The Marmot's Hole

Korea... in Blog Format

Category: Korean Media (page 2 of 21)

What? You mean having consensual sex with a Korean woman is NOT a sex crime?

Matt over at Gusts of Popular Feeling has been all over the JoongAng Ilbo and its TV station for some articles and a TV program on foreign crime.

I’m going to link to his most recent post, but it’s got the rest of the series linked at the top.

BTW, dear readers, don’t try this at home:

I’d also like to say Solbi‘s role in all this, while regrettable, is easily forgiven because she’s hot. She doesn’t look like Jessica Alba, though, unless by Jessica Alba, you mean “charmingly plump Korean girl with a great rack,” in which case yes, she looks exactly like Jessica Alba.

Flavor of the month – You Are Fired

unapproved-tiesDonald trump may be a schmoe but sometimes people need to be fired, thus the Foundation of Broadcast Culture (FBC) that controls MBC, after so much protesting last year, finally fired MBC President Kim Jae-chul.

Kim’s dismissal comes after one of the largest protests over media independence this last year, when hundreds of media workers walked out in protest of heavy-handed media influence by Kim and others, who sought to control how the former government was portrayed in media:

Editorial employees of Munhwa Broadcasting Corp., or MBC, walked out Jan. 30 and were followed by journalists at the Korea Broadcasting System, or KBS, the news-only cable channel YTN, and the publicly funded news agency Yonhap. All voiced the same demands: editorial independence and the resignation of pro-government corporate presidents.
Although workers at KBS, a public broadcasting company, and Yonhap ended their strike recently, the battle continues at MBC, another public broadcaster, and at YTN, a private company whose major stockholders are government-related agencies. The strike at MBC has become the longest in company history.
President Lee Myung-bak appointed close associates to the top positions at public broadcast companies and news agencies after he took office in 2008. Kim In-kyu, a media advisor in Lee’s election campaign, became chief executive of the KBS network. Kim Jae-chul, a reporter who allegedly was close to Lee, took over at MBC.
Strikers say that major investigative programs were canceled and news stories criticizing the government were dropped or banned from the air. (cite)

Censorship has had a long and storied history in South Korea and is still a problem with many in the entertainment industry who must deal with having their music videos and work vetted first before being put out on the internet. The Korea Media Rating Board (KMRB) is another example of heavy-handed and failed meddling in the fields of entertainment and commerce.  After the infamous “Sea Story” incident, the Game Rating Board (게임물등급위원회) was created but began indulging in a list of stupid pranks that basically help shut down smaller and independent game developers in Korea (cite).
Per Yang Hyun Suk of YG Entertainment:

In the early 90′s, we were often censored for coloring our hair back when I was promoting with Seotaiji & Boys. This new policy implemented by the Korea Media Rating Board reminds me of those days. I experienced ‘mental collapse’ after hearing the news. . .  Psy‘s fresh and humorous “Gangnam Style” MV is going viral all over the world, but if this new policy gets implemented, we are going to have to think twice before we produce this kind of project again.” (cite)

The MBC labor union accused former CEO Kim of “interfering with fair and balanced news coverage and pushing favorable reporting of the former Lee Myung-bak administration”.  Their strike lasted 170 days – the longest ever – ending last July.

South Korea to get medieval on North’s ass: Dong-A Ilbo

OK, the Dong-A Ilbo didn’t say that exactly, but they got downright North Korea-esque in their headline, “Self-propelled artillery to belch fire if North launches provocation… command posts to be turned to ash by jet fighters.”

To sum up, if North Korea uses its coastal guns to attack somewhere like Baengnyeongdo, they’re gonna get a hurtin’. The South Koreans will first use their 20 K-9 pieces on Yeongpyeongdo and Baengnyeongdo, 130mm Multiple Rocket Launchers and 155mm towed artillery to rain fire on the offending artillery unit.

If North Korea persists, South Korea would commence the second stage of its retaliations by going after support and command units. ROKAF F-15s and F-16s would launch surgical strikes against command units in the rear such as the headquarters of the KPA 4th Corps, while the ROK Navy would put destroyers in the West Sea to guard against further provocations.

