The Marmot's Hole

Korea... in Blog Format

Author: yuna (page 2 of 12)

Thursday Roundup

1. Party Nominations

Ahn Chulsu 안철수 of the New Politics Alliance for Democracy (NPAD) has bowed to the pressure of the party politics and opinions by following the result reflected in the public poll carried out yesterday with regards to party nominations for basic elections. The overall result was 56.44% to 46.56% for the status quo (to keep the party nominations) – a breakdown of 49.75% to 50.25% for the public opinion but a result of 57.14%:42.86% for opinions of his own party-members.

He had been stuck-in-the-middle between the President Park/Saenuri and Roh-supporters within his own newly founded political camp – who went back on their promise of getting rid of the party political nominations. Here is a link to a good background article in English. He even went for a surprise-visit to the Blue House to ask for a meeting with Park who’d been giving him the silent treatment (the woman’s really good at not seeing people she doesn’t want to see) on this issue. Incidentally, the president was out at that time, “meeting with the soap star Lee Minho 이민호 to discuss Korean contents promotion abroad (uh, why????!!!!)

When I talk with some older Korean men about Ahn, the overall reason for a negative opinion on him has been of the following kind : “He has no political experience.” or “How is he any different from what exists already?”

There is a Korean saying 요령이 없다, to not possess a know-how. The word 요령 is one of those words that sits precariously on the fence of positive/negative connotation depending on the verb which follows it and the circumstance involved.

For example, To possess 요령, 요령이 있다 can roughly be translated into “to do something with ease and possess a know-how”, often perceived as taking a short-cut. To lack 요령, 요령이 없다 on the other hand, is to stick to principles and be too diligent and a bit obtuse to the point of being a bit 답답하다.

요령을 부리다/피우다, (as in 꾀를 피우다, 잔머리 굴리다) is to go one step further towards the negative connotation, i.e. to apply the know-how to do something in a sly way.

Judging by what he has done so far, I think when Ahn is accused of “not having the political experience” it is simply that his character is that of somebody who is surprisingly 요령이 없는 사람. Surprising, for an entrepreneur type, that is. Seems like it’s both his good point and contributing to his downfall. Still, so far, I think it is refreshing to see this in Korean politics where, let alone 요령, an advanced level skill of principle-bending seems to be a necessary admittance-pass one must possess.

2. Child-Abuse and welfare blind spots
The government is set to address the issue of child-abuse and welfare blind spots – two social issues which have seen an increasing number of sad incidents recently including:

– Two separate horrific abuse/beating to death of the stepdaughters in Taegu, and Ulsan – which will both get the court ruling tomorrow (11 April 2014)

The case of neglect – Incheon 4 siblings in primary/middle school years found neglected in a flat which was “like a rubbish-tip”.

– The case of a Seoul-Songpa-ku mother and two grown-up daughters committing suicides related to poverty-issues covered here on this blog

3. Noisy Neighbours

This is a social topic that I have seen being discussed between friends and family in Korea recently..but it seems now the government has set some sort of guidelines as to what constitutes an acceptable noise level between neighbours (43dB consecutively for more than a minute(Leq)) & 52dB(maximum noise level (Lmax))during the day, 38dB(Leq) & 52dB((Lmax) during the night.

For those without a noise-barometer handy, roughly what corresponds to these noises?

43㏈은 체중 28㎏의 어린이가 1분간 계속해서 뛸 때 나는 정도의 소음이다. 38㏈은 30초간 뛸 때 나는 소음에 해당한다. 또 57㏈은 28㎏ 어린이가 50㎝ 높이에서 바닥으로 뛰어내렸을 때 생기는 소음이다. 따라서 이 기준은 아파트 거주자가 무심하게 걷거나 일상생활을 하는 데는 지장이 없을 수준이라고 국토부는 설명했다.

I guess the examples given indicates clearly what is the primary cause of the neighbour disputes in Korean apartment buildings. I blame the large 평수 area of the middle-to-large apartment buildings nowadays. When I was young, the average floor area of an apartment flat was not as large as what you see nowadays, certainly, very few families with young kids would be able to afford an apartment with a large enough space for them to “run around” in. 다다다다다다-

4. Trains

-Larva Trains
This made me laugh.

Park Wonsoon, the Seoul City mayor has replied “Egg of Columbus“- when he was accused by some of “using what was originally Oh Sehoon (his predecessor)’s idea” in implementing Tayo bus around Seoul, an idea that has proven to be so very successful, now they are in discussion of making the Seoul metro into Larva trains, after another hugely successful children’s animation character.

