The Marmot's Hole

Korea... in Blog Format

Author: R. Elgin (page 2 of 61)

Flavor of the Month – A Mysterious Ingredient Is Added

He burned coal while sitting inside his car.
He is now dead.

This someone is an employee of the NIS that has killed themselves (in Yongin).

As the reader may recall, On July 8, WikiLeaks released over 400 gigabytes of leaked data from Italian surveillance malware vendor Hacking Team, which included correspondence between officials from South Korea’s 5163 Army Division – a code name for the NIS – and the company about its remote control spyware system.

Now, an 46-year-old employee of the NIS has been found dead from apparent suicide and he left a will inside the car, along with his body, that discusses his family and work, namely the hacking activities of the NIS:

The apparent suicide and the will are expected to further stoke the controversy surrounding where and how the NIS used the hacking program. The software program, which uses Remote Control System technology, allows hackers to manipulate and track smartphones and computers by installing spyware.
The NIS said it bought the program made by an Italian company in 2012 and confirmed it can be used to hack into up to 20 mobile phones simultaneously.(cite)

Of course the NIS has denied it has been snooping on people with the software, in a statement, asking “Why would the NIS carry out surveillance on our own people?”

[gobsmacked!]

Update, July 19

The suicide note left by the agent claimed the spy agency had not used the software for domestic spying (cite):

A South Korean intelligence agent found dead in an apparent suicide left a note denying his team had used spyware to tap the mobile phones and computers of private citizens in the latest scandal involving the spy agency.

which leads me to wonder – why would an agent kill himself for not doing something wrong or was he simply a depressed man?
Either way, may God bless and help him and his family.

Ruthless-Non-Jewish Samsung Wins

Samsung has won the merger war:

. . . C&T shareholders approved the contested merger, with almost 70% voting in favour. (Earlier in the day Cheil’s shareholders had voted unanimously to pass the bid.) (cite)

Samsung did everything it could do to win:

Watermelons and walnut cakes were hand-delivered to shareholders’ homes; text messages implored them to toe the line. Solemn front-page advertisements, which ran in almost every local newspaper this week, put forward an “earnest plea to shareholders.

however, nothing stays the same:

Whatever the legal outcome, Elliott’s continuing defiance will be an irritant to Samsung and the Lee family. Its protest—a rare challenge by a foreign activist fund to South Korea’s biggest business group—has stirred public debate in the country about its corporate-governance standards, at a time when disenchantment with the families that own its large corporations, or chaebol, is growing. Local minority shareholders have rallied in online communities over the past six weeks. Many hoped C&T’s biggest single investor, South Korea’s National Pension Service (NPS), would oppose the bid—just as it did recently with a similar in-house merger at another chaebol, SK Telecom. However, the NPS appears to have cast its vote in favour this time.

Other “ants” or smaller shareholders, such as Grace Jeon had plenty to say about the merger:

Grace Jeon, a 53-year-old freelancer from the city of Ilsan, is one of those shareholders (ants). . . Ms. Jeon said in an interview ahead of the vote that she planned to oppose the merger, which she called an attempt to push through family succession over the best interests of small shareholders.
“This merger is for Lee Jae-yong, by Lee Jae-yong and of Lee Jae-yong,” she said in an interview, referring to the 47 year-old son of Samsung chairman Lee Kun-hee. She added that foreign shareholders deserve the same rights. (cite)

One commenter in the Economist article raised issues with how Samsung had conducted its campaign, based on what amounts to Samsung’s sponsored libel against Elliot Partners and Jews, in general:

The ugliness is, in part, that Samsung resorted to blunt hateful Jew-hating cartoons posted on C&T’s own website depicting Elliott’s Jewish CEO as a vulture. And Samsung refused to acknowledge, let alone stop this until a NY Observer story was picked up by the AP and spread around the world. Only then did the company issue a standard retraction. Samsung also appears to be behind a campaign pushed by a company called Mediapen whose former head and large shareholder is a deputy minister in the South Korean government, which included their own materials and enlisted columnists and TV to write about “ruthless” Jewish money. This campaign includes saying that Jewish “money” controls Institutional Shareholder Services Inc., a US shareholder advisory service – which conveniently of course ignores the fact that the Korea Corporate Governance Service advised against the deal.
So the lesson for me, other than not buying Samsung products, is that the Lee family is ruthless though they are not Jewish.

