The Marmot's Hole

Korea... in Blog Format

Author: WangKon936 (page 2 of 37)

The Korean Herald: Racism in Korea

I know the news of the bar in Itaewon “not accepting” Africans is old and has been making the rounds in the Korean blogsphere.

(Image from Kenyabwala.com)

They did quickly issue an apology a day later.  However, I’m sure the apology was probably insufficient to many.

(Image from Koreaboo blog)

It may have only been 24 hours since the original signs were replaced, but let’s face it.  The damage was done.  The photo is a symbol of the issues of race that Korea is still mulling over.  To be fair, most countries have issues with race but a recent article from the Korea Herald (English Edition) did an excellent job at discussing its context within modern Korea.

[Korean racism]… is a complex product of the country’s colonial history, postwar American influence and military presence, rapid economic development as well as patriotism that takes a special pride in its “ethnic homogeneity,” according to professor Kim Hyun-mee from Yonsei University.

Unlike racism in the West, Korean racism is mostly targeted against those from other Asian nations, she noted. As of this year, more than 80 percent of immigrants residing in South Korea are from countries in Asia, the largest number coming from China and Vietnam.

(Graph from Korea Herald)

It’s really a nice article written by Claire Lee, who looks like she was educated in Canada (perhaps she is a gyopo?).  My excerpts don’t do it justice.  It’s well worth reading the article in its entirety.

Note

I don’t mind spirited discussion/debate, but let’s keep it civil folks.

Andrei Lankov asks what North Koreans really think about South Korean dramas

If one were to believe many news reports about North Korea, one may be forgiven for having the impression that the starving masses there long for a glamorous life in the South and are highly envious of their southern neighbors.  Well, the truth may be a little more complex.

The eminently readable and relevant Andrei Lankov asked the same question and came up with a highly textured answer.  In short, the Northerners are in fact impressed by Southern prosperity, but are also appalled by the violence, sex and greed exhibited in the dramas.

At first glance, it seems that North Koreans are bound to be admiring and envious of their South Korean brethren, whose income and living standards are so much higher and whose lifestyle is so much more comfortable….

[...]

The picture of the South within North Korea is a bit more complex, though. While admiring the almost unbelievable prosperity of the South, viewers are also exposed to many of the negative aspects of South Korean society.

[...]

… a number of North Korean viewers have come to the conclusion that South Korea must be a very violent place where police shoot suspected criminals more or less at random…

[...]

… casual sex, let alone sex as a means by which to advance one’s career or make some other type of gain, is considered morally despicable by… [North Koreans] . When they encounter a depiction of casual sex and one-night stands in South Korean movies, this confirms their belief in South Koreans’ low moral standards.

Very interesting read.  Dr. Lankov never disappoints.

USFK and the ROK to form a joint division

The USFK and the ROK army has agreed to form a joint division by next year, 2015.  This join division will essentially be the current U.S. 2nd Infantry Division, plus one brigade sized Korean unit.  The division will be commanded by an American two star general and will have a one star Korean deputy general.

(Photo from Yonhap)

Apparently, this division won’t be officially formed until wartime.  The 2nd ID would function and administer itself normally.  However, a Korean brigade sized mechanized infantry unit (heavy on armored personnel carriers and tanks) will be stationed along side the 2nd ID at Camp Humphreys in Pyongtaek (which itself is scheduled to be completed in 2017).  If there’s a war or an emergency situation (i.e. North Korea collapses) then the two units will officially combine.

What does this all mean?  Well, all the sources I’m reading indicates that it will mean the 2nd ID’s 1st Brigade and 2nd Aviation Combat Brigade  (both stationed in Korea) will have a consistent Korean brigade sized unit to train and exercise with.  Additionally, the division will be separate from the Combined Theater Command, i.e. the apparent structure where command of forces in Korea will be transferred to ROK control.

I wonder what this means for the other two combat brigades of the 2nd ID, the 2nd and 3rd Combat Brigades (Stryker), stationed in Ft. Lewis, Washington?  Too early to tell, but the Korean mechanized brigade technically makes one of them redundant.

