Friday, June 29, 2012

Obamacare prevails in Supreme Court
(and Kushibo was never worried a bit)

"Sweet!" and sourpuss
So I was still in Honolulu when the announcement came that the Supreme Court had ruled mostly in favor of the Affordable Care Act (aka Obamacare), although now I'm on a Hawaiian Airlines plane bound for Fukuoka. [NOTE: I actually posted this using the free wi-fi at Fukuoka Airport.]

Not only am I pleased Obamacare was upheld, but I am also pleased by the logic behind the ruling. Unlike the opponents of Obamacare who oppose it basically because it's Obama's, I don't see any reason why the Federal government — which already runs a mandatory national program like Medicare — shouldn't be constitutionally permitted to regulate the health care market (which not only crosses state lines but eventually includes virtually everyone, which undermines the "compelling commerce" argument).

But I was sympathetic to those who feared encroachment by the Feds: maybe it is a scary thing if the government can compel you to buy something you might not have bought otherwise (even if you should). There are two things about that, however. First, no one was actually compelled to buy anything: you could in fact opt out and simply pay a fee/fine/tax/whatever-you-want-to-call-it to cover your share of the aggregate cost incurred by those who cannot or will not insure themselves.

Second, and more important to Obamacare's critics who worried about a slippery slope of Federal power, SCOTUS's majority decision did not in fact rule that way: this decision does not provide precedence for the government compelling you to buy something. Not even for a "special" case like health care.

Instead, they did something that I had thought they should: they decided that the fee was a tax (which Congress has the power to levy) even though the tax (on those who refuse to get health insurance) was not called a "tax" for political reasons ("the health plan won't raise your taxes!"). It's the Supreme Court philosophy of "if it quacks like a duck" recorded in Acme International versus Scrooge McDuck (1959), and some other ruling about a company town functioning as a real town whose name now escapes me.

[UPDATE: The ruling I was thinking of was Marsh v Alabama, where the Supreme Court ruled ruled that a state trespassing statute (dealing with private property) could not be used to prevent the distribution of religious materials on the sidewalks of the privately owned company town of Chickasaw because the privately owned town essentially had all the trappings and functions of a typical town, where they would be considered public space. In other words, the Court determined that although it was not defined as "public" it essentially acted as "public" and therefore, as far as Constitutional rights and principles were concerned, it should be considered "public." In the current National Federation of Independent Business v Sebelius that saw Obamacare pass Constitutional muster, I see the Court having done the same thing: determining that the "penalty" had all the trappings and functions of a tax even though it was not called a "tax" and therefore, as far as Constitutional rights and principles were concerned, should be considered a "tax."]

Constitutionally this is a win for those who were genuinely concerned about expansion of Federal power into your pocketbook. For those who were opposed to the ACA just because they don't like the commie Muslin "knee grow," well screw them with a garden hoe anyway.

Moreover, the one part of the ACA they should possibly have struck down was in fact overturned, the part about forcing the States to participate in Obamacare by threatening to withhold all Medicaid funds. I call this the "cojones-in-a-vice-grip ruling" because I didn't go to law school and I don't know the actual name.

Now, if you're still bummed out about having to buy insurance, you still have two options. Number one: Don't buy insurance. Just pay the fine that will help cover costs when you end up in the ER or you inadvertently become a vector who makes others sick (the movie Contagion still gives me chills).

Number two: Get your State to come up with a plan that covers as many or more people than Obamacare. You see, the critics didn't like to mention that any State can opt out (Hawaiei does).

As someone in the public health field, I'm excited. Not only does Obamacare target rising costs by addressing market failure quirks of the health care field, it also incentivizes preventive care. Ounces of prevention are generally cheaper than pounds of cure, to the tune of tens of billions of dollars.

Obamacare is not perfect. I think we need a public option to keep insurance providers in line and I think it is utterly foolish to not allow illegal residents to even buy into the insurance plans on their own. As things move along, it will require tweaks and fixes, and it would be best if Republicans and Democrats could come together, leave ideology at the door, and hammer out effective solutions. The core of the ACA, after all, was a conservative plan set forth by the Heritage Foundation. Like it or not, the GOP has a stake in its success.

