Tuesday, August 30, 2011

UPDATED: Oh, my Niga. Non-offensive generic post title about Black man in fight with elderly Korean man on bus that has become latest video sensation in Korea

Ahem, as much as I hate to push a post with a hit-generating title like "no more angry sex with my running partner in a café restroom for me" off the front page, this video has grabbed the K-blogs by the throat and is throttling for all its worth.

Having read at The Marmot's Hole the explanation that the Black gentleman on the bus to Pundang had misinterpreted Niga (as in a casual "You..." as the subject of a sentence) as the incendiary N-word, it was painful to watch this man go off so badly over a misunderstanding.



I was all set to write a post where, well, I actually came down on the side of the Black guy in the video — at least a little. I'm not Black, but I spent half my childhood in Compton, long enough to have a very different view (apparently) of Black people than many non-Blacks in America, and long enough to recognize, when I later lived in Orange County and elsewhere, the often schizophrenic and hypocritical way that many non-Blacks regard and treat Blacks. (Not to mention later in Seoul, when so many Whites suddenly take up the cause of Blacks in Korea because, well, they suddenly feel they are treated the way they think Blacks are treated, even though this wasn't really such a bother to them back home. But I digress...)

I was going to come out and write sympathetically, as I have before, about how most non-Blacks really have no clue what it's like to live inescapably from the taunts, snickers, condescension, backbiting, and even racial epithets that are commonplace if you are Black in America. Which carries over in different ways to being Black in Korea. No, I'm not Black, but in the latter half of my childhood and adulthood I was very attuned to the knee-jerk reactions to Blacks they saw (seriously, there was a time when I would have said without a second thought that I was more afraid of White people than Black people).

So if the guy really did hear Niga but thought he heard Nigga, I'd cut him some slack for going off. Maybe the guy has anger issues, but maybe the guy also has just been seething from so much crap thrown his way, in Korea and back home.

An update at The Marmot's Hole link above says the guy was with his girlfriend, and I'm thinking that supports my suppositions that the guy — walking around or taking public transport with his Korean (?) girlfriend — has endured a lot of crap and he may have reached the tipping point.

Now, as Oranckay points out, none of that allows you to go off on a harabŏji (grandfather figure) in Korea. Nothing. You let him hit you with his umbrella and his words, parrying both in a defensive pose, but you do not attack. That earns you no brownie points and can land you in jail. Black, White, foreigner, or Korean.

But the constant barrage of "검둥이," "무섭다," etc., can eventually send some people over the edge.

Now just as I was about to hit PUBLISH, I get a link to Metropolitician's site, which has a post on the same topic, but from a completely different point of view:
Left out of the conversation -- and a question that every Korean would ask were the court of popular opinion turned against them -- is any consideration of what the context was. Not that there's an excuse for hitting another person without cause, but the funny thing about this video is that we're right in the middle of an altercation that obviously was started for a reason, OFF-camera, but no one on the Korean side seems to care what it was, and the video's title hints at what the real issue is: a scary black man attacks defenseless old Korean man. Case closed -- we know what we expect, we know how they do, we got the case that we want. It's a "BLACK MAN," after all. ...

Because life as a black man in Korea affords you about the same amount of sympathy, both in person and in the media, as one might have gotten in the Deep South in the 1950's. Doesn't matter that violence, both mental and physical, is done upon you day in and day out -- you step out of line one time, and that's your ass.
He also goes on to talk about the Shinchon stabbing, tying it in with the gang-up-on-the-foreigner impression he has, as if the Black guy on the bus or the White guy in Shinchon are mostly not responsible for their fate or their actions. (Metropolitician and others have characterized the Shinchon stabbing as having been instigated or "provoked" (Stephannie White's word).

But like with the guy on the bus threatening people with his "rocks" and using Korean and English profanity and being a physical menace, the guy in Shinchon was not some babe in the woods caught up in the cogs of the Korean judicial system after being "provoked" by anti-American agents in Shinchon. As I wrote elsewhere:
They "provoked" the GIs to go to Shinchon which is off limits. They "provoked" the guy to bring a knife with him when he went out drinking. And then they "provoked" him to hold it to someone's neck.

That's some mighty skilled provokin'.
Okay, it's late (4 a.m.) and I need to wrap this up. I basically have found myself in a position where, owing to my own Compton roots, I was sympathetic to the Black guy who thought he was being berated in a directly or indirectly racist way and then reacted angrily and violently even though he didn't really have the Korean skills to back up his chip-on-the-shoulder feeling (that is fueled by K-blog rhetoric, but that's another story for another day), especially since he apparently apologized.

But Metropolitician has gone and ruined that. His knee-jerk defense of this kinda sorta almost indefensible guy (despite my own defense of him), tied in with his sixth sense for all things racist and xenophobic, and held down by using that Rhode Island-sized chip on his shoulder as a paperweight, has made me rethink my cautiously contingent support for the guy.

It also doesn't help that I was going to cite in this post his earlier claim of a supposed Southern expression — "When the Nigger starts to win then we all jump in!" — and discuss how it didn't really pan out here (apparently there was no violence done by the Korean crowd to the guy), but Metropolitician went and made that the actual title of his piece.

Okay, anyway, it's late and I'm groggy and I'll probably take this post down after (a) getting lots of emails or comments saying, "Boo!" which is what we from Compton have to face in life, (b) waking up and realizing it's full of logically or grammatically unsustainable sentences, and/or (c) something else.

For now, however, I leave you with the words of Pawi Kirogi, who sums up what I think should result, Metropolitician's defense of the guy notwithstanding:
no, don’t kick him out. the man’s sensitive to racial slight and lost his cool with a perception. he says he knows he was wrong and wants to apologize. if the ajoshi is willing to accept, that should be that.
Yeah, I think that's what I've been trying to say somewhere up there. The guy has learned a lesson, and maybe everyone else has: "Kids, you tried your best and you failed miserably; the lesson is, never try.”

UPDATE:
I don't like this post, but that largely stems from not liking this entire issue. It has me posturing against posturers, he-said ni-said crap, "my experience trumps your experience" stuff, etc., etc. There's nothing clean and philosophical that can come from this, except maybe "Don't speak English loudly in public" (Marmot), "Don't ride the bus/subway while Black" (Metropolitician), or "Carrying around a massive chip on your shoulder might make you see/hear things that aren't there" (kushibo).

It also stems from having written the latter part of it way too late at night and the resulting me-too feeling I get from it.

UPDATE 2: 
Linkin' Lawyer Benjamin Wagner asks at The Marmot's Hole:
Curious about people’s opinions on what the guy could or should do at this point to try to makes things right or at least better. Especially interested to hear what Korean commenters would advise.
I guess it's too late for "Speak softly and carry a big stick."

Um, I think the usual would be in order: a deeply contrite apology and an offer to make monetary amends for any physical damage caused, plus people from his hagwon and elsewhere — including Koreans who can speak Korean, if he has any — who can attest to his good nature in regular life. That might get him off with just a fine and no jail time or deportation.

UPDATE 3:
Popular Gusts, as usual, puts together a first-rate set of links on this issue. I have to admit, though, after reading more detailed descriptions of the guy's violent behavior (e.g., trying to "strangle" the elderly gentlemen several times, etc.), my sympathy is quickly dissipating. I'm still leaning toward giving the guy a second chance if he's contrite and this incident was very uncharacteristic of him, but this is serious legal assault.