Really, what some people accuse other people of…

-Cheap Chinese Lines
There is a police investigation into whether the wires supplied for the construction of Honam line KTX (specifically 조사선, support/balance wires) were switched to cheap Chinese equivalent at the supply level after initially passing the test with higher quality domestic manufactured/constructed wires. 60 percent of the 745km long Chinese wires has already been put in place, which would mean depending on the ruling, the pulling-down and re-constructing will significantly affect the completion time and the budget.

When 존댓말 (honorifics) goes out of control..

You have no idea how much I just laughed, like a crazy woman, and felt like shouting, “FINALLY THEY HAVE NOTICED” watching this SBS report.

I had started to notice how people in shops in Korea seem to be putting 존댓말 to *everything* even if the subject is not the customer, but the merchandise itself. This has been driving me up the wall for quite a number of years.

It seems this rampant wrong honorific usage to denote all merchandise being discussed has resulted from having to deal with the odd ignorant customer(yes, usually the older lot) who has little idea about correct grammar usage themselves and shouts at the poor kids, and this has managed to turn the whole service industry into some sort of ruled-by-fear Third Reich of honorifics – the return of the well-known joke “아버님 대갈님에 파리님이 앉으셨습니다.” (the joke is that a newly married daughter-in-law was so scared and mindful that when she tried to say “There is a fly on the head of father-in-law” she made the mistake of putting honorifics for the fly as well as using a very derogatory word for the “head” (대가리) and putting a 님 at the end)

So here is the youtube link to the satirical video produced by the 한글문화연대, this should get shown on TV.(It’s a bit too long, they should cut some of the beginning..)

The big LOL sentence for me, was when the Coffee 알바 (short for 아르바이트, “Arbeit(work)” from the Japanese-German arubaito/baito which denotes part-time workers in Korea) in the video says,

그 사물 들에게 우리는 존경의 마음을 억누를 수 없습니다. 커피 나오셨습니다. 커피가 제 시급보다 더 비싸거든요.

roughly translated as:

“We cannot control the boundless respect we have for these things. “Here’s your coffee.” (this is the kind of sentence they are talking about, which to my ears, can only be translated into English as (with a little bit of exaggeration) “His Coffeeness has graced us with his presence.” Then she goes onto say “It’s because (a cup of) coffee is more expensive than my hourly wage.”

Roundup of some stuff in the Korean-Korean news

1.North Korea
is suspected of being behind the drone which crashed into Paju area, as well as another one in 백령도 only a week later.

is accused by the Blue House of using language that even “a low-life” wouldn’t use. What pissed them off is obviously the language they used to criticize Park , including “twisted spinster”, “frog-in-a-well” and her speech as “nonsense spewed like sewage” & “random stuff which she scraped together and presented under the grand pretext of suggestion for unification”.

I have a feeling that politicians in general suddenly develop the urge to become even more self-important than usual when they visit Berlin/Germany. They suddenly think that they have to make a charismatic speech, or leave a sound-bite into posterity..I would call it “AASS” (Affected Air Speech Syndrome). This AASS is obviously what afflicted Park as she was planning her trip to Germany. I suspected as much when they were talking about 드레스덴 선언 (Dresden Declaration) in the press before anything was declared..Park has said she admires and respects Merkel in the past. She should take a page out of the relevant section of Merkel’s book, not the bit on how to dress and the mushroom haircut. The reason that Merkel stays popular is that she is a relatively straight-talker, and rarely acts self-important.

2. Temperature rise and cherry blossom emergency
Last month was warmer than usual in Korea.

This has led to a panic of the organizers of the cherry blossom festivals up and down the country.. as there might not actually be any flowers left on the tree by the time it gets around to the scheduled dates.

3. Find out what your boss earns.
The directors of large companies in Korea are sitting tight and apprehensive of the public sentiment after their paycheck was revealed. You can now give them *that look* when you hand them a report – “I know what you took home for yourself last summer, you shameless b******”

4. Buses
The bus accident which everybody merrily went off hand in hand and contributed to great irrelevant lengths on – is more probably a mechanical failure , as asserted by experts and drivers alike. They are angry that the press initially tried make it the “sleepy driver’s fault”..the kind of error that arose is unlikely to have been from the driver’s mistake. We should wait for the result of a further investigation, but it is looking difficult as the crucial records seem to have been destroyed in the accident. It could very well be that the first crash might have arisen from the driver’s fault, but the second subsequent “1 minute of holding down the accelerator pedal” while trying to swerve is what is deemed unlikely to be the action of the driver with 20 years of experience. Some system on the bus was probably destroyed by this time, is the point put forward by the expert.
It was most likely nothing to do with a “suicidal rampage”.
One should know by now if one spent any time in Korea and went on the bus that the bus drivers tend to “let the pressure out” every 3 seconds by repeated switching of the foot from one pedal to the other pedal, and treating passengers like dirt, so no pressure would actually build up for such an action.