I am now optimistic about the future. The United States has joined the ranks of the rest of the advanced world, including South Korea and Japan. "M," a public health student from Kansai, says this decision restored her faith in America. I think we will start to see a lot of health indicators change for the better.

In fact, I will make a bold prediction: a few decades from now, we will see members of the 2040s equivalent of the Tea Party holding up picket signs that read, "Keep the government's hands off my Obamacare!"

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Thursday, June 28, 2012

Korean church turns wards into plowshares (or something like that)

I guess it's a good things if Korean churches get known for something other than being big or being scandalous. Helping the homeless (and teaching them urban agriculture) is certainly a worthy cause:
A Korean Assembly of God church in Kalihi that currently houses 35 homeless people in tents on its grounds plans to move two dozen of its homeless clients to help run a farm in Waianae Valley in the next several weeks.

State lawmakers who have been wrestling with homeless issues from Waikiki to Kalihi to Waianae had not heard of the plan by Hawaii Cedar Church on Kamehameha IV Road, but offered praise Tuesday after the church's announcement.
Yeah, yeah. Watch me eat my words three or four years later when I end up writing a post on how these homeless folks were used a slave farm labor.

I kid! I kid! (More on this later.)

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Tokyo Court Rules in Support of 'Comfort Women' Exhibition

This is a follow-up to an earlier post.

The courts in Japan have no problem doing the right thing (vis-à-vis the Comfort Women) as long as it doesn't involve giving money to past victims, which it fears is a slippery slope (an occupational hazard of enslaving, terrorizing, maiming, or killing millions of people, I guess).

http://english.chosun.com/site/data/html_dir/2012/06/25/2012062501407.html


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Iran may stop imports from South Korea

This was to be expected when Seoul joined Washington and others to show Teheran there would be repercussions for pursuing nukes.

The ROK government sticking to the plan and not importing Iranian oil hurts economically (with higher prices at the pump and fewer exports), but it's a sign of maturity on the global stage.

Maybe the newly signed Korea-Colombia free trade agreement will help.

http://www.cnn.com/2012/06/27/world/asia/korea-iran-oil/index.html


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Tuesday, June 26, 2012

If you're bored, why not head to the White House site and sign a few petitions?

UPDATE:
Hmm... methinks I deserve a hat tip. (unless the Unix user in Seoul who found this on my blog was not The Marmot). [insert winky icon here]

ORIGINAL POST:
The Japanese-forced-amnesia versus Korean-emotional-(what's a word for always remembering?) is being played out in the ladle of democracy, the United States of America.

Pick your poison (the text contains the link):

From the western shores of the East Sea, as well as the Jersey Shore...
Preserve comfort women monument as a symbol of bloody history of Korea during Japanese colonization
And from the other side of the Nihon Kai...
Repeal the House of Representatives Resolution 121 to stop aggravating int'l harassment by Korean propaganda & lies!
Note the uncharacteristic lack of emotional restraint represented by the exclamation point.

Anyway, if you're confused about who is supporting what, just take a look at the names in the respective set of signatories (e.g., Yoon hee K, Jinsung J, Hyesung P, etc., versus Kenji K, Otsuka K, Gerry B, etc.).

And remember, your side doesn't get an official White House response unless you hit 25,000 signatures (though the latest birther nonsense, claiming that all birth certificates in Hawaii are suspect because Japanese were buying bogus documents in the 1950s and 1960s, suggests BHO may in fact be from the Land of the Rising Sun and favor Japan over Korea, plus there's a town called Obama in Japan).

Obama visits the Shire.