I'm also reminded of a post I wrote back in 2009, where I pointed out that it's sorta against your best interests to defend everyone in your group (in this case defending Mr H because he's Black, American, or an English teacher who may bear the brunt of xenophobia just like you). Sometimes the Korean public reacts badly to an American or English teacher or whatever because he has in fact done some reprehensible things.

At least this case is getting a lot of KoKos to think about and discuss the stress that builds up for foreign residents of Korea who are routinely singled out as different and, sometimes, even unwelcome.

UPDATE 4:
At Marmot's, Metropolitician writes an impassioned defense of his use of this case to highlight what he considers increasing violence against foreigners:
This IS an appropriate time to bring up the fact that foreigners are harrassed at what I consider to be higher numbers than before. This is the “teachable moment” that the subject has been brought up in the Korean media, although in its most sensationalist form, and in the specific way that happens to NOT represent reality for most confrontational situations between foreigners and Koreans. Sorry, no matter what you say, nothing convinces me that foreigners — no matter how rude or culturally inconsiderate some can be — go around physically threatening or assaulting Korean people. Korean crime stats don’t bear that out, and you can bet a scandal-hungry media would certainly pick up on it were this to be the case.
I'm not so sure I agree there is an overall increase or even a per capita increase (it would make sense that more foreign residents would mean more reports of being victim of violent or racist behavior). I also don't think that labeling the whole of the Korean media as "scandal-hungry" is correct or prudent. In fact, I know reporters who would probably want to focus on the foreigners-as-victims angle, if they could wade through Metropolitician's various screeds to see if there's any there there.

I do wish to question Metropolitician's activist wisdom. This guy, as I'm seeing more and more on the various blogs and news sites, was way out of control, violent, crazy, and even murderous. And that makes him not a very good poster child for crimes-against-foreigners. There's a reason that Rosa Parks, whose "character was impeccable," was chosen as the face of the Montgomery Bus Boycott that catapulted civil rights onto the national stage in the 1960s. She hadn't been the first one to be forced out of her seat, but she was the one that the civil rights leaders saw would be someone whose character could not be attacked by those looking to excuse what was going on. Mr H is no Rosa Parks, and this situation is no foreigner-as-victim set of circumstances.

UPDATE 5:
I forgot mention this:
Criticize me, disagree with me, but don’t put shit in my mouth I didn’t say, or say I do things I don’t.
I hear ya. If you're going to put shit in Metro's mouth, use scare quotes.

UPDATE 6:
Jieun at The Marmot's Hole, another favorite of mine, left a comment I liked:
With all due respect, if you could kindly bear with me here:

A guy with an ethnic background similar to yours commits an act that is patently flagrant—in any way one looks at it (and no one with a right mind would act the way he did upon being told by a much weaker elderly man to “shut up.”)

Then, you appear, saying you’re not defending anyone, and start seguing into a bitter tirade about how you (and your friends)—all good model citizens and polar opposites of the guy on the bus, I’m respectfully sure—have been victimized for years by the society at large, or rather, by the social fringe.

Do you see it? I don’t think that is the strongest tack you can take to further your cause/grievance.

I’m truthfully (and sometimes hopelessly) empathic; I feel for you, but I think it’s time you reconsidered your paradigm of thought as to how to bring about change, away from focusing on the hurt.

If you’ve ever felt you haven’t gained much traction pushing the “issues” into public debate, there must be a reason—and a good one at that.
The funny thing about having a name like "Michael Hurt": it's an apt emotional descriptive.

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But can he eat a live octopus?

From Huffington Post, which I likely wouldn't read were it not for the occasional Korea news alert, comes news that Josh Brolin will star in Spike Lee's remake of Oldboy.

I guess Spike Lee has moved from making movies about Koreans swinging brooms to remaking movies about Koreans swinging hammers.

My thoughts later, but right now I'm working on a deadline. I'll leave you with a past post that explains the title of this current post.

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Monday, August 29, 2011

Well, I guess it's no more angry sex with my running partner in a café restroom for me, then.

Question: What do the following have in common?
  • Drinking coffee
  • Drinking soda
  • Blowing your nose
  • Straining on the toilet
  • Being startled
  • Getting angry
  • Having sex
  • Exercising
Answer: They are all potential triggers for brain hemorrhaging.

Explanation:
The rupture of a brain aneurysm is a relatively rare event but, as it causes bleeding in the brain, that event is a potentially devastating one. Now researchers have attempted to identify possible triggers for such ruptures, also known as hemorrhagic strokes, finding that sex, coffee and losing one’s temper -- among other things -- may raise the risk.

Such ruptures begin with aneurysms, which are weak spots in blood vessels in the brain. Under stress, those weak spots can rupture and lead to hemorrhaging, or bleeding. But it wasn’t clear what activities put people at the most risk of a resulting hemorrhagic stroke.
Now before you give up any or all of them, read their suggestions:
“Reducing caffeine consumption or treating constipated patients with unruptured [intracranial aneurysms] with laxatives may lower the risk of [subarachnoid hemorrhage]. Although physical exercise has a triggering potential, we do not advise refraining from physical exercise because it is also an important factor in lowering the risk of other cardiovascular diseases.”
That plus anger management.

This is the artwork I got when I image-googled 
"angry sex with my running partner in a café restroom."

... and this. I'm guessing that bloke on the bottom
is at minimal risk for a brain hemorrhage. 

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Recommend a blog!

One reader noted that I seem to read a lot of what he/she called "kvetchpatry"-promoting blogs, to which I replied I would love to hear about other good blogs.

So that got me thinking that I should put up a post asking for more such suggestions, something that might be worthy of the esteemed honor of being on the "Blog roll of blogs that list me in their blog roll (plus a few other blogs I like or check out)" or the uber honor of making "Our Daily Breadth."

So if you're holed up on the East Coast because of Hurricane Irene flooding, have at it. Everyone else, too.

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Sunday, August 28, 2011

Ron Paul wants a party like its 1899

As Hurricane Irene barrels along the Atlantic Coast for maximum damage, Ron Paul says the nation would be much better off without FEMA and people in his district can get along just fine, like they did in 1900:
As Hurricane Irene barrels along the U.S. East Coast, Rep. Ron Paul of Texas said the nation would be much better off without the Federal Emergency Management Agency.

"I live on the Gulf Coast. We put up with hurricanes all the time," the GOP presidential candidate told CNN after a New Hampshire campaign event Friday. "There's no magic about FEMA. More and more people are starting to recognize that."

Paul has long been a critic of the agency, which he calls a "great contributor to deficit financing."

With more than 7,600 employees, FEMA falls under the Department of Homeland Security and coordinates response efforts when disasters strike.

Citing the Galveston hurricane in 1900 that obliterated much of the Texas coast, the libertarian-leaning congressman said Americans were able to rebuild their cities and put up a seawall without the federal government's help.

"FEMA is not a good friend of most people in Texas," Paul said. "All they do is come in and tell you what to do and can't do. You can't get in your houses. And they hinder the local people, and they hinder volunteers from going in."
In 1900, six to eight thousand people were killed (how's that for "putting up" with a hurricane?) when a hurricane and tidal surge hit what would later be his district. One wonders how many would have died with the same type of hurricane if there'd been a national warning system and mandatory evacuations of dangerous low-lying areas and then efforts to keep people away from dangerous post-hurricane conditions.

