Thursday, June 30, 2011

Forced abortions in developing South Korea?

South Korea, with its ultra-low fertility rate (well below replacement level) and its lingering gender imbalance, was once a high-fertility society where families would routinely have four, five, six, even seven or more kids, often continuing to produce new children until they produced a male heir.

When the government put in place family planning — contraception information and contraceptive devices, sterilization, and widespread abortion — it took hold with a vengeance.

Part of this is addressed in a Foreign Policy piece that asks why 160 million girls are missing from East Asia. Here is the section that deals with South Korea specifically:
In South Korea, Western money enabled the creation of a fleet of mobile clinics -- reconditioned U.S. Army ambulances donated by USAID and staffed by poorly trained workers and volunteers. Fieldworkers employed by the health ministry's Bureau of Public Health were paid based on how many people they brought in for sterilizations and intrauterine device insertions, and some allege Korea's mobile clinics later became the site of abortions as well. By the 1970s, recalls gynecologist Cho Young-youl, who was a medical student at the time, "there were agents going around the countryside to small towns and bringing women into the [mobile] clinics. That counted toward their pay. They brought the women regardless of whether they were pregnant." Non-pregnant women were sterilized. A pregnant woman met a worse fate, Cho says: "The agent would have her abort and then undergo tubal ligation." As Korea's abortion rate skyrocketed, Sung-bong Hong and Christopher Tietze detailed its rise in the Population Council journal Studies in Family Planning. By 1977, they determined, doctors in Seoul were performing 2.75 abortions for every birth -- the highest documented abortion rate in human history. Were it not for this history, Korean sociologist Heeran Chun recently told me, "I don't think sex-selective abortion would have become so popular."
I wonder how accurate this characterization is. That is, this description makes it sound like sterilizations were coerced and abortions were forced, criticisms that in the 1980s and beyond would be leveled at Mainland China and their One Child Policy, and one wonders if it was generally true, true in some areas, or rarely the case at all.

On the other hand, the astronomical prevalence of abortion, from what I've heard, well-known and documented. But I have no first-hand knowledge or insight into cases prior to the 1990s (I knew several ob/gyns and medical students who discussed such matters, though often in vague terms) to know if these were anything other than the voluntary abortions that have been the norm in the 1990s and 2000s.

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Associated Press bureau... in Pyongyang?!

That's what AP is reporting, and I guess they'd be the ones that'd know.

From AP via WaPo:
A memorandum of understanding agreed by the AP and the Korean Central News Agency would expand the AP’s presence in North Korea to a level unmatched by any other Western news organization. It would build upon the AP’s existing video news bureau, which opened in Pyongyang in 2006, by allowing AP text and photo journalists to work in North Korea as well.

With the signing, the agencies agreed to begin work immediately on detailed planning needed to set up and operate the new bureau as quickly as possible. It would be the first permanent text and photo bureau operated by a Western news organization in the North Korean capital.

In addition, the agencies signed a contract designating the AP as the exclusive international distributor of contemporary and historic video from KCNA’s archive. The agencies also plan a joint photo exhibition in New York next year. They already had an agreement between them to distribute KCNA photo archives to the global market, signed earlier this year.
Wow. That is truly historic. That is, if it actually comes to pass. There are a lot of rest stops between Point MOU and Point B when it comes to North Korea. The DRPK government may easily decide there's a huge difference between fluff videos of people visiting Kim Ilsung statues, which they started to allow in 2006, and day-to-day reporting on the good and the bad, which is presumably what AP has in mind.

But imagine it does go ahead. This is AP reporting form Pyongyang. And while we all know that the North Korean capital is a showcase for foreign eyes, the Pyongyang regime can't control everything, nor are they wholly effective when it comes to keeping the contagion of foreign ideas in check.

What we might end up actually seeing is the North Korean government actually trying to be on better behavior when things go wrong (and it's not a stretch that they could). Right now we've been seeing the Jasmine Revolution spreading through the Arab world, and at least one thing preventing some of those governments from just mowing down all the protesters (this includes Iran last year, though Iran is not part of the Arab world) has been the international press.

Call me optimistic, but this makes a violent, bloody end to the regime less likely (though still well within the realm of possibility). It makes the future leader of North Korea, be that a ruling junta or The Kim Who Wasn't There, more likely to consider how everything looks to the outside world when taking power, maintaining order, and dealing with the hoi polloi.

Historic, truly historic. If it happens.

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Daily Kor for Thursday, June 30, 2011

Apparently Biblical flooding (story #2) wasn't enough to stop the chinboistas from coming out and joining the protests about tuition (prompted by genuine student interest) and making it about the FTA with the United States, as chinboistas are wont to do (story #3a).

Now before you raise your hand, and say, "Kushibo, what the hell?! Why do they only protest American things?!" Well, actually, there was also considerable opposition when the Chile-Korea FTA was passed as well. So let's just put that meme to rest, too.
  1. Associated Press signs memorandum with North Korean regime to open news bureau in Pyongyang (Monster Island, AP via WaPo)
  2. Monsoon lashes Seoul and Kyŏnggi-do Province with 17 centimeters (6.7 inches) of rain (Joongang Daily)
  3. Republicans opposed to renewing Trade Adjustment Assistance intended to help workers displaced by trade pressures threaten to stall ROK-US free-trade agreement (LAT)
    • More than 15,000 protests march in opposition to high college tuitions and FTA (Yonhap)
    • US President Barack Obama stresses need for FTA passage in order to reduce trade imbalance with South Korea (Yonhap)
    • National Assembly passes Korea-Peru free-trade agreement (Yonhap)
  4. North Korean military vows to retaliate for anti-DPRK signs posted at front-line South Korean army units (AP via WaPo, BBC)
  5. Financial Services Commission says banks will be asked to reduce lending in floating-rate loans, in effort to curb record household debt (Bloomberg)
  6. South Korean manufacturing confidence falls to eighteen-month low (Bloomberg, WSJ)
  7. Moscow says Russian President Dmitry Medvedev has no plans to meet North Korean leader Kim Jong-il during his trip to Vladivostok near Russia-DPRK border (Reuters)
  8. Senior prosecutor quits in protest of new law allowing police to open criminal investigations (Joongang Daily)
  9. Unable to swim, hundreds of cars and buses watch helplessly as sedan drowns in flooded roadway (Xinhua)

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Wednesday, June 29, 2011

Orange County Crime Story of the Day: reverse Darwin Awards

Anybody who knows me knows I hate two things: drunk drivers and effin' stupid people who do effin' stupid things that adversely affect other people, typically innocent bystanders (I guess that would include drunk drivers, so it's one thing I hate).

