The Marmot's Hole

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Category: South Korea (page 1 of 211)

South Korea Is To Join the AIIB

Though certain people thought I was “alarmist” in describing the earlier visit of Chinese President Xi and the PRC’s efforts to engage South Korea in the Asian Infrastructure Investment Bank (AIIB), South Korea has announced their intention to join the Chinese-lead bank. (link)

Supposedly Seoul has asked for improvement in the governing structure of the bank and other safeguards, which has been done.

Currently both Australia and Japan are considering whether or not to join as well.

R.I.P. IE

Microsoft has finally pulled the plug on Internet Explorer.  Used (outside of Korea) as a Windows bundled software application to facilitate the download of web browsers, Microsoft’s Internet Explorer is solely used in Seoul for online banking and retailing.  South Korea passed a law in 1999 requiring that banks and retailers use digital certificates created with Microsoft’s Active X and exclusively available on Internet Explorer.

IE has been in its death throes since shortly after the implementation of South Korea’s 1999 law.  Released in 1995 as an add-on to Windows 95 after Bill Gates had returned from vacation and recognized the threat Netscape’s Navigator® represented to Microsoft’s operating system, Microsoft changed course.  Microsoft’s later standard inclusion of IE in OEM packages and subsequent Windows operating systems sealed Netscape’s fate.

IE went on to command a healthy 95% market share becoming the web browser by fiat for many corporations and governments.  Microsoft and IE soon became fat (or in tech terms, bloated) and lazy (again in tech terms, slow and no innovation), ignoring the open source Firefox browser, which quickly became the browser of choice among the digerati.  Google entered the fray, and IE’s market share fell below 50% in 2010 and 20% in October.  Since then IE’s chart has looked like that of last century’s centenarian.

For those of you who feel maudlin for Microsoft IE’s demise or suffer from an unhealthy (as opposed to the healthy) necrophilia, IE will be around to haunt the rest of us for some time:  Korea will need to first legally declare IE dead and bury all entanglements.  Meanwhile IE’s rotting code will continue to plague us.

100 Years of Beauty: Korea

Following up their December 2014 viral video 100 Years of Beauty in 1 Minute:  USA , those clever folk at cut.com have released their fourth installment in the series, 100 Years of Beauty in 1 Minute:  Korea.

The videos show an actress/model in time-lapse motion undergoing a century of makeup, hairstyle, and attitude changes representative of the beauty standards and zeitgeist for each decade of the last 100 years for each depicted country and culture.

The first two videos in the series looked at American trends for both white and black women, which seemed like easy and natural choices.  The third video, released in February, intriguingly spotlighted Iran’s beauty trends for women.  In an equally intriguing choice, cut chose Korea’s for March.

Here is the first video, depicting white American female beauty, in the series:

[youtube https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=LOyVvpXRX6w&w=560&h=315]

Although the model of course ages no more than eight hours over the course of the video shoot, she seems to represent beauty representative of different aged women in the videos.  For example the representative look seemed late 20ish for the ’50’s and high school senior/late teens for the ’80’s.

Here is the video for 100 Years of Beauty – Korea:

[youtube https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=5SWHjWtykns&w=560&h=315]

I’m glad I wasn’t here in the ’90’s.

The Korea video splits in the ’50’s, depicting the political separation and split in beauty trends for the North and the South.  Immediate comments from my small, unscientific, not random sample include “Those Yalu girls really knock me out”, “they leave the South behind”, and “…that Pyeongyang is always on my mind”.  One stammered, “I want back in the DP, back in the DP, back in the DPRK.”

There is no word yet whether cut will feature beauty representative of males or transgenders in the series.

Anti-Corruption Law Passed – Weasels Ride Woodpeckers – End Times Are Near

woodpecker_rider

These are strange days indeed – The National Assembly (South Korea) actually passed an anti-corruption law that calls for up to three years in prison for journalists, teachers and public servants (?) who accept single cash donations or gifts valued at more than a million won, or about $910 (USD).  When I read this and see photos like the one above, I am wondering if the eschaton is at hand.

