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Korea... in Blog Format

Author: Anonymous_Joe (page 1 of 6)

The Tweet that set Korea atwitter… Really

Alastair Gale’s one word twitter response to Park Geun-Hye’s likening local protesters in masks to ISIS lit up Korean mainstream and social media and made mainstream and social media around the world.  Really.

Alastair Gale, Seoul bureau chief of The Wall Street Journal, posted to his Twitter account, “South Korea’s president compares local protesters in masks to ISIS. Really.”   His one word commentary questioning PGH’s comparison “captured what many were thinking with highly evocative understatement”, as John Power opined in his piece for The Diplomat.

Alastair Gale - Really tweet

The Korea Times in an editorial, also run by Yonhap News, wrote the following:

Worrisome is that the anti-mask proposal comes as the President is increasingly showing a “my way or highway” tendency, using law above dialogue and confrontation above reconciliation as her primary means of governance. Regarding the mask ban, the latest survey, conducted by Realmeter, shows that 54.6 percent are against it with 40.8 percent who support it. Park is pushing for the renationalization of history textbooks, although a majority of people oppose it, along with even conservative newspapers, the erstwhile supporters of Park, calling it a foul.

History is also against her on the mask ban as well. There have been several attempts to push for the anti-mask legislation, favored by police for making it easier to identify leaders of protests. In 2003, police tried unsuccessfully to have a relevant revision submitted to the National Assembly, while, respectively in 2006 and 2007, a bill was submitted but left unattended. In 2008 after the candlelit vigils, that almost toppled the Lee Myung-bak administration, a similar attempt was shot down as the Constitutional Court sided with progressive nongovernmental organizations, ruling that it ran against the spirit of the basic law to suppress protests. The National Human Rights Commission also rejected it as well.

Gale’s Tweet was shared over 3,300 times and translated by translated into Korean by local media.  The Hankyoreh published this piece in Korean as did SBS.   Facebook comments on the many shares half-facetiously, which means half-seriously, inquired about Mr. Gale’s civil liberty.

Really.  Really?  Really.

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Open Thread: November 23, 2015


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South Korean professor indicted for defaming comfort women

Prosecutors indicted a South Korean university professor on defamation charges, alleging that she falsely described some former “comfort women” as prostitutes who acted without coercion to provide sex to Japanese soldiers during World War II.   On November 18, prosecutors charged without detention Park Yu-ha for statements made in her book “Comfort Women of the Empire”.  Park is a professor at Sejong University.

The Asahi Shimbun wrote,

In the book, Park wrote that she sees the relationship between the “empire” (Japan) and the “colony” (Korean Peninsula) as the backdrop for the Korean comfort women issue.

She explained that as the war progressed, Korean women who were poor and lacked protection of their rights were sent to battlefronts as comfort women for Japanese troops.

In the book, Park raised the issue of whether the women were “sex slaves” or “prostitutes.”

Based on testimonies of former comfort women and other people, Park said the actual conditions and circumstances surrounding the women were diverse.

“It is extremely regrettable that my ideas were not accepted,” Park said on Nov. 19. “But the indictment has become an opportunity for my assertions to be known widely.”

The prosecutors office contends that the Korean comfort women were forced by the Japanese government and Japan’s military forces into sexual slavery.  The prosecutors office cited the Kono Statement issued in 1993 by then Japanese Chief Cabinet Secretary Yohei Kono and the United Nations report promulgated in 1997.

“Prosecutors took issue with what they described as ‘false facts’ in Park’s book.  One is her description saying comfort women were within the framework of ‘prostitution’ and comforted Japanese soldiers with ‘patriotism.’ The other is a passage saying that, officially, the comfort women were not forcibly taken away by Japanese forces, at least on the Korean Peninsula.”

Park published “Comfort Women of the Empire” in summer 2013.  Former comfort women filed a criminal defamation complaint against Park in June 2014 and won an injunction against publication of the book in February 2015.  The Seoul Eastern District Court iruled that the publication of the book would not be allowed unless some parts were deleted.

In a 2015 interview with The Asahi Shimbun, Park said,

“she wrote the book in an attempt to re-portray them in light of the variety of testimonies provided by former comfort women.  She said their words opened her eyes to the sheer diversity of the circumstances and experiences of Korean comfort women, and to the bigger picture of ‘an empire and its colony.’