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Holding the University of California hostage

But in a good way. I think. Governor Brown seems determined to reverse the trend of balancing the state budget on the back of students (something that's a problem here in Hawai'i as well):
California's public universities could lose out on an extra $125 million in state funds if they hike tuition in the fall under a budget agreement that legislative leaders have reached with Gov. Jerry Brown.
The message is that if voters don't approve a series of tax hikes designed to balance the budget, then the UC gets it (i.e., the proverbial bullet).

The state needs the UC. From Susanville to San Diego, we need educated young people. Ones who are relatively debt-free so they can get on with the business of innovation, entrepreneurship, and public service. Otherwise it's he'll in a hand basket.

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The mandate as Obama's achilles heel (which wouldn't have been fatal had Achilles had insurance)


It looks like the big SCOTUS decision on Obamacare will come while I'm in the air, flying from Honolulu to Fukuoka (and then on to Seoul). Major news, like the death of KJI, tends to come while I'm flying across the ocean.

To make this Korea-related, if the ACA is overturned, that means I'm stuck living in Korea or Hawaii.

Anyhoo, while we wait, take time to read this excellent piece on Republican hypocrisy as it pertains to the actuarily sound insurance mandate:
The individual mandate in the health care law was originally proposed by the Heritage Foundation, the most conservative think tank in the country. It was supported by almost every Republican in the country, including the first President Bush, Mitt Romney and conservative stalwarts like Orrin Hatch. Simply put, it was a conservative idea. There is no question about that; it is a fact.

Let me immediately digress to point out how terrible our media is since about 2% of the country knows that fact. If you asked the average American now, I'm sure they would say it was a liberal idea originally proposed by Barack Obama. Another fact -- Barack Obama was originally opposed to the mandate during his campaign for president.

So, this brings us to the central problem with President Obama's administration. They were under the unbelievably mistaken impression that if they worked with the Republicans, compromised with them and gave them what they wanted, that the Republicans would react likewise. Progressives (and anyone that was paying attention to politics in the last decade) warned them that would not be the case. We were dismissed. Now look at what's happened.

Not only did the Republicans not thank the president for including their mandate in the health care law, they have turned around and pretended they are against it. But of course it goes much deeper than that. In fact, they are now using it as the principal argument to take down the whole law.
Oh, and kudos to the Supremes for not going and completely legalizing "driving while Mexican." must've taken restraint.

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Sunday, June 24, 2012

Vincent Chin + 30

This weekend marks the thirtieth anniversary of the murder of Vincent Chin, an unfortunate victim of anti-Asian hatred who became a symbol of how Asian-Americans are often viewed by majority Whites (and Blacks) as outsiders and the perpetual "other" in their own country.

The New York Times has an excellent piece on "why Vincent Chin still matters."

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UPDATE:
I'll be writing more on this important issue later (but note here and elsewhere that Vincent Chin is not someone I only just now heard of, and I may have introduced this figure to Sonagi).

Some of my readers may have noticed that a lot of my posts lately have had this "sent from my iPad/iPhone" comment at the bottom. I've been very busy lately, and lately I've realized that if I want to post regularly, I need to send posts on the fly. When possible, I try to clean them up later, but sometimes I just want to get them out there.

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Russia agrees to write off 90 pct of North Korea's Soviet-era debt

This could be interesting, especially if it was part of a deal for reform

Yonhap News Agency (@YonhapNews)
6/23/12 4:07 AM
Russia agrees to write off 90 pct of N. Korea's Soviet-era debt bit.ly/Nvp7VR


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Is AP's Pyongyang bureau finally getting around to reporting some less-than-flattering stuff?

Over at One Free Korea, Joshua is highly critical of the Associated Press's presence in the North Korean capital, largely because of whatever secret agreement may have been penned between the AP and the DPRK about what to report. In short, it sometimes seems as if AP and their correspondent Jean Lee are unwittingly (or wittingly) playing the role of propaganda cogs.

But there are occasionally AP stories from Pyongyang that paint that harsh reality, including this one on how the hate-on North Koreans (are supposed to) have for the United States starts early:
For North Koreans, the systematic indoctrination of anti-Americanism starts as early as kindergarten and is as much a part of the curriculum as learning to count.

