Defamation is a problem for many in Korea, whose enforcement (or lack of enforcement) quite often infringes upon free speech, if not democracy itself. The Wall Street Journal has a good, short piece on this issue here.
Far be it from me to give the VP of Korean Air advice on how to deal with improperly served macadamia nuts, but don’t you think this is going a bit far?
The daughter of Korean Air Lines Co. Chairman Cho Yang Ho ordered a plane back to the gate so she could remove a crew member who gave an incorrect answer to a question on how to serve macadamia nuts, the airline said.
Heather Cho, 40, a vice president of the airline, ordered the head of the service crew on Flight 86 from New York to Seoul to deplane after an attendant earlier had served Cho macadamia nuts without asking, the carrier said. Cho then summoned the purser to ask a question about the airline’s policy on serving nuts. Cho ordered the man to leave the plane when he couldn’t answer. Under the carrier’s rules, passengers must be asked first before serving.
The purser didn’t know the company’s procedures and “kept on making up lies and excuses,” Korean Air said in a separate statement late yesterday.
Mind you, nuts are important, says the Economist. Just not that important:
Clearly nuts are an important part of flying (Alan Shepard, an Apollo astronaut, took a peanut with him to the Moon and back; on Earth, a possibly well-oiled Steve McQueen tried to eat it when shown the legume in a bar). But they are not quite as important as having a serene cabin. Korean Air said Ms Cho is responsible for checking service standards, although she was flying as a passenger at the time. One has to wonder what page of the carrier’s customer-service manual suggests that causing a scene, insisting the plane turn back for the gate while taxiing, and delaying a flight for 11 minutes is the response the other 400 customers demand for serving a snack on incorrect crockery.
Just to add a bit of irony to this story, last year, Cho wrote a post on the company bulletin board defending a flight attendant who had been assaulted by a POSCO executive because he had been served undercooked ramyeon. In the post, she also called for laws to punish people who interfere with flight attendants carrying out their duties. And indeed, the POSCO exec was sacked after being investigated by the American FBI, apparently at Korean Air’s request.
It should also be noted that Cho is suspected of going to Hawaii last year to give birth to twin sons. Korean Air says the kids will eventually do their military service, but I guess we’ll just have to wait and see.
Both the conservative Dong-A Ilbo and progressive Hankyoreh ran editorials asking jaebeol families to stop acting like entitled, petty dictators. Which is pretty much the only thing you can say in a case like this.
A documentary will be coming out on December 10th that will examine allegations of wrong doings by three of Korea’s largest Christian churches. Titled “Quo Vadis“(Latin for “Where are you going?”) the documentary was made by Kim Jae-hwan, a self identified Christian, who says he spent $270,000 USD of his own money to make it.
(Photo from Los Angeles Times via Han Cinema)
According to a L.A. Times article on the documentary:
Kim [Jae-hwan], a Christian, said South Korea’s media have gone soft on the churches because of their significant political influence and financial clout. His goal: to spark what he calls an overdue debate on whether churches have lost their moral authority in a quest to accumulate more congregants and money.
Kim centers his greatest condemnations on Korea’s largest Church- Yoido Full Gospel:
One of the scenes in “Quo Vadis” includes a 2013 news conference in which elders from the Seoul-based Yoido Full Gospel Church, purported to be the largest Pentecostal church in the world, asked embattled senior pastor David Yonggi Cho to step down.
The elders accused Cho of using millions of dollars of church funds to buy stock in a company owned by his son. Despite the evidence against Cho, other Yoido elders argued that the allegations were baseless. Cho supporters who barged into the church gathering included one who reached for the throat of a speaker. A brawl ensued. As groups of suited men shoved one another and threw punches, journalists’ cameras rolled.
A few months later, Cho was found guilty of tax evasion and professional negligence. He was sentenced to three years in prison and fined more than $4 million.
The National Assembly’s Strategy and Finance Committee held a meeting with representatives of various religious faiths (Catholic, Evangelical Protestant and Buddhist) for the purpose of discussing how clergy should be taxed. Their plan is to levy an income tax of 22 percent on 20 percent of the incomes earned by ordained clergy. (cite)
Well, out of the three main faiths represented, guess which one threw a fit over the money and threatened fire and brimstone?
Here is a hint: which faith is well known for running a growth-for-profit scheme where the pastor has sole proprietorship of the church and runs some of the world’s most intensive missionary programs, not to mention urinating and defacing Buddhist temples and statues in Korea?