“Park believes that Japan did not recruit comfort women in Korea, which was part of Japan from Tokyo’s perspective, in quite the same way that it did on the front lines and in occupied areas, such as in the Philippines. In those areas, records show that Japanese soldiers were directly involved in the forcible and violent taking away of comfort women. ‘Many of the Korean comfort women were apparently recruited while being cheated by agents of prostitution, some of whom were Koreans, or being sold by their parents,’ Park said. ‘While some have testified they were forcibly taken away by military personnel, I suppose that such cases, if there were any, were exceptional.’

But Park emphasized that Japan is not exempt from its responsibility for the comfort women, who were taken to ‘comfort stations’ against their will and experienced pain. That is because she sees the relationship of an empire and a colony in the backdrop of the Korean comfort women issue.

The Japan Times in a commentary, Rightists distort author Park Yu-ha’s views on ‘comfort women’, published the following:

Park Yu-ha, an academic at Sejong University in Seoul, is the darling of the Japanese right because of her alleged stance on the “comfort women” system. But their cherry-picking of her writings distorts her views and twists them into support for the revisionists’ vindicating and exonerating narrative.  Park presents a nuanced analysis of the comfort women system, one that challenges the prevailing consensus in South Korea, but she is also quite critical of the role Japan played.

I highly recommend reading the Japan Times’ commentary.

The human tragedy that is the comfort women’s story, as heinous as whatever the truth might be, is not the real and present danger facing Korea today.   The real danger wrapped in this criminal charge is the criminal prosecution of scholarship (if not historical facts and truth itself).  The market place of ideas winnows poor scholarship, fallacious reasoning, or “false facts” along with their authors without the need of criminal prosecution.

The real story here is the Korean government’s prosecution of speech, regardless of truth value.


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Open Thread: November 14, 2015

The all-interesting-and-important-news-in-the-world-is happening-everywhere-but-here edition.

EDIT:  Apparently, important things are happening here.  Fortunately, none affected the expat community’s Saturday night bar plans.

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“I Was Drunk, in Love… Joking!”

“I was drunk”

Comedian admits to husband’s sexual harassment

Putting a twist on the “I was drunk” defense, comedian Lee Kyung-sil admitted her husband, identified only as Choi, 58, did indeed sexually harass a woman as alleged “but added he was drunk at the time.”

The alleged victim reported the harassment to the police on August 19, a day after she, Choi, and seven others drank together. The woman, the wife of Choi’s friend, reported to police that Choi had sexually harassed her while Choi was giving her a ride home after the gathering.

At his trial last Thursday, Choi conceded the allegation was true.  “However, he said he could not control his mind and body because he had been drinking prior to the incident.”

That’s some friend and husband Choi, 58, is.  Apparently neither he nor his lawyer got the memo about the “I was drunk” defense.  Reading the news account of the Supreme Court decision, however, I see that the decision covers rape and not mere sexual assault and battery.  I’m not even convinced that Korea’s Supreme Court set a precedent for all rape cases or rape cases in general.

Comedian Lee Kyung-sil’s defense of her husband makes me wonder whether she’s doing shtick and “but he was drunk at the time” is a punchline.

“I was in love”

Prosecutors appeal over rape case verdict

Prosecutors have appealed and the Supreme Court will review the case of a man, 46, who was found not Identified Only as 'A'guilty of raping a teenage girl.

The man, identified only as “A” and owner of an entertainment company, was indicted for allegedly raping a middle school student 27 years his junior.

According to evidence given at lower court trials, the man had sexual relations with the woman, identified as “B,” many times and got her pregnant in 2011. “B” was 15 at the time.

“A” was indicted after “B” reported to police that she was raped.

“A” was found guilty at the first and second trials.

But last November the Supreme Court overturned the lower court’s decision, as “A” kept insisting he had loved “B.” It sent the case back to the lower court, which ruled on Oct. 16 that he is not guilty of rape.

“But the nation’s highest court is unlikely to change its stance on the case, which it has reviewed before, legal sources said.”

Well, so long as he loved “the woman… 15 at the time.”

“I was… Joking!”

