Wednesday, February 29, 2012

China's Leap Day leap of logic

This China Daily op-ed piece, mentioned in the Daily Kor for February 29, has got me furious. I hate being reminded over and over again why Beijing simply can't be trusted when it comes to human rights, giving South Korea a fair shake, or doing the right thing vis-à-vis. I had been hoping they were finally coming around on the dangers of having a rogue state on their doorstep, enough that they were trying to push reform in earnest, but I'm not so sure.

Anyway, here is the op-ed, with my multiple fisking...
Stop undermining Korean peninsula's peace process

As the Korean peninsula is at a crucial stage of regaining peace and stability, it is important for DPRK and the United States to resolve differences through dialogue and to promote the early resumption of the six-party talks.
Okay, I'm with you so far, although I'm afraid the six-party talks have the potential for Pyongyang to milk more money out of Washington, but that's another issue for another time...
Inexplicably, South Korea recently stated that China violated international rules in dealing with DPRK nationals who have illegally entered China. The statement shows disrespect for China's active and constructive role in restoring peace and stability on the Korean peninsula, and is a hurdle to the restart of the six-party talks.
Inexplicably? This is unexplainable only true if you utterly ignore that North Korea will certainly imprison and torture, and probably kill, the defectors you are sending back. Clearly they are refugees, not "illegal aliens," as you say below.

This is not a disrespect of China's role, but a respect for human rights. Frankly, I wouldn't expect Beijing to understand that, since it seems stuck in the pre-democratic phase that its neighbors managed to get out of back in the late 1980s.

As for China's "constructive" role, about the only thing being constructed is Chinese port facilities in North Korea's Najin port. When Beijing backs Pyongyang after it shells South Korean territory and sinks South Korean ships unprovoked, its "role in resting peace and stability on the Korean Peninsula" is anything but "constructive."
The DPRK nationals who illegally entered Chinese territory for economic reasons are illegal aliens, not refugees. China is handling the issue prudently and properly in line with domestic and international laws and humanitarian principles. Its treatment of illegal aliens serves the interests of various parties, and conforms to international practice. Any attempt to internationalize or politicize the illegal immigration issue would be in vain.
Indeed, they entered Chinese territory illegally, but that does not mean they are not refugees. Food is used as a reward and a means of control, and those whose families are lacking it so badly that they need to cross into China are refugees. By failing to recognize that, you are also failing to "handle" this issue "in line with international laws and humanitarian principles." Indeed, when you are sending them back to face torture and probably death, it is anything but humanitarian.

As for the "various parties" it serves to treat "illegal aliens" from the DPRK the way it does, we all know the parties are the regimes of China and North Korea and no one else. It conforms to "international practice" only of states like North Korea, China, Iran, and a few other outposts of tyranny that still exist. China's desire for a secure buffer state along its northeastern border has required a deal with a devil.

Pointing out the imminent danger faced by these dozens of refugees and the thousands like them hiding in North Korea if they are repatriated is simply pointing out the obvious. It is not "politicizing" the issue, and it is being "internationalized" only because China is willing to send these people to their deaths. This issue could easily be resolved if China would simply allow these North Korean refugees to leave China through any other country besides North Korea.
The Korean peninsula is facing many severe challenges, and could not have enjoyed even temporary stability without China's active and constructive role. As a major stakeholder on the peninsula, South Korea knows best how the peninsula rode out the hard times in the past.
Bull-fucking-shit. China's "active role" began with invading Korea in 1950 to prop up Kim Ilsung and it has continued for the past six decades with aiding and abetting a regime that has killed millions of its own people. That is destructive, not constructive.

It's laughable that you would say South Korea knows best how the peninsula rode out the hard times in the past, because China is responsible for those hard times.
During the sixth-party talks a few years ago, a consensus was reached to ensure the denuclearization of the Korean peninsula, normalization of relations among relevant countries, and establishment of a Northeast Asian peace and security mechanism, which is crucial to bringing lasting peace and stability to the region. The 9/19 joint statement issued at that time is not outdated, instead it is still of practical guiding significance. Any violation of the principles established in the joint statement would undermine the peace process, and damage the interests of South Korea and other stakeholders.
How would releasing these refugees "undermine the peace process"? For that matter, how would it "damage the interests" of South Korea or anyone else?
The bumpy course of the sixty-party talks shows that playing petty tricks out of domestic political considerations or seizing the initiative by causing unnecessary troubles will complicate matters, increase uncertainty, and hurt both oneself and others.
Dozens of lives are at stake. To diminish the effort to save them as "causing unnecessary troubles" is to show how utterly crass Beijing is as a government.
As a main participant of the six-party talks, China gives top priority to the overall situation, and is firmly committed to restoring peace and stability on the Korean peninsula despite all hurdles. China does not like to cause troubles, and is not afraid of getting involved in troubles. As a responsible country, China will continue to play an active and constructive role in promoting peace in the region. All parties concerned should give due respect to China's efforts, and stop undermining the peace process on the Korean peninsula.
China gives top priority to the overall situation, meaning "we will throw anyone under the bus if we see it necessary in pursuit of our interests." If ever there were a time to start a boycott of goods from China, particularly those run by the Communist Party or its cadres, this is it.

By sending those dozens of North Korean refugees back to North Korea, my friends in China, you are an accessory to murder.

I'm not entirely sure this picture actually is what it is purported to be,
but we know from first-hand accounts that the reality is as bad or worse.


Daily Kor for Wednesday, February 29, 2012: You can spell dupe without D, U, P...

