The Marmot's Hole

Korea... in Blog Format

Author: R. Elgin (page 1 of 61)

WWII History Redux – What’s in It for Korea?

Okay, the President will go but the seating chart is a mess

The JoongAng writes that the South Korean president will attend the controversial military parade in Beijing next week to commemorate China’s new and improved version of history and of course they will help facilitate an improvement in ROK/DPRK relations, if possible:

When world leaders are watching the military parade in Tiananmen Square, thirty heads of state will stand on the front row with Chinese President Xi Jinping, and Choe Ryong-hae (a senior DPRK Party secretary) is expected to stand behind them in the second row,” a source in Beijing told the JoongAng Ilbo, an affiliate of the Korea JoongAng Daily. “Taking into account the [recent] improvement in inter-Korean relations [laugh track here], China may deliberately place Choe behind Park so they can talk.

I wonder if Party Secretary Choe knows any good jokes.

Chinese Armour Moving Towards the DPRK Border?

When there are threats to the whole of Korea, can America realistically be relied upon to guarantee the integrity of all of Korea for Koreans?

chinese tanksThere are reports that China is shifting armour and military assets to the border region with North Korea (cite).

The Hong Kong-based Oriental Daily reported Saturday that internet users have been uploading photos of what appear to be PLA armored vehicles and tanks passing through the streets of Yanji, the seat of the Yanbian Korean autonomous prefecture in eastern Jilin province. The city, considered a key transport and trade hub between China and the DPRK, is less than 30 kilometers from the 1,400-kilometer border. The military deployment is believed to reflect how seriously Beijing considers the the current standoff between North and South Korea.

 

A Change Not Heard Before?

DMZ_shellSomething new that has not been heard before?

As most know, South Korea has turned their speaker broadcasts back on in response to the sneak attack perpetrated by DPRK soldiers, who planted mines on the southern side of the DMZ last week. The speakers have been off since 2004 and as Choe Sang-hun points out, this return to broadcasting seems to be a concern to the leadership in the north and to a degree of sensitivity that is different from the past.

Why?

The North is desperate to stop loudspeaker broadcasts because they can undermine the morale of front-line North Korean troops and its military’s psychological preparedness,” said Cheong Seong-chang, a senior analyst at the Sejong Institute in Seoul. Given the North’s sense of crisis and anxiety over the loudspeakers, it is highly possible for the North to attempt a military provocation if the broadcasts continue. . .  (cite)

Early this week, the South Korean Army fired about thirty 155-milimeter shells into North Korea, targeting a rocket launcher after an incoming missile was detected (cite).

The events of the coming weeks may prove interesting.

An American DMZ – An Idea Whose Time Has Come

The DMZ is a place that inspires ideas . . .

Even though the New York Times is currently hard at their “Hillary for Prezildent” tripe, some editorials are interesting, for example, how about the idea that Donald Trump could learn from the Korean DMZ as a means of protecting Americans from the flood of illegal immigrants that come north from Mexico:

Since Mr. Trump bills himself as a hard-headed businessman interested only in effective solutions, I have a border he should strongly consider as a model: the one between North and South Korea, better known as the Demilitarized Zone. . . The good news for Mr. Trump is that we have a jump-start on building our own DMZ on the 2,000-mile Mexican border. Nearly 700 miles of 18-foot-high pedestrian fencing or vehicle barriers have been built since Sept. 11, 2001, at a cost of $3 million per mile. . .
several sections of the border come equipped with razor wire, night-vision cameras and Afghanistan- and Iraq-perfected drones. Plus, we have more than 18,000 Customs and Border Protection officials on patrol there. This isn’t quite the same number that we have in Korea, but it’s double the number of just 10 years ago. In short, Mr. Trump, we are well on our way to a Korea-style border. You would just need to finish the job.

Just when you thought politics is boring, it gets worse.

