The Marmot's Hole

Korea... in Blog Format

Category: East and Central Asia (page 1 of 97)

An Evil Twin, Christian Hostages and Media Players that Can Get A Person Killed

Saenuri Party Chairman Kim Moo-sung has an evil twin.

He sounds like him and talks just like him and he is calling women to ask for money and is getting it.

The real Saenuri Party Chairman Kim Moo-sung is not amused, especially since he is not getting a cut and has warned people that this phone twin of his is evil and is actually a scam artist:

A number of people told me they received a phone call from me asking for money. Fortunately many did not wire the money as demanded to a bank account…The victims told me that the suspect’s voice and the way he talks on the phone were identical to mine.

Remember, if your phone rings and it is Kim Moo-sung asking for money, hang up on him.

The DPRK has taken prisoner two South Koreans in Dandong, China (not North Korea).

The DPRK alleges that the two are spies for South Korea but it turns out they are affiliated with a church around Dandong, thus this might explain why DPRK agents were allowed to apprehend the two South Korean citizens in Dandong, China – the same city that Kevin and Julia Garratt (Canadian couple that ran a coffeeshop) lived in.

What is the fifty-dollar gadget that can get a person killed in North Korea?

How about a hand-held media player called a Notel that can play DVDs or video files from memory sticks?

People are exchanging South Korean soaps, pop music, Hollywood films and news programs, all of which are expressly prohibited by the Pyongyang regime, according to North Korean defectors, activists and recent visitors to the isolated country. “The North Korean government takes their national ideology extremely seriously, so the spread of all this media that competes with their propaganda is a big and growing problem for them,” said Sokeel Park of Liberty in North Korea (LiNK), an organization that works with defectors.

South Korea Is To Join the AIIB

Though certain people thought I was “alarmist” in describing the earlier visit of Chinese President Xi and the PRC’s efforts to engage South Korea in the Asian Infrastructure Investment Bank (AIIB), South Korea has announced their intention to join the Chinese-lead bank. (link)

Supposedly Seoul has asked for improvement in the governing structure of the bank and other safeguards, which has been done.

Currently both Australia and Japan are considering whether or not to join as well.

From Russia, With Very Little in the Way of Love

Other than the PRC intervention during the Korean War, in Korea, Russia has had a rather devious hand in Korean affairs since attempting to install a proxy in Korea (Kim Il Sung) and now Putin’s Russia has decided to be friends with the DPRK, however, it becomes apparent that Russia had sold an SS-N-6 submarine-launched ballistic missile several years ago, which the North Koreans promptly have been reverse engineering and are now attempting to develop a submarine-launched ballistic missile (SLBM) based upon the Russian-supplied version, thus it is a disingenuous Russia that complains about South Korea installing a THAAD system in their country, complaining that it is “destablizing” . Russia and the PRC have helped create a potentially destablizing situation in Asia through their selling of weapons technology to the DPRK but, this did not stop the Russian Government from talking garbage:

. . . Such a development (regional THAAD defense) cannot but cause concern about the destructive influence of the United States’ global missile defense on international security . . .

Though the Russians have lost much through their aggression in the Ukraine, they are not above playing the perennial spoiler by using the DPRK as a proxy, befriending them simply to spite other countries like America .

As for the latest insult to humanity that is Russian foreign policy nowadays, Russia has invited Chinese and North Korean leaders to attend their WWII anniversary in Moscow, which might be one reason why Chancellor Merkel has decided to skip the event.

Also, over time, I’ve read quite a few comments from people that claim that the US would have been more active in dealing with the DPRK if they had oil – well guess what?

They’ve might have lots of oil too and a good bit more of natural resources that could keep a Kim Dynasty in power for a long time – that is, if they can get it out of the ground and without the direct help of China or dealing with commodity price fluctuations.

Chejudo and the Influx of Chinese Money

Choe Sang-hun has an interesting article on the effect of so many Chinese pouring into Chejudo and the local government’s own policies that makes it easier for foreigners to buy property, though the influx of Chinese has pushed the price of property there up higher than before:

Although Chinese-owned land in Jeju is still less than 1 percent, it has grown to 2,050 acres last year from just five acres in 2009. More than 70 percent of $6.1 billion in foreign investments in Jeju announced between 2010 and last year came from China

jejuweddingThe local government has even advertised in the PRC for wedding tours.  Jeju Tourism Organization has been working with five tourism companies to create wedding tour programs for customers from the mainland. (cite) According to the link, “350,000 overseas tourists have visited Chejudo and just over half, or about 190,000, have come from China, which is approximately 180% up from last year.