A rather progressive yogurt commercial:
Commentary and background information given by James Turnbull over at The Grand Narrative.
An event has been planned and you’re invited. Really, it’s just a kind of picnic, which my friends and I will again enjoy in lovely Gwanghwamun Plaza, downtown Seoul. We’re thinking of keeping it simple: pizza, kimbap, fried chicken, soft drinks.
What’s the occasion you ask? Well, we are celebrating our right to stuff our faces, “to eat and to live,” in the name of the “public good” because we’ve had it with the vile individuals who have been using our plaza as a site of protest.
(Image from News 1)
What protest? You know that ship that sank back in April and had some people on it who died? Well, their families are protesting about their deaths and the cause of the sinking and something about the government’s investigation. Mostly pointless, annoying stuff, and unpatriotic people (aka commies) who think they can occupy our public plaza because someone in their family drowned and they haven’t gotten over it.
Why a picnic? We decided that since these families have been on some sort of hunger strike, not eating, that we’ll show up and chow down right in front of them, filling our faces with supreme pizza, fried chicken and some good old kimbap, all washed down with a chilled cola or two. If they’re not going to eat, then we will. We’re calling it a “food binge strike,” an “eat-in” if you will. Sounds cool doesn’t it?
Plus, to be honest, we’ve just had it in general and we’re not going to take it anymore. We can’t let our nation get hijacked by protesting families, whining women, greedy migrant workers and other pariahs. It’s our time to rise up.
What did you say? That’s vile, reprehensible, misanthropic, shameless, and just plain dumb. Well, 18 you jongbuk sonuvabitch.
U.N. special rapporteur on contemporary forms of racism, racial discrimination, xenophobia and related intolerance was in Seoul and apparently didn’t like everything he saw:
Ruteere said that South Korea has made “important progress” in addressing the issue of racism and xenophobia, given its history of ethnic and cultural homogeneity.
The country, however, now confronts “emerging challenges” due to an influx of foreigners and migrant workers who are contributing to social change and a shift from a migrant-sending country to a migration destination.
“I found incidents or problems that are serious enough to merit attention (in South Korea),” Ruteere told a press conference, without elaborating.
Ruteere showed particular concern for the rights of migrant laborers and called on Seoul to ratify the International Convention on the Protection of the Rights of All Migrant Workers and Members of Their Families.
He did address other aspects of racism in Korea, though, too. For instance, he notes that in the vast majority of cases, policies for multicultural families apply only to foreign women who marry Korean men, not the other way around.
He also argued against Korea’s immigration policies, which focus on assimilation, saying, “My understanding of multiculturalism is to strengthen intercultural understanding. It is not a one-way street, but a two-way street…Koreans have a lot to learn from their migrants, and the culture of their migrants. True multiculturalism means learning from both sides.”
Some might argue with the last point, but OK.
He also called on Korea to adopt a comprehensive anti-discrimination act. Now, I think I’ve expressed skepticism about such a law before, and while nobody would argue that the media shouldn’t be responsible, I’m not entirely comfortable with rhetoric like this:
“(It is also important) to ensure that the media is sensitive of the responsibility to avoid racist and xenophobic stereotypes and that these are properly addressed and perpetrators punished where appropriate.”
Emphasis mine. “Punishing perpetrators” can mean anything, of course, including some pretty outrageous things, let alone what groups like the OIC would do with that principle if they could. Being an asshole shouldn’t be a criminal offense.
Anyway, on Twitter, Benjamin Wagner reminds us:
— Benjamin Wagner (@benkwagner) October 5, 2014
Korea gov has declared UN #CERD treaty against racial discrimination "has same authority as domestic law" & can be cited in Korea courts.
— Benjamin Wagner (@benkwagner) October 5, 2014
Kim Young-Oh is hungry but more sad than hungry.
Mr. Kim lost his 16-year-old daughter to the Sewol Ferry disaster and he collapsed from his hunger protest last Friday and has been hospitalized.
Mr. Kim was demanding that a fully independent investigator be assigned to the Sewol case instead of a government-connected prosecutor. A bill has been proposed but rejected because a government-connected prosecutor is a problem for many because there has been a profound and long-held distrust of the government under the majority Saenuri Party, which has had a troubled history of manipulating events at the expense of the public’s trust. Because of the reluctance of the ruling party to give such powers over to a non-aligned prosecutor, – citing constitutional problems as being the reason – Mr. Kim decided to fast.