“Tayo bus” based on a Korean children’s animation and in operation for a month around Seoul -타요(370번)와 로기(2016번), 라니(2211번), 가니(9401번) – is proving to be such a popular hit among the tiny tots , that they are skipping kindergarten to go on them, and people from other cities are bringing their kids to go on it..
Some internet commenter suggested that all Korean police cars to be changed into 로보카 폴리 “Robocar Poli” and one funny guy says that as they need an event for adults as well, Seoul metro Line 2 could be made to look like 설국열차 (from the film, “Snowpiercer”)
Many are asking for the Tayo-event (it is temporary for a month, to mark the Public Transport Day) to be turned into a permanent thing.

Uncle Sugar set to play schoolyard monitor at a side-meeting at the Hague

to quote from a comment by the commenter Wedge , Obama has persuaded president Park to hold a three way summit during the tea breaks of the Nuclear Security Summit in the city of the Hague next week.

Here is the BBC article in English and here is the link to a Segye Ilbo news article (in Korean) after the announcement was made. Interestingly, the Segye Ilbo’s take on the fact that the official announcement came from the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and not directly from the Blue House, could be due to Park trying to “downplay” the event. It’s understandable, if I had been on the world news media saying “I won’t I won’t I won’t (meet him) ” I would feel a little peevish at saying “aw alright then I will.”

Park’s meant to have softened up a bit within the last few days since Abe’s announced not to revise the Kono statement. He’s a funny one as well – “I might I might I might (revise it)”- “oh alright then I won’t.”

That’s why we still need Uncle Sugar.

Interestingly, when I did a quick news search in English at the start of writing this post, the top news link hits were the Chinese sources. They are obviously very interested to snoop at what’s being said at this water cooler gathering behind their backs.
North Korea, *should be* too as it probably concerns them as well, but the way they fit in the picture in my head is still the big fat slow-witted kid playing by himself in the corner, killing ants with a stick.. oblivious to all of this..

Lately, Japan has been seen talking to this fat slow kid more so than usual. The primary topic they want to bring up is the Japanese abductees as usual, but I think it might just be because they were getting the silent treatment from the fat kid’s sister, that they “might as well talk with the dim brother, see if they get anywhere”.
The very strange relationship between Japan and North Korea, Continue reading

First case of AI(H5N8) transmission from bird to mammal and the space of less than one A4 paper

I have been refraining from writing about the big news that’s been hitting the Korean headlines for more than a month because readers here probably know by now that I have strong feelings when it comes to animal welfare in general, and might suffer some sort of fatigue if this piece of news were to come from me. On top of which, nothing depresses me more and makes me regard Korea with complete loss of hope in humanity as the way it treats animals.

A few days ago, South Korean press reported that they found the first bird-mammal cross infection case of Avian Influenza in which a dog was found to possess the antibody of AI (type H5N8). The dog is meant to have got it through eating an infected bird.
This has been building up for the last 2 months..

Following a case of migratory birds death in Kochang in the Jolla province in January which was found to be from AI(H518), South Korea has culled more than 10 million poultry birds (mainly chickens, and some ducks) for the last 2 months.

There has been much discussion on TV as to whether the intense battery farming method has not contributed to the exacerbation of the problem , if not, provided the very reason for it, which the government has tried to attribute solely to migratory birds (가창오리, in this case) and here(at 9:30 mark) it is even suggested that it might have originated from Korean 감금류 caged poultry to the migratory birds.
Much more plausible reason could be the backward way in which poultry birds are farmed in Korea.
From the article above:

세계 각국을 들여다봐도 대한민국은 유일하게 조류인플루엔자 발생 빈도가 높다. 이 중 도농복합도시인 충남은 이 중에서도 ‘위험 지역’으로 분류된다. 세계동물보건기구(OIE)가 집계한 자료에 따르면 2003~2013년 우리나라에서 모두 112개 농가에서 조류인플루엔자(AI)가 발생했다. 이는 세계 11위에 랭크된 수치다.

문제는 AI 발생 상위권이 모두 베트남, 태국, 인도네시아, 미얀마 등 후진국이나 개발도상국이라는 점이다. 선진국에서의 AI는 ‘딴 세상 이야기’다. 당장 주변국인 중국과 일본을 비교하더라도 우리나라는 4~80건가량 더 발생하고 있다.