I'd like to bring back the Daily Kor, but it's a labor-intensive process, so I'm toying with the idea of doing a daily "lite" version that isn't intended as a comprehensive list of top news but which includes a slight bit more analysis.
  1. The Commander of the US Pacific Fleet says food aid to North Korea will be tied to progress on nuclear talks (BBC, Fox News). If so, we should expect North Korea to ratchet up its scary rhetoric against the South. 
    • At the same time, Admiral Willard is saying we should expect more of the same from Kim Jong-un as we got from his father (Reuters).
    • US Special Representative on North Korea Glyn Davies says we should wait and see on nuclear talks that so far have been substantive and have narrowed differences (UPI).
  2. According to a China Daily op-ed (link), Seoul is "undermining" the Korean Peninsula "peace process" by harping on the PRC's repatriation of North Korean refugees back to the DPRK. I have fisked it here
  3. North Korea is knocking presumptive Saenuri Party (formerly Hannara Party) presidential nominee as having "the mindset of a dictator" (Chosun Ilbo). 
    • Genetically, she's only half dictator.
  4. South Korean industrial output has shrunk 2 percent from a year ago, the first time in thirty-one months (Yonhap).
  5. An American ship is in North Korea's Nampo Harbor, waiting to resume the hunt for the remains of Korean War veterans, a money-making activity for the Pyongyang regime that has been on hold since 2005 (Fox News).
  6. US President Barack Hussein Obama says that, thanks to the soon-to-go-in-effect KORUS Free Trade Agreement, there will be a jump in American-made cars on Seoul streets (Yonhap).
  7. Japanese police have raided the Tokyo offices of an organization associated with Chongryon, the pro-Pyongyang group representing a significant portion of Japan's zainichi Koreans, claiming they were violating sanctions against North Korea by shipping computers to the DPRK (BBC).
  8. Lee Kunhee's seventy-year-old sister is suing over inheritance of shares in the Samsung empire (Reuters).
  9. The Democratic United Party says that if it is victorious it will ditch President Lee Myungbak's hardline policy in favor of more handholding with North Korea (Reuters).
    • Like the title says up above, you can't spell dupe without D, U, P... 
  10. Chronologists claim this month has been the longest February on record since 2008 (UPI).

Tuesday, February 28, 2012

Will this get their attention?

A member of the National Assembly who has been staging a hunger strike in front of the Chinese embassy says she will do so until death unless China ends its policy of repatriating North Korean refugees back to the DPRK:
Park Sun-Young, from the conservative opposition Liberty Forward party, said she wants "fundamental change" in China's policy of sending back the North Koreans rather than treating them as refugees.

"Either they change the policy or I die, as I have no intention of stopping (the fast)," Park told AFP in a weak voice.

Activists and Seoul lawmakers say about 30 North Koreans who recently fled to China will soon be sent back. They face harsh punishment or even death in their homeland, according to protesters.

Park appeared fatigued but still took part in a rally -- the latest in a series -- outside the embassy Monday.

The 55-year-old legislator, clad in thick sweaters against the sub-zero night temperatures, is living in a tent outside a church in front of the embassy. ...

A Seoul parliamentary committee last Friday criticised China's policy of repatriating the refugees as economic migrants and urged it to follow international rules.

The resolution followed media reports that nine North Koreans have already been sent back despite pleas from Seoul.

"This isn't a problem just between China and Korea. It is a worldwide issue, a matter of human rights that citizens all over the world must see and mend together," Park said.
Normally, I would think such an act is futile: Hunger strikes might work within a country to get the government to change its action or risk negative local and global press (and whatever consequences that brings), but it's harder to make it work against another country.

However, this being in the global news day after day might eventually cause it to seep through the Great Firewall of China, and more and more Chinese will start wondering what this is all about. One thing I've noticed from my discussions with students from Mainland China here in Hawaii is how utterly ignorant they are of China's policies vis-à-vis North Korean refugees. So in this case, the hunger strike might prove a very useful educational tool.

And now I should call one of my Beijing journalist friends and point her toward this story.


Meet the new boss, same as the old boss...

We're talking about Kim Jong-un, of course, and how the bluster has continued unabated right through the Dear Leader's wake and the Prodigious Progeny's takeover and makeover. This is, of course, because the real people controlling things are people behind the scenes, not necessarily those sitting on the throne.

Anyway, North Korea has been turning up the heat by promising holy jihad against South Korea and the United States as the two allies prepare for annual military drills. And to that, the Christian Science Monitor asks whether we should be taking this seriously at all.

It's worth a read, but my own take sounds fairly close to the gist: This could all be empty rhetoric designed to whip up fear and pride in the masses and make sure they remember there's a bogeyman out there, just in case they get any big ideas about overthrowing the government to avoid starving to death, and all that, but the actual strikes on South Korean islands (namely Yŏnpyŏng-do) and the sinking of the ROK Navy vessel Ch'ŏnan give us pause that they might actually try a repeat of something like that in order to get us to take them seriously and to get people like me (and Don Kirk, etc.) to stop referring to their bluster as empty rhetoric.

If there really are competing factions within the Pyongyang regime, the chance of this happening is greater, because the last thing that the militarists want (note, I did not say military) is reform, appeasement, and a world where Truth Commissions remain a future possibility.


Monday, February 27, 2012

[UPDATED] Blackface sketch gives hallyu a black eye

Oh, dear God! This is 2012, isn't it? There is absolutely no excuse for this kind of thing at all.

It being funny is not an excuse (it's not funny; it's puerile and juvenile). Them portraying comic book characters is not an excuse (the comic book portrayal is itself racist). And certainly being ignorant of how offensive this is to people in a lot of other countries is no longer an excuse.

That last point was already covered (by me and others) in the past. Specifically, I made the point that while some portrayals of black face may indeed be innocent, enough of these cases have hit the fan of global media that they can no longer be construed as innocent, just ignorant. And if you are trying to make your brand loved around the world, as LG is trying to do, and I assume MBC is trying to do with the Hallyu Korean wave, then you have to stop this. Not now, but yesterday.

Other than that, Eat Your Kimchi says pretty much all that needs to be said about this.

Stupid. Stupid Stupid.

Take a look while you can, because if they have even an ounce of smarts to them, MBC will take that down forthwith.

MBC has gotten the message and apologized for this. Meanwhile, Roboseyo has a lengthy post on this as well.


Sunday, February 26, 2012

Why do South Koreans protest against the US and Japan, but not China and North Korea?

This is a good question, asked recently at One Free Korea and echoed at ROK Drop, in the wake of China sending back nine North Korea defectors to the DPRK, where their fate is almost certainly imprisonment, torture, and even death.