An American division being augmented by a foreign brigade.  Has this ever happened before?  Even in NATO?

Notes

An American infantry division is about 17-21k men.

A mechanized brigade is about 3,000 to 4,000 men.

 

Chad Future wants to introduce America to K-pop

Well, actually something he calls “AK-pop” or “American music inspired by K-pop.”  Chad Future (a.k.a. Detroit native David Lehre) has even set up a production company, Vendetta Studios, to make music videos and record songs.

Here are a few of them:

Listen, I can’t speak for the anyone else other than myself, but I laughed, I cringed and I really couldn’t get into the music.  Overall, I thought his videos and music were a little strange and overwrought.  That’s just my opinion though.

The last video, “When You Call,” features a Korean American singer, Jamie Seo, who looks so untypical for a Korean pop star.  She isn’t super skinny with long legs, big eyes and aegyo sal.   I think that’s refreshing and something that K-pop can perhaps learn from Chad Future.

Any ways, Mr. Lehre knows he’s got a lot of haters out there, but he’s being persistent.  He’s been at it for at least 2-3 years (I first blogged about him in 2012) and I have a feeling he won’t be going away any time soon.  So, Mr. Lehre/Future, I’ll be honest and say that your music isn’t my style, but it isn’t my business to tell another man not to pursue his dreams, so I wish you luck.

Open Thread: Little League World Series Edition

Congratulations to the South Korean and Chicago little league teams for advancing to the finals game.  The game is tomorrow at 3pm U.S. Eastern Time on ABC.  Chicago beat Nevada to get to the title game and Korea beat Japan (twice).

Good luck to both teams!

Japan not thrilled with how some Koreans, uh “celebrate” Gwangbokjeol

Korean Independence Day [from Japanese rule] was last week, August 15th.  It is also known as Gwangbokjeol (광복절) or “Restoration of Light” day.   Any ways, the way in which it is celebrated by some Koreans has riled up some Japanese Netizens.  Of particular discomfort was the Japanese soldier “execution” water fight.

korean independence 3

korean independence 5

(Images from Kyunghyang Shinmun via RocketNews24.com)

Some translated Japanese Netizen commentary:

“Hey, Members of the UN…are you going to stay silent on this?”

“And yet, if something like this happened in Japan, there would be a huge uproar.”

“I’m starting to think that Korea is a third world country.”

“What century are we in? Until when are they going to keep doing nonsense like that?”

“A country that is not that different from North Korea. Or rather…worse than…”

“Isn’t this on par with hate speech?”

“Members of the UN…isn’t this sort of imprinting a really bad idea on children?”

Okay, so I don’t exactly think that the water fight, mock “execution,” is in the best taste, but asking the U.N. to look into this?  As horrible it is for kids to shoot water at imaginary Japanese imperialist troops, I somehow think the U.N. has bigger fish to fry.

The WaPo believes Virginia Congressional candidates are pandering to Korean voters

Interestingly, the Washington Post’s editorial board has emphatically come out against Congressional candidates Barbara Comstock (Republican) and John Foust (Democrat) stated desire to introduce legislation to co-teach the “East Sea” along side the “Sea of Japan” in text books.  Both the candidates have made the campaign promise to their Korean American constituencies that, if elected, they will bring up the topic nationally in the U.S. Congress.

The WaPo’s editorial response was surprisingly strong, from the headline (“Pandering to Northern Va.’s Koreans is going to extremes”) right down to the actual text of the article which went into highly rhetorical phrases such as “poking their noses in a bitter dispute…” or “anguish and abuse…” etc.

Well, although I half jokingly said that Virginian Congressional candidates were “pandering” to their Korean American voters in an earlier post, I didn’t think the WaPo’s editorial board would take it so seriously!

Any ways, feel free to comment away.  However, bear in mind that what the Korean Americans in northern Virginia are asking for is that the term “East Sea” be taught along side the “Sea of Japan.”  The Korean Americans here, at last not officially, are not asking for “East Sea” to replace “Sea of Japan.”  Unfortunately, there seems to be a lot of confusion on that particular point in this debate.