Screening Travelers from Saudi Arabia Is A Great Idea

Maybe, it’s not over yet . . .camel_mers

 

After the MERS outbreak in Korea has been eliminated, according to Wired:

IN THE LAST 24 hours, Saudi Arabia’s Ministry of Health has reported ten new cases of MERS in the capital city of Riyadh, and one death from the virus. Those numbers follow reports of nine new cases yesterday, along with two deaths. According to Helen Branswell, one of WIRED’s favorite infectious disease reporters, the state hasn’t seen that many new infections in a day since the height of the MERS outbreak last year.

Remember this whole MERS panic and tourism flight from Korea started with one man returning from Saudi Arabia.

The Politics of Belief – The Convergence of Reality & Faith

The convergence of faith and politics can be a dangerous thing

Yonsei University, one of the oldest universities in Korea, is now offering a course on Creationism – the belief that the Universe and Life originate “from specific acts of divine creation.”  The Hankyoreh has a good article on this and the  (electrical engineering) professor’s description of his course is interesting:

It isn’t about how creationism is correct and evolution is always wrong,… As a Christian studying and teaching engineering, I have often had to think about faith and science. My aim is to talk about these concerns with students – not to try to boost creation science,…scientists in the Christian faith “often experience conflict between the words of the Bible and their scientific understanding.” The course, he explains, is intended to “find the parts of the Bible that can be tested scientifically and aid Biblical understanding through a scientific approach to creationism and evolution.”

Creationism has migrated throughout the world in different forms since the 70’s:

For decades, the creationist movement was primarily fixed in the United States. Then, in the 1970s, American creationists found their ideas welcomed abroad, first in Australia and New Zealand, then in Korea, India, South Africa, Brazil, and elsewhere—including Europe, where creationism plays an expanding role in public debates about science policy and school curricula. (cite)

however, the criticism has been made due to concerns that “trying to teach creation science as ‘science (is) against the mission of education; to take a pseudo-discipline that repudiates the established theory and teach it as if it were a specific theory rather than an opinion” (philosopher of science and Seoul National University liberal studies professor Jang Dae-ik – cite).

Whether a nation’s controversial political history or a society’s view of the world around them, what is more interesting is how the politics of belief converge with personal beliefs. Since January, Canadian Pastor Hyeon-Soo Lim has been held in North Korea on charges of engaging in “anti-D.P.R.K. missionary activities” and to set up a new “religious state”:

Mr. Lim, 60, said his goal had been to undermine the North Korean people’s “worship for the leader,” according to the report, a reference to Kim Jong-un, the authoritarian country’s supreme leader. (cite)

“The worst crime I committed was to rashly defame and insult the highest dignity and the system of the republic,” Lim told a Pyongyang congregation, apparently reading from a script”. (cite)

“Mr. Lim follows a spate of Western missionaries who have been arrested in North Korea, which has spent the last 13 years topping Open Doors’ World Watch List as the worst place for Christians to live. An estimated 70,000 Christians are held in prison camps there.”

The PRC has also been on a program to decimate the profile if not influence of Christian churches in China, however they are now drawing the wrath of state-sponsored churches as well:

Pastor Bao Guohua of The Holy Love Christian Church & his wife

Pastor Bao Guohua of The Holy Love Christian Church & his wife

Seven Christians have been detained in China accused of embezzlement and disrupting social order (i.e., doing something the Party doesn’t like). Pastor Bao Guohua, his wife and five church employees were detained in Jinhua, in eastern Zhejiang province, but the church’s lawyer, Chen Jiangang, told the BBC he believed they were being punished for protesting against the removal of their church cross. The local government in Zhejiang has recently been ordering state-sanctioned churches to stop displaying crosses… What is unusual is that this was an official church, recognised by the Communist Party. Everything had been properly approved by the authorities.

Chinese leadership has, not only a history of repression and authoritarian rule in common with the DPRK, but also feels itself as being under siege from Christianity since they apparently see Christianity as a threat to their rule.

This could be one time in history when both China and the DPRK could benefit from the influence of Christianity, though rabid protestant sects in South Korea have too often been intolerant of others and ignorant of their own culture, still, it is an influence that is a lesser evil to contend with than what currently exists.

