Thursday, December 27, 2012

Fanboys gone wild: On the front lines of the Apple-Samsung War

I love me my Apple products, but I'm also happy that Samsung is such a money-maker for the South Korean economy (though I wish the ROK economy weren't so dependent on it). Rather than having no dog in the Apple-Samsung fight, I guess I have two dogs.

But there are those who take one side or another, and they can get, well, religious about it. Like a bunch of folks who have apparently decided that Judge Lucy Koh, who presided over Apple's lawsuit against Samsung, has to be taken down.

From The Guardian:
The Wikipedia page for Judge Lucy Koh - who has overseen a number of court battles between Apple and Samsung - has been locked until Sunday after an "edit war" by people seeking to cast doubt on her independence as a judge, apparently because of her rulings in those trials.

Koh oversaw the major Apple-Samsung patents and design case in the summer, in which Apple was awarded $1.05bn by a jury for patent infringement by Samsung. The case has now moved to post-verdict hearings.

But a bizarrely partisan reading of the Apple win has led some contributors to alter Koh's page - which should be an impartial reference about her work and life - to create nonexistent "controversies" about her decision-making.

Koh's page is required to conform to the "Biographies of Living People" standard, requiring among other points a "neutral point of view" and "verifiability".

But as first pointed out by Philip Elmer-DeWitt, the page related to Koh was altered on Friday 21 December at 20.07 (UTC) to add a paragraph under the headline "Questions of Impartiality in Apple vs. Samsung"
And you thought blogging wars could be brutally stupid.

Also on the tech war front, amidst all the talk of Apple building what has tentatively been labeled AppleTV*, it looks like Samsung has beaten Apple to the punch with its SmarTV.

From Business Insider (which tends to take an anti-Apple bent):
CES 2013 starts in a few weeks, and the conference's big theme is already emerging. Everyone will be talking about Smart TVs, or web-connected sets with streaming video and apps built in.

Samsung recently teased its new take on the future of television, showing photos of its "Smart Hub" interface on the big screen. LG announced a set that runs on Google TV
Expect that to be the centerpiece of Samsung and LG's CES presentations. And expect to see similar offerings from other TV makers like Panasonic and Sony with interfaces either powered by their own software or Google TV.

Again, it's obvious what's going on here. Rumors about Apple's plans for television just won't die, especially when CEO Tim Cook drops big hints like he recently did in an interview with Brian Williams. Some think it'll be an actual television set with a radical new interface that can replace the clunky one on your TiVo or the box your cable provider gives you. Some think it'll be a new box that can turn any TV into an Apple TV. Maybe it's both.

What we know for sure is Apple is working hard to make the living room its next big thing and that has the competition nervous enough to start cranking Smart TV concepts before Apple can launch its own.

But it's a dangerous path that can lead to half-baked products that are rushed out just because Big Boy Apple might have plans for a TV later next year.
I don't think this is particularly earth-shattering, but the article struck me because while checking out Best Buy, Costco, Target, and Sam's Club lately, I was thinking much same thing about Samsung's Smart TV lately.


South Korea in danger of power outages

With much of South Korea's nuclear power now off-line, and the country dipping into record cold temperatures, there is a risk of rolling blackouts, which could be a real danger for a lot of people (extremes of heat and cold tend to disproportionately affect those on the fringe, especially socioeconomically or chronologically).

From the Wall Street Journal:
South Korea set a new record for power consumption on Wednesday, the third consecutive day of very cold temperatures and busiest work-wise after the lead-in and celebration of Christmas.

And the country’s energy monitors were forced to warn that power outages might occur because demand had surpassed the limit that the government considers safe.

Demand hit 76.58 million kilowatts at 11:01 a.m., surpassing the record of 75.17 million kilowatts that was set eight days ago on Dec. 18. South Korea had 79.16 million kilowatts of power available.

The Korea Power Exchange, which monitors supply and demand, makes the information available in real time on its Web site in Korean here and in English here.

Wednesday’s demand peak was higher than the energy consumed on Sept. 15, 2011, when the government resorted to rolling blackouts for several hours because an unusual surge of late summer heat propelled demand for air conditioners.

On that day, electricity demand peaked at 67.3 million kilowatts. But the country had supply of just over 70 million kilowatts, a figure that was later revised downward to 67.5 million kilowatts, meaning South Korea came dangerously close to a total blackout.

That near-disaster led to the resignation of the country’s commerce minister, who is in charge of energy issues, and sharp criticism from President Lee Myung-bak.
The WSJ doesn't really go into it, but South Korea has for quite some time been heavily reliant on nuclear power, but there have been literal cracks in the system that have caused alarm, as well as other issues that have led to a reduction in power generation right now.


Wednesday, December 26, 2012

Apple and Samsung beat out once renowned high-tech brands

The Los Angeles Times has an article about Samsung and Apple being juggernauts of the smartphone industry, and how this is bad for consumers in the long run.

From the Los Angeles Times:
It's been a tough year for old-guard tech companies including Sony, Sharp, Panasonic, Nokia and Research in Motion, which not too long ago enjoyed widespread popularity. Now, for a variety of reasons — price, slow pace of innovation, lack of coolness factor and a cutthroat market — the former stalwarts are frequently becoming second-tier options among fickle consumers.

"There is a consolidation around just a handful of players," said Bob Bellack, chief executive of Newegg North America, an online electronics retailer. "There's going to be a handful of companies that have huge resources that are able to build a castle and a moat around it, and I think that's what you're seeing. It's actually very unfortunate for consumers in the long run."

As shoppers gravitate toward a smaller pool of brands for their big-ticket electronics purchases, the effects are being seen in sales of cellphones, tablets and televisions, with industry leaders Samsung and Apple leading in nearly all categories.

In the U.S. smartphone market, "the lion's share" of growth is concentrated in the top two brands, market research firm NPD Group said. The group found that Apple's iPhone took 31% of the market in the second quarter, followed by Samsung with 24%.

And that advantage is growing. Apple and Samsung's combined smartphone unit sales that quarter rose 43% year over year as sales for other brands fell 16%. BlackBerry and Nokia didn't even make the top five brands in the U.S.

Samsung is also gaining ground in the global cellphone market: The South Korean juggernaut is set to become the No. 1 mobile handset brand in the world this year, uprooting struggling Nokia, which has held the top spot for the last 14 years, market research firm IHS said.

