The Marmot's Hole

Korea... in Blog Format

Author: Anonymous_Joe (page 1 of 5)

National Foundation Day (Open) Thread: October 3, 2015

October 3 is a national holiday in Korea, Gaecheonjeol (개천절). known as National Foundation Day in English.  On this date, Koreans celebrate the founding of the Korean nation with the formation of the first Korean state of Gojoseon 4,348 years ago in 2333 BC and their 5,000 years of Korean culture.

For some Korea lovin’, check out this classic video produced by VANK:

Here’s the winner (at mark 6:30):

Vank 5,000 Years of History Video

The runner-up (“…and if for any reason the winner cannot fulfill its duty, the the first runner-up will….”)  occurs at the 30 second mark:  “On upside-down world maps, Korea looks powerful as it emerges from the continent and extends into the Pacific Ocean.”

Happy National Foundation Day!

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Open Thread September 12, 2015: The September of My Year

One day you turn around, and it’s summer
Next day you turn around, and it’s fall….


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Open Thread: September 6, 2015

Oh no he di’n’t.

…goin’ back-to-back.

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Open Thread: August 23, 2015

Enjoying my summer daze.


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Park’s Statement Marking the 70th Anniversary of Liberation from Japan at the End of World War II: No Thanks is Necessary.

On Saturday, Korean President Park Geun-hye issued her statement commemorating the 70th anniversary of Korea’s liberation from Japan at the end of World War II. (“the official website of the Republic of Korea”) published a 2,996 word, English translation of Park’s statement.

President Park opened by greeting Korean citizens at home and abroad and then got to her point:

“I join the entire Korean people in sharing the excitement and emotions that were felt on this day seventy years ago. I pay tribute to our forebears who paid the ultimate sacrifice for their nation’s independence and the patriots who dedicated themselves to founding the Republic of Korea.

From the depths of my heart, I convey my gratitude to those who served the cause of independence with distinction and to their families.

…Seventy years ago today, propelled by the yearning for independence and through selfless struggle, the Korean people at last achieved the liberation of their fatherland.

The indomitable will and patriotism of those who gave their lives for this country formed the bedrock upon which the Republic of Korea would become the great nation that it is today.”

Park uttered the terms “economy” 14 times, “creative” nine times, and “creative economy” six times:

“Over the years, our Republic of Korea has been carrying forward the time-honored heritage and legitimacy of the Korean people, safeguarding our free democracy and laying the groundwork for the enduring prosperity of the economy for both the nation and its people.  …Together with the Korean people who, with such dauntless resolve, have been writing a creative and miraculous history….  …we are facing a weak global economy and a host of difficulties here at home and abroad.  …I believe we must consummate the twin wings of a creative economy…. The government has put forward the creative economy as a new paradigm for the economy and has been working to bring this vision to fruition.  The establishment of all seventeen Centers for Creative Economy and Innovation in major cities and provinces was completed last month. Now, high quality start-up support services are available for anyone with creative ideas.  …and thus generate new engines of growth for their economies.  …I am convinced that the creative economy will serve as a driving force that injects vitality into our economy and helps propel the global economy. Looking ahead, the government will be vigorous in its support to make sure the creative economy becomes a new source of advancement for individuals and local economies.  …With the potential to yield boundless economic value, culture also represents a key source of national competitiveness.

The Republic of Korea has a resplendent, unique culture that has continued throughout its venerable five-thousand-year history.

…When our time-honored culture – one that has attracted the attention of world – blossoms anew as it interacts with the world, the gateway to renewed takeoff could be unlocked.

…Insofar as the creative economy and cultural enrichment are engines that will propel our economic resurgence, the “four major reforms” of the public, labor, financial and education sectors form the basis for the innovation that will continue to power those engines.

Park noted that August 15 also marked the anniversary of the founding of the Republic of Korea in 1948 and remarked at the pluck required to rebuild from the ravages of civil war:

The tragedy of our division and the ravages of the Korean War completely swept away the livelihood of our people. What meager industrial infrastructure we had collapsed thoroughly.

But we were far from daunted. Through unity of purpose and the strength of our people, our nation made great new strides forward.