Join with me, won't you, in reading this lovely tale from the Los Angeles Times about four fine young gentlemen who had fashioned simple "bombs" by combining dry ice and water inside a plastic bottle, which causes pressure to build in the bottle until it bursts open in a loud explosion:
Shortly after 11 p.m. Thursday, a group of pedestrians at Paseo De Valencia and Stockport Street in Laguna Hills reported that an SUV with four teenagers inside drove by and threw a bottle at them that exploded, Amormino said.

About 20 minutes later, someone in a vehicle of the same description threw one of the devices into the vehicle of a man driving with his window down near Alicia Parkway and the 5 Freeway in neighboring Mission Viejo.


The bottle exploded as the man grabbed it to throw it out and injured his hand, Amormino said. He followed the SUV onto the freeway and managed to write down the license plate number and call it in to authorities, who tracked down the vehicle.

The teens told investigators they had exploded up to six devices around southern Orange County. Only three explosions were reported to authorities.

Authorities are unsure what motivated the attacks but say they could have caused serious injuries or traffic accidents.

“Whether they were intending to harm or not, it's a dangerous thing,” Amormino said. “If it was a prank, it's a dangerous prank and obviously ill-advised.”
In this article and in a similar one in the Orange County Register, people in the comments section have not been kind to them. While pointing out that this "prank" could actually have caused a deadly accident, some are celebrating that the star football player will likely lose his full-ride athletic scholarship to Northern Arizona University. Others have pointed out that, had they been victims of this foursome, would have chased them down and shot them. Nice.

I just don't know what to say. Are these guys sociopaths? Just plain stupid? What would be a reasonable punishment? (They may get little punishment at all, since eighteen-year-old Mitchell Gary Melugin and nineteen-year-old Robert Jacob Browne are only being one misdemeanor count of throwing a substance at a vehicle.)

God, I hope I never have kids like this. When I was young, the worst we did was put firecrackers in tangerines that grew in my backyard, watching them explode after we tossed them in the air. We were limited by the number of tangerines the tree produced, so it never really got out of hand. And at any rate, I stopped this by junior high; these jackasses are legal adults, fresh out of high school.

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Daily Kor for Wednesday, June 29, 2011:
Thunderbolts and lightning, very, very frightening

"Oh, we are so nuking the Aleutians now."
Well, the biggest Korea-related news involved Americans and North Koreans, doing something in Germany. I managed to catch the tail end of the match, which did not occur in a Hawaii-friendly time zone. I suppose it was even worse in South Korea... not sure if people were out in the streets to watch the DPRK women's team play.

Anyway, the North Koreans put up a good fight, apparently. In the end — and I frak you not on this — the North Korean team blamed being struck by lightning for their loss. Oh, and Hope Solo... kind of a hottie (but about two inches too tall for me).
  1. US defeats North Korea, 2-0, in FIFA Women's World Cup match in Germany (LAT, WaPo, Bloomberg, AP via NPR, NPR, BBC)
  2. US Congress closer to approving ROK-US free-trade agreement after Democratic and Republican senators agree to extend program that gives financial assistance to workers who lose jobs because of trade-related issues (WSJ, AP via MSNBC, Yonhap)
  3. Incoming USFK commander General James Thurman says US and South Korea should prepare for possibility of regime collapse in North Korea (Yonhap)
    • General Thurman says ascent of Kim Jong-un increases odds of miscalculation (Bloomberg)
    • Opposition leader Sohn Hakkyu says North Korea must be pushed to reform (Yonhap)
    • Kushibo's note: If they didn't like General Sherman, the North Koreans aren't going to like General Thurman
    • Three North Korean mines, apparently dislodged and swept away by torrential rains, discovered in Inch'ŏn and Kangwon (Joongang Daily)
  4. Barclays economist predicts Korean won will strengthen by 5.4 percent within twelve months (Bloomberg)
  5. Government to cover preschool expenses for all five-year-olds starting next year (Yonhap)
  6. South Korea exports 150K tons of gasoline to Japan, up 36 percent over monthly average (Reuters)
    1. Opposition leader Sohn Hakkyu discusses joint ROK-Japan securing of energy sources with Japanese counterpart (Korea Times)
  7. AU Optronics Corp of Taiwan hits Samsung Electronics with countersuit for patent infringement in on-going dispute over flat panel technology (Reuters)
  8. CJ Group picked as prime bidder for Korea Express, country's largest logistics company (Yonhap, Joongang Daily)
  9. South Korea has more inbound and outbound visitors than Japan in first four months of year (Yonhap)
  10. South Korean rightfielder for Major League Baseball's Cleveland Indians Choo Shinsoo undergoes surgery on thumb that will have him sidelined for two months (AFP)
  11. Dogs declare victory in centuries-old Canine-Testudine War (BBC)

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Tuesday, June 28, 2011

Super space-agey super supermarkets in Seoul with smart phones

This story from geek.com is just so Jetsons it's freaking me out:
According to Tesco, Koreans are the second hardest working people in the world, and time is literally money. Taking an hour a week for grocery shopping can be a real drag, so the company devised a way to have the store come to the people. Tesco set up virtual grocery stores in locations like subway/metro stations so that people can literally do their grocery shopping while waiting for the train.

The walls are plastered with posters that resemble the aisles and shelves of a supermarket. They’re lined from top to bottom with the products you’d normally see while grocery shopping. The only difference is that you can’t just grab the product and check out. The groceries each have a QR code which the shopper scans with a smartphone camera and adds to a shopping list. When the shopper has scanned all the codes for all the groceries needed, he pays using his phone and the groceries are then delivered to his home.

QR-code-based shopping allows the customer to shop at more locations, many of which are more convenient than making a trip to the grocery store. A big advantage of getting your groceries delivered right to your door is that in major cities where driving isn’t really an option, people are left lugging heavy bags on the train and up a couple of flights of stairs before they reach their door.
It's described in this video:



The story notes that one problem is that "checking out the product’s information will be impossible" because "the shopper won’t be able to turn the product around to see the nutritional facts," but I think that's easily fixable by providing QR code-accessible information at the virtual store which can pop nutritional facts and what-not onto your smart phone. Something similar is already available in the US with various bar code scanner apps showing where a certain product is the cheapest.

What I think is a real problem is getting fresh fruits, vegetables, meat, etc. If these items are part of the service, you run the risk of getting bruised bananas or meat with too much fat, etc. Or maybe they won't have these perishables at all, and this will lead to the populace consuming even greater amounts of processed food, to the exclusion of fresh items.

I'm guessing there would also be an issue with embarrassing items, like feminine products, condoms, gray hair removal products, etc. Who wants to be standing in a subway station waving their smart phone over something like that?