Looking Through The Big End of A Telescope – Dynastic Rule & Revisions To Be Made

what_happenedMurder and dynastic rule is a good idea that has persevered through the ages, especially now

The Sukarno Education Foundation, run by a daughter of Indonesia’s founding president, will award a peace prize to Kim Jong-un in September for his “peace, justice and humanity”.

Ms. Sukarnoputri herself was an elected ruler of Indonesia in turn, not unlike South Korea’s current president.

Ms. Sukarnoputri justified the North Korean leader’s suitability for the award:

“should be honoured for his fight against neo-colonialist imperialism . . . the allegations about human rights abuses are untrue. Those Western governments like to put ugly labels on North Korea.” (cite)

. . . and some Americans think electing another Bush or Clinton is a good idea.

So, you want to take a trip through memory and time?

The Chinese Communist Party wants to commemorate its supposed victory over Japan at the end of World War II, since it is a useful foil and has invited South Korean president Park to attend:

The government in Beijing will invite world leaders to this year’s commemorations of China’s “War of Resistance Against Japanese Aggression as well as the World Anti-Fascist War,” the Chinese Ministry of Foreign Affairs said. (cite)

Some think she should go simply because Kim Jong-un might be there and the CCP is maybe keen on cultivating the future relations on their own terms.

What to do?

Open Thread – 입추: Fall Has Entered

This Saturday marks the official entrance of Fall

the crickets know this already since they started chirping only days before.

A Zero Waste Concept – An New & Better Habit for Korean Society and Industry

Everybody picks up; nobody throws down

Tshering Tobgay, one of my favorite people from Bhutan (the PM), who gives the word “politician” a positive meaning, made mention of a very simple yet profound idea for change in Bhutan, that could and should be applied here, in Korea:

zero wasteCheku Gyaltshen, Class 10, School Captain, Gyalpoi Tozey, showing off his zero waste bag. Cheku introduced this concept in Chundu Centra School and today all students carry zero waste bags in which they store personal and other waste they come across in their school campus.

As one Bhutanese observed, “I remember the doctrine of Mr.Tshering Dukpa, JNLSS Principal lecturing on his formula “zero waste”, during morning assembly,  as follows: EVERY BODY PICKS UP, NOBODY THROWS DOWN.
This simple rule if followed makes everyone a friend of environment and society.”

If applied, here in Korea, the improvement to the environment, quality of life, national pride, not to mention the savings in clean-up costs, would be phenomenal.  I would really promote this one simple thing since it would have the greatest positive social impact on Korea since the New Village Movement (새마을 운동).

The Bhutanese are aware that happiness is very important and that it does not stem from money alone but how one lives.

Before the New Village Movement that the current president’s father started, many Korean’s thinking in villages was poor. Many got drunk and gambled and had little ambition. By setting new standards, new daily habits, new ideas, PCH was able to inspire many Koreans to improve their lot.

I noticed an advert up in the subway for people to submit a new slogan for Korean tourism. Hey, how about doing something to help people form a new attitude, even if there is a stick behind it sometimes. Why not require students to carry a zero waste bag and use them? As we say in the West, you can’t teach an old dog new tricks but you can certainly start educating youth in a better direction. The adults should be fined for any everything they throw down since they are maybe to old to understand the virtue of it; save the stick for them alone. A really aggressive program of zero waste would improve many things: quality of life, tourism, avoid spending more money to clean up.

I really think it is time for Koreans to adopt new habits that define their culture better than the materialism that puts an emphasis upon making money.

If Park Guen-hye’s father lead and pushed Koreans into better and more productive habits, then it is time for his daughter and other leaders to help start some new and better habits for the sake of the society and country. Considering the high suicide rate here, there is a background of dissatisfaction that needs many things to effect a cure and a new attitude about the world around them is a part of that remedy. There are other efforts government should make as well, such as requiring all companies here to revise their packaging to reduce waste as much as possible. Germany has done exactly this and the savings, to the country and business, have been considerable.

A program like this is a good place to start since it is not costly. I’ve seen some churches go out into the neighborhood and clean up parts of it as part of an outreach program. Though their aim is to inspire new membership, they do recognize the power of an empowered and positive mind to inspire others.

This is exactly what Korea needs.

