The Marmot's Hole

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Category: South Korea (page 1 of 215)

WWII History Redux – What’s in It for Korea?

Okay, the President will go but the seating chart is a mess

The JoongAng writes that the South Korean president will attend the controversial military parade in Beijing next week to commemorate China’s new and improved version of history and of course they will help facilitate an improvement in ROK/DPRK relations, if possible:

When world leaders are watching the military parade in Tiananmen Square, thirty heads of state will stand on the front row with Chinese President Xi Jinping, and Choe Ryong-hae (a senior DPRK Party secretary) is expected to stand behind them in the second row,” a source in Beijing told the JoongAng Ilbo, an affiliate of the Korea JoongAng Daily. “Taking into account the [recent] improvement in inter-Korean relations [laugh track here], China may deliberately place Choe behind Park so they can talk.

I wonder if Party Secretary Choe knows any good jokes.

Inter-Korean agreement: shiny happy people

When I went to bed last night, the prospect of an agreement was looking bleak… which, of course, meant a last-minute accord would be waiting for me when I awoke.

The two Koreas narrowly avoided – well, I’m not sure exactly what, but it probably wasn’t war – by agreeing to a six-point agreement. The joint press statement reads:

1. North and South Korea agreed their officials would hold talks in Pyongyang or Seoul at an early date in order to improve ties and have multi-faceted dialogue and negotiations in the future.

2. The North expressed regret over recent land mine blasts that occurred on the Southern side of the Demilitarized Zone (DMZ), which maimed two South Korean soldiers.

3. South Korea agreed to stop all loudspeaker propaganda broadcasts along the military demarcation line from noon Aug. 25, considering no unusual activity along the border occurs.

4. The North will lift its quasi-state of war declaration.

5. North and South Korea agreed to arrange reunions for the families separated by the 1950-53 Korean War on the occasion of the upcoming Chuseok Holidays in September and continue to hold reunions in the future. The two sides agreed to have working contact with the Red Cross for the event in September.

6. North and South Korea agreed to renew NGO exchanges in various fields.

This was probably the best 43 hours of talks could produce, even with South Korean national security adviser Kim Kwan-jin reportedly negotiating like a bit of a bad-ass. Frankly, I’m surprised the South even got the North Koreans to issue a statement of regret – a.k.a. the closest thing, practically speaking, you’ll ever get to a public apology from the North Koreans – regarding the mines. Nothing on the rocket fired over the DMZ, it seems, though. No harm, no foul, I suppose.

Anyway, South Korea’s free K-pop broadcasts to the Korean People’s Army were suspended at noon today. But don’t frown, comrades – the agreement does suggest the broadcasts could begin again if your government screws up. And nobody ever lost money betting on Pyongyang to screw up.

In its editorial on the agreement, Ye Olde Chosun indicated general satisfaction with the agreement – the North’s de facto admission that it was responsible for the landmine attack stands in sharp contrast to its attitude following the sinking of the Cheonan and shelling of Yeonpyeongdo. The paper also said we should draw three lessons from the experience:

1) The government and military should respond according to principle from start to finish. President Park and the ROK military stuck to their guns, so to speak, and they got North Korea to back down. In the past, the South Korean authorities had been all talk.

2) Politicians and public opinion can lend support to the government and military by speaking with one voice. Condemnation of the North was very much a bipartisan effort in the South, and the ruling party and opposition showed a great deal of bipartisan cooperation. Again, this stands in contrast with the past, when the North would take advantage of political divisions within the South between doves and hard-liners.

3) South Korean citizens were united in their desire to see their government stick it to the North. Local residents along the DMZ who were forced into evacuation bunkers told the public they were fine and that the government should concentrate on correcting the North’s bad habits.

Anyway, Ye Olde Chosun thinks the agreement could become a starting point for Park to improve relations with the North and to begin realizing her vision for inter-Korean relations. The paper hopes, though, that in future talks with the North – over such likely topics as the restart of tourism to the Geumgangsan Mountains and the ending of punitive measures taken by the South following the Cheonan sinking – the president sticks to her principles even while showing flexibility.