Another Wall Street Journal article explains some of the reasons why travel to and investment in Chejudo is growing in popularity for Chinese (cite):

. . .Jeju is a one-hour flight from Shanghai and 2½ hours from Beijing. “The major reason for most people to travel to Jeju is that it’s visa-free. And the price for group travel is so cheap,” said Willa Wu, a Hangzhou, China, businesswoman who has traveled to Jeju several times.

The Choe article is here.

Why Does the PRC Leadership Persecute Christianity?

Chinese-Jeasus

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Unease about Korea-U.S.-Japan intel sharing agreement

Remember that military intelligence sharing agreement between Korea and Japan that got cancelled an hour before the signing agreement in 2012?

Well, we’ve got a new one. And this one won’t be cancelled before signing because it’s already been signed.

There were no smiling photo ops or handshakes when the U.S., Japan and South Korea kicked off their trilateral intelligence-sharing pact aimed at improving defenses against North Korean missile threats.

The defense ministry in Seoul confirmed at a regular press briefing on Monday—not at a joint signing ceremony—that the three-way pact had taken effect, keeping a low profile on the deal.

“The deal allows Seoul and Tokyo to share information only indirectly via the U.S.—an arrangement that reflects the strained Korean-Japanese relations,” said Kim Hyun-wook, a professor at Korea National Diplomatic Academy in Seoul.

“Keeping a low profile” is one way to put it. “Sneaking it past the Korean public” might be another way.

This pact differs from the aborted 2012 pact in that it’s a trilateral one with the United States, which will play the role of middleman:

The trilateral arrangement allows Seoul and Tokyo to share military secrets on North Korea’s nuclear and missile threats via the U.S., which has bilateral military intelligence sharing accords with each of the two Asian countries.
[…]
South Korea and Japan, however, do not directly share sensitive information under the pact, an arrangement that reflects the bitter memory of Japan’s colonial rule of the Korean Peninsula from 1910-45.

When the South Korean and Japanese defense ministries intend to share secret information between them, they can do so by providing the information to the U.S. based on the accords, according to the agreement.

The conservative press has been largely supportive of the agreement, which is not surprising because they liked the 2012 one, too. The JoongAng Ilbo writes – quite reasonably, IMHO – that Seoul and Tokyo need to compartmentalize when it comes to historical issues and matters of security cooperation:

The three-way security pact will bring more accurate information on North Korean nuclear and missile dangers. South Korea now has access to Japan’s intelligence through their reconnaissance military capabilities in space, sky, sea and land. Tokyo is also said to have a powerful network of sources in North Korea. With North Korea nearing the stage of weaponizing nuclear bombs into missile warheads and capable of shooting missiles from mobile launchers, intelligence resources have become crucial. Security readiness should not be associated with any past issues or public sentiment.

The Korean Defense Ministry said the trilateral information sharing is limited to intelligence on North Korea’s nuclear abilities and missiles and unrelated to the U.S.-led missile defense program. The government should make it clear to the public that its latest move does not indicate participation in the U.S. missile defense program that is being protested by China and Russia. At the same time, Seoul should use the momentum to improve ties with Tokyo. Tokyo should first offer a genuine apology in the thorny issue concerning wartime sexual enslavement of Korean women during the upcoming vice ministerial meeting in Seoul.

The Dong-A Ilbo argues likewise:

It would be wise to separate national security from history issues to jointly cope with common threats. Equipped with surveillance satellites, strategic patrol aircrafts and Aegis destroyers capable of precisely tracking movements at North Korea’s nuclear test sites, missile bases and transporter erector launchers, Japan is partly ahead of South Korea in capabilities for conducting surveillance on the North. If the sharing of Japan’s intelligence with South Korea and the United States would reduce blind spots in surveillance over North Korea, making it easier for them to immediately react to the situation in the event of an emergency.

