The Marmot's Hole

Korea... in Blog Format

Author: Robert Koehler (page 1 of 583)

Open Thread: Nov. 24

Sorry for getting this up late. Busy weekend. Did come away with this shot from Sunday morning, though.

Open Thread: Nov. 9, 2014

Have a good weekend, folks!

Open Thread: the Autumn Foliage Edition

Enjoy the weekend – it’s beautiful out there, even in Yeouido.

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Breaking News: N. Korea fires at leaflets ballooned into North; shells land in South

I wish I could tell you more, but all we have is the breaking Yonhap headline which says North Korea just fired at the folk sending balloons with leaflets into the North, with shells apparently falling in the South.

Ladies, be careful of foreign guys offering you drinks: Dong-A Ilbo

The Dong-A Ilbo warns ladies to be careful of foreigners offering you drinks.

In May, a young man by the name of Kim got a urgent Kakao Talk from a female acquaintance of his who’d gone to a club in Yongsan. She was passing out and worried something might happen to her. He went to the club, found her passed out and surrounded by two foreigners, and rescued her. The next day, she told him that the foreigners gave her something to drink which had apparently been spiked.

She was rescued, but the Dong-A reports that there are women, defenseless against foreigners will ill-intent, who have been sexually assaulted. For instance, on Sept. 10, a 20-year-old woman was sitting at a Gangnam club with two foreign guys and a Korean guy. They gave her a drink which they’d spiked with sleeping pills. They brought her to a nearby motel, where they began filming parts of her anatomy with a cellphone. When she protested, they beat her. After a two week investigation, the cops arrested three guys for sexual assault, including a French guy and some model.

The Dong-A warns that there’s been a string of cases of foreigners sexually assaulting young women at clubs. What these assaults have in common, says the paper, is that the perps think Korean girls are easy, and they make ill use of Korean girls’ expectations about meeting an exotic stranger.

The reporter went to a Gangnam club on Oct. 8 and saw—and no, I’m not shitting you, this is what he wrote—some foreign guys constantly checking out the bodies of Korean girls or directly going up to girls, putting their arms around them and talking to them. One white American guy in his 30s apparently told the reporter that his friends say it’s easy to make a Korean girl your girlfriend, and if a foreigner sexually assaults a girl, it’s because there’s a widespread feeling that Korean girls are easy. Foreigners who might mistakenly believe they are sexually superior use the vague expectations some women might have about foreigners to satisfy their sexual desires. Some police science professor at Konkuk University told the Dong-A that women who, seeing the foreigners who appear in overseas movies, develop romantic ideas about foreigners or a curiosity in the exotic, may let their guard down easy, putting them in great danger of being sexually assaulted.

Ahem.

That it’s relatively difficult for cops to find foreign criminals is also a factor, says the Dong-A. One club manager told the paper that some particularly wicked foreigners who bring drugs in think that if they get caught, they can just run back to their home countries. Police say it’s hard to track down foreign sex criminals since it’s difficult to find where they live and they often use rental phones. A police official said since it’s hard to manage foreigners’ personal information, foreign criminals are sometimes ID’d only after they’ve fled back home. He said the police need a systemic management system and hire more foreign affairs guys who can handle foreign criminals.

Korea’s made progress, but racism still a problem: U.N. special rapporteur

U.N. special rapporteur on contemporary forms of racism, racial discrimination, xenophobia and related intolerance was in Seoul and apparently didn’t like everything he saw:

Ruteere said that South Korea has made “important progress” in addressing the issue of racism and xenophobia, given its history of ethnic and cultural homogeneity.

The country, however, now confronts “emerging challenges” due to an influx of foreigners and migrant workers who are contributing to social change and a shift from a migrant-sending country to a migration destination.

“I found incidents or problems that are serious enough to merit attention (in South Korea),” Ruteere told a press conference, without elaborating.

Ruteere showed particular concern for the rights of migrant laborers and called on Seoul to ratify the International Convention on the Protection of the Rights of All Migrant Workers and Members of Their Families.

He did address other aspects of racism in Korea, though, too. For instance, he notes that in the vast majority of cases, policies for multicultural families apply only to foreign women who marry Korean men, not the other way around.

Black face performances and the “This Africa” cigarette ad apparently got honorable mention, too.

He also argued against Korea’s immigration policies, which focus on assimilation, saying, “My understanding of multiculturalism is to strengthen intercultural understanding. It is not a one-way street, but a two-way street…Koreans have a lot to learn from their migrants, and the culture of their migrants. True multiculturalism means learning from both sides.”

Some might argue with the last point, but OK.

