The Marmot's Hole

Korea... in Blog Format

Author: Bobby McGill (page 1 of 14)

American ambassador talks policy, love of kimchi

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In his first interview with the Korean media, American Ambassador Mark Lippert discusses a variety of topics such as North Korea, America’s role in improving relations between Japan and the ROK, THAAD, the “pivot” to Asia and his long-time friendship with President Obama.

He also confirmed that he not only eats kimchi, but is quite fond of it.

When asked, Lippert responded:

“I eat a lot of kimchi. Absolutely. I love it. I love the flavor.”

The 41-year-old Lippert, the youngest ambassador Washington has posted to Seoul, seems a sharp fellow and has been lauded since his arrival for the way he engages the public through social media and on the street. We should all wish him well moving forward with what must be one of the more difficult ambassadorial postings in the arena of Asia geopolitics.

As for “the question”. I once asked former Lotte Giants’ manager Jerry Royster something, errr, similar during his tenure here.

Korea has World’s 14th Priciest Airfare, but Buses are Cheap

For those traveling around the ROK, you’ll be pleased to know that the bus fares are some of the least expensive in the world. Unfortunately, when flying, it’s not so good. According to a recent study released by GoEuro, Korea ranks as the 14th most expensive place to fly in the world.

While the study found that airfare in Korea, at $40.73 per 100km, was cheaper than neighboring Japan ($56.39), it was twice as much as China ($20.06) and monumentally more expensive than the United States, Spain, Australia, South Africa, Malaysia and India, who all ranked as the world’s cheapest places to fly.

Train fares here are also priced fairly high worldwide, but a combination of all three travel options –trains, planes and buses– landed Korea squarely in the middle of the price pack.

As for India, well, here’s something you don’t read everyday.

Airfares in India are so low in fact, that it is now cheaper to travel by air than to take the train. According to the GoEuro study, a 100-kilometer train journey costs $11.31 while travel by air will run you an average of $10.36 for the same distance.


Education minister nominee accused of plagiarism

Hey kids! Here’s one way to get to the top. Granted, that doesn’t mean you won’t be toppled once you get there –as looks to be the likely case for President Park’s nominee  for education minister, Kim Myung-soo. 

The nominee for South Korea’s education minister is suspected of having plagiarized a thesis written by one of his students while serving as a professor, an opposition lawmaker claimed Tuesday.

President Park Geun-hye nominated Kim Myung-soo, a professor at Korea National University of Education, last week as the new education minister, who will also double as deputy prime minister for educational, social and cultural affairs.

Rep. Park Hong-geun raised the issue of Kim’s suspected plagiarism, claiming that a considerable part of his paper published in June 2002 overlaps a thesis written by one of Kim’s students identified only by his surname Chung.

Works Cited in this Post:

Education Minister Nominee Accused of Plagiarism. Korea Herald, 17 June 2014. Web. Accessed 18 June 2014.

Confucian confusion

Those of you tired of the cultural critique that inevitably pops up in the western world following Korean disasters should check out this piece over at Sweet Pickles & Corn. The basic gist is that, if anything, the Sewol tragedy could have been lessened had there been more adherence to Confucianism rather than less.

What these critics never bother to understand or to point out is that Confucianism is not a one-way street that merely demands unconditional deference to one’s seniors; it is a system of reciprocal duties that just as clearly describes the obligations of parent to child, teacher to pupil, ruler to subject, and by extension, of captain to crew and passengers. In a well-oiled Confucian system then, obedience is never blind; it is always underwritten by a social contract that obliges leaders to be virtuous and to carry out their duty with the best interests of their subordinates in view at all times.

On a completely different topic, if you’ve yet to read The Revolution will not be Grammaticized over on SP&C, it’s a helluva yarn.

Heralded science education bears fruit with general populace

A recent survey of 1,049 Koreans aged 19-69 had these findings:

Apparently, 32.4 percent of participants agreed that tall people (186.7 centimeters or taller) really are “bags of nothing.”

About 24 percent agreed people whose last name goes by Choi are the most stubborn kinds among Koreans.

Another 17.6 percent agreed those with long fingers are lazy.

And 16.4 percent agreed men consider the youngest daughter in any family so invaluable they don’t even care if she is ugly.

And finally, 9.6 percent agreed men with long eyelash (1.5 centimeters or longer) cannot settle with one woman.

I post this with the recognition that more Americans can identify the Three Stooges than the three branches of government.

And, I will get around to measuring my eyelashes post haste –not that I need justify my present course diversions. One can’t do enough in their efforts to build the confidence of ‘invaluable’ daughters.

Carry on.