The fascists from FEMA would probably have had the
gall to prevent children from walking around the
rubble following the hurricane that hit Galveston.

But I guess the mismanaged FEMA of the Bush43 era left an indelible mark in the minds of many people like Representative Ron Paul. It also underscores a general theme: Republicans are often very distrustful of government agencies because when they get control of them they muck it up. In all seriousness, there is a difference between effective government and incompetent government, and a good moderate (or Democrat) recognizes that and seeks to find the difference, while such Republicans as Ron Paul simply believe it's all bad and would just throw everyone to the proverbial wolves.

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Blatant apologism

If you've read my posts discussing the infamous Imperial Japanese apologist Gerry Bevers (here, here, and I guess here or even here), then you would know that I find comments like this from Mr Bevers so gallingly ignorant:
DLBarch wrote:
I could not agree more. One of the perplexing dynamics within the expat communities in Japan and Korea is that expats in Japan seem to overwhelmingly be card-carrying apologists for the country and members in good standing in the Chrysanthemum Club, while expats in Korea seem to be card-carrying members of the “I’m-white-and-privileged-but-still-manage-to-bitch-and-complaint-about-every-little-f*cking-thing club.

The irony, of course, is that Japan has SO MUCH MORE to answer for historically, and yet has all but gotten a free ride on its disgraceful historical legacy.
The ones who got off easy after World War II were the Koreans, who were allied with the Japanese. The US and her allies allowed Koreans to play the victim as much as they did because they wanted to break up the Japanese Empire. However, no matter how Koreans may try to spin it, they did support the Japanese war effort.

The Japanese did not get a free ride, Mr. Barch. Millions of Japanese soldiers were killed, along with hundreds of thousands of Japanese civilians.

The Japanese, the Chinese, the Russians, the Koreans, Australians, and Americans all committed war crimes, but it was only the Japanese and her allies who were convicted of them, and they were either executed or imprisoned. See HERE.

Japan lost all of its empire, and Japanese citizens in Korea and other places were forced to leave all of their proverty behind and return to Japan. On top of that, Japan paid a great deal in war reparations.

As for Korean comfort women, which we hear so much about, some may have been forced by Korean and Japanese pimps into the business, just as they are today, but most were probably just prostitutes looking to make an easy buck, just as they had done before and have done after.
I'm very busy this weekend, but when I have a chance, I'll write a response. Not from scratch mind you, but a collection of links, since this is old hash from Gerry that has been chased down by the antacid of truth and logic long ago.

I will acknowledge, though, that there were indeed Korean war criminals: they constituted some 1% of all the "Japanese" war criminals. There were also those who volunteered for military service, including Park Chunghee who later took over the country and was architect of its rise. But that does not negate that there were hundreds of thousands if not millions forced into hard labor, cruelty abounded, hundreds of thousands were killed at the hands of the Japanese or in Japanese military actions, hundreds of thousands of women were forced into sexual slavery, etc., etc.

And the idea that Korea — a country forcibly taken by Japan and then run with an iron fist by Japanese military leaders — could be described as a willing "ally" is just absurd.

If one has visited Yasukuni Shrine's Yushukan Museum (see here and here), it is striking how much Mr Bevers tale dovetails with that of Japan's right-wing apologists.

Oh, and DL Barch makes a valid point. In Korea, such people are called kvetchpats.

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Friday, August 26, 2011

I guess they don't realize how tough the job market is out there

Well, to our left we have Seoul Mayor Oh Sehoon resigning after failing to muster together enough votes or voters for his egalitarianism-versus-fiscal prudence school lunch referendum. Effective immediately. This was done as promised after Mayor Oh got only one in four Seoulites to vote when he'd promised to quit if it were less than one in three.

And the to our right we have Japanese PM Naoto Kan resigning, echoing the words of Andy Warhol that in the future everyone in Japan will be prime minister for fifteen minutes. Kan's resignation was also to fulfill a promise, which makes me think it sorta sucks that the only politicians we can trust at their word are the ones leaving office.

What does this all mean? My guess is that Oh and Kan have been planning to run away together for sometime. Really, that's the only plausible explanation.

Anyway, I'm a little embarrassed to admit that I didn't follow Oh's policies in our fair city while he's been mayor quite as much as I should have, even though they probably have a profound effect on the vector* of my humble-but-takai apartment's market value. Kan, on the other hand, was someone well known for trying to make nice with South Korea and other victims of Imperial Japan's aggression, so I'm a little sad to see him go for that reason.

Also, his departure means I won't have many more opportunities to run this:

Kaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaan!

* That's direction and magnitude, in case you've forgotten middle school math, as in will it go up or down and by how much.

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Thursday, August 25, 2011

Jobs loss

Although Steve Jobs's health problems have been the source of discussion for quite some time, it was a bit shocking to read the announcement that he is resigning as CEO of Apple, though he said he'd like to remain as the Chairman of the Board:
Steve Jobs, the visionary who remade Apple into the world’s dominant maker of tech gadgets, has resigned as the company’s CEO.

In a letter to the Apple Board of Directors and “the Apple Community” Wednesday, Jobs wrote that Chief Operating Officer Tim Cook will take over his CEO duties.

“I have always said if there ever came a day when I could no longer meet my duties and expectations as Apple’s CEO, I would be the first to let you know. Unfortunately, that day has come. I hereby resign as CEO of Apple. I would like to serve, if the Board sees fit, as Chairman of the Board, director and Apple employee,” Jobs wrote.

“As far as my successor goes, I strongly recommend that we execute our succession plan and name Tim Cook as CEO of Apple. I believe Apple’s brightest and most innovative days are ahead of it. And I look forward to watching and contributing to its success in a new role. I have made some of the best friends of my life at Apple, and I thank you all for the many years of being able to work alongside you.”
With Korea-based Samsung being a major competitor of Apple, this news is no doubt of interest to many. Here is the Wall Street Journal's Seoul correspondent Evan Ramstad's take on it, which comes as the good people of Seoul vote on a free lunch plan that pits South Korean deeply engrained post-war egalitarian ideals against recent calls for fiscal prudence:
The fate of Seoul Mayor Oh Se-hoon is dominating the South Korean media Thursday but the resignation of Steve Jobs from his CEO role at Apple Inc. isn’t far behind.

Mr. Oh presided over a failed referendum Wednesday to reduce the scope of Seoul’s school free-lunch program and strongly intimated that he’d resign as a result. So people are waiting for that shoe to drop.

But Mr. Jobs’ departure from his main operating role at Apple is also getting huge attention. In part, that’s because of a media-driven narrative that Apple and Google are threatening to South Korea’s “national champion” companies Samsung and LG. On the other hand, Mr. Jobs is widely admired in South Korea as a visionary and entrepreneur.

His resignation speech was quickly translated into Korean and posted on the country’s main portal site, Naver. And thousands of South Koreans took to Twitter to write short tributes to Mr. Jobs.

“He was the greatest CEO, a visionary to create the dream, a strong person who practices what he pledges,” Jeong Ji-hoon, a medical doctor and prominent tech blogger in Seoul, wrote via Twitter. “We are paying our respect to the resignation of the greatest giant of our time.”
I guess we're still waiting for a couple sets of shoes to drop. I wish some other long-serving chief executive would resign instead over health reasons.

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Is there a doctor in the house?

