The Marmot's Hole

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Category: South Korea (page 1 of 208)

Are South Koreans ignorant?

Ipsos Mori, a U.K. market research company has come up with an “ignorance” index of the world’s 14 most developed countries.  In defining “ignorance” Ipsos came up with nine questions about the 14 countries in the survey and asked an appropriate sample size of citizens of each country the nine questions about their respective country.

The results?

Ipsos MORI Perils of Perception: Index of Ignorance

(Image from Ipsos)

The questions were basic social facts about each country such as the rate of teen births, people over the age of 65, immigration rates, life expectancy, etc.  I took the test (available here) for both the U.S. and South Korean and I got a seven and eight out of nine questions right, respectively.

Japan (number 12) appears to blow Korea out of the water here.  Italy isn’t that surprising.  The U.S. at number two isn’t terribly surprising either, unfortunately.  Sweden, as usual in these type of indexes, outperforms.

A couple of Sewol updates

A few Sewol odds and ends that happened over the past couple of days:

UPDATE

The remains of the latest victim turned out to be that of 17 year old girl Hwang Ji-hyeon, an 11th-grade student from Danwon High School.  Her parents said her body was discovered on her 18th birthday.

Fabrication of Evidence – the NIS Saga Continues

A court has convicted two NIS (National Intelligence Service) counterintelligence officials of fabricating Chinese government documents to build a spy case against a refugee from North Korea.  An excellent article by Choe Sang-hun is to be found here.  The judge, Kim Woo-soo said:

(the agents) seriously obstructed the function of the criminal justice of the country, . . . they betrayed the trust the people placed in the National Intelligence Service when it gave it both power and responsibility.

This decision comes after so many mistakes from this agency and an administration that is not intent upon fixing them, though there is much said about such.

A Decent Japanese Village Vs. Ugly Hate Groups

korean_busters

Photo by Tyler Sipe, NYTimes

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

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

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

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

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

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

The article is here.

Keep Reaching for the Stars, Korea

The KT ran a link on its homepage to a piece, Olivia Hussey has half-Korean son.

For those of you who might not remember, Hussey is best known for her role as Juliet in Franco Zeffirelli’s Romeo and Juliet (an inverse-bowdlerization of that otherwise HS freshman English snooze fest, Romeo and Juliet), playing opposite the ageless Zac Efron‘s Romeo.  Thoughts of Hussey reminded me of the best (full disclosure: only) mammaries I had in high school.

According to the article in the venerable KT, “Academy Award-winning 1968 film ‘Romeo and Juliet’ Max Fusestar Olivia Hussey’s half-Korean son is receiving the nation’s spotlight.”

For those whose animal appetites have been whet to a frothy, rabid peak, “his name is Max Fuse, her 30-year-old son born from her second marriage with Japanese musician Akira Fuse who was a Korean descendent.”

And what, pray tell, you might ask has Max Fuse done, had done to him, had sex with, or in some other way accomplished to garner the nation’s spotlight?  “Max began to attract attentions (sic) following the recent news that shed lights (sic) on Hussey’s 20-year-old daughter from her third marriage India Eisley.”  (Note to KT copy editor:  “…Hussey’s 20-year old daughter, India Eisley, from her third marriage.”)

India Eisley appears to be in the doey-eyed ingénue business and positioning herself for a long, multi-decades run as such.

The KT performed a fine piece of investigative and research journalism to uncover Max Fuse’s “half-Korean” roots but has decided not to reveal its sources.  Max Fuse is as anonymous on the internet as any anonymous Joe, and googling “Max Fuse” summons a single hit (about his Japanese roots) and others about a line of Air Jordans.  His father’s Wikipedia page neglects to mention, if not conspiratorially covers up, Akira Fuse’s Korean roots and intimates that his biggest claim to fame is his defunct marriage to Hussey.  From the article’s first sentence:

Akira Fuse (布施 明 Fuse Akira?, born on December 18, 1947 in Tokyo) is a Japanese singer, who was once married to Olivia Hussey.

His Wikipedia page prominently displays the following warning:

The topic of this article may not meet Wikipedia’s notability guideline for music. Please help to establish notability by adding reliable, secondary sources about the topic. If notability cannot be established, the article is likely to be merged, redirected, or deleted.

Phew.  …And to think all this started because I wanted to know how those KT math wizards calculated “half-Korean” for Olivia Hussey’s son.  At least I now know that the nationwide Beatles-esque frenzy Max Fuse inspires in Korea explains the traffic jam I sat hours in during Friday evening’s commute through Seoul.


As the KT continues in its mission to develop the local angle and guided by its credo that “all news is local”, my inside sources at the KT have leaked exclusively for TMH’s inquiring minds tomorrow’s piece on Leonardo DiCaprio’s half-sister, from his mother’s second marriage, overheard at a NoCal all-you-can-eat Chinese buffet saying how much she “loves this Korean sushi” while gorging herself on kimbap.

As Casey Kasem said signing off from America’s Top 40, “keep your head in the clouds and keep reaching for the stars”, Korea.

