The Marmot's Hole

Korea... in Blog Format

Author: R. Elgin (page 1 of 57)

The DPRK vs. The World

Yesterday, the UN voted for a resolution that condemns North Korea for human rights abuses and for the first time recommends the prosecution of its leaders for crimes against humanity at theInternational Criminal Court.  The only question I have is will the DPRK’s long-standing mentor and supporter – the PRC – or the original instigator of trouble in the region – Russia – stand up and defend the backshooters?

As quoted in the linked article:

“If they want to be seen defending the human rights record of the worst human rights offender on the planet, let them do so in public and pay a price” (Sue Mi Terry, a senior research scholar at the Columbia University Weatherhead East Asian Institute and a former intelligence officer with the United States government, who specializes in North Korea.

Open Thread – The Stupid Politician Edition

Our stupid politician for this edition is Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan, who claimed that Muslims were in America long before Columbus or Amerigo Vespucci.  Erdogan made his outrageous claim during a conference of Latin American Muslim leaders in Istanbul (The Hugo Chávez Memorial Pork Bar-be-que) which is fitting since Erdogan and Chávez have much in common – an appetite for saying crazy shiz and dishing out corruption.

A Besmirched Reputation – Too Drunk For Korea?

Imagine receiving a letter from prospective employer, in Korea, that declines hiring you because of the reputation of Irish people loving their whisky too much.

Read the unbelievable article here.

If ever there was a case of defamation, this would be it.

Fabrication of Evidence – the NIS Saga Continues

A court has convicted two NIS (National Intelligence Service) counterintelligence officials of fabricating Chinese government documents to build a spy case against a refugee from North Korea.  An excellent article by Choe Sang-hun is to be found here.  The judge, Kim Woo-soo said:

(the agents) seriously obstructed the function of the criminal justice of the country, . . . they betrayed the trust the people placed in the National Intelligence Service when it gave it both power and responsibility.

This decision comes after so many mistakes from this agency and an administration that is not intent upon fixing them, though there is much said about such.

A Decent Japanese Village Vs. Ugly Hate Groups

korean_busters

Photo by Tyler Sipe, NYTimes

Martin Fackler of the New York Times has written an interesting report on a village in Japan that attempted to build a memorial to the Koreans that died from malnutrition and abuse, at the hands of Imperial Japan, however the village discovered that certain  Japanese hate groups don’t want this part of history visited again and they are very vocal in their efforts to hide the truth about war-time Japan.

Mr. Fackler attributes much of the evil efforts against the village as being directed by a Japanese internet group:

. . . Known collectively as the Net Right, these loosely organized cyberactivists were once dismissed as radicals on the far margins of the Japanese political landscape. But they have gained outsize influence with the rise of Prime Minister Shinzo Abe’s conservative government, which shares their goal of ending negative portrayals of Japan’s history, and with the acquiescence of a society too uninterested or scared to speak out. “I don’t blame the mayor for giving in,” said Mr. Mizuguchi, 79, an architect who guided a visitor to the site of the old airfield using a hand-drawn map. “I blame the rest of Japan for not speaking out to support us.

This Japanese hate group has been noticed before now, in their attacks against Koreans:

The demonstrators appeared one day in December, just as children at an elementary school for ethnic Koreans were cleaning up for lunch. The group of about a dozen Japanese men gathered in front of the school gate, using bullhorns to call the students cockroaches and Korean spies. Inside, the panicked students and teachers huddled in their classrooms, singing loudly to drown out the insults, as parents and eventually police officers blocked the protesters’ entry.
The December episode was the first in a series of demonstrations at the Kyoto No. 1 Korean Elementary School that shocked conflict-averse Japan, where even political protesters on the radical fringes are expected to avoid embroiling regular citizens, much less children. Responding to public outrage, the police arrested four of the protesters this month on charges of damaging the school’s reputation.
More significantly, the protests also signaled the emergence here of a new type of ultranationalist group. The groups are openly anti-foreign in their message, and unafraid to win attention by holding unruly street demonstrations. (cite)

Another very interesting article on Japanese racism and hate groups can be found here.

