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Category: South Korea (page 1 of 216)

The Tweet that set Korea atwitter… Really

A one word twitter response to Park Geun-Hye’s likening local protesters in masks to ISIS lit up Korean mainstream and social media and made mainstream and social media around the world.  Really.

Alastair Gale, Seoul bureau chief of The Wall Street Journal, posted to his Twitter account, “South Korea’s president compares local protesters in masks to ISIS. Really.”   His one word commentary questioning PGH’s comparison “captured what many were thinking with highly evocative understatement”, as John Power wrote in his piece for The Diplomat.

Alastair Gale - Really tweet

The Korea Times in an editorial, also run by Yonhap News, published the following:

Worrisome is that the anti-mask proposal comes as the President is increasingly showing a “my way or highway” tendency, using law above dialogue and confrontation above reconciliation as her primary means of governance. Regarding the mask ban, the latest survey, conducted by Realmeter, shows that 54.6 percent are against it with 40.8 percent who support it. Park is pushing for the renationalization of history textbooks, although a majority of people oppose it, along with even conservative newspapers, the erstwhile supporters of Park, calling it a foul.

History is also against her on the mask ban as well. There have been several attempts to push for the anti-mask legislation, favored by police for making it easier to identify leaders of protests. In 2003, police tried unsuccessfully to have a relevant revision submitted to the National Assembly, while, respectively in 2006 and 2007, a bill was submitted but left unattended. In 2008 after the candlelit vigils, that almost toppled the Lee Myung-bak administration, a similar attempt was shot down as the Constitutional Court sided with progressive nongovernmental organizations, ruling that it ran against the spirit of the basic law to suppress protests. The National Human Rights Commission also rejected it as well.

Gale’s Tweet was shared over 3,300 times and translated into Korean by local media.  The Hankyoreh published a piece in Korean as did SBS.   Facebook comments on the many shares half-facetiously, which means half-seriously, inquired about Mr. Gale’s civil liberty.

Really.  Really?  Really.

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The Two Faces of Tragedy & The Lack of Trust

sinkingOf the three most precious commodities in Korea – land, silence and trust – trust is the most difficult to obtain

Both South Korea and the PRC have experienced terrible tragedies in having a cruise ship, filled with passengers sink, resulting in the deaths of many. Though the accidents are very similar, the results are very different and telling but both share a common problem and that is the lack of trust.

When the Sewol sank, the public demanded answers. The relatives demanded accountability, which is still wanting. Memorials were erected, people paid their respects and mourned.  Several safety inspectors, shipping company employees, Coast Guard officials were prosecuted. Out of 388 people directly and indirectly related to the accident 154 were arrested (cite).

Of the “Dongfangzhixing” or Eastern Star in the PRC, approximately 454 people were on board and unlike the Sewol, there is still no answer provided as to why the captain of this ship continued sailing when warned of the approaching storm that sank the ship or why sudden turns were executed before the ship sank.

The relatives of victims in both cases were concerned with the lack of accountability on the part of both governments. Korean parents of the Sewol victims became embroiled in attempts to use the accident as political fodder against the current government. Some parents ended up being detained by police at some point due to their participation in protests (cite).  Likewise, in China, parents and families of victims were essentially treated as “troublemakers” and enemies of the state:

They (Party officials) tried to prevent us from going to the rescue site, and they wouldn’t even let us have a meeting of the victims’ families,” said a woman who lost her mother but asked not to be named for fear of inviting trouble from authorities.
“That’s why they sent so many officials — they were just there to watch us,” she said.
Questions immediately surfaced about why the captain of the vessel had not dropped anchor in the face of a violent storm and about whether a refitting of the ship to carry more passengers had undermined its stability, but those questions were swiftly suppressed — as instructions went out to local media to remove reporters from the scene and to strictly follow the party line. (cite)

Both cases saw concerns of the victim’s family with accountability and dis-trust with the government’s role in both tragedies.  As time has progressed, both cases illustrate the inherent problems with corruption and its effect upon public safety. While the prosecution in South Korea actually arrested people for their roles in the Sewol affair, there has been a vacuum of information on the Chinese sinking and a lack of accountability:

. . . All the news we heard was about the glorious behavior of officials and soldiers who rescued people, . . . We heard so little about what actually happened that night and who should take responsibility.