Park again gave grievance to Korea’s contradictory position that statements of apology and remorse issued by Japan’s previous governments must stand while they are inadequate:

Since ties were normalized in 1965, the view of history articulated by the previous Japanese cabinets, including in the Kono Statement and the Murayama Statement, have been the key underpinnings of the Korea-Japan relationship.  In this sense, it is hard to deny that Prime Minister Abe Shinzo’s statement of yesterday marking the 70th anniversary of the end of the war, did not quite live up to our expectations.

This notwithstanding, we take note of the message that was clearly conveyed to the international community; namely, that the position articulated by the previous Japanese cabinets, based on its apologies and remorse for how Japan’s aggression and colonial rule caused tremendous damage and suffering to the people of many countries in Asia, and caused suffering to the “comfort women” victims, will remain unshakable into the future.

We look to the Japanese government to match with consistent and sincere actions its declaration that the view of history articulated by its previous cabinets will be upheld, and thereby win the trust of its neighbors and the international community.

Park spent the bulk of the remainder of her speech addressing reunification.

My immediate, one word reaction to Park’s statement is dismay.

Park followed the formula of her previous year’s address and that of her predecessor by ignoring America’s contributions, only crediting the “selfless struggle” of  “the Korean people” who “at last achieved the liberation of their fatherland.”  She offered not even a hint that America and 8 million American soldiers actually did the liberating in the Korean people’s  selfless struggle for liberation.

(Here’s Park’s sole reference to America, Americans, or the United States:  “As the recent normalization of ties between the United States and Cuba and the Iranian nuclear deal attest, the international community is in the midst of a sweeping tide of change and cooperation.  But North Korea is treading the opposite path.”)

Park’s speech with it’s overarching emphasis on the economy rather than liberation, freedom, and democracy had the nuts and bolts of a state of the union address.  Rather than sing to the lofty aspirations of a maturing democratic republic, Park got weighed down by graven consumer goods and electronic gadgets:  “Today, we have become a country producing some of the world’s finest electronic goods, automobiles, steel, ships and petrochemical products, and we stand tall as an economic powerhouse with export figures that are the sixth largest in the world.”

Given that Park had omitted America’s role in Korea’s liberation, she  obviously could not articulate the role that America played in the miracle on the Han.  Apparently, no thanks is necessary.

Regardless of the apology issue, Shinzo Abe offered a rhetorically stronger anniversary address, presenting Japan’s commitment to democratic ideals and the aspirations  of a modern democracy and responsible world citizen.  Park Geun-hye spoke of Korea’s pride in producing exports.

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Open Thread: August 15, 2015

Celebrating Korean Independence Day Gwangbokjeol (광복절) – “the day the light returned” – 70 years ago today in black and white:












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Abe’s Statement Marking the 70th Anniversary of the End of World War II

Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe has issued his long anticipated (as in speculated about) statement commemorating the 70th anniversary of Japan’s surrender in World War II.  The Mainichi Shimbun published a 1,662 word,  English translation of Abe’s statement.

Abe’s statement begins with a lengthy history lesson, mapping Japan’s road to war. His prelude ends with “Japan gradually transformed itself into a challenger to the new international order that the international community sought to establish after tremendous sacrifices. Japan took the wrong course and advanced along the road to war.”

Abe’s next sentence in his statement:  “And, seventy years ago, Japan was defeated.”

His statement continues with something similar to his speech, in which he offered “condolences”, before the United States Congress earlier this year:  “On the 70th anniversary of the end of the war, I bow my head deeply before the souls of all those who perished both at home and abroad. I express my feelings of profound grief and my eternal, sincere condolences.”

Abe then remembers Japan’s war dead:  “More than three million of our compatriots lost their lives during the war: on the battlefields worrying about the future of their homeland and wishing for the happiness of their families; in remote foreign countries after the war, in extreme cold or heat, suffering from starvation and disease. The atomic bombings of Hiroshima and Nagasaki, the air raids on Tokyo and other cities, and the ground battles in Okinawa, among others, took a heavy toll among ordinary citizens without mercy.”

Abe then turns to those “countries that fought against Japan.  …countless lives were lost among young people with promising futures. In China, Southeast Asia, the Pacific islands and elsewhere that became the battlefields, numerous innocent citizens suffered and fell victim to battles as well as hardships such as severe deprivation of food.”