Open Thread – The Chinese Winter Olympics Edition

Chinese_winter_olympics

This just blows . . .

Just when you thought it couldn’t blow any harder, Beijing is awarded the Winter Olympics for 2022.

korea post logo
Starting in July, the post office will be using 5-digit ZIP codes.

Click here for the ZIP code finder.

. . . You Will Find This Hard to Swallow Too, Maybe

“The fate of South Korea’s kimchi industry rests on whether China considers it pickled or not.”

kimchi_articleThe NY Times has a very nice article on the plight of contemporary Kimchi (Chinese Trade Rules Puts Korea’s Kimchi in A Pickle). Chinese and Korean versions too.

One of the obvious differences here a visitor or resident discovers  is kimchi, which has been as ubiquitous as the somewhat dusty air that we breathe.  Personally, I note that the most essential thing that defines Korea is the importance of family, which lies at the heart of everything Korean, thus this one comment says much to me about what is important to Koreans in today’s world:

Now, most of Ms. Park’s (kimchi) customers are other market stall owners, tourists and the occasional housewife. “Nobody wants to make it at home,” she said. “It’s a bother, and they are too busy making money.

Neglecting Kimchi, maybe, is a bit like neglecting our family and that is something that one can not really blame China for, although they have much to account for when it comes to their influence upon both Koreas.

Flavour of The Month: The Chaebol Recipe Is Still Hard to Swallow

chaebol_recipeThough August has yet to arrive until next week, this taste sensation can not be denied, so please pardon my haste in posting.  I also note that, once again, my psychic link to certain editors at the JoongAng Ilbo is resonating. Upon penning an unctuous article on the president’s “creative economy” shiz-nizzle
(Park thanks tycoons for support on creativity), an companion editorial observes that:

The innovation incubator project underscores the country’s reliance on our chaebol (a major weakness). The large conglomerate groups were put in charge of hosting innovation centers according to their corporate home bases…Whether the projects can last and bear fruit is also questionable because of the pretentious way the government and chaebol address the project. Large companies announced investment plans in time for the center opening and the arrival of the president. The heads of the 17 conglomerates that took part in the project were invited to a luncheon at the Blue House. Now the president has also decided to include jailed corporate heads on the list of special pardons on Aug. 15, Liberation Day… other conditions should be right to encourage start-ups.
Start-ups (should) not be afraid of failure if there are sufficient programs to support them in their new ventures.
Start-ups and innovation cannot sprout under heavy layers of regulations and (under) a discouraging business culture.
Various funding and support programs should come under one roof (with simplified procedures for implementation).
The centers must be able to assist individuals and companies in the entire process of starting a business or venture.
The innovation network should not end as the showpiece of an administration that lasts five years (but be a part of a sustained, bi-partisan effort – without the politics).

Meaning, these chaebol heads take nice pictures with the prezildent and smile but, unless pushed and unconditionally held to a meaningful program of a sustained hands-off, support for entrepreneurs (start-up companies), this whole “creative economy” is just 17 ways to float down the four rivers, while Korea is stuck up shitzzle creek without a paddle.

UPDATE: July 29, Wenesday

The JoongAng Ilbo has added further depth to their observations in a new article, in regards to the waste of resources due to poor management, oversight and a lack of political will to make a sustained effort in developing a better business climate:

Lee Byung-woo, head of the South Chungcheong center, pointed out earlier this month that the new centers for creative economy and innovation overlap with existing local government-backed institutions designed to support start-ups, such as the techno parks scattered nationwide that actually accommodate the creative economy centers.

however,

Techno parks and creative economy centers are supposed to be partners. The former caters to already established companies and the latter to start-ups,” said Koh Hyung-kwon, head of the Creative Economy Initiative for Public-Private Partnership, which overseas the creative economy center project.

These heads seem confused as to what is what. The uncertainty of politics almost certainly ensures that this creative shizzle will be lost:

I am not sure what’s going to happen [with the creative economy centers] in three years, said an executive from one of the participating conglomerates who is now dispatched to a center. “There is a saying already that the centers will be gone at the turn of the administration. We also think the centers will pretty much be temporary.