The ROK military is also ready for attempts by the North Koreans to land special forces on the West Sea islands in a bid to occupy them. The ROK military believes the North has plans to use air-cushioned vehicles to take over the islands within 30 minutes of crossing the NLL. South Korea has got Cobra gunships on Baengnyeongdo for just such an occasion.

A high-ranking military official told the Dong-A that it has more the quadrupled the amount of firepower its got on the West Sea islands and rewritten the rules of engagement since the Yeonpyeongdo incident. This time, the South would get proper vengeance if the North launches a provocation. Military experts, however, say it’s difficult to say who’s on top in the West Sea, with the North ahead quantitatively but the South ahead qualitatively.

And on a related note… hey, G’Na! Get off those flags!

I take it the Chosun Ilbo’s Washington correspondent dislikes pot legalization

Or so the conclusion of his latest column would seem to suggest:

But pushing “drug legalization” because of money problems cannot be a desirable direction. Even major US media say the loosening of regulations on “evil industries” like drugs and gambling is a dark aspect of American society. If you open the gate on marijuana, there’s no reason to believe there won’t be calls to permit even more addictive drugs. If one sees how there is already a study that says if the United States legalizes all drugs, it could raise an extra US$43 billion a year, this cannot be regarded as simple alarmism.

You know, guys, I think she was kidding

I have no idea how Ye Olde Chosun even picked up this story in The Reader, but me thinks—their caveat notwithstanding—they might have taken it a bit too seriously.

Daniel Tudor interview and an excerpt from his book

Back in December I did an interview with Daniel Tudor for Haps. He being the author of Korea: The Impossible Country as well a correspondent covering the peninsula for The Economist and Newsweek. The print version of the piece has been out for a month, but have just gotten around to posting it online.

Along with the interview, Haps has an extended (and quite interesting) excerpt on Shamanism in Korea, from the book.

Tudor, who I found to be frank and engaging in his responses, gave some insight into the book’s “impossible” title –which partially grew out of an interview with a former Park Chung-hee aid who said, “Korea was the poorest, most impossible country on the planet.”

“I love living here, but often, I feel thankful that I’m not part of this society’s rat race,” said Tudor, before segueing into the dual meaning of his book’s title. “I think that this society makes life ‘impossible’ for its citizens in some way, by setting up impossible ideals to live up to, and forcing people to accept a very narrow definition of what ‘success’ can be.”

I know he has caught some flak here on The Hole of late, but his book is well worth a read. You can check out the rest of the interview here.

I did like his quote on the drawbacks of being a foreign reporter here:

“On the downside, people don’t like to be so outspoken here, so that often leads to boring interviews. And if you criticize someone, they are liable to go ape on you. There’s a little over-sensitivity, especially where the foreign press is involved.”

The MH comments section would never go ape though, right?

An unholy home of incest

There are a lot of abandoned children out there and it is good to see that some of them find good and loving foster homes – but this one wasn’t.  According to the Korea Times (November 7, 2012):

A 16-year-old has been raised at the home of a 60-year-old Hwang since her parents divorced at three. Her mother was friends with Hwang’s wife and fostered her. The girl grew up calling Hwang’s wife “mother.”

Hwang took in an additional five to six children under his care and his home was actually designated as a child care center in 2007. He placed the girl on his official register and received 150,000 won ($130) a month. She called him “father” and his 32-year-old son “brother.”

In 2006, Hwang assaulted the girl, then aged just 10, sexually when his wife was out of the house. This continued through the following years.

Hard to believe but it gets worse:

Then in 2009, the son accused her of watching pornography and assaulted her sexually as well. In 2010 and 2011, the son took advantage of the girl in a truck that he drove on three occasions.

Fortunately the father (who had been charged without detention) and the son (has been arrested and charged for rape) will apparently be punished but what is especially shocking about this case is:

Prosecutors said there was strangely no evidence of pedophilia in the case.

Kind of makes you wonder about this.

Herald vying for the Pulitzer?

In a stellar piece of investigative reporting, the Korea Herald today ran the headline: “U.S. Accused of Apple Protectionism.”