We shall see. Right now, this is is just way cool. I'd actually start taking the subway more if I had this as an option. I wonder, though, if foreign nationals will have trouble registering for this with their 외국인등록번호, as is often the case with other sites.

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(UPDATED) Kia WTF ad...

I'm not sure what they're smoking down in Brazil, but it makes them come up with things that would not go over well in the United States.

Courtesy of Huffington Post, we get word of this Kia of Brazil (?) advertising campaign that won a silver at the Cannes Creativity Awards.

Above is the offending picture (click it to enlarge and read the text). The idea is that the small-size Sportage SUV has a dual-zone climate control, so the two sides of the car can have very different temperatures, exemplified by one side being kiddish, and the other side very adult.

The other ad in this series makes the point with more clarity and less controversial. It depicts a cartoonish prince charming coming in to a castle, declaring in the upper left frame that he will break the spell that has the princess in a deep sleep by kissing her. In the upper right frame, in a style more reminiscent of the cover of romance novels, he is approaching her with both their tongues out, ready to Freedom Kiss.

In the middle left frame, the re-cartoonized prince (who looks a little like a slim version of Bob of Bob's Big Boy) is declaring to the re-cartoonized princess (who does look a bit younger than the steamy romance novel version of the princess) that he has come to rescue her. In the middle right frame, with her finger enticingly on her mouth, she declares, "Oh, it's my Prince Charming and his huge stallion."

Okay. In the lower left frame, the re-re-cartoonized prince takes the princess's hand and dreamily says, "Indeed, my beloved lady." (Lady, so she's of legal age, I guess.) But in the lower right frame, the romance novel version of the princess, whose dress is falling off and practically revealing her boobs, asks if the prince has any interesting ideas on how she can show him her gratitude.

Okay, then. One side is kiddish, and the other side is adult. Dual themes of the same scene. But in the prince-rescues-princess sample, there are no hints at something untoward. Not so with the ad way up above, where at the very least, it seems to be promoting the idea of teachers and students becoming sexually involved. At worst, it inserts the very icky suggestion that an adult figure might look at young and innocent schoolgirl as a sex object.

[source]
Okay, this Brazil and France, where, I'm guessing, anything goes, relative to the US (or South Korea). But in America where pedophilia and sex with minors are are very serious issues, this is offensive. Some two-thirds of the HuffPost readers think so, anyway.

Frankly, I can't imagine this fitting in with the old adage that there's no such thing as bad press. It's one thing to sell sex (and loads of people say they're offended by that, but it always manages to get attention), but it's another to seem to pander to pedophiliac proclivities. Really, even if that was not the intent of the ad creators, it's such an obvious conclusion for just about any reader, and I can't see how Kia can get out of this without distancing itself from this ad and apologizing. That is, if this news gains traction.

UPDATE:
Prompted by a comment from gbnhj at The Marmot's Hole, I went looking for news that Kia had denied they had anything to do with this ad campaign. At this site I found a denial by Kia:
Kia Motors America (KMA) has become aware of an offensive piece of advertising material that was created by an ad agency in Brazil that KMA has no business relationship with and has never worked with. This ad was not created in the U.S. by Kia Motors America or any of its marketing partners and does not reflect the opinions or values of KMA or Kia Motors Corporation. The ad is undoubtedly inappropriate, and on behalf of Kia Motors we apologize to those who have been offended by it. We can guarantee this advertisement has never and will never be used in any form in the United States, and our global headquarters in Seoul, South Korea is addressing the issue with the independent Brazilian distributor.
That site says the advertising company broke the rules by submitting an ad campaign that was not actually run, and they appear likely to get the prestigious award yanked. In an earlier posting, they had harsh words for Kia, along with some interesting background on other award-winning ads' boorishness (see below for an example involving Hillary Clinton and Barack Obama in a Reporters Without Borders advert, with the caption, "Censorship tells the wrong story").

That actually reminds me of a gag series I'd been planning for a future post, one inspired by an old gag on Jimmy Kimmel Live: inappropriately pixelated pictures of Kim Jong-il.




That's right. I'm fourteen years old.

UPDATE 2:
Instead of getting back to work, I perused a number of posts at the very interesting BNET advertising blog, The Tagline, which included this bit of Hitler-themed artwork at right. In fact, I had written a post on this back in September 2009, with a title I am embarrassed to have written but which still cracks me up. 

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National HIV Testing Day

UCI's giant red ribbon for
World AIDS Day 2009.
It's too late to go get tested today, but Monday (which it still is, here in Hawaii) is National HIV Testing Day.

Go get tested.

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Kvetchpat of the day

This one comes to us courtesy of a comment on a post about background checks for English teachers on E-series visas:
If you're going to have FBI checks then the least the Korean Immigration could do is tell people what is/what's NOT acceptable. Problem is, they're too lazy or too stupid to read and understand the difference between an arrest, case dropped, or whatever else such as Class A, B, and C misdemeanors. Guilty felons aren't allowed to leave America anyway(they can't vote or buy a gun either).

I would've NEVER gone to Korea if I had to provide my own FBI check and I've passed a FBI checks conducted by my employers, worked airport security after 9/11 and have been a state employee. However, my criminal record is not clean. I was arrested one time but wasn't found guilty, for some reason I think Korea will disallow me from teaching because me CRC is not "clean." After all, foreigners are guilty until proven innocent ... in Korea and by Koreans. Many Americans who would've considered coming to S. Korea simply aren't going to take the do-it-yourself-FBI-check-step without knowing what is/isn't acceptable, there WILL be a decrease in American English teachers going to S. Korea to teach. It's all about Anti-Americanism - Congratulations Korea, keep on hating!
I'm not going to fisk this one. I wouldn't know where to begin, and I wouldn't be able to stop.

But I will agree that it's incredibly stupid and lazy of Immigration in the Republic of Korea to not know all the intricacies of arrests, misdemeanors, and what-not of dozens of state, provincial, and national governments in the Anglophone world. When they simply throw up their hands and say, "We just want people with a clean record," that's the ultimate anti-Americanism. But the joke's on you, hateful Korea: You'll miss out on great teachers like this one.

Now where's the "rolls eyes" icon on Blogger?

(Seriously, though, I read lots of complaints about people thinking and speculating that certain "innocent" things on a background check — and by innocent, I mean not guilty — will get a person barred from teaching in Korea, but I haven't yet read of actual cases. Anybody got some examples?)

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Republicans, warped time, and the "Year Zero" gambit

Quick quiz: How long has Obama been president?

If you're too lazy to calculate it in your head, at least think about whether it's closer to two years or three. Go on, I'll wait. I've got Season 2 of Battlestar Galactica on Netflix instant-view.

