The Marmot's Hole

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Chejudo and the Influx of Chinese Money

Choe Sang-hun has an interesting article on the effect of so many Chinese pouring into Chejudo and the local government’s own policies that makes it easier for foreigners to buy property, though the influx of Chinese has pushed the price of property there up higher than before:

Although Chinese-owned land in Jeju is still less than 1 percent, it has grown to 2,050 acres last year from just five acres in 2009. More than 70 percent of $6.1 billion in foreign investments in Jeju announced between 2010 and last year came from China

jejuweddingThe local government has even advertised in the PRC for wedding tours.  Jeju Tourism Organization has been working with five tourism companies to create wedding tour programs for customers from the mainland. (cite) According to the link, “350,000 overseas tourists have visited Chejudo and just over half, or about 190,000, have come from China, which is approximately 180% up from last year.

Another Wall Street Journal article explains some of the reasons why travel to and investment in Chejudo is growing in popularity for Chinese (cite):

. . .Jeju is a one-hour flight from Shanghai and 2½ hours from Beijing. “The major reason for most people to travel to Jeju is that it’s visa-free. And the price for group travel is so cheap,” said Willa Wu, a Hangzhou, China, businesswoman who has traveled to Jeju several times.

The Choe article is here.

Open Thread: March 1 Edition

Happy March 1 Independence Movement Day, folks.

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

Hyundai Rotem Rail Cars May Have Saved Lives

Hello, I haven’t been around much lately.  Sorry, I’ve been very busy and I will probably continue to be quite busy until the end of April.  Any ways, I’ve come up for some air recently and figured, why not?  Let’s post.

It is well known in these parts that Korea doesn’t have the best record for public safety.  In OECD road accident deaths Korea ranks number 2,  just below Poland.  However, perhaps Korean safety technology is better than Korea’s present safety record?  For example, it is widely known that Korean cars generally rank well in crash tests.

In 2005, in my home state of California, there was a horrible passenger train accident that killed 11 and injured 177 people.  In 2008 there was another accident that killed 25 people and left 135 injured.  In order to calm public fears of train safety, California Metrolink bought Hyundai Rotem cars that apparently featured “Crash Energy Management (CEM)” technology.  These safety features include piston-like, push-back frames and couplers that transfer crash energy around passengers to the rear of the train.  Sounds fancy right?  Will it work?

(Photo from Channel 10 ABC San Diego)

Well, the test came just a few days ago when a truck driver inexplicably stopped in front of the rails, abandoned his vehicle and the passenger train (predictably) hit the truck.  Thankfully, there were no fatalities this time and 28 total people injured (four critically, including the train’s driver).  Was it the Rotem cars and their “CEM” technology?  Quite possibility yes, but an investigation is under way to see for sure.

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.

What is the answer to 내가 누군지 아느냐 “Do you know who I am?”

甲乙 관계

The ideal 甲乙 관계?

Maybe 손석희 Sohn Sukhee should have a change of career to being an anchor in the style of the Daily Show, because I actually laughed out aloud a couple of times watching this clip in which he addresses the problem plaguing the Korean society, the so-called ‘갑질’ of the have’s and the powerful, over the poor and the powerless, encapsulated by the question

Apparently that was what a drunk executive officer of the Blue House civil office shouted when he was taken to the police station after beating up a taxi driver. He was dismissed from his post yesterday.

Everybody is supposed to be equal especially in a democratic system, and if anything, both public and private conduct should be measured by a harsher ruler for those who are *in office*. However, in Korea, a relatively newcomer to the Western-style democracy and social-system, if anybody gets into office, or money, or power and they typically think it is a licence to lord over the rest and get away with acting like they are something special.

The reason such conduct is called ‘갑질’ is because traditionally in legal documents, two parties are denoted 갑(甲)and 을(乙) and usually it’s the employers (the former) which were the 갑’s. The word ‘질’ is simply a Korean slang word which follows some other word to negatively denote some a bad conduct e.g. 손가락질, 삿대질, 욕질 etc. Therefore, it’s a newfangled media-word which combined to denote saying misuse of power (in particular in the way of ‘do you know who you are talking to?’)

Sohn ends the commentary with another question as an answer to the question:
“Who *are* you?”

Well, there is always the football chant, ‘Who are ya? ‘:

Know yourself.
너 자신을 알라.

(image taken from:

Open Thread – Valentine’s Day Edition

Plastic Paddy goes to a Korean Spa

Suck it up Conan.

Roombarella Rebellion

The Judgment Day
Image taken from
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

So He *Did* Intervene in The Election


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 . . .


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.

Open Thread: Feb. 7, 2015

Yes, I’m still alive. And I see light at the end of the proverbial tunnel.

Photo: Ikseon-dong, Seoul

Why Does the PRC Leadership Persecute Christianity?