Of course I really hope the commenter is not living in Korea since he might have a problem with such a litigious and ruthless-non-Jewish company as Samsung.

Update:

S.Korea pension advisory committee says regrets being bypassed on Samsung:

The advisory committee on Friday requested that the fund
revise its internal rules and regulations to minimise potential
controversy on future decisions, without elaborating further.

Would they have recommended against this merger since the board had already made up their minds before the vote?

The Dry Spell Is Over – Mikkeller Seoul

m04Like me, so many people have complained about having really poor or few choices when it comes to beer in Seoul.

Though domestic mass-brewed beer might be fine for going with some Korean food, it really puts one off. Very recently, much has changed thanks to the growing body of Korean brewers, who will eventually challenge and exceed American craft beer makers in terms of excellence and quality. Though I like domestic brewers such as Hand & Malt, Pong Dang, Barbarrossa’s Wiezen beer and some of Magpie, finally having a craft beer such as Mikkeller fully represented and on tap here is a dream come true.

m03Other than some local brew pubs (Pong Dang Craft Beer Co., SKim45º, etc.) whose brewers are gaining in quality gradually, there is a new branch of the Swedish Mikkeller microbrewer now in Seoul. Mikkeller has only a few locations in the world; in  Sweden, San Francisco, Bankok and now here. Mikkeller is a microbrewery founded in 2006 in Copenhagen, Denmark that is based on the so-called “phantom” or “gypsy” ethos; that is, the company does not operate an official brewery and, instead, collaborates with other brewers to produce their recipes or experimental one-off brews. The brewery was founded by two home brewers: Mikkel Borg Bjergsø, a high school teacher, and journalist Kristian Klarup Keller. Both sought to introduce their home-brewed beer to the public and to “challenge beer friends with intense new tastes”

m05m02Mikkeller Seoul now has thirty Mikkeller beers on tap, with another twenty in bottle – everything from their wonderful sour beers to a double porter with 유자, an IPA, an many others. The menu is quite nice as well, offering dishes like a jambalaya, various grilled cheese variations, a pulled pork sandwhich, truffle fries, etc.

m01

A Framboose sour (raspberry).

m06

A map to Mikkeller Seoul is here below. Click on the map for a larger version. Mikkeller Seoul: Sinsa-dong 544-22, Gangnam-gu, Seoul, opens @2p to 1p, All week.

Mikkeller-map

Flavour of the Month – We Know Who You Really Should Vote for

On July 8, WikiLeaks released over 400 gigabytes of leaked data from Italian surveillance malware vendor Hacking Team, which included correspondence between officials from South Korea’s 5163 Army Division – a code name for the NIS – and the company about its remote control spyware system. The local intelligence office has been suspected of spying on civilians since the Park Chung Hee era, but due to such suspicions, it was unable to acquire the spyware systems necessary to infiltrate mobile devices for legitimate espionage activities…the NIS is obligated to clearly explain why it purchased the wireless monitoring device so discreetly and for what purpose it has been used. Since the agency did not obtain a court warrant, those kinds of surveillance activities are illegal. (more)

The NIS has a lot more going on than is in the newspapers too (backdoors into software (Kakao (?) and Samsung phones, etc.)

Pardon My “National Development”

The president has more ideas for national development:

ex-felonWe need to carry out pardons to promote national development and forge national reconciliation” on the occasion of the 70th Liberation Day,” President Park Geun-hye said Monday.
“This year marks the 70th anniversary of Korea’s independence from Japan’s 1910-45 colonial rule. We will have to promote pride in Korea and make it the first year to take another giant leap, overcoming various challenges,” Park said in a regular meeting with her top aides at Cheong Wa Dae.
The President ordered her top aides to examine the scope and target of special pardons next month as part of celebrations of the 70th anniversary. Park vowed to limit presidential rights of special pardons during her presidential campaign in 2012. Park exercised special pardons once so far only for minor crimes committed by those living in poverty on Lunar New Year’s Day last year. . . Park’s remarks immediately raised questions over whether imprisoned business tycoons will be affected by the special pardons. (cite)

Of course, only convicted felons know what is best for Korea since the current leadership doesn’t seem to know.