Mourning the dead is one example of a marked difference between the two governments. Koreans widely mourned the deaths from the Sewol, with large memorials, however, in the PRC, the government effectively silenced any public mourning from the families with intimidation and threats.

Meanwhile, in South Korea, even the president’s role in the Sewol affair has taken a strange twist.

After much deliberation and obvious concern over the lack of impartial investigators over the sinking of the Sewol, the investigative committee under the National Assembly investigating the Sewol ferry disaster has decided to examine President Park’s role in the aftermath of the sinking, however, the ruling party seems to have a big problem with doing so, in fact,

Members of the committee nominated by the ruling Saenuri Party opposed the decision and wanted to exclude an investigation of President Park’s instructions that day. Four committee members nominated by the Saenuri Party threatened to quit if such an investigation proceeded.
Blue House spokesman Jeong Yeon-guk said the decision was an “unconstitutional idea” (!?). (cite)

This odd behaviour can explained better if we were to recall the tale of a certain Japanese reporter, who reported upon rumours that had appeared in Korean media about the whereabouts of the president during a mysterious seven-hour lapse.  (cite)

Open Thread: November 23, 2015


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South Korean professor indicted for defaming comfort women

Prosecutors indicted a South Korean university professor on defamation charges, alleging that she falsely described some former “comfort women” as prostitutes who acted without coercion to provide sex to Japanese soldiers during World War II.   On November 18, prosecutors charged without detention Park Yu-ha for statements made in her book “Comfort Women of the Empire”.  Park is a professor at Sejong University.

The Asahi Shimbun wrote,

In the book, Park wrote that she sees the relationship between the “empire” (Japan) and the “colony” (Korean Peninsula) as the backdrop for the Korean comfort women issue.

She explained that as the war progressed, Korean women who were poor and lacked protection of their rights were sent to battlefronts as comfort women for Japanese troops.

In the book, Park raised the issue of whether the women were “sex slaves” or “prostitutes.”

Based on testimonies of former comfort women and other people, Park said the actual conditions and circumstances surrounding the women were diverse.

“It is extremely regrettable that my ideas were not accepted,” Park said on Nov. 19. “But the indictment has become an opportunity for my assertions to be known widely.”

The prosecutors office contends that the Korean comfort women were forced by the Japanese government and Japan’s military forces into sexual slavery.  The prosecutors office cited the Kono Statement issued in 1993 by then Japanese Chief Cabinet Secretary Yohei Kono and the United Nations report promulgated in 1997.

“Prosecutors took issue with what they described as ‘false facts’ in Park’s book.  One is her description saying comfort women were within the framework of ‘prostitution’ and comforted Japanese soldiers with ‘patriotism.’ The other is a passage saying that, officially, the comfort women were not forcibly taken away by Japanese forces, at least on the Korean Peninsula.”

Park published “Comfort Women of the Empire” in summer 2013.  Former comfort women filed a criminal defamation complaint against Park in June 2014 and won an injunction against publication of the book in February 2015.  The Seoul Eastern District Court iruled that the publication of the book would not be allowed unless some parts were deleted.

In a 2015 interview with The Asahi Shimbun, Park said,

“she wrote the book in an attempt to re-portray them in light of the variety of testimonies provided by former comfort women.  She said their words opened her eyes to the sheer diversity of the circumstances and experiences of Korean comfort women, and to the bigger picture of ‘an empire and its colony.’

“Park believes that Japan did not recruit comfort women in Korea, which was part of Japan from Tokyo’s perspective, in quite the same way that it did on the front lines and in occupied areas, such as in the Philippines. In those areas, records show that Japanese soldiers were directly involved in the forcible and violent taking away of comfort women. ‘Many of the Korean comfort women were apparently recruited while being cheated by agents of prostitution, some of whom were Koreans, or being sold by their parents,’ Park said. ‘While some have testified they were forcibly taken away by military personnel, I suppose that such cases, if there were any, were exceptional.’

