The Marmot's Hole

Korea... in Blog Format

Author: Anonymous_Joe

Open Thread: July 27, 2014

Enjoy the remainder of your weekend!

Random Crap…

…Uncle Marmot might have found interesting if he had had the time.

A Ewha University student, Kim Seo-Yeon, won the Miss Korea 2014 pageant and will represent the Korea in the Miss World 2014 scheduled for December in London.  The Korea Herald noted that “Kim boasts her Western-style figure ― she is 172.8 centimeters tall and weighs 52.4 kilograms.”  Directly quoting and referencing the Korea Herald statement, US based Cosmopolitan wrote about 7 Things That Happen in a Korean Pageant That Would NEVER Happen in an American Pageant  including “contestants’ weights as well as their chest, waist, and hip measurements are posted on the official Miss Korea website…. Which legitimate news outlets later discuss.” 

Gusts of Popular Feeling commented on a report in the JoongAng Ilbo that the Seoul Central District Court had sentenced former NET Quincy Black to two years and six months in prison for “contravening the Law for the protection of children and youth by producing and distributing pornography.”  According to Gusts, “if Quincy Black’s sentence seems light, the Kyunghyang Sinmun states that one reason for the relatively lax sentence is that he deposited 9 million won for his victims.”

The JoongAng Ilbo reported that prosecutors indicted Seoul Metropolitan Councilman Kim Hyung-sik for arranging the murder of a “wealthy 67-year-old businessman and landowner who allegedly paid him kickbacks for political favors and was threatening to expose him.” Wealthy businessman Song allegedly paid Kim W520,000,000 (approx. USD 500,000) for Kim’s “help with the rezoning of Naebalsan-dong from residential to commercial use. …In fact, the area was not eligible for rezoning, which Kim knew but did not reveal to Song.”  …Oh, the double duplicity.

A South Korea-born former Iowa State university scientist, Han, pleaded not guilty to charges alleging that he falsified research for an AIDS vaccine to secure millions of dollars in federal funding. “According to the indictment, Han’s misconduct caused colleagues to make false statements in a federal grant application and progress reports to NIH. The NIH paid out $5 million under that grant as of last month. …Experts say it is extremely rare for criminal charges to be brought in cases of scientific fraud, but that Han’s alleged wrongdoing was extraordinary.” Han seems to have also imported another peculiarity, the wheelchair strategy. “I’m sorry to hear about your car accident and I‘m glad you’re out of the hospital,‘’ Magistrate Judge Celeste Bremer said.

Will the farmer who stumbled upon Yoo Byeong-Eon’s remains collect the W500 million bounty for reporting the discovery?  “…many legal experts believe the man, identified as Park, will not be able to get entire W500 million because he reported to the police without knowing that the body was Yoo’s.  …Police directives stipulate that reward money can be paid to anyone who contributes to the capture of a criminal. A prosecution official said, ‘The criminal does not have to be alive for the person who reported it to get a reward, but in this case he will be able to get it only if he suspected that the body was Yoo’s and gave meaningful help to investigators.’”

Compounding a compounded matter for authorities, a leaked photo (do you really need a warning?) of Yoo’s heavily decomposed body went “viral through portal websites and mobile instant messengers, prompting the police to launch an investigation into the person who leaked the photo.  ‘The leaked photo is part of the investigative filings by police,’ admitted an official of the Seoul Metropolitan Police Agency, who requested anonymity. ‘The cyber crime division of the Seoul Police Agency is going after the leaker.’ ”

The Sewol Ferry Tragedy/Yoo Byeong-Eon investigation claimed more casualties and has dominated the news.  On Tuesday, Suncheon (site where Yoo’s body was found in a plum field) police chief Woo Hyung-Ho got sacked by his superiors who did not appreciate his frankness for comping to a botched investigation.  Following Woo’s dismissal, the head of Jeonnam Provincial Police Agency Jeong Soon-do was relieved from his position Wednesday.

Thursday (yesterday) Choi Jae-kyung, chief of the Incheon District Prosecutors’ Office and the senior prosecutor leading the investigations into Yoo and the ferry’s sinking, tendered his resignation  for bungling both to Prosecutor General Kim Jin-tae.  “Choi, 51, is a veteran prosecutor who built a reputation by leading a series of high-profile corruption cases. He handled slush fund cases involving Hyundai Motors in 2006 and the Lone Star tax evasion case in 2007, which earned him the nickname ‘the Best Blade.’ He also led investigations into bribery cases involving the elder brother of late President Roh Moo-hyun and Park Yeon-cha, chairman of Taekwang Industry Co.”

