to gawk at, mouths agape.

Do you see where I'm going with this?

In the weird fetish toward Nazi-era chic that weirdly pokes its head up from time to time in East Asia (it's also in Japan, Taiwan, Mongolia, and a few other places), there are okay references and definitely bad references.

An okay reference would be something like, say, naming a bar after a famous German general from World War II who wasn't actually a Nazi and was entangled in a plot to oust Hitler. A definitely bad reference would be naming a bar after Der Führer. A borderline but probably bad reference would be using Nazi-esque uniforms and what sounds like a speech by Hitler in the background audio of a cosmetics commercial with only a French painting of Liberté to balance out the imagery.

Calling your shoes Hitler is definitely bad. Bad enough that there should be a letter-writing campaign, phone calls, etc., etc., until the product is renamed or discontinued. I think Heathrow Walkers sounds quite nice.

And like LG when they had that whole fiasco with blackface, now that they know about the problem, there is no excuse for not doing something about it.

Sunday, April 17, 2011

Trump shoots his mouth off on Korea

Possible presidential candidate Donald Trump, fresh from cluelessly releasing the wrong document that would officially certify his birth while chiding President Obama for not being forthcoming about his own origins, the real estate developer turned media whore decided that birther b.s. was not enough to wrap up the Republican nomination and he went after some more red meat for some Tea Party conservatives: foreign "occupation" and free-trade pacts, specifically with South Korea.

From Reuters:
He singled out the recent trade pact with South Korea, signed after a military showdown with communist-ruled North Korea, saying it was a "joke" with insufficient benefits for the United States.

"We go over there, we protect them, we protect them with our ships ... Did anyone pay us for this? No! So, what is happening is mind-boggling."
As with so many things spewing from his mouth, the mercurial and diarrheal Trump doesn't let facts get in the way of a good rant, but one would hope voters are more grounded in reality. And for those voters, let's take a look at the facts, courtesy of PolitiFact:
First, we should note that the number of U.S. service members is dwarfed by the more than 500,000 South Korean service members on active duty, plus many more South Korean reserve troops.

"The South Koreans defend themselves," said Allan R. Millett, a historian and director of the Eisenhower Center for American Studies at the National World War II Museum in New Orleans. "We do the high-tech things so they can have more shooters."

But do they pay for the U.S. help?

Indeed, they do. South Korea has regularly signed agreements spelling out its "burden sharing" responsibility for U.S. troops. The current agreement, which was signed by representatives of the two governments in January 2009, covers the five-year period between 2009 and 2013.

The financial burden South Korea must shoulder, converted into dollars, is about $694 million. That amount will rise for each of the succeeding four years at an amount pegged to inflation. The prior agreement covered 2007 and 2008, with payments totaling $664 million and $678 million in 2007 and 2008, respectively.

The payments by South Korea fall into several sub-categories. Labor cost sharing, paid in cash, accounts for about 41 percent of the total. Logistics cost sharing, which is paid in kind, accounts for about 18 percent. And construction programs, which are a combination of cash and in-kind payments, account for the remaining 41 percent of the costs.

Trump’s statement that South Korea doesn’t "pay us" is a sweeping statement that suggests they get U.S. protection for free. But in fact, they are paying the U.S. hundreds of millions of dollars a year.
The idea of South Korea getting a free ride, when in fact almost all ROK males have to perform military service or a suitable substitute and Seoul spends a higher percentage of GDP than almost all the US's allies, is ludicrous. That Trump would uncritically regurgitate such claims for political points shows that he just simply doesn't have the intellect or the ethical standards to run the country. We need someone who actually understands how things work if we want to fix what's wrong. Throwing your feces, simian-like, at whatever bothers you at the moment, is not an effective plan.

Oh, and the Free Trade Agreement was not signed after the North Korean attacks but renegotiated. In fact, it was signed in 2007, when George W. Bush was president.

Let's also take note (as suggested elsewhere in the PolitiFact article) that the US military presence in South Korea (and Japan) is not just about preventing war on the Korean Peninsula but in Northeast Asia in general, which is clearly in the US's interests.

The Marmot (who is no fan of the US military presence in South Korea) also addressed this issue, even quoting one of his favorite America Firster pundits, John Derbyshire:
Once you start to have subversive thoughts like that, others come thick and fast. If we don’t need those thirty thousand troops in South Korea, then, hey, maybe we don’t need the 36,000 we’ve got stationed in Japan, either. It may even be — you might want to sit down for this one, it’s way out radical — it may even be we don’t need to keep 52,000 troops stationed in Germany, or the ten thousand in Italy, or the nine thousand in Britain. It’s real nice for those countries to have us protecting them, but how is it good for us?
Methinks simpletons like Derbyshire don't understand how deterrence works or why it's important. The highly successful Pax Americana, the greatest source of stability Northeast Asia has known in centuries, is still needed. And it would seem that Europe is uncharacteristically peaceful as well, thanks to the US-anchored NATO which calls for the US military presence.

Let me make it simple: The US military presence in Northeast Asia and Europe costs pennies on the dollar compared to how much it would cost the US in lives and treasure were a war to inevitably break out in our absence. A war there would likely suck us right back in (see: World War I, World War II, Korean War, etc.), but even if it miraculously didn't, we would still lose more treasure than it costs to station our troops there. Isolationism as a way to cut costs or save lives is a fantasy, and that's why you don't understand how it is good for us to have troops in places where we have lost tens or hundreds of thousands to put down an enemy that hasn't returned on our watch.

Now, don't get me wrong. I think South Korea (and Japan) can do more. I've long been an advocate of Seoul joining Washington on military ventures that mutually benefit both, particularly anti-piracy efforts off Africa and Southeast Asia (and Seoul is stepping up more and more in that regard). That is the solution if you think one side is benefiting more than it should, not grabbing up your marbles and walking off in a huff.

Back to Trump. I have never liked Donald Duckweed, not even when he was a Democrat. Setting aside his creepiness (he said he'd date Ivanka if she weren't his daughter... his hot daughter), I loathe people who make fortunes off of political connections and feeding other people's vices (e.g., Atlantic City) and I am old enough to remember the man's failed real estate ventures — and that alone makes me shudder at the possibility of this know-nothing trying to run the economy or foreign policy. It's clear from his TV shows that he is all flash and no substance, and that is no way to run the frickin' country.

Geez, if we want a "reality" TV show host to run the nation, let's go with Jeff Probst. I admit, I came up with the idea as a one-off, but on paper the guy would make a far better candidate, and I think the Democrats should drop Joe Boring and pick up Jeff as his running mate.

How Jeff Probst stacks up against The Donald:
  • More experience (in terms of seasons on television)
  • Fewer failed marriages
  • Does not make creepy comments about romantic/sexual relations with his hot daughter (who "has a very nice figure")
  • Obvious from reward challenges and immunity challenges that the guy understands the value of competition
  • From his interactions with contestants on Survivor™ it is clear that he is in touch with the average American (and, lately, former NFL stars, pin-up models, would-be actors, sports franchise cheerleaders, etc.)
  • More foreign experience (China, Africa, Panama, Nicaragua, Australian Outback, Marquesas Islands, Vanuatu, Gabon, Palau, Fiji, Brazil, Cook Islands, Samoa, etc.).
  • Calm temperament, even when faced with idiots
  • Better hair
  • Not a duckweed
So there's nothing left to say: Probst in '12!

UPDATE (April 27, 2011 HST): 
Trump wins! Obama forced to release long-form birth certificate, which is fake!!!