The Marmot's Hole

Korea... in Blog Format

Category: South Korea (page 1 of 210)

Sohn Sukhee 손석희 interviews Alain de Botton

In a JTBC interview that filled my little heart to the brim, 손석희 manages to interview Alain de Botton in English about de Botton’s new book on the subject of news, and cover several interesting topics (KAL/nut, Charlie Hebdo)
Apparently de Botton is one of the “favourite authors of Korea”, but it’s his comment on the KAL/nut incident (watch the clip to find out) that seems to be making him the No.1 search word in the news portal at the moment.
It’s just a pity that people like Sohn does not run for politics.

P.S. DL Barch :
Doesn’t de Botton comes across as a classic case of milquetoast you mentioned, telling other milquetoasts to be less of a milquetoast..

Here are the laws of ajossi-dynamics:
1. smart inv.proportional to aging/ajossification
2. opinionated prickfying proportional to aging/ajossification.
3. smart inv.proportional to opinionated prickfying independent of ajossification

I do think de Botton is suffering from a rash he developed from being subjected to the champagne-socialist-prominent-attitude of the British media when he pushes for media to have a stronger voice, because in places like Korea it’s a different story. 손석희 and the JTBC is like a long overdue aberration. One must learn to crawl before one walks.

A Round-up of some Korean news

1. Mystery deepens over the Korean teenager gone missing in Turkey

There is a possibility being raised that a 17 year old Korean boy who went missing from his hotel room in Turkey might have been interested in joining the terrorist group IS. At first the Korean news was simply reporting on the fact that he went missing, hinting at a possible kidnapping connection, but as more evidence mounts- including some picture of IS on the background of his twitter account, and his twitter messages which included :

I want to know how to go about joining ISIS, I would like to join ISIS.

Currently we live in the times when males are discriminated against, I abhor feminists therefore I like ISIS.

(emphasis mine. Disclaimer: I don’t like feminists either, but ffsake what a fool)
– this is now replaced by another scenario, at least for the first part of the story.

Besides this (possibly greatly misguided fool of a) person, who I hope (to the Lords of Kobol), doesn’t himself star in an ISIS video in an orange suit in a few weeks with a masked man demanding ransom from the Korean government, I have been also thinking about the “journalists” who go to places like Syria to report and get themselves captured and killed. My one more possibly controversial opinion/affront against the journalistic blah-di-blah integrity (I can’t help it) is that “I don’t want to know what is happening in that neck of the woods, I’d rather they didn’t go.” There! I said it!

2. Lee Minjung announces pregnancy

Almost straight after the guilty-of-blackmail verdict against the women who threatened her husband, the actress Lee Minjung has announced that she will give birth to a baby in April. She and Lee Byunghun were seen spending time in the US, supposedly away from all the palaver, to the tune of “stand-by-your-man” but now the reason becomes more clear. The timing of the pregnancy is seen as bad form on LBH’s part, as the punters who got A’s in maths did the sum and they say he was chatting up the other women while his wife was pregnant.

3. Kindergarten and Children’s Day-Care centre under scrutiny after several recent abuse scandals

This is just terrible. There have been several cases against children’s day-care centres in various parts of the country (I’ve actually lost the exact count, I know I am missing a few)

First there was a woman helper at day-care centre in Incheon who used her fist to hit the head of children (4 years old) because they could not do the colouring-in properly (amongst other things)

Then there is investigation launched against the Kimhae day-care centre where the cook is meant to have punished those who ate slowly by making them eat out in the cold corridor, or hitting them on the head or bum making them swallow the throw-up.

There is now a police investigation launched against the head of a Ulsan day care centre as she is accused of stuffing wet wipes in the mouth of a 22-month-old infant because the baby cried too much, or to use her leggings to tie 10-month-old twin babies onto a bed.

I have missed a couple of cases.

The politicians are scrambling over themselves to come up with various ways of fixing the system, from employing grandmothers at the day-care to watch over the kids, to making CCTV a compulsory requirement. Also under scrutiny are the way the centres are graded (like restaurants) and the relative ease with which the qualifications are doled out to the centre employees and carers.