But Park emphasized that Japan is not exempt from its responsibility for the comfort women, who were taken to ‘comfort stations’ against their will and experienced pain. That is because she sees the relationship of an empire and a colony in the backdrop of the Korean comfort women issue.

The Japan Times in a commentary, Rightists distort author Park Yu-ha’s views on ‘comfort women’, published the following:

Park Yu-ha, an academic at Sejong University in Seoul, is the darling of the Japanese right because of her alleged stance on the “comfort women” system. But their cherry-picking of her writings distorts her views and twists them into support for the revisionists’ vindicating and exonerating narrative.  Park presents a nuanced analysis of the comfort women system, one that challenges the prevailing consensus in South Korea, but she is also quite critical of the role Japan played.

I highly recommend reading the Japan Times’ commentary.

The human tragedy that is the comfort women’s story, as heinous as whatever the truth might be, is not the real and present danger facing Korea today.   The real danger wrapped in this criminal charge is the criminal prosecution of scholarship (if not historical facts and truth itself).  The market place of ideas winnows poor scholarship, fallacious reasoning, or “false facts” along with their authors without the need of criminal prosecution.

The real story here is the Korean government’s prosecution of speech, regardless of truth value.


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Open Thread: November 14, 2015

The all-interesting-and-important-news-in-the-world-is happening-everywhere-but-here edition.

EDIT:  Apparently, important things are happening here.  Fortunately, none affected the expat community’s Saturday night bar plans.

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“I Was Drunk, in Love… Joking!”

“I was drunk”

Comedian admits to husband’s sexual harassment

Putting a twist on the “I was drunk” defense, comedian Lee Kyung-sil admitted her husband, identified only as Choi, 58, did indeed sexually harass a woman as alleged “but added he was drunk at the time.”

The alleged victim reported the harassment to the police on August 19, a day after she, Choi, and seven others drank together. The woman, the wife of Choi’s friend, reported to police that Choi had sexually harassed her while Choi was giving her a ride home after the gathering.

At his trial last Thursday, Choi conceded the allegation was true.  “However, he said he could not control his mind and body because he had been drinking prior to the incident.”

That’s some friend and husband Choi, 58, is.  Apparently neither he nor his lawyer got the memo about the “I was drunk” defense.  Reading the news account of the Supreme Court decision, however, I see that the decision covers rape and not mere sexual assault and battery.  I’m not even convinced that Korea’s Supreme Court set a precedent for all rape cases or rape cases in general.

Comedian Lee Kyung-sil’s defense of her husband makes me wonder whether she’s doing shtick and “but he was drunk at the time” is a punchline.

“I was in love”

Prosecutors appeal over rape case verdict

Prosecutors have appealed and the Supreme Court will review the case of a man, 46, who was found not Identified Only as 'A'guilty of raping a teenage girl.

The man, identified only as “A” and owner of an entertainment company, was indicted for allegedly raping a middle school student 27 years his junior.

According to evidence given at lower court trials, the man had sexual relations with the woman, identified as “B,” many times and got her pregnant in 2011. “B” was 15 at the time.

“A” was indicted after “B” reported to police that she was raped.

“A” was found guilty at the first and second trials.

But last November the Supreme Court overturned the lower court’s decision, as “A” kept insisting he had loved “B.” It sent the case back to the lower court, which ruled on Oct. 16 that he is not guilty of rape.

“But the nation’s highest court is unlikely to change its stance on the case, which it has reviewed before, legal sources said.”

Well, so long as he loved “the woman… 15 at the time.”

“I was… Joking!”

Choi Mong-ryong, professor emeritus at Seoul National University, answers reporters’ questions in front of his house in Yeouido, Seoul, Friday. He said he will not take part in writing the history textbook after news reports that he sexually harassed a newspaper reporter. ( Yonhap)

Choi Mong-ryong, professor emeritus at Seoul National University, answers reporters’ questions in front of his house in Yeouido, Seoul, Friday. He said he will not take part in writing the history textbook after news reports that he sexually harassed a newspaper reporter. ( Yonhap)

State textbook plan hits snag

Choi Mong-ryong, professor emeritus of Seoul National University (SNU) and one of the two lead authors of the textbooks under the National Institute of Korean History (NIKH), said he will not take part in writing the controversial textbooks after a newspaper reporter’s allegations that he sexually harassed her were made public.