The story deftly rehashes the rehashed, revisits the well-visited and, about halfway down, relieves reader suspense by identifying the accuser of U.S. wrong-doing as “a local industry insider.”

And what did the anonymous and no doubt well-placedlocal industry insider” have to say in his or her one and only quote that this fine piece of journalism was meticulously constructed around?

“It just seems like it will be impossible for Samsung to win a case on Apple’s home turf. I would say they are way too protective of its top tech firm for sure.”

That’s solid and I’m sold.

What happens when you mix white boys and K-pop?

You get this disaster.  Wow, it sounds like what pouring spaghetti sauce over japchae would taste like.

The lead singer here is Chad Future, a.k.a. Detroit native David Lehre.  Listen, I like K-pop as much as the next guy, and I also like tastefully done fusion of ideas, art, food and culture, but I just don’t know what to call Chad’s attempt to “fuse” K-pop other than bad.  Real bad.  It’s like cooked sashimi, a white girl calling me “oppah,” or chemically fermented and nasty “kimuchi.”

Perhaps some things shouldn’t be attempted, like a sequel to “Gone With the Wind,” remake of Oldboy, a Nixon second term, etc.  We should be left with the positive impressions of the originals and not have the bad taste in one’s mouth of the attempted repeats.  A frame by frame and beat by beat overlay of K-pop with white people just ain’t gonna hunt.

Don’t believe the 하이프

Some of you might remember all the media hype about the Cia Cia tribe, a group of 80,000 on the remote Indonesian island of Bau-bau, officially adopting Hangeul as their native script.

Well, that was a load of phooey.

The Hangeul adoption program, which was announced in 2008 was apparently never even asked for.

“Mayor Tamim (of the Cia Cia) only mentioned that official discussions have begun and he was consulting with the central government over the adoption of Hangeul in a media interview,” he said. “However, the media wrongfully translated his remark as if he had received formal acknowledgement from the government.”

The program, which was initially launched through the private funding of the Hunminjeongeum Society, ended up amounting to “a total of 37 hours to some 50 fourth graders last year at an elementary school in Bau-bau and now it is being taught to some 190 students in two schools,” says the KT

They also say that:

…a host of media outlets ran stories claiming that Bau-bau Mayor Amirul Tamim said the Indonesian government had finally authorized the adoption of Hangeul as the tribe’s official alphabet to preserve their dying language.

Reminiscent of the Jeju being one of the Seven Natural Wonders of the World story this time last year, Korea’s media seems to have let national pride obscure their journalistic goggles.

Or maybe it was simply a case of there being a junior translator/fact checker at the copy desk that day?

“Mayor Tamim only mentioned that official discussions have begun and he was consulting with the central government over the adoption of Hangeul in a media interview,” he said. “However, the media wrongfully translated his remark as if he had received formal acknowledgement from the government.”

I am sympathetic to translation discrepancies, there are no doubt few if any Cia Cia in Korea to check the translation, but for at least several years it went unchecked or followed up on and was sold as part of the national brand without question.

With more spot on reporting, a similar piece in Ye Ole Chosun today says that the Cia Cia have a spoken language absent of a written format and that Hangeul was to be there go-to script.

Not so counters the KT article — Cia Cia law specifically states that when in Bau-bau, do as the Romans.

Professor Chun, who first proposed the idea of adopting the Korean alphabet to the Bau-bau mayor in 2007, claims that the official adoption of Hangeul by Cia Cia will be unlikely to happen as Indonesia’s Basic Law stipulates that all tribal languages should be preserved in Roman characters for national unity.

The KT also points out that, “Not only the Korean press but also foreign news media showed interest in Korea ‘officially exporting’ its 564-year-old writing system.”

The KT does not however, mention that they too were spun by the story.

But hey, if we extrapolate the KT numbers over of the life of the program, Hangeul did manage to reach 1.5 percent of the Cia Cia population. That’s at least worth a two or three day run in the news cycle right? Ahhh, the venerable Fourth Estate.