General Cho Young-ja Wants A Picture with Meryl Streep

margaret-cho-golden-globes

General Cho is not amused and wants a picture with Meryl Streep. Naturally, some Rollos were not pleased with the general and called this presentation “racist”

Please click the photo for a sample of General Cho’s anger.

Shhhhhhh . . .

gagConsidering the current concern with satire and free speech, Hyung-Jin Kim’s (AP) article on Shin Eun-mi, the Korean-American woman that has been accused of saying nice things about the DPRK, is a recent report concerning the National Security Act, free speech in South Korea and the politically inspired abuse of such in South Korea.

Shin Eun-mi is due to voluntarily leave today (?) after the Prosecutor’s Office issued a request to have her deported from South Korea today, due to her praise of the DPRK. The Prosecutor’s Office has also requested that she be barred from returning to South Korea for five years and that she be required to apply for a visa to return after that time, even though US citizens do not need a visa to visit South Korea (link). Shin Eun-mi’s “praise” has been construed as being a violation of the controversial National Security Act (an abbreviated translation of it is here). This has also not been the first time a foreign national has been expelled from South Korea for expressing pro-DPRK views – last year, a Chinese student was expelled for such for “suspicions of ‘aiding the enemy'”. (link) The National Security Act has long been a means by which critics of the ROK Government and DPRK supporters, both, have been prosecuted and imprisoned for up to seven years.

This issue illustrates the political intolerance that has characterized the current administration in squashing not only those that say good things about the DPRK but those that criticize the politicians in power and those that would expose the majority party’s incidences of violating the law though means of illegally manipulating government agencies, such as the NIS, or the use of media allies to help thwart investigation into their own violations of law.
Even the closest ally of South Korea thinks that the South Korean Government has gone too far in suppressing what most Americans would consider to be a freedom of speech issue:

. . . In a rare note of criticism of a key ally, State Department spokeswoman Jen Psaki said that despite South Korea’s generally strong record on human rights, the (South Korean) security law limits freedom of expression and restricts access to the Internet.

A fair description about the current state of South Korean politics and its effect upon free speech and political commentary, by Jamie Doucette and Se-Woong Koo, describes how the security act and government have grown bolder in using the issue of state security to supress those that would indulge their opinions:

. . . In this essay, we argue that this rhetorical shift has been accompanied by an expansion of what South Korean intellectuals term ‘politics by public security,’ a phrase used to describe the use of public security as a ground for stifling dissent and criticism. What is unique about the present moment is not simply the evocation of a threat to national security but the extent to which state agencies have been actively involved in this process, whether it be in the form of direct electoral interference, the leaking of confidential state documents, or the initiation of probes into prominent critics of the government from across the liberal-progressive opposition. In what follows, we examine the recent sequence of events from NIS electoral interference to the more recent move to disband the United Progressive Party in order to better understand distorting effects to Korean democracy brought about by this recent rhetorical shift and its intricate relation to ‘politics by public security.’

A link to this essay can be found here

A tentative return

Have you missed me?

I have been taking a break mainly because I felt reading the Korean news made me upset, to say the least, causing additional havoc to my already sensitive digestive system.
As I have not followed the blog at all and only just quickly skimmed the last few entries please excuse me if these have been covered.

1) First of all, the IKEA saga in Korea.

Fools! I’m sorry but nothing highlights everything that is wrong with the way Koreans act than the drawn out saga being played out as the McDonalds of the furniture world comes to the last bastion, reminding me of a title of a book by Douglas Adams.

On the one hand, we have masses of Koreans without an ounce of originality in their heads when it comes to design idea thirsting for the flatpacked furniture ubiquitous to the family homes, student digs and mobile abodes in the rest of the civilized world… that they are descending upon the city of Kwangmyung like shameless swarms of flies to a fresh pile of shite… On the other hand, we have all the knucklehead defensive strutting by the domestic furniture businesses (like everything Korean which has survived on scamming the Korean public with virtually zero competition from the outside) all coming together with the local government officials and the press to fight IKEA tooth and nail..from bringing out the J-card… yeah that old trick..to complaints about the price to..you name it IKEA’s done it.