Not that persecution is anything new to Christians, however the PRC has steadily increased its suppression of domestic Churches and Christian-related NGOs, including those that work to help people in the DPRK that need help (such as orphanages).

This last November, Peter Hahn, a Korean-American, who had used his life savings to help relocate from the United States and set up his NGOs, was detained and accused of various crimes (He is being held on suspicion of embezzlement and using fraudulent invoices) by the PRC:

The 73-year-old naturalised US citizen, who has overseen a range of aid projects straddling the border between China and North Korea over the past two decades, was called in by authorities in Tumen, China for questioning on Tuesday and placed under detention after a six-hour interrogation. Two other staff members, including a South Korean national, have also been detained in recent weeks. . . .”I feel that the Chinese government doesn’t want foreign NGOs working on North Korea any more,” (Mr Hahn’s wife, Eunice), having fled to Seoul soon after the first police raid. “In the past, it just left us alone; but now it is cracking down.” (cite)

Several months ago, a Canadian couple, (Kevin and Julia Garratt) who ran a coffeehouse in Dandong, PRC were arrested by the Chinese Government and charged under the notoriously vague state secrets law since they were allegedly spying and stealing military secrets (believe it or not).  The Garratt’s were also loosely affiliated with local Christian NGOs, thus drawing the attention of the government there.

Certain sources report that this increased anti-Christian action has become more common as of late:

. . . South Korean missionaries working in China near the North Korean border have reported being forced out in recent months after having their visa renewals refused.  The crackdown is variously viewed as part of a broader campaign against Christianity, or consistent with a ramp up in official rhetoric against foreign influence seen as undermining Chinese interests. (cite)

As of several days ago, the Chinese have decided to formally detain (as if this has any meaning at all!) Mr. Garratt and charge him under their state secrets law.  His wife has been released but can not leave the PRC, according to an article:

The Garratts have not been formally arrested and no charges have been filed, the family said in a statement released through their lawyer, James Zimmerman, who is based in Beijing. “No evidence of any crime has been provided to the Garratts, family members, or their lawyers of any criminal conduct,” the statement said.
Ms. Garratt has been barred from leaving mainland China for one year. Her husband has been relocated to “a more formal detention center at an unknown location,” the statement said. (cite)

The Garratts apparently were motivated by spiritual concerns to move to and open a coffeeshop in Dandong:

Their relocation to Dandong was divinely inspired, Mr. Garratt said in a recorded sermon that had been posted on the website of the Terra Nova Church in Surrey, British Columbia, before it was removed in August. “God said, in a prayer meeting, ‘Go to Dandong and I’ll meet you there,’ and he said start a coffee house,” Mr. Garratt said, adding that “we’re trying to reach North Korea with God, with Jesus and with practical assistance.”

Rather than this being an issue of “state secrets” – which is clearly unlikely – this case and many others shows that the PRC leadership seems to have panicked over  the increasing influence and afluence of Christian groups within the PRC, which is something that they can not control, therefore is percieved as a direct threat to their existence.  According to an article in the CS Monitor:

While Christianity is waning in many parts of the world, in China it is growing rapidly – despite state strictures. The rise in evangelical Protestantism in particular, driven both by people’s spiritual yearnings and individual human needs in a collective society, is taking place in nearly every part of the nation.
Western visitors used to seeing empty sanctuaries in the United States or Europe can be dumbfounded by the Sunday gatherings held in convention center-size buildings where people line up for blocks to get in – one service after another. In Wenzhou, not far from Hangzhou, an estimated 1.2 million Protestants now exist in a city of 9 million people alone. (It is called “China’s Jerusalem.”) By one estimate, China will become the world’s largest Christian nation, at its current rate of growth, by 2030.

which is enough to make the current CCP leadership sweat in anticipation as their grip on power is unwittingly contested by Chinese in pursuit of spiritual meaning.  This pursuit, as in South Korea, also has the smell of money though.  One recent study proports that Christianity has been a major part in the PRC’s success.

“Christianity (in the PRC) has the most significant effect on economic growth” and that the steady increase of Christianity has played an important role in China’s economic rise.

This study, by Qunyong Wang of the Institute of Statistics and Econometrics at Nankai University and Xinyu Lin of Renmin University of China, claims that Christianity has significantly contributed to China’s economic growth by demonstrating a positive correlation between areas of particularly robust economic growth and the prevalence of Christian congregations and institutions in these areas, in China. (cite)

Having spiritual beliefs can be enriching for many people and help them in their lives, however, a collective body can be easily lead and manipulated if the collective is prone to the effects of blind faith – faith in someone or something without the benefit of reasoning.

Faith without reason can be an incredibly dangerous thing and it is precisely this blind faith the party would love to harness for their own goals, however it can become a very unmanagable thing as they are belatedly discovering, thus the pronounced effort to clamp down on churches, in the PRC and on the border with the DPRK, that are not sanctioned by the Party.

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 but hurry since this run will probably sell out quickly.

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