Answer: As of two Sundays ago when I started writing this, Barack Hussein Obama had been our president for two years, four months, three weeks, and two days. Slightly over 2-1/3 years. Not even past the 2-1/2 mark you would need to hit in order to round up all the way to three years. Well over half a year shy of three years.

But if you're a Republican operative trying to pull the wool over the public's eyes, you might be used to saying that Barack Hussein Obama has been at the helm for three years. As evidence, look at a speech given by former Minnesota Governor Tim Pawlenty:
Speaking yesterday at the University of Chicago, where Obama once taught law, Pawlenty said Obama has “spent three years dividing our nation and fanning the flames of class envy and resentment all across the country to deflect attention from his own failures and the economic hardship they have visited on America.”
Well, at first I thought that one was not as clear: after all, he could have been counting the months on the campaign trail, but at that time it was the prior administration trying to "deflect attention from his own failures and the economic hardship they have visited on America."

This is becoming a clear pattern from Republicans. Former Massachusetts Governor Mitt Romney, the supposed Republican frontrunner, did the same thing during the recent Republican debate:
When he took office his number one job was to get the economy to turn around...so now, three years later, we have high unemployment...we still have, three years later, home foreclosures at record levels...and what does he have to say about this? He says "I'm just getting started."
On NBC's Meet the Press (15:30), the Republican National Committee Chair Reince Priebus posed to voters the question "whether or not people believe that they're better off today than they were three or four years ago."

Excuse me? "Three or four years ago"?

Four years ago we were about midway into the second term of one George W. Bush. Three years ago we had not yet witnessed the meltdown of our economy that occurred on Mr Bush's watch.

But it's easy to see what Republicans are trying to do with Americans who are lazily calculating backward from 2011 and getting to 2008, even though Obama did not become president until the end of January 2009.

Leapfrogging backward to a time when things had not yet fallen apart, in order to pin the entire mess on Obama, is absurd. But it might just gain some votes from the amnesia-stricken.

Of course, that's not the only reason for warping time: by making people think Obama has been in office longer than he has, it makes it seem more more like he is a failure for not having solved the economic mess already. That is, at two years or so, he may legitimately be getting the ball rolling on fixing an economic disaster that was many more years in the making, but at three or four years, we should be seeing far better numbers, right?

This kind of dishonesty makes me think I cannot support whatever candidate uses this tactic.

See, the whole purpose of the Year Zero tactic is that Republicans don't want you to think about how we got from surplus spending at the end of the Clinton administration to the astronomical deficit spending we're at now. They want you to think this all began with Obama and that the deficit is all the responsibility of the Democrats instead of breaking down to $10 trillion from Republican administrations and a mere $4 trillion from Democrats (mostly Obama, owing to the problems and the budget he inherited from Bush43).

And if you do recall that the economy was at the abyss before Obama became president, you should be thinking that any of the Republicans would have fixed it all by now. The Republicans are banking on the voters forgetting just how dangerously close we were to Great Depression 2.0 so that they will believe the lingering problems are because of Obama's policies and not his predecessors'.

It's a powerful strategy, banking on voter amnesia, and I think that the only way Obama can win is with stronger numbers (and indications are they will get better, despite this past month's blip of only 55K jobs created) and driving home just how bad things were when he became president in 2009.

This may involve bringing up things from his opponents' past. This shouldn't be too hard; in the June 13 broadcast of Meet the Press (7:25), host David Gregory trotted out something Mr Santorum had said way back in December 2002:
I think we're going to be in for deficits for the next few years to come. We're in a recession — just coming out of a recession — and secondly we're going to be fighting a war, a major war on terrorism, and potentially a war in Iraq. The last thing we need to do when we're concerned about national security of this country is be concerned about deficits.
Whoa. Quite a gotcha moment there. But wait, it's all different this time. When the host asks why, in the same circumstances (recession, two wars, etc.), deficits didn't matter then but they do now, Mr Santorum meekly responds, "Well, I think scale matters... Prior to 2001, we were in a surplus. We were talking about deficits of a hundred to two hundred billion dollars, not $1.5 trillion, not something that is grinding our economy down."

He goes on to explain that this was "immediately" right after we were attacked (time warp problem again, as this was over a year after the attacks that he was saying that). But in the spirit of the Year Zero gambit, what he neglects to explain was how we ended up with some $6 trillion in debt from that administration.

Just where the hell were all these budget hawks? Why did they not suddenly appear until 2009? With a successful Year Zero gambit, you won't have to think about that.

And this is part of that other great meme — that Obama is at heart the cause of the astronomical national debt — that also is getting play among Republicans. From the first Santorum link, at about 4:10 in this link, he says:
Sure, he came in with a problem, and in that whole he kept digging. And digging And digging.

Now for every dollar we spend, thanks to this president, forty cents is borrowed. Forty cents is gonna be put on every man, woman, and child, to pay the interest on for the rest of their lives. ...

Who are you, Mr. President? Who are you, Mr. President, to say that you and your administration should take forty cents out of every dollar and borrow it from future generations to prop you up?
Wow. Just wow. Listening to that you'd get the impression that it was Obama himself who ran up the $14 trillion and that $10 trillion of it wasn't actually from Republican administrations.

No wonder Santorum and his supporters say "President Obama... wrecked our economy."

UPDATE:
Representative Michele Bachmann, a Tea Party favorite also running for president, is riding the three-year meme:
In February 2009, President Obama was very confident that his economic policies would turn the country around within a year. He said -- and I quote -- "A year from now, I think people are going to see that we're starting to make some progress. If I don't have this done in three years, then there's going to be a one-term proposition."

Well, Mr. President, your policies haven't worked. Spending our way out of the recession hasn't worked. And, so, Mr. President, we take you at your word.
Well, at least she got the timeline sorta right. Except the three-year mark would be sometime early next year. At least this comment is more defensible than the other comments, as one cannot expect everything to be resolved by January 20, 2012. But if things are clearly going in an upward direction, people who are confident things are getting better and who remember how bad things actually had gotten may just vote again for Barack Hussein Obama.