Toy pistols, rifles and tanks sit lined up in neat rows on shelves. The school principal pulls out a dummy of an American soldier with a beaked nose and straw-colored hair and explains that the students beat him with batons or pelt him with stones — a favorite schoolyard game, she says.

For a moment, she is sheepish as she takes three journalists from The Associated Press, including an American, past the anti-U.S. posters. But Yun Song Sil is not shy about the message.

"Our children learn from an early age about the American bastards," she says, tossing off a phrase so common here that it is considered an acceptable way to refer to Americans.

North Korean students learn that their country has had two main enemies: the Japanese, who colonized Korea from 1910 to 1945, and the U.S., which fought against North Korea during the 1950-53 Korean War.

They are told that North Korea's defense against outside forces — particularly the U.S., which has more than 28,000 soldiers stationed in South Korea — remains the backbone of the country's foreign policy.

And they are bred to seek revenge, even as their government professes to want peace with the United States.

"They tell their people there can be no reconciliation with the United States," says American scholar Brian Myers, who dissected North Korean propaganda in his 2010 book "The Cleanest Race: How North Koreans See Themselves and Why It Matters." ''They make it very clear to the masses that this hate will last forever."
I don't know, though, if it was Jean Lee who threw in the interview with Professor Myers (who, no offense, is a bit of a one-trick pony when it comes to North Korea; just what will he do when/if North Korea shifts or scraps its propaganda tactics?).

If North Korea's propaganda machine really is approving AP's copy, maybe Ms Lee was able to get away with this piece because it included the "new direction" they want the world to think the Pyongyang regime is taking:
In recent years, state propaganda has shifted away from the virulent anti-American slogans of the past and has instead emphasized building up the economy. On the streets of Pyongyang, anti-American posters have largely given way to images of soldiers in helmets and workers in factories.
But is this new propaganda message a smoke screen or an indication of at least one faction's hope for change? I'm not sure myself, but I'm also not so certain that the most vehement of Pyongyang's critics can even allow for the latter to be happening even if it really were.

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Saturday, June 23, 2012

No man is an island, but this man owns one

I was going to go with the title "Ellis(on) Island," but that has already become a cliché. The big news here in Hawaii is that Larry Ellison, the billionaire who runs Oracle, has bought out David Murdock, the 89-year-old billionaire who owned 98% of the island of Lana‘i.

Lana‘i is the smallest of the main islands one can freely travel to (Ni‘ihau is smaller but it's privately owned and I think they'll shoot you if you land without permission). It's the one that's shaped like an apostrophe [’], an upside-down ‘okina.

[source]

Its nickname is "the Pineapple Island," because it once was home to the world's largest pineapple plantation, run by Dole. But the pineapples of the Pineapple Island are like the oranges of Orange County: there's nothing left but a historical footnote. Mr Murdock decided to put an end to all that after bailing out Castle & Cooke, one of the "Big Five" (Hawai‘i's historic versions of chaebŏl-zaibatsu) that used to control Hawai‘i, and his plan was to expand tourism.

There is a very nice and very reclusive Four Seasons Manele Bay resort at the southern tip, but the thing about uprooting a dominant agriculture industry is that you're left with a bunch of untended fields. Except for the well watered resorts and Lana‘i City in the cooler central highlands, the place is awash in ruddy dust, evoking images of a Mars-like landscape from what I've been told.

Developing the place will be a challenge. This is what The Wall Street Journal had to say about it:
What isn't clear is how exactly Mr. Ellison might be able to make the island assets start paying off. He didn't respond to requests for comment, nor did an Oracle spokeswoman.

Local residents cite challenges that include limited air service to the island and a lack of nightlife to entertain tourists, though golf and outdoor activities there are highly regarded.