Choi Mong-ryong, professor emeritus at Seoul National University, answers reporters’ questions in front of his house in Yeouido, Seoul, Friday. He said he will not take part in writing the history textbook after news reports that he sexually harassed a newspaper reporter. ( Yonhap)

Choi Mong-ryong, professor emeritus at Seoul National University, answers reporters’ questions in front of his house in Yeouido, Seoul, Friday. He said he will not take part in writing the history textbook after news reports that he sexually harassed a newspaper reporter. ( Yonhap)

State textbook plan hits snag

Choi Mong-ryong, professor emeritus of Seoul National University (SNU) and one of the two lead authors of the textbooks under the National Institute of Korean History (NIKH), said he will not take part in writing the controversial textbooks after a newspaper reporter’s allegations that he sexually harassed her were made public.

Choi’s resignation came two days after the NIKH announced its plan to organize a writing team to implement the new schoolbook policy and is expected to hamper PGH’s plan to push the state authorized textbooks into schools by March 2017.

Choi “allegedly kissed a female journalist on the cheek and groped her after drinking alcohol when she visited his home along with several other reporters. The reporters visited his home because he didn’t appear at the NIKH press conference, Wednesday. Choi denied the harassment accusation but he conveyed his willingness to quit the writing team. ‘I admit I made a joke, but reporters didn’t express any displeasure,’ Choi said.  ‘I don’t understand this controversy.’ ”

Choi appears to have a problem with his version of events:  “On Friday, he claimed to the Dong-A Ilbo that he remembered drinking alcohol but not sexually harassing the journalist or having a physical contact with her.”

All news items are recent:  the comedian’s husband and joking textbook writer broke last Thursday, Humbert Kim happened at the end of October.

In the I was drunk case, “he said he could not control his mind and body because he had been drinking prior to the incident.”  Such claims are so commonplace as a defense or mitigating factor in rape, sexual assault, and sexual harassment that I wonder how alcohol, which seemingly turns Korean Dr. Jekylls into foreign Mr. Hydes, remains legal under Korean law, which purports to be based on deductive reasoning.

I wonder whether any defendant has mounted an “I was drunk” defense as an exculpatory or mitigating factor in a drunk driving case.  If Korean courts reject “I was drunk” as a defense in drunk driving (and other crimes) but accept the defense in rape cases, what does the defense say about the nature of Korean men?

In the I was in love case, the 15 year old girl filed rape charges.  If the Korean court ruled that the sex was consensual (Korea’s age of consent being another gripe for another day), well that’s that.  The court ruled, however, that because ‘A’, at the time a 42 year old man ,”loved” 15 year old ‘B’, ignoring the issue of consent, no rape took place.

In the I was… Jokng incident, Seoul National University, where Choi spent his academic career, seems to be a hotbed of sexual harassment with reports of senior faculty taking advantages of students published several times each year and needs to reexamine its culture.

The KT article included a chilling and gratuitous reminder of the current climate in Korea:  “In the meantime, the National Police Agency said it will crack down on those who resort to violence and defamation against members of the textbook team.”

I have now lived in Korea for a few years, and I still SMH WTF?

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Open Thread: November 7, 2015

I’m going.  Proceeds benefit Korean charities.  Let’s meet there and not acknowledge each other.

Monday, November 9
Lotte Hotel Seoul, in Jung-gu.

Share culture, share love and share life at the 53rd Annual SIWA & Diplomatic Community Bazaar on November 9!

Our Bazaar is one of the largest charitable events in Korea. Embassies, women’s clubs, welfare organizations, local businesses and sponsors join together to sell products, food and cultural goods from all over the world. The funds raised are donated to Korean charities. Come and enjoy:

  • Shopping unique products
  • Eating international foods
  • Cultural Performances and Costumes
  • Raffle Prizes
  • Free Admission
  • Convenient location: 1 minute from Euljiro 1(il)-ga station

Please plan to spend an hour or the whole day with us, and bring your friends and neighbors. We look forward to seeing you!Download & Share the Bazaar Flyer!

