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Odds and Ends: Kim Kwang-seok, Russians and Catholics, Oh My!

UPDATE: About 100,000 men of the PLA Shenyang Military Region’s 39th Army recently began a winter training exercise in the area around Mt. Baekdusan. The Shenyang Military Region would handle an emergency on the Korean Peninsula, including a North Korean collapse. It conducts winter exercises every year, but this year’s exercise is quite big, which has some people wondering if perhaps this might have to do with instability in North Korea.

- I know what the BBC and FCO are thinking, but frankly, I can’t think of anything that would scare the North Koreans into embracing their regime even more firmly than the Teletubbies and Mr. Bean.

- So, Korea gets to pay more to keep USFK around:

Korea has agreed to pay 920 billion won ($866 million) for the upkeep of U.S. Forces Korea (USFK) this year, the foreign ministry said Sunday.

The amount represents a 5.8 percent, or 50.5 billion won, increase from the 869.5 billion won it paid in 2013.

The agreement still has to clear the National Assembly where opposition parties are calling for a significant reduction in the payout.

I’ll address the development in a separate post later.

- Is there a bigger waste of time that politicians talking about Korean reunification? At the same time, though, the DP head said his party would come up with a North Korean human rights act, which should be interesting.

- Race and gender issues intersect with Rain’s latest video. See also this article in the Korea Times and Mike Hurt’s post here.

- Daegu—an underrated city, if you ask me (which you didn’t)—has a street dedicated to late singer Kim Kwang-seok, who also happens to be your Uncle Marmot’s favorite Korean singer. Fun article, but I hate when officials say stuff like this:

“We’ll make Kim Kwang-seok Road as famous a tourism zone as Montmartre [in Paris],” said Yoon Soon-young, the head of Jung District Office.

Good luck with that. Anyway, my wife spent the weekend on a How I Met Your Mother Korea Reply 1994 marathon, so we’ve been getting a lot of Kim Kwang-seok. And with that, I give you his Dylan-esque (very Dylan-esque, as in I think he based it on “Don’t Think Twice, It’s All Right”) “두바퀴로 가는 자동차”:

- Sorry to follow that up with two guys from DC rapping in North Korea, but here’s two guys from DC rapping in North Korea (hat to Erik). Unlike them, I won’t be encouraging you to “see the country for yourself,” but I am inclined to agree that Pyongyang’s probably a whole lot safer than Washington DC. Of course, Anbar Province is probably safer than Washington DC, so that might not be saying much.

- It has nothing to do with Korea, but the photo on this article about the Spetsnaz is awesome (HT to Joshua Trevino). This, on the other hand, is less awesome:

Despite his perceived toughness, many Spetsnaz fighters don’t like Putin. Russia’s strongman still seems too soft to them — and much too liberal. “We need someone like Stalin,” says Mikhailov, the retired colonel with Spetsnaz’s “Alpha” unit.

The majority of the Spetsnaz fighters are nostalgic for the lost Soviet imperium, even if most of them were small children — if they had been born at all — when it vanished. They hate America and NATO and don’t think much of democracy. As a result, those who are charged with protecting Russians against terrorists and insurgents are skeptical of their own state.

To be fair to the Russians, I don’t envy their geopolitical circumstances.

- Speaking of the Rooskies, Andrei Tarkovsky’s films are now available for free online (HT to Jason). Which is super dope. Spend much of last night watching Stalker.

- Korea is getting a new Catholic cardinal. He comes from an old Catholic family, and by old, I mean he’s the direct descendant of a believer who was martyred in 1850.

- Over at Ye Olde Photoblog, I’ve got photos up of Gwangjang Market and some other places.

About the author: Just the administrator of this humble blog.

  • MikeinGyeonggi

    “We’ll make Kim Kwang-seok Road as famous a tourism zone as Montmartre [in Paris],”

    Apparently someone’s never been to Paris. Though I do love Korean hyperbole.