I will polish the following up sometime later, but for now the following is the response I left at ROK Drop.

Anger toward China has been growing as Beijing becomes more brazen against South Korea, to the point where South Koreans no longer feel they have to go along to get along with China because even going along isn't working; China is clearly intent on making South Korea its whipping boy and a proxy for anger against the state. Consequently, there are more and more protests against China, commensurate with the brazenness of the acts and the perception that China is a bad actor.

That said, if the tendency of protesting against the US and Japan but not against China and North Korea holds true, it's for several reasons.

First, it is the North-sympathizing chinboista fringe that is behind many of the protests, which leads to regular protests about anything against the US, as well as a coordinated boots-on-the-ground effort in the case of something big (like killing nine South Koreans) regarding the US, South Korea, the ROK government, or a major corporation (they are also anti-corporate and anti-ROK government, in addition to anti-US and anti-Japan).

Second, for mainstream Koreans, there is a perception that the United States and, to a lesser degree, Japan are "supposed to be on our side" and thus held to a different (usually higher) standard. South Koreans will protest against Japanese textbooks watering down the occupation but not against Chinese textbooks that claim South Korea invaded the North on June 25, 1950.

Finally, there had been a perception, related to the second one, that protesting against China or North Korea was futile. Not so with the US and Japan, since they are ostensibly both allies and the ROK government can be persuaded vis-à-vis its relationship with Washington and Tokyo.

This last point is largely changing, however, as the aforementioned anger toward China grows.


Friday, February 24, 2012

ChiComs torn over Jeremy Lin

Linsanity is Linfectious, and it has spread across the ocean. The Los Angeles Times is saying that while the Chinese people are ecstatic about Jeremy Lin (you could say they're Linthusiastic) the Chinese government is a bit more on the fence (let's say they're amivaLINt).

The rising star is, after all, of Taiwanese descent, not Mainland Chinese descent, and he's a Christian. These are two characteristics that make them LINeasy:
Chinese television has yet to broadcast a full Knicks game this season, ostensibly because of scheduling conflicts. Although Lin has become a popular subject on sportscasts, the hosts tend to steer clear of his religion and Taiwanese heritage.

"Traditional media do not touch the issue of Christianity," said Zhao Jing, a closely followed political blogger in Beijing who goes by the pen name Michael Anti. He said Chinese authorities may also be wary of broadcasting full-length Knicks games because of Taiwanese flags, which are barred from display on Chinese television, waving in the stands.
Taiwan, of course, is a Lin-egade province.

Okay, I'll stop that. (At least I didn't say provLINce, though I was tempted.)


Kim Jong-il looking at things

looking at glass his eyelids


PBS Newshour on the Jeremy Lin Phenomenom

Thank you, PBS Newshour. You have presented a piece on rising basketball star Jeremy Lin that hits almost* every point I would have wanted to make about "Linsanity" and what it all means, that you saved me the time and trouble of doing so myself. Bonus points for doing so without using increasingly ridiculous puns like "Linsanity."

Watch The Jeremy Lin Phenomenon on PBS. See more from PBS NewsHour.

* The one thing they didn't really cover is the racially/ethnically insensitive way Jeremy Lin has been presented by some media outlets (e.g., ESPN and their "chink in the armor" crack). Indeed, it is part and parcel of a long-established
 characteristic of American media where Asians are okay to mock and ridicule for perceived exoticness, alienness, un-Americanness, and lack of masculinity. 


Wednesday, February 22, 2012

The Kim Jong-nam story was all a ruse!

Really, I'm telling you
these are not pajamas!
Remember that story of Kim Jong-nam being booted out of his Macau luxury digs because little brother Kim Jong-un got angry at him for questioning his ability to lead, badmouthing the regime, condemning hereditary succession, and predicting the collapse of the entire country? We all assumed that, yes, even fraternal love has its limits and Big Brother Jong-nam should run for fear of his life.

Well, it turns out that the entire episode wasn't true at all, according to the Macau hotel that supposedly had kicked out their famed deadbeat guest. It was apparently a ruse from a Russian media outlet that was trying to punk the rest of the world.

From the New York Times:
But the story, which apparently originated in Argumenti i Fakti, a Russian newsweekly, was not true, according to a spokeswoman for the hotel in question, the five-star Grand Lapa Macao.

A spokeswoman for the hotel, part of the Mandarin Oriental chain, denied the story categorically to Rendezvous. She said Mr. Kim, 40, had never stayed at the Grand Lapa nor had he run up any charges there. She did say that he popped up in Macau “from time to time,’’ but not at her hotel.

The Russian magazine even had quotes from “an unnamed source” at the hotel who said: “He gave us his Visa Gold card but it ended up having no money on the account.”
Boy I guess everyone has kyeran on their face (really, that's kyeran).

Not sure what to make of this. One wonders if someone was running a systems analysis to see how various parties would react. For example, would Seoul's or Washington's or Tokyo's intelligence apparatus scramble to see if they could take KJN under their protective wing?

Anyway, my earlier plan (prior to this news story) is still intact: the next time I'm in Macau I'm going to see if I can track him down in one of the casino piano bars and do a Monster Island interview. That would be quite the coup (and probably the only coup we'll ever see associated with Kim Jong-nam).

One prominent K-blogging figure responded to this story by saying, "There is such an intelligence black hole with North Korea that people are starting to make shit up."

To which I replied: "Starting?!" The Western, South Korean, Japanese, and lately even European media has long been making up stuff to fill the void of information they don't know.

Over at One Free Korea, commenter Spelunker referred to the "unreliable obscure source" as "bad news." And that has inspired me to refer to such questionable Russian information sources as the "bad news bears."

Questionable information sources from North Korea, especially those adding Kim Jong-un's name to the official hagiography, will continue to be called "grim fairy tales."


A 1988 Seoul Olympic swimmer making a comeback in 2012 London?

The New York Times has a piece on Janet Evans, an OCer who made headlines by earning five medals in South Korea during the summer Olympiad. At the age of forty, she's planning a return to the Olympic pool, even though she hasn't competed in an Olympics since the Atlanta games in 1996.