The Dong-A Ilbo took a much grimmer view of the agreement, expressing regret that the South agreed to end its broadcasts – Seoul’s only real asymmetric asset against Pyongyang, the paper said – even though the North did not outright apologize for its wrongdoing. As far as the Dong-A’s concerned, it’s rewarding the North for its bad behavior, or more of the same old same-old.

The Hankyoreh, meanwhile, seemed pleased with the results – despite having been apprehensive about the administration’s tough stance vis-a-vis the North.

Fun Fact: North Korea has apologized or expressed “regret” over a military provocation a grand total of five times, including this latest time. The previous four times, you ask?

– Late North Korean leader apologized – not “expressed regret,” but outright apologized – to visiting South Korean intelligence chief Lee Hu-rak when the latter secretly visited Pyongyang in May 1972. Kim was apologizing for the attempted attack on the South Korean presidential mansion by a North Korean commando team on Jan. 21, 1968. It should be pointed out, though, that the North Korean leader still avoided taking direct responsibility for the attack, instead blaming in on radicals within North Korea.

– Four days after North Korean troops killed two American officers during the so-called Panmunjeom Axe Murder Incident on Aug. 18, 1976, a North Korean commander apologized to a UN commander, but only after the United States had executed the Mother Of All Tree-cutting Exercises, which included parking an aircraft carrier off the Korean coast.

– In December of 1996, the North Korean foreign ministry expressed regret for an armed incursion by North Korean commandos into South Korea’s eastern coastal area in September of that year. It also said it would work to ensure such things didn’t happen again. Which was nice of them.

– During military talks in July 2002, the head of the North Korean delegation expressed regret to his southern counterpart for the “accidental” naval clash that took place off the coast of Yeonpyeongdo Island in June.

Chinese Armour Moving Towards the DPRK Border?

When there are threats to the whole of Korea, can America realistically be relied upon to guarantee the integrity of all of Korea for Koreans?

chinese tanksThere are reports that China is shifting armour and military assets to the border region with North Korea (cite).

The Hong Kong-based Oriental Daily reported Saturday that internet users have been uploading photos of what appear to be PLA armored vehicles and tanks passing through the streets of Yanji, the seat of the Yanbian Korean autonomous prefecture in eastern Jilin province. The city, considered a key transport and trade hub between China and the DPRK, is less than 30 kilometers from the 1,400-kilometer border. The military deployment is believed to reflect how seriously Beijing considers the the current standoff between North and South Korea.


Screening Travelers from Saudi Arabia Is A Great Idea

Maybe, it’s not over yet . . .camel_mers


After the MERS outbreak in Korea has been eliminated, according to Wired:

IN THE LAST 24 hours, Saudi Arabia’s Ministry of Health has reported ten new cases of MERS in the capital city of Riyadh, and one death from the virus. Those numbers follow reports of nine new cases yesterday, along with two deaths. According to Helen Branswell, one of WIRED’s favorite infectious disease reporters, the state hasn’t seen that many new infections in a day since the height of the MERS outbreak last year.

Remember this whole MERS panic and tourism flight from Korea started with one man returning from Saudi Arabia.

Park’s Statement Marking the 70th Anniversary of Liberation from Japan at the End of World War II: No Thanks is Necessary.

On Saturday, Korean President Park Geun-hye issued her statement commemorating the 70th anniversary of Korea’s liberation from Japan at the end of World War II. (“the official website of the Republic of Korea”) published a 2,996 word, English translation of Park’s statement.

President Park opened by greeting Korean citizens at home and abroad and then got to her point:

“I join the entire Korean people in sharing the excitement and emotions that were felt on this day seventy years ago. I pay tribute to our forebears who paid the ultimate sacrifice for their nation’s independence and the patriots who dedicated themselves to founding the Republic of Korea.

From the depths of my heart, I convey my gratitude to those who served the cause of independence with distinction and to their families.