Times Square Dokdo ad and others past due since 2012, billboard agency sues for payment

Well, this certainly can’t be good for the cause or the causes.

This from Monday’s Korea Times:

It turns out that high-profile Dokdo and comfort women ads to be paid for by singer Kim Jang-hoon and a bibimbap ad, to be sponsored by MBC’s Infinite Challenge, are currently overdue.

All of them — coordinated by “Korea publicist” Seo Kyoung-duk — were put up on Times Square billboards operated by City Outdoor USA, a New York-based company that filed a lawsuit for the missing payments.

According to the complaint, acquired by Korean-American journalist Ahn Chi-yong, the company is demanding approximately $70,000 (75 million won) for four billboard signs that have been overdue since 2012.

According to Seo, a Korean American ad agency is to blame.

“Kim, Infinite Challenge and I have done nothing wrong whatsoever,” Seo told The Korea Times. “All of the money has been passed on to a Korean-American ad agency, which was responsible for making the payment to City Outdoor USA. But obviously, that never happened.”

And, while on the subject of promotional ads gone wrong, the now infamous NY Times Bulgogi ad, which Sports Illustrated called “bizarre”, got a pretty prime ripping by NPR.

Read it all here, but one of the best lines –for those of us up on their Internet history:

In pursuit of greater understanding, I visited the website listed at the bottom of the print ad: That just led to greater confusion.

First off, it looks like something that belongs on a cached GeoCities page.


I’d like to say that these promotions would be best taken out of the current hands and left to a coordinated agency, but that hasn’t worked out too well either.

Oh well. Onward and upward.


Dokdo times square ad


‘CockAsian’ Korean spicy chicken truck ready to roll in Texas

American small business owner and Korean food fan Candie Yoder, is gearing up for her soon to be launched Korean spicy chicken food truck dubbed “CockAsian.”

San Antonio Port, where she was initially set to open for business, has banned Yoder, calling the name “offensive”.

Yoder doesn’t see what the big deal is:

“I was getting so many shocked and surprised reactions about me choosing to do an Asian themed truck that I wanted to do some play on words about it,’’ she said.

“Our name actually was a play on the fact that I am Caucasian and cooking Asian. It also worked with the fact that we are featuring Korean fried chicken as our headline item.”

We’ll have to see how this plays out, but Korean food fans (and the government money trying to get more of them) should be happy with the menu.

Korean Fried Chicken Korean BBQ – Pork & Beef
Japchae – Korean Stir Fried Noodles with Veggies – Add Pork or Beef
Bibimbap – A rice bowl topped with fried and pickled vegetables, meat and an egg
Galbi – BBQ Beef Short Ribs

Small Plates –
Spicy Fried Tofu with Sexy Sauce – Pressed tofu fried and served with a spicy sauce
Dumplings – Pork and Vegetable
Homemade Kimchi – Variations weekly

Dessert –
Hoeddoek Korean Sweet Pancakes
– Chocolate
– Brown Sugar, Cinnamon, Pecan

BREAKING NEWS: Up to 50 Busan students feared trapped in collapsed Gyeongju resort

From Busan Haps:

According to breaking news reports upwards of 50 college students from the Busan University of Foreign Studies are feared trapped in Gyeongju after half of the ceiling of a resort building collapsed Monday at 9:15 pm.

The Mauna Ocean Resort, which was being used as an auditorium to house a student orientation caved due to heavy snow, according to witnesses on the scene.

There were around 350 students in the building when it collapsed, and while about 300 were able to escape, the remainder are believed to be trapped in the snow and rubble.

Details still coming in, read the rest here.

Our hopes go out to those still trapped and the emergency workers fighting to get them out.

UPDATE: Three students have been confirmed killed.

Photos from the Yeosu Oil Spill

Over at Busan Haps, photographer Ben Weller has some great shots of local efforts to halt the damage from the Yeosu oil spill –a tragic event that he describes as “predictable.”

The full extent of the impact will take years to sort out, but it’s looking to be quite a mess, both literally and figuratively.

Japanese airline sorry for ‘racist’ ad

Expats in Japan are ticked off about what they say is a racist ad. I don’t know, I wasn’t moved either way –though the descendents of Cyrano de Bergerac might take offense.

Nonetheless (or always the more), there was an eruption from the netosphere.

“I’ve just seen the new ANA advert…Really? ANA think this is OK?!” Angela Fukutome said in a message posted on ANA’s Facebook page.

“If you are a foreigner and have planned to come to £Japan do not choose an openly racist airline like £ANA! Watch their Japanese commercial,” tweeted @sibylleito on Twitter.

An ANA spokeswoman said the carrier “has received calls from customers, mostly foreigners, complaining about the ad.”