The latest is that in a laughable move the city of Kwangmyung has given IKEA an ultimatum to fix the traffic congestion and parking problem or to move out. They also want two Sundays closed which is a ridiculous rule currently applied to multi-supermarket stores like Lotte Mart… saying IKEA should be grouped along with those stores as they sell things other than furniture.

2) The actor Lee Byunghun’s saucy (but unconfirmed) mobile message to one of the two girls awaiting verdict for blackmailing him was released by the television program Dispatch.

One of the first exchanges:

LBH(actor): What’s for dinner?
LJY(model): What would oppa(LBH) like?
LBH: You

(me): gags

If true, it highlights the danger of married male celebrities flirting over mobile chatting in South Korea where the reputation of being a bad boy does not play well as it does in Western countries. Recently a rising star of the TV program 비정상회담 (Abnormal Summit) disappeared from the public eye due to the women he text-flirted with whilst married, coming forward to reveal his double standard- that even an intent and not the deed can ruin one’s career, hand in hand with the reputation.

Just remember boys, real men flirt with their wives.

3) This youtube video of Shapiro’s message to the South Korean president, which apparently was published a while back, is only just gaining attention of the Korean news portal (Good Lord, No!).  I cannot think of any comment on it apart from the fact that it is a little bizarre. Do you think he reads this blog?

Note

I am trying mobile blogging for the first time. Please let me know if the links don’t work.

Note 2

I read Robert wants an image to pretty the posts… can I do that later when I get around to it?

Is Drawing on A Dirty Jet A Security Concern?

dirty tailThere is a report of thirteen former United Airlines attendants having been improperly fired for refusing to fly on a jet that had vaguely menacing artwork painted on its tail (thirty feet of the ground). According to Bloomberg:

The fired flight attendants say they had a right to disobey orders to make the July 14 San Francisco-to-Hong Kong trip after the words “bye bye” were found written in an oil slick on the fuselage, according to a complaint to the U.S. Occupational Health and Safety Administration.

Oddly enough, the artwork was probably applied here in South Korea:

With the 747 in a secured area of the airport and the graffiti on the tail about 30 feet off the ground, the images should have triggered a more-comprehensive reaction, according to the complaint. A pilot’s suggestion to the crew that images were applied when the plane was in South Korea before arriving in San Francisco should have raised alarms about safety in that country, the attendants said.

Maybe the plane was just dirty and someone felt like writing in the grease left on the jet?

South Korea to sell K-9 Thunder chassis to Poland

Announced earlier last month, but not seen until it was mentioned in Dave Axe‘s excellent War is Boring blog, South Korea and Poland just inked a deal to sell 120 K-9 Thunder chassis (and accompanying technology) worth $320 million USD.

(K-9 Thunder)

With the Ukraine getting sliced up by Russia like the proverbial holiday turkey, and with Poland essentially NATO’s eastern firewall with Russia, they have been beefing up on its defense procurement and expenditures.  Self propelled artillery is key in Poland’s defense plans and the K-9’s chassis (and perhaps other engine and transmission technology also?) will be incorporated to build a chimera product of sorts.  Poland’s self propelled artillery solution will be called the AHS Krab and will incorporate a K-9 chassis, with a British turret, a German Rheinmetall gun barrel and a Polish fire control system called “Topaz.”

(AHS Krab)

This deal represents the second export of K-9 components and technology, the first to Turkey in 2004.  Turkey has named their K-9 variant the T-155 Fırtına and it has been involved in pounding Kurdish-held territory and Syrian positions.

Probably another story for another time, but this deal represents the increasing size of South Korea’s arms exports, which hit a record high of $3.6 billion USD in 2014.

Photos from Wikimedia Commons.

‘Hate speech’ a.k.a. when eating pizza is a crime

Over at the Korea Herald, Claire Lee has penned a piece on hate speech, hate crimes and Korea’s lack of hate speech and anti-discrimination laws.

