The Marmot's Hole

Korea... in Blog Format

Author: R. Elgin (page 2 of 55)

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.

Ummm, My Samsung Has A Hole in It . . .

Funny, it turns out that there is a huge backdoor in Samsung Android phones that lets anyone that wants remote access to that phone in.  Per the Replicant site:

Samsung Galaxy devices running proprietary Android versions come with a back-door that provides remote access to the data stored on the device.
In particular, the proprietary software that is in charge of handling the communications with the modem, using the Samsung IPC protocol, implements a class of requests known as RFS commands, that allows the modem to perform remote I/O operations on the phone’s storage. As the modem is running proprietary software, it is likely that it offers over-the-air remote control, that could then be used to issue the incriminated RFS messages and access the phone’s file system.

Birds of A Feather – The NIS & CIA Have Issues to Tend To

You may remember the sordid tale of South Korea’s NIS Scandal, where the Korea spy agency spent some effort to influence and interfering in a presidential election.  Now Diane Feinstein, The chairwoman of the American Senate intelligence committee accused the Central Intelligence Agency of improperly removing documents from computers that committee staff members had been using to complete a report on the agency’s detention program. (cite)
Per Feinstein’s comments:

. . . I have grave concerns that the CIA’s search may well have violated the separation of powers principles embodied in the United States Constitution. (cite)

The director of the CIA, John Brennan has denied culpability on the CIAs part and claims the agencies’ affairs have been handled in an appropriate manner.  All this after press reports that the CIA had searched Congressional computers used by Representative Feinstein’s staff. (cite)

Though senior Saenuri Dang members and the last president of South Korea could possibly be held responsible for the deeds of the NIS, one can not solely blame the CIA since it has been enabled by the American Congress for some time.  As said by one commentor on the NY Times article “Welcome to the National Security State, Sen. Feinstein. The one you helped create.” or “So Senator Feinstein is upset that she’s being spied on? The irony certainly isn’t lost on me! This is the same woman that has repeatedly defended the NSA’s right to spy on American citizens”

Meanwhile, members of Saenuri Dang are in a panic over the current NIS foulup over fabricated evidence:

It’s not a matter that [the NIS] can simply brush off by making an apology, . . . Nam should judge on his own whether his decision would harm the president. Can the problem be patched up without him voluntarily stepping down? . . . When I think of the fabrication scandal, my flesh trembles, . . . What if this incident deals a colossal damage to us in the elections? (Kim Yong-tae, Saenuri legislator)

or this quote:

. . . the very fact that the NIS has been the center of media reports for over a year and a half is evidence the agency has failed to truthfully fulfill its duty. (Choung Byoung-gug, Saenuri Dang legislator) (link)

I guess the reform promised for the NIS is still en route to us.

Open Thread – The Soju Edition

Yogi Bear - Touch and go-go-go

This open thread is dedicated to that primordial cure for the boredom that strikes before real Spring weather comes.  Mind you, the stuff in the green bottles is the cheap version and if you want a better experience, you should try these.  Also this youtube piece should remind everyone of the dangers of using drum machines and soju together.

A Vacuum Denied – The Continuing Unholy Brotherhood of the DPRK – PRC Alliance

DPRK_prisonersThe U.N. High Commissioner for Human Rights, Navi Pillay, has refered the DPRK (North Korea) to the prosecutor of the International Criminal Court (ICC), this after a U.N. report was released that gives detailed evidence of Crimes against humanity in the DPRK. UN Investigators state that “North Korean security chiefs and possibly even Supreme Leader Kim Jong Un himself should face international justice for ordering systematic torture, starvation and killings comparable to Nazi-era atrocities”. (link) Here are some media links to articles regarding the report (The Atlantic) (Business Insider).  As per the UN Commission on Human Rights response to this report:

. . . Australian Michael Kirby, the commission’s chairman, penned a letter to Kim dated Jan. 21 warning that the report would call for a referral to the ICC “to render accountable all those, including possibly yourself, who may be responsible for the crimes against humanity,” as found in the yearlong investigation. When asked how many North Korean officials may have committed the crimes against humanity, Kirby told reporters in Geneva Monday that the number “would be running into hundreds,” without naming specific names. (link)

Despite this recommendation to prosecute DPRK leadership for crimes that are similar to what occured in Nazi Germany and Nazi-occupied territory during WWII, The PRC has come out as being opposed to such action:

. . . Hua Chunying, a Chinese Foreign Ministry spokeswoman, called the report “unreasonable criticism,” raising questions as to whether Beijing will use its United Nations Security Council veto power to block any action on the matter.
“We believe that politicizing human rights issues is not conducive toward improving a country’s human rights,” Ms. Hua said. “We believe that taking human rights issues to the International Criminal Court is not helpful to improving a country’s human rights situation.” (link)

Of course, the main long-term supporter for the DPRK is China and the PRC has had its own problems with human rights issues and has, in turn drawn justifiable criticism for its unwillingness to acknowledge the criminal acts against humanity that have occurred in the DPRK.  As per the UN panel that was charged with reviewing the evidence against the DPRK, they find that China has been an enabler in this affair as well:

. . . Despite the gross human rights violations awaiting repatriated persons, China pursues a rigorous policy of forcibly repatriating citizens of the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea who cross the border illegally. China does so in pursuance of its view that these persons are economic (and illegal) migrants, however, many such nationals of the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea should be recognized as refugees fleeing persecution or refugees sur place. They are thereby entitled to international protection. In forcibly returning nationals of the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea, China also violates its obligation to respect the principle of non-refoulement under international refugee and human rights law. In some cases, Chinese officials also appear to provide information on those apprehended to their counterparts in the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea. . . (link)

Naturally, since the PRC is a member of the UN’s Security Council, they can veto any attempt by the UN to take action against the documented crimes committed by DPRK leadership.  Despite China’s rejection of the UN panel’s report and the recommendation to prosecute DPRK leadership, the Republic of Korea (South Korea) supports and welcomes the UN panel’s report, exemplifying the stark difference in politics and ethics that separates both China and North Korea from the rest of the world community.

A direct link to the UN panel’s report is here, complete with disturbing drawings made by a former North Korean prisoner.  They do remind one of the Nazi Death camps.

Flavour of the Month Addendum – Just How Many Flavours Does Bad Come in?

The very recent election of a mayor for Tokyo is such a many-layered example of bad.

The Pro-nuclear candidate Yoichi Masuzoe won an election, based on one of the lowest turnouts ever, to become mayor of Tokyo. This is a candidate that was backed by Abe’s ruling party, a candidate whose candidacy was considered a test for the public support for resuming of nuclear power plants in Japan, not to mention his sparkling commentary back in 1989 about women:

“Women are not normal when they are having a period … You can’t possibly let them make critical decisions about the country [during their period] such as whether or not to go to war,”

Yes, he is a special candidate that represents the current leadership of Japan and their interests all too well. Naturally, some Japanese women have reacted by declaring a Lysistrata-style strike, declaring that any man that votes for Masu-man gets no sex.  Just take a good look at what kills all the fun nowadays:

nuclear jackass

The opposition, aided by former PM Koizumi, split, thus losing the election:

Mr Masuzoe’s closest rivals were lawyer Kenji Utsunomiya, 67, who came second, and former Prime Minister Morihiro Hosokawa, 76, who was backed by popular fellow former Prime Minister Junichiro Koizumi.

(Shades of Roh Dae-woo).  The most fitting summary of all this, I think is from the Japansubculture guys who think:

Once again, Japan has shown us that with enough voter apathy, a compliant media, and the connections and funding of the nuclear industry, that any middle-aged asshole guy can be the leader of one of Japan’s largest city-states.

Considering the Right-wing, historically myopic, PR-impaired leadership that is Japan today, I guess this guy will fit right in.

Open Thread – Getting Around Edition


The times sure have changed.  Getting around Seoul and Korea can be fun and for some, relaxing, as per Jodi Kantor’s fluff piece for the NY Times on spas (bathhouses) in South Korea.

Is Racism at Epidemic Proportions in Korea?

GrooveKorea has a long and anecdote-filled article on racism in South Korea, as experienced by people of the darker persuasion:

On a subway in Seoul, Beauty Epps is approached by a middle-aged Korean woman. “Africa!” the Korean says. “No,” Epps, a young African-American woman, calmly replies. “American. Migukin.”
“No,” the Korean woman replies. “Africa.” Then, after a pause, the Korean woman says, “We domesticated you.”

The link is here.

. . . in High Spirits


Not that the above graphic means anything bad, but it seems my Korean acquaintances can collectively drink me under the table. My Irish heritage is for naught! (link here)  This means that Koreans drink twice as much as Russians and four times as much as Americans.  As for tea, it seems that my hearty Turkish friends win and I am truly perplexed. (I should mention that “Dokdoforever” made mention of this though I only just now caught it; good catch)

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