The Marmot's Hole

Korea... in Blog Format

Author: R. Elgin (page 2 of 59)

The Walls Have Ears and They Are Korean Made . . .

SS-smartv

Some time back I made mention of the strong possibility of smart TVs being able to spy on unwary users.   Cory Doctorow has pointed out that:

a “part of the Samsung Smarttv EULA: “Please be aware that if your spoken words include personal or other sensitive information, that information will be among the data captured and transmitted to a third party through your use of Voice Recognition.”

This is part of their speech-recognition tech, which uses third parties (whose privacy policies Samsung doesn’t make any representations about) to turn your words into text.” (cite)

and, even back in the late part of 2013, it was discovered in the UK that LG SmartTVs were gleaning information on user habits even after privacy settings were set to block the sharing of any information, which could be accessed by third parties.

Another reason I like my TVs dumber than I am.

Why Does the PRC Leadership Persecute Christianity?

Chinese-Jeasus

Not that persecution is anything new to Christians, however the PRC has steadily increased its suppression of domestic Churches and Christian-related NGOs, including those that work to help people in the DPRK that need help (such as orphanages).

This last November, Peter Hahn, a Korean-American, who had used his life savings to help relocate from the United States and set up his NGOs, was detained and accused of various crimes (He is being held on suspicion of embezzlement and using fraudulent invoices) by the PRC:

The 73-year-old naturalised US citizen, who has overseen a range of aid projects straddling the border between China and North Korea over the past two decades, was called in by authorities in Tumen, China for questioning on Tuesday and placed under detention after a six-hour interrogation. Two other staff members, including a South Korean national, have also been detained in recent weeks. . . .”I feel that the Chinese government doesn’t want foreign NGOs working on North Korea any more,” (Mr Hahn’s wife, Eunice), having fled to Seoul soon after the first police raid. “In the past, it just left us alone; but now it is cracking down.” (cite)

Several months ago, a Canadian couple, (Kevin and Julia Garratt) who ran a coffeehouse in Dandong, PRC were arrested by the Chinese Government and charged under the notoriously vague state secrets law since they were allegedly spying and stealing military secrets (believe it or not).  The Garratt’s were also loosely affiliated with local Christian NGOs, thus drawing the attention of the government there.

Certain sources report that this increased anti-Christian action has become more common as of late:

. . . South Korean missionaries working in China near the North Korean border have reported being forced out in recent months after having their visa renewals refused.  The crackdown is variously viewed as part of a broader campaign against Christianity, or consistent with a ramp up in official rhetoric against foreign influence seen as undermining Chinese interests. (cite)

As of several days ago, the Chinese have decided to formally detain (as if this has any meaning at all!) Mr. Garratt and charge him under their state secrets law.  His wife has been released but can not leave the PRC, according to an article:

The Garratts have not been formally arrested and no charges have been filed, the family said in a statement released through their lawyer, James Zimmerman, who is based in Beijing. “No evidence of any crime has been provided to the Garratts, family members, or their lawyers of any criminal conduct,” the statement said.
Ms. Garratt has been barred from leaving mainland China for one year. Her husband has been relocated to “a more formal detention center at an unknown location,” the statement said. (cite)

The Garratts apparently were motivated by spiritual concerns to move to and open a coffeeshop in Dandong:

Their relocation to Dandong was divinely inspired, Mr. Garratt said in a recorded sermon that had been posted on the website of the Terra Nova Church in Surrey, British Columbia, before it was removed in August. “God said, in a prayer meeting, ‘Go to Dandong and I’ll meet you there,’ and he said start a coffee house,” Mr. Garratt said, adding that “we’re trying to reach North Korea with God, with Jesus and with practical assistance.”

Rather than this being an issue of “state secrets” – which is clearly unlikely – this case and many others shows that the PRC leadership seems to have panicked over  the increasing influence and afluence of Christian groups within the PRC, which is something that they can not control, therefore is percieved as a direct threat to their existence.  According to an article in the CS Monitor:

While Christianity is waning in many parts of the world, in China it is growing rapidly – despite state strictures. The rise in evangelical Protestantism in particular, driven both by people’s spiritual yearnings and individual human needs in a collective society, is taking place in nearly every part of the nation.
Western visitors used to seeing empty sanctuaries in the United States or Europe can be dumbfounded by the Sunday gatherings held in convention center-size buildings where people line up for blocks to get in – one service after another. In Wenzhou, not far from Hangzhou, an estimated 1.2 million Protestants now exist in a city of 9 million people alone. (It is called “China’s Jerusalem.”) By one estimate, China will become the world’s largest Christian nation, at its current rate of growth, by 2030.

which is enough to make the current CCP leadership sweat in anticipation as their grip on power is unwittingly contested by Chinese in pursuit of spiritual meaning.  This pursuit, as in South Korea, also has the smell of money though.  One recent study proports that Christianity has been a major part in the PRC’s success.