Anyone want to save me half an hour or so on WebMD and give me some ideas what the hell that brown patch is on the side of Kim Jong-il's head?

I'd do it myself, but I'm not a doctor (though I play one on TV).

Maybe he agreed to this summit because he thought the President of Russia was Medvedev Doctor.

Okay, no more bad puns. I really want to know what's up with that. Did someone box his ears during an attempted coup that they're now trying to cover up, à la George W. Bush and the pretzel incident?

Is it the beginning of a goiter?

While we're at it, what do you suppose he's laughing at?

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Wednesday, August 24, 2011

Russian president says Kim Jong-il supports pipeline to South Korea

One bit of news coming out of Russia during the Dear Leader's visit to North Korea's once and future benefactor is that Kim Jong-il has agreed with the idea of laying a gas pipeline to South Korea through the DPRK.

 From AFP:
North Korea supports a planned pipeline to carry Russian gas supplies to South Korea through the North, Russian President Dmitry Medvedev said on Wednesday.

'As far as I understand, North Korea is interested in the implementation of such a trilateral project with the participation of Russia and South Korea,' Mr Medvedev said after a rare summit with North Korea's Kim Jong Il, praising the talks as 'open, (and) substantive.'

Mr Medvedev said the proposed pipeline would stretch more than 1,700km and start up with volumes of up to 10 billion cubic metres per year.

The Russian leader said he has issued instructions for his government to work out the framework of a subsequent agreement that would be signed between Moscow and Pyongyang.
Pyongyang notes that the high-tech pipeline would come equipped with a money spigot that will channel cash directly into Pyongyang vaults whenever the mainline is shut off.

UPDATE 1:
Apparently the interpreters at Agence French-Presse completely botched the original Russian. While the original translation stated Kim Jong-il agreed with Russian suggestions to return to the Six-Party discussions and to run a Russian pipeline through North Korea, what was actually said was that Putin told Kim Jong-il he'd ass-fuck him Oz-style if he didn't agree to return to denuclearization talks.

UPDATE 2:
Ignore the first update. In future, I need to approach Dokdo Is Ours! with a bit more skepticism.

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When nerds get married

I first found this at List of the Day, but it has a Korean angle (the couple in the pictures, Julian Sunmi Park and Benjamin Jinsuk Lee, apparently being kyopo).

Other fun/interesting/disturbing things from LOTD (totally unrelated to Korea, Hawaii, or Orange County) can be found here and here.

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Washington Monument cracked

I was raised in earthquake country. Growing up in Compton and then Orange County, I lived in fear of The Big One that was supposed to have us sliding into the Pacific Ocean and turning Victorville homes into beachfront property.

 Earthquake preparedness became second nature, and without thinking about it I knew the answer to the question, "What's the safest place to be in an earthquake?"

 The answer: "Someplace else."

I would also accept "Nebraska," "Iowa," and "Wisconsin." (In all seriousness, if you really are in an earthquake, ducking your head and spine under a solid piece of furniture or a doorway is the best you can do.)

 I can only imagine the freakedoutedness of Washingtonians (of the DC variety) when they had a 5.8 quake. That's nothing to scoff at, especially in a part of the country where earthquake-safe buildings are not exactly the norm.

 Indeed, there were plenty of worries that the temblor would be a tumbler, with damage reported at the Washington National Cathedral and the Washington Monument. In fact, the Washington Monument apparently cracked (but rumors that it was leaning like Pisa were untrue).

 Meanwhile, several Republican presidential candidates noted that the Washington Memorial had never been damaged by an earthquake until Obama became president. "Just sayin'," noted Rick Perry.

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Tuesday, August 23, 2011

Jasmine fall

With the regime of Moammar Gadhafi's regime really on the verge of collapse this time, I thought it might be a good chance to review a few posts from earlier this year that managed to tie together Libya and North Korea.

For starters, there's this post on how North Korean workers in Libya were not being allowed to return home despite the violence going on there, for fear that they would bring word of decades-long dictatorships starting to fall in the face of popular opposition and armed rebellion. I wonder what has happened to those North Korean workers and what their future holds. I'm guessing they really are better off in Africa for the time being, and I hope they're allowed to stay.

Probably a legal phone.
On a related note, this post talked about how the Pyongyang regime was trying hard to round up illegal cell phones in order to prevent the spread of such news.

Back in March, when it looked like Gadhafi might accept a deal to take his sons and go away to a comfortable exile in a neighboring country with lots of open desert, I suggested the same model might work for North Korea (Mongolia has lots of open desert).

Of course, Gadhafi didn't take the deal, but depending on whether he ends up like Slobodan Milošević (with a long prison term) or Saddam Hussein (with a long neck), Kim Jong-il and his cronies may wish to consider that option.

[source]

In this post, I also noted that North Korea may be looking at NATO's air support in Libya and thinking to themselves, "Like hell we're ever going to give up our nukes" (that was Libya's quid pro quo for US recognition).

Or, to borrow from Winston Churchill: "Never, never, never, never give up (your nukes)."

Best thing to do is to trick the North Koreans into testing each of them, one by one. Keep accusing them of lighting up a bunch of TNT deep in a mineshaft each time and watch them try to go ballistic.

UPDATE:
Joshua at One Free Korea has taken a hiatus from his hiatus to bring us some timely thoughts on the same subject.


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Monday, August 22, 2011

Hawaiian wildlife


Perhaps I should be freaked out, but Oahu's ubiquitous geckos are kinda cute.

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South Korean quality-of-life satisfaction still in the panjiha

A report from the Korea Development Institute, using OECD statistics, confirms something that should come as a surprise to no one: All the easy access to K-pop, Korean food, blazingly high-speed Internet, and Cinema Coreana is not enough to offset the poor living standards brought on by population density, grubby streets, and reckless driving habits.

From the Joongang Daily:
Korea’s quality of life ranks low among major advanced economies in the world despite its relatively good macroeconomic indicators, a report showed yesterday.

According to the report by the state-run Korea Development Institute, Korea’s quality-of-life index ranked 27th in 2008 among 39 countries belonging to the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development and the Group of 20.

The 2008 ranking was unchanged from that in 2000, according to the report, which also covered other areas including growth potential, infrastructure and the environment. The Ministry of Strategy and Finance commissioned the KDI to compile the report based on statistics from the OECD, the UN and the World Bank.

The report pointed out that Korea’s quality of life has failed to make improvements despite the rapid growth of its economy, which is the fourth-largest economy in Asia.

“Korea’s per capita income has risen significantly over the past 20 years,” the report said. “Nonetheless, Koreans’ satisfaction level of their quality of life is stagnant. We are seeing the ‘Easterlin Paradox’ here.”

The Easterlin Paradox is a key concept in happiness economics, developed by Richard Easterlin, an economist and a University of Southern California professor.

Easterlin found that within a given country, people with higher incomes are more likely to be happy. However, it’s a slightly different story in an international comparison. A country with higher national income per person is not necessarily happier than countries with lower national income per person, more so if the country’s people enjoyed income sufficient to meet basic needs.
Well, there's your problem right there: You're measuring it by self-reported satisfaction. Despite objective and measurable improvements in quality of life (shorter working hours, better and greater variety of food, improved transportation infrastructure, a rise in quality of homes, etc., etc.), people are reporting that they're no happier than they were before.