왜 우리나라가 선진국보다 AI·구제역에 취약한 것일까? 전문가들은 철새의 원인도 전혀 부정할 수 없지만, 공장식 찍어 누르는 사육 시스템을 지적하고 있다.
A4 용지만 한 철창에서 먹이만 먹는 사육장 환경이 첫 번째 원인이라는 얘기다.
날개 한번 제대로 펴지 못하는 닭·오리는 당연히 질병에 취약할 수밖에 없다는 게 전문가들의 분석이다.
실제 공주시 인성실업 농장에서의 AI는 남의 일이다. 2012년 동물복지 축산농장으로 지정된 이후 단 한 차례도 이렇다 할 전염병에 걸린 기억이 없다.
농장 한 관계자는 “친환경적으로 닭을 사육하면 면역력이 강해질뿐더러 가금류의 육질도 좋아진다”며 “우리나라 동물복지에 대한 인식은 매우 낮은 수준”이라고 말했다.

South Korea comes in at the top 11th position in the frequency of recorded AI cases in the world. They are the only “developed” nation to come in at such high position, AI is very rare in developed nations, even comparing to China or Japan, Korea is recording 4~80 more cases.
The horrendous environment in which Korean farmers can raise their battery poultry is to blame, as these birds stuck in a cage, with a space of less than A4 paper per bird their whole lives) have detrimental effect on their immune system and health.
It goes on to present a case, in one farm in Kongju city, that after becoming certified as a animal welfare farm, they have not had a single case of infectious diseases.

Here is another good summary of the case in Korean.

The next “thing” is just around the corner. With all their crazy fads and catchphrases of “well-beings” and “organic” and “natural” this and that, it *should be* only a matter of time before the mothers with their princess daughters and money start spending it on ethical food, but this seems to take more time. Maybe because the term “mothers of princess daughters” itself implies teacup-pooch-in-a-handbag, brain-dead fur-wearing fad-without-substance thinkers themselves.

I am also aware that the evil practice from factory farming is rampant elsewhere, including the US too. However, I am worried that the traditionally (plant)agricultural society like Korea (less animal farming and less hunting, plant-based diet than dairy,meat-dominant diet of the West) without a natural evolution of an animal farming practice will cotton on and be stuck in the worst time-limbo by adapting the worst kind of modernization possible (like the 60’s 70’s apartment block based architecture that predominates the modern Korean architecture)

Racist Japanese football (soccer) fans

Japanese football fans of the team Urawa Reds got their team in trouble by showing a banner of “Japanese Only” at a game against the Sagan Tosu. The Japanese League has ordered the Urawa Red Diamonds to play a home game without any fans present for the next home game.
For me it’s blatantly obvious what the fans meant by the banner, especially if you just glance at the wiki entry of Sagan Tosu – the team they were playing against, but apparently not to Debito Arutou, who’s written a whole article and a online check-box thingumajig to find out what people think the banner intended. I’m surprised he mentions China (like, come on Japan is not China, so should behave better) but not South Korea.

Bringing Tokdo, Comfort Woman etc to the sports arena is distasteful enough but I would say it rests precariously on the “political” side of the fence.. However players making monkey faces (yes, I’m talking about Ki) at fans’ Rising Sun Flag and banners like these are clearly going towards the more ugly end of the spectrum. In fact, I would say they are just ugly juvenile miming of the European league hooliganism, which has so far managed to evade the Asian football leagues, but perhaps no longer.

Spring is here, and so is love…

Spring has arrived and it’s fitting to find out that there is love in the air, namely, the retired Queen of ice Kim Yuna 김연아 is publicly dating.

김연아 김원중 (source 연예 section)

Apparently, the Korean internet gossip /paparazzi media Dispatch brought the photos of the two out a few days ago, swiftly followed by “threat with legal action” by her agency, and admission of the relationship, which has been going on for 2-3 years now (depending on the source)..
So who is the Queen’s bf? His name is Wonjoong Kim 김원중, and he is a 30 year old ice-hockey player for the national team. They met at 태능선수촌 Taenung Training centre, where they had to share the ice rink for training. Wonjoong Kim is also a graduate of 고려대 (Korea University) so they have a common alma-mater. Apparently, the two mostly had samkyupsal dates (in preparation for games) around the training centre along with other friends to avoid suspicion.
Dispatch has distanced themselves from another unpopular source of gossip, 기영노 Ki Youngno, a sports critic who said at an interview that the couple was already a known thing within the figure skating circle for going on 4 years, and then hinted at even a bigger story (yet to be disclosed) – “더 큰 일도 있다”.. LOL. It must be that Kim Yuna actually has donkey ears.. Dispatch has said of Ki, “기영노라는 스포츠평론가도 입을 놀렸다” - the expression here 입을 놀리다 – “to blab”.