…and in an oblique reference that I infer is to the comfort women/sex slaves:  “We must never forget that there were women behind the battlefields whose honour and dignity were severely injured.”

Abe’s statement finally approaches some measure of culpability, “Upon the innocent people did our country inflict immeasurable damage and suffering. History is harsh. What is done cannot be undone. Each and every one of them had his or her life, dream, and beloved family.”  Then he immediately eases back:   “When I squarely contemplate this obvious fact, even now, I find myself speechless and my heart is rent with the utmost grief.”

“Condolences”, “never forget”, “speechless”, and “utmost grief” are words that I could use to describe what I had read in my middle school history text on the chapter about World War II.  Clearly I could feel those emotions and make such statements without having a sense of apology, remorse, or wrong-doing for acts that I clearly had no sense of historical or collective culpability in.

Abe finally says something that Korea and the rest of East Asia can find solace in:

“We must never again repeat the devastation of war.

Incident, aggression, war — we shall never again resort to any form of the threat or use of force as a means of settling international disputes. We shall abandon colonial rule forever and respect the right of self-determination of all peoples throughout the world.”

Finally, Abe uses the language used in apologies:

“With deep repentance for the war, Japan made that pledge.  …Japan has repeatedly expressed the feelings of deep remorse and heartfelt apology for its actions during the war. In order to manifest such feelings through concrete actions, we have engraved in our hearts the histories of suffering of the people in Asia as our neighbours: those in Southeast Asian countries such as Indonesia and the Philippines, and Taiwan, the Republic of Korea and China, among others; and we have consistently devoted ourselves to the peace and prosperity of the region since the end of the war.

Such position articulated by the previous cabinets will remain unshakable into the future.”

Abe paid tribute to those countries that took Japan back into the international community and made special mention of China:  “How much emotional struggle must have existed and what great efforts must have been necessary for the Chinese people who underwent all the sufferings of the war and for the former POWs who experienced unbearable sufferings caused by the Japanese military in order for them to be so tolerant nevertheless?”

Abe then pitches to those Japanese experiencing apology fatigue:

“In Japan, the postwar generations now exceed eighty per cent of its population. We must not let our children, grandchildren, and even further generations to come, who have nothing to do with that war, be predestined to apologize. Still, even so, we Japanese, across generations, must squarely face the history of the past. We have the responsibility to inherit the past, in all humbleness, and pass it on to the future.”

Abe’s statement rightly concludes with hope from lessons that Japan collectively will “engrave in our hearts”:  the peaceful settlement of international disputes, dangers of trade blocs, and non-proliferation and ultimate abolition of nuclear weapons.  Referencing women injured during war, Abe said the following:

“We will engrave in our hearts the past, when the dignity and honour of many women were severely injured during wars in the 20th century. Upon this reflection, Japan wishes to be a country always at the side of such women’s injured hearts. Japan will lead the world in making the 21st century an era in which women’s human rights are not infringed upon.”

My immediate, one word reaction to Abe’s overall statement is disappointment.

Trump on US-ROK Cost Sharing Agreement: “It’s Crazy”

(Current) Republican presidential nominee front runner Donald Trump blew a sour note in Korean media, criticizing South Korea for riding the backs of U.S. taxpayers for its security while giving “nothing” in return.   According to the Korea Herald,

Trump made the remark during a campaign speech in South Carolina on Tuesday, mentioning South Korea apparently as a nation similar to Saudi Arabia that he accused of enjoying a security free ride on U.S. taxpayers’ money while giving “nothing” in return.

“I like the Saudis … They buy all sorts of my stuff, all kinds of toys from Trump. They pay me millions and hundreds of millions. But you know what? They make a billion dollars a day, folks, and whenever they’re in trouble, our military takes care. You know we get nothing,” he said.

“South Korea,” he said before a member of the audience apparently shouted “crazy.”

“Who said that? Stand up, stand up. He said it’s crazy. It’s true! It’s true! It’s crazy. They make a billion dollars a day,” Trump said.

Trump did not elaborate on South Korea, but in 2011, ahead of the 2012 presidential election, he made a similar remark that the U.S. is protecting South Korea, but “they don’t pay us.”