He also called on Korea to adopt a comprehensive anti-discrimination act. Now, I think I’ve expressed skepticism about such a law before, and while nobody would argue that the media shouldn’t be responsible, I’m not entirely comfortable with rhetoric like this:

“(It is also important) to ensure that the media is sensitive of the responsibility to avoid racist and xenophobic stereotypes and that these are properly addressed and perpetrators punished where appropriate.”

Emphasis mine. “Punishing perpetrators” can mean anything, of course, including some pretty outrageous things, let alone what groups like the OIC would do with that principle if they could. Being an asshole shouldn’t be a criminal offense.

Anyway, on Twitter, Benjamin Wagner reminds us:

Former Mongolian president takes asylum in Korea: report

Former Mongolian President Nambaryn Enkhbayar has taken asylum with his family in Korea, reports the JoongAng Ilbo.

For those keeping score at home, this would be the first time a foreign head of state—serving or former—has taken asylum in Korea. Assuming the report is true, that is.

A former poet, translator and minister of culture, Enkhbayar was president of Mongolia from 2005 to 2009. A former communist, he was credited with helping Mongolia transform into something resembling a liberal democracy, earning the appellation “Asia’s Tony Blair” from Reuters and USD 285 million in aid from the American taxpayer.

In 2012, however, Mongolia’s anti-corruption board—a board I would not want to sit on, BTW—arrested him on charges of illegally transferring ownership of state-owned factories, hotels and other properties to his family. He cried political persecution, explaining that what he did was just common practice for Mongolian politicians (Marmot’s Note: his complaints were not completely without substance). While he was being detained, he went on hunger strike, prompting his friend, UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon, to call current Mongolian President Tsakhiagiin Elbegdorj to ask for leniency.

Anyway, a court found him guilty of abuse of authority and sentenced him to two years and six months in the sin bin. Rather than prison, though, he spent some time in the hospital before getting pardoned for health reasons in August of last year.

After his pardon, Enkhbayar spent much of his time in Korea, getting medical treatment and engaging in various activities. Recently, he and his family took Korean citizenship. While president, Enkhbayar was a good friend to Korea, visiting Seoul several times and proposing a number of joint projects—including mining development—to both presidents Roh Moo-hyun and Lee Myung-bak. A devout Buddhist, he also received Korea’s Manghae Prize in 2006.

His asylum was reported first in the local Mongolian press last month, but that story reportedly ended when the secretary general of his party, the Mongolian People’s Party, denied the report. However, Enkhbayar is still currently president of the Mongolian People’s Party, so his taking of Korean citizenship has to be a sensitive issue, says the JoongAng Ilbo. When the Mongolian press reported his exile last month, it said he was concerned that he might be recharged with illegal real estate acquisitions. A Korean government official told the JoongAng Ilbo, however, that since Enkhbayar had been pardoned, his taking of Korean citizenship did not pose any legal problems between the two countries.

Marmot’s Note: As far as I know, the Mongolian government has not confirmed the story yet, but the JoongAng Ilbo report has apparently made the news in Mongolia, so I imagine UB will be commenting on it soon enough.

UPDATE: The Korean government is denying the JoongAng Ilbo report:

The government denied a news report, Monday, about a former Mongolian President seeking political refugee status in Korea.

“We have not received any requests from Nambaryn Ennkhbayar seeking asylum here,” a Korea Immigration Service (KIS) official said on condition of anonymity. Ennkhbayar, 56, was convicted of corruption by Ulaanbaatar’s highest court in 2012 after serving his four-year presidential term from June 2005 to June 2009.

Seoul’s immigration office added that Ennkhbayar has been living in Korea since August of last year after the Mongolian government granted him a pardon, citing his “health.”

Interesting, but the JoongAng Ilbo also cited a Korean government official. So who the hell knows what’s going on.

North Korean delegation visits Incheon, but no meeting with the president

We got some unexpected visitors in town today, it seems:

North and South Korea have agreed to hold another round of high-level talks after a top-level Northern delegation, including the men thought to be second and third in command behind Kim Jong Un, paid a surprise visit to the South on Saturday.

The unusual and unannounced trip — the first such high-level visit in more than five years — comes at a time of intense speculation about North Korea’s leadership, given that Kim, the third-generation leader of the communist state, has not been seen in public for a month.

[…]

“It’s a big deal, it’s really a big deal, because it’s completely unprecedented,” said Andrei Lankov, a North Korea scholar who studied in Pyongyang and now teaches in Seoul.

Far be it from me to be skeptical about anything Lankov says—he’s one of the few people I actually listen to when it comes to North Korea—but I’ll believe it’s a big deal when I see something big come out of this. Which, of course, is a possibility.