It’s good to see the Queen having a rest, and doing the love-thing..

How to grow STAP Cells and a national scandal involving stem cells

There were many congratulations and hullabaloo last month as a paper on producing STAP cells got accepted in the Nature magazine. STAP is short for “Stimulus-triggered acquisition of pluripotency”, and in layman’s terms, these refer to cells which can be “stressed” into becoming a basic block cells (stem cells) to become other kinds of cells, the so-called “pluripotent cells”.
The main author from RIKEN (a Japanese government research institute in KOBE), Haruko Obokata, 30, became an instant celebrity not least for her age and pretty looks amid a muttering of first Japanese female “Nobel-prize” here and there..

However, a little over a month after the publication, there is concern about the legitimacy of the paper, the latest call for retraction by one of the Japanese co-authors of the paper itself. The main concern has been some image duplication/misuse and the lack of replication of result so far despite attempts by the outside institutes, despite the authors following up with a ‘how to’ manual – which reads like ‘a how to make a perfect sponge cake – with extra ふわふわの感じ..’

There has been some interest in this in the South Korean press, as South Korea knows all too well about stem cell related national disgrace. I think it’s early days for dismissing the result altogether. The co-author who asked for the withdrawal himself still believes in the main result, but if you read that one lone comment on the Nature blog, it’s “Sounds Familiar?” time again. And this article paints a rather glum outlook.

So now is the time to comment and to predict, and to refer back to it and say “I told you so!”(similar things happened with a few physics sensationalist results recently, where there was a period of time where speculators were commenting on the blogs/FB before some further investigations reached a conclusion..i.e. it’s “bets are on time!” – pure punting, without knowing the full detail..)

Personally what’s more interesting for me, Continue reading

New Zealand MP says too many Asians at Kiwi universities

The Korean press is reporting on statements made by a Kiwi MP (Labour) Shane Jones in a speech given during his visit to Auckland University, the nation’s largest and most well-known university.
Here is the report by the New Zealand Herald.

“They (universities) tell us they don’t have enough dough so, disproportionately, they are racing into the crescent from India through to China and bringing in more and more international students. I don’t want to have a situation where there is no room for Kiwis at the intellectual inn.”

The New Zealand Herald has the following numbers :

Almost a third (1,576) are from China, with significant numbers also from Malaysia (591), the United States (529) and Korea (456).

I completely agree with him. Already the academic level of such a rural backwater of a country has been suffering, as is seen by the brain drain of its own brightest and the best. Unlike those who worry about the short-term economic aspect, I don’t think that the whole country turning into a English language school for Asians who cannot afford Europe or the US is the solution to its problems, especially at the cost of drop in the overall standards.
The more fundamental problem that needs to be considered is that countries like N.Z., Canada and even Australia – those countries which have relied on immigration-prone policies until quite recently – need to think carefully about the kind of people landscape they want for themselves. If they just want the money but not the people, then it may be far better to stick to things like niche-tourism than pimping(promoting) further education.

Sounds familiar?

Adam Wilk, Pittsburgh’s new pitcher and the former baseball player for NC Dinos has been in the Korean press for mentioning how terrible his sojourn in Korea has been for the 1 year contract period, now that he is back in the US.
NC Dinos is the new baseball team founded in 2011 with money from the online games company NCSOFT, to fill in one of the several regional/geo-cultural voids in Korea – the Masan/Jinhae/Changwon area. According to the USA Today it is also:

an expansion team in about as remote an outpost as you can find in the Korean Baseball League…in Changwon in extreme southeastern South Korea, about as far as you can get from Seoul.

According to the Sports Daum link, he has already recently dissed Korea in an online article (dated 28-02-2014) of the Pittsburgh Tribune Review, Triblive :

This spring, Wilk is in camp with the Pirates on a minor league contract. But the left-hander said his time in Korea did nothing to boost his career.
“It was an experience, to say the least,” “For me, it wasn’t a good experience. A lot of (the team’s) promises were very deceitful, an attempt to get us to sign.”
“It was nerve-racking,” Wilk said. “I had a ‘to-go bag’ ready to go in case I needed to ditch the country and escape on a boat to Japan. I tried my best not to think about it because I didn’t want to be worried.”
Wilk said team officials told the Americans they would live in upscale apartments in the Jungang-Dong district, which has plenty of shops and restaurants that cater to foreigners. Instead, Wilk said he was housed in an area several miles away.
“No parks, no restaurants, no anything,” Wilk said. “There was nothing to do. We found out later that the apartments in (Jungang-Dong) were significantly more expensive and the team wanted to cut costs.

