The Marmot's Hole

Korea... in Blog Format

Author: R. Elgin (page 2 of 56)

What Time Is It?


Today marks a terrible anniversary and this cheap-looking watch is a souvenir of things past that certain people want forgotten or claim didn’t really happen.

Spit-take No. 2 – The Korean Make-over


This Brazilian fellow has reportedly had ten surgeries so that he might look Korean and he plans on moving to South Korea as soon as reasonable.  I think maybe he looks a bit better than this Chinese man, whose small son decided that his dad’s passport photo needed a make-over, thus leaving father stranded in South Korea:


However, some people have tried Korean cosmetics with better results by following a Korean 12-step skin care regime (twice a day!).

Retribution from on High – The President Will Disband the Coast Guard

The president has announced that she will disband the Coast Guard over their failure to carry out their mandate.

Reportedly, the current Coast Guard is shaped more for patrol duties with little experience in maritime emergencies (cite).

This will be replaced by a new organization that can better respond to disasters. I wonder who will be left with the task of hunting down the Chinese pirate fleet and if they will be sinking ships instead? (The pirate fleet photo set)

Sound Bites – Temple Prayer During the Holidays


During the Double holiday (Buddha’s Birthday & Children’s Day), I went to visit a temple down south, by the sea – 백련사 (White Lotus Temple) out side of Kangjin.

This is a little environmental sample from that time, complete with birds.

A Mixed Verdict: Kimchi-Apple Pie or Apple-kimchi Pie

apple_kimchiA federal jury said on Friday that Apple and Samsung had infringed each other’s patents, a split decision in the latest court fight between the two technology giants.

Perhaps everyone’s tastes have been thwarted.

Flavour of the Month – Something Soggy

Prime Minister Chung Hong-won has announced his decision to step down from his post, due to the poor government response to the Sewol Disaster.  

As noted in the JoongAng Ilbo, Saenuri Dang leadership has been quick to react to the PMs departure:

. . . The news came as no surprise to the ruling Saenuri Party, who said that the prime minister’s resignation had been expected.
“The prime minister’s resignation was an expected scenario,” a Saenuri Party lawmaker told the JoongAng Ilbo yesterday. “Now the most important thing is wrapping up the accident and doing all we can in the matter.”

Which is meaningless, considering the source.

The real problem is the lack of credibility in the current government and level of institutional incompetence in place.  If there is going to be effective governance, it needs to be competent since the lives of many rest upon the decisions of the few.   It will take more than the political gesture of Chung Hong-won not being Prime Minister to make disasters like this one a thing of the past. It will also take political leadership that is needed to make for credible governance and the will to make change.  This government and others after will continue to shed ministers and toss prosecutors under buses for the sake of politics but a real change in political and social ethos is needed.  Personally, I think at least one of the JoongAng editors understands this too.

Changing a minister changes nothing.

Reneging on An Agreement – The PRC seizes A Japanese Ship Based Upon WWII Claims

emotionThere is talk in South Korea about compensating Korea’s Comfort Women from WWII, however, no court in Korea has decided to seize Japanese assets in lieu of compensation.  Currently, the Shanghai Maritime Court, in abeyance of a 1972 joint communique between Japan and China, has ordered the seizure of a Japanese ship owned by Mitsui OSK Lines Ltd. , as compensation for the loss of two ships leased from a Chinese company, before the two countries went to war in 1937 (cite).  The two ships were subsequently used by the Japanese Army during WWII.  

The Shanghai court ordered the seizure even though Japan and the PRC had signed a 1972 joint communique, when the two countries established diplomatic relations, that renounced war repatriations.  The PRC maintains that the seizure is not for war repatriations but is a civil matter.  This seizure comes upon the very recent visit of 150 Japanese politicians to Yasukune Shrine as well.

As reported by the BBC:

The owners of the Chinese shipping company (Zhongwei Shipping) sought compensation after World War Two and the case was reopened at a Shanghai court in 1988. The court ruled in 2007 that Mitsui had to pay 190 million yuan ($30.5m, £18m) as compensation for the two ships leased to Daido, a firm later part of Mitsui, Global Times and Kyodo said. Mitsui appealed against the decision, but it was upheld in 2012. . . (cite)

This sets a very ugly precedent that could ultimately chill business relations between the PRC and Japan, as well as serving a reminder to foreign business in China, that  operating in the PRC does carry risks that go beyond labor issues.  This raises the spectre of PRC retaliation against South Korean interests if anything should go sour between the two countries though South Korea has attempted to make nice between both countries by repatriating the remains of Chinese soldiers <reality>invaders</reality> from the Korean War.