Along with Mr. Kim’s fast, an all too common problem has been demonstrated, once again and that is a major problem of not just Korean politics but of most two-party political systems.
The real problem is a political system that is so degraded that it is suffering under a “false dilemma” – also known as “black-and-white thinking”. Such an inflexible mindset is best exemplified in a two-party political system, which produces a either-or way of voting. Due to the bi-polar (black or white) mentality of the political system in South Korea, many Koreans have assumed that:
Mr. Kim is a likely a bad man, that wants money, that failed to be a good parent and is probably a Communist and wants to wrench control of the country from the ruling party
OR . . .
Mr. Kim is a victim of the corruption of the ruling party that controls the government (at this moment) and is a hero that can help end the unjust rule of corrupt conservative politicians.
Actually, Mr. Kim is neither A or B.
There are several aspects to this situation.
Since the Sewol disaster, the NPAD faction and other supposed civic groups have offered their assistance to the parents of the kids that perished from the disaster, using it partly for their political agenda. According to one parent, many did not want such help from the start:
Another father of a victim said some family members did not want left-wing activists helping them, as it compromised their political neutrality. “Some of us didn’t want to mingle with them, but at that time we were office workers who didn’t know how to speak up for ourselves,” he said. “So I thought we needed their support.” (cite)
The NPAD has also begun a boycott of government, bringing most legislative activity to a halt since this seems to be one of their areas of expertise.
Then there is that HUMONGOUS problem of credibility (sabotaging a prosecutor general, NIS-generated electioneering, etc.) , which the Saenuri-Hanara Dang/Administration has lacked, except in parts of the country where they enjoy an older constituency that vote out of that false dilemma thinking called regionalism. I had a conversation with a fellow (over 50) in Daegu recently where he said he believed that Mr. Kim was a contemptible fellow, who was holding out for more money. To this self-described Saenuri supporter, it was all about money since there could not possibly be any other reason for Mr. Kim’s fast.
Very black-and-white in Daegu.
Meanwhile, many Koreans, that are against the Saenuri Dang feel that the ruling party does not want a truely independant investigation because of so much corruption tied to the ferry owner and people higher up in the ruling party. The government’s citing constitutional problems as being the reason why independant investigators can not be allowed is seen by many as being a “false choice” or “a deliberate attempt to eliminate several options that may occupy the middle ground on an issue”.
As for Mr. Kim? – he has said that “I have a headache. I have a headache because of politicians in South Korea, . . . We want to find why more than 300 people died unfairly. We want to clarify this and hold a person in charge accountable”. He does not want money – he wants accountability so that his daughter’s short life and death will not have been in vain.
When there is such a firmly encamped case of the false dilemma, there can be parity only after much struggle since this way of thinking quickly becomes a device of the few that manipulate the many for gain, for example, currently there is an “ice-bucket challenge” that has become a popular way to raise the awareness of Lou Gehrig’s disease – a disease that can strike anyone no matter which political party they belong to. The challenge is “to promote awareness of the disease amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS) and encourage donations to research” . . .
However . . .
Both Rep. Park Jie-won of the opposition New Politics Alliance for Democracy (NPAD) and Saenuri Chairman Kim Moo-sung have both taken the challenge not so much to donate money to fighting ALS but as a tool for political means, as per Kim Moo-sung’s statement “Please persuade hawkish lawmakers [within the NPAD] after sorting out your thoughts with some cold water” followed by Park Jie-won’s comment “Though I participated [in the charity event] there are still people gravely concerned over the passage of the Sewol law and who are still waiting for the return of their loved ones. I hope that ice bucket challenge and the Sewol bucket challenge will go together”.
I give you a visual example of the false dilemma on ice.
Yoon Yeo-joon also sees all of this as well but, like him, we are left without a ready solution. IMHO, the change will have to come from the people – without the aid of any current party and in a manner that can not be co-opted. That will take time and probably something unforeseen.
Kakao Corp. and Daum Communications announced that they will adopt the anti-hierarchical office culture of Kakao Corp. after their merger in October. All workers and executives will be required to call each other by English first names: “Some 1,600 employees currently at Daum will choose a new English name for this, and by doing so, we hope to further promote the two firms’ work ethics that prioritize openness and active participation as well as create a synergy effect between the two groups.”