Much of the focus of the piece is on Ilbe, a right-leaning online group discussed here before. While I certainly condemn firebomb attacks on anyone, even against alleged pro-North Korean sympathizers, and think folk who praise such acts of wanton mayhem probably should sit down and seriously reflect for a while, I found some of the ideas expressed in the Korea Herald piece quite disturbing, frankly, from a civil liberties perspective.

Over at The Korean Foreigner, John Lee – lovely gent whom I had the pleasure of meeting recently – did a superb job, IMHO, of looking at “hate speech” and “hate crimes” from an informed libertarian perspective. In it, he points out something I think is quite important:

Hate crimes and hate speech often get lumped together, but I think it is important to distinguish the two. For one, the former is an act that is committed against another individual that violates his right to life, liberty, property, and the pursuit of happiness. On the other hand, the latter is simply a form of speech – though admittedly one of the more vile types.

I think most of us can agree that firebombing a lecture or attacking a leading conservative politician with a razor (as happened to now-President Park Geun-hye in 2006) should not only be condemned, but the people who engage in those acts should serve lengthy prison sentences. I fail to see, however, why, say, eating pizza in front of hunger strikers should be considered a crime. Professor Choung Wan of Kyung Hee University Law School argues that it should be, however, and for reasons I find quite chilling:

However, Choung Wan, professor at Kyung Hee University Law School, said both the terror attack by Oh and the “binge-eating” protest against the Sewol victim’s father, can be clearly viewed as acts of hate crime.

“Expressing your opinion is one thing,” the law expert said in a phone interview. “But if you are hurting others in the process, it’s called violence and discrimination.”

Like Choi, Choung also said it is important for South Korea to promulgate comprehensive legislation against hate speech crimes, as the country is becoming more diverse socially, ethnically and culturally.

“Hatred often consists of regional prejudice and this is also linked to racism,” Choung said.

“And there is no ‘natural’ way of combating prejudice. For many, it does not go away ‘naturally.’ That is why we need to regulate hate speech. Seemingly innocuous prejudice may snowball into more pernicious forms (when expressed and shared by many), and result in dangerous consequences.”

Banning speech in an attempt to shape the way people think is the very definition of Orwellian Newspeak. And while it is bad to “hurt other people” in expressing your feeling – indeed, it’s illegal – “hurting other people’s feelings” should not be the standard by which we legally define the limits of speech in a free society.

I do realize there is a fine line between “free speech” and “incitement.” But even with the latter, it seems we must very, very careful in how we assign blame with even seditious speech, especially when legal sanctions are concerned. One of my favorite conservative commentators, National Review’s Charles C. W. Cooke, discusses this very issue in regards to the recent shooting of two New York City police officers, which has sparked a similar debate over the limits of acceptable speech in the United States:

That being said, the suggestion that those who chanted these words somehow “caused” or are “culpable” for the actions of a killer strikes me as a real stretch — as, for that matter, does the proposition that “anti-police protestors” bear some sort of collective “responsibility” for what happened on Saturday. Unless I am very much mistaken, nobody who chanted their death-wishes proposed any concrete action whatsoever. Nobody singled out a target or discussed tactics or agreed to return later with weapons. Nobody established a training camp or organized a rendezvous point or planted a bomb. Indeed, nobody did anything much at all. As is now clear, there were no ”mobs” or “groups of rioters” involved in the murders at all. Rather, some members within a group of peaceful protestors said something terrible (if abstract), and a troubled man in another locale went on a killing spree. Were these two events in some way correlated? Perhaps, yes. There is no doubt that the man intended to target cops in New York. But can we establish causation, or even blame? Nope.

All told, those of us who value robust free expression should be extremely reluctant to so casually transmute “there may have been a vague connection between these words and these actions” into “those who spoke the most forcefully are morally culpable and their entire movement should be shunned in consequence.” This latter approach was preposterous back when Sarah Palin was blamed for the shooting of Gabby Giffords. It was bizarre when the shooting at the Family Research Council was blamed on the Southern Poverty Law Center’s (sophomoric) “hate map.” It was farcical when the Isla Vista shooting was blamed on “white privilege” and “rape culture.” It was ridiculous when Timothy McVeigh was blamed on “militias” or on talk radio. And it is wrong in this case, too. Words, as ever, do not pull triggers, however harsh those words may be.