The Korea Herald reported today that Choi’s superiors, the justice minister and chiefs of the two major law enforcement agencies, have been pressured to step down from their posts.  “Lawmakers say that Choi’s superiors should also be held accountable. Among the targeted officials are Justice Minister Hwang Kyo-ahn, Prosecutor General Kim Jin-tae and National Police Agency Commissioner General Lee Sung-han.”  All this on top of the prime minister who had resigned only to be asked to stay on “because the presidential office [couldn't] find a qualified third candidate for the job”, leading frequent MH poster bumfromkorea to exasperate “don’t tell me they didn’t have anyone else left after they filtered the ‘corruption’ and ‘Pro-Empire’ categories out.”  

Today, Korean authorities took the extraordinary step and held a nationally televised press conference to announce the findings of Yoo Byeong-Eon’s autopsy in finally an effort to appear transparent.

All this makes me wonder what the gift that keeps on giving… or taking… will bring tomorrow?

It’s been a rough week.

Let the Conspiracy Theories Begin

Police announced today that they had found Yoo Byeong-Eon’s badly decomposed body on June 12, nearly six weeks ago:

The chief of police in Suncheon, Yoo Hyung-ho, told reporters that the body was 80% decomposed when an autopsy was started June 13, a day after the body was found. Yonhap said the body was found in a plum field in the city of Suncheon, about 300 kilometers (186 miles) south of Seoul.

He said authorities were able to match DNA from the body to the billionaire and also used a fingerprint from the right index finger.

Water cooler talk has centered around the timing.  Just yesterday, I spoke to several who noted that this coming Thursday would mark the 100-day anniversary since the Sewol Ferry tragedy.  At least one had intended to attend a planned candlelight march and demonstration in Seoul.  Today she expressed incredulity at the timing of the announcement with the upcoming July 30 elections, the farmers’ rice protests, and again the 100-day anniversary and planned candlelight march.

Others expressed dismay with the wasted effort and resources in searching for a dead body six weeks in police possession.  Lest readers forget that Korea had conducted a nationwide (and international) manhunt for Yoo Byeon-Eon, I have been by the Evangelical Baptist Church’s Geumsuwon compound in Anseong at least twice since June 12, and police searched every vehicle that passed on Rte. 38, backing up traffic for a kilometer.  Police had a considerable and convincing show of uniformed officers at that location.

I note that the linked article stated that Korean authorities had identified Yoo Byeong-Eon’s badly decomposed body by his DNA and a fingerprint from his right index finger.  I understand the toxicology reports can take up to six weeks and even that DNA test results, however long they take, might not be immediate, but six weeks?

I can come up with no reasonable explanation for the delay in announcing the results of the fingerprint match.

Finally, I understand (in my admittedly limited understanding of Korean culture) that inquiries into fault and wrong-doing of those who commit suicide come to a halt.  I remember RMH’s suicide, which in effect ended the investigations into his alleged dealings.  I wonder whether Yoo Byeong-Eon (if he indeed committed suicide) will be afforded the same courtesy.

UPDATE:  Suncheon police chief Woo Hyung-Ho (identified as “Yoo Hyung-ho” in the cited article above) admitted to a botched investigation:

“Woo acknowledged that investigators had also been slow in connecting the body with the fugitive businessman.

It was found just a few kilometres from a villa Yoo was known to have used, and next to the corpse was a bag containing an autobiography Yoo wrote in prison in the 1990s.

“We admit that … the investigations on his belongings were imperfect,” Woo said.

“We could have identified him far earlier if we had worked more actively,” he added.

“Woo’s frankness was apparently not appreciated by his superiors and shortly after the press briefing it was announced that he had been removed from his post as police chief.”  Ouch.

State-owned Arirang news reported that the DNA tests took so long because the badly decomposed body necessitated that DNA be sampled from his bones.   Arirang also reported that Yoo’s body was found wearing a “high-priced” Italian made winter jacket, a hat, and no shoes and lying near a bag etched with “Love like a Dream” (the title of his authored book), alcohol (Yoo was said to be a non-drinker),  parts of a copy of his book, and a brand of bottled water owned by Yoo’s company and that he drank exclusively.

The Korea Herald reported that “insiders raised the possibility that investigators may have regarded the body as that of an elderly resident from the provincial district.  Investigators had reportedly told the plum farm owner” who had found the body “that the body ‘seemed to be an ordinary homeless person.’ ”  I find investigators reactions, delays, inaction, and unwillingness to at least consider that the body could be Yoo’s given the circumstantial evidence inexplicable.

Members of Yoo’s Evangelical Baptist Church remain non-believers:

Despite the forensic evidence gathered by the police, the church’s followers refused to believe the body found in Suncheon was Yoo’s.