Dirty little secrets and the “freedom to enjoy a free sex life”

sex workers

According to Korea Times, Korean sex workers want anti-sex trade laws scrapped.  (I hope those guys aren’t the sex workers): 

Korea has banned the sex trade since two pertinent laws went into effect in 2004, dealing a serious blow to the industry.

“Part of the anti-sex trafficking laws about those who sell sex is against the Constitution,” a sex worker said in a news conference in Seoul hosted by their trade association, Hanteo.

The clause limits sex workers’ rights to sexual autonomy and their freedom to enjoy a free sex life as adults, they argued.

As Mr. Marmot mentioned a couple of days ago - the sex workers aren’t the only ones seeking a change to the law.

Speaking of enjoying a free sex life – when do Korean girls have their first sexual experiences?  According to  Chosun Ilbo (September 26, 2012) it is 21:

Korean women first have sex at the age of 21.5 and hope to have their first child at 31.9, according to a straw poll marking 2012 World Contraception Day.

And to think….I didn’t even know there was a World Contraception Day (about half way down).

The age when Korean women want their first child is the highest in Asia, but many are lax with contraception. Some 67 percent of Korean respondents said they have had sex without contraceptives at least once, and 14 percent they were unaware of the risk of pregnancy.

Asked about their preferred method of contraception, 48 percent said condoms and 15 percent contraceptive pills. Sixteen percent answered they have no plans to use contraception.

Wonder how this works in?  Number of HIV carriers (in Korea) hits record high of 8,544:

In research conducted by the center and the Korea Federation for HIV/AIDS, the largest age group to be newly diagnosed were those in their 40s who accounted for 24.8 percent of the total.

Those in their 20s stood at 23.4 percent, followed by those in their 30s and 50s at 22.3 percent and 16.1 percent, respectively.

Ninety-two percent, or 7,860, of all the HIV carriers were male. The number of males who were newly confirmed carriers of the virus in 2011 was 827.

The accumulated numbers of those with the virus stood at 7,771 in 2010, 7003 in 2009, 6,206 in 2008, 5,466 in 2007 and 4,717 in 2006.

Among the total carriers whose route of infection could be traced, 99.2 percent said they caught the disease through sexual contact, with 60.4 percent saying that sexual contact was with a member of the opposite gender.

Now let me get this straight.  99.2% became infected through sex and 92% of the HIV carriers are male and that 60.4% of them became infected through hetrosexual sex.  Does this add up to you?

And – Dong An Ilbo tells us why Korean pedophiles offend - somehow I knew Japan would be mentioned in the article – I would cut and paste it but the fonts are too much of a problem.  But, one of the offenders said, “When I often watched Japanese pornography, I frequently had the urge to have sex with young women.”  Hmmm.

 There has been talk about castrating the offenders – chemically – but is that a good idea?  According to this article and this one at NPR (which is probably better than the former):

Researchers in Korea found that eunuchs – castrated men living centuries ago – outlived others by a significant margin due to absence of such hormones.  The evidence comes after careful study of genealogy records of noble members of the Imperial court of the Korean Chosun dynasty (AD 1392-1910), the Daily Mail reported.

“This discovery adds an important clue for understanding why there is a difference in the expected life span between men and women,” Kyung-Jin Min, of Inha University, said.

By poring over records, Min and his colleague Cheol-Koo Lee, of Korea University, found that eunuchs lived 14 to 19 years longer than other men did.

International Business Times adds this to the story:

Eunuchs in Korea, called naesi, enjoyed a special status as servants to the royal family and as bodyguards to the king and his harem. Male eunuchs were either castrated accidentally — sometimes after being injured by dogs — or on purpose, as a quick way to move up in the world. They could marry and adopt girls or castrated boys.

You knew I had to get Joseon history in this posting some way or another.  I might add that Horace N. Allen – one of the first Western doctors in Korea treated at least one eunuch for a STD.

The death of the red ink taboo in Korea

Korea Times
Glancing at the front page of Korea Times this morning I was very surprised to see Psy’s name in red.   I asked several leading journalists in Korea – both foreign and Korean – what they thought about it and the answers were mixed.  Even a P.R. firm stated that they saw no problem with it because of the style and the format of the article.  Others, however, like me, were under the impression that writing a person’s name in red was wrong as it symbolized death or imprisonment.

