The Marmot's Hole

Korea... in Blog Format

Author: yuna (page 2 of 11)

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.

The difficulty of the birth of a new party – what Ahn is up to

I belong to the camp that tends to criticize President Park and I guess I am more left leaning than right in my political disposition due to various factors such as my background, age, socio-economic and education level. So far, the less she speaks the better it has been, and with respect to Japan, grudgingly I have to admit that Abe’s consequent actions have vindicated her somewhat.

In my opinion one of the fundamental problems with Korean politics is that there is simply little choice for people like me because there is no character or party ideal that can effectively represent the more moderate views. Due to the turbulent history of South Korea since its inception (or going back even further with regionalism – Cholla-do/Kyungsang-do divide goes way back into the times of the dynasty) the left has had to take a very revolutionary approach against the military dictatorship and is always addled with accusations of inciting, protesting, mass-demonstrating, colluding (with people up North).

Perhaps it is to depart from this extreme ways that we were backing Ahn Chulsu during the last pre-election. Since the last election, he has been quiet and trying to gather some people for the creation of a new party for what he calls “새정치 new politics”. This kind of reminds me of what Tony Blair tried to do with “New Labour”.

So far, the characters in Ahn’s camp: Song Hochang has caught my eye (I saw him on 김구라 Kim Kura’s semi-political entertainment show “적과의 동침” – despite the fact Song is meant to have jokingly denied being on “Ahn’s camp” saying he is 무소속 independent” on the same show. I have much hope for him so hopefully our commenter Salaryman will find some faults with him in no time.

More Recently, the inclusion of Yoon Yeohjoon, an old haraboji character who likes to flip political sides as much as a grandma flips kimchi-potato-pancakes, has made many people complain, but this may just be a necessary step by Ahn to actually garner some momentum within the political scene.

More importantly, Ahn got a lot of flack for going to pay his respects at Park Junghee’s grave for the New Year – a move seen by the Minju 골수 as some sort of “coming out with his true colours as actually a Saenuri in Saejungchi’s clothing”.
To me, this really highlights the complicated issues Korea has with its own history, especially when it is criticizing the neighbour for a similar sort of behaviour.

I think the crucial step for Ahn et al. now is to generate some strong momentum, and get more good people on board. Here’s to quietly hoping, again.

“You’re Voldemort” “No You are!” “No You are times 100 million thousand and 반사!”

I don’t like Harry Potter, there! I’ve said it! I’ve read one (don’t remember which one) and thought it was overrated, especially compared to the classics like Winnie the Pooh or the Moomintrolls or even Paddington Bear, or even closer to the genre, the Enid Blyton classics of St.Clares/Famous Five or Erich Kästner’s Emil and the Detectives series…
How funny are these people then!
I am linking to the Guardian and not the original Telegraph where this is played out, because the way I was raised, Telegraph is the Voldemort.

New Year Resolutions and Diet

Happy New Year to everybody! One of my two resolutions this year is to eat less meat. I will keep on eating fish, but try to cut out as much red meat and poultry as possible. Whenever I am in Korea I get taken out to restaurants, and even at my parent’s home, I am shocked at how much more and frequent the meat (not including fish) consumption has become, compared to say, 10,20 years ago. Also, I notice how obese some of the kids in primary schools (as well as unruly) have become..
So it is very surprising to find Korea as an example nation where the increase in wealth has not led to the corresponding increase in obesity in this BBC piece . You can play the video, and listen to what the market ajummas have to say. One thing that was not dubbed over properly I note is that one of them mentions 짜장면 (Chajang-myun) , or Joonghwa Yori (Chinese-Korean restaurant food) as unhealthy food, as well as Western food. This has always been true, as 중화요리 is known for using a lot of oil and if you want to stay thin, less 철가방 chul-kabang(metal-bag) delivery is in order.

Speaking of Chinese delivery, I saw that they were getting people ready for the new street-name based address system when I was in Korea 2 months ago, and now that it has come into effect from this year, a lot of Koreans are complaining, including the delivery restaurants. Is it affecting any of you?

Finally, another BBC, diet-related item which says that intermittent fasting if good for your body. My late grandpa who was a real stickler to doing everything to live long and healthy (and he did) really abided by 소식(soshik, eating little).

Abercrombie opens No.1 Korean Flagship Store in Chungdam (and gets not so flattering press)

So how I know that Korea (and in particular, Seoul) is a very “happening” place is that it is very easy to just walk into an event which you have no idea about, only to see it reported on the news later.
A couple of days ago sitting on the bus, I was sure that I saw a whole bunch of 외국인 male torsos outside Kyobo Building in Kangnam, not far from the Shin-Nonhyun 신논현 station, and now I have little doubt that these were the models who were drafted to publicize the Abercrombie and Fitch store in 청담, as I see the reports in the Korean press.

A&F Seoul Opening – source 서울신문

The Korean press is not so flattering about the opening. Both 한국경제 and Seoul Shinmun focus on the controversy behind the brand. In my opinion, nothing else highlights the dichotomy of the Korean nature as much as when such brands land in Korea- on the one hand, we have Koreans willing to pay much higher prices for these foreign brands compared to what they are sold for outside of Korea, on the other hand, the Korean press having to do its duty as some sort of paper-soldiers of the Hermit-Kingdom likes to emphasize the fact the 한국소비자가 봉이다 (Korean consumers are easy (slang for “to sell high to” or “to dupe”), as well as the controversial racist incidents surrounding the brand – in the case of A&F, the male models from Hollister (the sister brand of A&F) making Asian eyes and twittering last year.
A&F has purportedly been sticking to the principle “it is a brand for white people only” that they would not open in Asia or Africa until 2000’s, and apparently the CEO has said they would only like young, beautiful and thin people to wear the brand in an interview.

Personally, I get a kind of uneasy feeling every time I see these A&F male torsos anywhere in the world – be it London’s Savile Row, German shopping malls, outside Kyobo – is it just me or is it not as offensive as some corn-fed hard-core gay porn shot in beach background shoved right in your face?

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