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Daily Kor for Tuesday, June 28, 2011

I hope the skies are beginning to clear, but in case they're not, maybe you can sit back and watch the US-DPRK match at the FIFA Women's World Cup in Germany. There's a lot of buzz about it as the American team works to defend their championship. I think. My only interest is whether someone takes their jersey off after a win.
  1. South Korea agrees to lift eight-year ban on Canadian beef imports that was triggered by discovery of Mad Cow Disease (BloombergYonhap, Korea Herald)
  2. Korean government announces plans to go after gas stations that stockpile or refuse to sell fuel (Bloomberg)
  3. Auto exports bring ROK current-account surplus to seven-month high of US$2.26 billion (Bloomberg, Yonhap)
    • Leading US House of Representatives Democrat who supports US free-trade agreements with Korea and Panama opposes FTA with Colombia (Reuters)
    • ROK cabinet passes bill that imposes safeguards that protect local businesses in wake of EU-ROK FTA (Yonhap)
    • In meeting with President, opposition leader Sohn Hakkyu demands ROK-US FTA be renegotiated (Joongang Daily)
  4. One day before their arrival, North Korea issues ultimatum to South Korean business owners over frozen Kŭmgangsan resort assets (Yonhap, AP via WaPo)
  5. Hanjin Heavy Industries union calls off six-month strike (Korea Times, Joongang Daily)
  6. North Korea remains on list of worst offenders of human trafficking (Korea Times)
  7. Former goalkeeper of Korea Republic national team admits to match-fixing (AFP, AP via SI)
  8. Republicans in New York admit their vote to legalize same-sex marriage was to "finally put an end to all those danged gay pride parades" (AFP)

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Jihad or hirabah? Do the words matter?

We in the West have co-opted the term jihad and jihadist when the very use of those words may be causing our own goals to become murky even among those who aren't supporters of armed struggle with non-Muslims. Some prefer the terms hirabah and hirabi in lieu of jihad and jihadist.

Here's an interesting bit from NPR on the subject:
Professor Douglas Streusand says that's why U.S. officials should stop using the term altogether. Streusand is an Arabic and Farsi speaker with a doctorate from the University of Chicago. He teaches Islamic history at the Marine Corps Staff College in Quantico, Va. In a paper written for and circulated among top military brass in the Pentagon, Streusand argues that describing Islamist militants and insurgents in Iraq as "jihadists" is hurting U.S. policy.

Why? Because according to Streusand, "for a Muslim, jihad is a good thing. It literally means striving in the path of God." By describing insurgents or terrorists as "jihadists," he argues, we imply we are fighting meritorious Muslims. To make the point clearer, he says it would be as if al-Qaida called its enemies "freedom."

His suggestion? Use Islamic legal language. The term he suggests is "hirabah" —literally, an unjust form of warfare.
Yeah, calling bin Laden and his minions jihadists seems like the wrong tact if we just end up inadvertently praising them as "strivers in the path of God." The best parallel with Christianity I could think of was someone trying to bash those among the Christian faithful for their support of the War on Terror by calling them "Christian soldiers." Well, that simply would not have the negative ring that was intended, would it?

Calling them hirabi (committers of hirabah) would be much more fitting to Muslim audiences as it rolled off the tongue of President Obama or UN Secretary-General Ban Kimoon: they're a bunch of unjust fighters, pirates, and spreaders of disorder, a serious punishment in the Qur'an. This would underscore the fatwa against acts of terror by Muslim scholars.

If nothing else, I would like to see hirabah/hirabi replace jihad/jihadist in our rhetoric about these murderers and would-be murderers. It may end up making little difference to the people already in these groups, but to people on the sidelines, it might underscore the bad-faith acts of these killers and bringers of mayhem, bringing a clearer perspective to why it is that their actions are wrong even though they are of the same faith.

[Note: This post was originally a lengthy footnote at the bottom of a February 2009 post on racial profiling, "Nanas in wheelchairs."]

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Monday, June 27, 2011

KCNA rails against Lee Myungbak over reunification remarks

I read KCNA from time to time, checking for any glimmer that Kim Jong-un (aka, The Kim Who Wasn't There) is actually being elevated for public consumption, among other issues.

If you're expecting a flood of vicious propaganda, you might be surprised to know that a lot of the stories — an increasing amount, in fact — are straightforward news, like this one describing the effects of Typhoon Meari.

But if you're occasionally looking for scathing vitriol, the KCNA doesn't disappoint. In this article, we have the KCNA's take on the words of South Korean President Lee Myungbak to the people of South Korea that they should be prepared for unification to happen at any time:
Traitor Lee Myung Bak's Anti-Reunification Remarks Slammed

Pyongyang, June 26 (KCNA) -- Traitor Lee Myung Bak of south Korea recently told gentries of the Advisory Council of Democracy and Peaceful Unification at Chongwadae that "unification can come at midnight like a burglar". He also called for getting prepared for unification, saying it came near.

Papers of the DPRK in commentaries Sunday brand his remarks as an intolerable insult to the Koreans desirous of reunification and an unpardonable politically-motivated provocation to the DPRK.

Rodong Sinmun says that Lee has done nothing for reunification except pushing the inter-Korean relations to a catastrophe to delay it. He dared to defile the arduous struggle fought by Koreans for reunification and the noble self-sacrificing spirit displayed by them.

The said remarks can be made only by a die-hard confrontation maniac, a lunatic seeking division only.

"Unification" touted by Lee is not the independent and peaceful reunification to be achieved by the concerted efforts of the Koreans but "unification of systems" premised on toppling the DPRK. Herein lies the gravity of his remarks.

Lee fully revealed his true colors as a traitor seeking the confrontation of systems by doggedly standing against national reconciliation, unity and reunification.

Explicitly speaking, it is a pipe dream to try to expand the corrupt fascist dictatorial system of south Korea to the DPRK through the confrontation of systems.

Minju Joson says that the traitor compared reunification to a burglar only to reveal the poor level of his thinking as a political imbecile and philistine and the nature of human scum accustomed to lining one's pocket with others' cash.
Now just how could telling people to be prepared for unification be an "intolerable insult" to people who desire unification? For that matter, how could it be a "politically motivated provocation"? Well, the answer is that the KCNA is reading between the lines, figuring that what President Lee means is that North Korea could collapse at any time (the North Koreans themselves worry about the same thing), and that is how unification would be achieved.

And that points to one of the odd things about the KCNA, that they would print things like this that include a criticism (even if veiled) of the Pyongyang regime. I mean, they didn't have to print this (a similar story is in Korean), but they're laying it out there that North Korea's opponents seem to think there's some reason why unification might happen really, really soon. It would seem to me that that kind of thing is emboldening the rank-and-file party members and soldiers to switch sides to the winning team if anything should go wrong (and some of these people have been iffy since the Great Currency Obliteration of 2009).

Anyway, it's interesting the phrasing that President Lee chose, that "unification can come at midnight like a burglar." This sounds suspiciously like "a thief in the night," which comes from 1 Thessalonians 5:2, where St Paul was telling the church at Thessaloniki that the triumphant Day of the Lord would come in such an unexpected way.

One almost wonders if President Lee knows of something — evidence of an impending collapse and/or a deal with Beijing to let Pyongyang crumble and Seoul pick up the pieces (perhaps a deal like the one listed in the bottom third of this post). After all, he already has us paying a Unification Tax.

Hmm... Should we get the Mongolia estate ready?