Among the potential options are building more homes to sell, adding rooms to the two Four Seasons resorts on the island or building a third resort, said Joseph Toy, president of Hospitality Advisors LLC, a Honolulu-based consulting firm specializing in the hotel and tourism markets.
The isolation, though, can be something of a selling point for those who really want to get away not just from it all but also from them. Honolulu is a city of nearly a million people in the middle of the ocean, so celebrities have eschewed O‘ahu for Kaua‘i and Maui, but even those are chockfull of tourists. Lana‘i and its three thousand residents are secluded just enough, but still have a luxury setting amidst some beautiful coastline. Bill and Melinda Gates (of the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation) chose to get married here in 1994.

Were Mr Ellison to bring back agriculture, it would be some welcome greenery, perhaps making it more financially feasible for us in urban Honolulu to "eat local." But Lana‘i is a dry island in the "rain shadow" of Maui's 10,000-foot Haleakalā, and its own mountains aren't high enough to trap much moisture. If agriculture competes with luxury resorts for scarce water, Mr Ellison might decide not to plant anything.

I think there's a great challenge out there for the fifth-richest person in America to make Lana‘i work: he's got the resources to make a self-sustaining island that can thrive with agriculture, tourism, and a local economy. Use your resources to develop technologies that will feasibly produce the water needed for everything. Go ahead with the wind farm that will supply not just Lana‘i's needs but those of Maui and O‘ahu. And geez, there's enough sun for all sorts of renewable energy projects.

Thinking about the future of Lana‘i got me thinking about Korea, which is the real impetus for this post: If you could own a whole island in Korea (or 98% of it), what would you do with it? Off the west and southern coasts, South Korea is full of islands big and small. If Wikipedia is to be believed, there are more islands in Korea than there are in Japan (the definition of an island may be different, though, so it could be misleading).

The Korean Archipelago supposedly contains 3579 islands, a few of which are as comparable in size to Lana‘i (which is almost exactly the same size as Chindo). Wouldn't it be cool to own one? If I did, and assuming I had the kind of money one needs in order to buy an island, I'd set out to do what I just recommended to Mr Ellison: show the world how environmentally friendly sustainability can be done. Of course, then I'd be tempted to declare independence and then everything would go to heck.

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The Sick And The Supreme Court Could Make It Worse

  As we gear up for the Supreme Court's ruling on Obamacare, the following link contains a slideshow that is a nice primer on the legal decisions surrounding the Sffordable Care Act. 

The Health Care System Is Failing The Sick And The Supreme Court Could Make It Worse
Porn Republic.. Krugman: Don't Punish Guilty.. 'Tiddie Biddies'.. Walmart vs. Amazon
 


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Taking "casual Fridays" a bit too far

Today is, apparently, "No Panties Friday," or some such. Which is different from "No Pants Wednesday" (which turned out to be my most popular post ever).

Yeah, yeah, I know what you're thinking: "Oh, geez, not another Hallmark Holiday!"

Anyway, the real reason I thought to post this is that, had this gone truly global as its organizers had hoped, there would have been a lot of participation by confused men in Korea and Japan.

Now I'd better get to work on putting something together so this is no longer the post on top. This is a serious news blog. That my mother reads. No, really.

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Thursday, June 21, 2012

Korean invasion (Choco Pie edition)



Costco in Honolulu is selling ChocoPie in bulk, and Orion is trying to market it as a health-conscious snack. It only has 120 calories (per pie?) and it's pretty darned cheap (48 of them for $8... why, we could feed all of North Korea!).



Anyway, I was tempted to buy some after an unfortunate food sampling incident. I'm one of those people who will walk into a Costco and sample everything. Not because I'm cheap (though I am) but because they usually have some pretty good stuff out.

Well, I grabbed some curry-looking stuff and gave one to "M" (who swears she thought ChocoPie were from Japan) and even though it didn't smell like curry we ate it. After all, we could see there were grains of rice and something that looked like carrots and chicken.

And indeed, that's what it tasted like, except it tasted like it coming up the wrong way. As in regurgitated. Seriously, by far the most disgusting thing I'd ever eaten at Costco. Then I finally looked at what it was: bulk emergency rations. As in food that you can store in your fallout shelter for a few years (I guess there are enough power outages from hurricanes and earthquakes on this island metropolis that it's not a bad idea).