The article is here.

Some of the Real K-pop – LeeSA

LeeSa

LeeSA doing her cover of “Red”.

I have spent a good bit of time listening to chaebol music and, though the production skills are good, it leaves me wanting to hear something fresh – something fresh like LeeSA (리싸).  She has a great voice and her covers really do sound good, so much that I prefer listening to her version. Her version of “Red” is really nice.  The stripped down versions of these covers are great because the music is not hiding under a pile of audio tricks, sampling and ProTools plug-ins – Just basic mixing.

As happens with most indie Korean artists, LeeSA has a notable presence on youtube, which is lucky for listeners looking for something different from South Korea that has something to do with music and not “music business”.

Other great original songs, such as “Could You Stop that Smile” are here.

16 Concert-goers Dead in Seongnam

A failed ventilation grate at the fateful Seongnam concert.

At least sixteen people were killed after falling through a ventilation grate at a K-pop concert in Seongnam.  An English link is here. According to accounts:

. . . in the dense crowd, 20-30 people climbed on a grate over the deep ventilation shaft. Under their weight the grate gave way and the group fell through.

Photo: Yonhap News

UPDATE: The concert promoter has committed suicide shortly after being questioned by the police.

Korean Government Sabotages Kakao Talk

what_happenedDue to claims that the Government and prosecutors have been using Kakao Talk logs to monitor people, Kakao has taken a beating, resulting in over 400,000 users migrating to other applications that have off-shore servers and better security, such as Telegram (cite) (There are reports that even prostitutes that conduct business arrangements through Kakao have switched to Telegram due to security concerns.) I also use Telegram and it works well.

The government has reportedly done so for state security concerns as well as enforcing the infamous defamation laws.  According to one source:

Accusations by the New Politics Alliance for Democracy on alleged cyber monitoring by the government gained more credibility yesterday when it was reported that prosecutors are planning to monitor some key words on major portal sites that they believe would disturb “social order” and “defame” people, after which they would order the managers of those sites to delete the posts. (cite)

Kakao has responded by apologizing for allowing security concerns to mount:

Lee Sirgoo, CEO at DaumKakao which owns Kakao Talk, apologized for its initial handling of privacy issues at a news conference called at short notice by the company. The government’s recent announcement of stern punishment for what it called online rumors prompted many South Koreans to switch from Kakao Talk to foreign messaging services. . . Kakao Talk will introduce new privacy features to protect the information of its users, he said. Next year, it will begin deleting messages from its servers as soon as they have been read by the intended recipients. The company said it could face legal sanction by refusing to cooperate with warrants. . . .It has also adopted a new privacy mode, which uses end-to-end encryption, allowing chat records to be stored only on each user’s smart device and making it impossible for investigators to monitor the contents.  “We will continue to search for more necessary measures and make improvements down the road,” Lee said. “Kakao Talk has been growing on the back of users’ trust. We know it will take excruciating efforts to regain users’ trust,” Lee said.

Daum Kakao commands about 35 million local users for its flagship Kakao Talk in the country with a population of 50 million, compared to around 10 million users held by LINE, operated by Naver Corp. Kakao Talk also has about 152 million users worldwide through 15 languages, including Korean, English, Japanese, Spanish, German, Arabic and Russian. (cite)

As in America, if the government sabotages public confidence in software developers offerings, the result will likely be bad for business and a major setback for Korean software developers, who already have onerous burdens put upon them by government regulations.

Open Thread – October 11, 2014 – The Economic Dinosaur Edition

Just because the Korea Economic Research Institute hires old-school idiots that love felons does not mean you can’t enjoy this beautiful fall weather.

More on FATCA Compliance in Korea – America Still Has A Big Stick

If you American expatriates remember, back in March, we wrote a thread about the effect of the FATCA American tax law upon Americans living in Korea.  Between now and 2015 marks a transition period for foreign banks to comply with reporting guidelines issued by the US Government for reporting overseas income from Americans in Korea.  You may well ask why should the Korean Government and banks do the leg work for the IRS in America, well congress decided to issue an ultimatum to world banks “report to us or we will cut you off from the American market (congress has decided to punish foreign financial institutions that refused to surrender U.S. accountholder information by cutting off their access to critical U.S. financial markets) cite.