UPDATE: July 16, Thursday

The Saenuri response to this idea?

I will propose to the president to grant magnanimous pardons to convicted businessmen and politicians within the scope that is acceptable to the public so that it will serve as an opportunity to unify the nation, . . . Rep. Won Yoo-chul, the Saenuri Party’s new floor leader

As I might paraphrase: 유유상종

Samsung Versus the Ants & the Jews – A Never-ending Saga of Korean Shizz-biz

Greece is not the only suspenseful yes-or-no vote that has been on everyone’s minds as of late.

Samsung is having one heck of a knock-down shareholders fight. This Friday will be the day that Samsung C&T shareholders will vote on its future and “essentially the fate of the whole conglomerate and determine whether they approve its merger with Cheil Industries, the de facto holding company of Samsung Group.” (cite)

To summarize the situation:

Samsung Group, South Korea’s largest conglomerate made up of 67 companies, is controlled by the powerful Lee family via a complex web of cross-shareholding. Samsung C&T owns 4.06 percent of the group’s crown jewel, Samsung Electronics, with the value of its stake in the electronics giant standing at more than 7.6 trillion won ($6.7 billion) alone. Samsung Life Insurance controls 7.2 percent, while Cheil controls 19.3 percent of Samsung Life Insurance.
Last but not least, Jay Y. Lee owns 23 percent of Cheil, with his sisters Lee Boo-jin and Lee Seo-hyun controlling 7.7 percent each. Lee Kun-hee, the Samsung Group chairman, owns 3.4 percent.
Although Cheil has nothing to do with financial businesses on paper, it acts essentially like a financial holding company, controlling a significant stake in Samsung Life Insurance.
The merger between Samsung C&T and Cheil is certain to help the Lee family exert more influence over Samsung Electronics and is seen as a necessary step as the conglomerate prepares to make a generational change from the now-hospitalized Lee Kun-hee to his 47-year old son.

This is a very big deal, for example:

South Korea’s $422bn National Pension Service is poised to make one of the most high-pressure interventions in its 28-year history, with a vote that could swing the fate of a key merger in the Samsung group. . . The NPS holds big stakes in both companies — a situation that has highlighted the huge domestic clout of the world’s fifth-biggest pension fund, while heightening calls from activists for it to take a lead in defending South Korean corporate governance standards. . . The NPS is at the centre of the whole controversy — it’s created an awkward situation for them,” says Park Yoo-kyung, an investment adviser at the Dutch fund APG Asset Management, which holds a stake in Samsung C&T. . . Analysts say that this week’s vote is likely to be close and that the NPS — Samsung C&T’s biggest shareholder with 11.9 per cent — could decide the outcome. . . the NPS has courted controversy by making its decision in-house without turning to an advisory committee set up to assist with difficult voting decisions. That committee has shown willingness to oppose controversial management decisions, last month opposing a merger of two SK group companies citing similar objections to those made by Elliott in the Samsung case.

Line of marching ants with 11 different ant images

Samsung small investors are angry and are marching . . .

One shareholder, Elliott Associates LP (hedge fund), intensified its opposition to Samsung Group’s proposed merger of two units, a day before the U.S. hedge fund’s dispute with South Korea’s largest conglomerate went to court in Seoul. (cite) Elliot has also attracted the many small investors, referred to in South Korea as being “ants”, and have joined forces with Elliott.
According to Elliot, Cheil Industries Inc.’s offer to buy Samsung C&T Corp. is “unlawful” and creates “open-ended regulatory risks,” the fund headed by billionaire activist Paul Elliott Singer said in an online presentation on Thursday that laid out its case against the deal.
According to some analysts, this “showdown” between Samsung and Elliot Associates will shake up South Korea.

“Lawyers say the controversy will also prompt a rethink of the rules governing mergers between sister companies, which allowed the lowball offer in the first place. In any case, the backlash should make the chaebols less dismissive of outside shareholders.”