The ugly truth is that South Korea is full of malcontents who think someone else has always got it better and easier. It's the engine for self-improvement, nose-to-the-grindstone collectivism, and oh-so-much plastic surgery, but also the source of a semi-permanent malaise.

I call that the Kushibo Conundrum.

Perhaps Korea's self-reported quality of life would improve
if the country imported more Koreaphilic foreigners. 


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Sunday, August 21, 2011

Vulturing at Borders

This is really sad. Sphere: Related Content

Giving the Tohoku and Fukushima disaster-affected people what they need

"M" has alerted me to a Japanese-language website, called Fukkoichiba (literally, "Revival Market"), that aims to directly connect donors to the victims of the Tohoku earthquake and the ensuing tsunami and nuclear disaster.

In short, it works by filling requests from the affected people with donors who will fill those specific needs. You can see the various items — flip-flops, various food items, cooking oil, Pocari Sweat, and even underwear — on the site and then go and buy the stuff. You can then leave your name or a userid that says you bought it.

Unfortunately, the site is only in Japanese right now, although "M," herself a busy student, offered to translate it into English so it could reach a wider audience. For now, though, the couple that set up the site on their spare time are lacking the resources to take it globally.

"M" noted that it's heartbreaking to see the stuff people still lack. Even all these months after the earthquake and the tsunami, these are the basic needs that people still are having difficulty getting. But that aspect of this site is what drew her to it: she remembers previous disasters where so much stuff that was not needed ended up being discarded.

An added feature of this site is a blog full of pictures where many of the grateful recipients show the stuff they received (no, they are not standing around in the aforementioned underwear). Note that many of the people in the pictures are still living in gymnasiums and other places that have been covered into long-term shelters.

"M" felt that added an element of really feeling like you're accomplishing something with your donation, a bit different from sending money to a large organization like the Red Cross, which does extremely important work in an efficient way, but puts donations in a pool, thus preventing you from knowing where your money actually went.

Anyway, if there's anyone around you who can help you muddle through the Japanese on the site, go and see about donating. With the nuclear issue still unresolved and cleanup an on-going process, there's still a lot of need out there.

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North Korea seeking hard currency through rare earth metals?

Oh, those communists and their attempts to bring the West to their knees by hoarding all the rare earth metals. We've already seen it with China (!) and probably a few Cold War-era James Bond villains, and now North Korea may be ready to work from the same playbook.

Quoting the Asahi Shimbun:
North Korea is eager to dig into its rare earth elements in a fresh bid to obtain foreign currencies amid soaring prices of the minerals in the global market.

Experts say China may hold the key to the fate of the country's attempt as it relies on Beijing to finance the development and production of rare earth elements.

As the competition among countries over rare earth elements, crucial to the manufacture of high-tech products, intensifies, Pyongyang is paying more attention to the global race to secure the minerals.

According to North Korea's state-run Korean Central News Agency, the Minju Choson (Democratic Korea), the official government newspaper, carried reports on the topic twice this month.

The report said that Japan is dependent on China for supply of the minerals because it accounts for 90 percent of the global output and that China has moved to cut exports.
Jiminy frickin' Christmas, Japan just cannot get a break.

Anyway, I guess as far as attempts to gain hard currency go, I'd rather the North Koreans be trying to sell lanthanum than pushing methamphetamine. The question is whether some governments appalled by the Pyongyang regime's human rights abuse will allow their companies to engage in trade with the DPRK. I suppose Beijing could get around it by mixing their europium up with North Korea's (you know, like how bad housing loans were mixed up with good ones and sold as high-rated instruments).
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Saturday, August 20, 2011

Back in the USSR

We are receiving confirmation that North Korean leader Kim Jong-il is in Russia and will meet President Putin Medvedev:
It is Kim’s first trip to Russia since 2002 and is the latest sign that North Korea is trying to reach out in an effort to secure aid and restart stalled nuclear disarmament talks. South Korean officials reported that Kim’s train had arrived in the Russian border city of Khasan, but the first confirmation that Kim was in Russia came in statements issued simultaneously by the Kremlin and North Korea’s official news agency. Kim will visit the Far East region of Russia and travel west to Siberia, the Kremlin and North Korea’s official Korean Central News Agency said.
As usual, whenever the Dear Leader is outside North Korea, I urge whoever is up to the task to join the brown parade.

Oh, and before anyone gets on my case about referring to the Russian Federation by the name of its communist forerunner, please let me note that I'm perfectly aware that Russia is no longer called the USSR or the Soviet Union. And that alone makes me more qualified than Michele Bachmann to be president:
According to the liberal website Think Progress, Bachmann, whose grasp of history on the trail at times has been somewhat shaky, said during a radio interview Thursday that Americans today are mindful of the threat posed by a rising U.S.S.R., which, like Elvis, left the building a long, long time ago.

“What people recognize is that there’s a fear that the United States is in an unstoppable decline. They see the rise of China, the rise of India, the rise of the Soviet Union and our loss militarily going forward,” Bachmann said on conservative activist Jay Sekulow’s show. “And especially with this very bad debt ceiling bill, what we have done is given a favor to President Obama, and the first thing he’ll whack is 500 billion out of the military defense at a time when we’re fighting three wars. People recognize that.”
Talk about scare-mongering, we've got socialist-Islamofascist Manchurian Candidate babies from Kenya in the White House, and now the USSR is coming back from the grave!

Come to think of it, if we're finding out now how poor her grasp is on history, geography, and how the world around us is put together, we're lucky to find out now instead of later.

You don't know how lucky you are, boy.

"I can see the Soviet Union from my house!"
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World of Class Warfare

I've lately been getting into The Daily Show with Jon Stewart more and more. The way he calls out those crying "Class warfare!" as the ones actually engaging in class warfare was brilliant (links here and here).





 Indeed, America's Gini coefficient is abominable. That those who sit back and collect profits are called "the productive class" while those who actually work the day-to-day jobs are called "the moocher class" is a tad topsy-turvy, methinks. But then again, I'm one of those silly people who thinks the economic crisis began before 2009 and the national debt started to skyrocket when we got involved in two wars and cut tax rates so much we obliterated the budget surplus.

 Seriously, though, when I have occasionally watched/read the pundits on Fox News and other conservative sites, I've been amazed at how little the talking heads knew about the people they spoke of which so much disdain, whether they be the poor, immigrants, migrant workers, Muslims, and even minorities.
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Friday, August 19, 2011

These shoes were made for walkin'...

... and that's just what they'll do.

Courtesy of The Marmot's Hole, we have news of a Chinese team brawling with Georgetown's basketball team at a goodwill exhibition game.

Remind you of anything?

It seems kicking-in-anger is the thing to do when things don't go your way. Or maybe "kick some butt" was today's idiom in English class. The humanity!

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Jon Stewart on Rep Ron Paul: How has "Tea Party Patient Zero" become the media version of the 13th floor in a hotel?

I'm no fan of Ron Paul, who I think is hopelessly and scarily naïve on both foreign policy and domestic policy* and whose followers I've met typically (but not always) make up in enthusiastic certainty what they lack in knowledge of how things work.

But I think Jon Stewart makes a very good point that the mainstream media — including Fox and CNN — are doing a disservice to that presidential candidate from Texas and to voters by pretending he doesn't exist, especially when he is doing pretty well so far.



Of course, I'm still bitter that my main man Bill Richardson, governor of New Mexico, was all but ignored by the same mainstream media during the 2008 Democratic primary process, even though he was probably the most qualified and most electable of the bunch.

