The Marmot's Hole

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Category: Korean Society (page 1 of 36)

Hot or Cold – The False Dilemma of Korean Politics

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”. 

ice-bucket

Photo courtesy of NEWSIS.

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.

Daum and Kakao Are On a First Name Basis

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.

Pyongyang’s Non-(?) Reaction, North Korean Catholicism(!), and Lankov

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.

Africa’s a big place, folk

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.

Testing For Money Spent – Why Standardized Testing is Rigged

here_I_amI 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?

Update

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.

The Man Rotting in the Weeds

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.

nyt

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.

A New Era in Korea – Minus the American Influence

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.

Evangelical Baptist Church fugitives use evil foreign app to evade justice

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.

GOP rampage suspect captured, but questions remain

The soldier who went on a rampage at his DMZ guard post in Gangwon-do has been caught—alive, no less—but the story is by no means over.

The Ministry of Defense is saying there are a lot of potential problem soldiers in the military. How many, you might ask? This many:

Speaking at a June 23 morning briefing on a recent incident in which a soldier identified by his surname Lim fatally shot five colleagues, ministry spokesman Kim Min-seok explained, “The 22nd Infantry Division [where Lim worked] has around 1,800 troops listed as ‘requiring special attention’ in the three categories of A, B, and C, or about 20% of all troops.”

Kim went on to say, “They’re not all clustered in the 22nd Division. There’s just generally a lot of soldiers that require attention.”

When asked by a reporter if the issue extended throughout the military, Kim said, “I believe the rate is similar [around 20%] for the military as a whole.”

Lim was one such soldier:

According to the Army, Lim enlisted in December 2012 after his freshman year in college and was assigned to the 22nd division in February 2013.

However, he was sidelined from performing patrols at the border in April last year following the outcome of a military-conducted personality test, which showed that he required special attention.

Lim’s test results put him in the highest Level A, indicating that he needed extra supervision and was mentally unfit to perform the border patrols. Level C is for those who just joined the Army less than four months ago or are deemed too weak to perform their duties.

But just seven months later, the sergeant was downgraded to Level B, which enabled him to perform border patrol duties, a task that carries a high risk. One military official, who spoke on the condition of anonymity, said that Lim’s unit downgraded his personality assessment because he had shown improvement in his character in the time since.

The problem, both military and non-military folk say, is that the army’s chronic manpower shortages—which won’t be getting any better—make it necessary to put “soldiers of interest” on the DMZ for guard duty. One army captain who lead a platoon on the DMZ told Newsis that in some platoons, half the guys are “soldiers of interest.”

Meanwhile, the military response to the incident is being criticized for being something of a clusterfuck, with poor communication between the military and the police, belated orders to evacuate civilians, and a friendly fire incident in which one trooper almost got his head blown off.

As for why a guy with only three months left in the service would go postal, it appears he was just a very introverted guy who did not get along with his fellow soldiers and, on a practical level, may have been treated lower than his actual rank.

UPDATE: Great, if somewhat disconcerting, photograph from the standoff:

How do you get Korean rightwingers to protest in front of the US embassy?

By having the US embassy support the Korean Queer Festival, that’s how!

The Gidok Ilbo (“Christian Times”) reports that the Korean Citizens’ Alliance for a Healthy Society held a protest in front of the US embassy on Saturday to protest the support the embassy had given to the Queer Festival (HT to Kim Tong-hyung).

In a statement, the group said they could not help but be dumbstruck that the US embassy, crying about human rights for sexual minorities, would participate in the Queer Festival at a time when Koreans were exercising prudence in word and action as the nation overcomes deep wounds and pain.

(Marmot’s Note: Which is perfectly understandable, BTW, because as we all know, it was really the gays that sank the Sewol.)

According to the report, the US embassy set up a booth at the Queer Festival and provided active support for the car parade and other festival events.

The group asked, “The United States is causing many problems as it pursues pro-gay policies like the recent expansion of same-sex marriage legalization, but is it now trying to expand homosexuality in not just the United States, but Korea, too?” They said homosexuality was the main culprit in the occurrence of AIDS, and that homosexuals were at high risk of getting AIDS. They that the number of patients who contracted AIDS due to homosexual activity in Korea is rising like the United States, and asked if the United States was trying to export AIDS, too, to Korea through its gay diplomacy.

The group also said homosexuality was causing many tensions in Korean society. With homosexuals pressuring to even permit homosexuality in the military, there was great tension between the majority of Koreans and homosexuals, they said, and criticized the United States for contributing to even greater tension by supporting homosexuals.

And in language that should make any progressive opponent of Western cultural imperialism proud, the group said the situation in Korea was very different from that of America, and that if the United States is a true partner of Korea, it must respect Korean culture. It called on the United States to immediately cease its policies that are causing social tension by exporting homosexuality to Korea. It also called on the US embassy to stop its support for the Queer Festival and demanded that President Obama apologize to Korea for the US embassy’s high-handedness.

Meanwhile, the Homosexual Issue Countermeasures Committee (or however they translate their name) said there were reports that the US, French and German embassies had set up booths at the Queer Festival, and the overseas trend to recognize homosexuality was growing. It also said there should be strong protests that said embassies were engaging in activities the Korean people did not want.