Really, if that's all I have to look forward to, I hope the crisis takes me first (nah, maybe I'll try to go kill a wild boar).

The vomit taste persisted, which was why I was going to get the ChocoPie. But then I calculated 48 times 120 and I realized we were talking 1-2/3 pounds of weight gain.

At any rate, I wanted to point out that, at least on Oahu, there are more and more signs of the Korean wave. Sam's Club is selling Jinro soju, and kalbi is, well, it's ubiquitous. They even have it at the Golden Palace in Chinatown, my favorite dim sum place.

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Monday, June 18, 2012

Rodney King dies

The news today was wholly unexpected: Rodney King, the victim of a brutal beating by law enforcement and then a figure at the center of the devastating Los Angeles riots that resulted when said law enforcement officers were acquitted, has died at the age of forty-seven.

It was rather shocking that he wasn't even fifty. Even two decades ago, he seemed so old, so it's hard to believe he died while still a young man.

He was a flawed man, made a hero by being a hapless victim who then tried to do right: Can we all just get along? Even in the aftermath, after his experience made him a rich man, he was still tormented by demons, some of his own making. Requiescat in pace, Mr King.

Anyway, the riots themselves were a milestone in the history of the Korean-American community, which I hope you'll read about here. They also were a turning point for the LAPD.

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Holy Hau‘ula

Since I'm not yet a dad (as far as I'm aware) and my own family patriarch is thousands of miles away, I decided to spend Father's Day on a North Shore trail.

I'm still up here, and there's no one else up here, so if you don't see any posts within the next 24 hours, alert the authorities, lest I have fallen victim to a wild boar or a serial criminal of some kind.

UPDATE:
I made it back down. Didn't see any wild boar or goats, but there was a guy with a machete near the summit, vigorously hacking away at something a few meters off the trail. Since I saw only seven people in the two hours of being on the trail and there was no cellular reception for much of the three-mile loop, I was a tad nervous for a while back there.

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Sunday, June 17, 2012

Do Ho Suh's precarious presentation

South Korea-born artist Do Ho Suh's "Fallen Star" permanent installation atop Jacobs Hall at the University of California at San Diego looks way cool, but to those dinosaurs stuck in the era of "Hyun-die" and "Kia means 'killed in action'" jokes, a building on the verge of a destructive collapse may too easily evoke images of the Sampoong Department Store or Sŏngsu-daegyo Bridge.

The feeling he's going for is one of displacement, a theme of his since leaving Korea for Rhode Island in 1991:
Perched on the corner of the seventh story of Jacobs Hall, above the busy artery through Warren College, the 15-by-18-foot house looks, indeed, like it came crashing down from above. (Actually, it was built on the ground and hoisted to its site last November.) A classic New England cottage, painted light blue with white trim, it was modeled after a home in Providence, near where Suh lived. Inside, the place feels cozily lived-in, a quilt draped over one chair, the couch scattered with throw pillows. Newspapers and an open bag of candy clutter the coffee table. A child's drawing is pinned to one wall, near an array of old cut-paper silhouettes. Near the door hangs a small needlepoint of a house, an image of domestic serenity.

This home too feels like a place of refuge, passed down through the generations — except for the fact that it rests at a stomach-flipping tilt and hangs over a daunting drop.

"The slope of the floor is only five degrees, which is not that much," Suh says, seated on one of the Adirondack chairs in the quaint garden leading up to the house. It's enough, however, to disturb the body's natural equilibrium, and most visitors will reflexively grip the door frame as they enter.
I'm a sucker for Korean modern art. Though I haven't been there in quite some time, the Museum of Modern Art in Seoul Land (located not in Seoul but Kwachŏn/Gwacheon) is a place I highly recommend if you haven't been. In the meantime, I will definitely check out this piece when I'm next in SoCal.