Meanwhile, South Korean media, in a typical demonstration of some of its totally irrational bias has managed to infuriate Jews:

jewish_bankerJewish organizations over the weekend denounced what they say are anti-Semitic statements in the South Korean media blaming Jews for attempts to block a corporate merger between two subsidiaries of the Samsung conglomerate. The Anti-Defamation League and the Simon Wiesenthal Center have called upon the Asian country’s government and on Samsung to repudiate the claims, which have appeared in a number of business publications supportive of the deal.
The target of the opprobrium is Paul Singer, the Jewish head of the Elliot Associates hedge fund, which owns a seven percent stake in Samsung C&T, which seeks to merge with Chiel Industries.
According to South Korean financial publication MoneyToday, “Elliott is led by a Jew, Paul E. Singer, and ISS [an advisory firm that analyzed the merger] is an affiliate of Morgan Stanley Capital International (MSCI), whose key shareholders are Jewish. According to a source in the finance industry, Jews have a robust network demonstrating influence in a number of domains.”
Meanwhile, Mediapen, another local publication, asserted that Jews are known to wield enormous power on Wall Street and in global financial circles” and that it is a “well-known fact that the US government is swayed by Jewish capital.” (cite)

Per Mediapen: “Jewish money, it reported, “has long been known to be ruthless and merciless.”

Mind you, it would be irresponsible to note that South Korean media also has long been known to be unprofessional and racist, especially considering their important role in revealing the hordes of HIV/AIDS infested, foreigners and the ongoing foreigner-driven crime-wave. The JDL and others have to realize that Koreans actually admire Jewish thought since the Talmud has been transmogrified into Korean.

Open Thread, July 6, 2015 – The “I Am Probably F***** But Am Voting Yes” Edition

no

June: Struggle Against U.S. Imperialism Month

dprk_propEric Talmadge of the Associated Press has posted an interesting article on June, in the DPRK, as being the “Struggle Against U.S. Imperialism Month”, wherein the official history of the state’s struggle against America is remembered:

. . . it’s a time for North Koreans to swarm to war museums, mobilize for gatherings denouncing the evils of the United States and join in a general, nationwide whipping up of anti-American sentiment. . . the North Korean version of the war, including the claim that it was started by Washington, is radically at odds with that of the United States and often doesn’t even jibe well with documents released over the years by its wartime allies, China and the Soviet Union. . . At the Susan-ri Class Education Center, guide Choe Jong Suk, a somber middle-aged woman in a black-and-white traditional gown, gave a well-practiced lecture on the variety of tortures — 110 in all, she said — inflicted on Koreans by the U.S. that, she said, were “worse than the methods of Hitler.”

Which is far worse than the crimes comitted by the DPRK against its own citizens (Godwin’s Law here?).

You can read the full article here.

More Shizzilistic Science from the DPRK

DPRK_scienceThe Associated Press has reported that the DPRK has a cure and preventative for MERS, SARS, HIV/AIDS and likely the Ebola virus (cite).

. . . The official Korean Central News Agency said scientists developed Kumdang-2 from ginseng grown from fertilizer mixed with rare-earth elements. According to the pro-North Korea website Minjok Tongshin, the drug was originally produced in 1996.

I know this remarkable stroke of good fortune will be well recieved by the large community of AIDS-infected English teachers here in the ROK.

Getting Green, Getting High and Spying on The Kids

walkway concept01Seoul will get a new park and its pretty high up.

A long unused highway overpass by Seoul Station will be remolded into a “sky garden”, facilitating pedestrian space and harboring a local collection of trees and plants. (Hopefully, advertising and take-out auto-bikes will be discouraged) (cite):

walkway overviewMVRDV: an elevated park in Seoul won a contest to design the park, filling it with massive circular plant pots filled with 254 different species of flowers, shrubs and trees to create a “living dictionary of the natural heritage of Korea.” A greenhouse will grow new plants to populate the pots, and pedestrians can stop at a number of cafes, street markets, flower shops and other vendors. Once completed, the 55-foot-high structure will cut the walk around the railway station from 25 minutes to 11, and is expected to generate 1.83 times its cost in economic benefits.

The elevated park did meet with some resistence from local merchants:

. . . While the plan, initiated by Seoul Mayor Park Won-soon, has been challenged by some locals, particularly merchants from Namdaemun Market located just east of the overpass, the Dutch architect openly defended the city government’s plan to renovate one of Seoul’s traditional areas. “I’m aware of the mayor’s intention for the city’s architecture … [to make it] better, greener and more livable in the project, . . . I think it’s courageous, and there might be criticisms here and there, and I’m here to defend that policy because I do think the improvements will [inspire awe] (cite).