Choi’s resignation came two days after the NIKH announced its plan to organize a writing team to implement the new schoolbook policy and is expected to hamper PGH’s plan to push the state authorized textbooks into schools by March 2017.

Choi “allegedly kissed a female journalist on the cheek and groped her after drinking alcohol when she visited his home along with several other reporters. The reporters visited his home because he didn’t appear at the NIKH press conference, Wednesday. Choi denied the harassment accusation but he conveyed his willingness to quit the writing team. ‘I admit I made a joke, but reporters didn’t express any displeasure,’ Choi said.  ‘I don’t understand this controversy.’ ”

Choi appears to have a problem with his version of events:  “On Friday, he claimed to the Dong-A Ilbo that he remembered drinking alcohol but not sexually harassing the journalist or having a physical contact with her.”

All news items are recent:  the comedian’s husband and joking textbook writer broke last Thursday, Humbert Kim happened at the end of October.

In the I was drunk case, “he said he could not control his mind and body because he had been drinking prior to the incident.”  Such claims are so commonplace as a defense or mitigating factor in rape, sexual assault, and sexual harassment that I wonder how alcohol, which seemingly turns Korean Dr. Jekylls into foreign Mr. Hydes, remains legal under Korean law, which purports to be based on deductive reasoning.

I wonder whether any defendant has mounted an “I was drunk” defense as an exculpatory or mitigating factor in a drunk driving case.  If Korean courts reject “I was drunk” as a defense in drunk driving (and other crimes) but accept the defense in rape cases, what does the defense say about the nature of Korean men?

In the I was in love case, the 15 year old girl filed rape charges.  If the Korean court ruled that the sex was consensual (Korea’s age of consent being another gripe for another day), well that’s that.  The court ruled, however, that because ‘A’, at the time a 42 year old man ,”loved” 15 year old ‘B’, ignoring the issue of consent, no rape took place.

In the I was… Jokng incident, Seoul National University, where Choi spent his academic career, seems to be a hotbed of sexual harassment with reports of senior faculty taking advantages of students published several times each year and needs to reexamine its culture.

The KT article included a chilling and gratuitous reminder of the current climate in Korea:  “In the meantime, the National Police Agency said it will crack down on those who resort to violence and defamation against members of the textbook team.”

I have now lived in Korea for a few years, and I still SMH WTF?

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SNU student body presidential candidate comes out as lesbian

The sole candidate at Seoul National University for student body president came out as a lesbian during a campaign meeting on campus.  Kim Bo-mi, a 23 year old consumer and child studies major,  announced her sexual orientation during her campaign speech Wednesday.  If she is elected, she would become Seoul National University’s first openly gay student body president.  Kim is currently running unopposed.

The Korea Times and the Korea Times – US Edition published snippets of her speech:

“I want the world to be a place in which people who work hard do not suffer.  I want this to be a world in which no one has to fit under a label of what is ‘normal.’ I want this to be a world in which people can love themselves for who they are and in which they can live confidently. That’s why I am telling you. I’m a lesbian.

…The fact that I’m a lesbian is just another piece of who I am.  The things I believe in, the things I’ve done as vice president, and the things I want to accomplish in the future — those things will not change. …The image and the direction I envision for this school is of a space in which we can exist as ourselves, and as a society in which that in itself is accepted as beautiful. That’s the reason I’m coming out today.”

The slogan of Kim’s campaign is “Moving As One Toward Diversity.”

According to news sources, Kim “had the support of the 40-or-so students present at the meeting”, and when the Seoul National University Journal, SNU’s campus newspaper, published the full text of Kim’s speech, heavy traffic brought down the campus’s paper’s website.

As of this writing, the Seoul National University Journal’s website is still down:

SNU Website

UPDATE:  Kim Bo-mi was elected with 86.8 percent of vote.  “The voting rate was tallied at 53.5 percent when polls closed at 6 p.m. The election was the first in 18 years where the polling time was not extended. It is also the first in five years that concluded without a revote, as voters flocked to polling stations with raised interest in school affairs after Kim’s coming out.”