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Friday, June 15, 2012

Lost girls, ten years later


The deaths of two middle school girls who were run over by US military vehicles in a rural farming village in 2002 sparked massive protests and became yet another focal point in what had been an orgy of anti-US sentiment.

The parade of catalysts started when South Koreans felt they were dissed when ROK speed skater Kim Dongsung was disqualified at the 2002 Salt Lake City Olympics when an overacting Apolo Ohno "faked" being fouled and was given the gold instead.

It then went into high gear when then President George W. Bush referred to North Korea as part of the "Axis of Evil" and then proceeded with plans to invade one of them. Prior to that, South Koreans had been lulled into believing that the strong ROK-US alliance was an effective deterrence to a North Korean invasion, meaning there would be no new war on the peninsula, but now the US president had South Koreans sh¡tting their pants that he himself was going to start Korean War II.

It took a break with the 2002 Korea/Japan World Cup, a month-long party that saw the Korea Republic national team go far beyond the country's wildest dreams. But then, in the lead up to the presidential election in December, the pro-Pyongyang leftists sought to find that the issue (or combination of issues) that would resonate with the public and usher an anti-USFK candidate into Seoul's Blue House. [If you haven't read my piece on the pro-Pyongyang nature of South Korea's far left chinboistas, including how they manipulated the Mad Cow Disease issue, please do so.]

Roh Moohyun's presidency was the indirect result of all this, but he turned out to be more pro-American than anyone expected. Still, the angry reaction by much of the citizenry beyond the chinboistas was a turning point in US-Korea relations (in many positive ways).

The ten-year anniversary of the deaths of Shim Misun (Shim Misŏn, 심미선) Shin Hyosun (Shin Hyosūn, 신효순) is the subject of well written posts at Popular Gusts, ROK Drop, and The Marmot's Hole.

As I wrote at Popular Gusts, it's disgusting the way the leftist chinboistas have used the two girls' deaths for their pro-Pyongyang, anti-Seoul, and especially anti-USFK aims. At the same time, however, the reaction on the other side is also very unseemly. Over the years I've seen so many "defenders" of USFK fall over themselves to blame the middle school girls for their own deaths (e.g., they should have been paying attention better, Koreans are always killing each other in traffic accidents, etc., etc.) as if the adults driving the massive military vehicles are blameless.

The USFK convoy was not an "accident" but an accident waiting to happen. They were large vehicles on small roads (if I remember correctly, the girls would have had to jump into a ditch to avoid them) operating with broken radio equipment that made it difficult to impossible to communicate from one vehicle to the other that there were pedestrians in the roadway. The military personnel were operating on so little sleep that they had made complaints to their commanders about it prior to the accident.

Matt at Popular Gusts is correct that the eventual court martial was politically motivated, and the tragedy of that is not that the two men went on trial, but that the wrong men went on trial. There was criminal negligence at work, but probably not by those two.

But neither side really wants to sully their purer-than-thou argument. One side wants to blame evil USFK and the other side wants to blame hysterical Koreans.

At least we are seeing some real improvement that might prevent such things from happening again. The roads have been improved, and according to this article, the convoys have a USFK member sitting on top to watch for pedestrians, but even the ROK military still runs around there recklessly.


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Sunday, June 10, 2012

Korean invasion



Yep, Honolulu now has The Face Shop, complete with blinding white walls, beauty-obsessed narcissists, K-pop, and Japanese tourists. (By the way, I'm back on Oahu.)

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Thursday, June 7, 2012

Still in Kauai

This is Wailua Falls. Hard to get down here and even harder to get back up. Sphere: Related Content

Wednesday, June 6, 2012

Gone fishin'

Got incredibly seasick — SNL-style vomiting included — in order to get this photo of Kauai's Na Pali Coast. 

Will return to regular blogging toward the end of the week, but I may include the occasional on-the-spot iPhone pics to gloat over being in one of the most beautiful places on Earth. 

(I foolishly left my Nikon D60 at home but the iPhone 4 is doing a bang-up job if I can remember to keep my finger off the lens on a boat rocking like crazy in choppy seas.)