For companies playing catch-up, the challenge is to create devices that are technologically superior, cheaper or otherwise unique in some way, and to work more closely with wireless carriers to promote them.
This has long been one of the problems facing smaller companies: people will flock to well-known brands unless something else is substantially better; simply being a bit better won't cut it. As long as Apple and Samsung can buy up (or buy out) smaller companies that might produce something better, and as long as they can maintain quality, they will likely remain on top.


Tuesday, December 25, 2012

A post from Christmas past: Korean Fir Popular as Christmas Tree

Since this is Christmas, both here in the United States and back in Korea (at least for a few more hours), I thought I'd include one more Christmas post.

Some of you may remember this bit of news that came out of different places, including this link from the Korea Times, about how the Douglas fir that is such mainstay in American homes at Christmastime as a Christmas tree, is actually from Korea.


Merry Christmas! 메리크리스마스!

Merry Christmas from the North Pole! (Or about as close as I could get to it with the iPhone Weather app.)

And for the record, this temperatures are in Fahrenheit, not Celsius. 0°F is -18°C.

It looks like Korea itself is having a white Christmas. I'm so jealous, except I will be driving to Las Vegas today and I might encounter some snow myself.

Sunday, December 23, 2012

Merry Christmas from Park Geunhye and Moon Jae-in!

As Joshua at One Free Korea notes, regionalism still persists in South Korea [source].

Now, if South Korea is ever able to fix this problem, it should export the solution, because is this really so different from the United States?

Korean regionalism is eerily close to provincial boundaries, but that may be because of the historic and social basis for the provincial borders themselves (which are altered from time to time to reflect demographic changes). The source of the above has a bunch of other interesting depictions of the results.

For getting a feel for the population weight of each region, I like this map used by The Marmot's Hole in this informative post (with Park support in red and Moon support in yellow)...

... and it reminds me a bit of this map depicting how Obama strategy in 2008 focuses on people in urban areas at the expense of rural areas, even in blue states:


Saturday, December 22, 2012

Bob Dole pays his respects to Daniel Inouye

I find this news photo touching in so many ways. On the surface, it is one lion of the US Senate paying his respects to another, recently departed, lion of the US Senate. It was taken as Senator Daniel Inouye, who would have marked his fiftieth anniversary in the Senate next month, lay in state in the US Capitol, an honor reserved for fewer than three dozen people throughout US history.

But this photo is much more than that. These two men had great respect and friendship with each other in their decades of service in Washington, even though they were on opposite sides of the aisle (Bob Dole, a Republican from Kansas, and the late Daniel Inouye a Democrat from Hawaii). This is something we should never let be relegated to a bygone era: Both parties need to end the rancor and reach out to each other as Americans first and members of their party as secondary or tertiary components of themselves.

Finally, these two men shared much more. Both lost a limb fighting in World War II. Their sacrifice, and that of hundreds of thousands of dead and millions more who risked life and limb, is something that should never be forgotten.

(The only way this picture could be improved is if Senator John McCain, another Republican friend of Senator Inouye, who was held captive for years by the Viet Cong during the Vietnam War, were in the view.)


Jib-Jab wishes you a 2013!

They haven't been as good the past couple of years or so, but this year's Jib-Jab Year in Review made me laugh out loud a couple times.

Oh, and Psy manages to make an appearance at about 0:51.


Park Geunhye speaking English back in the 1970s

Take heart, non-native English speakers who sometimes get nervous with the language and make halting speeches when you have to say something in public. Because some day you may be president. (HT to kangaji)

I thought this was a quite charming little video, though the time frame is a dark one. This was early 1974 or prior, when she was no older than twenty-one, and not long afterward Park's mother would be assassinated, followed five years later by her father. It was a time of huge economic leaps forward in South Korea, but also one of tremendous political turmoil and social upheaval.

One wonders how much the English has stuck with her in the four decades since. I also wonder the same about her French skills (she studied in France for a bit, but came home after her mother was killed) and her Japanese ability (her father had been an officer in the Imperial Japanese army and spoke Japanese fairly well, and reportedly continued to do so among his fellow former Japanese officers, on occasion, when he was at the Blue House).

It's interesting that the incoming and out-going two presidents have had a fairly strong Japanese connection, with current President Lee Myungbak having been born in the Osaka area, where he lived until about the age of five. Park's father was downright pro-Japanese compared to his predecessor, Syngman Rhee (who loathed the Imperial Japanese authorities and their successors) and modeled South Korea's post-war development strategy largely on the Japanese economic model, fully utilizing Korean-Japanese connections that were allowed to flourish again after the 1965 Treaty on Basic Relations.

If someone can get me a video of President-elect Park speaking French or Japanese, I'd be happy to post it.


Lee Hyori has a message for nonvoters

(Dear God, please make "Lee Hyori has a message for [insert name of group you'd like to playfully insult here]" the next big Internet meme.)