I first learned this basic rule of Korean culture and manners when I was a young soldier – it was later reenforced at language schools both in the United States and Korea.  I thought this was common knowledge but I have since learned it is outdated knowledge.  KT was kind enough to tell me that this custom is no longer held by the youth and that Korean culture is changing – something I can fully agree with.

But if this change in culture has occurred – why are we, the foreigners, still being taught that it is taboo?

According to the US Navy command website at Chinhae:

You should avoid writing a person’s name in red. This indicates death because a deceased person’s name is crossed off with red ink in the town register upon his death. However, a Korean name seal is always printed in red.

According to ZKorean:

Writing a person’s name in red ink is tantamount to saying they are dead or will die soon.

KoreaWiz under its section “understanding Korean Dramas” wrote:

Red ink is permissible when using a chop (name seal).  Do NOT use red ink when writing a living person’s name, however, since red is associated with death.  Red ink is used to record a deceased person’s name in the family register and also on funeral banners to drive off evil spirits.

True, KoreaWiz’s site seems to have been updated the last time in 2010 so it is somewhat dated.  Meetup (pdf file) might also be a little dated and expressly warns:

Do not write a Korean’s name in red! If you do, it means that they are dead. This is not recommended if you are trying to make friends.

This New Zealand site effective tourism business offshore in South Korea cautions:

Koreans write and say their family name first and their given name last. At business meetings, given names are not generally used; addressing people as Mr Kim, Mrs Kim or Miss Lee is most common. Never write a person’s name in red ink. Koreans only do this if the person is dead.

They aren’t the only business organization giving advice.  McElroy Translation stresses to their clients

It is inappropriate to write a person’s name or sign a contract in red; only the names of the deceased are written in red.

In Kiss My Kimchi’s 10 Korean Cultural Taboos number seven was:

Possibly more of a superstition, but still I thought I’d mention it just in case. Writing someone’s name in red indicates that you want them to come to some bodily harm or that they are dead.

There is, however, one site that does stand out for giving accurate and update information – at least in this case – Korea4expats:

In the past, the names of the dead were written into the register in red ink. So, writing a living person’s name as though he/she were dead was considered insulting and even bad luck. However, this custom is no longer as prevalent and sometimes you will see Koreans writing someone’s name using a red pen.

I could probably go on and on listing sites but the important thing to note is – I was wrong and Korea Times was right.  Considering I concentrate on the past (late Joseon era) my mistake can probably be forgiven but what about the new batch of foreigners arriving in the country?  Unless something is done, only we foreigners will be the ones following this old Korean custom.

So, Uncle Marmot, what ARE the Korean papers saying about the Samsung shellacking?

Well, the Chosun Ilbo noted the ruling was pretty much the mirror opposite of the Seoul District Court ruling in Korea the day before. This, they note, was due to the jury system in the United States. It’s said, the Chosun relates, that the jury focused more on the design and function patents rather than the difficult technical issues. That they returned a verdict in just 22 hours demonstrates that this was a possibility. The Chosun also suggested that the jury might have been rooting for Apple, a leading American company, at a time when the US economy is struggling, and this might have influenced the decision.

Nevertheless, one thing worth noting, said the Chosun, is that the court broadly recognized trade dress, a concept universal in the United States but still unfamiliar in Korea.

The Chosun concluded by saying Samsung has taken a major hit with the decision. Worse than the financial damages is that the company has now been branded a “copy cat.” The verdict will also have an impact on the roughly 50 patent suits ongoing nationwide. Samsung needs to escape from these “copy cat” fights by quickly bolstering their design and software capabilities, says the Chosun. In the short term, the company needs to boost its internal design capacity by bringing in the world’s best experts, and in the long term, it must find a way to strengthen educational facilities by bringing in leading professors in the global design field in order to turn Korean university students into world-class design talent.