I wonder if there are any other 1988 Olympians who might show up in London this summer?


Monday, February 20, 2012

Does this mean we can longer use the Gulf of Mexico as a counterpoint to Korean nationalists' drive to rename the Sea of Japan as the East Sea?

'Cuz someone in Mississippi is proposing that we change it to the "Gulf of America." (And why not? We're always the ones having to clean it up!)

From NPR:
Daniel Cherry of Mississippi Public Broadcasting just talked with Rep. Stephen Holland — the Democratic lawmaker who's getting a lot of attention for introducing a bill to rename the Gulf of Mexico to Gulf of America.

Holland told Daniel that so many of his Republican colleagues seem to want to push anything or anyone Mexican out of the state that he's just trying to "embrace" their cause and help them out. In other words, he's introduced a bill that he thinks will make a satirical point by being outrageous.
Hmmph... "it's meant as satire" is often what you say in order to wiggle your way out of controversy after you've said something publicly that, in hindsight, you really shouldn't have said. But this time I think he means it.

Anyway, the real controversy will come when the states of Minnesota, Wisconsin, Iowa, Illinois, Missouri, Kentucky, Tennessee, Arkansas, and Louisiana decide they don't want their riparian border associated with mullet-sporting bigots living in trailers who still have the Confederate ensign in their state flag. I think River of America has a nice ring and is easier to spell (though that could cause confusion with the American River in California, where gold was discovered, and invite a lawsuit from Disney).


Sunday, February 19, 2012

North Korean refugees in China to be forcibly repatriated?

I've been meaning to write about the two or three dozen North Koreans being held by the People's Republic of China authorities who are set to be returned to North Korea where they will almost certainly face torture and imprisonment and very possibly worse, but I'd hoped to write a serious and comprehensive post on the matter.

The time for that hasn't yet materialized, so instead I'll direct you to One Free Korea, where this post not only talks about this issue but gives some suggestions where you can send letters to Chinese authorities about the matter. Perhaps if they are getting enough bad press, they'll pay attention.

And then there's this case of a Chinese businesswoman being sentenced to death for white-collar crimes, which is wrong for so many reasons (see how many of these anti-death penalty positions apply). I'll get to that later, too.


And speaking of lame apologies for silly racist crap...

Remember the Hoekstra political ad that was supposed to depict a Chinese (or Vietnamese) worker taking jobs from hard-working Americans, the one that included an Asian woman talking in a bad faux fob accent?

Well, it appears the actress behind "yellow girl" (yep, that's what the Hoekstra campaign called her), Lisa Chan (not a Korean!), is really, really, really, really, really, really, really sorry that this might derail her career that she got involved in this kind of thing:
I am deeply sorry for any pain that the character I portrayed brought to my communities. As a recent college grad who has spent time working to improve communities and empower those without a voice, this role is not in any way representative of who I am. It was absolutely a mistake on my part and one that, over time, I hope can be forgiven. I feel horrible about my participation and I am determined to resolve my actions.
And she didn't realize this before she did the ad?

Okay, I'll cut her some slack, but I can't help but think she'd be lacking in remorse if there hadn't been a shitstorm of criticism.

Frankly, this kind of thing is as old as electronic mass media. Racist depictions of Asians in the media are almost as old as shucking and jiving. What really gets me is the "if I didn't do it, then someone else will" rationalization. I know a lot of foreign television personalities in Korea, and I once asked one of them in particular who is known for his clownish demeanor that is so bad it makes all big-nosed people look like buffoons why he chooses to do that.

"It's what Koreans want to see," he told me, "and that's what I'm giving him." I tried to convince him that that was bull$hit, that if he actually did try to avoid dumbing things down, he might be able to reach the audience on a different level, but he was too far gone with the dollar signs in his eyes. Oh, well. Rant over.


Maybe she should plead "Linsanity."

"No, I've never seen nor heard of this woman in my life."

That's what everybody in kyopodom is going to do to the now radioactive Jenny Hyun, a songwriter for Girls' Generation and ChoColat who posts things like this [UPDATE: It's since been removed, but I have an archive of it]...

... and writes things like this:

Linsanity indeed. It bears reminding, people of K-pop, that tweeting, cyworlding, and facebooking are forever. Also, defending against racism by using racism is just plain stupid.

And it's not like she doesn't know that:

Anyway, just like the watermelon mayor in Orange County, this kind of public display of your own racial boneheadedness just doesn't fly. And Ms Hyun is from America, so she can't claim cultural ignorance like LG was able to (briefly).

I do have sympathy for people who inadvertently step over the line (e.g., "You people," "Was the term 'spic-and-span' derived from Hispanic housekeepers?" — if innocently asked — etc.), but Jenny Hyun knew exactly where the line was and she proudly trounced all over it. This only hurts other Korean-Americans and other Asian-Americans attempts to bridge the chasms of misunderstanding that still exist between Blacks and Asians, especially Koreans. No doubt a lot of Blacks are thinking, "Yup, just as I thought, this is what they really think of us," which is itself kinda sorta racist (the lumping altogether aspect, that is).

The only possible defense I can imagine for Jenny Hyun is if she can prove someone hacked into her accounts (which has happened to my email accounts in the past, so it's not outside the realm of possibility).

Kinda sorta related, The Daily Show With Jon Stewart had a hilarious take on Blacks-versus-Asians in relation to all the aforementioned Linsanity:


Saturday, February 18, 2012

[UPDATED] Kim Jong-nam cut off?


If what The Telegraph is saying is true, someone in Pyongyang may be retaliating for Kim Jong-un's older half brother Kim Jong-nam shooting his mouth off about the Prodigious Progeny not being ready for prime time:
Well-known playboy and occasional critic of his father’s regime, Kim Jong-nam has been kicked out of luxury hotel in the Chinese gambling hub of Macau, according to a Russian newspaper.

The Arguments and Facts weekly claimed Jong-nam ran up a bill of £9,500 but was unable to pay because his credit card had been cancelled.