If you are a Korean kid, who is under eighteen, then you are being  watched.

The government has decided that all kids under eighteen must have an application called “smart sherrif” installed on their smartphones. “Smart Sheriff” was developed and funded by the South Korean Government and allows parents to spy on their kids:

Smart Sheriff and at least 14 other apps allow parents to monitor how long their kids use their smartphones, how many times they use apps and which websites they visit. Some send a child’s location data to parents and issue an alert when a child searches keywords such as “suicide,” ”pregnancy” and “bully” or receives messages with those words. (cite)

Though this might be useful for parents, who wish to monitor exactly what their kids are doing, it also raises an issue of data usage since the browsing habits of kids can also be monitored by the government, through this software and no mention has been made at this time if the information, collected through this software, will be used for commercial purposes either.

Open Thread: June 13, 2015 – The Quarantine Edition

PGH_in_quar

Korean Robots Are the Future – 2.6 Billion USD Worth

team_kaistA KAIST robotics team has done well enough at a recent DARPA robotics competition and came away with first place and a 2-million dollar prize:

loser_bot

Loser bot?

kaist_HUBO

KAIST HUBO

A team of roboticists from the Korea Advanced Institute of Science and Technology claimed a $2 million prize on Saturday that was offered by a Pentagon research agency for developing a mobile robot capable of operating in hazardous environments.
Twenty-five teams of university and corporate roboticists competed for the prize, which was first given in 2012 by the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency. The robots were graded on their ability to complete eight tasks, including driving a vehicle, opening a door, operating a portable drill, turning a valve and climbing stairs, all in the space of an hour. (cite)

I know opening a door and driving a vehicle might seem like mudane tasks but for a robot, the programing is quite a challenge as can be seen in the video compilation of robots that have fallen and can’t get up.

“The KAIST team is led by Jun Ho Oh, a professor at the Korea Advanced Institute of Science and Technology, in Daejeon, South Korea, and one of the world’s top experts in humanoid robots. He and his team have been improving their robot HUBO over several generations.” (cite)

KAIST most notably developed packs of aquatic robots that have proven to be adept at hunting jellyfish though that might not be the best way to eliminate jellyfish. There are even prison robots that can patrol prisons, weld ships and even defensive Samsung robots that can patrol the DMZ with a range of up to 2 miles.

More importantly, manufacturing robots are a way to bring production back to South Korea and to make up for a reduced population. Currently, South Korea has the highest robot-human worker ratio in the world :

China has just 30 robots per 10,000 manufacturing employees, trailing South Korea (437), Japan (323), Germany (282) and the U.S. (152), according to the International Federation of Robotics, a trade group, but the federation projects that the total number of industrial robots being used in China will exceed that of North America next year. IHS Technology, a research firm, projects that robot sales in China will surge to about 211,000 units in 2019 from 55,000 last year. (cite)

taekwon_VKorea has had a fascination for robots since Robot Taekwon V was popular as a kid’s cartoon. Now, robots are very likely going to have a growing importance for Korea as time passes considering that South Korea is spending 1.1 trillion won to boost its robotics industry and will have invested up to 2.6 billion USD by 2018 (cite)(cite).

A Chinese Sewol?

ChinaSinking_map

Map: The Guardian

Reports from several news sources report that a Chinese cruise ship has capsized and sunk on the Yangtze River in the midst of a storm.  458 people were aboard, at least eight have been rescuced and amongst which were the captain and chief engineer (who are under arrest) were among the 8-12 people reported rescued (note: there are different reports running around now).  The ship sank within minutes supposedly due to a storm and no SOS was sent out.  Some of the people that escaped first notified the authorities about the ship (cite).

According to Reuters:

. . . Some passengers are still alive inside the hull of a passenger ship carrying 458 people, many of them elderly Chinese tourists (cite)

Among those on board the ship were 406 tourists, aged from around 50 to 80, on a tour organized by a Shanghai tour group, and 47 crew members.

CCP officials have acted quickly, sending many officials and men to the scene, if nothing else to avoid the blowback that has plagued the Korean Government, however much of this already is an erie echo of the Sewol tradgedy:

The accident is certain to catalyze widespread public calls for investigations into both the company and into the government officials who oversee safety regulations and boat traffic along the Yangtze. Ordinary Chinese believe corruption among local officials is rampant, and the Communist Party has made rooting out corruption a priority. (cite)

A large salvage ship has already been dispatched already to try to pull the ship upright in about 17 meters of water and there is a report of workers attempting to cut through the hull of the ship with a blowtorch.