    As far as Kim Kwang Suk lifting from Dylan, Bob Dylan took the melody from Paul Clayton, who supposedly took the melody from an older folk song. Dylan also used the melody on “Mama, You Been on My Mind” – one of his most beautiful songs. Jeff Buckley did a nice cover of it. In an interview, Dylan said he used old melodies because he wasn’t good at writing music and just wanted something to put words to.

    Here’s Paul Clayton’s “Who’s Gonna Buy You Ribbons” – http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=k6vxyTM3fO4

  • SeoulGoodman

    Kim Kwang-seok’s music reminds me a lot of Richard Seguin’s music (most probably because both were influenced to some extent by Bob Dylan). Some of their songs are eerily similar.

  • SeoulGoodman

    Reminds me a lot of the melody of a Leonard Cohen song (can’t recall which one). It’s quite possible. Kris Kristofferson once accused him of having used a Lefty Frizzell melody for one of his songs.

    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=sEIcV_rZbfQ

    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=FwnAg2tZKFk

  • SalarymaninSeoul

    Spetsnaz sucks. They are a joke among Eastern Europeans.

  • Whitey

    Ask a Korean’s site is a good source of pop music history; he has this post on the singer mentioned above.
    http://askakorean.blogspot.kr/2012/08/50-most-influential-k-pop-artists-27.html
    Is there any consensus on why this singer committed suicide? Romanticization of suicide is nauseating.

  • KKS ruled

    While Dylan used a lot of melodies from other singers, the Korean version clearly descended from Dylan’s version. There were several Korean songs based on “Don’t Think Twice,” most famously being Yang Byung Jip’s “Yeok.”

    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=1aaqvd7bDhY

  • Dan Strickland

    Another derivative singer (Harry Belafonte) whom I and many of the rest of the Peace Corps really enjoyed back in the day, who doesn’t get a mention in Ask the Korean, is 서유석 – maybe not so popular with English speakers because of that awkward name. One of his love songs, though is among the most touching I’ve ever heard.

  • wangkon936
  • wangkon936

    Spetsnaz is a rough sledgehammer. They will generally get the job done against insurgents and terrorists, but don’t expect them to be effective in operations requiring more precision, like say hostage rescue. There track record there has been abysmal.

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Moscow_theater_hostage_crisis

  • redwhitedude

    Daegu underrated? I don’t know what those Jeolla people think about that.

  • MikeinGyeonggi

    Only one person knew why he committed suicide, and that person is dead.

  • setnaffa

    “To be fair to the Russians,” they live in a world where self-inflicted wounds bite like little radioactive monkeys…

  • setnaffa

    It’s really too bad Harry Belafonte dropped the pretense and started hating people so openly. He is sort of like the KKK in reverse these days…

  • redwhitedude

    Those russians. Their idea of surgical strike was flattening Grozny.

  • kaizenmx

    Gets the job done. That’s the point.

  • SalarymaninSeoul

    Special forces are a good reflection of national character. Spetsnaz fits the Russian character to a tee: dumb, brute force that destroys everything to get its job done. But can we really call them “elite” if this is how they operate? They are no better than some grunt, though better armed. Tactically, they are a joke and no one would choose them over a dozen or so far more capable units.

  • TurntheWorldAround
  • redwhitedude

    Well as SalarymaninSeoul said I would not use them in situations like hostage crisis. They’d end up killing everybody which defeats the purpose of hostage rescue.

  • wangkon936

    170 of the 800 hostages. “Acceptable” losses to the Russians.

  • redwhitedude

    No wonder their country is a mess. Just hope and pray you don’t get caught in terrorist attack by these islamists.

  • SalarymaninSeoul

    More than you, mongol

  • Память

    Russians are Slavs as are Eastern Europeans, zhid.

  • SalarymaninSeoul

    Russians are 1/4 Slavs, 1/2 Mongol and 1/4 Central Asian. You do not belong in the club with us real Slavs

  • setnaffa

    Russian to judgement are we?