Jong-nam’s decadent lifestyle saw him ditched as the heir-apparent in favour of his younger half-brother Kim Jong-un.

“He gave us his Visa Gold card but it ended up having no money on the account,” the mass-circulated paper quoted an unnamed source at the hotel as saying.

The management of the five-star Grand Lapa Hotel, run by the Mandarin Oriental chain, then expelled the 40-year-old from his 17th-floor room, the paper said.
If he really has fallen out of favor, that's a serious problem for the oldest son of the Dearly Departed Leader. Does that mean he's vulnerable to be taken out physically? If he (literally) dodges that bullet, will he have to get a job? Just what can this guy do for gainful employment?

Maybe he can team up with Hines Ward.

Joshua at One Free Korea is suggesting that maybe the CIA might be willing to offer KJN a lavish life in Vegas in exchange for information on the Norkremlin.

The Korea Times is suggesting that Kim Jong-nam might defect to South Korea if he is completely cut off. I'm not sure how secure that would make him feel, given the high-profile assassination of Ri Hanyŏng (리한영), a nephew of Kim Jong-il's mistress whose own mother raised Kim Jong-nam, after North Korea's Number-Two Hwang Jang-yŏp defected in the mid-1990s, as well as the attempt in 2010 to kill Hwang himself.

Come to think of it, given that Kim Jong-nam himself grew up with Ri Hanyŏng, maybe this has steeled him for what might come, though on the other hand it might give him pause regarding defecting.


"Intermarriage" on the rise in US

For people from South Korea or who have lived in South Korea for a long time, the sea change in attitudes toward so-called "international marriage (kukche kyŏlhon, 국제결혼) is absolutely striking. Although President Syngman Rhee's wife was a Caucasian woman from Austria and one of the royals was involved with a Caucasian woman from the United States, what would be called interracial marriage in North America was, for a long time, seen as a curiosity and often frowned on as something only low-class women would do (a vestige of the hard times encountered by many women during and after the Korean War).

Nevertheless, changing attitudes and shifting demographics have led to the situation we have in South Korea today, where one in three marriages in rural areas and one in eight marriages across the country are between a Korean and a non-Korean. (Those same changing attitudes have also led to a far higher divorce rate between Koreans, but that's another story for another time.)

In fact, it seemed exogamy (the sociological term for marrying outside one's group) was, for a while, more common in South Korea than in the United States. But a recent Pew Research Study report that utilizes 2010 Census Bureau data indicates that intermarriage is far more accepted and far more common than before. And this is especially true for Asian Americans and Hispanics.

Some highlights:
About 15% of all new marriages in the United States in 2010 were between spouses of a different race or ethnicity from one another, more than double the share in 1980 (6.7%). Among all newlyweds in 2010, 9% of whites, 17% of blacks, 26% of Hispanics and 28% of Asians married out. Looking at all married couples in 2010, regardless of when they married, the share of intermarriages reached an all-time high of 8.4%. In 1980, that share was just 3.2%.
As one might expect, this is not evenly applied across genders:
About 24% of all black male newlyweds in 2010 married outside their race, compared with just 9% of black female newlyweds. Among Asians, the gender pattern runs the other way. About 36% of Asian female newlyweds married outside their race in 2010, compared with just 17% of Asian male newlyweds. Intermarriage rates among white and Hispanic newlyweds do not vary by gender.
I've always thought Asian American men who were having trouble finding that special someone ought to look to Black women, and this sort of backs me up.

In many ways, intermarriage between Asians and Whites represents a more educated and higher-earning group:
Some of these differences appear to reflect the overall characteristics of different groups in society at large, and some may be a result of a selection process. For example, white/Asian newlyweds of 2008 through 2010 have significantly higher median combined annual earnings ($70,952) than do any other pairing, including both white/white ($60,000) and Asian/Asian ($62,000). When it comes to educational characteristics, more than half of white newlyweds who marry Asians have a college degree, compared with roughly a third of white newlyweds who married whites. Among Hispanics and blacks, newlyweds who married whites tend to have higher educational attainment than do those who married within their own racial or ethnic group.

Couples formed between an Asian husband and a white wife topped the median earning list among all newlyweds in 2008-2010 ($71,800).
Revenge of the stereotypical Asian nerds, I guess.

The study also notes that rates vary by region: it's significantly lower in the Midwest and the South than in the West, while Hawaii tops everyone (42% of all marriages). And while those who think intermarriage is a positive for society is about equal to those who think it has no effect, there's still a lingering one in nine who think that it is a negative.

When comparing this to Korea, one might note that much of Korea's "out-marriage" is not in fact "interracial," since it largely involves Koreans marrying ethnic Chinese, Vietnamese, and Filipino/as. Nevertheless, from a social standpoint, it is interethnic exogamy and remains a relevant issue.

The Pew report is getting people's attention, especially since this wide acceptance of something that was once taboo seems a parallel to the issue of same-sex marriage. From the Los Angeles Times:
A quarter-century ago, 65% of Americans thought interracial marriage was unacceptable for themselves or for other people. Yet in the span of a generation, as intermarriage has become more common and the United States has grown more racially diverse, a dramatic change in attitudes has taken place. Today, according to a recent study by the Pew Research Center, 87% of Americans say that the rise in interracial marriage has either been good for society or made no difference, while only 11% think it's a change for the worse.

That's the thing about the tide of history: It tends to flow from intolerance to acceptance. The same shift that occurred in opinions about interracial marriage is happening in attitudes about same-sex marriage. Just ask folks in Washington and New Jersey.
I do think there's merit to that argument, just as there was in the comparison of racial integration of the armed forces with ending Don't Ask, Don't Tell. Still, there are people whose opposition to gay marriage stems from religious convictions, something that didn't generally hold true (I think) for opponents of interracial marriage.

I'm not sure if those people will ever change their minds, but for them, I have two things for them to ruminate. First, gay people have always been able to marry; it's just that with same-sex marriage, they'll finally be able to marry each other. And second, if you really don't like gay people having gay sex, then by all means you should support gay marriage.

