So Koreans will die out, household debt is probably going to explode and the next president might be an ex-felon – you should learn to relax.
For those traveling around the ROK, you’ll be pleased to know that the bus fares are some of the least expensive in the world. Unfortunately, when flying, it’s not so good. According to a recent study released by GoEuro, Korea ranks as the 14th most expensive place to fly in the world.
While the study found that airfare in Korea, at $40.73 per 100km, was cheaper than neighboring Japan ($56.39), it was twice as much as China ($20.06) and monumentally more expensive than the United States, Spain, Australia, South Africa, Malaysia and India, who all ranked as the world’s cheapest places to fly.
Train fares here are also priced fairly high worldwide, but a combination of all three travel options –trains, planes and buses– landed Korea squarely in the middle of the price pack.
As for India, well, here’s something you don’t read everyday.
Airfares in India are so low in fact, that it is now cheaper to travel by air than to take the train. According to the GoEuro study, a 100-kilometer train journey costs $11.31 while travel by air will run you an average of $10.36 for the same distance.
Reversing its earlier decision, North Korea said Thursday that it will not send a cheerleading squad to accompany its athletes who will compete in the upcoming Asian Games in South Korea.
The announcement by Son Kwang-ho, the vice chairman of North Korea’s National Olympic Committee, said no cheerleaders will be dispatched to the Asiad to be held in the western port city of Incheon from Sept. 19 to Oct. 4.
Son cited South Korea’s negative view of its cheerleaders as a major reason for its decision to call off its plan.
And by negative view, what the North really means is, “Seoul won’t pay for them“:
Pyongyang cited disagreement over whether Seoul would foot the bill for the North’s athletes and cheerleaders as one point of contention. The North initially proposed sending around 700 people including 350 cheerleaders. In previous sporting events in South Korea, Seoul has underwritten North Korea’s costs. This time around, it said that the international norm of each country paying its way should be followed.
Personally, North Korean “cheering”—basically a slickly produced B&W film away from the Nuremberg Rally—is not something I think anyone should be encouraging, so this is a good development, IMHO.
– The day North Korea—yes, that North Korea—accused the United States of racism was the day irony died. To appreciate this fully, though, read the Korean version of the KCNA description of President Obama from May. For that matter, they’ve been accusing South Korea of polluting the bloodlines by having mix-race babies for years now.
– If you fall into a sinkhole in Songpa-gu, this is who you’ll want to blame. Hint: It’s not Lotte. In fact, the sinkholes have nothing to even do with the construction of the Lotte World Tower. As a note, though, a quick Google search showed that quite a few papers did in fact prominently feature the name of the company that was responsible…at least in Korean.
– You’ll be happy to learn that retweeting North Korean propaganda in order to make fun of it is legal. So says the Supreme Court:
“Praising the North Korean regime, a violation of the National Security Law, is applied [to a suspect] when there is possibility [for him] to commit an evil act harming the existence of the country and public security,” the Supreme Court judges said in their verdict, “But he was not that kind of case.”
It’s outrageous that the defendant is this bullshit case was ever put on trial in the first place. But as was noted earlier in the case, the authorities—and certain major Korean corporations, for that matter—don’t take sarcasm very well.
– So, on my Facebook, I was saying how much I enjoyed “Edge of Tomorrow” and “Pacific Rim,” and somebody linked to an extended version of the Pacific Rim soundtrack, which, io9 points out, “Anything you do while listening to this will seem 1000 percent more heroic.” So I share it with you on this lovely Friday:
Kim Young-Oh is hungry but more sad than hungry.
Mr. Kim lost his 16-year-old daughter to the Sewol Ferry disaster and he collapsed from his hunger protest last Friday and has been hospitalized.
Mr. Kim was demanding that a fully independent investigator be assigned to the Sewol case instead of a government-connected prosecutor. A bill has been proposed but rejected because a government-connected prosecutor is a problem for many because there has been a profound and long-held distrust of the government under the majority Saenuri Party, which has had a troubled history of manipulating events at the expense of the public’s trust. Because of the reluctance of the ruling party to give such powers over to a non-aligned prosecutor, – citing constitutional problems as being the reason – Mr. Kim decided to fast.
