The Marmot's Hole

Korea... in Blog Format

외국 남자들 (foreign men) portrayed as [completely normal] boyfriends?

A rather progressive yogurt commercial:

Commentary and background information given by James Turnbull over at The Grand Narrative.

Are South Koreans ignorant?

Ipsos Mori, a U.K. market research company has come up with an “ignorance” index of the world’s 14 most developed countries.  In defining “ignorance” Ipsos came up with nine questions about the 14 countries in the survey and asked an appropriate sample size of citizens of each country the nine questions about their respective country.

The results?

Ipsos MORI Perils of Perception: Index of Ignorance

(Image from Ipsos)

The questions were basic social facts about each country such as the rate of teen births, people over the age of 65, immigration rates, life expectancy, etc.  I took the test (available here) for both the U.S. and South Korean and I got a seven and eight out of nine questions right, respectively.

Japan (number 12) appears to blow Korea out of the water here.  Italy isn’t that surprising.  The U.S. at number two isn’t terribly surprising either, unfortunately.  Sweden, as usual in these type of indexes, outperforms.

A couple of Sewol updates

A few Sewol odds and ends that happened over the past couple of days:

UPDATE

The remains of the latest victim turned out to be that of 17 year old girl Hwang Ji-hyeon, an 11th-grade student from Danwon High School.  Her parents said her body was discovered on her 18th birthday.

Fabrication of Evidence – the NIS Saga Continues

A court has convicted two NIS (National Intelligence Service) counterintelligence officials of fabricating Chinese government documents to build a spy case against a refugee from North Korea.  An excellent article by Choe Sang-hun is to be found here.  The judge, Kim Woo-soo said:

(the agents) seriously obstructed the function of the criminal justice of the country, . . . they betrayed the trust the people placed in the National Intelligence Service when it gave it both power and responsibility.

This decision comes after so many mistakes from this agency and an administration that is not intent upon fixing them, though there is much said about such.

A Decent Japanese Village Vs. Ugly Hate Groups

korean_busters

Photo by Tyler Sipe, NYTimes

Martin Fackler of the New York Times has written an interesting report on a village in Japan that attempted to build a memorial to the Koreans that died from malnutrition and abuse, at the hands of Imperial Japan, however the village discovered that certain  Japanese hate groups don’t want this part of history visited again and they are very vocal in their efforts to hide the truth about war-time Japan.

Mr. Fackler attributes much of the evil efforts against the village as being directed by a Japanese internet group:

. . . Known collectively as the Net Right, these loosely organized cyberactivists were once dismissed as radicals on the far margins of the Japanese political landscape. But they have gained outsize influence with the rise of Prime Minister Shinzo Abe’s conservative government, which shares their goal of ending negative portrayals of Japan’s history, and with the acquiescence of a society too uninterested or scared to speak out. “I don’t blame the mayor for giving in,” said Mr. Mizuguchi, 79, an architect who guided a visitor to the site of the old airfield using a hand-drawn map. “I blame the rest of Japan for not speaking out to support us.

This Japanese hate group has been noticed before now, in their attacks against Koreans:

The demonstrators appeared one day in December, just as children at an elementary school for ethnic Koreans were cleaning up for lunch. The group of about a dozen Japanese men gathered in front of the school gate, using bullhorns to call the students cockroaches and Korean spies. Inside, the panicked students and teachers huddled in their classrooms, singing loudly to drown out the insults, as parents and eventually police officers blocked the protesters’ entry.
The December episode was the first in a series of demonstrations at the Kyoto No. 1 Korean Elementary School that shocked conflict-averse Japan, where even political protesters on the radical fringes are expected to avoid embroiling regular citizens, much less children. Responding to public outrage, the police arrested four of the protesters this month on charges of damaging the school’s reputation.
More significantly, the protests also signaled the emergence here of a new type of ultranationalist group. The groups are openly anti-foreign in their message, and unafraid to win attention by holding unruly street demonstrations. (cite)

Another very interesting article on Japanese racism and hate groups can be found here.

The article is here.

Keep Reaching for the Stars, Korea

The KT ran a link on its homepage to a piece, Olivia Hussey has half-Korean son.