Photo by kungfubonanza.

KCNA irony alert

On a related topic – the Constitutional Court’s dissolving of the left-wing United Progressive Party – North Korea’s KCNA has weighed in. This is not surprising, of course, but I did find this bit mildly interesting (HT to you-know-who-you-are):

Park, figured herself a bandog, revenged herself upon the UPP for campaigning against her during the “presidential election”, which arouses much criticism even from the Amnesty International and other international human rights bodies.
[…]
The decision on the UPP disbandment only lays bare the political backwardness of south Korean society before the international community.

Clearly the KCNA hasn’t read what Amnesty has to say about their bosses.

UPDATE: In the comments, John Power writes:

Irrespective of the merits or otherwise of hate speech legislation, this particular discussion seems almost academic given the endless ways in which Korea already regulates expression. It’s already a crime — not a civil matter — to “defame” someone by speaking the truth, to insult someone, to speak ill of the dead, to praise North Korea. The list goes on.

From my perspective, there is relatively little appreciation of freedom expression at the legal and — yes, controversial though it may be to say — societal level. Korea is not an individualistic society. Certainly, there is nothing remotely comparable to the American tradition. But more than that, I genuinely wonder if there is a developed country anywhere with comparably weak protections of speech. (There may be, but I imagine Korea would give it fair competition.)

Now, to be fair, Korea’s defamation laws are widely misunderstood – telling the truth will rarely, if ever, get you convicted for defamation, even if the powerful frequently use defamation laws to harass critics (admittedly a big problem). That said, I suppose one could find it odd that given the restrictions on speech already in place – in regards to reputation, North Korea, etc. – that hate speech laws aren’t already in place.

Here a cyberwar, there a cyberwar, everywhere a cyberwar cyberwar

Some major North Korean websites, including Uriminzokkiri, a North Korean cyber university (who knew!) and some other propaganda sites are reportedly still down – all these sites apparently have their servers in China.

Sites using the domain .kp such as the Rodong Shinmun and KCNA and some pro-North Korean sites in Japan and the United States, however, seem to be working properly. Or at least that’s what the news, says – they are blocked in South Korea, so I can’t verify.

Anyway, although nobody is officially taking credit for the attacks, North Korea seems pretty sure who the culprits are, and they are expressing their displeasure in, ahem, earthy language:

In a statement Saturday, North Korea’s ruling body, the National Defense Commission, said Obama was “the chief culprit” for the movie’s release.

“Obama always goes reckless in words and deeds like a monkey in a tropical forest,” an unnamed spokesman for the commission said in a statement carried by the official KCNA news agency.

As opposed to monkeys that hang out in temperate forests and Japanese hot spring resorts. Which I’ve always wanted to see.

Anyway, this is not the first time North Korea has used simian comparisons to refer to the American head of state. You’ll recall that in May, the KCNA contributed this bit of reporting around the time of President Obama’s visit to Seoul (see also here):

The Korean only article, comprising the direct opinions of four local North Koreans, said Obama resembled a “monkey“ and that Park, who hosted him during his recent visit to Seoul, was a “whore”.

“How Obama looks like makes me disgusted,” Kang Hyuk, a worker at the Chollima Ironworks Factory said when translated into English.

“As I watch him more closely, I realize that he looks like an African native monkey with a black face, gaunt grey eyes, cavate nostrils, plump mouth and hairy rough ears.

“He acts just like a monkey with a red bum irrationally eating everything – not only from the floor but also from trees here and there…Africa’s national zoo will be the perfect place for Obama to live with licking bread crumbs thrown by visitors,” Kang concluded.

Jung Young Guk of the DPRK Ocean Management Office said the timing of Obama’s visit – so soon after the sinking of the Sewol ferry – was difficult to understand, adding that Obama had a “disgusting monkey look even though he is wearing a fancy suit like a gentleman”.