 

 

USFK MREs STILL popular in Korea?

Apparently so.  Back in 2009 51 Koreans were arrested for illegally selling American MREs.  Well, last month more people have been arrested for selling American MREs!  Apparently, the people are being arrested not so much for selling the MREs but for selling expired MREs (i.e. after 10 years).  Supposedly, Korean hikers and campers like expired American MREs.  At $2 a pop for a meal containing 3,000 calories, it is hard to beat the price too.

Personally, I don’t see how Koreans can be all that excited about 10 year old (or older) beef “patties,” faux pork “ribs,” chili & beans, cajun rice & sausage, meat loaf with gravy, etc.  However, according to this video, even a Desert Storm era MRE can be edible.  Any ways, I just don’t see the aforementioned flavors being all that exciting to the Korean palate.  Anyone have some inside information here?

Roaring Currents estimated to be most successful Korean movie, per gross receipts

The numbers are in and apparently “Myeongryang: Roaring Currents” will be the most successful Korean film made to date with admissions rates estimated to be well over 14 million after just 18 days of release.  The previous record was James Cameron’s “Avatar” in 2009 which had about 13.62 million admissions total, thus Roaring Currents will, excuse the expression, blow Avatar out of the water.  So far, the film has brought in gross receipts of W109.7 billion for CJ Entertainment.

(Image from Soopi.com)

Sure, a competently done movie about Korea’s greatest hero fighting a near impossible battle against that perennial Korean enemy the Japanese would certainly expect to do well.  It would appear that most critics believe the special effects to be quite good, even by Hollywood standards, however those same critics also believe the movie to have a healthy dose of nationalism.  At least one Korean critic lambasted the movie for overly playing to nationalistic heart strings.  However, the movie’s success may not be attributed to nationalism alone as some critics believe that the Korean population’s need for something inspirational after the Sewol disaster may be driving some of its admissions.

One half-Korean viewer took exception to the fact that many of the characters (both Korean and Japanese) took on familiar one dimensional caricatures.  Commander Bae Seol (who deserted Admiral Yi a day before the battle) was portrayed by an actor who had an untrustworthy ferret face.  The Japanese were, predictably a bit evil and/or crazy looking.  Admiral Yi, predictably was appropriately heroic, serious and savior-like.

(Image from FilmsMash.com)

Out of all the articles I read about the film I thought the interview with an historian on the film’s inaccuracies was most interesting.  Anyways, I saw the movie last week and I thought it was all right.  To me it wasn’t any less nationalistic than say Mel Gibson’s “The Patriot” or both the “300” movies.  The battle scenes were competently done and exciting in my opinion.  Listen, let’s not kid ourselves here.  I agree with Jay Seaver over at eFilmCritic.com.  It’s not going to be Academy Award winning material nor is it going to be a completely accurate historical documentary.  It’s going to be crafted as an effects-laden crowd-pleaser and like “The Patriot” or “300,” historical license is going to be taken.

Lady Gaga wears outfit with hangul on it in Tokyo. Japanese netizens go ape sh*t

On her Instagram account Lady Gaga posted a few pictures of her walking around Tokyo with an outfit that had, gasp, hangul written on it- 컬러.  Evidently it’s Konglish for “color” (kol-lo), a play on the style of her outfit.

Why Lady Gaga's Outfit Upsets Some People in Japan

(Image from Kotaku.com)

Reported by the Asian pop blog Kotaku, evidently the fine folks at 2ch, wasted no time in getting a lively thread started to display their shock and aghast.  Some of the more interesting comments?

“She thinks South Korea and Japan are the same.”

“Wearing clothes with Korean characters and sauntering about Roppongi is giving hate to Japan.”

“Get outta here, you shitty white person.”

“Yep, just a dumb American.”

“Certainly looks like between Japan and South Korea, Gaga likes Korea more.”