Those on the more left-wing side of the aisle are not huge fans of the agreement, in regards to both its content and the manner in which it was concluded. The Hankyoreh, for instance, didn’t like it when it was first announced, and it really didn’t like it when it found out it had already been signed. To sum up its complaints:

  • The Defense Ministry pushed this agreement in secret with no effort made to get public support.
  • By defining the agreement as one between military authorities rather than one between governments, the administration is attempting an end run around the National Assembly, in violation of a 1999 Constitutional Court decision declaring all agreements regarding national security subject to parliamentary approval.
  • The United States took a leading role in pushing the agreement because it’s trying to build a trilateral military alliance against China. The agreement is also connected to the U.S. missile defence initiative.
  • By defining North Korea as a common enemy and sharing intelligence, the agreement helps Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe’s ambitions to make Japan a military power. It also gives Japan more room to exercise “collective self defense” on the Korean Peninsula.
  • Korea doesn’t get anything out of it. Seoul can get the intel it needs on North Korean nukes and missiles from the Americans. It doesn’t need Japan, which the Hani doesn’t think really has that much to offer in regards to intel gathering on the North anyway. Instead, Japan is likely to grow more arrogance about historical issues.
  • Did we mention that China won’t like this? Nor will North Korea, which will likely strengthen its nuke and missile capabilities. Oh, and the agreement could lead to a “new Cold War structure” with the United States, Korea and Japan on one side and North Korea, China and Russia on the other.
  • This deal is a “poison apple,” the price Korea has to pay in return for the United States accepting the delay in the transfer of wartime operational control.

Similar complaints can be read in the Kyunghyang Shinmun.

Mind you, it’s not just the lefties who think the way the intelligence sharing deal got done is problematic. The Chosun Ilbo – who seems to likes the idea of the agreement – penned an editorial yesterday blasting the government for pushing the deal in secret and essentially lying about when it was signed. The United States signed the deal on Dec. 23, and Korea and Japan signed on Dec. 26, meaning for four days, the Ministry of Defense said nothing about a deal in the works – in fact, it was only after the Japanese press reported on it that the ministry confirmed it, leading the Chosun to wonder if the government would have told us at all if the Japanese media hadn’t told us first. To make matters worse, when the ministry did tell the public on Dec. 26, they explained it would be signed and go into effect on Dec. 29 (and in fact, the vice minister’s signature is dated to Dec. 29), when in fact it had been signed on Dec. 26. And no report was made to the National Assembly until the day the agreement went into effect. The Chosun warns that the Defense Ministry’s dishonesty will only heighten suspicions at a time when there is wariness regarding Korea possibly joining the U.S. missile defense regime and Japan’s military ambitions.

Not that you asked my personal opinion about the deal, but I guess I feel about it the way I feel about the recent U.S. deal with Cuba. As for the Cuba deal itself, I suppose I can get behind it. As for the secret manner in which it was negotiated, well, that I’m not so sure about. There’s a time and place for secret diplomacy, of course. As the Brookings Institution’s Martin S. Indyk told the NYT in regards to the Cuba deal, “Negotiations are like mushrooms: They grow in the dark. That’s especially true of negotiations between longtime adversaries, where the domestic politics on both sides make it impossible to reach a deal if the negotiations are conducted in public.” I’m just not sure the intelligence deal with Japan was the aforementioned time and place. At the very least it seems you’d want to give the National Assembly at least a couple of days to debate the merits of a deal like this before it gets signed.

Photo from U.S. Pacific Fleet.

Japanese-Korean potato chips latest peninsular addiction

Say hello to the 허니버터칩 (“Honey Butter Chip”), the latest snack addiction in Korea.  Made by the Haitai-Calbee joint venture (Haitai the Korean company and Calbee the Japanese company), they have taken the peninsula by storm.

(Image from JoongAng Ilbo – what the heck is the Eiffel Tower doing in there?)

The chip has sold out in many places,  stores are only allowing one per customer, celebrities are instagraming themselves with the product.  There is of course the typical response when demand far outstrips supply:

(eBay screen capture)

(Image from Korea Times, U.S. Edition)

Yes, that’s right- price gouging.

Get your Honey Butter Chips right here folks.  Only $51.75 USD each (S&H included)!

To THAAD or not to THAAD? That is Korea’s question.