Korean adultery law (criminal) to be abolished in a historic decision

62 years since it was established, the criminal law code 241 was ruled anti-constitutional at the Constitutional court by 7 votes to 2, and is to be scrapped (or replaced) As it stood, any adulterer, that is any married person who cheats on the marriage partner with another person *and* his or her partner were both liable for up to 2 years in jail (with no other kinds of non-jail punishment possible), which smacked of an archaic law or an Islamic code of conduct.

The abolishment of such a controversial law had been up for votes four times in the past.

adultery constitution

Fig illustrating the yes-no votes on the anti-constitutional nature of the adultery law in Korea


The last vote in 2008, did have a majority of yes to abolishment (ruled anti-constitutional) but the majority was only 5 to 4 and the minimimum majority votes should be 6 for the abolishment to happen.

This means, (also according to a new law ruled to minimise chaos and compensation) that there will be people who can ask for compensation against the ruling that happened from one day after the day when the last constitutional vote was cast i.e. in 2008 According to the same article, even among such people, the compensation might be limited to only those who actually received the punishment, in this case jail time. How much? It would depend on the psychological and the financial loss of the defendant i.e. job/status but there is a rule which specifies upto 5 times the minimum wage, which can be calculated between 4 manwon and 20 manwon (per diem of the jail time).

For the whole day up to the decision of the ruling, there were a lot of headlines (yes, serious headlines, not the Daily Mail or the News of the World kind) which had words like “The law which has existed even in the times 고조선 Ko-Chosun” – and those who are not familiar with Korean history, this is the first ever proper historic era in Korea, which was founded by the son of the garlic eating bear in a cave. (Look it up on Wiki, otherwise I get pelted with eggs for digressing)

Well, yes, and of course one cannot forget how it goes all the way back to the time when Charlton Heston would part the sea and talk with burning bushes.

Quite a strong backlash was expected against this ruling (yes, seriously)
The real conundrum was that this law was not deemed an archaic law by any standards, though it should have been. Maybe having no other option of punishment than to send the *adulterers to jail* part was what made it seem archaic, but it still did not stop people from bringing many such cases to court and indeed, send their spouses to jail with the lovers.

Finally, here are some real archaic laws that I came across when I just googled for my favourite, the beating of the carpet over the balcony not within 1km radius of where the Queen lives between the hours of 2:35pm and 8:09pm or some such..

Just remember, no littering.

(img taken from Yonhap news)
P.S. Korea, Korea, where news headlines do not need to be funnied-up in any way

A Modern Day 플란다스의 개 (A Dog of Flanders)

플란다스의 개

플란다스의 개

플란다스의 개, and its main characters 넬로(Nello) the boy and his dog, 파트라슈(Patrasche) who was once abused by his former owner, a peddler that beat him to pull his cart, the dog then became the boy’s best friend and stayed with him until their tragic end – was one of the most treasured stories of my infanthood. Though I never watched it on TV, I remember having a book with the pictures from the animation in it, reading it again and again.

Along with 알프스 소녀 하이디 (Heidi from the Alps, whose animation character is used to advertise everything from air conditioner to apartments in Korea), these were the products of Japanese animation that were imported and shown on Korean TV during my infanthood. Other imported Japanese animations on TV included 은하철도 999, 우주소년 아톰, 요술공주 밍키, 사파이어 왕자 etc. despite Korean government’s attempt to keep Japanese culture out, I think my generation was undoubtedly shaped by these. What shapes a generation…and what is shared and common between the two…

So it was the memory of 플란다스의 개 and the same childhood tears which surfaced when I watched this JTBC clip which has some 1800 irate comments(as of 24 Feb) after it. The JTBC news team managed to film a beating of a horse which pulls one of those gaudy horse-cart for tourists. They suspect the horse was getting a beating just as a lesson into submission, or to pull when it is physically unable to do so. I watch clips like these (lots of them on Korean news) and think humans are indeed by far the worst animals in the world.