NoCut News reports, however, that this time, the high-ranking delegation—led by Korean People’s Army and vice chairman of the National Defense Commission Hwang Pyong-so—were unable to visit Cheong Wa Dae for a chat with President Park Geun-hye. Which is unfortunate, says NoCut News, because it had become almost usual practice for high-ranking North Korean officials to talk with the president when they visit the South.

The North Korean delegation said they’d come to attend the closing ceremony of the Asian Games and that they simply did not have time to stop by Cheong Wa Dae, but NoCut News, quoting various experts, says this was likely just an excuse. Either they didn’t like what they heard during their talk with South Korean Unification Minister Ryoo Kihl-jae and Cheong Wa Dae National Security Advisor Kim Kwang-jin, or they had no intention to visit President Park in the first place. It could also be that it would have looked odd for a high-ranking delegation to pay a courtesy call on President Park when Pyongyang has focused much of its energy recently on launching personal attacks on her.

For what it’s worth, Unification Minister Ryoo apparently asked one of the North Korean officials how North Korean leader Kim Jong-un—who hasn’t been seen recently—was feeling, and was told he was just fine. Which, for all we know, could mean he’s already dead.

Oh, and the North Korean delegation stood during the South Korean national anthem when it played during the closing ceremony of the Asian Games. Which was nice of them. I’m guessing they didn’t visit the MacArthur Statue in Freedom Park, though.

Legal pot, Samsung sneers, and thanks for the help, Korea

- In one of the most entertaining pieces I’ve read all year, the Korea Times reports that some Koreans in the United States—well, in Colorado and Washington State—are experiencing “culture shock” with legal pot:

”Two months after my family moved in to a new house, we found out our neighbor was growing pot in her backyard with the fan running 24 hours a day,” wrote one Korean resident of Colorado on a local Korean online forum.

”My family, including my two young children, had to smell pot all day and all night. It’s been so torturous that I listed the house for sale, but realtors tell me I’m out of luck as long as the marijuana garden is next door,” she added.

Hey, just be happy you weren’t living next to a meth lab.

David Kim, an official of the Korean-American Association of Washington, told the Korea Times that, “‘It’s a culture shock. No matter what advocates here say, for Koreans, marijuana has always been and probably always will be considered a bad drug.” Except, of course, that’s not actually true. And it’s reportedly still legal in North Korea.

– Samsung is finding much humor in Apple’s decision to “go big,” although there appears to be some disagreement within Samsung regarding what’s actually funny:

The Korea-based company immediately released ads mocking almost every element of Apple’s show. The ads were a little coarse around the edges, not offering the same wit as some of the excellent mocking ads that had emerged from its US wing.

It was instructive that Samsung’s US spokesperson released this terse statement about them: “The social videos were produced in Korea and are not part of the US marketing campaign.”

Some might have translated that as: “Aaaggh. There they go undoing all our hard work. Bloody corporate headquarters!”

Anyway, watch the videos on your own. Frankly, I liked the Korean-produced ones better, even if I’ll never use an Android device again.

Don’t expect much help from Korea in the fight against ISIS.

Open Thread: Chuseok 2014

I just wanted to wish you all a happy and healthy Chuseok holiday.

Myanmar beauty queen wants an apology, soldiers face murder charges and N. Korean car culture

- May Myat Noe, the dethroned Burmese beauty queen accused of running off from Korea with a $100,000 tiara, says she will give back her crown… IF the organizers offer her an apology:

She told reporters she was forced to lie about her age and organisers had demanded that she have “head-to-toe” plastic surgery.

She also denied claims that she had run off with the crown, saying she had boarded the plane for Myanmar without realising she had been dethroned.

Over at the Korea Observer, Kim Tae-hoon talked with May Myat Noe, but perhaps more interestingly, he also tried to visit the organizers’ office… with interesting results.

– I suppose it’s nice that lawmakers have each other’s backs.

– The four soldiers accused of, well, beating a fellow soldier to death are now being charged with murder. And how’s this for horrible:

Investigators in the Third Army also concluded that so-called crush syndrome and secondary shock from a long period of violence were the main causes of Yoon’s death, citing reviews of medical and autopsy records and consultations with experts.

“Crush syndrome threatened the soldier’s life as muscles were destroyed and blood became toxic due to a beating or a crushing injury,” said Col. Kim Jin-gi, staff judge advocate of the Third Army headquarters. “A secondary shock was from massive blood loss due to injury.”

“In other words, he was beaten to death,” another military official said.

Crush syndrome is usually associated with people who are injured in an earthquake or a collapsed building.