* I'm not in complete disagreement with Ron Paul on everything (see here and here), but I think he's wrong on things like the Pax Americana being a bad fiscal decision. I agree with various Republicans on other things as well. For example, I do not think Christine O'Donnell is a witch, and Romney was right on the money with Romneycare. 

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Chinese officials force reporters covering Biden speech out the door

You'd think that if you found a group of people who actually want to hear a Joe Biden speech, you should let them sit through to the end.

But if you're Chinese officials and you're afraid that the Vice President of the United States might say something frank, candid, and a little bit biting about your country, maybe you don't want people in the room who buy the proverbial ink by the proverbial barrel.

Or maybe they were afraid Joltin' Joe was about to call his Chinese counterpart "articulate and bright and clean and a nice-looking guy."

From the Los Angeles Times:
Xi spoke first, calling Biden's visit a "major event" in the U.S.-China relationship and expressing his desire to work with America "to promote development of relations between our great nations."

Then Biden spoke, starting with a reference to his first visit to China in 1979, when he saw "the great wonders" of the nation. He spoke of his admiration for the Chinese people and the "great sweep of history." And to Xi, he spoke of the importance of developing a close personal relationship, one of "openness and candor," and stated his belief that foreign policy "is more than just formal visits, it's establishing relationships and trust."

"It is my fond hope that our personal relationship will continue to grow," Biden said to Xi, who is widely expected to be the next Chinese president.

It was right about this time that a near-brawl was breaking out about a hundred feet away from the diplomatic exchanges in the Eastern Hall of the Great Hall of the People.

Only minutes into Biden's remarks, Chinese officials had begun to direct reporters toward the exits. Most reporters and the vice president's staff objected, saying it was important to cover the entirety of Biden's opening statement, as had been the agreement between officials beforehand.

A Chinese press aide said Biden was going on far too long for their liking. But in fact, including the consecutive translation of his comments from English to Chinese, Biden spoke only two or three minutes longer than Xi had.

Soon the stern shooing turned into forceful shoving. As reporters tried to stand their ground, Chinese officials locked arms and pushed forward in a show of overwhelming force. Soon enough Biden did finish, but reporters had difficulty hearing the entire thing because of the fisticuffs.
This is one of the things that makes me so uneasy about China: it is a big and powerful country that tries so very, very hard to remove uncomfortable facts and discourse from the public sphere, often replacing it with its own pre-approved distraction or diversion.

From SARS to the treatment of Uighurs to Joe Biden potentially making a speech where he would call for more press freedom or human rights in North Korea, China's ally, Beijing has great fear over the public knowing what's really being said or done. As we've seen with SARS itself, it is an unsustainable situation that threatens to collapse in on itself. Sadly, though, my thoughts and opinions probably reach very few Chinese, as Blogger (this blog's platform) is still blocked in China, I believe.

Meanwhile, Biden is getting no love on the other side of the Pacific Ocean, either. At Real Clear Politics, Richard Benedetto makes the case that for jettisoning Joe in favor of Secretary of State Hillary Clinton:
In contrast, Biden flopped on the one high-profile task Obama gave him this year -- negotiate a budget-deficit deal with Democrats and Republicans in Congress. The Biden-led talks came to an abrupt end in June when Republicans walked out.

All this is not lost on the public. The Gallup Poll puts Clinton’s favorability with the American people at 66 percent. The last Gallup measure for Biden put him at 42 percent.

Moreover, with the growing possibility that a woman -- Rep. Michele Bachmann -- could be on the Republican ticket either in the first or second slot (more likely the latter), Clinton would provide a formidable counter that an all-male ticket would not. Democrats would love to pit Clinton’s political and experiential skills against those of Bachmann. It’s a matchup they believe they would win going away.

On top of all that, Clinton has a large, spirited and loyal following among Democrats and many independents. Biden does not. The vice president only brings Delaware and its three electoral votes to the fold. And Delaware is a heavily Democratic state that would probably vote for Obama whether Biden is on the ticket or not.

Clinton, however, could shore up flagging Obama support in critical swing states such as Pennsylvania, New Jersey, Ohio, Florida, Minnesota, Wisconsin and Iowa, states the president must carry to win a second term. Without them he’s a goner, and he knows it.
And I would like to see Clinton go up against Bachmann in a VP debate. We can see once and for all who pulls off the Crazy Eyes look better.

My, that was terrible. No national print media would ever do that to Hillary, would they?

Oh, my. That's just horrible. It sure puts the latest engineered outrage over the Bachmann Newsweek "Queen of Rage" cover into perspective a bit. Of course, Bachmann's outraged supporters somehow missed this and many other depictions of Hillary Clinton as having crazy eyes herself, as they largely happened before the Republicans insist the world began, on January 20, 2009.

By the way, I'm not so sure how the above photo of Ms Bachmann is so dramatically different from this one at left, which I snagged directly from the Congresswoman's own Bachmann-for-President website.

(This post was brought to you by Stream of Consciousness™.)

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Monday, August 15, 2011

Yasukuni enshrinement mix-up

I imagine most of my readers are familiar with the controversial Yasukuni Shrine. Originally meant to enshrine those who died fighting for the Japanese Emperor, turning them into kami gods, it became a source of contention and bad relations with Tokyo's neighbors when the shrine keepers chose to enshrine the fourteen Class-A war criminals who had been the architects of Imperial Japanese expansionism and brutality before and during World War II.

Adding fuel to the fire, the relatives of some of the Koreans and Taiwanese who were enshrined there after dying during service in the Imperial Japanese military have sought to have their loved ones removed (ditto with some Japanese family members).

The Yasukuni shrine keepers shrug their shoulders and say once a dead soldier has been made into a kami, there ain't nothing they can do about it. It's a bit of an angels-dancing-on-the-head-of-a-pin argument.

Well, speaking of pinheads, one Mr Kim is particularly ticked off about enshrinement at Yasukuni: He was never an Imperial soldier and, just as importantly, he's not dead.

From the Los Angeles Times:
For most of his life, Kim Hui-jong has kept what he considers a shameful secret. In 1944, as a teenager, he was abducted from his village in northern Korea by Japanese soldiers and forced to dig tunnels at a World War II military camp on the island of Saipan.

It would take him a decade of marriage to tell his wife about his past. Kim, 86, still often dreams of the battlefield shelling that severely damaged his hearing and the taunts of his captors: "You Koreans are like canned meat; we can take you anywhere and use you as we see fit."

He always considered his Japanese enslavement, and the two years he later spent as a U.S. prisoner of war, as a lifelong humiliation. Then, in 2005, Kim received a new insult he insists he still cannot bear: For decades, the former conscript learned, he has been counted among Japan's war dead and, because of an administrative error, his name is listed at Tokyo's controversial Yasukuni shrine. He could no longer remain silent.

Many view Yasukuni as a symbol of Japanese militarist values that led millions to their deaths. Worse, Kim and other critics say, Shinto priests who control the shrine list Japanese leaders executed as war criminals in its ranks of the dead.
Just so we're clear, it's not Mr Kim to whom I referred as a pinhead.