Kim’s term as SNU’s student body president starts December 1.

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Namdaemun Is Going Chaebol

Plans, by the city, have been announced that Shinsegae Department Store, run by Lee Myung Hee (the youngest daughter of late founder of Samsung Group, Lee Byung-Chul) would renovate (upgrade?!) the Namdaemun traditional market into a global tourism spot within the next three years.  Shinsegae has the support of both Seoul Metropolitan Government and the Jung District Office in this attempt to increase the appeal of the market to foreign tourists (Chinese tourists) (cite), as state by a representative of the store:

We (Shinsegae) will support the project to revitalize Namdaenum into a global market so that Seoul can develop its tourism offerings downtown.

Shinsegae also cited the polling of IPSOS, a local marketing research agency (also located in Jung District Office but with headquarters in France), whose polling showed that tourists wanted to try “different Korean street food” (?) (cite), so Shinsegae will first create a street specifically devoted to Korean food, followed by the renovation of the 37-year-old fountain that stands between its department store and the Bank of Korea headquarters (2017), finally developing a tourism program that links Myeong-dong, the fountain and Namdaemun market.

The JoongAng Ilbo is wondering if this sort of projects are coming at the same time the government is thinking about renewing the duty-free licensing to various chaebol since this announcement for Namdaemun comes nine days before the government selection process.

Other areas in Seoul have undergone development by chaebol secondary brand names and franchises (Garosu Street in Gangnam-gu and the Co-ex Mall in Seocho-gu). Though there may not be a chaebol brand name on stores, many are actually secondary brands, for example, “Around the Corner”, on Garosu Street, is a part of LG Fashion and such stores as Zara, Diesel, etc., are franchised by the Lotte Group.

Those of us who have lived here for some time may note that the commercial development of Garosu Street is of little cultural consequence since the street was fairly barren ten-years back, however, using the Chaebol touch™ – which is often a pretty heavy-handed affair – will change Namdaemun into something that would be more familar to the Chinese tourist that have grown accustomed to K-drama franchisement, repleat with their product placement spots and carefully cultivated scenery. I guess an American might talk about this in terms of someone or something having gone “Hollywood” or having become a victim of one’s own myth and hyper-commercialization.

Might we expect a Venice in Seoul, sometime in the future?

Flavour of the Month – Consumption Without Awareness Is Potentially Unhealthy

blue_crabHumans process mostly food and ideas

When either one are tainted, there can be some very unhealthy results, for example, the International Agency for Research on Cancer (IARC), a part of the World Health Organization (WHO), recently classified processed meat and red meat as being carcinogenic to human (link) (still less of a risk than smoking cigarettes) and according to one local report, retailers in Korea saw a sharp drop in meat sales (link). While eating less red meat and eating more vegetables is great idea (IMHO), there are other local food sources that are worse than eating red meat, for example, crab organs and certain types of cephalopods (squid, octopus, etc.) contain unsafe levels of metals, notably cadmium (as used in modern batteries):

Samples of seven species of cephalopods and crustaceans were collected from major fish markets on the Korean coast and analyzed for mercury (Hg) using a direct Hg analyzer and for the metals cadmium (Cd), lead (Pb), chromium, silver, nickel, copper, and zinc using inductively coupled plasma mass spectrometry. The distributions of heavy metals in muscles, internal organs, and whole tissues were determined, and a risk assessment was conducted to provide information concerning consumer safety. The heavy metals accumulated to higher levels (P < 0.05) in internal organs than in muscles for all species. The mean concentrations of Cd, which had the highest concentrations of the three hazardous metals (Cd, Pb, and Hg), in all internal organs (except those of blue crab) exceeded the regulatory limits set by Korea and the European Union. The Cd concentrations in all whole tissues of squid and octopus (relatively large cephalopods), red snow crab, and snow crab exceeded the European Union limits. The estimated dietary intake of Cd, Pb, and Hg for each part of all species accounted for 1.73 to 130.57%, 0.03 to 0.39%, and 0.93 to 1.67%, respectively, of the provisional tolerable daily intake adopted by the Joint Food and Agriculture Organization and World Health Organization Expert Committee on Food Additives; the highest values were found in internal organs. The hazard index (HI) is recognized as a reasonable parameter for assessing the risk of heavy metal consumption associated with contaminated food. Because of the high HI (>1.0) of the internal organs of cephalopods and the maximum HI for whole tissue of 0.424, consumers eating internal organs or whole tissues of cephalopods could be at risk of high heavy metal exposure, therefore, the internal organs of relatively large cephalopods and crabs (except blue crab) are unfit for consumption. However, consumption of flesh after removing internal organs is a suitable approach for decreasing exposure to harmful metals. (link)