“Christianity (in the PRC) has the most significant effect on economic growth” and that the steady increase of Christianity has played an important role in China’s economic rise.

This study, by Qunyong Wang of the Institute of Statistics and Econometrics at Nankai University and Xinyu Lin of Renmin University of China, claims that Christianity has significantly contributed to China’s economic growth by demonstrating a positive correlation between areas of particularly robust economic growth and the prevalence of Christian congregations and institutions in these areas, in China. (cite)

Having spiritual beliefs can be enriching for many people and help them in their lives, however, a collective body can be easily lead and manipulated if the collective is prone to the effects of blind faith – faith in someone or something without the benefit of reasoning.

Faith without reason can be an incredibly dangerous thing and it is precisely this blind faith the party would love to harness for their own goals, however it can become a very unmanagable thing as they are belatedly discovering, thus the pronounced effort to clamp down on churches, in the PRC and on the border with the DPRK, that are not sanctioned by the Party.

TIGER – the musical

What happens when a Korean scientist looks for what could be the last tiger in Korea? . . . A new musical, written by expatriate Jazz pianist and composer/arranger Ronn Branton is opening tomorrow for a limited run at the Sejong Arts Center downtown.  Call for tickets or go to interpark.co.kr but hurry since this run will probably sell out quickly.

Having the Intellegence to Know When to Slap the Right Hand

tricky handsThe Bible speaks of the “left hand not knowing what the right hand is doing” and when applicable to a government, this is usually bad news since it could imply a “deep government” that exerts undue control over a democratic process.

President Cristina Fernández de Kirchner of Argentina has announced plans to disband Argentina’s intelligence agency after the suicide (murder) of prosecutor Alberto Nisman – hours before he had been due to testify against senior government officials about the government cover-up of Iran’s role in a bombing that took place in 1994 (cite).

President Kirchner was quoted:

“I have prepared a bill to reform the intelligence service,” President Fernandez said, adding that she wanted the proposal to be discussed at an urgent session of Congress. “The plan is to dissolve the Intelligence Secretariat and create a Federal Intelligence Agency,” she said that a new leadership should be chosen by a president but would be subject to a Senate approval. (cite)
“Combating impunity has been a priority of my government,” she added. She further stated that the existing intellegence service “has not served the national interests”.

Considering the heavy-handed direct interference of the NIS (1, 2, 3)  and the CIA (torture instead of gathering actual information) in their respective governments, the undue political interference in the Prosecutor’s Office in Seoul, and the use of these intellegence services to further the political aims of a select group of politicians, it is past time to make a greater committment to our respective societies’s democracy and make these agencies anew.

General Cho Young-ja Wants A Picture with Meryl Streep

margaret-cho-golden-globes

General Cho is not amused and wants a picture with Meryl Streep. Naturally, some Rollos were not pleased with the general and called this presentation “racist”

Please click the photo for a sample of General Cho’s anger.

News Flash: North Koreans Are Not Idiots

hope

Choe Sang-hun has written a rather obvious article that points out that the only thing worse than living in a murderous, despotic country is having a bad movie made about you while being resigned to live there.

As for good news, Sony is still offline.

Shhhhhhh . . .

gagConsidering the current concern with satire and free speech, Hyung-Jin Kim’s (AP) article on Shin Eun-mi, the Korean-American woman that has been accused of saying nice things about the DPRK, is a recent report concerning the National Security Act, free speech in South Korea and the politically inspired abuse of such in South Korea.

Shin Eun-mi is due to voluntarily leave today (?) after the Prosecutor’s Office issued a request to have her deported from South Korea today, due to her praise of the DPRK. The Prosecutor’s Office has also requested that she be barred from returning to South Korea for five years and that she be required to apply for a visa to return after that time, even though US citizens do not need a visa to visit South Korea (link). Shin Eun-mi’s “praise” has been construed as being a violation of the controversial National Security Act (an abbreviated translation of it is here). This has also not been the first time a foreign national has been expelled from South Korea for expressing pro-DPRK views – last year, a Chinese student was expelled for such for “suspicions of ‘aiding the enemy'”. (link) The National Security Act has long been a means by which critics of the ROK Government and DPRK supporters, both, have been prosecuted and imprisoned for up to seven years.

This issue illustrates the political intolerance that has characterized the current administration in squashing not only those that say good things about the DPRK but those that criticize the politicians in power and those that would expose the majority party’s incidences of violating the law though means of illegally manipulating government agencies, such as the NIS, or the use of media allies to help thwart investigation into their own violations of law.
Even the closest ally of South Korea thinks that the South Korean Government has gone too far in suppressing what most Americans would consider to be a freedom of speech issue:

. . . In a rare note of criticism of a key ally, State Department spokeswoman Jen Psaki said that despite South Korea’s generally strong record on human rights, the (South Korean) security law limits freedom of expression and restricts access to the Internet.