The Economist has a short article on this, but its main emphasis is on the earning power of White-Asian intermarriage couples.

Apparently Black women with Asian men is becoming a thing.


Oh, those poor misunderstood pro-North Korean activists in South Korea


The Huffington Post has a piece (via Global Post) about those in South Korea who find themselves under scrutiny or under arrest for publicly mourning Kim Jong-il and/or doing other things sympathetic to the North:
"The main problem is that our country was divided by an outside force. We need American forces to withdraw from this country to gain true autonomy. That is the most important thing, not freedom or democracy. Those are secondary," said Kim, who speaks effusively and uses many old-fashioned Korean honorifics.

On his lapel, he wears a pin of the Korean peninsula shaded entirely in blue, a color associated with integrity.

Kim draws inspiration from the philosophy of North Korea's founding father, Kim Il Sung, who preached the notion of self-reliance and said that Koreans were the masters of their country's development. Much of the North's propaganda is based on the idea that the country must resist the corrupting influence of the outside world and boldly forge an independent path.

To activists like Kim, this is paramount. "North Korea has its own final say. It doesn't have to follow the direction of outsiders. I don't believe freedom exists in this colonized nation," he said, referring to South Korea.
The problem is that such people utterly ignore the unspeakable human rights abuses that go on in North Korea. Well, some don't ignore them so much as deny that they actually happen: it's a fiction of the propaganda forged by the colonizers. The economic dysfunction is real, of course, but that's all because of the United States and its bootlickers with their boycott of DPRK goods.

But North Korea's systemic cruelty doesn't really get covered in the HuffPo article, which wants to make a point about free speech as if there isn't a major military threat from a regime responsible for killing millions of its own people. I guess what the author is calling "pro-North activists" I would call hard-core chinboistas, and we appear to disagree on how much of a danger they are.

I risk invoking argumentum ad hitlerum, but when get into millions killed, the comparison is apt: How are people who praise Hitler treated in, say, Germany?

Anyway, it's not so simple. It certainly seems a bit more complex than the tourist-journalists at the Huffington Post seem able to handle.

Below, by the way, is the comment I left at the Huffington Post site. I'm reproducing it here because, well, about half the comments I leave at HuffPo never make it past the moderators:
The author does address some of North Korea's recent violence, but to a layperson unfamiliar with North Korea, it would be easy to get the impression that North Korea is just another country — a misunderst­ood country at that — and not one that deliberate starves, tortures, and/or murders millions of its citizens and regularly threatens military attack on its neighbors.

This is no mere free speech issue, but one that comes from a context of a real enemy trying to do real harm.

Christine Ahn (a favorite Pyongyang parrot) has also penned a Huffington Post piece that echoes similar sentiments, but goes a bit further.

Thursday, February 16, 2012

Kushibo's photoblog

Inspired largely by The Marmot's Travel & Photo Blog (which I think should be called The Marmot's Pinhole), I've decided to try my hand at a photoblog. Between my Nikon D60, my iPhone, and some older cameras I've owned, I've taken a few pictures I'm proud of.

Anyway, the blog can be found here (this gave me an excuse to finally lay claim to the domain). Any suggestions are appreciated.


Wake up, America!

From my inbox this morning, the kind of thing I get every now and again ever since I bought a die-hard Republican voter a gag bumper sticker. I found this one amusing (and simultaneously disturbing), so I thought I'd share (as I've done in the past).

Apparently, this is how the right sees America under President B. Hussein Obama (click to zoom):

Frankly, I had no idea that Kim Jong-il was behind The One's rise (see upper left corner). A good trick, considering that he's dead, but the Dear Leader is not the only dear departed to grace this artist's work:

Doß thou not see where thy standeß,
thou injudicious and chowderheaded Negroe?

Where's the outrage?! Our debt is $15 trillion and Obummer is responsible! And he's so arrogantly standing on the Constitution, while ignoring this poor White boy that has Reagan, Lincoln, Washington, and some other guy in a wig so concerned.

Anyway, I think the young man in the foreground was inspired by Keanu Reeves:


Jong 2:16

It's that time of year again, when North Koreans muster whatever strength they can to stand up and cheer Dear Leader Kim Jong-il as he gets another year closer to death.

Yep, that's what I had planned who write this year, before the Dear Leader became the Peasant Under Glass. It would have been followed by an engineered excuse to post a picture of a beautiful young woman, along with links to past posts marking the Dear Leader's birthday (I'm getting lazy in my older-than-before age).

But he's dead, so I'll just post the links (2010 and 2011), along with the big story marking his birthday, the unveiling of a statue of he and his father on horseback, at the Mansudae Art Studio. North Korea's KCNA has the story, which says it it was unveiled in time for the Day of the Shining Star.

Half of the Four Horsemen of the Apocalypse series. Collect them all!

Why does this statue remind me of a scene from The Simpsons where Homer is forced to return the key to the city?
These look like teeth marks.

I thought there was chocolate inside... Well, why was it wrapped in foil?

It was never wrapped in foil!
Seriously, when the revolution comes, the starving masses are going to be sorely disappointed after they storm this thing.


Tuesday, February 14, 2012

I guess they don't like them Apples

Korea bashers like to point to the Lone Star case (in which the Lone Star people ended up making a buttload of money, by the way) as an example of how Korea is too tough a place to do business, frequently citing it as a reason why foreign companies eschew Korea and go instead to China.

Yeah, this China:
Apple Inc.'s fight to use the iPad name in China has hit another snag after authorities seized dozens of the Apple tablet computers from store shelves in northern China.

The seizures in Shijiazhuang, the capital of Hebei province, were in response to a trademark infringement complaint filed by Chinese company Proview Technology, according to its attorney. Proview Technology, which is based in the southern Chinese city of Shenzhen, said it holds the trademark for the hot-selling device in China.

In December, a court in Shenzhen unexpectedly rejected a lawsuit in which Apple said it was the rightful owner of the iPad name.