They also referred to him as a “mongrel,” which on the bright side, at least suggests that in this politically divisive would we live in, there are still things the KCNA and Ted Nugent can agree upon.

Perhaps unsurprisingly, South Korea’s left-leaning Hankyoreh is a bit worried about the North Korea-U.S. cyberwar driving up tensions at a time when they think the two countries should be working to improve relations. Mind you, they do criticize the North for, well, calling President Obama a monkey and, ironically, making “The Interview” more popular with its criticism of it. But they also criticize the United States for concluding the Sony hack and terrorist threats were North Korea’s doing without solid evidence (Marmot’s Hole: fair enough) and criticized President Obama for praising Sony decision to release the film (Marmot’s Hole: OK, whatever). More important, they said if the United States is responsible for the attacks on North Korea’s Internet network (Marmot’s Hole: good luck getting Washington to cop to that – hey, maybe it ain’t – and even if it is those dastardly Yanks, good luck to the North Koreans trying to prove it), Washington will come under international criticism because shutting down an entire country’s Internet network is on a whole different level from the Sony hack and not the “proportional response” promised by President Obama (Marmot’s Hole: Honestly, I’m not sure how much international sympathy North Korea is going to get here).

The right-leaning Dong-A Ilbo, on the other hand, thinks South Korea should develop the hacking capabilities to overwhelmingly retaliate against the North for its suspected hack of the South’s nuclear power plants like the Americans did in response to the Sony hack.

New cyber security laws?

Which brings us to the Korea Hydro & Nuclear Power (KHNP) hack, the cyber-incident that’s been of much more important to South Korea. KHNP says its headquarters is still under attack but the country’s nuclear power stations are safe. The state of the nation’s cyber-security, however, doesn’t leave many folk reassured – in an editorial, the JoongAng Ilbo says if cyber-security isn’t isn’t strengthened, we could even see something like what happened in “Live Free or Die Hard.”

Which I thought was cool, because they cited “Live Free or Die Hard.”

Boosting the number of people dedicated to cyber-security is especially urgent, says the JoongAng, particularly as it pertains to Korea’s 32 nuclear plants. Korea has just three folk dedicated to crafting and overseeing cyber-security technology for Korea’s nuclear power plants, just one sixth the recommended number. It has another nine technicians on the ground. The United States, meanwhile, has 40 people overseeing cyber-security for the country’s 105 nuclear power plants, and Britain has 15 for its 31 plants. The paper suggests the military consider building a “cyber-Talpiot” program in which engineering students would work on developing cyber-security technology while doing their military service.

The ruling party, meanwhile, is trying to pass a cyberterrorism prevention law that would create a national cyber safety center to operate under the direction of the NIS. In light of the KHNP hack, the ruling party is particularly keen to get the bill passed as soon as possible, arguing that Korea needs to build a comprehensive national security system – with the participation of both the government and private individuals – at a time when cyber-attacks were growing more sophisticated. The opposition, however, is arguing that the NIS already has a cyber-security center – created in 2004 – that was supposed to be taking care of these problems but dropped the ball. They see the law as an attempt by the government to avoid taking responsibility for its security failure. The root of the problem, they say, is that the people tasked with protecting cyber-security aren’t properly using the regulations and organizations they already have, and perhaps if the NIS’s cyber-security folk weren’t so busy interfering in politics during the last presidential election, maybe cyber-attacks like this wouldn’t have happened. Ouch.

Anyway, the JoongAng Ilbo has an editorial (in English) supporting the legislation, while the Hankyoreh has one against (in English). Read them at your own leisure.

Photo by Alexandre Dulaunoy.

Four Rivers report released

An government investigative committee composed of outside experts has issued a report on the Four Rivers Project, and what you take from it will probably depend on what you thought of the project in the first place.

Ye Olde Chosun, for instance, penned the headline, “Four Rivers Investigative Committee Announces Results of 16-Month Investigation: ‘4 Rivers Project Had Some Side Effects, But Achieved Some Goals’… End of Controversy.”

Except nobody passed the “end of controversy” memo to the Hankyoreh, which blasted the report for shoddy, roughshod investigations and called for a parliamentary investigation into the project. Which will never happen.