Friday, December 21, 2012

Thursday, December 20, 2012

Some thoughts on Park Geunhye's presidential victory

Here are some thoughts I've had on Park's victory:
  • Park will be inaugurated on February 25, 2013 and will still be president when the 2018 Winter Olympics come to town (Pyongchang, that is). In fact, her successor will take over on the day the Olympics close. It could be quite interesting to have a presidential inauguration going on in the midst of an Olympiad. 
  • Park's mother was assassinated in 1974 and the same happened to her father in 1979. If I were Ms Park, I'd have a kajillion bodyguards around me and put a metal detector in the Blue House that even my closest allies would have to pass through. 
  • Park was (I believe) the first person in Korea's democratic era to win the presidency with an outright majority (something, by the way, Clinton and Bush43 were unable accomplish in 1992, 1996, and 2000). While I'm happy this finally happened, I think South Korea should consider adopting run-off elections for the top two candidates if neither manages to get at least 50.0% of the vote. More on that later.
  • "M" from Kansai noted that this (i.e., having a female leader) is yet one more thing where Japan is falling behind Korea. (I long thought someone like Takako Doi of Japan's Socialist Party would beat Korea on this point by heading a coalition government.)
  • Park will not be Korea's first female ruler, since there have been queens who headed the government. However, by my accounting (and Sanshinsŏn backs this up), she is the first female ruler since 654 AD, when Queen Chindŏk was on the Shilla throne. Chindŏk worked with Kim Yushin to strengthen Shilla's defenses and improve relations with T'ang China, which laid the groundwork for the unification of the three kingdoms (Shilla, Paekche, and Koguryŏ). Will Park be as influential nearly fourteen centuries later?
  • While it's notable that Park is the ROK's first female president, some suggest she's part of a trend whereby conservative countries end up with female rulers only if they are attached to or associated with powerful male politicos. Park, of course, is the daughter of a long-time ruler who is seen as the architect of Korea's modern development. Her predecessors in Asia are the likes of Corazon Aquino, the widow of a charismatic Filipino opposition candidate who was assassinated by the Marcos regime, and Benazir Bhutto, the daughter of a former prime minister. Even in the United States, some would put Hillary Clinton (possibly the next US president) in the same category. But is it really fair to hold this against them? Many male politicians also ride the coattails of someone in their family or circle who had power. You may recall that Bush43, for example, is the son of Bush41. 
Syngman Rhee and
his wife Francesca
  • Park apparently professes no particular religious faith, although her father was a Buddhist. South Korea is an interesting place where there is a relatively high degree of religious pluralism and diversity but a relatively high degree of religious tolerance (and no, it's not perfect and problem-free). Past presidents have been Protestant (Kim Youngsam, current president Lee Myungbak, Syngman Rhee), Roman Catholic (Kim Daejung), and Buddhist (Park Chunghee, Roh Taewoo, Chun Doohwan), a reflection of the faiths themselves. President Lee has been criticized for pushing his faith onto others in government and even in the military in a way seen unacceptable by his predecessors; with Park the pagan in the Blue House, the government may go back to being secular and non-affiliated, which to me would bolster Korea's religious tolerance. (Emperor Kojong reportedly considered converting to Christianity, until he realized it would mean giving up his "wives" and other concubines.)
  • Born in 1952, Park is the first ROK president to be born after the Korean War began (June 25, 1950). She is only the second president to be born since liberation from Japanese Imperial rule (August 15, 1945). The other Was Roh Moohyun (born in 1946). Lee Myungbak was not only born while the Japanese were still in control of Korea, he was actually born in Japan and lived there until the age of five (1946) when his family resettled in South Korea. 
  • Unless she adopts, the Park political dynasty ends with Park Geunhye. 
With a margin of just under four percentage points, lawmaker Park Geunhye has won the presidential election and will take office in February. This marks a major achievement in South Korea, which has finally elected a female president while also choosing the daughter of a former dictator.

I'll have more on this later, but for now this is what CNN had to say:
The three major broadcasters in South Korea all projected a win for Park, the 60-year-old daughter of a former dictator who heads the governing conservative Saenuri party.

Park will assume office in February 2013, in a country grappling with income inequality, angst over education and employment prospects for its youth, and strained relations with North Korea.

South Korea is also a strategic Western ally and the fourth-largest economy in Asia.

"I hope the next president can put what the people want and how the country can develop before the interests of their own party," said Yong Sung-hwa, who voted in the morning.

As in many other elections around the world, the economy is the No. 1 issue for South Korean voters. Though the Asian country has fared far better than other countries, including the United States, during the economic crisis, its export-led economy has still felt the pinch.
That probably pretty much sums it up.


South Korea elects first female president

Barbara Demick has an article in the Los Angeles Times that provides the story of Park Geunhye's election in a way about as accessible as possible to an American audience.

Check out this article from LA Times:
SEOUL - Park Geun-hye, the daughter of the strongman who ruled South Korea for much of the 1960s and 1970s, was elected Wednesday as the country's first female president after a divisive, hotly contested election.
To read the full article, click on this link or copy and paste it into your browser:,0,5797959.story

This succinct email was sent from my iPad. 

Wednesday, December 19, 2012

South Korea election 'very tight'

South Korea electing a female president would be the greatest
achievement for female empowerment since the successful
re-branding of cougars. 

It's 1:30 am in paradise and time to go to bed. I guess I'll have to wait until tomorrow morning to find out who the next president is.

BBC is reporting that Park Geunhye has a slim lead, but as with many other things going on with Korean politics starting to mimic American politics, I learned from Florida in 2000 never to count on anything until the last hanging chad is pulled.

Park has won.

One good thing from a Moon Jae-in victory would be that ajŏshi
will be emboldened to "go gray" naturally. This would, however,
be a huge blow to the shoe polish industry. 


Japanese rightwinger to be jailed for Korea hate campaign

As with any country, we probably shouldn't look at the judicial system as a single entity, but it looks as if the Japanese courts are trying to redeem themselves for the in humane decision that a number of wartime workers had indeed been ripped off of their wages only to turn around and award them 99¢ (99 yen, to be specific).

What he's really pissed off about
is that the likes of Kim Taehee
would probably never give him
the time of day.
Here we see an anti-Korean activist get a year in prison for his disruptive campaign against Kim Taehee, whom he derided as undermining Japan's claim to Tokto (Takeshima in Japan, also spelled Dokdo in Korea).

From The Japan Times:
The Osaka District Court sentenced a nationalist to a year in prison Tuesday over a hate campaign against a pharmaceutical firm which had a South Korean actress as its public face.

Hitoshi Nishimura, 44, and three other men barged into the headquarters of Rohto Pharmaceutical in the city of Osaka in March and angrily demanded to know why the company was using Kim Tae Hee in its commercials, the court found.

Nishimura claimed Kim was an anti-Japanese activist who has been involved in a campaign asserting South Korea's sovereignty over Takeshima, the disputed islets in the Sea of Japan controlled by South Korea.

In footage of the confrontation posted on the Internet, Nishimura rails against company officials and claims to represent "angry Japanese throughout the country."

Nishimura will be imprisoned for one year for using threatening behavior, according to the ruling. The website of a rightwing group to which he is affiliated said he plans to appeal.
The article goes further about the general mood in Japan since the latest flare-up of the Tokto-Takeshima brouhaha:
Incidents of anti-Korean harassment by rightwingers reportedly rose after South Korean President Lee Myung Bak visited Takeshima in August.

Small but vocal campaigns have been organized against broadcasters that show South Korean dramas.