The Joong-Ang Ilbo, as one might expect given its history, was not entirely pleased with the decision. It notes that “experts” point out the decision lacked fairness and universiality because the jury—composed of people without expertise in IT or patents—rushed the decision without sufficient consideration, thus helping Apple. The JoongAng has not intention to belittle the character and independence of US legal procedures, it says, but at the same time, it could not exclude the possibility that non-experts caught up in a protectionist social atmosphere had handed down a biased decision (Marmot’s Note: The possibility that the Seoul court handed down a biased decision doesn’t seem to have entered anyone’s mind).

The JoongAng warns that if a protectionist jury handed down a decision unilaterally favorable to the American company, Apple, it could have a significant impact on the development of the global IT industry and economic cooperation between Korea and the United States. It expresses the opinion that sufficient consideration is needed so that in the judge’s ruling and the appeals to follow, legal decisions on a point of bilateral economic contention are not distorted by the social atmosphere (Marmot’s Note: For a prime example of how the non-jury systems are better able to handle social atmospheres, see the Lone Star case).

The problem, says the JoongAng, is that Apple will raise even more parent disputes of a similar nature. Apple and Samsung already have about 30 cases ongoing in nine nations, including Korea and the United States. Being glass-half-full sort of folk, the JoongAng note this is proof that in the Samsung has become a world-class company threatening Apple in the smartphone and tablet PC market (Marmot’s Note: Gee, you think? Samsung is the world’s biggest smart phone manufacturer, with a market share twice that of Apple’s). As Samsung distinguishes itself in the world market, competing companies will try harder to contain it.

Finally, the Joongang warns that the “fast follower” strategy of copying or following other companies or their products won’t work anymore. Regardless of the verdicts, Samsung needs to become a “first mover” that creates new technologies and opens new markets. Of course, the “first mover” can profit big, but they need to endure a lot risk. They also need creative capabilities and will for continuous innovation. The JoongAng expresses hope that this verdict will become an opportunity for Korean companies to make the leap to becoming global leading companies.

Much of the same from the Dong-A Ilbo, except they were even more critical of the jury and worried that the decision could hurt consumer choice.

For the Hankyoreh, cases like this are interesting—they’re not especially big fans of the United States in Haniland, but they’re not too keen on Samsung, either. Their editorial on the decision was pretty balanced and workmanlike. Like the Chosun, it noted that American courts broadly acknowledge intellectual property rights over trade dress. It also notes, both in the editorial and in a related news story, that Samsung—as the leading manufacturer of Android phones—is something of a proxy target for Apple’s real enemy, Google. It’s easier to target the phone manufacturers rather than invading the proverbial Fulda Gap of Google, which offers the Android OS for free at any rate.

The Hani also noted that Samsung products have developed quite a bit in terms of technical innovation, and thanks to the lawsuits, they’ve begun putting together the know-how to develop new designs and differentiate themselves. Like pretty much everyone else, they called on Samsung to move from being a fast follower focused on hardware to becoming a market leader in design and software innovation. Unlike the other papers, however, they note to do this, Samsung needs a create a flexible and creative corporate culture, not one focused on keeping things in perfect order.

MARMOT’S NOTE: As a user of the Galaxy Note, iPad and iMac—all three of which I love—my own feeling is that regardless of the case specifics, it’s a shame both sides can’t lose.

Squashed coups, N. Korean economic reform & other rumors

Got to give Ye Olde Chosun credit—they seem to have stirred the shit.

In The Atlantic’s Open Wire, John Hudson—quoting Ye Olde Chosun and the Korea Timeswrites that Kim Jong-un might have just squashed a coup.

Hudson also quotes a MUST READ report from Reuters’ Benjamin Kang Lim that seems to suggest Kim Jong-un might be moving to reform North Korea’s economy:

Impoverished North Korea is gearing up to experiment with agricultural and economic reforms after young leader Kim Jong-un and his powerful uncle purged the country’s top general for opposing change, a source with ties to both Pyongyang and Beijing said.

The source added that the cabinet had created a special bureau to take control of the decaying economy from the military, one of the world’s largest, which under Kim’s father was given pride of place in running the country.
“Ri Yong-ho was the most ardent supporter of Kim Jong-il’s ‘military first’ policy,” the source told Reuters, referring to Kim Jong-un’s late father who plunged the North deeper into isolation over its nuclear ambitions, abject poverty and political repression.