…Seventy years ago today, propelled by the yearning for independence and through selfless struggle, the Korean people at last achieved the liberation of their fatherland.

The indomitable will and patriotism of those who gave their lives for this country formed the bedrock upon which the Republic of Korea would become the great nation that it is today.”

Park uttered the terms “economy” 14 times, “creative” nine times, and “creative economy” six times:

“Over the years, our Republic of Korea has been carrying forward the time-honored heritage and legitimacy of the Korean people, safeguarding our free democracy and laying the groundwork for the enduring prosperity of the economy for both the nation and its people.  …Together with the Korean people who, with such dauntless resolve, have been writing a creative and miraculous history….  …we are facing a weak global economy and a host of difficulties here at home and abroad.  …I believe we must consummate the twin wings of a creative economy…. The government has put forward the creative economy as a new paradigm for the economy and has been working to bring this vision to fruition.  The establishment of all seventeen Centers for Creative Economy and Innovation in major cities and provinces was completed last month. Now, high quality start-up support services are available for anyone with creative ideas.  …and thus generate new engines of growth for their economies.  …I am convinced that the creative economy will serve as a driving force that injects vitality into our economy and helps propel the global economy. Looking ahead, the government will be vigorous in its support to make sure the creative economy becomes a new source of advancement for individuals and local economies.  …With the potential to yield boundless economic value, culture also represents a key source of national competitiveness.

The Republic of Korea has a resplendent, unique culture that has continued throughout its venerable five-thousand-year history.

…When our time-honored culture – one that has attracted the attention of world – blossoms anew as it interacts with the world, the gateway to renewed takeoff could be unlocked.

…Insofar as the creative economy and cultural enrichment are engines that will propel our economic resurgence, the “four major reforms” of the public, labor, financial and education sectors form the basis for the innovation that will continue to power those engines.

Park noted that August 15 also marked the anniversary of the founding of the Republic of Korea in 1948 and remarked at the pluck required to rebuild from the ravages of civil war:

The tragedy of our division and the ravages of the Korean War completely swept away the livelihood of our people. What meager industrial infrastructure we had collapsed thoroughly.

But we were far from daunted. Through unity of purpose and the strength of our people, our nation made great new strides forward.

Park again gave grievance to Korea’s contradictory position that statements of apology and remorse issued by Japan’s previous governments must stand while they are inadequate:

Since ties were normalized in 1965, the view of history articulated by the previous Japanese cabinets, including in the Kono Statement and the Murayama Statement, have been the key underpinnings of the Korea-Japan relationship.  In this sense, it is hard to deny that Prime Minister Abe Shinzo’s statement of yesterday marking the 70th anniversary of the end of the war, did not quite live up to our expectations.

This notwithstanding, we take note of the message that was clearly conveyed to the international community; namely, that the position articulated by the previous Japanese cabinets, based on its apologies and remorse for how Japan’s aggression and colonial rule caused tremendous damage and suffering to the people of many countries in Asia, and caused suffering to the “comfort women” victims, will remain unshakable into the future.

We look to the Japanese government to match with consistent and sincere actions its declaration that the view of history articulated by its previous cabinets will be upheld, and thereby win the trust of its neighbors and the international community.

Park spent the bulk of the remainder of her speech addressing reunification.

My immediate, one word reaction to Park’s statement is dismay.

Park followed the formula of her previous year’s address and that of her predecessor by ignoring America’s contributions, only crediting the “selfless struggle” of  “the Korean people” who “at last achieved the liberation of their fatherland.”  She offered not even a hint that America and 8 million American soldiers actually did the liberating in the Korean people’s  selfless struggle for liberation.

(Here’s Park’s sole reference to America, Americans, or the United States:  “As the recent normalization of ties between the United States and Cuba and the Iranian nuclear deal attest, the international community is in the midst of a sweeping tide of change and cooperation.  But North Korea is treading the opposite path.”)