Some of the Real K-pop – LeeSA

LeeSa

LeeSA doing her cover of “Red”.

I have spent a good bit of time listening to chaebol music and, though the production skills are good, it leaves me wanting to hear something fresh – something fresh like LeeSA (리싸).  She has a great voice and her covers really do sound good, so much that I prefer listening to her version. Her version of “Red” is really nice.  The stripped down versions of these covers are great because the music is not hiding under a pile of audio tricks, sampling and ProTools plug-ins – Just basic mixing.

As happens with most indie Korean artists, LeeSA has a notable presence on youtube, which is lucky for listeners looking for something different from South Korea that has something to do with music and not “music business”.

Other great original songs, such as “Could You Stop that Smile” are here.

Open Thread: October 19, 2014

My whirlwind weekend tour of Korea’s October festivals continues.  Yesterday, I took Anonymous_Family to Yeonan University’s Fall Flower Festival.   Here’s the only pic that I could crop out Anonymous_Kids:

Cheonan Yeonan Flower Festival

For those interested in a literal breath of fresh air from Itaewon and Hongdae, the college’s campus is beautiful, the prettiest I’ve seen in Korea.  With red brown brick buildings and landscaped acreage, Yeonan’s reminded me of a small New England or mid-West college’s campus.  The drive (you will need a car) is just over the Pyeongtaek border in Chungcheongnamdo through amber fields of waving Asian grains.  We spent the afternoon, and the campus’s trees seemed to turn on us, showing their true colors by early evening.

 

16 Concert-goers Dead in Seongnam

A failed ventilation grate at the fateful Seongnam concert.

At least sixteen people were killed after falling through a ventilation grate at a K-pop concert in Seongnam.  An English link is here. According to accounts:

. . . in the dense crowd, 20-30 people climbed on a grate over the deep ventilation shaft. Under their weight the grate gave way and the group fell through.

Photo: Yonhap News

UPDATE: The concert promoter has committed suicide shortly after being questioned by the police.

Kakao Jumps Out of the Frying Pan and Into the Fire

As a measure to stem the flood of users leaving Kakao Talk, Daum Kakao CEO Lee Sirgoo announced today that the company would no longer comply with prosecutors’ requests for private Kakao Talk conversations.  The surprise announcement set the stage for a direct confrontation between the company and Korean authorities that will likely end in obstruction of justice charges brought against the company and its CEO.

Lee Sirgoo Apology

Lee Sirgoo, Monday, Oct. 13, 2014. (AP Photo/Ahn Young-joon)

At a quickly arranged press conference on Monday, Lee bent his head in apology and said that he would personally bear the full legal consequences of the decision.  “If the decision means violating the law, I will abide by any punishment because I made the final call on this as CEO.  We did not talk with related government agencies about this, and we are not saying that warrants issued are flawed. But I believe the right way to handle our users’ criticism and disappointment is to strengthen protection of their privacy….  To do this, we stopped accepting prosecution warrants to monitor our users’ private conversions (sic) from Oct. 7, and we hereby announce that we will continue to do so.”   Daum Kakao officials characterized the measure as a matter of “survival” and not “optional”.

Lee stated that the decision was not personal and was made with the agreement of management, and vowed that the company would, according to the Korea Times, “continue to prioritize users’ privacy even if he is replaced by another person.”

In the first half of 2014, Korean authorities made 2,131 requests for users’ information with search warrants , and Kakao Talk cooperated with “more than three quarters” of those requests.  Korean authorities made an additional 61 court-approved requests  seeking to wiretap users’ conversations under suspicion of charges such as rebellion or violation of the National Security Law.  The company denied that authorities used the warrants to monitor users real time conversations and claimed that that the company was not technologically equipped to monitor real time conversations. Kakao Talk nonetheless “cooperated with nearly all the 61 requests by collecting messages that had been stored on its servers for between three and seven days.”

Lee announced that the company would introduce several measures to protect users’ privacy such as organizing an information security advisory committee, regularly publishing a transparency report, and implementing “end-to-end” encryption to remove the possibility that conversations could be monitored through Kakao’s servers. He conceded that the enhanced security features would necessarily make the application more difficult to use.  Lee stressed that the company had already cut the period that information gets stored on Kakao’s servers from seven to a maximum three days.

KT’s article concluded that at a September 16 cabinet meeting PGH complained “of insults about her and said online rumors have ‘gone too far and divided society,’ according to the Cheong Wa Dae website.”


The problem of course is that CEO Lee Sirgoo will not bear the full responsibility of the decision.  The security guards at the gates of Daum Kakao will have to permit entry to Korean authorities with warrants, and technicians served with such warrants will perforce offer up their wares or face obstruction charges themselves.  Lee Sirgoo’s stance has bought Kakao 15 minutes.  Daum Kakao needs a decision based on the constitutionality of the wiretaps for the future of Daum Kakao and free speech in Korea.

Aware of Korea’s legacy of lèse-majesté, which might play inside Korea but conflicts with the freedoms of a liberal democracy, I am continually surprised, though I no longer know why anymore, that Korean public figures are unaware that their protestations bring scrutiny and ridicule upon themselves.