What is THAAD?  It stands for Terminal High Altitude Area Defense and it’s essentially a province/state, small country-wide anti-ballistic missile defense system.  It apparently has a range of 2,000 kilometers and the U.S. is offering it to both Japan and South Korea.  So what?  Well, the Chinese don’t like it.

(Image from JoongAng Ilbo)

Although the U.S. says it’s to protect South Korea and Japan against possible missile attack from North Korea, the pure raw capabilities of the THAAD system would indicate that the defensive target isn’t just North Korea.  The long-range THAAD missiles, along with their powerful X-Band radars, if deployed in both South Korea and Japan, offers a multilayered anti-ballistic missile defense that could theoretically render a sizable chunk of China’s ballistic missile arsenal obsolete.

Earlier this year the U.S. delivered the enormous X-Band radar that helps power the THAAD, to Kyoto, Japan and the PRC was not pleased.

The spokeswoman for the Chinese foreign ministry, Hua Chunying, said “the deployment of anti-missile systems in the Asia-Pacific and seeking unilateral security is not beneficial” to regional security. In an apparent reference to the Washington’s often quoted excuse of protecting against North Korean antagonism, Hu said the deployment should not be an “excuse to harm the security interests of other countries.”

The Chinese have given rather ominous warnings to South Korea not to adopt THAAD:

China has told South Korea that joining the U.S. missile defense system would cross a “red line” in their bilateral relationship.

And the PRC’s ambassador to South Korea Qiu Guohong:

“The THAAD would have a range of around 2,000 kilometers, which goes beyond the goal of countering missiles from North Korea,”

[…]

“The deployment of the THAAD will badly influence the relations between South Korea and China … It would harm China’s security system,”

Cross a “red line?”  Badly “influence” relations?  Uh, oh.  That doesn’t sound good.  South Korea, for their part, says they are not interested in THAAD because they are apparently developing their own anti-ballistic weapons system.

In Oct., 2013, South Korean Defense Minister Kim Kwan-jin said South Korea would “definitely not join the U.S. missile defense system,” citing the associated costs and plans to develop South Korea’s own, similar system.

And that would be the so-called KAMD (“Korean Anti Missile Defense“) system, a mix of  Patriot  PAC-3 missiles, SM-6 and perhaps SM-3 missiles,  guided by the Israeli Green Pine radar.  There is also an apparent “indigenous” Korean anti-ballistic missile in the works, which may be similar to an Israeli Arrow type missile.

Publicly, this has been what the Korean government has said about why they may not adopt THAAD, but some Koreans are taking China’s tough talk seriously.  One of Korea’s most popular best selling authors, Kim Jin-myung, suspended all this other projects to rush and write a new novel titled “THAAD.”  According to Kim:

If it accepts the U.S. calls to deploy the anti-ballistic missile system here, he predicts, this will cost the country its No. 1 trading partner. China remains suspicious of the U.S. motive to deploy THAAD on the Korean Peninsula because it will nullify its ballistic missile system.

[China] reportedly believes that the United States seeks to encircle it.

If South Korea rejects the U.S. calls, Kim claims, it will not only lose its closest ally but also may face a catastrophic circumstance — a war on the peninsula.

A “war on the peninsula?”  A bit of hyperbole IMHO, but Kim Jin-myung says he’s not going to take a side in his novel.  He just believes there should be public discourse and concensus before the Korean government makes a decision on THAAD.

South Korea’s traditional ally the U.S. or China?  Not saying the choice is between the two here, but the choice for South Korea is getting increasingly more complex, especially in light of China’s growing economic power and influence.

(Graphic from the WSJ).

NOTE

Russia doesn’t like THAAD in Korea either.

 

WSJ: What’s the average off the street Seoulite think of Japan?

Often not discussed in many Korean blogs is what the average person off the street in Seoul thinks of such and such.  The WSJ’s Korea Realtime looks to remedy that.  The upshot?  Dokdo is ours, Japan needs to repent, but PGH needs to meet with (and talk to) Abe and an amicable relationship with Japan is important.

(Image from WSJ: Korea Realtime)

A Decent Japanese Village Vs. Ugly Hate Groups

korean_busters

Photo by Tyler Sipe, NYTimes

Martin Fackler of the New York Times has written an interesting report on a village in Japan that attempted to build a memorial to the Koreans that died from malnutrition and abuse, at the hands of Imperial Japan, however the village discovered that certain  Japanese hate groups don’t want this part of history visited again and they are very vocal in their efforts to hide the truth about war-time Japan.