Seoul and Washington reached a new five-year Special Measures Agreement (SMA) last year, with Seoul agreeing to increase its contribution 5.8% to $867 million adjusted each year by formula for inflation with increases capped at 4%.  The agreement increased Korea’s cost share from approximately 40% to 42% and proved unpopular with Korean media and among Koreans.


Arirang TV broadcast two different segments.  In the first segment Mark Broome cited Trump’s “critical comment”.  In the later segment, the visibly ambivalent Broome cited Trump’s “misguided comment” and opined that “the flamboyant American billionaire… might want to get his facts straight.

Here’s the first, “critical comment” video:

…and here’s the “misguided comment” video:

Arirang Television is operated by the Korea International Broadcasting Foundation (KIBF).


Open Thread: July 19, 2015

“When it rains it pours”

Open Thread: July 13, 2015

Taking one for the team.

(Fortunately, my Anonymous_Ego can handle the hit.)

Open Thread: June 27, 2015

A rare double rainbow sighting made the news this week.  I hope to someday see such in Seoul.

Open Thread: Summer Solstice

Was today the longest day of the year or was it just me?

Harvard-Stanford Math Prodigy Hoax

The widely circulated story of a “Korean high-school student (who) has set the enviable record of attending both Harvard and Stanford universities” is a hoax.

Chosun Ilbo - Korean Student Gets Chance to Attend Both Harvard and Stanford

Local and some international media outlets reported last week that a Korean student at a Virginia high school had been accepted by Harvard and Stanford and that both universities so desired her that they agreed to create a special program to allow her to study at both universities without her having to choose one.  Questions quickly arose about her admissions and special program, and both universities have issued statements denying the reports.

According to Yonhap News, “Harvard and Stanford universities denied Tuesday that a South Korean high school student can attend both schools as part of a special joint program for her, debunking the story of a ‘math prodigy’.”

The student’s family claimed that both Harvard and Stanford tried to convince Kim to choose their universities  because she was “such a brilliant student, especially at mathematics.”  The student’s family went on to claim that the universities created a special program to allow her to study at Stanford for the first two years and at Harvard for the other two years.  The Chosun Ilbo published the following in an article that was removed from its site today:

(The student) initially opted for Harvard, but Stanford wanted her too and struck a deal with Harvard to create a unique program for her. She will study at Stanford during her freshman and sophomore years and then at Harvard for her junior and senior years. She can then choose from which school she takes her bachelor’s degree.

Harvard Public Affairs and Communications official Anna Cowenhoven wrote in an email to Yonhap News Agency that “we have been made aware of an alleged admissions letter sent to (student name) by Harvard University. We can confirm that this letter is a forgery…. Despite recent media reports, there is no program in existence through which a student is admitted to spend two years at Harvard College and two years at Stanford University.

The student’s family provided a letter to reporters as evidence of the student’s admission to Stanford.  A senior communications official at Stanford University, Lisa Lapkin, denied that Stanford had admitted the student.  “‘I am confirming that the letter you received was NOT issued by Richard Shaw or Stanford University,’ she said in response to Yonhap’s request for confirmation of an alleged admission letter signed by the dean of admissions and financial aid.”

The student’s father is reportedly the managing director of Nexon Korea.  “In response to the allegations of fake admissions, he has said that there could be some misunderstanding because her admission is a very special case that has been discussed only between professors of the two universities.”

The student’s family has nonetheless “stuck to the claim and decided to take the case ahead through a lawyer.”

Anyone who is familiar with those universities likely suspected that the story might not be true.  Harvard and Stanford almost routinely receive (and reject) applications from among the best and brightest, and their admissions’ committees strive to balance admitting talented and interesting individuals against building a diversified and cohesive class.

The Korea Observer published an image of the letter supposedly received from Stanford and submitted as evidence by the student’s family.  The letter is dated April 1, which might indicate a cruelly epic April Fool’s prank.  If I remember correctly, the Ivies send their regular admissions notices (and rejections) on April 1.

Unfortunately for the student, the father’s claim as reported that “there could be some misunderstanding because her admission is a very special case that has been discussed only between professors of the two universities” seems to preempt the April Fool’s we-was-pranked defense.  I suspect that the father’s sticking to the claim and pursuing the case “through a lawyer” is for public consumption.