PGH needs to grow a thick skin, by which I mean in addition to the lovely, perfectly complected thin skin that encases her now.

Seoul’s Mayor Comes Out In Favor of Legalizing Same Sex Marriage

Seoul’s mayor and popular pick among pundits for presidential candidate in 2017 Park Won-soon came out in support of legalizing gay marriage.  In an interview with the San Francisco Examiner published last Sunday, Park voiced his personal support for gay rights and hopes that Korea would become the first Asian country to legalize same-sex marriage.

“I personally agree with the rights of homosexuals,” Park said. “But the Protestant churches are very powerful in Korea. It isn’t easy for politicians. It’s in the hands of activists to expand the universal concept of human rights to include homosexuals. Once they persuade the people, the politicians will follow. It’s in process now.”

When asked whether Taiwan would be the first Asian country to legalize same-sex marriage since Taiwanese legislature currently has a bill under consideration, Park answered, “I hope Korea will be the first. Many homosexual couples in Korea are already together. They are not legally accepted yet, but I believe the Korean Constitution allows it. We are guaranteed the right to the pursuit of happiness. Of course, there may be different interpretations to what that pursuit means.”

If Park is indeed considering a run for the presidency, his support for same-sex marriage could prove politically risky.  According to the Wall Street Journal, “the vast majority of South Koreans have negative attitudes against gay people, let alone same-sex marriage….”   A poll conducted last year by the Asan Institute for Policy Studies showed that 21.5% of the 1,500 adults surveyed said “they had little or no objections to homosexuality, while only a quarter said they supported gay marriage.”  The results were polarized by age:  a majority of those over 50 said they had “negative views towards homosexuality”, a majority of those under 40 were supportive of gay rights, and respondents in their 40s were almost evenly split in their views of homosexuality.

Park Won-soon,  58, was expelled as a freshman from SNU for his participation in a pro-democracy demonstration and made his bones as a civil rights attorney.  When the subject of South Korea’s prosecution and jailing of Jehovah’s Witnesses who refuse to perform compulsory military service came up, Park said “alternative civilian service for Jehovah’s Witnesses would be acceptable.”

According to an official at the mayor’s office, the interview took place during the mayor’s trip to California last month.

Samsung profits taking a beating

Samsung Electronics has announced that their third quarter profits will decline 60% vs. last year’s third quarter.  This represents the largest quarterly drop in profits in five years.

Per CNET:

The South Korean electronics giant said it expects to record an operating profit of 4.1 trillion won ($3.8 billion) for the quarter ended September 30, a 59.7 percent drop from the year-ago quarter. The company also said it expects sales for the quarter to come in around 47 trillion won, a 20 percent decline.

The main culprit?  Cheap phones from China.

Samsung’s market share of the global smartphone industry fell from 31% to about 25%.  However, this negative news hasn’t dampened demand for Samsung stock as its price rebounded on the bad news, rising 1.8% on the belief that Samsung’s stock won’t decline much more and profits will eventually rebound.

Some believe that Samsung will claw back to sales and profit growth through three strategies:

1. Expanding chip production (i.e. the brains that drive smartphones), particularly 14 nm chips that will produce smaller, but more powerful and energy efficient processors.

2. Produce profitable, but cheaper smartphones to better compete against the Chinese.

3. Differentiate their phones by using flexible screens and new materials.

However, other analysts believe Samsung has a difficult road ahead of it, squeezed between cheaper Chinese competitors and high-end phones from Apple and a over reliance on hardware innovation when it’s usually been software innovation that’s driven smartphone value creation.

We have seen Samsung scramble itself out of market shifts before.  We shall see if it can do so again.

We’re Mad as Hell and We’re Not Going to Take It Anymore–How about a Picnic?

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.
p1
(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.

Former Mongolian president takes asylum in Korea: report

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Open Thread: October 5, 2014

Festival Week, and I’m frequenting my favorites.

Finally, Happy in Seoul

Pharrell Williams’s infectious song that inspired videos around the world has finally inspired Seoul, and Happy videos taken in and around Seoul have sprung up on YouTube.

I first became aware of the song and the selvies (I’m looking to trademark the portmanteau self + video….  a little help BC, DLB?) during the international story that came of six Iranis, three men and three unveiled women (oh, the jackals),  who were arrested and sentenced to 91 lashes and jail for dancing to Happy.  (For those unaware of the story and video, be certain to view what people in parts of the world face prison for.)

Since then a spate of selvies™ has appeared on YouTube.  A notable project is 24 hours of Happy, which shows selvies™ stitched together in an hour loop taken at each hour of the day.

Seoul seems late to the Happy hour project party, but the Irani Happy story broke in May, around the time of the Sewol Ferry trajedy.  Korea wasn’t feeling Happy.

Here’s a Happy sampling of Seoul:

–and–

I like the song, and I like the videos.   Seoul looks great, and Seoul’s selvies™ are every bit as good as, if not better than, other cities’ selvies™.

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