He then slagged off the cheering culture (and softball?) in the USA Today Sports article:

“(The players) cheer like it’s college,” Wilks says. They cheer every strike, every ball. It’s just softball style rah-rah. They didn’t like that we didn’t cheer like that. Well, we cheer when good things happen. We don’t cheer when our guy strikes and loses the game with the bases loaded looking at a fastball. But they kind of do, so it gets a bit overwhelming at times. You just adjust to and deal with it.

Misuda women, academics, and sportsmen, and virtually all the English teachers..

I am curious as to why the Korean press seems to be obsessed with semi-celebrity former foreign residents of Korea going back to their home country and badmouthing Korea. Is it masochism of some sort? It doesn’t seem healthy to me, kind of related to why Korea is not a popular destination in the first place.

The level of East Asian politics – unwelcome love calls & my enemy’s enemy is not my friend

Firstly, let me re-iterate that there is something that I am absolutely 150 percent fine with, and that is the name of 동해 East Sea, expressed by everybody as Sea of Japan. In fact, I have always maintained that this naming is one of the issues which detracts from the more serious issues of contention by Korea in the East Asian politics.
Having said that, there is something so low about the way Chinese are blatantly trying to enlist Korean government’s support in its anti-Japan stance, that it makes my flesh creep. Recently, I’ve seen interviews of Chinese politicians talking about Japan, with no Korean presence, saying “Korea is also agreeing with us in how Japan should do XXX” or “Korean president also blah blah”.
Now, quoting a Chinese professor, the Chinese government has let it slip that if requested formally by the Korean government, it can consider co-labeling East Sea on its map on the government website (at the moment it’s only labeled as 日本海)..Isn’t it a joke? I think I have seen more highbrow political maneuvering at a kindergarten playground when you swap toshirak side-dishes 반찬. Understandably, the Korean comments which follow are 95 percent against it, ranging from mild skepticism to “return Koguryo’s history and Kando first, and free Tibet! and “Stop with the mirco-dust”

Usually I don’t really like what comes out of the mouths of those hired by Park Kunhye but a few days ago, I read this from the Blue House spokesman, Cho Taeyoung with regards to relations with Japan, and I thought he was quite coherent and succinct.
Cho says that “the Japanese government keeps on choosing to do all the things Korean government has requested specifically not to do yet keeps going on about the worsening relationship.”
Asked about the possibility about collaborating with China on the history problem, Cho’s said

그는 또 일제의 난징(南京)대학살 만행을 국제사회에 다시 고발한 중국과의 ‘과거사 문제’ 공조 문제에 대한 질문에 “협조할 필요가 없다”면서 “굳이 만나서 협의하고 협조할 필요가 없을 정도로 상황이 돼 있다”고 답했다.
There is no need for any collaboration (with China). The situation is already so that there is no need to meet (with China) and collaborate and aid each other on this…

How hard it is to stay in the it shrimp season?

US man charged with abuse/murder of a 3-year-old adopted Korean boy

Sad news from the US that a former head of NSA in Korea is charged with brutal abuse and beating-to-death of his adopted Korean son. Hyunsu O’Callaghan was adopted in October last year only.

I am very much against Koreans adopting their children out internationally full stop, so I don’t think that protesting for a stricter “test” of the parents prior to the adoption is the way to solve such problems – what these people are calling for in their protest in front of Holt headquarters in Korea. In 2008, 4 Korean kids adopted out by Holt were killed by their adopted American father.

Here is the link to NBC news.

애증, two sides to a coin in this relationship

Happy Valentines Day!

I would like to draw attention to two articles, one in Korean in DongA on Korea-Japan relationship for the last 1 year and 6 months and the other in English- another one by Mariko Oi on Japan-China relationship for seven decades.

I came across the first article in Korean a couple of days ago and thought, this is a rather excellent summary of what has been happening. Why 1 year and 6 months? Because the article pinpoints the start of the souring of the relationship as when LMB visited 독도, but says it will refrain from discussing whether it was the right move or not. Throughout the article it does an excellent job of refraining.

Then it goes onto summarize what has been happening in 5 points. Again this is such a good summary that I feel it’s a pity that somebody hasn’t done the translation already that I could just easily link to, and I need to do a rough-and-quick summary/translation.