Participating organizations in the Bazaar

Embassies from around the world are coming together to sell goods and foods from their home countries. They donate their proceeds to local Korean charities so you can shop and eat for a great cause! We are grateful for their generous contributions and continued support. (List of Participating Embassies)

Support Korean Charities at the Bazaar by shopping at their booths. They will sell a wide variety of goods such as Christmas items, handicrafts, kitchen and other household goods, cosmetics, tea and more! List of Bazaar Charities

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SNU student body presidential candidate comes out as lesbian

The sole candidate at Seoul National University for student body president came out as a lesbian during a campaign meeting on campus.  Kim Bo-mi, a 23 year old consumer and child studies major,  announced her sexual orientation during her campaign speech Wednesday.  If she is elected, she would become Seoul National University’s first openly gay student body president.  Kim is currently running unopposed.

The Korea Times and the Korea Times – US Edition published snippets of her speech:

“I want the world to be a place in which people who work hard do not suffer.  I want this to be a world in which no one has to fit under a label of what is ‘normal.’ I want this to be a world in which people can love themselves for who they are and in which they can live confidently. That’s why I am telling you. I’m a lesbian.

…The fact that I’m a lesbian is just another piece of who I am.  The things I believe in, the things I’ve done as vice president, and the things I want to accomplish in the future — those things will not change. …The image and the direction I envision for this school is of a space in which we can exist as ourselves, and as a society in which that in itself is accepted as beautiful. That’s the reason I’m coming out today.”

The slogan of Kim’s campaign is “Moving As One Toward Diversity.”

According to news sources, Kim “had the support of the 40-or-so students present at the meeting”, and when the Seoul National University Journal, SNU’s campus newspaper, published the full text of Kim’s speech, heavy traffic brought down the campus’s paper’s website.

As of this writing, the Seoul National University Journal’s website is still down:

SNU Website

UPDATE:  Kim Bo-mi was elected with 86.8 percent of vote.  “The voting rate was tallied at 53.5 percent when polls closed at 6 p.m. The election was the first in 18 years where the polling time was not extended. It is also the first in five years that concluded without a revote, as voters flocked to polling stations with raised interest in school affairs after Kim’s coming out.”

Kim’s term as SNU’s student body president starts December 1.

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Open thread: October 31, 2015

I.Seoul.U.  I honestly Seoul U.


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World Bank “bafflingly” ranks Korea 4th best place to do business

The World Bank released its Doing Business 2016 report and ranked South Korea as the fourth best country in the world to do business.  South Korea’s ranking remained the same as in the 2015 report.  Only Singapore, New Zealand, and Denmark rated higher.  The U.S. ranked seventh.

Of course, the devil lies in the methodology, and I invite my reader to curl up with a cup of hot cocoa and read the World Bank’s 125 page report.  Here’s a listing of the top countries:

World Bank Best Places to Do Business Top Rankings


…Or he can read the Chosun Ilbo’s surprisingly perspicacious review with the lede, Korea Bafflingly Ranked 4th Best Place to Do Business.  “Korean business people were left scratching their heads. ‘If Korea is the fourth best place in the world to do business, then why aren’t multinationals rushing to set up operations here?’ asked one baffled executive with a major conglomerate.”

“Earlier, Forbes magazine in its own list of the best countries for business and ranked Korea a more realistic 32nd.  So what is behind the enormous discrepancy?  …The World Bank bases its evaluation mostly on infrastructure which is conductive to business. Its 10-point list of criteria includes ‘construction permits, getting electricity, registering property and enforcing contracts.’ Those areas are Korea’s strong points.”

The Chosun Ilbo then returned to familiar form:  “But the evaluation did not include the Achilles heel of the Korean corporate landscape, which is labor relations.  Korea is notorious for its militant unions.  ‘The most common complaints among domestic and foreign businesspeople are frequent strikes by unions and red tape, like regulations that ban hotels within a few hundred meters from a school, but the World Bank’s evaluation did not reflect any of these factors, so it’s difficult to take the ranking seriously,’ said Kim Dong-wook at the Korea Employers Federation.”

Ye Olde Ilbo noted that Forbes (“Korea a more realistic 32nd”), the International Institute for Management Development (Korea at 37th) and the World Forum (Korea at 26th) ranked Korea about average.

Fourth?  No.

Korea might be conducive to Korean business, but I, as a foreigner or foreign corporation, would not put my faith or fate in Korean courts.

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Mid-Week Bitch-and-moan-cathartic-get-it-out-of-your-system Open Thread

Have at it.

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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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