NHK's decision not to feature any South Korean singers during its "Kohaku" yearend music program is generally linked with the deteriorating bilateral ties, although the popularity of the K-Pop music, led by such groups as Girls' Generation and KARA, is still huge in Japan.
This is not the Tokto bee man but
some other bee man. Apparently
there are a lot of people who like
to cover themselves in bees. 
This case and the other information in the article underscore a point I've long made: While Korea bashers would have us believe that only Koreans care about the Tokto issue, the fact is there are plenty of Japanese who get their panties in a wad over the islets, and some if them are only a tad less crazed than Tokto Bee Man.


Tuesday, December 18, 2012

Is Mt Paektusan ground zero for the end of the world on 12.21.2012?

Robert Neff at The Marmot's Hole linked to this yahoo's Yahoo! post, about scenarios for the Mayan end of the world this Friday. It's goofy piece, declaring that "die-hard Christians believe that [12/21] will mark the rapture and the beginning of the tribulation" (they don't) and stating that "North Korea is insane as they've ever been, with Kim Jong Il going on daily temper tantrums" (he's been dead for a year and his body is now a tourist attraction).

But it was the mention of the Yellowstone Caldera blowing to smithereens (that's also what you'd call figurines of The Smiths) that got me thinking: What if they've got the wrong doomsday volcano?

Loyal readers of Monster Island (both of you) will remember a lengthy piece I did in May on the prospect of an Earth-changing catastrophic eruption of Mt Paektusan, which is overdue both for its once-a-century eruption and its once-a-millennium cataclysm.

Whatever happens, I'll be in the air when it all goes down. It's purely coincidental, but I'll be flying to California on 12/21. And if the events of the movie 2012 come to pass, a jet five miles up in the sky is the place to be.


Kim Jong-il lying-in-state caption contest

We haven't had one of these in a while, and this is just begging for it.

I already started back at this newsy post with "I'm so ronery."

I've got more: "Forget Ri Sŏlchu, that's a baby bump."

"North Korea launches Dear Leader™ Brand memory pillows."

"Got silk?"

"Look up toward Heaven all you want, you ain't never gonna get there."


North Korea expecting a young’un?

Make that an even younger Ŭn. Get it? Get it? I'm here all week.

Much of the global media is a buzz with speculation that North Korean leader Kim Jong-un's wife may be expecting. This just bolsters my speculation that the Young General and his brood are being given (and are seeking out) the "royal treatment."

The speculation is based primarily on photographs of Ri Sŏlchu, which seem to show a baby bump. The problem with this, of course, is that anybody wearing a flowing hanbok looks pregnant.


North Korea get to new tourist attraction

If you can't convince Disney to open up a themepark in your country, try the next best thing: embalm one of your leaders, a notorious man hated by most everyone the world over, and put his stuffed body on display.

I'm so ronery.

That's exactly what they did with Kim Jong-il, along with the trappings of his rule, including the elevator shoes (I kid you not).
North Korea unveiled the embalmed body of Kim Jong Il, still in his trademark khaki jumpsuit, on the anniversary of his death Monday as mourning mixed with pride over a recent satellite launch that was a long-held goal of the late authoritarian leader.

Kim lies in state a few floors below his father, national founder Kim Il Sung, in the Kumsusan mausoleum, the cavernous former presidential palace. Kim Jong Il is presented lying beneath a red blanket, a spotlight shining on his face in a room suffused in red.

Wails echoed through the chilly hall as a group of North Korean women sobbed into the sashes of their traditional Korean dresses as they bowed before his body. The hall bearing the glass coffin was opened to select visitors – including The Associated Press – for the first time since his death.

North Korea also unveiled Kim's yacht and his armored train carriage, where he is said to have died. Among the personal belongings featured in the mausoleum are the parka, sunglasses and pointy platform shoes he famously wore in the last decades of his life. A MacBook Pro lay open on his desk.
All the Pyongyang Chamber of Commerce had to say was this: "Top that, Orlando!"

(And I suspect they will, just as soon as they can figure out a way to make Walt's cryogenic chamber fit in with those other bits of Americana on Main Street. I suppose it could be one of the memorabilia if they were ever to open a Coldstone franchise next to Great Moments With Mr Lincoln.)


Dance Dance Consumption

I don't know if this is truly newsworthy, but I've seen this pop up in several places. A South Korean Coke machine is hooked up to a Microsoft Kinnect, and is doling out free Cokes if people do 2PM dance moves.

I don't know if the dance routine includes Park Jaebum's signature phrase, "Korea is so gay."


Sunday, December 16, 2012

Samsung is king of chaebol land

Chico Harlan of the Washington Post has an article entitled "the Republic of Samsung," focusing on how ubiquitous (yep, there's that word I like to use) Samsung is in Korea.

Samsung didn't much like the characterization, and so one of their own gave a fairly lengthy reply in the Letters pages.

This succinct email was sent from my iPhone (possibly with the help of Siri voice recognition, so please excuse any weird typos). 

Friday, December 14, 2012

Samsung chip plant caused woman's breast cancer, S. Korean gov't agency rules

This could be quite a game-changer in Korea.

This succinct email was sent from my iPad.

Who to believe? Who to believe?

Jean Lee of AP's Pyongyang Bureau

I've slightly mocked the over-seriousness of the reaction to North Korea's latest satellite-on-a-missile launch or nuclear detonation down in some mine, either of which would only really be a problem if they can actually succeed. And even then it's not entirely clear how much more of a rogue state they can become (the evildoers who would want their missiles already have other potential sellers and it would be the nukes the Norks already supposedly have that would be the true danger).

But what's also somewhat amusing (to me, anyway, but I'm easily amused) is how the media is reacting to it. Last night, I went to bed reading an Associated Press piece in the Orange County Register saying that South Korea has given a tentative bill of good health to the satellite that is orbiting Earth and most likely broadcasting the Great Leader's favorite revolutionary movies to any alien spaceship passing by:
A satellite North Korea launched aboard a long-range rocket is orbiting normally, South Korea said Thursday, following a defiant liftoff that drew a wave of international condemnation.

Washington and its allies are pushing for punishment over the launch they say is nothing but a test of banned ballistic missile technology.