From Yonhap: “Of course, it may feel weird or awkward for people to call each other by a foreign name, but we’ll see how this system settles in when business begins at the new Daum-Kakao in October,” said Kang Yukyeong, a communications official at Daum.
From Korea Times: “All workers at Kakao call co-CEO Lee Sir-goo by his English first name Vino.” Kakao employee Dallas said he felt “‘kind of awkward’ when he first joined Kakao about six months ago. ‘It didn’t take so long before I became used to being called my English name and calling others by their English names. I realized we are encouraged to make active communication in the office even with CEO.'”
State-sponsored Arirang News broadcast a piece, IT companies in Korea change corporate culture to promote innovation (video starts at 9:02): “Could the seemingly minor changes bring about real changes to Korea’s innovation potential? A recent innovation index ranked Korea 16th out of 77 countries– higher than Japan or China. But when it came to the so-called tolerance index, which measures how much a society tolerates different values and thoughts, Korea was ranked near the bottom at 62.”
The C- Word
News sources and quoted experts cited the move as an attempt to counter Confucian culture:
Yonhap stated in its article,”addressing employees of different ranks by their first name is uncommon in South Korea, where corporate culture is often perceived as rigid and is operated along regimented and hierarchical lines, a reflection of the country’s Confucian roots. Such hierarchy at workplaces is palpable in local companies….”
Arirang News aired a (translated) statement from Kim Jae-hee, Professor of Psychology at Chungang University, “if we look at our Confucianist culture, we were taught that there is a right answer to everything. We were never taught to look for new answers. To foster creativity, we need to learn that there isn’t just one correct answer to everything and understand there could be multiple answers.”
Arirang posed an interesting question: “Could the seemingly minor changes bring about real changes to Korea’s innovation potential?”
If so, how effectively and at what social or cultural cost?
I suspect that the change in some Korean major players’ corporate culture will carry over to Korean corporate culture in general. When casual Fridays and then casual dress came into corporate culture, employees liked and perceived it as a benefit. Employers saw casual dress as a no-cost benefit, and companies that resisted discovered how much the labor marketplace valued casual dress. I suspect that young, professional Korean talent will similarly place a value on casual address companies.
Will this spillover into wider Korean culture and be the end to Korea’s deeply rooted hierarchical culture? I think ‘yes’, and we are witnessing a seminal moment.
Solidifying North Korea’s already dominant position as the more comically entertaining of the two Koreas, Pyongyang reacted to speculation that the three short-range rockets fired off the east coast before Francis’s arrival and the two launched shortly after were in reaction to the Pope’s visit:
“We don’t know and in fact have no interest at all in why he is traveling to South Korea and what he is going to plot with the South Korean puppets,” Pyongyang’s official Korean Central News Agency quoted Kim In-yong, a North Korean rocket scientist, as saying in reference to the pope.
The real question, the report quoted Mr. Kim as saying, was: “Why of all the days of the year, as numerous as the hairs of a cow, did the pope choose to come to the South on the very day we had planned to test our rockets?”
Reading between the lines, I see that North Korea has developed, to what diabolical end I do not know, a strain of nearly hairless cow with precisely 365 hairs in most years. I will continue to monitor North Korean media for references to Kim In-yong or infer in lack thereof that Mr. Kim and his kin got sent to gulags for letting slip state secrets in South Korea’s most widely read English-language blog dealing with Korea-related topics.
Surprisingly (certainly to me), the Catholic Church does have a presence in North Korea. Known as the “silent church”, Pyongyang has sanctioned one Catholic church, which has no official ties to the Vatican and is led by an itinerant South Korean Father John Park who has traveled to Pyongyang once a year since 2000 to celebrate mass. The State maintains strict controls, and I doubt that Father Park administers the sacrament of confession: “a confidential one-on-one conversation between a South Korean — even if that person is a priest — and a North Korean is impossible and both could be accused of espionage.” North Korea has not a single priest residing in the country. The United States claims North Korea’s few state-run churches exist only for the appearance of religious freedom.
As for numbers, the United Nations estimates about 800 Catholics in North Korea while North Korea’s state-run Korean Catholic Association asserts about 3,000 “registered Catholics.” I wonder the reason for the North’s higher number, especially given that the regime is officially atheist.