Odds & Ends in the News . . .

Other odd  or interesting bits in the news as of late:

The penis patrol is on alert for adultery again: South Korea has banned the Korean Ashley Madison website that offers a way for married people to meet since South Korea still has a 1953 statute that criminalises adultery.  The website owner, Noel Biderman believes the law is “hopelessly outdated” but still heeded legal advice not to attend the South Korea launch in person.  For those that might wonder why people would visit such a site, this GQ piece was pretty much to the point and interesting.  The power of scent is not to be underestimated.

South Korea and Japan have held senior-level discussions on Korea’s “comfort women” and have discussed the need to put this issue behind both countries for the sake of future relations.

Flavour of the Month – Wait, I’ve Tasted This One Before . . .

“Regrettably, wrong practices of the NIS and holes in its management system have been revealed (yet again). . . The NIS must make excruciating efforts to overhaul itself to make sure this kind of incident won’t repeat itself.”
<The prez> (cite)

Wait, the NIS is under the direct control of the president, so does that not mean that the president should be in charge of fixing their “wrong practices” and this on the heels of the NIS electioneering in the last presidential election and the subsequent attempt to “fix” the NIS!?

The Good, The Bad & The Art of Being A Good Neighbor

The New York Times has a critical article on the efforts of both Samsung and LG, in building corporate facilities in the US.  Samsung wins applause – this time – and LG draws the ugly criticism of being a “bad neighbor” due to their proposed office space:

. . . 143 feet high on a site next to the Palisades, which have been designated a National Natural Landmark. That’s several stories above the tree line. The site had been zoned to prohibit anything over 35 feet high, a provision that protects the view, but the company, a hefty local taxpayer, won a variance. . . .

To summarize: the project in San Jose (Samsung) is thoughtful, LG’s is a public shame.

The article is here.

More South Korean Skaters Poised to Defect

oopsViktor Ahn‘s father has stated that if there is not a serious reform of the Korean Skating Union, more Korean skaters will leave their passports behind and take up competition through other countries. (cite)

Can this really be surprising considering the jealousy, backbiting and bully-tactics reportedly employed by the skating union?

FATCA Has Arrived and What It Means For Americans in South Korea

Koreans have protested the American FTA as being a means by which American law could be used to subvert Korean interests. Likewise, America has managed to insert themselves into other countries practices through treaty. One current bit of American legislation that has finally come about is the 2010 Foreign Account Tax Compliance Act (FATCA), which affects all Americans living overseas that keep a bank account in a foreign country.

South Korea has finally negotiated an reciprocal FATCA agreement with the US (that goes into effect this September) so that Korea can snoop on the Koreans that may have evaded paying Korean taxes by keeping their money in America. Likewise, the National Tax Services (NTS) will provide information about Americans, in Korea, with account balances of $10,000 or more to the U.S. Internal Revenue Service, beginning in September. This has happened because, the American Government thinks that there are so many Americans evading taxes overseas, thus robbing the country of money (they so desperately need to waste). The result is FATCA. The real fact is this treaty will not stop tax evasion and will likely cost the government more to implement it than is taken in by it:

. . . In the past, the OECD has used pressure and coercion to compel low-tax jurisdictions to agree to rules against their own economic interests. It is unclear how well such tactics will work in this instance, however, as the new rules impose a much more significant cost by signifying an end to the idea that nations can attract investment by offering more competitive tax systems than those of the high-tax welfare states. (cite).

So not only does America waste my tax money but South Korea will put the extra cost of reporting expatriates, through NTS, upon the already burdened banks (additional cite) or will they waste the tax I pay them here just to make American’s lives more complicated!?

Living overseas is already a burden for the American expatriate:

. . . No group is more severely impacted than U.S. persons living abroad. For those living and working in foreign countries, it is almost a given that they must report and pay tax where they live. But they must also continue to file taxes in the U.S. What’s more, U.S. reporting is based on their worldwide income, even though they are paying taxes in the country where they live. (cite)

Reading through the wiki article for FATCA lists the deficits of this treaty as:

  • Cost. Although numbers are still somewhat speculative, estimates of the additional revenue raised seem to be heavily outweighed by the cost of implementing the legislation. The Association of Certified Financial Crime Specialists (ACFCS) claims FATCA is expected to raise revenues of approximately US$800 million per year for the US Treasury; however, the costs of implementation are more difficult to estimate, and estimates between hundreds of millions and over US$10 billion have been published. ACFCS also claims it is extremely likely that the cost of implementing FATCA (which will be borne by the foreign financial institutions) will far outweigh the revenues raised by the US Treasury, even excluding the additional costs to the US Internal Revenue Service for the staffing and resources needed to process the data produced. Unusually, FATCA was not subject to a cost/benefit analysis by the United States House Committee on Ways and Means.
  • Capital flight. The primary mechanism for enforcing the compliance of foreign financial institutions is a punitive withholding levy on US assets. This may create a strong incentive for foreign financial institutions to divest (or not invest) in US assets, resulting in capital flight.
  • Foreign relations. Forcing foreign financial institutions and foreign governments to collect data on U.S. citizens at their own expense and transmit it to the IRS has been called divisive. Canada’s Finance Minister Jim Flaherty has raised an issue with this “far reaching and extraterritorial implications” which would require Canadian banks to become extensions of the IRS and would jeopardize Canadians’ privacy rights. (also this article from Canada) There are also reports of many foreign banks refusing to open accounts for Americans, making it harder for Americans to live and work abroad.
  • Extraterritoriality. The legislation enables U.S. authorities to impose regulatory costs, and potentially penalties, on foreign financial institutions who otherwise have few if any dealings with the United States. The U.S. has sought to ameliorate that criticism by offering reciprocity to potential countries who sign Intergovernmental Agreements, but the idea of the US Government providing information on its citizens to foreign governments has also proved controversial. The law’s interference in the relationship between individual Americans or dual nationals and non-American banks led Georges Ugeux to term it “bullying and selfish.”
  • Citizenship renunciations. Time magazine has reported a sevenfold increase in Americans renouncing U.S. citizenship between 2008 and 2011, and has attributed this at least in part to FATCA. According to the The New American a record number of Americans have given up U.S. citizenship in 2012 “amid IRS Abuse” and “facing an increasingly out-of-control federal government in Washington, D.C” . According to the BBC, the act is one of the reasons for a surge of Americans renouncing their citizenship – a rise from 189 people in the second quarter of 2012 to 1,131 people in Q2/2013. Another surge in renunciations in 2013 to record levels has been reported in the news media, with FATCA cited as a factor in the decision of many of the renunciants.  Forbes Magazine writes that the renunciation of citizenship by Americans is up by 221%, as of this time (cite).
  • American citizens living abroad. According to the Canadian Broadcasting Corporation many Americans living abroad may face large fines as a result of this legislation. According to the story a forty-years old developmentally disabled man, and a Canadian man married to an American will become some of the victims of this law. According to Time (magazine) American citizens living abroad are unable to open foreign bank accounts.
  • IRS not ready. According to the NYTimes it is unclear whether the IRS is ready to handle millions of new complicated filings per year.  According to one former IRS Deputy Commissioner, this summer is going to be one large FATCA “train-wreck” (cite).
  • Effect on “accidental Americans”. The reporting requirements, including penalties, apply to all U.S. citizens, including those who are unaware that they have U.S. citizenship. Since the U.S. considers “all persons born in the U.S., and most foreign-born persons with American parents, to be citizens, FATCA affects a large number of foreign residents who are unaware that the U.S. considers them citizens.
  • Complexity. Doubts have been expressed as to workability of FATCA due to its complexity, and the legislative timetable for implementation has already been pushed back twice.

So, is FATCA good, bad or not a factor for Americans living in South Korea?

Bad – If you are living here and earning income, you will spend more time and money complying with this extra tax hassle just to prove you don’t owe anything to the government or have complied with current tax law. For foreign non-Americans, in America, this is possibly also bad news since under U.S. diplomatic agreements to enact FATCA, U.S. financial firms must share information on foreign-born U.S. residents with foreign governments (cite).
IMHO, this is bad legislation that is directly from the nightmares of so many Americans that fear ever increasing government encroachment into their private affairs if not pocketbooks. I place this sort of government handiwork into the same category as the Department of Justice arranging to arrest foreigners on a layover through the US because they run a foreign online casino that Americans might spend money on – forget the law or the rights of individual, this is all about a bungled, misinformed, congressionally-lead, grabbing of money and not about fighting tax evasion.

More useful links for Americans on FATCA and for information to fight this legislation:

photo credit: Celestine Chua via photopin cc

Revisiting The NIS Saga, Space Rocks & Russian Scam Yuna Sites . . .

A Russian scam Yuna site?

A Russian scam Yuna site?

If I may mimic Robert’s way of summarizing a collection of links, there is enough flavour this month for a buffet.

First, Aidan Foster-Carter has summarized the NIS Saga in three parts – not as nice and interesting as the Lord of the Rings, but there are plenty bad guys and they actually get off on the grounds of there being a “lack of evidence” .  There seems to be no lack of willingness to cheat the system of justice.