Park’s speech with it’s overarching emphasis on the economy rather than liberation, freedom, and democracy had the nuts and bolts of a state of the union address.  Rather than sing to the lofty aspirations of a maturing democratic republic, Park got weighed down by graven consumer goods and electronic gadgets:  “Today, we have become a country producing some of the world’s finest electronic goods, automobiles, steel, ships and petrochemical products, and we stand tall as an economic powerhouse with export figures that are the sixth largest in the world.”

Given that Park had omitted America’s role in Korea’s liberation, she  obviously could not articulate the role that America played in the miracle on the Han.  Apparently, no thanks is necessary.

Regardless of the apology issue, Shinzo Abe offered a rhetorically stronger anniversary address, presenting Japan’s commitment to democratic ideals and the aspirations  of a modern democracy and responsible world citizen.  Park Geun-hye spoke of Korea’s pride in producing exports.

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Open Thread: August 15, 2015

Celebrating Korean Independence Day Gwangbokjeol (광복절) – “the day the light returned” – 70 years ago today in black and white:












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Abe’s Statement Marking the 70th Anniversary of the End of World War II

Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe has issued his long anticipated (as in speculated about) statement commemorating the 70th anniversary of Japan’s surrender in World War II.  The Mainichi Shimbun published a 1,662 word,  English translation of Abe’s statement.

Abe’s statement begins with a lengthy history lesson, mapping Japan’s road to war. His prelude ends with “Japan gradually transformed itself into a challenger to the new international order that the international community sought to establish after tremendous sacrifices. Japan took the wrong course and advanced along the road to war.”

Abe’s next sentence in his statement:  “And, seventy years ago, Japan was defeated.”

His statement continues with something similar to his speech, in which he offered “condolences”, before the United States Congress earlier this year:  “On the 70th anniversary of the end of the war, I bow my head deeply before the souls of all those who perished both at home and abroad. I express my feelings of profound grief and my eternal, sincere condolences.”

Abe then remembers Japan’s war dead:  “More than three million of our compatriots lost their lives during the war: on the battlefields worrying about the future of their homeland and wishing for the happiness of their families; in remote foreign countries after the war, in extreme cold or heat, suffering from starvation and disease. The atomic bombings of Hiroshima and Nagasaki, the air raids on Tokyo and other cities, and the ground battles in Okinawa, among others, took a heavy toll among ordinary citizens without mercy.”

Abe then turns to those “countries that fought against Japan.  …countless lives were lost among young people with promising futures. In China, Southeast Asia, the Pacific islands and elsewhere that became the battlefields, numerous innocent citizens suffered and fell victim to battles as well as hardships such as severe deprivation of food.”

…and in an oblique reference that I infer is to the comfort women/sex slaves:  “We must never forget that there were women behind the battlefields whose honour and dignity were severely injured.”

Abe’s statement finally approaches some measure of culpability, “Upon the innocent people did our country inflict immeasurable damage and suffering. History is harsh. What is done cannot be undone. Each and every one of them had his or her life, dream, and beloved family.”  Then he immediately eases back:   “When I squarely contemplate this obvious fact, even now, I find myself speechless and my heart is rent with the utmost grief.”

“Condolences”, “never forget”, “speechless”, and “utmost grief” are words that I could use to describe what I had read in my middle school history text on the chapter about World War II.  Clearly I could feel those emotions and make such statements without having a sense of apology, remorse, or wrong-doing for acts that I clearly had no sense of historical or collective culpability in.

Abe finally says something that Korea and the rest of East Asia can find solace in:

“We must never again repeat the devastation of war.

Incident, aggression, war — we shall never again resort to any form of the threat or use of force as a means of settling international disputes. We shall abandon colonial rule forever and respect the right of self-determination of all peoples throughout the world.”

Finally, Abe uses the language used in apologies:

“With deep repentance for the war, Japan made that pledge.  …Japan has repeatedly expressed the feelings of deep remorse and heartfelt apology for its actions during the war. In order to manifest such feelings through concrete actions, we have engraved in our hearts the histories of suffering of the people in Asia as our neighbours: those in Southeast Asian countries such as Indonesia and the Philippines, and Taiwan, the Republic of Korea and China, among others; and we have consistently devoted ourselves to the peace and prosperity of the region since the end of the war.