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Daily Kor for Monday, June 27, 2011

Wow, I guess what they say is true. Have a major typhoon on a weekend and almost no real news happens at all. While you're staying indoors to avoid all the rain, maybe tune in to the FIFA Women's World Cup going on in Germany starting today. Korea Republic (that's us) isn't in it, but North Korea and Japan might put on a good show.
  1. Typhoon Meari kills at least 7, knocks out power, and leads to suspension of domestic flights (Yonhap, Korea Times, Korea Herald)
  2. Bank of Korea governor Kim Chongsoon says domestic household debt level "is a problem but manageable" (WSJ)
  3. President Lee Myungbak meets with opposition leader Sohn Hakkyu to discuss free-trade agreement with US and other contentious issues (Yonhap)
  4. Incheon International Airport named world's best airport by Airports Council International for sixth straight year (Yonhap)
  5. President Lee Myungbak promises to focus welfare policy on helping the most needy (Yonhap)
  6. South Korea asks Japan to conduct swift and thorough investigation of murder of two South Korean nationals, a 61-year-old woman and her 27-year-old daughter, found dead in Osaka on Saturday (Yonhap)
  7. Blue House announces dates of President Lee Myungbak's visit to South Africa, and Democratic Republic of Congo, and Ethiopia will be July 2 to July 11, will discuss cooperation in areas of energy, raw materials, and nuclear power (Bloomberg)
    • President will also seek support for Pyongchang's 2018 Winter Olympics bid (Yonhap, Korea Herald)
  8. Report indicates South Korea will be the ninth country to join the $1 trillion traders' club this year (Korea Herald, Joongang Daily)
  9. Alarmed doctors in South Korea are at a loss to explain sudden onslaught of widespread rightward head tilting (Korea Times)

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Sunday, June 26, 2011

Honolulu overdue for a hurricane?

Honolulu topped the Weather Channel's list of the five cities most overdue for a hurricane:
Why, you may ask, are officials in Hawaii going to such great lengths to plan for a major hurricane strike in Honolulu? That’s never happened before, has it? No, not in the available records, despite a long list of close calls. Are these emergency managers wasting their time?

The reason that their time is well spent is that there is no meteorological reason why the core of a major hurricane cannot directly strike Honolulu. Iniki in 1992 made a direct hit on Kauai, only about 100 miles west of Honolulu, at major hurricane strength. Ten years earlier, Hurricane Iwa struck Kauai in late November. A number of other major hurricanes have passed just south of Honolulu during the past several decades.

The prospect of a major hurricane striking Honolulu is scary, especially if the center of the eye passes just west of the city and places the strongest, onshore winds where the most people and infrastructures are located. The winds alone would be bad enough, with most homes not built to withstand hurricane-force winds, many of them perilously perched on mountain slopes, and numerous high-rises that would lose windows especially on upper floors. Add to that the flooding because of waves and storm surge that would occur near the coast as the ocean moves inland, plus rainfall-induced flooding that could send water rushing down the mountains from the opposite direction.
I myself live inland enough and high enough to avoid an ocean surge (you may recall that from the posts about tsunami warnings here, here, and here), but the flooding from runoff coming down the mountains is a danger to anyone living near one of the ubiquitous streams. And I do live on the ninth floor of a building that is built lanai-style, meaning the kitchen floor is completely open air. It would be downright dangerous to be there during hurricane-force wins.

By the way, San Diego was #2 on the Weather Channel's list (and Orange County and Los Angeles would be runner-ups for that).

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Euna Lee speaks on reciprocal treatment

Euna Lee, one of the two Current TV reporting team who was captured and detained by the North Koreans after illicitly crossing the frozen Tumen River into DPRK territory, has written an op-ed piece in the Washington Post that touches on her ordeal. But while it starts off a bit self-serving — she doesn't quite mention her team's own foolish culpability that directly led to them being nabbed — her captivity is not the central theme of the piece:
It is difficult to describe the fear that comes with being arrested and detained in a foreign country. The sense of darkness in that first week of North Korean captivity was unbearable. My biggest fear was nobody knowing where I was or what had happened to me. The strained relations between the United States and North Korea only increased my despair.

In the middle of the second week, though, I was handed a lifeline: a meeting with the Swedish ambassador, who represented U.S. interests and pointed out to North Korea its responsibilities under the Vienna Convention on Consular Relations. His hard work yielded a meeting no longer than 10 minutes, but the significance is hard to express. I can only mention the sense of security I now had — that someone outside of North Korea was monitoring my case. The prompt consular access, I believe, protected me from any physical mistreatment by my captors. I was allowed to meet with the ambassador three more times. The meetings were my only communication with the U.S. government — the only way for me to ask for help and to deliver messages to my family. I know the importance of what the Vienna Convention provides.

Legislation has been introduced in Congress to ensure judicial review of death penalty cases involving foreign nationals who were not given consular access under the Vienna Convention. This legislation is not only a matter of honoring our obligations to such inmates. There are still many American journalists, aid workers, missionaries, members of the military and tourists detained in foreign countries. For all of them, and for their fearful families at home, there is nothing more important than upholding the reciprocal right to consular protection. With this legislation, Congress can protect that right.
Reciprocity is an important issue when it comes to how we treat other countries' citizens, for it has some bearing, as Ms Lee states, on how other countries treat our own. International norms of conduct can protect Americans and others, by making certain forms of legal treatment standard. I made a similar point about capital punishment in this post from 2006 (see point #6).

Though I have derided the acts of Euna Lee, Laura Ling, and their colleague Mitch Koss — I coined the term stupogant — it is quite interesting to see Ms Lee take her experience and go in a totally unexpected direction with it. In her op-ed she makes an appeal for a Mexican national convicted of murder in the United States, saying his lack of consular access makes his impending execution unjust and wrong.

This also touches on the aforementioned capital punishment post: often we are using the cases of the clearly guilty in order to save people in the future who may not deserve to be executed, especially in a country requiring a lower threshold of evidence (e.g., Iran) or criminal transgression (e.g., China, where white-collar criminals and drug dealers are executed).

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Daily Kor for Sunday, June 26, 2011

Maybe they should send these at night.