First, it discusses the leaders at the helm of each country – Abe and Park. Abe’s strong historical stance is at the heart of the problem, and Koreans are having a harder type separating the Japanese politicians from the Japanese people as his popularity is very strong in Japan and unlikely to wane. Park of course, has drawn the line of her reply so very final by giving interviews and making speech home and abroad, and these two extreme stance give very little leeway for diplomatic channels to work under.

Second, it points out the change in the feelings of the ordinary Japanese people. Before when criticized or asked for an apology by Koreans, ordinary Japanese would not like it but have the attitude that they did do wrong in the past…now, the atmosphere is “Again, it’s the apology demand” and call this symptom of “being sick and tired of apologizing”. I especially like how the article then goes on to say this is how it is, that the Koreans should just accept this as reality and a phenomenon. It adds that the weakening of the Japanese opposition Minju party and its weakened role as a opposition is contributing to the overall shrinking of pro-Korean sentiment within Japan.

Third, it says now the Kyopos abroad are involved in this – highlighting the Glendale Comfort woman statue, French manga festival etc. and when things get played out on foreign turf, it exacerbates the situation as it gets the local media involved and subsequently each country’s pride is involved.

Fourth, it mentions that the rise of China, and Chinese heckling of power. It very clearly says that the current camaraderie felt by Korea towards China is a big illusion, and that China will make its decisions with no regards to Korea, that Korea should separate itself in its stance from China and make the relevant points against Japan it needs to make.

Finally, it says that the US has become ambiguous in its position between Japan and Korea. This is because there is a rise in US public figures voicing their opinion against the Japanese historical perception. However the article says that the US needs Japan very much so it will never go against Japan becoming a normalized country by defense arming, and Korea should just accept this with a cool head.

미국은 현재 일본을 매우 필요로 하고 있다는 사실이다. 따라서 미국은 일본이 ‘집단자위권 확대’ 등을 통해 소위 ‘보통국가’나 ‘정상국가’가 되는 것을 끝까지 지지할 것이며, 말리는 일은 없을 것이라는 사실이다. 한국은 이 점을 냉철히 받아들여야 한다

I like this article so much that I am looking forward to the next installment where the writer says he/she will come up with some suggestions to improve the relation.

The BBC article by Mariko Oi about Japan-China, you can read it yourselves in English. As I have said in the past, she is somebody I could very much identify with, having both a domestic/foreign education and probably friends across the globe including from the respective countries, trying to get her head around the situation.

I would like to say that there is a word in Korean/Japanese/Chinese called 애증・あいぞう。愛憎..from Korean point of view, I think this is something quite relevant towards the Japanese in the modern history. Constantly wanting apology/approval/comparison. It’s the inferiority complex, which should become irrelevant once the mentality of the people develop to match the rest. I used to worry what Aung Sang Suu Kyi would do with her life/emotion if she were released.

I would have thought that there is “apology demanding fatigue” phenomenon just as there is “apology giving fatigue” phenomenon. Maybe Koreans should eat less ginseng.

UPDATE: There is a video of BBC interview with Mariko Oi and Haining Liu. Interesting that Mariko says that she actually felt vulnerable as a Japanese in Nanjing that if anybody asked she would pretend to be Korean. Actually I also know that she visited Korea and felt comfortable at wondered how similar and nice it was to be Korea as a Japanese..

UPDATE 2 : There is another BBC Newsnight interview of the Japanese ambassador and the Chinese ambassador by Jeremy Paxman. IN DIFFERENT ROOMS! Paxman walked from one room to the next!!! I guess the two Voldemorts cannot be in the same room otherwise anti-matter-matter collision might occur. They should make the same video as they did here between the loop quantum gravitist and string theorist..with Jeremy Paxman in a cleavage-revealing skirt ..I know that Korea shouldn’t be the shrimp between two whales but it’s funny that in both the first Mariko Oi video and the Ambassador’s video Korea is mentioned even though there’s not a Korean in sight.

이상화 Sanghwa Lee wins the first Sochi gold for South Korea

After several disappointing results in the men’s speed skating (이승훈, 모태범) dominated by the seemingly invincible Netherlands, 이상화Sanghwa Lee finally broke the dry-spell for S.Korea by winning the gold medal for women’s 500m speed skating at Sochi.
It was her second Olympic gold medal 37.42 (first race) + 37.28 (second race) = 74.40 (total) – an Olympic record but not her personal record. She was joined on the podium by Russia’s Olga Fatkulina (silver, 75.06) and Netherlands’ Margot Boer (bronze, 75.48). Lee was coached by Canada’s Kevin Crockett (former name Kevin Overland).