A Korea University professor quoted in the piece predicted Pyongyang would move ahead with joint ventures with China, but a Chinese North Korea expert expressed skepticism that North Korea would pursue economic reform.

It goes without saying that this could all be a big, steaming pile of bullshit. From the HuffPo:

So which is it – illness or a gun battle? Perhaps neither. North Korea watchers are skeptical of the illness claim, but even an unnamed government official cited in the South Korean account said the firefight “has still not been 100 percent confirmed.”
Many seemingly over-the-top news stories cite anonymous government or intelligence officials, North Korean defectors claiming to have sources in their former homeland or simply murky, unexplained, unnamed “sources.” Few explain where they get their information, and many reports turn out to be wrong.

“The less we know about a country, the more rumors we tend to create about it,” said Kim Byeong-jo, a North Korea professor at the Korea National Defense University in Seoul. “When curiosity is especially strong, rumors grow more sensational. … Imagination takes over where facts are scarce and sources are unclear.”

At any rate, North Korea watching is, in the words of the inimitable Joshua Stanton of One Free Korea (whose blog we can now read once again in Korea), “an inherently speculative hobby”:

North Korea watching is an inherently speculative hobby. How could it be otherwise when our most reliable information comes from satellite images and reports from KCNA, the world’s least credible news organization? The problem with having no solid facts to argue is that no one is really an expert, and anyone can pretend to be, present company included. Even “inside” sources are suspect; after all, much of their information is probably disinformation. That’s why you’ll see a lot divergent and theoretical explanations whenever the North Koreans do something that catches out attention. We see this in the analysis of the sacking of General Ri Yong Ho and the “promotion” of Kim Jong Un to the military rank of Marshal.

If you’re allergic to skepticism, stay away from Joshua’s post. If not, it’s a great read.

The Hankyoreh—ever the optimists when it comes to North Korea—believes whatever happened in North Korea might be an opportunity to improve inter-Korean relations:

This flurry of activity raises two major questions. One is what the newly organized regime’s focus will be, and the other is whether it will be able to remain stable. In answer to the first question, the chances are good that we will see Pyongyang moving away from isolation and “military first” policies toward openness and “economy first” measures. Ri was one of the key military conservatives, whereas National Defense Commission deputy chairman Jang Song-thaek and People’s Army politburo chief Choi Ryong-hae – both of whom saw their stature rise in the reshuffling – are considered supporters of reforms and openness, and have civilian backgrounds. Furthermore, both Kim Jong-un and the Rodong Sinmun, the WPK central committee’s newspaper, have put an emphasis in recent speeches or reports on building of a strong economy to inherit the mantle of the military first policies.

Kudos to the Hani for putting a positive spin on the never-ending farce that is North Korean court politics. Still, be sure to read Joshua’s post when your done with the Hani editorial.

Personally, though, I actually hope North Korea’s going to give another try to economic reform, because I don’t believe North Korea’s economy could withstand it. The sooner they try, the sooner the regime collapses, and the better off the world will be, if only in the long run.

And on the drunken, high and sexually miscreant foreigner (and gyopo!) front…

Over at Three Wise Monkeys, Christopher Smith writes the unthinkable—that Westerners living in Korea may be contributing to their own occasionally besmirched reputations:

Can any sympathy be given for MBC’s program and its producers? Some might say that there is no smoke without fire. Are Westerners blameless and merely the victims of Korea’s insecurities about foreigners? After all, they do use the same word for “alien,” “외국,” as they do for “foreigner.”

A few weeks ago there was a foreigner beach party on Wando beach, Jeollanamdo, which every teacher currently working in public schools in that province will have heard about. The party-goers caused quite a number of complaints to come from locals that included too much noise, rubbish on the beach, topless women, and, worst of the lot, the vandalism of a closed public toilet, which was broken into and although without any plumbing (the reason for the closure), was utilized anyway causing what I would imagine to be a particularly unpleasant sight and smell.

The regional coordinator of public school teachers was quite rightly furious and sent a strongly worded e-mail to all teachers warning against any future misconduct and declaring the price that would be paid if the perpetrators are identified.