The launch of the three-stage rocket — similar in design to a model capable of carrying a nuclear-tipped warhead as far as California — raises the stakes in the international standoff over North Korea's expanding atomic arsenal. As Pyongyang refines its technology, its next step may be conducting its third nuclear test, experts warn.

South Korea's Defense Ministry said the satellite launched by the rocket is orbiting normally at a speed of 7.6 kilometers (4.7 miles) per second, though it's not known what mission it is performing. North Korean space officials say the satellite would be used to study crops and weather patterns.

Defense Ministry Spokesman Kim Min-seok said it usually takes about two weeks to determine whether a satellite works succesfully after liftoff. He cited data from the North American Aerospace Defense Command.
Okay, so I made up the part about ET (or did I?). But AP themselves seem to be caught up in their own happy ending. Granted that the article does state that the Kwangmyŏng-3 satellite is not out of the space woods yet, but it's a generally hunky-dory piece, authored by the AP's man in Pyongyang, Jean Lee, about whom there are some serious questions regarding a quid pro quo between the AP and DPRK trading access for good press with a sprinkle of propagandizing.

Contrast it with the NBC News take:
The object that North Korea sent into space on Wednesday appears to be “tumbling out of control” as it orbits the earth, U.S. officials told NBC News.

The officials said that it is indeed some kind of space vehicle, but they still haven’t been able to determine exactly what the satellite is supposed to do.

In a statement, the White House said the rocket launch was a highly provocative act that threatens regional security and violates U.N. resolutions.

The United Nations Security Council on Wednesday condemned the launch, calling it a "clear violation" of U.N. resolutions. A spokesman for U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon said he "deplores" the launch.
I remember when "provocative" meant sexy. Missiles shot in the air, not provocative to me. Something explosive happening deep in a hole... well maybe.

Anyhoo, NBC News also reports that China is upset:
North Korea had warned of a possible delay to the launch for "technical reasons," although there was speculation that the real reason was political, that China was applying pressure behind the scenes. After all, Beijing had expressed "deep concern" over the test, and that is pretty strong for China, the North's closest diplomatic and economic ally.

So Wednesday's test would seem to be an extraordinary snub to China, when it might be assumed that North Korea's new young leader, Kim Jong Un, would want to get off on a good footing with China's new Communist Party chief, Xi Jinping.

North Korea watchers have been speculating that Kim is angling for an early audience with Xi, which so far has been denied.

Launching a rocket in defiance of Beijing would hardly seem a great way of achieving it.

Beijing's initial response was a masterful piece of diplomatic contortionism -- expressing "regret" and calling on Pyongyang to abide by U.N. Security Council resolutions, but at the same time making clear that China isn't about to back sanctions against the North.

A Foreign Ministry spokesman called for a resumption of six-party talks, even though these have been widely discredited, and called for "all sides" to act calmly.

There was anger, dismay and some surprise as North Korea launched a rocket in defiance of its critics abroad. NBC's Ian Williams reports from Beijing.

International talks are a big favorite of Beijing, which likes the role of diplomatic ringmaster.
More than being ringmaster, Beijing loves its ring of satellite states and buffer territories: Tibet, Xinjiang, Inner Mongolia, and North Korea. Still, maybe it's time for China to consider the Kushibo Plan and help us turn the lights out on the Kim Dynasty regime. Wise up, already, they are slipping from your control, PRC leaders, and it's high time you realize that.


Thursday, December 13, 2012

I think we've seen this one before: US seeks coalition to rein in North Korea (again) after they launched missile (again)

You know what would be a cushy job? Being a journalist whose beat is North Korea. There are three reasons for this.

First, no one really knows what's going on up there (user tip: that includes the North Koreans), so anything you say can be considered true until it's verifiably false, which it probably won't be until long after you're retired and living on Kauai.

Second, you can use as filler any picture of Kim Jong-un looking silly or doing something that seems unusual for the dictator of one of the world's cruelest regimes.

And finally, you can cover about 95% of all North Korea-related news items with just a couple dozen story templates and keep recycling them over and over again.

Things like this story from the Los Angeles Times, which talks about how the United States is worried/concerned/alarmed/disappointed about the latest missile launch and/or nuclear test and is seeking a coalition of Seoul, Tokyo, Moscow, and Beijing to rein in the rogue state.

See if you can spot the reruns:
Obama administration officials said they intend to put more energy into working with other major powers, especially China, to pressure impoverished North Korea with new sanctions following Pyongyang's defiant launch of a long-range rocket.

U.S. officials huddled at the United Nations Security Council to try to work out an agreement on new penalties that could generate change by the government in North Korea, which is already the most heavily sanctioned country in the world.

The major powers may seek to further pare North Korea's limited financial ties with the outside world and impose more intrusive inspections on its sea and air cargo to prevent proliferation of weapons and other illegal goods, officials said.

"North Korea will only truly strengthen itself by abiding by international norms, living up to its commitments and international obligations, and working to feed its citizens, to educate its children, and to win the trust of its neighbors," said Tommy Vietor, spokesman for the U.S. National Security Council.
I've made it clear I'm tickled pink that they keep firing off their missiles and detonating their nukes, and I think we should goad them into doing it some more.

Meanwhile, although I think going after North Korea's banking activities could end up being an effective implementation of Plan B, I can't help but fall back on the conclusion that nothing can be done about North Korea (except by the North Koreans themselves, or possibly by China [see the bottom half of this post]).

(What's new this time around is that the satellite aboard the three-stage missile really does seem to be in orbit for a change.)


In China, social divisions are written in a little red booklet

Here's an interesting LAT article on the hukou system still prominent in China that is meant to keep populations under geographic and political control but especially serves to keep marginalized those who choose to buck the system and seek work outside their literal station. 

North Korea has a similar system, though its enforcement is much stricter. 

From the LAT:

BEIJING — For millions of Chinese, the difference between a life of struggle and one of opportunity comes down to a little red booklet known as the hukou .

To read the full article, click on this link or copy and paste it into your browser:,0,3483388.story

This succinct email was sent from my iPad. 


At 12:00 on 12.12.12, my final final was fin (for this semester, anyway).

Just a thought...


... wouldn't it be horrible if it turned out that the Mayans were slightly dyslexic, and the world was actually set to end on 12.12 instead of 12.21?