Like on most weekends, it's a slow news day. Keep dry (#1), wherever you are. Maybe stay indoors and read a history textbook (#4).
  1. Downpours pound saturated Korean Peninsula as Typhoon Meari approaches (Yonhap, Korea Times, Joongang Daily)
  2. Anti-Pyongyang activists send five large propaganda balloons into North Korea from P'aju (Yonhap, Korea Times, Korea Herald)
  3. Prosecutors investigate allegation that former chief of National Tax Service's Investigation Bureau received 50 million won (US$46K) monthly from SK Group affiliate (Yonhap, Korea Times)
  4. Six in ten young South Koreans unaware when Korean War started (Yonhap, Monster Island)
    • In speech marking anniversary of start of Korean War, Prime Minister Kim Hwangsik urges North Korea to stop "reckless provocations" and to enter a path to "co-prosperity and permanent peace" on Korean Peninsula (Yonhap, Korea Times)
  5. Mosquitoes carrying Japanese encephalitis found in South Ch'ungch'ŏng Province's Yŏn'gi County, the first discovery this year (Korea Times)
  6. Government to temporarily lift nighttime lighting restrictions on golf courses, a measure in force since March as part of energy conservation program, following court ruling in favor of golf course owners who'd sought injunction (Yonhap)
  7. Police investigation says Big Bang member Kang Daesung was partly responsible for fatal car accident when his speeding vehicle killed inebriated motorcycle driver who had already crashed and was lying on road (Korea Times, Joongang Daily, Korea Herald)
  8. Following "positive meeting" with US Secretary of State, ROK Foreign Minister Kim Sunghwan offers Clinton weekend job tutoring his kids in English (Yonhap)


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(UPDATED) Six of ten South Korean young people don't know...

... when the Korean War started, according to a survey reported by Yonhap.

And that's pretty pathetic, especially if they couched the question as, "When did the 'June 25 War' start?" Which the researchers might have, since it's the "6.25전쟁" in Korean.

I'm guessing, though, that they meant the year. Of course, the war started on June 25, 1950, and "ended" with a kinda sorta permanent ceasefire that began on July 27, 1953.

Putting it in perspective however, I submit that most middle school and high school students are kinda stupid. There's a reason why a lot of them are called sophomores (Latin for wise idiots). I'll bet you would get similar results if you asked the average American when Pearl Harbor was attacked? At least a quarter would say, "Who's Pearl Harbor?!"

Not that that excuses anything.

UPDATE:
Actually, it looks like I was right:
In fourteen hundred ninety-two, Columbus sailed the ocean blue. After that, it's all a blur. More than half of fourth-graders can't explain why Abraham Lincoln is an important historical figure, two-thirds of eighth-graders can't identify a single advantage that American patriots had over the British in the Revolutionary War, and nearly 4 in 5 high school seniors can't name North Korea's main ally in the Korean War.

That's according to the most recent National Assessment of Educational Progress, funded by the U.S. Department of Education. The NAEP report card also scores kids in math, science, reading, writing, geography and economics. But history is their worst subject.

Only 12 percent of high school seniors who took the test last year were rated "proficient" in history.
Just so we're clear, Abraham Lincoln freed the slaves and saw the Civil War through to preserve the Union, North Korea's Main ally in the Korean War was China, and the American patriots had as a major advantage Paul Revere riding through the countryside ringing bells and shooting off muskets to alert them and to warn the British they wouldn't take their guns. Or something like that.

To be fair, most high schools don't make it past World War II in their history classes, and the teachers just rely on them to watch M*A*S*H, Apollo 13, and Mad Men to make up for what they miss.

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Kerry says engage North Korea directly

Writing in an oped piece that appeared in the Los Angeles Times, former Democratic presidential nominee and current US Senator from Massachusetts John Kerry says that the Obama administration's stance has been measured, firm, but ultimately inadequate. He calls for direct talks:
Returning immediately to the six-party talks (which included North Korea, South Korea, the United States, Russia, China and Japan) is not viable. South Korea won't participate unless North Korea atones for its recent bad behavior. And the North, approaching a leadership succession in 2012, is disinclined to cooperate lest it look weak.

Similarly, there are limits to the pressure that China is willing and able to apply. China exerts the most leverage as North Korea's ally and largest trading partner, but it's not willing to risk the country's collapse. Further, Pyongyang has a habit of stubbornly resisting good advice, even from its patrons in Beijing.

The best alternative is for the United States to engage North Korea directly.

We all have grown weary of North Korea's truculence — its habit of ratcheting up tensions, followed by calls to negotiate back from the brink, followed by concessions, and a repetition of the process. But while North Korea may be the "land of lousy options," as one expert calls it, inaction only invites a dangerous situation to get worse.
While he accepts the label of North Korea as "the land of lousy options," I say, pragmatically, nothing can be done about North Korea, not without China's consent. And frankly, I think Senator Kerry misreads and misunderstands the degree and extent of China's influence.

China may already be taking last year's attacks and using them as a pretext for changing Pyongyang's behavior at a holistic level. China does not want to lose their buffer, of course, and they also want access to the East Sea (aka Sea of Japan), and they have belatedly realized how bad it is for Beijing to ignore Pyongyang's bad behavior.

Note that all of this has little to do with what Seoul, Washington, or Tokyo have done. When Seoul takes a hardline stance on Pyongyang, as current President Lee Myungbak has done, North Korea sinks South Korean ships and shells South Korean islands, but even when South Korea was on the complete opposite course, in the heady days of Sunshine Policy openness, there were major military clashes out in the Yellow Sea.

And thus Kerry misjudges the situation, saying a dangerous situation will get worse if we do nothing, when in fact it is our predictable "gotta do something" response that precipitates the next round of brinkmanship by North Korea. Pyongyang thinks it has a winning formula, which is why (as I colorfully illustrated here, where I noted that Kim Jong-il acts like a six-year-old Kushibo) we need to break that cycle.

President Obama has been firm and his response measured because he is not reacting as his predecessors did. Certainly he has the benefit of foresight that Clinton and even Bush43 did not, and he so far seems to be sticking to what Joshua Stanton of One Free Korea calls "Plan B," a hard-nosed, non-military threat that hurts the Pyongyang regime financially to effect changes in their behavior.

Now where Joshua and I may disagree is that I think it was necessary to at least try Sunshine Policy, given that a hardline policy had been ineffective for the nearly half century prior to that, and I think even though Sunshine Policy failed (in part for being too much carrot and not enough stick) engagement should be tried in ways that will not benefit the DPRK military or line the coffers of the regime (see previous link). But we both agree that Obama should stick to this plan. To engage now would just reward Kim Jong-il's government for patiently waiting for anger to subside just enough that Washington and Seoul will come to the table, making such bad acts more likely in the future when Pyongyang isn't getting its way again.

It also comes at a time when Beijing may actually be effecting real changes, for a change. Although I am deeply concerned that China's ultimate goal may be to fully integrate North Korea into its Northeastern Provinces (making North Korea the Inner Cháoxiān Autonomous Region), China has started to leverage its role as North Korea's only friend of substance, forcing Pyongyang to make economic reforms, helped along by China in exchange for small territorial concessions.