The Chosun also ran an editorial approving of the investigation and cautiously supporting the project, or at least rejecting the claims of its opponents.

What the committee actually found was that six of the 16 dams built on the four rivers had minor structural problems but nothing particularly major. It also found that water quality in the Hangang, Nakdonggang and Geumgang rivers have generally improved, but it has worsened in the Yeongsangang and along four stretches of the upper Nakdonggang. Which is my favorite part of the Nakdonggang. No, I’m not being a wise ass – I spent my first three years in Korea living near the upper Nakdonggang, and very fond memories of that part of the river.

On the positive side of the ledger, the project seems to have helped prevent floods and the pooled water – when not becoming algae farms, I’m assuming – has been useful in dealing with drought. All for the low, low cost of KRW 22 trillion.

Wrote the investigators in their report:

“All in all, the four-river project has attained its goals to some extent … but it has generated some side effects because it was carried out too hastily amid some limited local river management technology,

So, basically, it’s the Cheonggyecheon writ large. Check that – the Cheonggyecheon, for all its flaws, I think is still a net positive for the city of Seoul. I’m not sure I could say that about the Four Rivers, at least not yet, anyway, especially considering the hasty, poorly thought-out manner in which that project was conceived and conducted.

Photo by Alex LA.

Seoul’s war on Uber intensifies

The Seoul City Council passed on Friday an ordinance that would offer rewards of up to KRW 1 million to people who report Uber taxis.

The ordinance will go into effect after a final screening on Dec. 30.

The city also pointed out five things that make Uber really, really bad, including difficulties involving insurance and driver identification as well as Uber’s pricing system, which differs from Seoul taxi fares which are determined by law. They also don’t like Uber’s terms of agreement – the app provider takes responsibility for next to nothing while charging a 20% commission. Or so says the city, anyway.

Nowhere did the city mention pressure from taxi drivers or domestic app developers, of course.

It goes without saying that Uber is uber-unhappy about this:

“We urge the Council to reject this ordinance on the grounds that it contradicts the city’s sharing economy policies, undermines the city’s efforts to attract foreign investors, discriminating against Uber while the City actively supports (and invests in) companies offering similar services,” said the California-based firm in a press release.

The city government is planning to introduce its own taxi haling services next year in a joint effort with Daum Kakao, the operator of mobile messenger Kakao Talk.
[…]
“I cannot see how this ordinance serves the interests of Seoul citizens. It leads us to question that the City’s officials are bowing to pressure from taxi associations which have declared war on competitors,” said Allen Penn, the head of Asia operations for Uber, expressing his disappoint against the city government.

To be fair to the city, Kakao’s app, scheduled for released in the first half of next year, isn’t completely like Uber, and it probably does comply with the Passenger Transport Service Act:

South Korea’s leading free messenger service operator Daum Kakao said Wednesday it will launch a taxi service app by the first half of next year as it initiates a new platform of connecting online and offline businesses.

Daum Kakao signed a memorandum of understanding with the Seoul Taxi Association and Korea Smart Card Co. for the service that would link customers with the closest cab through a mobile app. The taxi association has some 255 Seoul-based cab operators as members, and Korea Smart Card is the country’s top transportation payment system provider.

“Daum Kakao has established important grounds for the operation of Kakao Taxi, and we plan to expand cooperation with other taxi operators throughout the country in the future,” the company said in its release.

Despite warnings from the government, Uber went live in Seoul earlier this month. This appears to be Uber’s modus operandi:

When Uber got off the ground as a company, its business had an unusual problem. In many markets where it was operating, it was violating the letter of the law. And in essentially all markets where it was operating, it was violating the spirit of the law. That’s because the “spirit” of the prevailing taxi regulations was, almost everywhere, wrong and pernicious. Alongside regulations aimed at promoting public safety, almost every city and state is burdened with rules designed to protect the incomes of incumbent taxi license holders.

I’m with Peter Diamandis when he writes that Uber is a “dematerializing, demonetizing and democratizing” app that “uses technology to dramatically improve a broken system.” Unlike him, however, I’ll put my money on the law winning in Korea, especially when the law is backed by major industrial associations and big local tech firms.