Meaning that certain seafood organ parts are not safe to eat though the flesh is relatively safer to eat in moderation and despite this, there are other problems with eating crabs if they have ingested algae that forms toxins. This also means that certain Korean marinated crab dishes are very likely unsafe to eat and should be avoided.

As for the ingesting of ideas, currently there is much political discussion over the Korean Government’s decision to take up regulating the content of Korean history books, specifically pertaining to history in the late 19th and 20th Centuries. There is the obvious concerns by politicians over the biased interpretation of factual information regarding Korea’s recent past, since as one Korean historian has put it, “The current textbooks contain various problems. I decided to participate (in working on the new government-regulated history texts) because I want the new textbooks to serve as an opportunity for the public to more closely approach our history based on more clear and accurate facts.” (link) The NPAD has reacted vehemently against the state-controlled revision of history books simply because they perceive this to be an attempt of certain political elements to legitimize their version of history and because they have their own interpretation of historical fact, which is based more upon their political beliefs, as opposed to fact (IMHO) . As per Moon Jae-in, head of the New Politics Alliance for Democracy (NPAD):

Pushing forward the state-penned history textbook plan is a conformist and totalitarian concept,…It denies liberal democracy.

It is odd that the government would choose this time to pursue this issue, considering the more urgent financial and social needs of Korea (household debt, chronic under-employment, economic issues). Though the Saenuri Dang claimed that they won due to public support for the Park Geun-hye government’s decision to start writing history textbooks (they wish!), it would be more accurate to say that, due to the NPAD’s focus upon ideologically-driven issues instead of developing better economic plans and strategies, the public is distrustful of their ability to help them in their daily affairs.

Considering the ruling parties attempts to trick the public into partaking of their own ideology, it might be best if actual historians were to decide how to narrate Korean history, providing they could avoid any undue pressure from political elements.

World Bank “bafflingly” ranks Korea 4th best place to do business

The World Bank released its Doing Business 2016 report and ranked South Korea as the fourth best country in the world to do business.  South Korea’s ranking remained the same as in the 2015 report.  Only Singapore, New Zealand, and Denmark rated higher.  The U.S. ranked seventh.

Of course, the devil lies in the methodology, and I invite my reader to curl up with a cup of hot cocoa and read the World Bank’s 125 page report.  Here’s a listing of the top countries:

World Bank Best Places to Do Business Top Rankings


…Or he can read the Chosun Ilbo’s surprisingly perspicacious review with the lede, Korea Bafflingly Ranked 4th Best Place to Do Business.  “Korean business people were left scratching their heads. ‘If Korea is the fourth best place in the world to do business, then why aren’t multinationals rushing to set up operations here?’ asked one baffled executive with a major conglomerate.”

“Earlier, Forbes magazine in its own list of the best countries for business and ranked Korea a more realistic 32nd.  So what is behind the enormous discrepancy?  …The World Bank bases its evaluation mostly on infrastructure which is conductive to business. Its 10-point list of criteria includes ‘construction permits, getting electricity, registering property and enforcing contracts.’ Those areas are Korea’s strong points.”