Since then, Proview Technology has filed complaints in 20 cities, urging authorities to prohibit the California tech giant from selling or marketing its device. The company has also filed lawsuits against Apple and retailers in Shanghai, Shenzhen and Huizhou, a city in southern Guangdong province.

"You'll likely see more and more actions across the country," Xie Xianghui, Proview Technology's lawyer, said in a phone interview Monday. "Apple did not follow Chinese law, so we're confident the authorities will side with us."
Sorta reminds me of how Carrefour left its booming — but not #1 or #2 ranked — operations in Korea for supposedly greener pastures in China, only to become a tool in Beijing's engineered anger against France later on. (Forgive me for sounding bitter about this, but I have long felt that the flood of American, European, Japanese, Korean, and even Taiwanese capital and jobs into the People's Republic of China is borne of a dangerous mixture of intellectual laziness, political and social ignorance, and brazen greed, and it does no one any good, in the aggregate, including the people of China.)

I guess Apple should have seen this coming. And I'll be they're kicking themselves for not going with my iSlice idea.


Sunday, February 12, 2012

New York, New Nork

Bloomberg is reporting that a New York City-based purveyor of spirits may be taking over the job of promoting North Korea's Kŭmgangsan resort, namely the facilities built by Hyundai but taken over by Pyongyang:
Korea Pyongyang Trading USA, a New York-based liquor importer, is working on a plan to attract travelers to Mount Geumgang on the east coast of North Korea, a country the U.S. State Department permits Americans to visit while warning it has a history of arbitrarily arresting foreigners.

The “Diamond Mountain” resort, opened in 1998 by the two Koreas as a symbol of hope for reunification, has been closed to South Koreans since 2008, when the late Kim Jong Il’s troops shot and killed a guest walking on a restricted beach.

Simon T. Bai, 67, director of marketing and planning for Korea Pyongyang, said the company wants Americans to visit North Korea to give the nation exposure to freedom and democracy. The company was hired in July to study opening a casino at Geumgang, according to documents it submitted to the U.S. Department of Justice in December under the Foreign Agents Registration Act.
Given that Kŭmgangsan is hermetically sealed from the rest of the Hermit Kingdom, there probably isn't much exposure to freedom and democracy going on. Besides, how much freedom and democracy can tourists on a half-week trip really display anyway?

It sounds like it's a justification for doing business with the regime, though it should hardly come as a surprise that such a rationale would come from someone who makes a living feeding people's addictions.


Is Hines Ward's NFL career over?

Earlier today, there were reports that Hines Ward, probably the most famous Korea-born player in American football, would see his career end soon as the Pittsburgh Steelers sought to get out of the last year of his contract. Ward, who has always and only been a Steeler, is now suggesting he is willing to restructure the end of his contract, which had called for him to be paid $4 million this coming season:
Pittsburgh wide receiver Hines Ward said Saturday he's willing to restructure his contract in order to remain with the team after a report said the Steelers are planning to cut the 14-year NFL veteran.

Ward posted on his Facebook page that he wants to "finish my career with the Pittsburgh Steelers" and said he's told the team he's willing to make changes to the final year of his $4-million contract.

Ward's comments come on the heels of an NFL Network report that said the Steelers are looking to cut Ward in an effort to get under the salary cap. The Steelers' all-time leading receiver is coming off his worst statistical season since his rookie year in 1998, finishing with 46 receptions, 381 yards and two touchdowns.
The guy is thirty-five years old, which is positively octogenarian for the NFL, so he knows he isn't going to be around much longer as a pro football player, but it's just human nature to want to end one's career on one's own terms. Whether you're thirty- or sixty-something, who wants to get the axe a year before retirement?

Anyway, since his career is nearly over, this is as good a time as any to ask what Mr Ward should do next. Some suggestions:
  • Go back to Korea and work on making mishik ch'ukku* a thing in Asia.
  • Continue his important work at making life better for mixed-race kids in Korea, especially those who live in single-parent families or grew up without any parents at all.
  • Ride the Hallyu Korea Wave into a movie career.
  • Be global spokesman for Tokto awareness.
  • There's enough time between now and 2018 to master speedskating.
  • The ROK is electing a new president this year. Hint hint. 
Feel free to share your own.

* Mishik ch'ukku (미식축구) is what it's called in Korea, but it's known around the world as "American football." In America, it's known as "football."


Whitney Houston passes

That video is how I prefer to remember Whitney Houston. She was a bright, smart, and beautiful woman with an amazing voice who got the notice of this young person, back when I was a young person who easily got whipped into a frenzy by the likes of Whitney Houston, Lisa Bonet, Claudia Wells, and Diane Franklin.

Whitney Houston's death has come as quite a shock, and I feel bad about the ribbing I gave her when she visited Seoul two years ago to kick off her comeback tour. Back then I had hoped she had gotten her life together and, despite my unfunny snark, I really had hoped she had put her troubled past behind her. But one wonders what kind of health toll the years of drugs and smoking took on her, though I had no idea it was life endangering.

Requiescat in pace, Whitney Houston.


Saturday, February 11, 2012

[UPDATED] The retweets of his death have been greatly reverberated.

One quarter of the Four Horsemen of the Apocalypse.

This week, the Chinese netizens have been lighting up the Interwebs with rumors that North Korea's newest and youngest strongman has been assassinated.

Next week, after this has all died down and it turns out to be someone's idea of a joke, they'll be back to grousing that South Koreans claim to have invented everything, like Chinese script, Chinese medicine, Confucius, and North Korea.

Writing at Gawker, Beijing resident Adrian Chen has a rundown on how the rumor of the Prodigious Progeny may have come about and spread like Bird Flu in a Guangzhou market. Apparently a gathering of dignitaries marking the birthday of the recently deceased Dear Leader led some folks to think something was up.

North Korea watchers are uncertain when this photo was taken of Kim Jong-un with a Cheju Island haenyŏ diver and Penetrating Penis, the star of NHK's "Penetrating Penis Super Show." Does anyone actually read my captions? I'm beginning to feel I could write just about anything here and it wouldn't make a lick of difference. 