    Played “Marchin’ Thru Georgia” lately?

    I don’t envy the Russians anything; but I don’t hate ‘em. But some Russians still miss the fact that your neighbors hate you because of how they were treated, your economy and environment went into the toilet because of communism, and life is harder when you’re stupid…

  • setnaffa

    Well there you go. Anyone who appears on a muppet show is okay, eh?

  • Память

    Russians aren’t Mongol or Central Asian. There are Tatars and Mongols and Central Asians in Russian territory.

    Stop pretending to be Slav, zhid.

  • Память

    What do you know, idiot? Where you from? Look at your own country.

  • redwhitedude

    You can get nationalistic about Russia but from what I’ve read and heard it is a country where bribing is necessary to get anything done. The homocide rate is comparable to Mexico.

  • SalarymaninSeoul

    The Slav was bred out of you by the mongols. Its why today, Russians are the stupidest people in the world

  • wangkon936

    I dunno man… the mongols ended up gaining the largest land empire in human history. I don’t think they are too dumb. However, the mongols did succeed in cutting off the balls of the Russians for a very long time. Some people say that the Russians never fully recovered from that.

  • SalarymaninSeoul

    The mongol men totally bred the russian men out of the gene pool.

  • Память

    No look at genetic studies. We are Slavs. You zhids are the biggest parasite scum of the world.

  • Память

    No we have friendly relation with Mongols and Tatars. While West will never recover from zhids.

  • Память

    No look at genetic studies. We are Slavs.

  • redwhitedude

    Regardless it is the mongols that are primarily responsible for making the Russian state into what it is now. They allowed Muscovy to gain the upper hand over other slavic principalities and become a Grand Duchy and eventually Empire. I’d say the mongols were dumb for squabbling amongst themselves while allowing this to happen. They splintered into various Khanates while Muscovy was absorbing other slavic states and consolidating the eastern slavs into a single state. In a broader sense eastern europe acted as a buffer from invasions coming from the east so Western Europe recovered faster.

  • redwhitedude

    What are the Tatars? They look caucasian but are they really originally from the east?

  • redwhitedude

    I’ve talked to Russians and those that can get the heck out of the country do so. They see no future in a country that is so dysfunctional. You have local officials who can double as crooks and god knows what could happen to you if you get on their bad side.

  • SalarymaninSeoul

    You do realize that other than the Serbs, all Slavs HATE you, right? And why is it that you “people” cannot act like, well, people? You bring nothing but destruction and looting everywhere you go.

  • SalarymaninSeoul

    Not only the East, but also the South.

  • redwhitedude

    Yea, but we are dealing with Eastern Europe.

  • redwhitedude

    Russia stayed stuck in the middle ages while the rest of europe was progressing through the renaissance.

  • redwhitedude

    Hence they joined NATO. Russia is probably seen as the big bully from the east. The Cold War didn’t help.

  • wangkon936

    I think in that day and age, given the primitiveness of communications technology and infrastructure, fragmentation after the death of a strong leader was unavoidable. Whitey didn’t do any better. Alexander the Great’s empire collapsed and fragmented immediately after his death.

    Once the transoceanic sailing ship was invented, empires were able to be more cohesive. How did you think the Brits controlled the Middle East, India and Africa in the 17th through 19th centuries?

  • wangkon936

    “You do realize that other than the Serbs, all Slavs HATE you, right?”

    This is unbearably true.

  • redwhitedude

    Certainly not by just putting combat troops in there.

    As to communications and transportation Russia is a hollow shell with infrastructure in a lot of regions left untended and fall in disrepair. All while Moscow is compared to cities like Paris and London. Russia is really a city state with large swaths of barren land attached to it.

  • redwhitedude

    To think that at one point in their history they feared being absorbed by the poles and being polonized back in the late 1500s and early 1600s.

  • SalarymaninSeoul

    The Poles were one of a few who were able to take and hold Moscow for a while. Too bad they didn’t succeed, the world would be a nicer place now.