 

Things That Go Pop

Korean TV is very popular in the PRC? . . . but why?

We share the same culture and cherish similar social values,” said Sophie Yu, director of international communications for iQiyi, the online video streaming website affiliated with the search giant Baidu. “So Korean content naturally is easy to be understood and accepted by the Chinese audience. (cite)

Yeah, so why can’t China produce shows with the same attractiveness if the two cultures are so similar?

Faced with the limits (government censorship), popular streaming websites like Sohu, iQiyi and Youku want to develop their own Korean-inspired content to sate the country’s appetite for the programming, part of a broader fascination with Korean popular culture. That has meant trying to tap (steal) into South Korea’s secret sauce — the magic formula that has turned the country into a pop-culture juggernaut that churns out viral exports like the singer and rapper Psy, the singer Rain and hits like “My Love From Another Star“.

It’s so difficult to copy a new recipe when the cooks are so used to serving up government-sponsored shit, with dazzling regularity.

Longboarding in South Korea?

Sure, why not and it has been steadily growing in popularity here too. “dancing” has become more popular as well. The video of Heo Solbi is a good demonstration of this style (click on the photo for the video):

Solbi Heo Step Rhythm Up

Heo Solbi’s longboard dance style.

There is even a facebook page for local riders and, if you are out around Iteawon, you can visit the Style Board Shop (서울 용산구대사관로5길 19 – more or less), a very cool place for longboards.  If you want a place to get more information on longboarding style_board_shopin Korea, I might suggest visiting the Slidingwheels folks. Korean might be one of the few places where doing downhill could really be more scary than some of the west coast places I’ve seen in the states. Another good resource can be found at landyachtz.com, which has a recent thread on downhill in Korea.

Korea_downhill

Korean Cosmetics Are Attractive in Themselves

Tonymoly storeTonyMoly, founded about a decade ago, is a South Korean beauty company that has recently entered America, opening two boutiques in New York and placing its products in Urban Outfitters and Sephora stores.  Molly Young of the NY Times writes brilliantly about the differences from American cosmetic firms and TonyMolly:

TonymolyI was briefed by a friend with intimate knowledge of the Korean beauty market and I learned that TonyMoly is known for its cute packaging, intrepid use of freaky ingredients and an emphasis on the caretaking of skin over the painting of it. American beauty products focus on high-color-payoff makeup, whereas Korean beauty focuses on perfect skin,” he told me. “You’ll notice that skin care takes up 74 percent of the store.

Their product design is very well done and is worth a visit just to look at:

it is all packaged in containers shaped like peaches, eggs, apples, tangerines and tomatoes. What these shapes have in common is their touchability, which makes sense because that’s how many of us want our faces to look.

Ms. Young really has a terrific way of writing about the uniqueness of TonyMolly’s Korean product style:

Sheet masks are another Korean innovation. A sheet mask is a cotton sleeve cut in the shape of Hannibal Lecter’s muzzle and drenched in your choice of (allegedly) beautifying liquids: tomato extract, broccoli extract, ginseng, something called “vegetable placenta,” something called “pearl extract”

I thought mammals ate placentas but I guess putting them on your face could be okay too.

Addendum, July 20:

Ruthless-Non-Jewish Samsung Wins . . .

Bloomberg has a further analysis of the merger deal and why Korea and Park Geun Hye was the loser in the deal:

Long before the South Korean media began indulging in anti-Semitism, Samsung’s recent effort to pull a fast one on its own investors was already firmly in insult territory. The company’s affront extended both to shareholders and to the Korean public.
The bid by Samsung’s de facto holding company, Cheil Industries, to buy Samsung C&T at a laughably below-market price was a naked power grab by the company’s founding Lee family, but Samsung so dominates South Korea that it managed on Friday to convince the subsidiary’s shareholders to ignore their own interests.
The merger marks a defeat for South Korean President Park Geun Hye, who won office in late 2012 with promises to rein in the family-owned companies that stifle Korean innovation. Friday’s vote was Park’s economic Waterloo, the moment her government decisively lost the fight against the oligarchs.

The article is here.

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