And how would be formulate a 2x2 representation of the cohort study designed to evaluate the end of humanity?

I guess it's appropriate to link this May 2011 post to this one, especially since it's one of the most popular on this site (you can probably guess why).


Wednesday, December 12, 2012

North Korea shoots off another missile, with a trajectory over Okinawa

Why should we care at all if North Korea keeps shooting off missiles and blowing up its nuclear arsenal deep in its own tunnels? We should be applauding this, because it means that they are using up all of their weapons in a bid to get our attention.

North Korea says it is a bid to launch a satellite, but Japanese says it's a missile and it flew over their territory, and this just pisses them off. 

What it does is emboldens the right wing of Japan, which conveniently gets to renew North Korea as a bogeyman. Actually, I sometimes think that's exactly what the North Korean regime wants. Having enemies legitimizes it. So, what should we do? Just say ho-hum, and leave it at that.

This succinct email was sent from my iPhone (possibly with the help of Siri voice recognition, so please excuse any weird typos). 

From: CNN Breaking News

North Korea has launched a long-range rocket, according to the governments of South Korea and Japan.

The Japanese government said the rocket passed over Okinawa. The planned launch had been widely condemned by countries including the United States and South Korea, which say it's cover for testing ballistic missile technology. The North insists the launch is aimed at putting a scientific satellite in orbit.

Tuesday, December 11, 2012

Psy and his peeps to earn $7.9 million for YouTube video alone

His mind-blowing success is thanks to YouTube and their ad payment system, which is brining in about thirteen times more than Psy has earned from online music sales in South Korea.

That's about a cool million for every 100 million views, so I think I've earned the guy at least a couple dimes.

"Gangnam Style" has been viewed 880 million times so far, and that is expected to grow despite the recent controversy over Psy's angry actions toward the US military in 2002 and 2004 following the uproar over two middle school girls killed by a US armored vehicle driven by sleep-deprived soldiers with inoperable communications equipment and, later, the beheading of a South Korean national in Iraq.

This succinct email was sent from my iPad.

Samsung Galaxy S IV phone reportedly to have unbreakable screen

In the battle between Apple and Samsung, this could be a real game changer.

(I personally have had no problems with iPhone screens, with nary a scratch after four years of use without a protective cover, but who knows what would happen to it were I to run over it with my car 

Check out this article from LA Times:

Samsung's rumored flagship phone, the Galaxy S IV, may feature a new technology that will make its screen "unbreakable."

To read the full article, click on this link or copy and paste it into your browser:,0,3441309.story

This succinct email was sent from my iPad. 

South Korea's War Against Online Porn Is 'Like Shoveling Snow In A Blizzard'

The Associated Press has an article highlighting South Korea's effort to deal with online porn. Good luck at being any better at that than any parent is. 

War Against Online Porn Is 'Like Shoveling Snow In A Blizzard'

SEOUL, South Korea (AP) — Moon Tae-Hwa stares at his computer, dizzy and nauseous from the hours of porn he's viewed online while his wife and children slept. He feels no shame — only a righteous sense of mission.

"I feel like I'm cleaning up dirty things," the devout Christian and family counselor said.

Moon is among the most successful members of the "Nuri Cops" (roughly "net cops"), a squad of nearly 800 volunteers who help government censors by patrolling the Internet for pornography in their spare time.

Unlike most developed nations, pornography is illegal in South Korea, though it remains easy for its tech-savvy population to find. More than 90 percent of South Korea's homes have high-speed Internet access, and more than 30 million of its 50 million people own smartphones.

"It's like shoveling snow in a blizzard," Moon conceded.

But while there is no chance the government will wipe out porn, it also shows no sign of giving up the fight. In fact, it has responded to several recent high-profile sex crimes with a fresh crackdown.

More than 6,400 people accused of producing, selling and posting pornography online were arrested over a six-month period ending in late October.

"Obscene materials and harmful information that can be easily accessed on the Internet are singled out as one cause inciting sex crimes," President Lee Myung-bak said in a radio address in September.

Free-speech advocates disagree with the government's unrelenting stance.

"It's a reign of terror against sex," Ma Kwang Soo, a Korean literature professor at Seoul's Yonsei University and author of a book that South Korea banned because of its sexual content. "No country in the world has ever reported that banning porn results in a drop in sex crimes."

Reported sex crimes have risen sharply over the past decade in South Korea, though researchers with the state-run Korean Institute of Criminology have said they believe the biggest reason is that victims have become more willing to report abuse.

The institute said more than 18,000 people were arrested on rape charges in 2010, up from less than 7,000 in 2000. Sex crimes against minors, meanwhile, more than quintupled, from about 180 cases in 2000 to about 1,000 in 2010, according to the Ministry of Gender Equality and Family.

Critics of South Korea's stance note that when it comes to child pornography, which is banned virtually everywhere, the country's laws have been relatively soft. Possessing child porn brings a maximum one-year prison sentence, and until recently had been punishable by just a fine.

South Korea has a history of censorship nurtured by decades of military-backed rule that ended only in the late 1980s. It also has a large and active conservative Christian population and a deep-rooted strain of Confucian morality. Yet it has also become one of the world's most technologically advanced countries.

Censorship of movies, songs and news media has gradually eased since South Korea achieved democracy, but the government blocks foreign websites containing pornography and shuts down those operating within South Korea.

The job seems endless, however, so police turn to the Nuri Cops, who include university students, information technology workers, professors and housewives.

"Police officers can't look at all the obscene material online, so their role, which is reporting illegal sites that need to be blocked, is very important," senior police officer Lee Byeong-gui said of the volunteers.

Over two weeks in August, the squad reported more than 8,200 cases of online porn during a police-organized contest.

Police say they have recently shut down 37 websites, and another 134 sites are under investigation on porn-related charges. Authorities also deleted many porn materials from other websites, though Moon said much of the porn re-emerged in slightly different form days after being removed.

Some Nuri Cops acknowledge that they are fighting an increasingly difficult battle against a relentless enemy. They've also faced complaints from their sometimes baffled spouses and friends, and endured venom from anonymous online porn enthusiasts.

"They've called me the enemy of South Korean men," Bae Young Ho, a Nuri Cop who works as a real estate broker, said of his online critics. He said he found about 5,000 malicious messages attacking him in the comments section of an online story about his work.