UPDATE:  The father of the student has issued an apology to the press and taken full responsibility for the hoax.  Below is the translation of his letter to the press:

I am the father of the child, and I sincerely apologize for causing such a big controversy with false information, and apologize to those involved.

Everything is my fault and my responsibility. I did not know until now how much my child was suffering and hurting and did not properly take care of her. As her father, I regret having pushed my child into deeper sickness and causing the problem to get bigger.

Going forward, our family will put everything toward treating and taking care of our daughter and live quietly. Please forgive me for not being able to explain all the details, as we have not yet finished assessing the entire situation.

My family is the most precious thing to me in any situation. To help my child and my family go forward in recovery without further hurt, I ask that the media cease reports and filming. Once more, with my head lowered, I apologize.

Although the father “had provided dozens of pages of proof in the form of acceptance letters from each university and correspondences between himself and alleged professors at each school”, Korean language newspapers have suggested that the source and fault for the hoax lie with the student and have hinted at a deeper problem.

UPDATE 2:  JTBC News and other Korean language news sources cite the student’s father implying that the student had some psychological issues.  I have not seen such implied (besides the translated letter above) in English language media, and I believe that, regardless of whether the student had psychological issues, that airing or publishing such is wrong.

According to news sources (see above), the father claimed to have evidence of “correspondences between himself and alleged professors at each school”.  Either news sources made a false attribution to the father or the father lied about the correspondences.  The father’s statements of his child’s mental state in Korean media serve no purpose other than to save his own face at the further expense of his child.  He needs to do now what he should have done once the story blew up:  issue an apology, make some vague statement accepting full responsibility, take care of his child, and shut up.  For any father, regardless of whether he had the slightest hand (as suggested by his claims of correspondences with professors) in creating this mess, to do anything else…

I’m at a loss for words.

UPDATE 3:  The Chosun Ilbo has published another article, Korean ‘Prodigy’ a Serial Fabricator.  Particularly given Korea’s anti-defamation laws, I do not see how the public interest is served in revealing such defamatory information.  I did not see the necessity for the JTBC interview with the student’s father and now less so for the piling on in the Chosun Ilbo.  Although U.S. speech laws would make publishing such non-actionable, I’d like to think journalistic integrity would preclude the publication.  I’m no fan of Korea’s anti-defamation laws, but given their existence and the lack of journalistic restraint, I hope they’re exercised in this case.

Enough already.

Open Thread: June 6, 2015

I wish all a day to remember.

MERS Goes Viral

Korea, from news broadcasts to casual conversations, seems to be all MERS all the time.  Korea’s media have covered angles from the effect on the economy and tourism to the government’s inadequate response, contrasting Cheong Wa Dae’s with the White House’s model during the U.S’s ebola outbreak.

As of this writing, 585 schools (mostly in Gyeonggi-do, Chungcheongbuk-do, and Chungcheongnam-do) have voluntarily closed at least through the end of this week.  Those 585 school closings don’t include kindergartens or daycares or the effectively shutdown education institutions where parents have kept their children home.

When I arrived home last night, Anonymous_Wife pointed to the empty playground and told me that she had kept the Anonymous_Kids home and that no children had gone to the playground all day.  (“Wouldn’t the playground then be safe for our kids?”)

My conversations with working Koreans have centered around their MERS concerns and MERS rumors’ outbreaks.  All speak as though what they have heard through the rumor mill is fact.  Even my Gyeonggi-do city has had a MERS death. I’ve heard the name of a major hospital in the neighboring city where a bus driver (or bus company executive, depending on the storyteller) had been admitted, had several bus driver visitors, and was later diagnosed with and died of MERS.  The implication is that bus drivers visited an infected coworker bus driver, drive buses, and come into contact with thousands of people everyday.

One might reasonably ask, as Arirang News did,

…why is the government not announcing the names of the hospitals that are treating confirmed patients?

The task force said it has decided to withhold that information because it would do more harm than good.  They’re concerned that people who suspect they might have the virus might delay treatment out of fear of going to one of these hospitals.

So rather than officially name a few hospitals (and then provide assurances), the rumor mill effectively names ’em all.  The law of unintended consequences in action.

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