Then, there is the Great Jinju Space Rock hunt that has the locals agitated because pesky foreign rock hounds are handing out business cards and snooping around fields for bits of meteorites (Chondrites).  Of course, an official of the Cultural Heritage Administration feels compelled to protect Korea’s space rocks from some mysterious foreigner named “Robert“:

. . . We are considering measures to prevent such leaks (loss of space rocks to foreigners) by designating them as ‘monuments,’ a kind of cultural asset recognized by relevant law.

Damned aliens . . .

Lastly, many feel that Kim Yuna was robbed of a gold medal by Russian judging but there are other Yuna scam problems out there such as “” a site hosted in the USA by evil Godaddy, owned by a Russian fellow with an address in Israel.  This site is listed as a scam site as well by Russian authorities.  To be fair, the site is in Russian but appears to be a straight-up fan site for Yuna.  Nowadays, considering the large number of illegal Russian pill sites and what passes for politics in the Russian Federation, I’m not sure there is an official Russian anything that would know a scam from the real thing.

Open Thread – The Turkish Deep State Edition

For this edition of the open thread, I would note that Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan has said a 15-year-old boy who died on Tuesday from injuries sustained in last year’s anti-government protests had links to terrorism (link).  Of course Erdogan had to take a swipe at this kid since thousands turned out in the streets to protest his unjust death (link).  Mind you, this is the *same* Erdogan that put scads of Turkish scientists, military, scholars, etcetera, in jail over phony treason charges (additional link) and has had allies and family members tied to money laundering and corruption charges.

Cross Cultural Influences – Mental Distress Or An Instance of Growth?

cardinal_ROne Japanese gentleman – Hoji Takahashi has sued NHK in Japan for 1.4 million yen, citing “mental distress” caused by an excessive use of words borrowed from English.  Mr. Takahashi is a member of a group that supports the primacy of the Japanese language, in Japan.

As found in Korean, Japanese does have loan words from English.  Loan words can take different forms in South Korea, for instance, if you walk into a franchise coffee shop, you will find signs for cinnamon that instead of reading “계피 가루” (a perfectly acceptable Korean term) will read “신아먄 퍼아드” which is simply “cinnamon powder” phonetically rendered into Hangul. There are many words from English that can be found in just the same manner: 헤어 스타일 (hair style),피트니스센터 (fitness Center), etc. and so on.

Some of these words are technically a sublanguage (Konglish), existing neither in Korean or English, for example: Officetel 오피스텔 (Office + Hotel).  Even in other countries such as Germany, whose own language has influenced English with its own loan words (haus), how has experienced a reverse influence, for example sogh-ee (sorry).  Instead of using the comparable word in German, Entschuldigung.  Per one article from National Public Radio,

‘sorry’ is quite a useful way of apologizing because it doesn’t commit you to very much. It’s very easy to say ‘sorry.’ The closest equivalent would be Entschuldigung, which is, ‘I apologize, . . . That’s really like admitting that you’ve done something wrong, whereas with saying ‘sorry,’ you could also just be expressing empathy: ‘I’m so sorry for you, but it has nothing to do with me.’
“Sorry” is one of more than 10,000 American words Germans have borrowed since 1990. Language experts here say English is the main foreign language that has influenced German over the past six decades. This cultural infusion is pervasive, with English used by journalists, by scientists and even at the highest levels of government.
“Germany doesn’t really have a very purist attitude to language — unlike France, where you have an academy whose task it is to find French alternatives for borrowings; or if there is a new technology that needs to be named, then the academy will find a name. . . (cite)

Other countries like France do have an official body to police their language (L’academie Francais), founded in 1635.  “Le walkman” used to be common in France but the academy decided a proper French word was needed, thus Le Baladeur was born and use of “Le walkman” in a news advert could gain a business a fine from the academy.

According to Holger Klatte, this use of loan words and influence from English is a problem:

“Languages do tend to affect one another, but the influence of English in Germany is so strong that Germans are having a hard time advancing their own vocabulary, . . . The second world war and Nazi times have led Germans to downplay the importance of their language, unlike the French, Finns and Poles — they promote their languages a lot more than we do.” (cite)

I also note that there is a divergence between the Korean used by the ROK and DPRK.  The DPRK, in its political quest for racial purity, excludes the use of Chinese or English loan words and, as such, contains up to forty percent different vocabulary that is unique to the north, as opposed to its cousin in the south.

Loan words – aberration or growth?  It is difficult to tell.

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