The volunteers also find the work itself to be disturbing.

"It's easy to find smut on the Internet, but it's difficult for me to watch," Moon said in an interview at his Seoul home. "It's disgusting and it bothers me because the images I see linger in my head for so long."

Moon, who was ranked the top anti-porn monitor in 2010 and second this year, said he and other Nuri Cops keep going because they feel that society benefits from their work.

Opponents of pornography point to several recent horrifying sex crimes as reasons to try to stamp it out.

A man was sentenced to life in prison this year for strangling a woman after a failed rape attempt, then chopping her body into 280 pieces that he hid in plastic bags at his home south of Seoul. The man told investigators he watched pornographic movies while cutting up the victim's body.

Another man got a life sentence for strangling a 10-year-old girl living in his neighborhood after a failed rape attempt. He was found to have dozens of child porn films in his computer.

South Korean law punishes those who distribute, sell or display obscene materials on the Internet with up to one year in prison. There's no punishment for watching or possessing cyberporn.

The National Assembly recently passed a law raising — from seven years to 10 years — the maximum sentence for distributing, selling or displaying child pornography for commercial purposes. Legislators also made possessing child pornography punishable by up to a year in prison; previously, the maximum punishment had been a fine of 20 million won (about $18,500).

The prime minister's office says it will seek to have all movie download sites and smartphones used by minors equipped with anti-porn filtering systems. Anti-porn campaigners also want authorities promote sex-education programs aimed at countering the effects of pornography among children.

Some South Koreans believe the government's approach should be more nuanced. Lee Bong Han, a former police officer who teaches at Deajeon University, said it's time for South Korea to legalize less extreme and nonviolent pornography, which he believes can be used in clinics that treat sex problems.

Ma, the professor who advocates for porn legalization, doubts that such changes will come anytime soon. He sparked a national debate in the early 1990s after authorities arrested him and banned his book "Happy Sara," about a female university student exploring her sexual freedom.

"It's been 20 years since I was arrested ... but South Korean culture hasn't democratized yet," Ma said.

"Happy Sara," he added, is still banned.


This succinct email was sent from my iPhone (possibly with the help of Siri voice recognition, so please excuse any weird typos). 

Monday, December 10, 2012

Maybe 95 should work for 538

I'd forgotten all about this, but apparently back in early October, a whole month before the election, I'd accurately predicted the eventual Electoral College vote.

Sunday, December 9, 2012

"Does South Korean Rapper PSY Hate America?"

So far I have avoided writing about Psy's supposed anti-Americanism (see here, hereherehere, and especially here, where Bobby McGill may see it as his ticket out of this one-horseriding dance town). It's not because of a lack of interest, but simply because of a lack of time (this is finals week and I am in Hawaii because I am a graduate student).

I provide this news link I found at a conservative website, however, because it probably better represents how Psy's supposed anti-Americanism from eight to ten years ago is being presented to an American public that is not so familiar with the South Korean attitudes toward the US military, or global attitudes toward the American military in general.

It is slightly misleading in how it present the facts, saying the "fu¢k Americans" song is Psy's own work even though he didn't write it, and it fails to mention the deaths of the two middle school girls that prompted the orgy of anti-USFK sentiment that erupted in 2002.

Is Psy swinging at
an imaginary American?
The way a lot of people in the K-blogosphere have been writing about these revelations, they seem to think that as soon as people learn about Psy's angry activities from 2002 and 2004, everyone in America will turn on Psy and his career will be over. Others have suggested that he deserves to have his career in America finished, but that many Americans simply won't pay attention or won't care.

My own take was a little bit different from this. I think that when people read about what he was responding to (i.e., the death of those two middle school girls and the beheading of a South Korean working for the US military in Iraq), his actions would be somewhat forgiven, particularly if he was adept at explaining and apologizing for his behavior. So it's notable that the article I linked, which I'm guessing may be typical, removes some of that context that mitigates Psy's actions.

But the apology issued by Psy is almost exactly the kind of apology he should have issued about his actions from a decade ago: Admit it, explain it a bit, condemn it, apologize for it, and move on.

Now don't get me wrong, I think that the lyrics of that song are absolutely deplorable...
“싸이 rap: 이라크 포로를 고문해 댄 씨발양년놈들과
PSY rap: The Motherf–king Western B-tch Bastards who tortured the Iraqi prisoners and
고문 하라고 시킨 개 씨발 양년놈들에
The dog-f-cker western b-tch bastards who ordered the torture
딸래미 애미 며느리 애비 코쟁이 모두 죽여
Their daughters, mothers, daughters in law, and fathers, the white n-ggers (Big noser=white n-gger) kill them all.
아주 천천히 죽여 고통스럽게 죽여”
Kill them very slowly. Kill them painfully.
Goading or boasting about killing innocent family members of US military personnel is inexcusable, even in a song (even if only directed at the family members of US military personnel who have killed or tortured). When I thought he himself had written those lyrics, I was really quite angry. That crosses a line that shouldn't be crossed (kinda like when Tea Partiers call for Obama to be killed). However, when I read that he was simply singing a song written for and performed by another band, I was slightly less angry about it. Slightly.

But it was a long time ago, and people do change. Still, we have to answer for our actions even if they were eight or 10 years ago (the problems faced by pop star 2PM come to mind). I think Psy has responded reasonably for his inappropriate behavior at what was a very emotional and angry time for a lot of South Koreans, for good reasons.

What I think is also interesting is the way that many people in the K-blogosphere seem to be acting themselves in light of Psy's past behavior. Some are downright gleeful that Psy is finally going to be taken down, as if he is some evil entity that deserves to be destroyed. Indeed, Psy may seem to have been a bit too lucky in his outrageous fortune, and for them these decade-old revelations are not the cause of his comeuppance, but the means.

Many commenter in the K-blogosphere, on the other hand, remember all too well how they themselves bore the brunt of the anti-Americanism that erupted in 2002 as so many Koreans were so incensed at the US military over the deaths of those two schoolgirls, and that regularly spilled over on many people who happened to like they might be an American. (I myself was not immune to this: I was the target of a mini campaign to remove me from my job when I said on a radio news program that the wrong USFK personnel were being prosecuted and, were they to be found guilty in a US military court, their punishment could be considerably harsher than if they were found guilty in a civilian Korean court.)