Members of North Korea’s religious groups and the groups themselves are often criticized as being fake. Here’s MH favorite Andrei Lankov’s take:
“The North Korean government is tolerant of a small controlled religious presence within the country or is willing to fake such presence,” said Andrei Lankov, an associate professor in social sciences at Kookmin University in South Korea.
“Even if some members are true believers, they are selected by the government. The police authorities, the secret police, is checking your background,” he said.
North Korea’s constitution does allow its people to practice religion. However, in the same constitution, it also says it won’t allow it to be “used for drawing in foreign forces or for harming the State or social order.”
Dr. Lankov concluded, “from their (North Korea’s) point of view, it is a very real threat. Right now, Christianity seems to be their most dangerous ideological challenge to the existing regime.”
I would like to ask him whether Christianity in general or Catholicism specifically is the threat. We have seen in our lifetimes the irresistible political force, even to the Soviet Union and a well-backed Communist state and party, that the Catholic Church and pope can be. I wonder could the next pope be Asian or even Korean?
For the Pope’s final mass on Monday for “peace and reconciliation for the Korean peninsula”, Vatican representatives had invited North Korea to send a delegation. North Korea rejected the invitation. The state-run Korean Catholics Association cited the annual joint military exercises between U.S. and South Korean forces as the reason for rejection. Apparently as fervently as they might feel about the Pope, North Korean Catholics feel even more so about the annual joint military exercises.
Duksung Women’s University, the host of the World Congress of Global Partnership for Young Women 2014, has rescinded its invitation to Nigerian participants due to the West African ebola outbreak, but some feel this apparently not enough:
However, it was not enough to cool down intensifying frustration from critics who demanded the entire congress to be called off. Some of the women’s university students and other opponents argue that other African participants from countries like Ghana or Rwanda may have come in contact with the disease.
The students yesterday initiated an online petition to cancel the event, garnering support from more than 15,000 people. Duksung’s official blog and website as well as a bulletin board on the Blue House’s website were bombarded with a flood of posts condemning the school’s hosting of the event.
The school said that it would try its best to prevent any potentially detrimental effects, reassuring the public that health officials would be on the lookout for anyone exhibiting Ebola symptoms, especially among the African participants. The school also said it would have participants stay in a separate building away from the school’s dormitory, reversing its initial plan to accommodate them in the dorms.
“It’s impossible to block the entrance of those from the non-affected countries,” said Heo In-seob, a public relations official with the university. “We are cooperating with the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and the Korea Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. I think that worries are too exaggerated.”
It’s good to be cautious, of course, but one wonders what some of the same netizens might think if foreign netizens called for Korean participants to be banned from an international conference because of a disease outbreak… in Myanmar.
I have a daughter who went to Kindergarten for several years and public school here in Seoul for eight years. She is smart, however, she had problems when she did her big exams. Her weekly scores were fair but the grades on the larger tests were horrible. I didn’t yell at her but her mother worked with her on some subjects, I bought science books and hired a tutor for her math and her scores improved over time.
This last January, I let her go to live with my sister in Nebraska (her aunt who shares the same birthday even) and after two months there, her scores went from a 56 (here) to a 99 percent!
I thought maybe American schools are teaching easier than Korean schools, which in many cases seems to be true since her middle-school classes would introduce subjects that I only got in high school myself, however I then ran across an article from the Atlantic that maintains standardized tests, in America, aren’t actual tests of knowledge but are branded products produced by textbook companies, and getting a good score depends on whether you bought the right books to study. It seems that many schools here in Korea pull their testing material straight from textbooks here, that have a vested interest in making $$$ and some teachers do get gifts from certain publishers, so . . . it turns out I have a smart daughter after all who will not end up working in Wallmart. I only wonder and worry about her friends here and so many other bright Korean kids that have to labour and suffer under this deliberately weighted variable, not to mention the high household debt 1 2 3 here in Korea – much of which is due to educational expenses to help these kids keep up and to study at the *right* places or the very high rate of suicide (the number one reason for death between the ages of 10 and 30) (cite), due to the stress of living. How much income is lost to average Korean households due to this system and how long will the system function before it flips over and sinks?
A new opinion piece in the NY Times discusses the stresses upon Korean kids in being driven by their parents (if not mom) to excel in grades:
. . . She (mother) did not want me to suffer like my brother, who had a chest pain that doctors could not diagnose and an allergy so severe he needed to have shots at home.