For those of you who might not remember, Hussey is best known for her role as Juliet in Franco Zeffirelli’s Romeo and Juliet (an inverse-bowdlerization of that otherwise HS freshman English snooze fest, Romeo and Juliet), playing opposite the ageless Zac Efron‘s Romeo.  Thoughts of Hussey reminded me of the best (full disclosure: only) mammaries I had in high school.

According to the article in the venerable KT, “Academy Award-winning 1968 film ‘Romeo and Juliet’ Max Fusestar Olivia Hussey’s half-Korean son is receiving the nation’s spotlight.”

For those whose animal appetites have been whet to a frothy, rabid peak, “his name is Max Fuse, her 30-year-old son born from her second marriage with Japanese musician Akira Fuse who was a Korean descendent.”

And what, pray tell, you might ask has Max Fuse done, had done to him, had sex with, or in some other way accomplished to garner the nation’s spotlight?  “Max began to attract attentions (sic) following the recent news that shed lights (sic) on Hussey’s 20-year-old daughter from her third marriage India Eisley.”  (Note to KT copy editor:  “…Hussey’s 20-year old daughter, India Eisley, from her third marriage.”)

India Eisley appears to be in the doey-eyed ingénue business and positioning herself for a long, multi-decades run as such.

The KT performed a fine piece of investigative and research journalism to uncover Max Fuse’s “half-Korean” roots but has decided not to reveal its sources.  Max Fuse is as anonymous on the internet as any anonymous Joe, and googling “Max Fuse” summons a single hit (about his Japanese roots) and others about a line of Air Jordans.  His father’s Wikipedia page neglects to mention, if not conspiratorially covers up, Akira Fuse’s Korean roots and intimates that his biggest claim to fame is his defunct marriage to Hussey.  From the article’s first sentence:

Akira Fuse (布施 明 Fuse Akira?, born on December 18, 1947 in Tokyo) is a Japanese singer, who was once married to Olivia Hussey.

His Wikipedia page prominently displays the following warning:

The topic of this article may not meet Wikipedia’s notability guideline for music. Please help to establish notability by adding reliable, secondary sources about the topic. If notability cannot be established, the article is likely to be merged, redirected, or deleted.

Phew.  …And to think all this started because I wanted to know how those KT math wizards calculated “half-Korean” for Olivia Hussey’s son.  At least I now know that the nationwide Beatles-esque frenzy Max Fuse inspires in Korea explains the traffic jam I sat hours in during Friday evening’s commute through Seoul.


As the KT continues in its mission to develop the local angle and guided by its credo that “all news is local”, my inside sources at the KT have leaked exclusively for TMH’s inquiring minds tomorrow’s piece on Leonardo DiCaprio’s half-sister, from his mother’s second marriage, overheard at a NoCal all-you-can-eat Chinese buffet saying how much she “loves this Korean sushi” while gorging herself on kimbap.

As Casey Kasem said signing off from America’s Top 40, “keep your head in the clouds and keep reaching for the stars”, Korea.

So, does this mean that the USFK is gonna stay in Korea forever?

The transfer of wartime control from the USFK to the ROK has been seen by many as the first step to meaningful American military withdraw from the Korean peninsula.  Well, yesterday Korea and the United States agreed to punt on the Wartime Control agreement indefinitely, meaning that the apparent “first step” out of the Korean peninsula for the U.S. military is also suspended indefinitely.

Oh well, so much for that.

In other news, it seems as if the newest addition to USFK, the 1st Cavalry Division’s 3rd Battalion, 8th Cavalry Regiment, 3rd Brigade Combat Team is transitioning well in Camp Stanley, having replaced the 1st Battalion, 12th Cavalry Regiment that was here on a nine month deployment.  As mentioned earlier here, the Texas Fort Hood’s 1st Cavalry Division has been rotating a heavy armored battalion of 800 some odd men into Korea since the beginning of the year.  That will apparently be continuing indefinitely too.

Wanna know what the 1st Cav’s troops are doing in Korea?  Follow their embedded local journalist from The Killeen Daily Herald (Kileen, Texas) as they run into KATUSAS, try eating Korean food (for the very first time), hike up local mountains and train.