Along with Mr. Kim’s fast, an all too common problem has been demonstrated, once again and that is a major problem of not just Korean politics but of most two-party political systems.
The real problem is a political system that is so degraded that it is suffering under a “false dilemma” – also known as “black-and-white thinking”. Such an inflexible mindset is best exemplified in a two-party political system, which produces a either-or way of voting. Due to the bi-polar (black or white) mentality of the political system in South Korea, many Koreans have assumed that:
Mr. Kim is a likely a bad man, that wants money, that failed to be a good parent and is probably a Communist and wants to wrench control of the country from the ruling party
OR . . .
Mr. Kim is a victim of the corruption of the ruling party that controls the government (at this moment) and is a hero that can help end the unjust rule of corrupt conservative politicians.
Actually, Mr. Kim is neither A or B.
There are several aspects to this situation.
Since the Sewol disaster, the NPAD faction and other supposed civic groups have offered their assistance to the parents of the kids that perished from the disaster, using it partly for their political agenda. According to one parent, many did not want such help from the start:
Another father of a victim said some family members did not want left-wing activists helping them, as it compromised their political neutrality. “Some of us didn’t want to mingle with them, but at that time we were office workers who didn’t know how to speak up for ourselves,” he said. “So I thought we needed their support.” (cite)
The NPAD has also begun a boycott of government, bringing most legislative activity to a halt since this seems to be one of their areas of expertise.
Then there is that HUMONGOUS problem of credibility (sabotaging a prosecutor general, NIS-generated electioneering, etc.) , which the Saenuri-Hanara Dang/Administration has lacked, except in parts of the country where they enjoy an older constituency that vote out of that false dilemma thinking called regionalism. I had a conversation with a fellow (over 50) in Daegu recently where he said he believed that Mr. Kim was a contemptible fellow, who was holding out for more money. To this self-described Saenuri supporter, it was all about money since there could not possibly be any other reason for Mr. Kim’s fast.
Very black-and-white in Daegu.
Meanwhile, many Koreans, that are against the Saenuri Dang feel that the ruling party does not want a truely independant investigation because of so much corruption tied to the ferry owner and people higher up in the ruling party. The government’s citing constitutional problems as being the reason why independant investigators can not be allowed is seen by many as being a “false choice” or “a deliberate attempt to eliminate several options that may occupy the middle ground on an issue”.
As for Mr. Kim? – he has said that “I have a headache. I have a headache because of politicians in South Korea, . . . We want to find why more than 300 people died unfairly. We want to clarify this and hold a person in charge accountable”. He does not want money – he wants accountability so that his daughter’s short life and death will not have been in vain.
When there is such a firmly encamped case of the false dilemma, there can be parity only after much struggle since this way of thinking quickly becomes a device of the few that manipulate the many for gain, for example, currently there is an “ice-bucket challenge” that has become a popular way to raise the awareness of Lou Gehrig’s disease – a disease that can strike anyone no matter which political party they belong to. The challenge is “to promote awareness of the disease amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS) and encourage donations to research” . . .
However . . .
Both Rep. Park Jie-won of the opposition New Politics Alliance for Democracy (NPAD) and Saenuri Chairman Kim Moo-sung have both taken the challenge not so much to donate money to fighting ALS but as a tool for political means, as per Kim Moo-sung’s statement “Please persuade hawkish lawmakers [within the NPAD] after sorting out your thoughts with some cold water” followed by Park Jie-won’s comment “Though I participated [in the charity event] there are still people gravely concerned over the passage of the Sewol law and who are still waiting for the return of their loved ones. I hope that ice bucket challenge and the Sewol bucket challenge will go together”.
I give you a visual example of the false dilemma on ice.
Yoon Yeo-joon also sees all of this as well but, like him, we are left without a ready solution. IMHO, the change will have to come from the people – without the aid of any current party and in a manner that can not be co-opted. That will take time and probably something unforeseen.
Kakao Corp. and Daum Communications announced that they will adopt the anti-hierarchical office culture of Kakao Corp. after their merger in October. All workers and executives will be required to call each other by English first names: “Some 1,600 employees currently at Daum will choose a new English name for this, and by doing so, we hope to further promote the two firms’ work ethics that prioritize openness and active participation as well as create a synergy effect between the two groups.”