Colonel Kim said the accused soldiers, who had enough medical knowledge as medical officers, were aware of Yoon’s deteriorating physical condition on the day of his final beating but did not stop the brutality.

“Some of the accused were medical students, and they had enough understanding that Yoon could die from continuing beatings and abuse,” he said. “We secured evidence to accuse them with gross negligence.”

I’d write something, but really, I’m speechless.

And in more “Good News from the ROK Military,” the commander of the 1st ROK Army has been sacked for getting sloshed at a time when the military was supposed to be at heightened readiness, and two special forces soldiers died during a harsh training exercise meant to simulate captivity conditions.

– Korean-born Fleur Pellerin is France’s new Minister of Culture.

– North Korea has screwed Volvo out of USD 393 million, reports Jalopnik. But before you feel too bad for the folk involved:

The story goes like this: back in the late 60s/early 70s, North Korea seemed to be making remarkable economic growth and had a lot of potential mineral wealth opportunities. In Sweden, an unusual alliance of socialist groups who wanted the Marxist state recognized and capitalists who wanted to recognize a lot of cash from mining agreed that it would be a great idea to start doing some business with North Korea.

And that was the mistake.

Volvo was one of the first to take advantage of this incredible opportunity, shipping 1000 Volvo 144s to the Hermit Kingdom, along with, presumably, a bill which then-leader Kim Il-Sung promptly got a crack team of highly trained ignorers to forget about.

Let this be a lesson to you.

Anyway, if you haven’t seen it already, check out Jalopnik’s fascinating look at North Korea’s car culture. And according to the Financial Times, at least somebody in North Korea is driving around in a BMW 7 Series.

Tiaras, t*ts and human rights abuses, Ashley Madison sues, K-pop’s black fans & more dangerous satire

- Well, I’m sure you’re all familiar now with the Burmese beauty queen who allegedly ran off from Korea with a tiara and a new set of boobs. The organizers have taken to the press to bash her, but judging from this piece in the excellent Korea Observer, it would seem there are some serious shenanigans going on with the organizers, too. And this is not the first time allegations have been made against the pageant in question, either.

– Ashley Madison is suing Korea, accusing Seoul of blocking their website for no reason other than to protect local companies:

The suit alleges South Korea is trying to give its own companies a leg up when it comes to breaking into the Canadian market.

“The defendants’ anti-competitive practices in South Korea have a direct impact in Canada on communications and social networking businesses and websites competing for the Korean-Canadian and Asian-Canadian market for such websites,” it claims.

“Given the global reach of the Internet, a social networking service that meets with success among any particular group of people in one country has or will have a significant competitive advantage among people of that same group or related groups in other countries.”

OK, granted, we are talking about a country that criminalizes adultery and arrested some, ahem, entertainers for shooting porn… in Canada.

But we’re also talking about a country that’s not above a bit of neo-mercantilism, either.

– In case you were wondering, yes, there are black folk who like K-pop.

– Yes, Korea has a plagiarism problem, although as everybody knows, it’s not because of Confucianism. It’s because of PTSD.

– Last, but certainly not least, I’m pretty sure I’d agree with little of this guy’s politics, but he’s right when he says, “Satirizing political power should not be a crime.”

N. Korean cheerleaders, N. Korean racism irony, ‘S’ company sinkholes and the dangers of sarcasm

- So much for the North Korean cheering squad:

Reversing its earlier decision, North Korea said Thursday that it will not send a cheerleading squad to accompany its athletes who will compete in the upcoming Asian Games in South Korea.

The announcement by Son Kwang-ho, the vice chairman of North Korea’s National Olympic Committee, said no cheerleaders will be dispatched to the Asiad to be held in the western port city of Incheon from Sept. 19 to Oct. 4.

Son cited South Korea’s negative view of its cheerleaders as a major reason for its decision to call off its plan.

And by negative view, what the North really means is, “Seoul won’t pay for them“:

Pyongyang cited disagreement over whether Seoul would foot the bill for the North’s athletes and cheerleaders as one point of contention. The North initially proposed sending around 700 people including 350 cheerleaders. In previous sporting events in South Korea, Seoul has underwritten North Korea’s costs. This time around, it said that the international norm of each country paying its way should be followed.

Personally, North Korean “cheering”—basically a slickly produced B&W film away from the Nuremberg Rally—is not something I think anyone should be encouraging, so this is a good development, IMHO.

– The day North Korea—yes, that North Koreaaccused the United States of racism was the day irony died. To appreciate this fully, though, read the Korean version of the KCNA description of President Obama from May. For that matter, they’ve been accusing South Korea of polluting the bloodlines by having mix-race babies for years now.