Some of the Real K-pop – LeeSA

LeeSa

LeeSA doing her cover of “Red”.

I have spent a good bit of time listening to chaebol music and, though the production skills are good, it leaves me wanting to hear something fresh – something fresh like LeeSA (리싸).  She has a great voice and her covers really do sound good, so much that I prefer listening to her version. Her version of “Red” is really nice.  The stripped down versions of these covers are great because the music is not hiding under a pile of audio tricks, sampling and ProTools plug-ins – Just basic mixing.

As happens with most indie Korean artists, LeeSA has a notable presence on youtube, which is lucky for listeners looking for something different from South Korea that has something to do with music and not “music business”.

Other great original songs, such as “Could You Stop that Smile” are here.

Open Thread: October 19, 2014

My whirlwind weekend tour of Korea’s October festivals continues.  Yesterday, I took Anonymous_Family to Yeonan University’s Fall Flower Festival.   Here’s the only pic that I could crop out Anonymous_Kids:

Cheonan Yeonan Flower Festival

For those interested in a literal breath of fresh air from Itaewon and Hongdae, the college’s campus is beautiful, the prettiest I’ve seen in Korea.  With red brown brick buildings and landscaped acreage, Yeonan’s reminded me of a small New England or mid-West college’s campus.  The drive (you will need a car) is just over the Pyeongtaek border in Chungcheongnamdo through amber fields of waving Asian grains.  We spent the afternoon, and the campus’s trees seemed to turn on us, showing their true colors by early evening.

 

16 Concert-goers Dead in Seongnam

A failed ventilation grate at the fateful Seongnam concert.

At least sixteen people were killed after falling through a ventilation grate at a K-pop concert in Seongnam.  An English link is here. According to accounts:

. . . in the dense crowd, 20-30 people climbed on a grate over the deep ventilation shaft. Under their weight the grate gave way and the group fell through.

Photo: Yonhap News

UPDATE: The concert promoter has committed suicide shortly after being questioned by the police.

Kansas City’s Korean good luck charm

The Irish have the Blarney Stone, the Chinese rub Buddha’s belly and the Kansas City Royals have Lee Sung-woo.

They have who, what, huh?

Okay, so the story goes that in the middle of the American major league baseball season the Kansas City Royals were just an average team in a small market with average talent, having yet another ho-hum average season in their bland 45 year history (playoff-less in the last 28 of those 45 years).  That was until a foreigner named Sung-woo Lee from far away South Korea came on the scene.  Through social media, Sung-woo was a regular fixture on Royals’ fan sites and blogs and exhorted Royals’ fans to persevere, which helped to inject much needed enthusiasm into the traditional fan base.  Interestingly enough, Sung-woo’s online participation started as an attempt to learn English by consistently conversing with American baseball fans.

(Image from KMBC, Channel 9)

Native Kansas City residents were curious about this Asian man from a far away country and his interest in their local team.  Usually, when a foreigner is interested in an American baseball team, it’s usually a team from one of the bigger markets like the NY Yankees, LA Dodgers or Seattle Mariners, etc.  But Kansas City?  As a Midwestern town they are not close to Asia or Europe and the “city” of barely 500,000 people does not have the ritz and glamour of a New York or Los Angeles.

But a committed fan Sung-woo appeared to be.  He even came to Kansas City in August of this year for a 10 day stay.  Locals gave him a hero’s welcome, rolled out the red carpet and showered him with Midwestern hospitality.  They named a hot dog in his honor and even had him throw the first pitch in a game against the A’s.  But the real news is what happened to the team during his little Kansas City vacation: an eight game winning streak that put them in the wild card hunt.  The New York Post called this the baseball “feel good” story of the year.  Locals call him the “superfan.”   NPR said he’s spread “Korean pixie dust” on the team.  Korea Times US Edition called it “Korean Karma.”  KMBC channel 9 reporter Kris Ketz simply called Sung-woo their “good luck charm.”

American baseball is a notoriously superstitious sport.  The 2002 Angels had the rally monkey, which some believe helped propel a pretty average talent wise team all the way to winning the World Series.  Well, not to say that a man and a monkey are the same thing, but it appears the good luck charm thing is happening again this year and this time it could very well be the Royals who benefit.  They swept the Baltimore Orioles for the AL Championship yesterday and will either play the Giants or Cardinals for the MLB World Series.