“The body was too decomposed to be his,” said church spokesman Lee Tae-Jong, who was also suspicious about the alcohol found at the scene.

“Chairman Yoo seldom drinks,” Lee told the YTN news channel.

“I suspect this is a trap laid by police in their efforts to capture him,” he added.

Open Thread: July 14, 2014

Apologies to Uncle Marmot and all.

Japan’s Statement on the Kono Statement

Within the past hour Japan issued its statement on the Kono Statement.

Issued in August, 1993, the Kono Statement acknowledged for the first time “the then Japanese military was, directly or indirectly, involved in the establishment and management of the comfort stations and the transfer of comfort women.”  In a contemporaneous news article,  the New York Times reported on South Korea’s reaction:

South Korea, where most of the women were seized, expressed qualified approval for Tokyo’s admission. “We appreciate the fact that in its latest report, the Japanese Government now acknowledges that coercion was involved in the entire process of recruiting, transporting and managing ‘comfort women,’ ” the South Korean Foreign Ministry said in a statement. “We also appreciate the fact that the Japanese offered an apology.”

As late as June 17, 2014, Seoul’s Foreign ministry reiterated (according to Yonhap News) “that Japan’s 1993 statement acknowledging the Japanese imperial army’s mobilization of wartime sex slaves was made based on Tokyo’s own investigations and judgment.”  From the cited Yonhap News article,

The Kono statement was written based on Japan’s own judgment on the issue, (foreign ministry spokesman Noh Kwang-il said in a briefing), adding that the Korean government made clear that it is not a document needed for prior consultation or agreement with another country.

Arirang News released the following,

Japan announced in its findings today that according to latest Japanese reports the review says the Korean government also played a role in the wording of the Kono statement. Japan’s Jiji News Agency reports that Seoul and Tokyo held discussions on what the statement will look like, under the condition that their dealings be kept a secret. This will definitely trigger heavy criticism from South Korea.

All this leaves observers asking “why?

UPDATE:   In addition to the statement that the Korean government played a role in the wording of the Kono Statement,  Japanese media is reporting  the report claims the Japanese government did not verify the validity of testimonies given by 16 Korean comfort women who were the basis of the Kono Statement.

UPDATE 2:  Although Japan’s Chief Cabinet Secretary Yoshihide Suga said at a press conference  that Japan will continue to uphold the statement and not seek to revise it or change the government’s official stance, China’s Shanghai Daily connected the dots:

In essence, the panel has suggested that the findings were inaccurate, if not fallacious, and the final statement itself unsubstantiated, in a move that quickly drew the ire of the South Korean Foreign Ministry who blasted the Japanese government saying its action were “deeply regrettable” and a “contradictory and pointless act.”

Unfortunately, I agree.  Japan’s panel’s 21 page report on the Kono Statement seems to have pulled much of the punch behind the Kono Statement by questioning the validity of statements, findings, and testimonies underlying the Kono Statement.

Korea’s Joong Ang Daily reported that Japan’s panel found “in the drafting of the Kono Statement, ‘there was intensive and detailed mediation with the Korean government’….”

The Japan Times, which described the crafting of the statement as a “tug of war”, went into more of the contentious details of the negotiation.  Among them, “the report further states that Seoul indicated that if Japan did not comply with the revisions, it would not accept the Kono apology in a positive way” and “the Korean side told Tokyo that ‘it has a policy not to seek financial compensation.’ ”

From a practical standpoint, I find Japan’s panel’s finding that Korea had significant input credible for the simple reason that Japan could not risk issuing a statement that Korea would reject; however,  I find Japan’s revelation of such nonetheless duplicitous.

Regardless of the extent of Korea’s input, Japan signed it.

UPDATE 3:  For those straining to hear the voice of reason and the  supposed silent majority in Japan, The Japan Times published an editorial on its English website, Stop Undermining the Kono Statement.  The following is an excerpt:

If the government is to uphold the 1993 statement, as it says it will, then the Abe administration needs to do what the statement says Japan will do and make proactive efforts to settle the long-running dispute, instead of repeatedly attempting to play down the nation’s responsibility for the ordeal of the women forced into wartime sexual slavery.

…Following the release of the review’s outcome, the Abe administration repeated that it would not change the Kono statement. If that’s the case, then the administration should wholly commit itself to what Japan said in the statement, and seek to repair ties with South Korea that have been strained at least in part by its attempt to question the stance of past Japanese governments on this matter.

Prosecutors Entered Geumsuwon Today

The prosecutors office entered Guemsuwon in Anseong in search of Yoo Byeong-eum about noon today.  According to “Hannah” and in a negotiated deal, the church members permitted about 40 people from the  prosecutor’s office inside the compound.  No uniformed police officers or journalists were let allowed to pass behind the main gate.