Mr. Fackler attributes much of the evil efforts against the village as being directed by a Japanese internet group:

. . . Known collectively as the Net Right, these loosely organized cyberactivists were once dismissed as radicals on the far margins of the Japanese political landscape. But they have gained outsize influence with the rise of Prime Minister Shinzo Abe’s conservative government, which shares their goal of ending negative portrayals of Japan’s history, and with the acquiescence of a society too uninterested or scared to speak out. “I don’t blame the mayor for giving in,” said Mr. Mizuguchi, 79, an architect who guided a visitor to the site of the old airfield using a hand-drawn map. “I blame the rest of Japan for not speaking out to support us.

This Japanese hate group has been noticed before now, in their attacks against Koreans:

The demonstrators appeared one day in December, just as children at an elementary school for ethnic Koreans were cleaning up for lunch. The group of about a dozen Japanese men gathered in front of the school gate, using bullhorns to call the students cockroaches and Korean spies. Inside, the panicked students and teachers huddled in their classrooms, singing loudly to drown out the insults, as parents and eventually police officers blocked the protesters’ entry.
The December episode was the first in a series of demonstrations at the Kyoto No. 1 Korean Elementary School that shocked conflict-averse Japan, where even political protesters on the radical fringes are expected to avoid embroiling regular citizens, much less children. Responding to public outrage, the police arrested four of the protesters this month on charges of damaging the school’s reputation.
More significantly, the protests also signaled the emergence here of a new type of ultranationalist group. The groups are openly anti-foreign in their message, and unafraid to win attention by holding unruly street demonstrations. (cite)

Another very interesting article on Japanese racism and hate groups can be found here.

The article is here.

Former Mongolian president takes asylum in Korea: report

Former Mongolian President Nambaryn Enkhbayar has taken asylum with his family in Korea, reports the JoongAng Ilbo.

For those keeping score at home, this would be the first time a foreign head of state—serving or former—has taken asylum in Korea. Assuming the report is true, that is.

A former poet, translator and minister of culture, Enkhbayar was president of Mongolia from 2005 to 2009. A former communist, he was credited with helping Mongolia transform into something resembling a liberal democracy, earning the appellation “Asia’s Tony Blair” from Reuters and USD 285 million in aid from the American taxpayer.

In 2012, however, Mongolia’s anti-corruption board—a board I would not want to sit on, BTW—arrested him on charges of illegally transferring ownership of state-owned factories, hotels and other properties to his family. He cried political persecution, explaining that what he did was just common practice for Mongolian politicians (Marmot’s Note: his complaints were not completely without substance). While he was being detained, he went on hunger strike, prompting his friend, UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon, to call current Mongolian President Tsakhiagiin Elbegdorj to ask for leniency.

Anyway, a court found him guilty of abuse of authority and sentenced him to two years and six months in the sin bin. Rather than prison, though, he spent some time in the hospital before getting pardoned for health reasons in August of last year.

After his pardon, Enkhbayar spent much of his time in Korea, getting medical treatment and engaging in various activities. Recently, he and his family took Korean citizenship. While president, Enkhbayar was a good friend to Korea, visiting Seoul several times and proposing a number of joint projects—including mining development—to both presidents Roh Moo-hyun and Lee Myung-bak. A devout Buddhist, he also received Korea’s Manghae Prize in 2006.

His asylum was reported first in the local Mongolian press last month, but that story reportedly ended when the secretary general of his party, the Mongolian People’s Party, denied the report. However, Enkhbayar is still currently president of the Mongolian People’s Party, so his taking of Korean citizenship has to be a sensitive issue, says the JoongAng Ilbo. When the Mongolian press reported his exile last month, it said he was concerned that he might be recharged with illegal real estate acquisitions. A Korean government official told the JoongAng Ilbo, however, that since Enkhbayar had been pardoned, his taking of Korean citizenship did not pose any legal problems between the two countries.

Marmot’s Note: As far as I know, the Mongolian government has not confirmed the story yet, but the JoongAng Ilbo report has apparently made the news in Mongolia, so I imagine UB will be commenting on it soon enough.

UPDATE: The Korean government is denying the JoongAng Ilbo report:

The government denied a news report, Monday, about a former Mongolian President seeking political refugee status in Korea.