Friday, February 10, 2012

[UPDATED] Maybe it's supposed to be accents grave and aigu

I guess "chinky eyes" really is becoming a thing:
Last month at a Starbucks Coffee location in Alpharetta, Georgia, two Korean customers -- who are not native English speakers -- discovered that their barista had identified them by drawing "chinky eyes" on their drinks. You know, where they usually write your name? OH NO THEY DIDN'T. Yes, they did.

You cannot tell me those are both just two random squiggles on those cups. I'm told that the customers immediately complained to the store manager, who did not defend the drawings or offer some kind of bullshit explanation, but simply apologized. And that's it. Oh, sorry for the racist way we run our coffee joint.
I guess he's not "angry asian man" for nothing. I would have suggested the pair hold out for free Starbucks vouchers — that's what I got when Starbucks gave me the worst bout of food poisoning ever after they kept using the milk in their refrigerator in spite of a four-hour blackout that had hit the place.

Anyway, along with Chick-Fil-A, this seems to be an Asian-mocking trend, started by Miley Cyrus (I know that's not true; please don't send me letters), so I'm going to suggest to all who are on the fence about whether or not this is offensive, that they avoid the following emoticons.

` ´ 
We've already established that this is a no-no. 

If you work at a Starbucks in Seoul and this is 
how you wish to identify your White customer, please stop.

No, that's even worse.

Don't make fun of people with big noses or flaring nostrils.

´ `
Don't make fun of people with Pancho Villa mustaches. 

/ || \
/ \
Identifying big-boobed women is also a no-no.

I shall stop now. The humor here is starting to exhibit diminishing returns. Plus, it's very, very late here. 

I finally realized why the cups looked so familiar: With the rounded "heads" formed by the lid and the "chinky eyes" accents grave et aigu, they're supposed to be the mushrooms from Fantasia! And that's not racist at all.

UPDATE 2 (February 15):
It took him nearly a week, but The Marmot's Hole (the K-blog of record™) finally put something up on this. (I had thought linking to TMH in my own post might have gotten his attention; also, someone in his own comment section mentioned it, I think.) The Marmot is a busy man.

UPDATE 3 (February 19):
OMG! It looks like some Starbucks employees really are doing the "big nose" thing on their cups (the third icon in my list above, after 코쟁이 and its variants, a derogatory indicator in Korea for foreigners, especially White people).

Courtesy of hardyandtiny at The Marmot's Hole, I give you "beady-eyed big nose":

Of course, that "nose" could just be a big "L." Does Starbucks sell anything that begins with "L"?


[UPDATED] No-pants Wednesday

I don't know any kyopo parents — especially if they're immigrants — who wouldn't be oh-so-proud if their daughter were parading around in her undies on national television.

But only if she gets the million-dollar prize.

Good luck, Christina Cha, on Survivor: One World.

Following GI Korea's lead, I probably should let her have a chance to get in a few words herself. Here's her Survivor interview:

She's a free-lance everything, as well as "not your quintessential Asian girl." Not sure if it's good that she's not following stereotypes or bad that she thinks loads of people are subscribing to them in general.

At any rate, I'll be tuning in to Survivor: One World (I always do) to see if I've been a bit harsh or not.

I'm a terrible person. I shouldn't do this, but I just can't resist. See, I do much of my TV and movie viewing with "M," who is not a native English speaker, so we usually watch with the captions on. And every now and then you get a funny juxtaposition of picture and text, as below.

I'm prurient evil. Plus a tad juvenile. But I just can't help myself because the salacious side of me just finds this funny, and then it got added as "found porn of the day" at List of the Day, and I figured I might as well post it here.

The truth is, I think I've been giving Christina Cha too hard a time, and not just by posting this screen cap of her in a compromising position. She actually has become the one player I'm rooting for this season (I don't usually watch until a day or so after the original broadcast so please, no spoiler alerts in the comments section).

This is in part because she has become an underdog. More specifically, there are a bunch of people there who have a horrible hate-on for her and I cannot figure out why. We the audience have seen absolutely no reason whatsoever for them to despise her with the passion they do, but they have been vicious.

What gives? She has has been friendly, she pulls her own weight around the camp, she hasn't backstabbed anyone, and she seems likable. So what gives with all that animosity?

Since it seemed to stem from that one Republican fellow who thinks he's a woman, I started to develop a theory. Colton is a gay person in Alabama and in the GOP who spews bigotry and intolerance toward others (e.g., "ghetto trash"). I mean, really? Irony much?

And since he seems to be the fountainhead of the river of vitriol reserved for Christina, I have to wonder if that, too, does not stem from, to put it bluntly, animosity toward Asians, or Koreans in particular. (Maybe he didn't get a job at the Kia factory.)

In the first few episodes, I really kinda felt sorry for Colton, whose early teammates seemed as homophobic as they were misogynistic. But then he just became this self-absorbed fireball of narcissism and evil, and I was kinda sorta standing up and applauding in front of MacBook when he was sent packing.

Yeah, yeah, I can attest that appendicitis is no fun at all and I wouldn't wish it on anyone, but it was very clear that karma bitch-slapped you, Bruddah.

And if I'm right that the Christina Cha hate-fest was racially motivated, what's up with Jonas Otsuji being part of that bevy of bigots? Seriously, dude. Maybe I should put up compromising pictures of you.

Nah, I won't. First off, it's the pics of Christina Cha that bring the thousands upon thousands of hits to Monster Island. And second, since Jonas and I both live in Hawaii, there's no small chance I might run into the guy (it's not hard to see celebrities here in Honolulu — "M" even had a class with Purple Kelly a couple semesters ago) and if so, I'd like to tell him I thought he did a great job on the show and shake his hand, without him lopping it off with one of the tools of his trade.

어쨌든, 크리스티나 차씨, 파이팅! (벌써 이긴지 안 이긴지 당신이 알지만, 제가 아직 몰라요.)

It pays to watch Survivor's extra stuff. My hunch was apparently right about the hate-fest toward Christina having a racial component to it. Indeed, it seems appendicitis isn't the only thing with which Colton was afflicted: he also had a case of "chink eye."