This also highlights problem with the tourism industry in Korea, related stories surface almost every other day. I visited the very same Kyungju-shi just over a year ago, flaunted as ‘the old capital of Korea, the Kyoto of Korea” and my non-Korean colleagues told me that our private tour-guide provided by the conference organizers was very rude and dismissive when they asked about the neon-lit building that were clearly sex-shops that they could see from the bus as they were being told about the Chomsongdae.

The problem with Korean tourism industry … only marginally different from that of North Korea, where they control each of your every footstep is this – what South Korea wants to show is like indeed putting lipstick on a pig, everybody can see the underlying ugliness. (not that pigs are ugly)
It wasn’t like this only 10, 15 years ago, but since an increase of tourism (from Asia, mainly China) I fear the place is being turned into one gaudy place where aggressive soliciting/touting for the custom of visitors take place everywhere. Visitors want to see and experience what the locals like, not to be herded to tourist sets and fleeced.

(image taken from Wikipedia)

Bitter, Sweet Seoul – A Movie

bittersweet seoulMuch thanks to Colin Marshall, who mentions this film Bitter, Sweet Seoul:

an hour-long film made by Park Chan-wook, his brother Park Chan-kyong (together they form the filmmaking unit known as PARKing CHANce), and 141 different contributors from all walks of life who submitted their own footage of Seoul . . .

The whole film is available – at the above link – for viewing.

Roombarella Rebellion

The Judgment Day
Image taken from Chosun.com
First there are TV’s that eavesdrop(see RElgin’s post below), next come the robot cleaners which pull your hair out.

The Guardian reports on the incident where a Korean woman had to call the emergency to rescue her from a robot cleaner which took its job too seriously.
The woman was not seriously hurt so it does make one laugh. Does anybody own one of these robot cleaners? Do they work well?

I am thinking of getting one as a companion for my dog who is terrified of the normal vacuum cleaner, to the point that he will not enter any large electrical goods store (he has seen that it’s the bowels of these hell where they originate from) Also, I have seen several funny Youtube videos with pet cats and dogs reacting funny to the robot cleaners.

(Terminator image taken from the Wiki, Incident photo taken from Chosun.com)

So He *Did* Intervene in The Election

Get_smart

For those that remember the story of Won Sei-hoon, former director of the NIS, that carried out a Tweeter campaign to bolster Park Guen-hye’s presidential campaign, it may come as a suprise that  the previous district court ruling that determined there was not enough proof that he tried to intervene in the election, was thrown out.

Won, instead won a brand-new go-to-jail card for three years:

The Seoul High Court, on Monday, dismissed the lower court’s decision and said he had also violated election laws. “It is fair to say Won had the intention to intervene in the election,”
(Judge Kim Sang-hwan)

I guess no one asked if anyone instructed him to do this, though Won was quoted as saying he did what he did “for the safety of my country and its people”.  Likewise, one might also say that the Seoul High Court overthrew the previous ruling for the integrity of the country and its people.

The Walls Have Ears and They Are Korean Made . . .

SS-smartv

Some time back I made mention of the strong possibility of smart TVs being able to spy on unwary users.   Cory Doctorow has pointed out that:

a “part of the Samsung Smarttv EULA: “Please be aware that if your spoken words include personal or other sensitive information, that information will be among the data captured and transmitted to a third party through your use of Voice Recognition.”

This is part of their speech-recognition tech, which uses third parties (whose privacy policies Samsung doesn’t make any representations about) to turn your words into text.” (cite)

and, even back in the late part of 2013, it was discovered in the UK that LG SmartTVs were gleaning information on user habits even after privacy settings were set to block the sharing of any information, which could be accessed by third parties.

Another reason I like my TVs dumber than I am.

TIGER – the musical

What happens when a Korean scientist looks for what could be the last tiger in Korea? . . . A new musical, written by expatriate Jazz pianist and composer/arranger Ronn Branton is opening tomorrow for a limited run at the Sejong Arts Center downtown.  Call for tickets or go to interpark.co.kr but hurry since this run will probably sell out quickly.

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

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