I was fortunate that my mother recognized the problem and had the means to take me abroad. Most South Korean children’s parents are the main source of the unrelenting pressure put on students.
The opinion piece is here.
When I picked up The New York Sunday Times from the dirt driveway this morn, there front and center was this story about the man rotting in the weeds. Yes, I know some people still think a conspiracy exists and the man rotting in the weeds was another man despite fingerprints and DNA and what the JoongAng reported but I think they have the right man who was rotting in the weeds to the point where he was mostly rotten. As in life so in death.
The leader of the Salvationists got his salvation in an apricot orchard where maggots feasted on him like he had society for most of his 73 years. Of little surprise, The Times points out that he turned his followers into investors early on:
Money for investment was hard to come by, so by using church members as a source of capital, he was able to build factories and companies at the same time that Samsung and Hyundai rose to prominence, though he never matched their size.
Later, in the late 80s, when one of his many companies ran the Han River tourist boats, the man rotting in the weeds showed what he thought about safety in the face of profit, a philosophy that would lead to the Sewol tragedy:
Even then, Mr. Yoo’s vessels faced criticism for overloading. Once, when his company tried to board more than twice one vessel’s maximum limit of 200 passengers during a busy holiday season, irate passengers almost rioted, said Lee Cheong, a former Salvationist who worked as a crewman on the boat. He said Mr. Yoo watched the melee impassively from the pier.
The man rotting in the weeds will provide a great case study in moral bankruptcy, megalomania, and how to buy your own exhibitions at the Louvre and Versailles in case your godly reputation has suffered from a mass suicide and four years in prison for defrauding your own flock:
Hoping to reinvent him as a Zen-like artistic genius, a family business donated $1.5 million to the Louvre, which then etched his new identity — the pseudonym Ahae — in gold on a marble wall at the museum. The family inaugurated a worldwide tour of his photos at Grand Central Terminal in New York and spent nearly $1 million to rent space as part of a deal to exhibit his work for months at Versailles…
Perhaps turning your back for a million to allow a megalomaniac to hold an exhibition with his pictures can be forgiven, but willfully avoiding responsibilities for the safety of human lives cannot. The sheer negligence of officials and human beings in the marine industry goes beyond sinister. As is laid out in the article, the Korean Register of Shipping, the Coast Guard, the Korean Shipping Association and local government officials all failed to carry out their duties, which led directly to an insanely overloaded, top-heavy, ballast-light Sewol on April 16. Red flags that had been raised four years earlier and just last year about such overloading were ignored, and in January of this year, the following incident prompted company officials to call for the sale of the ship.
[T]he ship’s trouble with balance became glaringly obvious during a port stop in Jeju. Hit by gusts, the ship’s oversize superstructure acted like a huge sail, pinning the vessel to the dock and preventing it from departing. The episode was worrisome enough to company officials in Jeju that they sent a report to their management warning of the ship’s instability, prosecutors say.
Yet the man rotting in the weeds vetoed a request to sell the ship and, instead, called for more cargo perhaps knowing that no one would notice or care—until more than 300 lives, most of them high school students, came to an end in the cold dark seas off Donggeochado. Someday maybe we’ll learn what the man rotting in the weeds thought about all this but, at least for me, it is enough to know that as April turned to May, with June and justice around the corner, the man who had for so long put profit over people decided it was best that he go rot in the weeds.
President Xi of the People’s Republic of China, and a large entourage of Chinese businessmen (Alibaba, Baidu), are currently visiting South Korea. The PRC is hoping for improved business ties but this time, there is, IMHO, the possibility of a sea change on the Korean peninsula.
Why and how?
China wants to change that status quo – they want to do so through money and through a redefinition of regional security – without American influence.
First, in business, China is proposing the foundation of a $50 billion “Asian Infrastructure Investment Bank”, first proposed by President Xi in October 2013, during a tour of Southeast Asia. This bank would have the PRC holding a fifty-percent stake in this bank and has hinted at benefits to those nations that participate and Xi’s visit to Seoul, currently under way is very much about the benefits to South Korea. (we will get to what South Korea might actually want from joining this venture shortly). South Korea has expressed an intent to become an offshore trading centre in Chinese currency (renminbi) and this current meeting is expected to address this as well.