That Psy was part of this movement that led to so many foreigners getting dirty looks, angry taunts, and even threats of physical violence or physical violence itself, makes Psy's actions unforgivable to them, even a decade later. Taking him down is just desserts for what he and others did. And if they can stop the K-pop movement in its tracks, all the better.

And while I also understand that sentiment (the Caucasian girl I was seeing at the time was downright frightened to take the subway), the general reaction to the two middle school girls deaths is also a disappointing head scratcher. The general idea in the K-blogosphere is that those girls brought death on themselves for walking how they were walking and where they were walking, as if they had some real control over what was going on.

My read on the incident is quite different. The unit that ran over them was operating with very little sleep on a narrow road with broken radio communication equipment. When another line of tanks had to pass them, one of the tanks lurched to the right and up the shoulder where those girls had already gone. This was an accident waiting to happen, but the people least responsible for the incident were the two girls themselves. Yet, over and over and over again, you can read commenters and bloggers talking as if the girls themselves were responsible for dying, some even calling them stupid and idiotic or deserving to die.

And that sentiment — that USFK is not really to blame despite the clusterfu¢k of mistakes that they had made prior to the accident — is inextricably tied up in the cheering for Psy's possible demise. In the end, Psy is being blamed for much more than he is actually responsible for, and that means that forgiveness is far less likely from that crowd.

Many of those people have loathed the idea that K-pop was popular at all, especially some goofy song like "Gangnam Style" that even I mocked from time to time. But the real test will come: whether or not the American public will pay attention to this, and whether or not they will be forgiving.

It is by no means a slamdunk case. A lot of Americans themselves were angry about the Iraq War at the time, and later about all the brutal deaths and the torture at Abu Ghraib, and a lot of them might now read about what happened to the two middle school girls and even what happened with the beheaded Korean missionary, and consequently they may be a lot more understanding of Psy than the K-pop haters would like to admit it's possible. Frankly, if the American right-wingers really do run with this, it might push people in the middle and on the left in the opposite direction.

And thus, in the end, it might all be a wash. This revelations of Psy's past might have little to do with whatever trajectory he was going to otherwise take, whether it was becoming a one-hit wonder in the United States or starting a career that might actually take him somewhere, even if not very far.


Saturday, December 8, 2012

Cook: Macs in America, Samsung should invent its own stuff
(Bonus: Should you buy an iPhone 5?)

The big dig at Samsung
Over at NBC News's Rock Center, anchor Brian Williams interviews Apple's new chief, Tim Cook. There were teasers on NBC Nightly News, with two Samsung-related items prompting me to write about it.

First, there was Mr Williams referencing this commercial...

... and asking Mr Cook whether Samsung is "going thermonuclear" with its suggestion that Apple products are now for pensioners and mindless Macfans, whereas Samsung users are the ones who truly are cool and far less pushy about it.

That was a delicious dig against Apple itself (full disclosure: I love Apple products, but I'm not in love with them), but so was Mr Cook's response that he loves competition but "we want people to invent their own stuff."

Touché, Tim.

Macs in America
The same interview had Mr Cook announcing that existing lines of Macs will soon be made in America (see also here), despite what he calls a lack of a properly educated manufacturing labor force. Still, with all the nationalist pressure to return Chinese jobs back to American shores, I guess Tim Cook thought it was time to trade meth-heads in Longhua, China, for meth-heads in Lousville.

Frankly, this is something I'd like to see South Korean companies do as well. I think it is very precarious for the likes of Samsung, LG, Daewoo, etc., to rely so heavily on Chinese labor. I think more manufacturing could be done in South Korea (and, were reunification to happen anytime soon, in North Korea), but if it has to be done overseas, I think Vietnam, India, and a few other places in the Americas and elsewhere in Asia would be a more balanced approach than having so much concentrated in China.

Is an iPhone5 worth upgrading to?
And on another note, with the iPhone5 finally landing on South Korea shores, should you buy an iPhone5? Or more to the point, should you scrap your iPhone 4 or 4S for an iPhone5?

Since arriving in Hawaii in 2006, I've had four phones: my initial LG flip phone I purchased in 2006, the iPhone 3G I replaced that with in mid-2008, the iPhone4 I bought in June 2010, and this year's iPhone5 that I got mailed to me on launch day in September. Note that I did not upgrade from a 3G to a 3Gs, nor from an 4 to a 4S. That would be excessive. (I tend to replace phones about once every two years and computers every three to four years.)

If you are still using a 3G or 3GS (or, inexplicably, an original iPhone), then the answer is a resounding yes. The high-resolution retina display alone is worth the price of admission.

If you are using an iPhone4, as I was, then the big advantages are the larger screen and use of Siri. I tend to watch Hulu and Netflix on my iPhone, but that is something you can't do in South Korea (at least, I was unable to do it the last two times I was there). If you have some other way to watch movies or television, the added real estate makes a big difference, largely because the screen is longer rather than wider, so that when it's flipped into landscape mode, it fills up both dimensions.

Siri does a pretty good job of answering queries and yielding good results. It also does very good voice recognition for inputting "text" in almost every app. One of my jobs requires me to take extensive notes on the spot, and this feature alone has been a time-saving lifesaver well worth the cost of an upgrade.

If you already have a 4S, then you already have this feature. If you have just an iPhone4 or older, then it's new. So if it were me, I would find it worth upgrading from an iPhone 4 to an iPhone5, but I don't think it's a compelling case for upgrading from a 4S (if you're even able to feasibly do that). The iPhone5 is noticeably faster than an iPhone4 or iPhone4S, but not at "omigod, I've got to have this" rates with the latter.

(There is also an issue with the Maps app having disappeared, meaning your iPhone will be less adept at figuring out Seoul public transport, but this is an iOS issue, not a matter of which generation of the device you have.)

So, in conclusion, definitely upgrade from a 3Gs or earlier, probably upgrade from an iPhone4, but maybe wait until the iPhone 5S (or whatever it's called) comes out if you have an iPhone 4S. Given that Apple released it's "iPad4" only eight months or so after the "iPad3," it's entirely possible that we're looking at twice-yearly upgrades instead of just one, so it might not be that long a wait.