  • redwhitedude

    There was a push for a union between poles and russian like the personal union between lithuania and poland. A major sticking point, poles insisted that the ruler be catholic and russians stuck to orthodox christianity. Indeed too bad.

  • SalarymaninSeoul

    A Polish-Russian commonwealth was something that was proposed, and almost came to fruition several times:

    - Ivan IV was a possible candidate, but did not seem interested;

    - Fiodor I is who you mean, had his candidacy squashed because the Polish nobility wanted a Catholic and he was not willing to do a Jagiello and convert;

    - Vadislav Vasa, the son of the King of Poland Sigismund III Vasa almost was elected tsar but his father wanted that for himself and stopped it, and the Russians were afraid of Polonization at that time as well;

    - OTOH in the mid-XVII century (1656-1658 so right after the Swedish invasion when Poland was reeling) it was the Russians who proposed it and the Poles who were the ones opposed;

    - The last time it was proposed was when the last Polish king was considering marriage to Catherine II;

    - Finally, the Russians, Prussians and Austrians took Poland apart.

    In 1610-1612 Poles actually held Moscow, and it was in 1610 that the Russians proposed to elect a Wladyslaw Waza tsar; though as Orthodox and not in union with Poland; this would have changed history immensely as the one they did eventually choose in 1613 was Michael Romanov, the one who began the Romanov dynasty which included Peter I the Great and Catherine II the Great.

    This raises interesting what-ifs because:

    1) the Vasas were a Swedish family and the Polish-Swedish Wars were over competing claims: i.e. Zygmunt III (Sigismund) Waza (Vasa) was the rightful heir for the Swedish throne and was also the Polish king at the time. How would a Vasa Russia sway the balance of the Polish-Swedish wars (1600-1611, and subsequently the Swedish invasion in 1655) and might not the 17th and 18th centuries have seen Vasas in power in Warsaw, Moscow and Stockholm? What happens after that?

    2) What happens with no Peter and Catherine in Russia? Obviously Russia does not become the threat it later did. What becomes the counterweight in Europe to the possible Swedish-Polish-Russian block?

    3) Does Napoleon happen and if so, does he attack East or does he work with them instead? What’s the impact on a French alliance with Warsaw on the British?

    4) Even this: what happens in America?

    All fascinating possibilities

  • redwhitedude

    Also the religious aspect of it. Sweden became protestant and the Vasa who took the throne of Poland had be catholic. A union between Poland and Russia could mean Poland becomes a superpower. In addition catholicism could very well end up spreading east. That combined with the fall of constantinople could have made the orthodox christian go the way of coptic christians, aryan christians or nestorian christians. How would this impact the 30 years war in the holy roman empire after one of states that propped up the prostentant cause, sweden is tied up with this or becomes part of this combination. As I recall Sweden got tangled up into this because of a Vasa getting elected.

  • SalarymaninSeoul

    Or, better for Poland, how about actually becoming protestant? I wonder what a protestant Poland would look like, or a catholic Scandinavia….

  • redwhitedude

    A prostestant poland? That would really open up a new front on the 30 years war. It could suck poland into that conflict as well. Don’t think anything with Russia would be possible in that case. Catholic scandinavia would really leave the prostestants on their own in the holy roman empire. Not a good situation to be in.

  • SalarymaninSeoul

    Yes, I was thinking more in the Weberian sense. Wars come and go, but culture is lasting. And, one can argue that the Polish-Swedish wars were an extension of the 30 years war.

    The Russia thing is a point but if they would have been willing to accept Catholicism, which they weren’t, why not Protestantism? Russia and Sweden did coordinate against Poland. However, if anything was to have happened in the religious area, that would have been a long lasting process. The initial alternate position would still be Poland, and Russia brought together by dynastic ties as an Eastern bulwark. How would Sweden if the rightful heir became the king of Sweden and Poland play out this war?