Victor An (Ahn Hyunsoo) who became a Russian national took bronze for Russia at the short track (1500m). It was a meaningful bronze as he left after many revelations and accusations pointing at the Korean Skating Federation (대한민국 빙상연맹), they are indeed riddled with many scandals surrounding favoritism and factionalism. Many Koreans were rooting for him, especially with sympathy at what he had to endure under the Korean skating federation and he has also been cheering for his Korean juniors 후배’s so the bond still seems to be there, and no hard feelings. The latest Korean media interest in him has been from the introduction of his pretty girlfriend Nari Oo who’s meant to have been his fan for 10 years.

This 파싸움(factionalism) within the various Korean sports federations which eats away at the core of Korean sports spirit is not the story of yesterday and today (어제오늘일이 아니다, meaning it’s been around and known for a while). Another famous case is Sarang’s father Choo Sunghoon (Akiyama Yoshihiro) who wanted to compete for South Korea in Judo, but then went back to Japan and took the Japanese nationality to win gold for Japan against Korea. Judging by his appearance and attitude on the Korean television show Superman Returned as Sarang’s father, his bond for Korea is not waning at all.

Korea is like a dolphin, not a shrimp

says Daniel Tudor, who’s tired of hearing the description from Koreans who like to use it as a sort of self-effacing excuse for themselves. The Korean expression from which “shrimp” originates is : 고래 싸움에 새우 등 터진다 – “Kore-ssaumeh-saeu-deung-tojinda” literally translated as “During a fight amongst the whales, shrimps (back) explode”. I always wanted to know if this is based on a scientific fact, i.e. how feasible this is and whether this is a common occurrence. I don’t know if the sizes of the relative species concerned (shrimps and whales) and their common habitat could actually result in such a phenomenon. Maybe somebody could ask the Mythbusters program. At any rate here is a footage of a whale fight. In my opinion, it’s more likely to happen during whales mating than fighting, if at all.

Anyway, I can only find the link to the Korean version of the JoongAng article by Tudor씨. I don’t know if there is an English version. Tudor씨 is an ex-correspondent of the Economist, and is also the author of the book, “Korea: The Impossible Country”.
His main point is that maybe Koreans (especially the elite or the leaders in the society) like to say that they are a small country or a developing country to prevent change – because that prevents further discussion of things like equal opportunities or work-life balance, and everybody would continue to sacrifice themselves for development.

확실한 증거는 없지만, 자기 회의적인 그런 얘기들은 변화에 저항하는 수단으로 쓰이고 있는 것이 아닐까 싶다. 평등주의나 일과 삶의 균형에 대한 논의를 막기 위해서는 한국이 아직도 개발도상국이라는 인식만큼 좋은 게 없기 때문이다. 그래야 성장과 진보를 위해 모두가 희생을 감수하지 않겠는가.

He also goes on to say where he is now (in Malaysia) people envy Korea as successful developed nation and he often gets asked to give interviews about Korea. Now while I understand what he is trying to say and agree with some of it, I think there are also other reasons such as:

1. Koreans often like to say, “Koreans are like this – that’s why they’re no good” not including themselves in it. It’s rarely “We are like this that’s why it will never work”. The elite and the leaders are separating themselves from the people they are referring to. I am sure I am guilty of this myself, but to my defence I always fight with my parents whenever I go back.
2. Living standard alone does not make a truly developed nation. While I enjoy watching some Korean TV/dramas which his Malaysian friends might watch, I still cringe at the Cinderella mentality and the 식상한 story-line.
Let me just add, I don’t like dramas from the US or Britain/Australia etc. when they try to be realistic or tackle issues, sometimes they are just plain old bland beyond’s a delicate balance between escape from reality, and reality packaged as an episode.
3. It’s also like a sports announcers mentality when they say : “네, 정말로 뛰어난 패스, 김 아무개 선수 – 슛 – 네 그럴 줄 알았습니다.” They build themselves up with hope when things are going well, only to say “I knew it” when the ball bounces off the goal post. Deep down, we know we are shite. A bit like the Brits and their Wimbledon dreams.
4. Finally, yes, unfortunately, his Malaysian friends are right in that some Koreans look down on them. I am sure the Korean entertainment business is very careful in controlling their fan-base in places like Malaysia, but most Koreans would already probably feel superior to the South-East Asians, especially with respect to colour of the skin and money. They mainly want to feel superior within the club they feel they belong to geographically and culturally: the China-Japan-Korea club.

Anyway, I also thought it was funny that he chose dolphin, especially with the dolphin-related news going around nowadays.

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