– If you fall into a sinkhole in Songpa-gu, this is who you’ll want to blame. Hint: It’s not Lotte. In fact, the sinkholes have nothing to even do with the construction of the Lotte World Tower. As a note, though, a quick Google search showed that quite a few papers did in fact prominently feature the name of the company that was responsible…at least in Korean.

– You’ll be happy to learn that retweeting North Korean propaganda in order to make fun of it is legal. So says the Supreme Court:

“Praising the North Korean regime, a violation of the National Security Law, is applied [to a suspect] when there is possibility [for him] to commit an evil act harming the existence of the country and public security,” the Supreme Court judges said in their verdict, “But he was not that kind of case.”

It’s outrageous that the defendant is this bullshit case was ever put on trial in the first place. But as was noted earlier in the case, the authorities—and certain major Korean corporations, for that matter—don’t take sarcasm very well.

– So, on my Facebook, I was saying how much I enjoyed “Edge of Tomorrow” and “Pacific Rim,” and somebody linked to an extended version of the Pacific Rim soundtrack, which, io9 points out, “Anything you do while listening to this will seem 1000 percent more heroic.” So I share it with you on this lovely Friday:

Crap I read today

- It’s amazing nobody’s been charged with murder for this yet:

The death in April of a young Army conscript who allegedly suffered constant physical abuse by his fellow soldiers was directly caused by a particularly brutal assault incident by his peers, a human rights official said yesterday, urging the military to charge the suspects with murder.

According to Lim Tae-hun, the head of the Center for Military Human Rights, the 23-year-old private, surnamed Yun, died not from choking, as previously stated, but because he lost consciousness after being severely beaten.

Lim also claimed that Yun, who served in the Army’s 28th Infantry Division, was already dead by the time he arrived at the hospital that day, not a day later as reported.

Abuse doesn’t even begin to explain what happened to this kid:

Four of the alleged assailants were indicted three days after his death on manslaughter charges, with the others — a staff sergeant and a private first class — charged with assault.

“We decided to modify the indictment to bring sexual harassment charges against a sergeant surnamed Lee,” said the senior Army officer said, requesting anonymity.

“On the day of the incident, Lee allegedly forced Yoon to apply ointment to his sexual organ. Lee told the prosecution he did it because Yoon responded to him in a nasty way,” he added.

The prosecution has also been mulling whether to apply “murder charges against the four suspects rather than manslaughter, and will make a final decision within a week,” according to the officer.

For more than a month after being dispatched to the 28th Infantry Division, Yoon allegedly had been beaten almost 100 times per day, according to the prosecution. The suspects also often forced him to stay awake until 3 a.m., hold a horse-riding stance for hours during the night and lick their spit from the ground.

I’ve heard a lot of folk ask why they should send their children to the military when this is the kind of shit that awaits them.

– Well, this is embarrassing. I’m sure Yu-na doesn’t approve, either.

– K-pop isn’t hypersexual, eh? Obviously, John Power doesn’t agree.

North Korean planes are falling out of the sky and Pyongyang’s latest military hardware is decades old. How much longer can the regime last? Being a pessimist when it comes to North Korea, I’d have to say, “Pretty long.” UPDATE: And experts seem to be saying “10–20 years” (HT to Jonathan Cheng)

– The US is concerned about South Korean espionage? Shocking.

Seven urban wastelands in Seoul.

Africa’s a big place, folk

Duksung Women’s University, the host of the World Congress of Global Partnership for Young Women 2014, has rescinded its invitation to Nigerian participants due to the West African ebola outbreak, but some feel this apparently not enough:

However, it was not enough to cool down intensifying frustration from critics who demanded the entire congress to be called off. Some of the women’s university students and other opponents argue that other African participants from countries like Ghana or Rwanda may have come in contact with the disease.

The students yesterday initiated an online petition to cancel the event, garnering support from more than 15,000 people. Duksung’s official blog and website as well as a bulletin board on the Blue House’s website were bombarded with a flood of posts condemning the school’s hosting of the event.

The school said that it would try its best to prevent any potentially detrimental effects, reassuring the public that health officials would be on the lookout for anyone exhibiting Ebola symptoms, especially among the African participants. The school also said it would have participants stay in a separate building away from the school’s dormitory, reversing its initial plan to accommodate them in the dorms.

“It’s impossible to block the entrance of those from the non-affected countries,” said Heo In-seob, a public relations official with the university. “We are cooperating with the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and the Korea Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. I think that worries are too exaggerated.”

It’s good to be cautious, of course, but one wonders what some of the same netizens might think if foreign netizens called for Korean participants to be banned from an international conference because of a disease outbreak… in Myanmar.

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