There appears to be two schools of thought here.  One is that Lady Gaga is an ignorant American who doesn’t know the difference between hangul and hiragana and this is just a dumb mistake.  The other view (from the more paranoid 2ch members) is that Gaga knows full well that hangul is Korean and is taking Korea’s side on historical issues!  Her parading around Roppongi in a hangul suit is her way of thumbing her nose at Japan!

Personally, I don’t really know what Lady Gaga is trying to do, but I kind of think that she would know the difference between the two writing styles.  Crayon Pop did give her an outfit with her name stenciled in hangul on it:

(Image from Lady Gaga’s Twitter)

For those of you who may not know, it says Leh-yi-dee Ga-ga, in Konglish.

Now, in all fairness to 2ch commenters, if Lady Gaga was running around the streets of Seoul and taking pictures of herself with an outfit that had hiragana characters on it and prominently posted the pictures on the internet, then I would say that Korean netizens would react with similar butthurt and aghast.

The great green devil: soju. Should New Jersey legalize it as beer & wine?

Today’s New Jersey Herald debates whether or not the state should legal recognize the sale, or otherwise handling of, soju as under “beer & wine” licenses.  This provision has already been established under NY and CA law, but New Jersey currently includes soju as a “hard liquor” that can only be sold in establishments with a full on liquor license.

(Image from The Guardian)

The difference between a full liquor license and a beer & wine license is monetarily vast.  A liquor license can cost hundreds of thousands of dollars, but a beer & wine license is only a couple of hundred bucks.  The Korean community got the CA and NY governments to acquiesce by debating that the old liquor laws “inhibited their traditional culture” to routinely consume their “traditional” drink.

Kim, the attorney representing… businesses in Palisades Park [NJ], said that soju is “close to the heart” in Korean culture, and it can contain less alcohol — between 16 and 24 percent — than some wines. He compared it to beer because it is first fermented, and to Sake, the Japanese alcoholic beverage made from fermented rice. “It’s not hard liquor,” he said.

Not “hard liquor” huh?  It’s “fermented,” huh?  Listen, I like swigging soju in a local restaurant as much as the next guy, but the average soju in those “green monster” bottles are most certainly distilled rather than fermented and if it’s not a “hard liquor” then it’s awfully close to it.  Gotta love lawyers and their ability to swerve around words.

Apparently, NJ’s laws being so different from neighboring NY’s laws have caused some Korean establishments to cheat:

Soju’s popularity has led to some problems in restaurants in Palisades Park and beyond, where police have issued summonses for its illegal sale and consumption.

[...]

In Palisades Park [alone], more than 20 citations have been issued in the last year to BYOBs for a variety of violations, including serving soju…

Will gochujang be the next Sriracha?

For those of you who haven’t been back home in the states lately, you may be surprised to see that a hot sauce from Vietnam/Thailand has become nearly as ubiquitous as ketchup.  It’s called Sriracha and the most popular brand was brought to us by a refugee from Vietnam and is named after a town in Thailand.

(Image from ColumbusCook.com)

The American food industry is among the most innovative in the world and they are constantly looking for new flavors, particularly of the spicy variety.  What’s next?  It might be gochujang.  In a recent taste taste, a gochujang derived sauce compared favorably with the most popular brands of Sriracha.  It’s not just L.A. or NYC restaurants that’s experimenting with it.  It’s apparently had some penetration into middle America as well.

So, a 41 trillion won stimulus? How do I get some of that action, huh?

Korea’s economic growth over the last year and a half hasn’t been great.  It’s been average at best and hasn’t been up to expectations or projections.  From a some perspectives, the Korean economy isn’t employing enough young people coming out of college and isn’t creating a lot of wage growth for many of those who are employed.  Well, it’s fair to say that Korea isn’t the only country suffering the same woes, but any ways.

So, the natives are getting restless and something needs to be sacrificed to the volcano god.  Madame Park pounded her fist on the table in a recent cabinet meeting and demanded ideas to “revive the economy no matter what.”

What’s the old standby when you need instant economic gratification?  Pump cash into the economy! So, Finance Minister Choi Kyung-hwan came up with the (sarcasm on) brilliant idea (sarcasm off) to dump 41 trillion won ($39.8 billion USD) into the economy through three ways:  1) make buying homes cheaper 2) make capital cheaper for some businesses and 3) give households more spending power.