Anyway, expect the Yasukuni shrine keepers to do drag their feet on this, if they do anything at all. The modus operandi in dealing with embarrassingly bad things from World War II is to ignore it, especially if it sets a slippery-slope precedent. This is why, for example, Tokyo continues to insist Tokto is Japan's, not South Korea's, because to do anything else would seem to weaken Japan's claim to islands disputed with Russia, China, Taiwan, etc.

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Saturday, August 13, 2011

UPDATED: Korea-obsessed British university student gets surgery to become Merong Girl (메롱걸)

ORIGINAL POST:
One of those popular urban legends about South Korea is that kids in English-obsessed South Korea are getting their tongues snipped (a procedure called lingual frenectomy) in order to pronounce English more accurately. I call it an urban legend because, while there certainly are people who have gotten the surgery done, it has reached the point where there are more stories about this supposedly popular Korean procedure in English-language media than there are people who have actually done it. I think.

Now the British media has brought us a twist on this story. It seems one university student in England is obsessed with Korean culture and learning Korean (see all those Korea books she's carrying), and (wait for it...) she has had a similar tongue-lengthening surgery in order to speak Korean better.

From the UK's Daily Mail:
Student Rhiannon Brooksbank-Jones dreams of living and working in South Korea once she finishes university, even though she has never visited the country.

But while taking language lessons, the 19-year-old found that she couldn't pronounce certain crucial sounds in the Korean alphabet.

Her dentist suggested it may be because she was born with a slightly shorter than average tongue, caused by having an unusually thick lingual frenulum - the flap of skin that joins the underside of the tongue to the floor of the mouth.

After discussing the matter with her parents and language tutor, Rhiannon decided to undergo an operation to correct the condition, despite the fact it has never caused her any problems in speaking English.

She underwent a lingual frenectomy, which involves making an incision in the flap of skin. As a result, Rhiannon's tongue is now about 1cm longer, and she can say words that were impossible before.

Rhiannon, of Beeston, Nottingham, said: 'I'd been learning Korean for about two years, and my speaking level is now high, but I was really struggling with particular sounds.

'It became apparent after a little while that I was having trouble with the Korean letter 'L', which is very frequent and comes from a slightly higher place in the mouth than the English 'L', and that my tongue was too short.

'My pronunciation was very 'foreign', but now I can speak with a native Korean accent. The surgical procedure was my only option. It's not like you can stretch your tongue otherwise. I just decided enough was enough.
Poor lingual frenulum, you're hated on two continents.

Anyway, while in Korea I imagine a lot of anglophones would scratch their head and say, "What the...?!" for the same reasons we might do the same about six-year-olds with English-obsessed Korean mothers having the surgery (if you have a tiger mom, expect to get mauled a bit), back in the United Kingdom people are hemming and hawing about this surgical procedure having been covered by the national health insurance scheme. Apparently this Nottingham native is some sort of modern-day medical Robin Hood: stealing from the rich National Health Service and giving it to her poor, unable-to-pronounce ㄹ self.

Okay. But me? I smell a carefully crafted ploy by a young, smart, and reasonably attractive young lady to launch a career in Korea's public sphere: she's cute (never hurts with any job), speaks Korean pretty well (a plus for doing anything other than English teaching), has considerable interest in Korean culture (an ego massager for a large portion of the Korean masses), and has the kind of figure many Korean men like in Caucasian women (that's a euphemistic way of saying she has a good-sized chest while falling within the range of thin to nothing larger that chubby-cute). And I like her glasses.

So in conclusion: Get in touch with me, Rhiannon Brooksbank-Jones, and I'll make you a star.

Seriously. And I've already christened you 메롱걸* (the only alternative is 혀녀). That's what we call 서비스.

* To understand what is 메롱 (merong), see the picture below:

above: South Korea's most famous English teacher

UPDATE:
This story has also become a post at The Marmot's Hole. Human rights lawyer Ben Wagner, who is highly skilled at finding bigotry where no one else does, has revealed that Merong Girl is promoting racist viewpoints:
All the best in to Rhiannon in her Korean language studies, but I wish she hadn’t chosen to perpetuate to the myth that race is somehow tied one’s ability to speak a language with native fluency. Ironically it’s an allegedly short “Korean tongue” which supposedly makes it difficult to produce the English L/R sounds, the Brit’s “short” tongue should have made her a natural if any of these nonsensical theories had any scientific basis.
Thank goodness for Mr Wagner, or else I wouldn't have realized Ms Brooksbank-Jones was perpetuating race-based myths. Here I thought that the reason for the surgery was that her tongue (i.e., not the tongue of most White people in England) was "shorter than average" and that she (i.e., not most White people in England) had "an unusually thick lingual frenulum." Now I realize she's some sort of White Inferiorist. I may have to rethink launching her career.
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Wednesday, August 10, 2011

You had me at hello.

Take the above cartoon. Replace Roy with two Indian residents of South Korea. Replace the alien heads shaped like hands with a South Korean child's kochu. Replace the annihilation of Earth with the aforementioned Indian residents of South Korea going to prison. Then you have the first story of this Marmot's Hole post.

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This Apple-vs-Samsung lawsuit is getting serious

A court in Germany has agreed with Apple and has granted a preliminary injunction that would stop the sales and marketing of Samsung's Galaxy Tab 10.1 tablet computer across most of Europe. The Netherlands is an exception, since Koreans are the Dutch of Asia.

Samsung is planning to appeal, even though earlier this month it already voluntarily agreed to halt sales and marketing in Australia.

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Monday, August 8, 2011

Despite downgrade, South Korea believes in US debt

On Friday, California time, I spent much of the day driving up and down the 405, listening to CNN, MSNBC, and Fox News on the XM radio in my mom's Santa Fe. I was trying to get a feel for what the reaction was to Standard and Poor's downgrading of US debt from AAA to AA+ (the latter of which sounds good, but is not so great).

Fox News, surprisingly, was not talking about it at all, every time I tuned in to them. Maybe because actually discussing it would force them to recognize that holding a gun to the economy's head by threatening not to raise the debt ceiling so they could squeeze concessions out, all the while refusing to consider reversing the tax cuts on the rich that plunged us back into serious debt in the first place, was the catalyst for the downgrade*. Quoting S&P:
The downgrade reflects our view that the effectiveness, stability, and predictability of American policymaking and political institutions have weakened at a time of ongoing fiscal and economic challenges.
That's what pulling a political stunt that causes everyone to question whether we'll pay our bills will do. Thank you, Tea Party, you got what you wanted and still managed to damage the American Economic Ship.

Over at MSNBC, which I rarely watch or listen to, we had Rachael Maddow talking about how Standard & Poor's standard performance was pretty poor (see how I did that?). This was a loud echo of the White House and Treasury's criticism of S&P, which had made a $2.1 trillion accounting error in arriving at the downgrade but went ahead with it anyway. Over at CNN (I think), Democratic Congressman Barney Frank noted that this is the same "amateur hour" S&P who was telling us everything was hunky-dory right before the economic collapse of 2007-2008 (Ezra Klein quote of the week: "Standard Poor’s didn’t just miss the bubble; they helped cause it.").

I like what Gene Sperling of the White House Council of Economic Advisors had to say:
The magnitude of their error combined with their willingness to simply change on the spot their lead rationale in their press release once the error was pointed out was breathtaking. It smacked of an institution starting with a conclusion and shaping any arguments to fit it.
Reminds me of the Chinese a bit, I'd say.