Photo of the Day: My, those are some nice waegook-in (외국인) bosoms there, huh Rep. Kwon?

A ruling Saenuri Party lawmaker caught looking at a sexy picture during a National Assembly audit.

(Image from KoreaBANG)

Saenuri lawmaker Rep. Kwon Seong-dong using company time and bandwidth to explore extracurricular pursuits.

UPDATE

Well, well, what do we have here?  A larger version of the picture that the Honorable Rep. Kwon was so intently staring at?

(Image from Seoul Shimbun)

Why, say hello to September 2011 Playboy Playmate of the Month Tiffany Toth.

NSFW here.

Kakao Jumps Out of the Frying Pan and Into the Fire

As a measure to stem the flood of users leaving Kakao Talk, Daum Kakao CEO Lee Sirgoo announced today that the company would no longer comply with prosecutors’ requests for private Kakao Talk conversations.  The surprise announcement set the stage for a direct confrontation between the company and Korean authorities that will likely end in obstruction of justice charges brought against the company and its CEO.

Lee Sirgoo Apology

Lee Sirgoo, Monday, Oct. 13, 2014. (AP Photo/Ahn Young-joon)

At a quickly arranged press conference on Monday, Lee bent his head in apology and said that he would personally bear the full legal consequences of the decision.  “If the decision means violating the law, I will abide by any punishment because I made the final call on this as CEO.  We did not talk with related government agencies about this, and we are not saying that warrants issued are flawed. But I believe the right way to handle our users’ criticism and disappointment is to strengthen protection of their privacy….  To do this, we stopped accepting prosecution warrants to monitor our users’ private conversions (sic) from Oct. 7, and we hereby announce that we will continue to do so.”   Daum Kakao officials characterized the measure as a matter of “survival” and not “optional”.

Lee stated that the decision was not personal and was made with the agreement of management, and vowed that the company would, according to the Korea Times, “continue to prioritize users’ privacy even if he is replaced by another person.”

In the first half of 2014, Korean authorities made 2,131 requests for users’ information with search warrants , and Kakao Talk cooperated with “more than three quarters” of those requests.  Korean authorities made an additional 61 court-approved requests  seeking to wiretap users’ conversations under suspicion of charges such as rebellion or violation of the National Security Law.  The company denied that authorities used the warrants to monitor users real time conversations and claimed that that the company was not technologically equipped to monitor real time conversations. Kakao Talk nonetheless “cooperated with nearly all the 61 requests by collecting messages that had been stored on its servers for between three and seven days.”

Lee announced that the company would introduce several measures to protect users’ privacy such as organizing an information security advisory committee, regularly publishing a transparency report, and implementing “end-to-end” encryption to remove the possibility that conversations could be monitored through Kakao’s servers. He conceded that the enhanced security features would necessarily make the application more difficult to use.  Lee stressed that the company had already cut the period that information gets stored on Kakao’s servers from seven to a maximum three days.

KT’s article concluded that at a September 16 cabinet meeting PGH complained “of insults about her and said online rumors have ‘gone too far and divided society,’ according to the Cheong Wa Dae website.”


The problem of course is that CEO Lee Sirgoo will not bear the full responsibility of the decision.  The security guards at the gates of Daum Kakao will have to permit entry to Korean authorities with warrants, and technicians served with such warrants will perforce offer up their wares or face obstruction charges themselves.  Lee Sirgoo’s stance has bought Kakao 15 minutes.  Daum Kakao needs a decision based on the constitutionality of the wiretaps for the future of Daum Kakao and free speech in Korea.

Aware of Korea’s legacy of lèse-majesté, which might play inside Korea but conflicts with the freedoms of a liberal democracy, I am continually surprised, though I no longer know why anymore, that Korean public figures are unaware that their protestations bring scrutiny and ridicule upon themselves.

PGH needs to grow a thick skin, by which I mean in addition to the lovely, perfectly complected thin skin that encases her now.