This means, to summarize, that beginning roughly now, any American with 10,000 USD in a Korean bank or at least 50,000 USD in assets (stock, trust, etc.) will be reported to the IRS in America. You may also think that this affects only Americans but NO – it directly affects Koreans, for example, today I sat in a certain major Korean bank and watched a Korean national open a new account and, to my compete surprise, one of the documents they signed was a FATCA compliance document – all in Korean – that confirmed that the bank customer was really a Korean citizen and not an American.

I would never have imagined that the US could or would insert themselves so deeply into the common affairs of citizens of a foreign country, to this extent; requiring them to sign a document stating that they are not American citizens!  This also explains why so many Americans were refused service from European banks this last year.

Flavour of the Month – A Sense of Decency Is A Good Thing

Some of the JoongAng Ilbo editors understand that when we lose our capacity for kindness, we lose much of what makes life bearable, not to mention the better parts of Korean society:

Everyone is entitled to express their opinion in a democratic society but that does not mean they should be cruel. To safeguard society, decency and respect toward others must be upheld regardless of differences in opinions and beliefs.

A Disgraceful Party.

Postlude – A Debt Is Paid – in 100won Coins

After  the electioneering done under the auspices of Won Sei-hoon (former head of the National Intelligence Service), where millions of tweets flooded twitter-space in a deliberate attempt to influence the presidential election in South Korea, Won has received a two and a half sentence – suspended.

According to a report by Yonhap News, “While the Seoul District Court decided he had ordered agents to post politically sensitive comments, it ruled there was not enough evidence to prove he directly sought to influence the outcome of the presidential ballot” – believe it or not. (cite)

According to the JoongAng:

The court, however, rejected the prosecution’s argument that Won violated the election law by ordering a systematic operation to influence domestic politics.
“No evidence was presented that Won made a direct order to the National Intelligence Service agents to influence the presidential election,” the court said. It also said the team’s operation was part of the agency’s routine activities.

The court said Won had a heavy responsibility as head of the NIS to protect the agency’s political neutrality and prevent its agents from meddling in politics. He, therefore, deserves severe criticism for promoting government policies while trying to smear opposition political parties, the court said. . . the court wrote “Won did not plan the operation with a purpose and he merely followed past practices.” (cite)

The court’s “get-out-of-jail-free” card was given to Won after he left prison for serving 14 months of a two year sentence for graft.

Two other former senior officials of the spy agency who had been indicted on similar charges were each sentenced to a year in prison on Thursday, but their sentences were also suspended. Both the prosecutors and the defendants have a week to appeal the verdicts. (cite)

So who is responsible for running a subversive campaign against the Republic of Korea, if it wasn’t the DPRK and it was not Won’s boss (the president)?

Open Thread – The Dog Massage Edition

dog_massage

So Koreans will die out, household debt is probably going to explode and the next president might be an ex-felon – you should learn to relax.

Hot or Cold – The False Dilemma of Korean Politics

Kim Young-Oh is hungry but more sad than hungry.

Mr. Kim lost his 16-year-old daughter to the Sewol Ferry disaster and he collapsed from his hunger protest last Friday and has been hospitalized.

Mr. Kim was demanding that a fully independent investigator be assigned to the Sewol case instead of a government-connected prosecutor.  A bill has been proposed but rejected because a government-connected prosecutor is a problem for many because there has been a profound and long-held distrust of the government under the majority Saenuri Party, which has had a troubled history of manipulating events at the expense of the public’s trust.  Because of the reluctance of the ruling party to give such powers over to a non-aligned prosecutor, – citing constitutional problems as being the reason – Mr. Kim decided to fast.

Along with Mr. Kim’s fast, an all too common problem has been demonstrated, once again and that is a major problem of not just Korean politics but of most two-party political systems.