A fair description about the current state of South Korean politics and its effect upon free speech and political commentary, by Jamie Doucette and Se-Woong Koo, describes how the security act and government have grown bolder in using the issue of state security to supress those that would indulge their opinions:

. . . In this essay, we argue that this rhetorical shift has been accompanied by an expansion of what South Korean intellectuals term ‘politics by public security,’ a phrase used to describe the use of public security as a ground for stifling dissent and criticism. What is unique about the present moment is not simply the evocation of a threat to national security but the extent to which state agencies have been actively involved in this process, whether it be in the form of direct electoral interference, the leaking of confidential state documents, or the initiation of probes into prominent critics of the government from across the liberal-progressive opposition. In what follows, we examine the recent sequence of events from NIS electoral interference to the more recent move to disband the United Progressive Party in order to better understand distorting effects to Korean democracy brought about by this recent rhetorical shift and its intricate relation to ‘politics by public security.’

A link to this essay can be found here

The DPRK Is Sloppy Says the FBI

FBI_screenThe FBI’s director has responded to suspicions about where the Sony hack came from by declaring that the FBI’s allegations were made because “the hackers failed to mask their location when they broke into the company’s servers”.

. . . Mr. Comey (FBI Director) said that instead of routing some of the attacks and messages through decoy servers, the hackers sent them directly from Internet addresses in North Korea.

This also gets even more sloppy and stupid according to the article:

. . . senior government officials said that F.B.I. analysts discovered that the hackers made a critical error by logging into both their Facebook account and Sony’s servers from North Korean Internet addresses. It was clear, the officials said, that hackers quickly recognized their mistake. In several cases, after mistakenly logging in directly, they quickly backtracked and rerouted their attacks and messages through decoy computers abroad.

Not all critics of the FBI’s case are placated though:

. . . some of the most vocal critics of the government’s claims, like Marc Rogers, a security researcher at CloudFlare, said they were still not convinced. “If the government had laid out its attribution in the beginning, that may have quelled the criticism, but the evidence that’s been put before me and many of my colleagues is flimsy.

Other articles on this can be found at engadget and wired.

Is Drawing on A Dirty Jet A Security Concern?

dirty tailThere is a report of thirteen former United Airlines attendants having been improperly fired for refusing to fly on a jet that had vaguely menacing artwork painted on its tail (thirty feet of the ground). According to Bloomberg:

The fired flight attendants say they had a right to disobey orders to make the July 14 San Francisco-to-Hong Kong trip after the words “bye bye” were found written in an oil slick on the fuselage, according to a complaint to the U.S. Occupational Health and Safety Administration.

Oddly enough, the artwork was probably applied here in South Korea:

With the 747 in a secured area of the airport and the graffiti on the tail about 30 feet off the ground, the images should have triggered a more-comprehensive reaction, according to the complaint. A pilot’s suggestion to the crew that images were applied when the plane was in South Korea before arriving in San Francisco should have raised alarms about safety in that country, the attendants said.

Maybe the plane was just dirty and someone felt like writing in the grease left on the jet?

The Sony Hack – North Korea Is Not Guilty?

The FBI and President Obama have declared that the DPRK hacked Sony and that a response would be forthcoming, however actual experts in data security point elsewhere, such as the Director of Security Operations for Def Con, who has stated “I am no fan of the North Korean regime. However I believe that calling out a foreign nation over a cybercrime of this magnitude should never have been undertaken on such weak evidence.” (cite)

Then there are the concerns of Bruce Schneier, who also does not believe the FBI has grounds to conclude that the DPRK is responsible.  Considering the problems with trustworthiness, I would tend to give more credence to the individuals, with actual credentials, than government organizations that have records of being less than truthful and biased in their actions.

Open Thread, December 20, 2014

alice in Korea

. . . from a series of western folktales that have been transliterated into the Korean genre.  I *love* that rabbit.  Luckily, this is not a Korean spit-take moment but a neat interpretation, though I never like the Japanese big-eyes thing.

The Letter “D” as in . . .

Defamation is a problem for many in Korea, whose enforcement (or lack of enforcement) quite often infringes upon free speech, if not democracy itself.  The Wall Street Journal has a good, short piece on this issue here.

Have You Seen This Man?

CYH

Apparently, he was reported to be in the vicinity of the Blue House but there is some disagreement with this sighting and there are concerns that more than this man may be missing.  If you spot him, please call the Segye Ilbo, since they have invested some effort in locating this fellow.

Open Thread – December 13, 2014 – Have an Asian Christmas

Japanese xmas

Ho, ho, ho . . .

Have A Jazz Christmas and A Happier New Year Too

poster_2014_web_version

This year, try celebrating the holiday season with some Jazz – the Ronn Branton Group is performing at Seoul Arts Center, on the 21st (IBK Chamber Hall) and Christmas Eve at JangCheon Hall (Apkujeongdong).  This year, he has a great lineup of musicians from the U.S. and Germany, performing original arrangements of Christmas songs and seasonal favorites.  For tickets, in English, just call 010-3817-7214.

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