But that largely gets ignored. While I've been beating the drum that China has begun this reform-and-absorb policy in earnest, the rest of the world was distracted by the Kim Jong-un ascension side show.

My conclusion is that people like Senator Kerry should visit Monster Island and One Free Korea a bit more often, because then you might see that Pyongyang is still trying to play you, but Obama seems to have picked up on that.

If any negotiations should be done with North Korea at this time, it should be to decide which plot of land in Mongolia the Royal Kimenbaums would like for their exile.

Requisite picture of threatening-looking images from 
North Korea that must accompany any article on North Korea. 
In this photo: North Korean MILDs (military I'd like to disarm).

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Saturday, June 25, 2011

Trader Joe's, I hate you

It's one thing to not have stores in Hawaii, but it's a whole 'nother thing to rub it in with sarcastic directions.

In case you can't read #10 there, it says, "Kayak across the Pacific Ocean (2,756 miles)."

Clever, but mean. Although I do have a kayak.

Incidentally, if they ever opened up a store in Korea (say, after the FTA goes into effect), I think it would do swimmingly.

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CSM on balli-balli food delivery in Korea

In Korea, anything can and will be delivered.

The Christian Science Monitor has an interesting piece on the high rate of accidents on Korean streets, among food delivery workers in particular:
In densely populated Seoul, dodging motorcycles that zoom down sidewalks, run red lights, and cut across several lanes of traffic is part of everyday life.

It also means lightning-quick delivery of pizza, fried chicken, and Chinese food.

But there has been a steady increase in the number of accidents involving motorcycle deliverymen, raising concerns that Korea's obsession with being fast may need to be adjusted.

In 2009, there were 1,395, part of 4,962 injuries or deaths involving motorcycles in the restaurant and lodging industry during the past six years. And a recent poll of delivery drivers showed nearly 50 percent of those using motorcycles had indicated they had been involved in a road accident during the course of their work.

Though separate figures for fatalities were not available, safety campaigners suggest they run into double digits during the past 10 years.

In an effort to tamp down on accidents, activists have been putting pressure on fast food firms and the government to keep businesses from putting near-impossible delivery deadlines on their drivers.
As anyone who drives in Seoul can attest, one huge factor is the lack of enforcement of traffic laws. In California, for example, I can expect that most traffic violations — with the exception of going over the speed limit as long as it's at the flow of traffic, but including a rolling "California stop" — will invite a ticket if a cop sees it. By contrast, some drivers in Seoul will honk at police officers to run through a red light if they've waiting beyond fifteen seconds for the light to change and no one is coming in the opposite direction.

But I don't think that's all that's at work there. About five years ago over at Lost Nomad, we had a discussion about traffic fatalities that revolved around the fact that Japan also had a fairly high rate of accidents, even though adherence to traffic laws is generally more consistent there.

That leads me to believe that car density is partially at work here. When you have a greater number of cars per 100 square meters of pavement, there are more chances to hit other vehicles or pedestrians. Since I theorized that, I've become intimately aware of how that plays out here in Honolulu, which is far denser than the streets of Orange County and where I have about as many near misses in one week as I would in half a year back in California.

Anyway, back to Korea. Where traffic enforcement works is where it is more consistently applied, usually thanks to technology. On the highways we have have the speed cameras (and they are meant as a deterrent, since they are announced two kilometers ahead of time), more and more red light cameras, and Breathalyzers in the hands of the police manning the sobriety checkpoints.

Add to that mix the so-called "black boxes" that are increasingly becoming compulsory equipment in many jurisdictions:
Enter vehicular black boxes, which record driving data and can be used in the event of an accident to assess fault.

The tools may become mandatory for all vehicles within the next couple of years, says one government auto policy adviser.

“If drivers of cars or buses are presented with something that shows what they did, they can’t lie about what happened in accidents,” says former deliveryman Jang Byoung-kwan.
Hopefully that will do two things. First, punish habitual bad drivers, perhaps to the point that they can no longer be licensed or their insurance rates go up enough for it to hurt. Second, it might actually discourage bad driving habits ahead of time, if the drivers know there's an impartial witness beneath the hood. Thirdly, I suppose it might be a boost for used car sales that aren't so equipped.

I always thought speed cameras on major sidewalks that are triggered by vehicles going beyond the speed of a person running would be in order as well. Anything to get rid of these mooks who endanger the public.

My former fiancée was walking home when she was hit in a crosswalk by an unlicensed, uninsured delivery ajŏshi on a motorcycle, and she was freaked out and then livid that the police pushing her to "settle" had given her name and address to the guy who'd hit her, which basically forced her into accepting his settlement offer.

"S" is not really the confrontational type (except when I did something to piss her off), and she'd had such a harrowing experience that all she wanted to do was just let it go. But I still remember how frantic and freaked out she was the second time she called me. "They showed him my ID… what am I supposed to do? He might come after me!" I couldn't see her, but I knew she was in tears. The uninsured motorcycle guy with the death wish was kinda scary and she was freaked.

Unfortunately, at that moment I was on the other side of town. If I had been at home (we both lived in Yongsan-gu — me near Seoul Station and she there in Hannam-dong) I would have driven over there immediately and made life unpleasant for the other parties. As you might imagine, Kushibo can really raise a stink when he needs to (but a culturally appropriate stink). It probably would have been one of those times where I would have played the "Guess what people I know" card, largely in part to scare the sh¡t out of the motorcycle guy in case he got any ideas.

Sh¡t. It still makes me mad thinking about this. But I digress.

Speeding bad. Following traffic laws good.


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Chaba Choose wisely

I have no interest in dolls whatsoever (watch it, WK, 'cuz I will ban you), but this piece on the line of dolls called American Girls popped up in my daily trawl of all things Korean:
The Cult of Molly.

“I always wanted her glasses,” says Kristine Untalan, 23, a student at American University. “I faked poor eyesight. I was drawn to her nerdiness.”

“I always wanted her tap dance outfit,” Jessica Stewart says, wistfully. “I never got it.”

“When you choose Molly, you’re sort of putting a stake in a path,” says Stewart, 24, an art director for an ad agency. “It makes it more steadfast, who you think you are.”

In Korea, there is a custom called “doljabi,” by which parents predict their child’s future based on what object he reached for on his first birthday.

In the 1980s America of young girls — at least for a sizable portion — personalities could be determined by the selection of an 18-inch plastic doll, made by the Pleasant Company and marketed under the optimistic brand name American Girl.

Choose your doll, and show who you will become.
And that, ladies and gentlemen, is the frontrunner in this year's award for Most Obscure Korea Reference in News Media.

Doll selection as an American version of tolchabi (돌잡이). I like it. Kudos to the WaPo's Monica Hesse for pulling it off.

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