State media said local Hubei law enforcement had mustered 40 inflatable boats for the rescue effort, while more than 1,000 central government law-enforcement officials had been dispatched to the site. (cite)

Considering the concerted attempts at controlling media reportage from within the PRC, it remains to be seen just what happened since there is little released at this point and it is still uncertain just how many people have survived this tragic accident. According to one twitter account:

. . . Non-swimmer Zhang Hui survived after floating in darkness for 10 hours . . .

A few more details have emerged about the extraordinary survival story of tour guide Zhang Hui. He owes his life to a life jacket and a branch after surviving in the water for 10 hours despite not being able to swim. He told Xinhua agency that he scrambled out of a window in torrential rain clutching a life jacket. “Wave after wave crashed over me; I swallowed a lot of water,” Reuters quoted him telling Xinhua. He said that he was unable to flag down passing ships and finally struggled ashore as dawn broke holding onto a branch. (cite)

which implies that least several hours passed before rescue efforts were made.

Addendum: June 4, 2015

This is sounding more and more like the Sewol tragedy:

In an interview, Yan Zhiguo, a director of the company that owns the ship, acknowledged that the hull of the Oriental Star was modified in 1997, an adjustment that could have altered its center of gravity and made it more susceptible to tilting over. And a former member of the ship’s crew said that its furniture was not bolted down, allowing weight on the ship to shift more easily in rough waters and making it more vulnerable to capsizing.
The Oriental Star was one of six vessels cited in 2013 for unspecified violations as part of an effort to improve the safety of ships on the Yangtze River, according to a document on the website of the Jiangsu Maritime Safety Administration. (cite)

 

United Nations to ROK: Testing Foreigners for AIDS to check ‘values and morality’ Is Discrimination

UNHRSeveral years back, an English teacher refused to take a second test for AIDS because she believed the testing was “discriminatory and an affront to her dignity” and was refused a contract renewal by the city of Ulsan. The United Nations Committee on the Elimination of Racial Discrimination took up the case and has decided that this is discrimination against foriengers and that they teacher should be compensated for lost revenue by the South Korean Government.

One article states that:

South Korean nationals in equivalent jobs were not required to do so (be tested for AIDS).
South Korea has said it scrapped the HIV/AIDS tests for expatriate teachers in 2010 (they knew it was discriminatory). The Geneva-based Committee on the Elimination of Racial Discrimination said the HIV/AIDS test “does not appear to be justified on public health grounds or any other ground and is a breach of the right to work without distinction to race, colour, national or ethnic origin”.
It called on South Korea to grant Ms Griffin “adequate compensation for the moral and material damages she suffered”.
It also said South Korea should “counter any manifestations of xenophobia, through stereotyping or stigmatising, of foreigners by public officials, the media and the public at large”, and gave the country 90 days to inform the committee of the steps it has taken. (cite)

This much delayed vindication should also be a reminder of just how low politicians (like Lee Ju-yeong or Kim Han-gil) can get in their pursuit of bad ideas (cite).

Much thanks to Professor Benjamin Wagner for news of this recent development.

Beating The Rap – Not Just for Rappers

yoo-seung-joon-wideYoo Seung-jun is a former Korean (American) pop star and was one of the biggest selling artists in Korean history, selling over 5 million records in the country. Yoo’s career in South Korea abruptly ended in 2002 due his taking on American citizenship so as to avoid doing mandatory military service in South Korea.

Yoo has now apologized and has offered to fullfil his military service however the government is not forgiving . . .

however . . .

as an editorial at the JoongAng Ilbo has pointed out:

Each year, 3,000 people give up their Korean citizenship to avoid serving in the military. In 2013, among the children of 15 high-ranking officials in the current Park Geun-hye administration – which includes Blue House secretaries – 16 gave up their Korean citizenship and were therefore exempted from service.
Shouldn’t the same strict standard apply to them as well? We may well be neglecting an even more serious issue as we harshly criticize celebrities for the same offense.

That is a good question to ask.

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