“We have not received any requests from Nambaryn Ennkhbayar seeking asylum here,” a Korea Immigration Service (KIS) official said on condition of anonymity. Ennkhbayar, 56, was convicted of corruption by Ulaanbaatar’s highest court in 2012 after serving his four-year presidential term from June 2005 to June 2009.

Seoul’s immigration office added that Ennkhbayar has been living in Korea since August of last year after the Mongolian government granted him a pardon, citing his “health.”

Interesting, but the JoongAng Ilbo also cited a Korean government official. So who the hell knows what’s going on.

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.

 

 

Seoul 16th on Forbes The World’s Most Influential Cities List

A Forbes Magazine article, The World’s Most Influential Cities, hashed a summary of Joel Klotkin (et al.)’s findings in Size Is Not the Answer:  The Changing Face of the Global City.

London ranked first, and New York “ranked 2nd… in an essential statistical tie with London with virtually identical scores.”  Paris came in a distant third.

Here is a list of the top 20:  1) London.  2) New York.  3) Paris.  4) Singapore.  5) Tokyo.  6) Hong Kong.  7) Dubai.  8) Beijing.  8)Sydney.  10 Los Angeles.  10) San Francisco Bay Area.  10) Toronto.  13) Zurich.  14) Frankfurt.  14) Houston.  16) The Randstad (Amsterdam Area). 16) Seoul. 16) Washington Metropolitan Area.  19) Shanghai.  20) Abu Dhabi.  20) Chicago.

The report listed the top 51 world cities (see Appendix A).  Notable for their poor representation were BRICS (Beijing, Shanghai, 23- Sao Paolo,  31 – Johannesburg, 31 – Mumbai, 34 – Delhi, 47 – Guangzhou), Africa (Johannesburg, 47 – Lagos), and South America (Sao Paolo, 44 – Buenos Aries).

The report’s stated goal in ranking cities was to address “a growing need to re-evaluate which (cities) are truly significant global players and which are simply large places that are more tied to their national economies than critical global hubs.” Rather than rate cities by more traditional criteria, the authors concluded that “these new global hubs thrive not primarily due to their size, but as a result of their greater efficiencies.”

What are those new criteria?   Cities were assessed based on the following eight categories: 1) Air Connectivity.  2) Diversity.  3) Foreign Direct Investment. 4) Corporate Headquarters. 5) Producer Services. 6) Financial Services. 7)Technology and Media. 8) Importance of city as a strategic location or hub for key global industries not otherwise measured above.  The authors claim their rankings differ from other global cities surveys because they “focus on criteria that are directly relevant to a city’s global economic impact and power… when discussing the concept of the ‘global city’, global economic power is the sine qua non ingredient.”

Blah, blah, blah… So, What About Seoul?

Although the report did not state the relative weight given to each criterion, I surmise that Seoul did well in corporate headquarters and financial services.  Seoul ranks seventh in the world measured by value of shares traded in metropolitan area stock exchanges.  (New York is number one and trades in value as much as the other top 10 combined (see Figure C-1).  Seoul likely scored well in technology.  Korea is the most-wired nation in the world and has a tech-savvy netizenry.  Media, however, is a mixed bag.  Korea scores very high in its export of popular culture, but if media means print and broadcast news sources… Yikes!)

Other Findings (and my opinion of how Seoul stacks up):

“Global hubs are helped by their facility with English…. English dominates the global economic system… This linguistic, digital and cultural congruence poses concerns for major competing cities, including those Russia and mainland China.”  (…and Korea.  For whatever the reason, Korea’s investment in English has not matched its return vis-a-vis other Asian countries.)

“Since the late Enlightenment, great cities, often built around markets, were typically places not just for the rich and their servants, but also for the aspirational middle and lower classes. A great city, wrote Rene Descartes in the 17th century, represented ‘an inventory of the possible’.”  (Seoul seems every bit the promised land or land of opportunity to Koreans and perhaps Asians of every stripe save Japanese.)