“We apologised to each of the customers for having caused uncomfortable feelings and also thanked them for bringing up the issue,” she told AFP.

Oh, brother where start thou?

This reminds me of that Seinfeld bit about the guys who dedicated themselves to developing the seedless watermelon.

A group of Korean researchers said Friday they have developed technology to filter rumors from postings on social networking sites (SNS).

Researchers at the Graduate School of Culture Technology at the Korea Advanced Institute of Science and Technology (KAIST) analyzed more than 100 cases of rumors and non-rumors spread on Twitter in the U.S. between 2006 and 2009, according to KAIST.

“This research integrates statistics and mathematics with theories from sociology and psychology. We drew characters of rumors by analyzing an abundance of data,” Cha Mee-young, an assistant professor at KAIST who led the team, said.

“It is still difficult to classify rumors at the very early stage of their dissemination. But it is possible to do so, using big data, once some time has passed.”

I have no idea what that means, but nice work fellahs. Read the rest here.

No, you can’t call kimchi “pickled vegetables”

More from the front lines of the Sino-Korean Kimchi War. The South Korean government wants the Chinese to stop calling kimchi “pickled vegetables” in their own language.

The South Korean government has apparently decided that kimchi should no longer be referred to as pàocài 泡菜 (“pickled vegetables”) in China, Hong Kong, and Taiwan, but should have its own name to distinguish it from other types of pickled vegetables.

So, what do they want the Chinese to call it?

For kimchi, the Koreans have decided that the new Chinese name is going to be xīnqí 辛奇. The Chinese are not accustomed to this and some have suggested that it doesn’t make sense, since xīn 辛 is usually construed as meaning “bitter; suffering; laborious” and qí 奇 means “strange; odd; queer; rare.”

A treasure trove of great English combinations there, but I’ll leave that alone.

According to Chinese language professor Victor Mair, the name might not actually be such a bad choice –other than the poor taste of asking a billion people to change the name of something with good taste.

Upon reflection, however, xīnqí 辛奇 may not be such a bad choice after all, since xīn 辛 is often used to describe the spicy/sour flavor of foods like kimchi and may even be seen on packages for Korean instant noodles. Moreover, qí 奇 may be thought of not merely as “strange; odd,” but also “wonderful; marvelous; mysterious.”

As far as naming goes, I’ve learned to accept that I am from a wondrous place called “Miguk.” As well as I accept the fact that my first name means “pig” in Malay. (Which is why, when preparing to meet my ex-gf’s parents, I suddenly became, “Robert.” Robert? Who could go through life with that for a name?)

For more on the kimchi clash, as well as “naming victories” for the Koreans in the Chinese mother tongue, check out the article in Slate.

You can pick up one of these bad boys here.

You can pick up one of these here. (Chick-magnet Duck Dynasty beard optional)

Arboreal fraud and the rumblings of Gategate

While many of you can speak with greater authority than myself on the merits of good wood, according to the Joongang Daily Korean Gumgang pines are “praised for their resiliency, straightness and high density.” And Russian wood? Well, it sucks.

That unnecessary assessment by the Joongang aside, I do agree that it’s improper to use non-Korean timber to restore Sungnyemun –the country’s number one cultural asset that was torched by an arsonist back in 2008. (Though restoring it with North Korean wood chopped down via a U.S. aerial armada escort might be a nice symbolic gesture)

Police last week raided a Gangwon lumber company on suspicion that the wood used to rebuild Sungnyemun hailed from Russian stock rather than the praiseworthy Korean groves, as was promised in the deal.

The article makes no mention of it, but I imagine they will bring in DNA experts to assess the origin of the wood. The wrong findings could prove grave for Sin Eung-soo, the chief carpenter assigned to oversee the restoration.

The intellectual crime division of the Seoul Metropolitan Police Agency, which is in charge of the case, vowed to conduct a thorough investigation, emphasizing the significance and potential far-reaching consequences of the alleged haphazard restoration.

They sentenced the guy that burned Sungnyemun down to 10 years in the pen –I wonder what the penalty for restoring it with the wrong wood will be?

What makes America great?

Why its monkeys riding dogs herding goats of course!

Merry Monkeys to all.

If you can’t get enough, Live Leak has more of this continual flowering of American culture.

[H/T Danny K]

More troubling news from down under

What up with Brisbane? The city just got over the Eunji Ban tragedy.

This from

Police in Australia charged a Korean citizen with the murder of Min-tae Kim, who was found in a shallow grave on Thursday, after he disappeared three days earlier on a money-changing errand.

The body of the 28-year-old Kim was recovered after blood was found around a shallow grave site in a residential area near Brisbane, Australia.


(H/T James Turnbull)


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