Choi Kyung-hwan has dubbed this policy “Choinomics.”  Many people (including this writer) are skeptical that it is the panacea that many in the Korean press is making it out to be.  Short term stimulus, whether by fiscal (Choinomic) or monetary (Abenomics) means, are a temporary fix.  It’s kind of like cocaine, makes you feel like you are on top of the world for a few hours, but it’s not real medicine.  Structural reform is the real medicine.  But, like in Japan, structural reform is tedious and sometimes hurtful (in the short term) to the immediate electorate, so it is often the economic weapon of last resort.

If Choinomics is just a morale saving measure to counteract the artificial temporary decline in GDP caused by the Sewol disaster, then I would be more supportive.  Given the modest improvement in GDP estimated by Choi (estimated at only 0.1% GDP improvement for this year and 2015) I suspect that’s all it is, despite the enthusiasm for it demonstrated in the Korean press as some sort of counter to the equally futile Abenomics.  So, my qualms are not in the actual policy itself, but in the manner in which it is being marketed by the government and the press as a “do all” and “save all” genius economic miracle policy.

Colin Marshall’s five part series on Korea in The Guardian

Meet Colin Marshall, a Seattle native who somehow ended up living in Koreatown, Los Angeles shortly after college and currently writes for the British daily The Guardian.  Recently, he just wrapped-up a five part series on Korea for The Guardian.  An index of the articles is available on this link.

Unlike many commenters and writers on this blog, Colin has not lived in Korea for years.  His Guardian series was based on about a week’s travel in the country.  He has live in Los Angeles’ Koreatown for awhile and claims he can speak a functional amount of the language.  Apparently, he even has a Korean girlfriend (in Los Angeles).  This might be a plus or negative for some people.  However, when it comes to urban vibe and city planning, Colin might have some experience to speak as he’s traveled to Mexico City, London, Copenhagen, Osaka, in addition to his native Seattle and current home of Los Angeles.

The Korean American magazine KoreAm interviewed Colin about his Guardian articles.  It’s an interesting read and he says some rather insightful observations that I think may have a kernel of truth.

In a way, some Koreans here [in the U.S.] are actually more conservative than the ones in Korea.

[...]

Talking to the twentysomethings there [in Korea], sometimes they’re way more mature than me, but sometimes it feels like they’re still in middle school.

[...]

[English learning in Korea is]… not even about learning English. It’s about getting above the others.

[...]

[Koreans burn too]… much energy on competition with each other.

[...]

Korea has brashness, which isn’t the same thing as confidence.

Fun with polls and surveys!

Some interesting surveys regarding Korea and Koreans, and their relationship with other countries, have come out.

First of all let’s look at some surveys regarding Korea’s attitudes on China.  According to one sponsored by the JoongAng Ilbo and the Asan Institute of Policy Studies, South Korea’s attitudes of the PRC have improved, particularly after President Xi Jinping’s state visit to Seoul recently.  Results summarized in the graphic below:

(Graphic source from the JoongAng Ilbo)

There are however, misgivings.  Most South Koreans think China is still an economic and military threat.  Also, since most Koreans have lungs, a whopping 95%+ hates China’s most pervasive (and unwanted) export: pollution.

The good ole’ U.S. of A also gets high marks.  According to the latest Pew Research results, South Korea’s “positive” attitudes of the U.S. are in the 82% region, up from 78% in 2013, the highest they have ever been since Pew has conducted the survey.  Only the Philippines (former colony) and Israel (fellow U.S. military aid dependant) had higher rankings.  According to the Pew, South Korea’s attitudes of China are comparatively in the 56% positive territory, a rise from 46% last year.

Lastly, non-Koreans (living outside of Korea) continue to admit they have a hard time distinguishing North from South Korea.  Ah, Egypt.  Not only do they hate the U.S. more than any other country out there, but they are the worst at telling the difference between North and South Korea.

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