“These global cities reflect a new model of urbanism that… rests on a simple economic formula: please and lure the ultra-rich, so that with the surplus wealth they generate, you can then serve the rest of the population.” (One word:  Chaebols)

“Much has been written about the emergence of powerful new cities, particularly in East Asia, but it is critical not to overlook the enormous power of historical inertia. ‘It is inevitable’, a manager at Shanghai’s Guotai, a large Chinese investment bank, boasted to the Washington Post, ‘ that we will take the US’s place as the world leader.’ Yet, it will be a long time, perhaps decades or even longer, before any city on the Chinese mainland approaches the global influence of the long-established global hubs.”  (I found their findings of “historical inertia” in their “new” approach ironic though consistent with their findings.  Historical inertia from yesteryear presently works against Seoul, but as the world becomes more aware of the Miracle on the Han and recent years become yesteryears, historical inertia will work for Seoul.)

One of the report’s appendices presented a summary of findings and a special section that noted the ascendancy of East Asia, Fighting for the Future: The Battle for East Asia, singled out Tokyo, Seoul, and China.  “It seems likely that the primary challenge to the New York–London duopoly will come from East Asia.”

The report found Tokyo “no longer ascendant, but still important.”  The authors based their conclusion on two critical factors:  “the relative decline of the Japanese economy paired with the simultaneous rise of China (and other emerging economies like Korea).”   They found a third critical problem in Japan’s “cultural insularity—something that could have been overlooked when Japan dominated Asia’s economy, but now a severe liability going forward.”  Relating this to Seoul, I think that the rise of the behemoth that is China’s economy, the long-term decline in and aging of Korea’s population, and Korea’s cultural insularity will similarly work against Seoul’s ascendancy.

Here’s the special section on Seoul (see Appendix C):

Seoul Makes a Bid

Given the growth of the Korean economy and the expanding footprint of that country’s large conglomerates, Seoul must be considered a de facto global city.  Yet, like Tokyo, the Korean capital, although gaining in terms of the number of foreign residents, lacks the demographic diversity of a London or New York; few foreign large companies locate their regional headquarters in Seoul.  Due to major global players such as Samsung and Hyundai, Seoul is ranked 4th, tied with Paris, in the total number of Forbes 2000 global headquarters.

“Much has been written about the emergence of powerful new cities, particularly in East Asia, but it is critical not to overlook the enormous power of historical inertia. ‘It is inevitable’, a manager at Shanghai’s Guotai, a large Chinese investment bank, boasted to the Washington Post, ‘ that we will take the US’s place as the world leader.’ Yet, it will be a long time, perhaps decades or even longer, before any city on the Chinese mainland approaches the global influence of the long-established global hubs.”

Although I am happy for the boost in international prestige both the report’s (and Forbes Magazine’s) ranking and underlying criteria represent for Seoul, I can read into them caution for the rest of Korea.  A South African magazine’s observation about London’s ranking – why this is flattering, worrisome and deceiving – could easily and even more so apply to Seoul’s:

It’s almost 18 years since Newsweek magazine’s “London Rules” cover trumpeted the triumphs of what came to be dubbed Cool Britannia. Two years after that, though, the magazine ran an “Uncool Britannia” piece illustrating how little of the capital’s glamour had been distributed across the rest of the nation. London as a city-state is great for the capital city, terrible for the rest of the country. There needs to be greater decentralization, even if that saps a little of London’s swagger on the global stage.

Finally, the report, admittedly, ranked cities only by global influence factors and omitted quality of life considerations (you know, things that people rather than governments and global corporations find intrinsically critical):

Other surveys measure different things and weigh factors that we do not consider intrinsically critical. For example, the Mercer Quality of Living Survey and the Monocle Quality of Life Survey are focused on lifestyle in the city. These surveys frequently rank smaller cities such as Vienna (1st in the Mercer survey) and Copenhagen (1st in the Monocle survey) very highly, but these are generally not the most important or dynamic business hubs. It is notable that Monocle’s and The Economist’s headquarters remain in London, despite the city’s low score in quality of life rankings. Clearly, there is a difference between ease of living and economic dynamism.

A Google News search of “forbes ‘world’s most influential cities’” reveals that the piece got picked up by news outlets around the world (particularly in U.K., U.A.E., Russia, South Africa, and Australia).  The Toronto Star, in Canadian fashion, published an opinion piece, Others see Toronto as a success. Why don’t we?  Interestingly, I didn’t find a single U.S. paper that reported on the piece. I’m sure Korean media will soon pick it up.

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.

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