Such position articulated by the previous cabinets will remain unshakable into the future.”

Abe paid tribute to those countries that took Japan back into the international community and made special mention of China:  “How much emotional struggle must have existed and what great efforts must have been necessary for the Chinese people who underwent all the sufferings of the war and for the former POWs who experienced unbearable sufferings caused by the Japanese military in order for them to be so tolerant nevertheless?”

Abe then pitches to those Japanese experiencing apology fatigue:

“In Japan, the postwar generations now exceed eighty per cent of its population. We must not let our children, grandchildren, and even further generations to come, who have nothing to do with that war, be predestined to apologize. Still, even so, we Japanese, across generations, must squarely face the history of the past. We have the responsibility to inherit the past, in all humbleness, and pass it on to the future.”

Abe’s statement rightly concludes with hope from lessons that Japan collectively will “engrave in our hearts”:  the peaceful settlement of international disputes, dangers of trade blocs, and non-proliferation and ultimate abolition of nuclear weapons.  Referencing women injured during war, Abe said the following:

“We will engrave in our hearts the past, when the dignity and honour of many women were severely injured during wars in the 20th century. Upon this reflection, Japan wishes to be a country always at the side of such women’s injured hearts. Japan will lead the world in making the 21st century an era in which women’s human rights are not infringed upon.”

My immediate, one word reaction to Abe’s overall statement is disappointment.

The Politics of Belief – The Convergence of Reality & Faith

The convergence of faith and politics can be a dangerous thing

Yonsei University, one of the oldest universities in Korea, is now offering a course on Creationism – the belief that the Universe and Life originate “from specific acts of divine creation.”  The Hankyoreh has a good article on this and the  (electrical engineering) professor’s description of his course is interesting:

It isn’t about how creationism is correct and evolution is always wrong,… As a Christian studying and teaching engineering, I have often had to think about faith and science. My aim is to talk about these concerns with students – not to try to boost creation science,…scientists in the Christian faith “often experience conflict between the words of the Bible and their scientific understanding.” The course, he explains, is intended to “find the parts of the Bible that can be tested scientifically and aid Biblical understanding through a scientific approach to creationism and evolution.”

Creationism has migrated throughout the world in different forms since the 70’s:

For decades, the creationist movement was primarily fixed in the United States. Then, in the 1970s, American creationists found their ideas welcomed abroad, first in Australia and New Zealand, then in Korea, India, South Africa, Brazil, and elsewhere—including Europe, where creationism plays an expanding role in public debates about science policy and school curricula. (cite)

however, the criticism has been made due to concerns that “trying to teach creation science as ‘science (is) against the mission of education; to take a pseudo-discipline that repudiates the established theory and teach it as if it were a specific theory rather than an opinion” (philosopher of science and Seoul National University liberal studies professor Jang Dae-ik – cite).

Whether a nation’s controversial political history or a society’s view of the world around them, what is more interesting is how the politics of belief converge with personal beliefs. Since January, Canadian Pastor Hyeon-Soo Lim has been held in North Korea on charges of engaging in “anti-D.P.R.K. missionary activities” and to set up a new “religious state”:

Mr. Lim, 60, said his goal had been to undermine the North Korean people’s “worship for the leader,” according to the report, a reference to Kim Jong-un, the authoritarian country’s supreme leader. (cite)

“The worst crime I committed was to rashly defame and insult the highest dignity and the system of the republic,” Lim told a Pyongyang congregation, apparently reading from a script”. (cite)

“Mr. Lim follows a spate of Western missionaries who have been arrested in North Korea, which has spent the last 13 years topping Open Doors’ World Watch List as the worst place for Christians to live. An estimated 70,000 Christians are held in prison camps there.”