Anyway, the original point of this post was to pass on the news that South Korea is responding to the S&P downgrade by saying it has faith in the US government's ability and willingness to cover its debt:
South Korea said it reaffirms faith in U.S. Treasuries even after Standard & Poor's last week cut the sovereign credit rating of the world's biggest economy.

"Our faith in the U.S. Treasuries has not changed, although we cannot say whether to sell or buy them," Vice Finance Minister Yim Jong Yong told reporters after an emergency meeting with officials from the central bank and financial regulators in Gwacheon, south of Seoul, today. "In principle, no other assets can replace the U.S. Treasury as safe asset."
Thank you. If anyone knows the danger of seeing faith in the economy go way out of proportion to the problems that exist, it's South Korea. And I'm happy to see that they don't want the US to fall victim in the same way. Unlike Beijing, I suppose Seoul realizes that eroding faith in the US economy by sniping at the US debt rating is a good way to make a self-fulfilling prophecy that comes back to bite Beijing (or Seoul) in the butt.

Caveat to everything: I'm not an economist, but my confidence in the South Korean economy to recover and for Seoul to pay off its debts was realized, and I have the same cautious optimism about the US in the long run.

* Talking down the economy to the point of stymieing the recovery is a Republican strategy for 2012. By lying about the stuff that has worked, (e.g., TARP, etc.), pretending that the economic crisis (and the unpopular ways of dealing with it) essentially began with the Obama administration, and regularly making statements that erode faith in the recovery so that it will cause consumers and investors to hold off on buying, they hope to (a) make the economy actually stay bad or even get worse, while (b) making it look like it's all Obama's fault. Note that this is similar to the strategy that Republican talking heads (e.g., Rush Limbaugh) claimed that the Democrats had in 2004 and 2008, vis-à-vis the economy and the Iraq War. 

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Gloria Steinem wants to save Cheju-do

Kushibo's note: I'm not so sure if the graffiti goes hand in hand
with the idea of environmental preservation.

Gloria Steinem actually has visited subtropical Cheju-do, the southernmost province of South Korea and the only island province (insert "Korea's Hawaii" remarks here), and she is bent of preserving it by making the world aware of local residents' efforts to block construction of a ROK Navy base there:
Residents of Gangjeong [Kangjŏng], the village that is to be home to this base, have been living in tents along the endangered coastline, trying to stave off the dredging and bulldozing. In a vote several years ago at a village meeting, residents overwhelming opposed the base.

They’ve tried to block construction with lawsuits and pleas for a proper environmental impact study. They’ve been fined, beaten, arrested and imprisoned. They’ve gone on hunger strikes, chained themselves to anything available, invited tourists in to see what’s at stake, established Web sites and won support from global peace organizations. Members of the “no base” campaign, including children, camp out along the shore behind high walls erected around the site to conceal the protests. Police officers patrol outside. This has been going on for more than four years.
Okay, while she may have a legitimate argument about the environment and human rights involved, it was her laughable geopolitical reasoning that compelled me to write. She states simply — no, over-simplistically — that "China and South Korea have positive relations at the moment." Yup, as if peace for the moment means we can completely let down our guard.

China and South Korea have positive relations for now, but that doesn't mean that China is not slowly putting out its feelers for weak points where it can grab land, territorial waters, etc., etc., including on the Korean Peninsula. South Korea needs to be able to protect itself, with or without its strong US ally. It also needs, sometimes, to project itself, perhaps by sending out ROK Navy boats to protect South Korean ships and the ships of its allies (and sometimes its enemies, as its done against pirates off the coast of Africa).

In short, South Korea needs its naval base. Now, whether or not it should go right there is another question, and certainly one would hope for as little environmental impact as possible. But "things are hunky-dory with China" right now should not be part of the argument.

The rest of the article, by the way, is worth a read if you're not familiar with Cheju-do's horrible history in the years between liberation from Japan and the start of the Korean War. There's a reason why leftist former President Roh Moohyun was compelled to go to Cheju-do and apologize for past acts of the ROK government and declare Korea's Oahu (that's my description) an Island of Peace.

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Sunday, August 7, 2011

Marking the 66th anniversary of the atomic bombing of Hiroshima

August 6 was actually yesterday, Japan time, so I missed it. As ROK Drop notes, this year's ceremonies remembering the victims takes on a different tone — even urgency — in light of the still on-going nuclear disaster at Fukushima.

I've written plenty on Hiroshima, which I've visited twice, but my thoughts are best summed up in this post, which I encourage you to go read on this day. (It includes a discussion of Korean victims of the blasts at Hiroshima and Nagasaki, called hibakusha in Japanese or p'ipokcha in Korean.)

On last year's anniversary, The Western Confucian put up a post on Hiroshima that turned into a lengthy discussion of the morality of dropping the bomb on a civilian population — twice — in order to win the war.

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Saturday, August 6, 2011

Kim Jong-un's "Tora! Tora! Tora!" moment?*

The Chosun Ilbo would have us believe that Kim Jong-un, the young general who supposedly is poised to take over for Dad when he kicks the bucket, is the one who ordered the attacks on South Korea over the past year:
A North Korean document supports the conclusion that North Korea attacked the Navy corvette Cheonan and Yeonpyeong Island last year to whip up domestic support for the succession of leader Kim Jong-il’s son, Jong-un.

The document, which the Chosun Ilbo obtained from a source in China on Tuesday, claims that Kim junior was deeply involved in both attacks. Titled “Lecture Materials,” the document was apparently drawn up for military propaganda officers early this year.


According to its wording, Kim Jong-un told military leaders that the inter-Korean situation “will become very tense in February and March.” He made the comments around the end of January last year, two months before the attack on the Cheonan. The document claims South Korea and the U.S. “concocted a plot about the sinking of the Cheonan, but it failed.”

The source, who claims to do frequent business with trading companies under the North Korean Workers Party, said that propaganda officers have been indoctrinating North Korean soldiers to show absolute loyalty to Kim Jong-un based on those materials. “They even have to take a test after their indoctrination classes,” he said.
As I noted at ROK Drop, I'm a bit curious about the date. The “2010년 1월” stands out as odd when one sees that in North Korean news sources the “Western” date is typically hand in hand with the 주체 date (주체 99년 or some such). I wonder if anybody who has familiarity with actual North Korean documents could provide insight about whether the above is a reason to find this document suspect.

Of course, dear reader, you may already be aware that I am deeply suspicious of the mountain of evidence, eagerly printed up in the Chosun Ilbo and repeated uncritically in the Japanese and Western press, that comes from what could be described as an Evidence Mill™ run by people who make money and/or enhance their stature from supplying this stuff. While I think most defectors/refugees are genuine people who can give us valuable insight into current attitudes in the regime, it seems to me that a handful of folks might be looking for personal gain à la that Iraqi guy who supplied all of the information used back in 2002 and 2003 to justify going to war against Saddam Hussein.

Of course, from Kim Jong-il not being at death's door, to Ling and Lee having willingly entered North Korea, to Kim Jong-un's coronation not being imminent, my views on North Korea have others viewing me at first as crankily contrarian and out of touch and then later as eerily prescient.

But that doesn't mean I could be wrong on this. Always my caveat.

* And yeah, I know that "Tora! Tora! Tora!" is Japanese. My theory is that a Korean pilot in the Imperial Japanese Navy on that fateful day in December 1941 had a bit of prescience himself and had gotten on the radio to warn everybody to turn around

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