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Friday, June 1, 2012

Utterly inexcusable xenophobic propaganda on MBC

The first video at this Scroozle post is purported to be from MBC. It seems intended to scare people about relations with foreign residents and, given the wording used, seems to smear the whole lot of them with nasty allegations (HT to The Marmot).

I'll deal with this more when if I have some time (I haven't even been able to scrutinize the English captions vis-à-vis the original Korean, which is always prudent in cases like this, lest someone ramp up the translation to make it sound even more inflammatory), but for now I'll just say that this is the kind of thing that needs to be called out. Sure, there really are some nasty foreigners who come just to score jobs and girls, and they violate a cultural taboo when they talk about it more than when they do it, but MBC is taking a wide brush approach that is meant to smear.

I couldn't find a way to extract the video from the post, and that means I should probably also address Scroozle's second video, which is of an immigration official giving a PowerPoint-type information briefing to teachers on laws and regulations in very stilted English pronunciation. Scroozle is tying this video to the first because it's "about rising foreign crime rates and the need for HIV testing," which the English-teaching crowd has largely taken to be xenophobic and racist.

The slideshow included this language:
Drug use, child sex abuse, and other criminal activities (e.g., fake diploma) by some foreign teachers have been social issues in Korean society in recent years. [emphasis mine]
It is reasonable to expect that people working with children should be subject to criminal background checks. Ditto with people who are coming in to work in another country, if that country so chooses (local Korean nationals who have committed crimes are in the Korean national crime database, and criminal background checks from their respective countries brings it up to a similar level, though I agree this has been handled in a ham-handed way sometimes).

On the matter of HIV testing, though, I've stated over and over again that I don't agree with the "HIV mentality" of the anti-testing opponents. HIV testing should be a public health issue, but we're still stuck in a 1985 loop treating it as a human rights issue because of associations of AIDS with homosexuality at a time when gays were mostly in the closet. Never mind that 1 in 200 people in the US (which tests incoming Korean nationals for tuberculosis) is infected with HIV, a rate thirty times higher than in South Korea, and early detection prevents its spread and allows for crucial life-saving treatment. [I fixed this sentence after Schplook pointed out my error in the comments section.]

Ah, but I realize that I'm never going to convince much of the English-teaching crowd that mandatory HIV testing (which is done on a large scale among the native Korean population as well) is anything but racism and xenophobia, so my criticism that the MBC video should have stood alone would probably be roundly booed.

But I'll end this with Scroozle's valid points about the MBC video, because that's where the real outrage should be directed:
This type of BS is exceedingly hurtful. It creates an air of distrust between foreigners and Koreans. It attempts to shame Korean women into staying away from foreign men. It damages Korea’s international image.

The country is expected to host the 2018 winter Olympics, and yet programing such as this continues to be produced.
Valid points. I'd like to check out a link to this video on the MBC website both to see what viewers are saying. I'm sure there are lots of yahoos leaving, "Yeah! Stupid foreigners!" type stuff (and if you think that doesn't exist in the US, go look at the comments section in just about any online source talking about how one public school in New York City has decided to offer Arabic in its curriculum).

But if I'm reasonably certain a good chunk will, if this translation is correct, be knocking MBC for this xenophobic crap that runs counter to the 다문화주의 mood that is gripping the nation.

In the meantime, head to MBC's English-language contact page for a list of emails addresses. Most are related to sales and marketing (Korean wave!) but the "international relations" one might be useful for expressing a politely worded but stern email about your disappointment.

UPDATE:
Roboseyo has a very well reasoned post on this, where Msleetobe has posted contact information for the Korea Broadcasting Commission:
If anyone wishes to file a formal complaint, this is where it can be done: 방송통신위원회 (I believe it's the Korean Broadcast Commission) 02-750-1114 ...press 2 for English.
I think this a good idea. Calling gets them to sit up and take notice in a way that blogging in English does not. But be nice when you call. They didn't do it.

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