The Chosun Ilbo then returned to familiar form:  “But the evaluation did not include the Achilles heel of the Korean corporate landscape, which is labor relations.  Korea is notorious for its militant unions.  ‘The most common complaints among domestic and foreign businesspeople are frequent strikes by unions and red tape, like regulations that ban hotels within a few hundred meters from a school, but the World Bank’s evaluation did not reflect any of these factors, so it’s difficult to take the ranking seriously,’ said Kim Dong-wook at the Korea Employers Federation.”

Ye Olde Ilbo noted that Forbes (“Korea a more realistic 32nd”), the International Institute for Management Development (Korea at 37th) and the World Forum (Korea at 26th) ranked Korea about average.

Fourth?  No.

Korea might be conducive to Korean business, but I, as a foreigner or foreign corporation, would not put my faith or fate in Korean courts.

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Mid-Week Bitch-and-moan-cathartic-get-it-out-of-your-system Open Thread

Have at it.

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Religious Convictions & Military Service in South Korea – An Article

Choe Sang-hun has written a very nice bit of writing about the long standing conflict between conscientious objectors from the Jehovah’s Witnesses sect in South Korea and the government.
One fellow speaks of his time in prison for his refusal to perform his mandatory military service:

I was predestined to become a convict because I believed in the creator,. . . I want South Korea to recognize that there are other, non-military ways for us to serve the community.

The article is here.

National Foundation Day (Open) Thread: October 3, 2015

October 3 is a national holiday in Korea, Gaecheonjeol (개천절). known as National Foundation Day in English.  On this date, Koreans celebrate the founding of the Korean nation with the formation of the first Korean state of Gojoseon 4,348 years ago in 2333 BC and their 5,000 years of Korean culture.

For some Korea lovin’, check out this classic video produced by VANK:

Here’s the winner (at mark 6:30):

Vank 5,000 Years of History Video

The runner-up (“…and if for any reason the winner cannot fulfill its duty, the the first runner-up will….”)  occurs at the 30 second mark:  “On upside-down world maps, Korea looks powerful as it emerges from the continent and extends into the Pacific Ocean.”

Happy National Foundation Day!

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Please Pay Mom & Pops in Cash

The next time you hit a small restaurant or cafe, you might consider paying in cash since it helps save small businesses money that they would lose to exorbitant service fees.

Small businesses in Korea pay an average 320,000 won ($269) every month in commissions to credit card companies and that hurts since they make roughly less than 1,000,000won per month.
There is some relief being sought in the Assembly, however not everyone is wanting to help:

According to the Korea Small Business Association, individually owned small businesses account for about 27.4 percent of the whole domestic business environment, which is higher than the average in the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development.
Reflecting the low profitability of the mom-and-pop stores, the main opposition New Politics Alliance for Democracy last month submitted a bill to lower the commission rate to 1 percent, but the bill is stuck in committee.

While household debt has risen steadily and at alarming rates, so have the profits made by Korea credit card agencies(cite) despite their claims in the past that cutting the commission rate would “put them out of business”(cite). This is clearly not the case.
There may be some relief, for some, if Samsung actually goes through with its plan on waiving fees for merchants that use its mobile-pay payment system, which may put pressure on other businesses to meet this challenge. The Samsung mobile-pay system also already works with the standard PIN and chip card terminals.

Flavour of the Month – Propaganda à la Mode

The Joongang Ilbo is reporting that Korean culture may offer some people a possible solution to Islamic violence:

When 18-year-old Angelina Salwa R.A Hodali (she is Sunni according to the article) was first introduced to K-pop, she envisioned Korea to be as dynamic as the upbeat melodies . . . Hodali arrived here early this month and is currently studying at Hankuk University of Foreign Studies (HUFS). “I want to establish a music agency like SM Entertainment or YG Entertainment,” she said, adding that she hoped her future company could replace the all too frequent sounds of gunfire with music.
To honor the 50th anniversary of the establishment of the JoongAng Ilbo, an affiliate of the Korea JoongAng Daily, a special reporting team set out to survey thousands of people like Hodali nationwide to find out what they believe defines Korea. (link)

. . . and I thought Nah Hoon-ah knew how to spin PR (he really does).

Korea is really an excellent country because of the fine people that live here, however I would really hope that after fifty years, I would not be so feeble-minded let slip silly articles like this one!

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