The PRC has also been on a program to decimate the profile if not influence of Christian churches in China, however they are now drawing the wrath of state-sponsored churches as well:

Pastor Bao Guohua of The Holy Love Christian Church & his wife

Pastor Bao Guohua of The Holy Love Christian Church & his wife

Seven Christians have been detained in China accused of embezzlement and disrupting social order (i.e., doing something the Party doesn’t like). Pastor Bao Guohua, his wife and five church employees were detained in Jinhua, in eastern Zhejiang province, but the church’s lawyer, Chen Jiangang, told the BBC he believed they were being punished for protesting against the removal of their church cross. The local government in Zhejiang has recently been ordering state-sanctioned churches to stop displaying crosses… What is unusual is that this was an official church, recognised by the Communist Party. Everything had been properly approved by the authorities.

Chinese leadership has, not only a history of repression and authoritarian rule in common with the DPRK, but also feels itself as being under siege from Christianity since they apparently see Christianity as a threat to their rule.

This could be one time in history when both China and the DPRK could benefit from the influence of Christianity, though rabid protestant sects in South Korea have too often been intolerant of others and ignorant of their own culture, still, it is an influence that is a lesser evil to contend with than what currently exists.

Landmines in the Dream Making Zone

On August 4, two South Korean soldiers who were patrolling the DMZ lost their legs by landmines, which North Korea surreptitiously buried right near the gate through which the South Korean soldiers would enter the DMZ. This serious provocation by North Korea was reported immediately to the Blue House.

And how did President Park Geun-hye respond? The next day, she attended the ceremony celebrating the reconstruction of the railway that will potentially connect Seoul and Wonsan, where she proclaimed “DMZ will be transformed into a world-class space in which history, culture, life and peace co-exist, a Dream Making Zone.”

The Blue House didn’t get around to denouncing the attack until yesterday, a week after the two soldiers lost their limbs.

Under the two progressive presidents, South Korea won both of the naval engagements it fought against North Korea. Under the last two conservative presidents, North Korean torpedoes sank ROKS Cheonan, North Korean artillery shells killed civilians in Yeonpyeong-do, and now, North Korean mines terribly injured two soldiers–and the president spouted delusional garbage the day after.

Never let it be said that Korea’s conservatives are somehow better at national security. I never thought I would miss Lee Myung-bak, but at this point, I would gladly choose the competent president who does the opposite of what I want over the incompetent president who does nothing.


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. . . You Will Find This Hard to Swallow Too, Maybe

“The fate of South Korea’s kimchi industry rests on whether China considers it pickled or not.”

kimchi_articleThe NY Times has a very nice article on the plight of contemporary Kimchi (Chinese Trade Rules Puts Korea’s Kimchi in A Pickle). Chinese and Korean versions too.

One of the obvious differences here a visitor or resident discovers  is kimchi, which has been as ubiquitous as the somewhat dusty air that we breathe.  Personally, I note that the most essential thing that defines Korea is the importance of family, which lies at the heart of everything Korean, thus this one comment says much to me about what is important to Koreans in today’s world:

Now, most of Ms. Park’s (kimchi) customers are other market stall owners, tourists and the occasional housewife. “Nobody wants to make it at home,” she said. “It’s a bother, and they are too busy making money.

Neglecting Kimchi, maybe, is a bit like neglecting our family and that is something that one can not really blame China for, although they have much to account for when it comes to their influence upon both Koreas.

Flavour of The Month: The Chaebol Recipe Is Still Hard to Swallow

chaebol_recipeThough August has yet to arrive until next week, this taste sensation can not be denied, so please pardon my haste in posting.  I also note that, once again, my psychic link to certain editors at the JoongAng Ilbo is resonating. Upon penning an unctuous article on the president’s “creative economy” shiz-nizzle
(Park thanks tycoons for support on creativity), an companion editorial observes that:

The innovation incubator project underscores the country’s reliance on our chaebol (a major weakness). The large conglomerate groups were put in charge of hosting innovation centers according to their corporate home bases…Whether the projects can last and bear fruit is also questionable because of the pretentious way the government and chaebol address the project. Large companies announced investment plans in time for the center opening and the arrival of the president. The heads of the 17 conglomerates that took part in the project were invited to a luncheon at the Blue House. Now the president has also decided to include jailed corporate heads on the list of special pardons on Aug. 15, Liberation Day… other conditions should be right to encourage start-ups.
Start-ups (should) not be afraid of failure if there are sufficient programs to support them in their new ventures.
Start-ups and innovation cannot sprout under heavy layers of regulations and (under) a discouraging business culture.
Various funding and support programs should come under one roof (with simplified procedures for implementation).
The centers must be able to assist individuals and companies in the entire process of starting a business or venture.
The innovation network should not end as the showpiece of an administration that lasts five years (but be a part of a sustained, bi-partisan effort – without the politics).

Meaning, these chaebol heads take nice pictures with the prezildent and smile but, unless pushed and unconditionally held to a meaningful program of a sustained hands-off, support for entrepreneurs (start-up companies), this whole “creative economy” is just 17 ways to float down the four rivers, while Korea is stuck up shitzzle creek without a paddle.

UPDATE: July 29, Wenesday

The JoongAng Ilbo has added further depth to their observations in a new article, in regards to the waste of resources due to poor management, oversight and a lack of political will to make a sustained effort in developing a better business climate:

Lee Byung-woo, head of the South Chungcheong center, pointed out earlier this month that the new centers for creative economy and innovation overlap with existing local government-backed institutions designed to support start-ups, such as the techno parks scattered nationwide that actually accommodate the creative economy centers.


Techno parks and creative economy centers are supposed to be partners. The former caters to already established companies and the latter to start-ups,” said Koh Hyung-kwon, head of the Creative Economy Initiative for Public-Private Partnership, which overseas the creative economy center project.

These heads seem confused as to what is what. The uncertainty of politics almost certainly ensures that this creative shizzle will be lost:

I am not sure what’s going to happen [with the creative economy centers] in three years, said an executive from one of the participating conglomerates who is now dispatched to a center. “There is a saying already that the centers will be gone at the turn of the administration. We also think the centers will pretty much be temporary.


Things That Go Pop

Korean TV is very popular in the PRC? . . . but why?

We share the same culture and cherish similar social values,” said Sophie Yu, director of international communications for iQiyi, the online video streaming website affiliated with the search giant Baidu. “So Korean content naturally is easy to be understood and accepted by the Chinese audience. (cite)

Yeah, so why can’t China produce shows with the same attractiveness if the two cultures are so similar?

Faced with the limits (government censorship), popular streaming websites like Sohu, iQiyi and Youku want to develop their own Korean-inspired content to sate the country’s appetite for the programming, part of a broader fascination with Korean popular culture. That has meant trying to tap (steal) into South Korea’s secret sauce — the magic formula that has turned the country into a pop-culture juggernaut that churns out viral exports like the singer and rapper Psy, the singer Rain and hits like “My Love From Another Star“.

It’s so difficult to copy a new recipe when the cooks are so used to serving up government-sponsored shit, with dazzling regularity.

Longboarding in South Korea?

Sure, why not and it has been steadily growing in popularity here too. “dancing” has become more popular as well. The video of Heo Solbi is a good demonstration of this style (click on the photo for the video):

Solbi Heo Step Rhythm Up

Heo Solbi’s longboard dance style.

There is even a facebook page for local riders and, if you are out around Iteawon, you can visit the Style Board Shop (서울 용산구대사관로5길 19 – more or less), a very cool place for longboards.  If you want a place to get more information on longboarding style_board_shopin Korea, I might suggest visiting the Slidingwheels folks. Korean might be one of the few places where doing downhill could really be more scary than some of the west coast places I’ve seen in the states. Another good resource can be found at, which has a recent thread on downhill in Korea.