Oh, and while on the subject of IT, would it be too much to ask to put GTA: San Andreas on the Korea iTunes store, for Christ’s sake?

Why are we here?

No, I’m not experiencing some existential crisis;  I’ll resume that shortly after I hit send.

…and I’m not asking “why are you here?”  I know why you are here:  You are here because in my solipsistic universe, I imagine you here.

I’m asking “why are we, as in US – as in U. S., here?”

Korea’s Constitutional Court just issued its ruling that the opposition Unified Progressive Party, one of three parties fielding a candidate in Korea’s most recent presidential election and having popularly elected members in the Korean Parliament, should be disbanded.   The ruling took effect immediately, and the UPP no longer exists as a political entity.  As a result of the court’s ruling,  Lee Jung-hee the former presidential candidate and her fellow UPP representatives Kim Mi-hyui, Kim Jae-yeon, Lee Sang-kyu, Lee Seok-ki, and Oh Byung-yun lost their status as members of Korea’s parliament.

I can imagine the United States’ scathing response if the forced disbandment of an opposition political party happened in Russia, China, North Korea, or any other country that the US lacks internal influence in.  Yet I can’t imagine the White House’s response or the news that an American propped up pseudo-democracy grabbing as much American media attention if such happened in countries that lack any pretense.

For those friends and family back home who have difficulty distinguishing North from South Korea, explain to them that North Korea lies north of the 38th parallel while South Korea lies south.  Otherwise, both Koreas seem pretty much the same.

I need to hit publish before I imagine jackboots kicking in my door.

Sony cancels ‘The Interview’ release, U.S. intel officials link N. Korea

All I’m going to say is, WTF?

Sony is canceling The Interview’s planned theatrical release in response to all major US theater chains deciding not to show the film after attacks were threatened. “In light of the decision by the majority of our exhibitors not to show the film The Interview, we have decided not to move forward with the planned December 25 theatrical release,” Sony says in a statement, reprinted by Variety. “We respect and understand our partners’ decision and, of course, completely share their paramount interest in the safety of employees and theater-goers.”

The hackers who stole data from Sony threatened attacks on screenings of The Interview yesterday afternoon. In the time since, around half of all movie screens in the US declined to show the film.

Meanwhile, U.S. intelligence officials are telling the New York Times that the North Korean government was “centrally involved,” whatever that means, in the cyberhack of Sony:

American intelligence officials have concluded that the North Korean government was “centrally involved” in the recent attacks on Sony Pictures’s computers, a determination reached just as Sony on Wednesday canceled its release of the comedy, which is based on a plot to assassinate Kim Jong-un, the North Korean leader.

Senior administration officials, who would not speak on the record about the intelligence findings, said the White House was still debating whether to publicly accuse North Korea of what amounts to a cyberterrorism campaign. Sony’s decision to cancel release of “The Interview” amounted to a capitulation to the threats sent out by hackers this week that they would launch attacks, perhaps on theaters themselves, if the movie was released.

If it’s true North Korea was behind the attack, I imagine it’ll be difficult not to respond.

UPDATE: Other North Korea-related films are being dropped, too, apparently:

The shockwaves from the Sony hack have finally reached Hollywood’s development community, as New Regency has pulled the plug on its Steve Carell movie Pyongyang, which Gore Verbinski had been prepping for a March start date, an individual familiar with the project has toldTheWrap.

Based on the graphic novel by Guy Delisle, Pyongyang is a paranoid thriller about a Westerner’s experiences working in North Korea for a year.

On the other hand, the evidence that North Korea was behind this might be a bit flimsy (HT to Dan).

Have You Seen This Man?

CYH

Apparently, he was reported to be in the vicinity of the Blue House but there is some disagreement with this sighting and there are concerns that more than this man may be missing.  If you spot him, please call the Segye Ilbo, since they have invested some effort in locating this fellow.

Nogoziri: A Cup of Tea (1979)

Just a bit of something to warm your weekend.

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