For South Korea, this is useful and important since South Korea’s two-way trade with China was $229 billion last year, exceeding the combined value of South Korea’s trade with the U.S. and Japan. Xi told reporters after the 2013 summit that the two countries will strive to boost their trade to top $300 billion (cite). This trade has been hampered by the fact that both countries transactions have been based in US Dollars (because the Yuan and Won are not directly traded) which costs more and reflects the indirect influence of things American in Asia. A statement from South Korea’s finance ministry and central bank said the South Korean won will become directly exchangeable with the yuan, joining major currencies such as the U.S. dollar, Japanese yen and euro that are convertible with the Chinese currency. The decision also makes the yuan only the second currency after the U.S. dollar that is directly convertible with the won. (cite)
China has also given consent to South Korea’s investment of tens of billions of yuan (billions of USD) in Chinese bonds and stocks. The PRC Government is encouraging businesses to invest in Korea as well. Chinese investors are highly interested in cultural content, software and real estate development, thus would explain the drive by the Korean side to have Chinese investment in the so far failed Saemangeum Project (cite) or the attempt at luring Chinese investment in the Yeosu – Dadohae Haesang National Park area, as well as some yet to be announced projects.
There is also the issue of the recent Conference on Interaction and Confidence Building Measures in Asia (CICA) and the PRCs desire to exclude powers – such as the U.S. – from regional security, suggesting an arrangement, guided by the PRC that is more than a little reminiscent of the Greater East Asia Co-Prosperity Sphere plan of Showa Japanese origin. As reported in The Diplomat:
Xi called for the creation of a “new regional security cooperation architecture.” He proposed that CICA become “a security dialogue and cooperation platform” for all of Asia, from which countries can explore the possibility of creating a regional security framework. He further indicated that China would take a leading role in exploring the creation of a “code of conduct for regional security and [an] Asian security partnership program.”
In promoting China’s vision for a new regional security framework, Xi took specific aim at the basis for the current status quo: military alliances. Xi tied such alliances to “the outdated thinking of [the] Cold War.” “We cannot just have security for one or a few countries while leaving the rest insecure,” Xi said. “A military alliance which is targeted at a third party is not conducive to common regional security.” Xi in turn offered an alternative vision for Asia, one based on an all-inclusive regional security framework rather than individual alliances with external actors like the United States.” (cite )
The real horse dealing that is not hinted at in the Korean press (which has been very quiet yet unmistakably pro-Chinese) is how will the PRC, under Xi, will resolve the issue of reunification between the two Koreas. The South Korean Government reportedly wants substantial help from Xi for making reunification a reality – in both financial aid and in the momentum that can only come from the DPRK’s only substantial supporter. Though many believe that the PRC will likely not destabilize the DPRK, if the ROK buys into the Chinese sphere of financial and political influence, rejects the American presence in the region and further guarantees their responsibility in dealing with the potential North Korean refugee problem, I honestly don’t see how a belligerent DPRK could possibly avoid change and reunification with the southern half since it would be a matter of survival to do so.
I suppose this is logical; solving Korea’s problem long-standing problem with the north and the cost of unification, while resulting in the exit of America’s influence in Korea and pushing the US further out of the region and likely gaining more support for the egregious regional claims made by the PRC. There is little America can do about this too, since the Chinese have the means to deliver the reality of unification to South Korea and whereas the U.S. can not.
Looking into a Sino-Korean future; also worrisome is the shortage of personnel to staff the larger Korean projects and the increased likelihood that more Chinese will see living and working in Korea as business ties and opportunities grow in the future. What impact this will have on Korean society remains to be seen and considering the tremendous potential influx of money into Korea, the Korea of fifty years from now will likely be a very different one from what we observe today in terms of world view and its relationship with Europe and the US. Some may even talk about Korea as being a Chinese colony, wistfully remembering the days when their elders talked about how Korea was really an American colony.
News1 reports that the Evangelical Baptist Church members accused of helping Yoo Byung-eun escape justice have been using Viber—an American application similar to KakaoTalk—to communicate with one another.
Because Viber’s servers are overseas, it’s hard for the authorities to bug them, and local investigators can’t conduct search and seizures.
Interestingly enough, Viber became famous in Korea because then-presidential candidate Ahn Cheol-soo—himself a cybersecurity expert—used it to communicate with his campaign folk, citing security.
The church folk are apparently changing their USIM cards, too.