Feel free to read Christian Today’s account of the Queer Festival here. Apparently some Christian/conservative groups clashed with festival-goers and were arrested for their efforts (see also here).

PS: Just out of curiosity, did the embassy actually give official support to the Korea Queer Festival?

UPDATE: First queer festivals. Then Spider Man with a boner. This nation is truly going in the crapper.

Nothing says ‘gender equality’ like blaming rape on women dressing provocatively

So, Seoul National University professor of medicine and forensic expert Lee Yoon-seong was invited to speak at a ceremony to mark the launch of the Korean Institute for Gender Equality Promotion and Education last December.

And speak he did:

In a lecture at the launch of the Korean Institute for Gender Equality Promotion and Education last December, Lee claimed there was a direct link between how a woman dressed and how much she was vulnerable to rape and other sex crimes.

“Absolutely, 100 percent of the sex crimes are committed by men. Men instinctively need they feel to spread their ‘seeds’ to produce healthy offspring,” Lee said, according to vernacular daily Hankyoreh, a disturbing comment that revealed his detachment from reality.

“If there is money on the street, somebody will pick it up. If there is a woman walking around with sexy clothing, there will be somebody who rapes her … I personally love watching beautiful flowers,” Lee said.

Well, who doesn’t love watching beautiful flowers?

Clearly on a roll, Lee added, “If I am on the subway and a woman wears clothing that reveals her panties or there are girls who are dressed sexily, then of course I will look at them. Aren’t they dressing like that because they want to be seen?”

You can read the original Hankyoreh report (in Korean) here. Lee reportedly also said the Korean woman who was raped in India was victimized because she wore revealing clothing. Pure class.

Mind you, it would seem Lee’s attitudes are shared by at least some folk at the soon-to-be-renamed Ministry of Security and Public Administration:

Yoo’s daughter faces extradition back to Korea

Nice apartment. And welcome back to Korea.

Well, welcome back eventually. Ye Olde Chosun reports that Yoo’s daughter has retained the services of rockstar lawyer Patrick Maisonneuve:

But Yoo Sum-na has hired a high-profile lawyer to fight the extradition

Patrick Maisonneuve has defended a PR agency that was linked to an election funding scandal involving former French President Nicolas Sarkozy and Omar Bongo, the former leader of Gabon. In 2009, Maisonneuve also defended the Church of Scientology on charges of profiting illegally.

81-year-old guy with dementia charged with setting hospital fire: report

Ye Olde Chosun is reporting that an 81-year-old man by the name of Kim has been arrested on charges with setting the fire at the convalescent hospital in Jangseong, Jeollanam-do that killed 21 and injured eight.

The man had previously been treated at the hospital for dementia.

The hospital’s CCTV apparently got Kim entering and leaving the room where the fire originated one minute prior to the start of the blaze.

I’m sure we’ll be learning more soon.

UPDATE: Kim was apparently still a patient. And police think he started the fire by setting bedding alight with a lighter, although why he did so, they do not know. For what it’s worth, the guy—who is apparently with it enough to undergo questioning—is denying the charges.

Back by Popular Demand: Crap I Read Today, May 20, 2014

- Fire at a power plant yesterday, explosion on a subway today. When it rains, it pours.

- If you were wondering how to spin the Sewol disaster into an opportunity for national reunification, see John Feffer’s “Koreas united by rule-breaking spirit” in the Asia Times (HT to Joshua).

- KORAIL’s union is claiming that over half the KTXs are running on wheels that need reprofiling.

- Do does this mean if I grow rich and found my own cult, I can unsafely modify a ferry to move my photos off Tumblr? Not that I’d want to move my photos off Tumblr, of course—Tumblr has been quite good to me recently.

- Well, maybe not as good as the Louvre was to Yoo (HT to KB):

To be fair to Mr. Loyrette, he wasn’t the only director of a high-profile museum to get snookered.

- So, just how many public organization heads were “parachuted” in from the ministries or the political parties under President Park? Nearly 50%: 75 out of 153. And only 7% have been women. Read the bloody details in the linked article. Needless to say, a bit disappointing from a president who has repeatedly pledged to stop doing that sort of thing. But not surprising, either.

- More stuff about the Geumsuwon compound in Anseong. Seems like not everyone there is playing by the same playbook.

And then there’s Samsung

If you haven’t read it yet, Kurt Eichenwald’s piece on the Great Samsung—Apple War in Vanity Fair is a MUST READ.

Samsung does not come off very well at all, but to be honest, my impression after reading the story is that the Korean electronics giant should count itself lucky—it could have come off much, much worse.

And that’s all I’m going to say about that because, well, not to put too fine a point on it, but Samsung scares the shit out of me.

Meanwhile, earlier this week, Samsung rather unexpectedly apologized to workers who contracted cancer at the company’s semiconductor factories and their surviving family members (read that Businessweek piece in full). Of course, there’s still negotiating to do before Samsung, like, compensates anyone, but I suppose a start’s a start.

(HT to KB, Colin)

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