In the agreement the prosecutor’s office agreed that neither the Church nor “Mr. Yoo” had any culpability in the 1987 mass murder suicide at a Church affiliated factory.  If so, I don’t know that the Church gained any concession but might have gotten a reaffirmation of a previous statement from the prosecutor’s office exonerating both the Church and Yoo Byeong-eun.

Hannah gave a number of 4,800 uniformed officers.  I counted 20 buses south and 26 buses north of the compound on Rte 38.  I could not count the number of uniformed officers, by which I mean university students performing their compulsory service, in protective body armor, but certainly more than 1,000 is a safe estimate.

The police let me behind the police line when Hannah and the Church’s security motioned me through, but I did not gain entrance to the compound itself.  Hannah gave me a 20 minute recorded interview in which she said that no one felt (aside from some initial apprehension) endangered, all Church members were safe and well fed, and prosecutors were allowed unfettered access to the whole compound.   According to Hannah and judging by the reaction of some of the journalists, I was the only one who got an interview.

Hannah did not know whether Mr. Yoo was at the compound, and he, as of this writing,  has not been found.

Upping the Ante

The stakes at Geumsuwon, suspected hideout of Yoo Byoung-eun, grew significantly higher over the weekend, and the prosecutor’s office went all in.

senior prosecutor involved in the case told the JoongAng Ilbo that “We gave the Yoo family another chance because they have their rights as citizens. But we will have custody of him within this week no matter what.”

If the prosecutor’s office had hoped to buy the pot, members of the Evangelical Baptist Church called:  “ ‘Be prepared for bloodshed. Things cannot get worse. We will protect with our lives. In case of bloodshed, the prosecution will be responsible. If we lose the church, we lose everything,’ they shouted, punching the air with their fists.”

I would expect such words from the sect members.  The prosecutor’s office, however, should not engage in table talk.   Setting the stage for the final showdown later in the week, the prosecutor’s office is expected to ask for and obtain an arrest warrant for Yoo Tuesday.

Rather than noting the parallels to Waco, I hope the Korean authorities remain mindful of two key differences:  those holed up inside the compound do not have firearms and do not represent a threat to themselves or those outside the compound.

The Korean authorities seem to have misplayed their superior hand.  Doubling down on their mistakes, the Korean authorities frittered away their biggest chip, time.  By setting an end of week deadline, they bet all on this round, alerted and mobilized the sect’s members, and maybe even sent a cut and run signal to Yoo Byung-eun.

I’ve been to the sect’s Geumsuwon complex twice, today and Thursday last week.  Today, I observed many more people behind the compound’s main gate and blocking the main driveway.  I noticed a police presence of three squad cars, if the one squad car with two sleeping police officers (I took a photo) counts.  I witnessed increased traffic, which went unchecked by Korean authorities, in and out the main gate and several large trucks capable of carrying several days’ provisions for the several hundred visible behind the main gate.

I spoke to several sect members and one member in depth.  She emphasized the  environmentalism as one of the sect’s core beliefs.  “Hannah” self-identified the sect as “Christian fundamentalists” and believers in “the truth”.  She repeatedly talked about the corruption in the Korean government and judicial system, that Yoo Byoung-eun would not be treated fairly, and that the sect’s membership were protecting the land.  She motioned toward the long, uncut grass and specifically pointed out the tall-stalked dandelion heads that had turned to parachute balls, which means that they were ripe for children to pluck and scatter to the breeze to the chagrin of grandfathers everywhere.  Hannah never referred to “Mr. Yoo” as a minister or religious leader.  She said that the sect was without ministers and that all males, she specifically and without prompt excluded women, were welcome to speak before the congregation.

Since my visit last Thursday and keeping with their environmentalism, the sect provided a dual male/female portapotty for the convenience of the media.  I spoke to a reporter from Channel A who said that the sect had cared for the media members’ overnight comfort.  From the north perimeter, I could see at least three of the oft-mentioned subway cars behind the trees.  Both the north and south perimeters had more members watching from make-shift guard houses than had been visible on Thursday.  The north perimeter had razor wire, which if I judge by the weathering was not new and seemed to present more of their intentions to non-scheduled visitors than an effective deterrent to anyone who really wanted to enter the compound.

The sect members seemed to be of two simultaneously conflicting and irreconcilable minds:  one moment they spoke to me of the impending and perhaps concluding confrontation and the next they gave me organic candy and invited my family and me to the compound anytime.

I texted Hannah my email address and offered her the opportunity to publish an unedited message to the English speaking foreign community, and she texted back, “Follow ur heart :)

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