The real problem is a political system that is so degraded that it is suffering under a “false dilemma” – also known as “black-and-white thinking”.  Such an inflexible mindset is best exemplified in a two-party political system, which produces a either-or way of voting.  Due to the bi-polar (black or white) mentality of the political system in South Korea, many Koreans have assumed that:

Mr. Kim is a likely a bad man, that wants money, that failed to be a good parent and is probably a Communist and wants to wrench control of the country from the ruling party

OR . . .

Mr. Kim is a victim of the corruption of the ruling party that controls the government (at this moment) and is a hero that can help end the unjust rule of corrupt conservative politicians.

Actually, Mr. Kim is neither A or B.

There are several aspects to this situation.

Since the Sewol disaster, the NPAD faction and other supposed civic groups have offered their assistance to the parents of the kids that perished from the disaster, using it partly for their political agenda.  According to one parent, many did not want such help from the start:

Another father of a victim said some family members did not want left-wing activists helping them, as it compromised their political neutrality. “Some of us didn’t want to mingle with them, but at that time we were office workers who didn’t know how to speak up for ourselves,” he said. “So I thought we needed their support.” (cite)

The NPAD has also begun a boycott of government, bringing most legislative activity to a halt since this seems to be one of their areas of expertise.

Then there is that HUMONGOUS problem of credibility (sabotaging a prosecutor general, NIS-generated electioneering, etc.) , which the Saenuri-Hanara Dang/Administration has lacked, except in parts of the country where they enjoy an older constituency that vote out of that false dilemma thinking called regionalism.  I had a conversation with a fellow (over 50) in Daegu recently where he said he believed that Mr. Kim was a contemptible fellow, who was holding out for more money. To this self-described Saenuri supporter, it was all about money since there could not possibly be any other reason for Mr. Kim’s fast.

Very black-and-white in Daegu.

Meanwhile, many Koreans, that are against the Saenuri Dang feel that the ruling party does not want a truely independant investigation because of so much corruption tied to the ferry owner and people higher up in the ruling party. The government’s citing constitutional problems as being the reason why independant investigators can not be allowed is seen by many as being a “false choice” or “a deliberate attempt to eliminate several options that may occupy the middle ground on an issue”.

As for Mr. Kim? – he has said that “I have a headache. I have a headache because of politicians in South Korea, . . . We want to find why more than 300 people died unfairly. We want to clarify this and hold a person in charge accountable”.  He does not want money – he wants accountability so that his daughter’s short life and death will not have been in vain.

When there is such a firmly encamped case of the false dilemma, there can be parity only after much struggle since this way of thinking quickly becomes a device of the few that manipulate the many for gain, for example, currently there is an “ice-bucket challenge” that has become a popular way to raise the awareness of Lou Gehrig’s disease – a disease that can strike anyone no matter which political party they belong to.  The challenge is “to promote awareness of the disease amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS) and encourage donations to research” . . .
However . . .
Both Rep. Park Jie-won of the opposition New Politics Alliance for Democracy (NPAD) and Saenuri Chairman Kim Moo-sung have both taken the challenge not so much to donate money to fighting ALS but as a tool for political means, as per Kim Moo-sung’s statement “Please persuade hawkish lawmakers [within the NPAD] after sorting out your thoughts with some cold water” followed by Park Jie-won’s comment “Though I participated [in the charity event] there are still people gravely concerned over the passage of the Sewol law and who are still waiting for the return of their loved ones. I hope that ice bucket challenge and the Sewol bucket challenge will go together”. 

ice-bucket

Photo courtesy of NEWSIS.

I give you a visual example of the false dilemma on ice.

Yoon Yeo-joon also sees all of this as well but, like him, we are left without a ready solution.  IMHO, the change will have to come from the people – without the aid of any current party and in a manner that can not be co-opted.  That will take time and probably something unforeseen.

The Remembrance of Things Past

Douglas Martin of the NY Times writes a eulogy, if not obituary for Chung Eun-yong, the gentleman whose protestations exposed the tragedy of No Gun Ri; the killing of more than 100 Korean civilians by American forces during the Korean War.  

Mr. Chung’s protests against the killings, years later, gained the attention of Choe Sang-Hun (one of our favorite reporters with the NY Times) and others, who went on to write about this event.

Words fall short.

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