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Category: Korean Society (page 2 of 37)

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?


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.


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)

Yoo still ignoring summons; his cult is batshit insane

Following up on Yuna’s earlier post, former Semo Group chairman Yoo Byung-eon is still ignoring a summons for questioning.

Now prosecutors are asking for a detention warrant:

Judging that Yoo could flee or destroy evidence, the prosecution office asked a district court to issue the warrant to detain him for questioning.
The prosecution office said if Yoo once again fails to appear at a court hearing that is to decide whether to issue the warrant, it will seek out other measures to detain the disgraced businessman.

And by other measures, what prosecutors mean is that they’ll probably raid the compound of the Evangelical Baptist Church in Anseong, where Yoo is believed to be hiding. They can’t be looking forward to it, though, as members of the church—cult, really—are forming human barricades to stop the law from moving in. And they may be willing to protect Yoo, a founding member of the church, with their lives:

Even if the prosecutors decided on forced entry, detaining Yoo will not be an easy task.

Jeong Dong-sub, a leader of a victims’ group of heretical sects’ and a former member of the Salvation Sect, said the cult members are likely to be faithful to their words that they will “stop the authorities with their lives.” He said in a radio interview that Yoo’s father-in-law likened him to Jesus, while some members actually think Yoo is God.

If this goes down Waco or Jonestown-style, I won’t be the least bit surprised.

Anyway, prosecutors suspect Yoo and his family were up to their eyeballs in all manners of maleficence, although in what is either a touching display of loyalty or batshit insanity, his aides are saying Yoo had nothing to do with Cheonghaejin Marine:

Yoo — a businessman, artist, ex-convict and religious figure — may face a host of corruption charges, including embezzlement, dereliction of duty, tax evasion and bribery, according to prosecutors. They suspect he controls Chonghaejin Marine through two of his sons, who own stakes in the firm through various subsidiaries.

However, his close aides have so far denied his involvement in the management of Chonghaejin Marine and a dozen other affiliates, saying that he does not have any stake in them.

The prosecution suspects that the Yoo family established three paper companies to create slush funds and illegally transfer money abroad by embezzling corporate funds while failing to fulfill the duty of properly managing the companies.

Embezzlement, tax evasion, fleeing from justice, fanatical followers and megalomaniac family heads* controlling companies they hold little or no equity in… it’s like every bad chaebol practice rolled into one!

* If you ARE a chaebol head reading this, I don’t mean you, of course. I mean your competitors.

(HTs to a few people, but mostly KB)

손석희’s interview with 정몽준 on JTBC

정몽준, Saenuri’s candidate for the position of Seoul City Mayor has been on the news after he was interviewed by 손석희 on JTBC.

He has been in the news following the Sewol disaster due to his son’s statement only a few days after the tragedy that “the President is having a hard time due to 미개한 국민성 (uncivilized/primitive national character of the people)”.
He has also been in the news due to his wife being charged for campaigning for himself (somebody in a current political position) a violation of election law according to the election committee.

Here he is being interviewed, and answering questions on this issue, as well as some other issues. 손석희 says he would not question him on his son’s statements, and 정몽준 says “well saying you won’t is the same as (being questioned)”

On the charge against his wife, he says that things are not so clear cut – the rules of election, and also says that the way the media is treating it, it’s as if “his wife has distributed money-filled envelopes”. He then goes on to add “she asked people to vote for “the candidate that would win” and did not specifically mention his name.”

He also calls 손석희 “우리 손사장님” in a sarcastic manner during the interview when he is in a pinch.

What comes across very strongly is his character as well as the level of intelligence during the interview.

NYT becomes Korean political battleground. Again.

A group of Korean-Americans in Los Angeles has placed a full-page ad in the New York Times blasting the Park administration for a) its handling of the Sewol disaster and b) weakening democracy in Korea.

You can read a pdf of the ad here. The group that released the ad has more stuff in English at their website and at their Indeigogo page. The campaign apparently began on MissyUSA, a site for Korean immigrant women in the United States that, last time I remember reading anything about them, was where some folk were conducting a signature campaign against the KORUS FTA in 2011.

Needless to say, how you feel about said ad largely depends on your political bend:

The ad got a mixed response back in Korea. While conservatives condemned it as treachery and an act of agitation, liberals claimed the Park administration deserves such humiliation abroad given the extent of its wrongdoings.

The ruling Saenuri Party yesterday expressed concerns about the campaign overseas, defining it as “instigation.”

“When some people believe that political factions are trying to instigate the public, we need to be much more cautious,” Hwang Woo-yea, president of the party, told the members of its Supreme Council yesterday. “I am extremely worried that those factions are perpetrating various acts of sedition via overseas media.”

According to reports, Korean-American opinion about the ad is divided, too. I find it hard not to sympathize with “John” here:

”I understand people are angry. We are all furious about the tragedy, but what do we get out of publicly condemning the government in a New York Times ad? What’s with all these New York Times ads anyway?’’ says John, 44, a PR firm executive in New York who didn’t want to disclose his last name.

”Being in the marketing and public relations industry, I know that this newspaper ad is going to do very little to help organizers get what they want,’’ he said.

Other overseas Korean groups will release statements of their own refuting the NYT ad.

I’m sort of frustrated with everybody involved in this story. I actually agree with the folk who posted the ad that there are journalistic practices that need improving and the government’s handling of both public relations and the press has been, as usual, hamfisted. I’d love to learn more about what happened to a Korean-German journalist who was allegedly harassed by the Korean embassy after writing something critical of the government in Die Zeit. That said, I’ve read so much bitching about what the government did or didn’t do during and after the sinking that if the government really is trying to control and sensor the media, it’s doing a piss poor job of it.

And I’ll be honest—the Sewol sinking is starting to remind me a lot of another recent maritime outrage, the 2010 sinking of the Cheonan. And by that, I mean that just as everybody became an expert on naval engineering and forensics in the aftermath of the Cheonan sinking, now it seems everybody’s an expert on maritime search and rescue. Do I think the government is being 100% honest about the sinking? No. Do I think Park’s detractors really know what they are talking about? No, I don’t think anybody knows at this point. Do I think the government is trying to spin events to minimize the political damage? Yes. Do I think certain elements of the opposition are cynically using the tragedy to attack the government politically? Yes. Do I think the NYT ad represents said cynical use of the tragedy to score political points against the government? Yes. Do I think the government, its paranoia heightened, may react to the ad in a way that at least partially justifies the complaints made by the people who ran it? Yes.

Like I said, it’s pretty much all bad.

(HT to the folk who sent me links)

Not a banner month for public safety in Korea

A subway train apparently rear-ended a stationary one at Sangwangsimni Station, Line 2, leaving 170 with slight injuries.

According to the government (make of that what you will), many of the injuries came from passengers disobeying orders:

One subway car was derailed and passengers walked a short distance along the tracks to the station, YTN television said.

Many of the injuries were caused by passengers jumping from the subway cars onto the tracks, a government emergency official said.
An onboard announcement initially told passengers to stay inside, but most people ignored it and forced the doors open to escape, he said.

Can’t wait for that to be spun culturally.

A friend of mine sent me a tweet with an image of passengers walking along the rails:

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