Korean Government Sabotages Kakao Talk

what_happenedDue to claims that the Government and prosecutors have been using Kakao Talk logs to monitor people, Kakao has taken a beating, resulting in over 400,000 users migrating to other applications that have off-shore servers and better security, such as Telegram (cite) (There are reports that even prostitutes that conduct business arrangements through Kakao have switched to Telegram due to security concerns.) I also use Telegram and it works well.

The government has reportedly done so for state security concerns as well as enforcing the infamous defamation laws.  According to one source:

Accusations by the New Politics Alliance for Democracy on alleged cyber monitoring by the government gained more credibility yesterday when it was reported that prosecutors are planning to monitor some key words on major portal sites that they believe would disturb “social order” and “defame” people, after which they would order the managers of those sites to delete the posts. (cite)

Kakao has responded by apologizing for allowing security concerns to mount:

Lee Sirgoo, CEO at DaumKakao which owns Kakao Talk, apologized for its initial handling of privacy issues at a news conference called at short notice by the company. The government’s recent announcement of stern punishment for what it called online rumors prompted many South Koreans to switch from Kakao Talk to foreign messaging services. . . Kakao Talk will introduce new privacy features to protect the information of its users, he said. Next year, it will begin deleting messages from its servers as soon as they have been read by the intended recipients. The company said it could face legal sanction by refusing to cooperate with warrants. . . .It has also adopted a new privacy mode, which uses end-to-end encryption, allowing chat records to be stored only on each user’s smart device and making it impossible for investigators to monitor the contents.  “We will continue to search for more necessary measures and make improvements down the road,” Lee said. “Kakao Talk has been growing on the back of users’ trust. We know it will take excruciating efforts to regain users’ trust,” Lee said.

Daum Kakao commands about 35 million local users for its flagship Kakao Talk in the country with a population of 50 million, compared to around 10 million users held by LINE, operated by Naver Corp. Kakao Talk also has about 152 million users worldwide through 15 languages, including Korean, English, Japanese, Spanish, German, Arabic and Russian. (cite)

As in America, if the government sabotages public confidence in software developers offerings, the result will likely be bad for business and a major setback for Korean software developers, who already have onerous burdens put upon them by government regulations.

Seoul’s Mayor Comes Out In Favor of Legalizing Same Sex Marriage

Seoul’s mayor and popular pick among pundits for presidential candidate in 2017 Park Won-soon came out in support of legalizing gay marriage.  In an interview with the San Francisco Examiner published last Sunday, Park voiced his personal support for gay rights and hopes that Korea would become the first Asian country to legalize same-sex marriage.

“I personally agree with the rights of homosexuals,” Park said. “But the Protestant churches are very powerful in Korea. It isn’t easy for politicians. It’s in the hands of activists to expand the universal concept of human rights to include homosexuals. Once they persuade the people, the politicians will follow. It’s in process now.”

When asked whether Taiwan would be the first Asian country to legalize same-sex marriage since Taiwanese legislature currently has a bill under consideration, Park answered, “I hope Korea will be the first. Many homosexual couples in Korea are already together. They are not legally accepted yet, but I believe the Korean Constitution allows it. We are guaranteed the right to the pursuit of happiness. Of course, there may be different interpretations to what that pursuit means.”

If Park is indeed considering a run for the presidency, his support for same-sex marriage could prove politically risky.  According to the Wall Street Journal, “the vast majority of South Koreans have negative attitudes against gay people, let alone same-sex marriage….”   A poll conducted last year by the Asan Institute for Policy Studies showed that 21.5% of the 1,500 adults surveyed said “they had little or no objections to homosexuality, while only a quarter said they supported gay marriage.”  The results were polarized by age:  a majority of those over 50 said they had “negative views towards homosexuality”, a majority of those under 40 were supportive of gay rights, and respondents in their 40s were almost evenly split in their views of homosexuality.

Park Won-soon,  58, was expelled as a freshman from SNU for his participation in a pro-democracy demonstration and made his bones as a civil rights attorney.  When the subject of South Korea’s prosecution and jailing of Jehovah’s Witnesses who refuse to perform compulsory military service came up, Park said “alternative civilian service for Jehovah’s Witnesses would be acceptable.”

According to an official at the mayor’s office, the interview took place during the mayor’s trip to California last month.

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