But this was all a one-off, right? I mean people from any country and any culture can have a bad day, and there are plenty of expats living in Korea who would turn their noses up at such behavior. While this last statement is obviously true, perhaps it is time that those of us coming from Western English-speaking cultures admitted that we have a growing problem with our moral behavior and reputation in other countries and especially with regard to Asian countries.

Not sure what the 외국 comment meant—we use “alien” and “foreigner” interchangeably, too. Or at least we used to, before we abandoned them both in favor of “immigrant,” used regardless of sojourn status or even legality of residence.

Besides that, though, his other observations ring sadly true. I by no means intend to discount the role racism and sexual insecurities play in the occasional displays of resentment expressed by Korean men at Western men. Much of the resentment, though, is based on racism and disrespect aimed at them by Westerners, not all of which is just perceived.

Sadly, the structure of Korea’s Western community probably doesn’t help. Between the English teachers and the GIs, you’re dealing with a lot of young men, the social constituency most likely to do stupid shit. This already troubled constituency is then hit by a double whammy—living overseas, the social pressures of their home societies no longer apply, and in Korea, the host society does not do a very good job of enforcing its social pressures on Western foreigners.

They are, in essence, free of social restraint. Most Westerners can handle it, but many cannot. We’ve all seen it, and more to the point, your Korean neighbors have all seen it.

Anyway, read Mr. Smith’s post in its entirety. The writer also has what seems like quite an interesting blog here, and I see he’s been to Indonesia’s Bromo Tengger Semeru National Park, which ranks very, very high on my list of places to visit and photograph at least once in my life.

While we’re on the subject of misbehaving Westerners, NoCut News has run a four-part series on, and I quote the series title, “The Reality and Twisted Values of Some White Men.”

No, I’m serious, that’s what’s it’s called.

The inspiration for this, of course, was NoCut’s big scoop on the Western dude who secretly recorded himself having sex with Korean women (who has reportedly been sacked and is undergoing investigation).

Anyway, Part I deals with the ongoing saga of Chris Golightly, the American contestant on Superstar K3 who, according to the report, is now being investigated on charges of defrauding and blackmailing his ex-girlfriend. Most of the story, though, deals with him being a serious player. Or at least allegedly being a serious player. And a douche. Or allegedly a douche, anyway, with most of the testimony coming from his ex-girlfriend.

Since, as everyone knows, angry ex-girlfriends usually make the most reliable of sources.

Part II deals with websites and books on dating Korean women, such as this site, some nameless Youtube video I’d be keen to see and the book “Making Out in Korean.” The big beef is that many white guys come to Korea already with ideas about Korean women.

Part III is about drugs, and Part IV—personally, my favorite—deals with Itaewon’s night culture. This one is pure comedy gold, and ends with this money quote:

Of course, we don’t intend at all to defame all foreign men in Korea just by one nightime scene of Itaewon’s club street.

It’s true, however, that the foreign men this reporter saw on the street in Itaewon appeared to be nothing more than hunters chasing Korean women. It was filled with, literally, “white hunters.”

I assume they’re not referring to these guys.

At least the Nigerians can enjoy a break.

I wish I had time to translate these stores—their entertainment value alone is immeasurable.

Now, dear gyopo readers, before you get too giggly reading about the journalistic misfortunes of your more melanin deficient brethren, you haven’t been forgotten, either. In E-Today last week, one story on drugs noted that while native speaking teachers (i.e., whitey) needed to submit drug tests and criminal records, you guys—and by you guys, I mean F-4 visa-holding gyopo—did not, and this was a blind spot in Korea’s drug enforcement efforts. With the number of gyopo involved in drug offenses on the rise, this has led to calls for F-4 visa holders to submit drug tests and criminal records, too. They even got somebody from Anti-English Spectrum on record calling for strengthened controls on gyopo.

On a positive note, though, it appears—judging from this comment—that somebody in an official position has issued an opinion about the MBC program on foreign relationships.

Older posts Newer posts

© 2014 The Marmot's Hole

Theme by Anders NorenUp ↑