Korean Cosmetics Are Attractive in Themselves

Tonymoly storeTonyMoly, founded about a decade ago, is a South Korean beauty company that has recently entered America, opening two boutiques in New York and placing its products in Urban Outfitters and Sephora stores.  Molly Young of the NY Times writes brilliantly about the differences from American cosmetic firms and TonyMolly:

TonymolyI was briefed by a friend with intimate knowledge of the Korean beauty market and I learned that TonyMoly is known for its cute packaging, intrepid use of freaky ingredients and an emphasis on the caretaking of skin over the painting of it. American beauty products focus on high-color-payoff makeup, whereas Korean beauty focuses on perfect skin,” he told me. “You’ll notice that skin care takes up 74 percent of the store.

Their product design is very well done and is worth a visit just to look at:

it is all packaged in containers shaped like peaches, eggs, apples, tangerines and tomatoes. What these shapes have in common is their touchability, which makes sense because that’s how many of us want our faces to look.

Ms. Young really has a terrific way of writing about the uniqueness of TonyMolly’s Korean product style:

Sheet masks are another Korean innovation. A sheet mask is a cotton sleeve cut in the shape of Hannibal Lecter’s muzzle and drenched in your choice of (allegedly) beautifying liquids: tomato extract, broccoli extract, ginseng, something called “vegetable placenta,” something called “pearl extract”

I thought mammals ate placentas but I guess putting them on your face could be okay too.

Trump on US-ROK Cost Sharing Agreement: “It’s Crazy”

(Current) Republican presidential nominee front runner Donald Trump blew a sour note in Korean media, criticizing South Korea for riding the backs of U.S. taxpayers for its security while giving “nothing” in return.   According to the Korea Herald,

Trump made the remark during a campaign speech in South Carolina on Tuesday, mentioning South Korea apparently as a nation similar to Saudi Arabia that he accused of enjoying a security free ride on U.S. taxpayers’ money while giving “nothing” in return.

“I like the Saudis … They buy all sorts of my stuff, all kinds of toys from Trump. They pay me millions and hundreds of millions. But you know what? They make a billion dollars a day, folks, and whenever they’re in trouble, our military takes care. You know we get nothing,” he said.

“South Korea,” he said before a member of the audience apparently shouted “crazy.”

“Who said that? Stand up, stand up. He said it’s crazy. It’s true! It’s true! It’s crazy. They make a billion dollars a day,” Trump said.

Trump did not elaborate on South Korea, but in 2011, ahead of the 2012 presidential election, he made a similar remark that the U.S. is protecting South Korea, but “they don’t pay us.”

Seoul and Washington reached a new five-year Special Measures Agreement (SMA) last year, with Seoul agreeing to increase its contribution 5.8% to $867 million adjusted each year by formula for inflation with increases capped at 4%.  The agreement increased Korea’s cost share from approximately 40% to 42% and proved unpopular with Korean media and among Koreans.


Arirang TV broadcast two different segments.  In the first segment Mark Broome cited Trump’s “critical comment”.  In the later segment, the visibly ambivalent Broome cited Trump’s “misguided comment” and opined that “the flamboyant American billionaire… might want to get his facts straight.

Here’s the first, “critical comment” video:

…and here’s the “misguided comment” video:

Arirang Television is operated by the Korea International Broadcasting Foundation (KIBF).


Addendum, July 20:

Ruthless-Non-Jewish Samsung Wins . . .

Bloomberg has a further analysis of the merger deal and why Korea and Park Geun Hye was the loser in the deal:

Long before the South Korean media began indulging in anti-Semitism, Samsung’s recent effort to pull a fast one on its own investors was already firmly in insult territory. The company’s affront extended both to shareholders and to the Korean public.
The bid by Samsung’s de facto holding company, Cheil Industries, to buy Samsung C&T at a laughably below-market price was a naked power grab by the company’s founding Lee family, but Samsung so dominates South Korea that it managed on Friday to convince the subsidiary’s shareholders to ignore their own interests.
The merger marks a defeat for South Korean President Park Geun Hye, who won office in late 2012 with promises to rein in the family-owned companies that stifle Korean innovation. Friday’s vote was Park’s economic Waterloo, the moment her government decisively lost the fight against the oligarchs.

The article is here.

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