From Yonhap: “Of course, it may feel weird or awkward for people to call each other by a foreign name, but we’ll see how this system settles in when business begins at the new Daum-Kakao in October,” said Kang Yukyeong, a communications official at Daum.
From Korea Times: “All workers at Kakao call co-CEO Lee Sir-goo by his English first name Vino.” Kakao employee Dallas said he felt “‘kind of awkward’ when he first joined Kakao about six months ago. ‘It didn’t take so long before I became used to being called my English name and calling others by their English names. I realized we are encouraged to make active communication in the office even with CEO.'”
State-sponsored Arirang News broadcast a piece, IT companies in Korea change corporate culture to promote innovation (video starts at 9:02): “Could the seemingly minor changes bring about real changes to Korea’s innovation potential? A recent innovation index ranked Korea 16th out of 77 countries– higher than Japan or China. But when it came to the so-called tolerance index, which measures how much a society tolerates different values and thoughts, Korea was ranked near the bottom at 62.”
The C- Word
News sources and quoted experts cited the move as an attempt to counter Confucian culture:
Yonhap stated in its article,”addressing employees of different ranks by their first name is uncommon in South Korea, where corporate culture is often perceived as rigid and is operated along regimented and hierarchical lines, a reflection of the country’s Confucian roots. Such hierarchy at workplaces is palpable in local companies….”
Arirang News aired a (translated) statement from Kim Jae-hee, Professor of Psychology at Chungang University, “if we look at our Confucianist culture, we were taught that there is a right answer to everything. We were never taught to look for new answers. To foster creativity, we need to learn that there isn’t just one correct answer to everything and understand there could be multiple answers.”
Arirang posed an interesting question: “Could the seemingly minor changes bring about real changes to Korea’s innovation potential?”
If so, how effectively and at what social or cultural cost?
I suspect that the change in some Korean major players’ corporate culture will carry over to Korean corporate culture in general. When casual Fridays and then casual dress came into corporate culture, employees liked and perceived it as a benefit. Employers saw casual dress as a no-cost benefit, and companies that resisted discovered how much the labor marketplace valued casual dress. I suspect that young, professional Korean talent will similarly place a value on casual address companies.
Will this spillover into wider Korean culture and be the end to Korea’s deeply rooted hierarchical culture? I think ‘yes’, and we are witnessing a seminal moment.
In today’s lead story at the Chosun Ilbo (Korean), the National Assembly Research Service announced the results of a projection based on a simulation that Korea’s population faces extinction by 2750 if the current low birthrate persists. A New Politics Alliance for Democracy lawmaker, Yang Seung-jo, requested the projection.
The National Assembly Research Service based its projection on the assumption and apparently assumed that last year’s birthrate of 1.19 children per woman would continue. “David Coleman of Oxford University warned back in 2006 that Korea’s low birthrate is so serious that it could become the first nation in the world to become extinct.”
Under the National Research Service’s projection, Korea’s present population of 50 million will contract to 40 million in 2056, to 20 million (“similar to the population in 1930 during the Japanese occupation”) in 2100, to 10 million by 2136, to three million by 2200, to one million by 2256, “…gradually becoming extinct over the next 500 years.”
The National Assembly Research Service on Friday said, “should last year’s birthrate of 1.19 children per woman continue, Korea’s population of 50 million will… become extinct by 2750.”
I excerpted the following from the Chosun Ilbo article:
Barring a major population migration within the country, the southern port city of Busan would be the first to become empty of people, according to the simulation. The last survivor of Busan will be born in 2413, and the last Seoulite in 2505. Busan is not only graying rapidly, but is seeing a rapid decrease in the number of young and middle-aged residents.
The National Assembly Research Service apparently employed a sophisticated algorithm in formulating their projection. I spent considerable time between two consecutive sips of coffee to reverse engineer their algorithm from their results. The assumed 1.19 birthrate per woman means that the number of new births would halve with each generation. Halving 50 million a little over 25 (∼25.76) times results in one. So in approximately 25 generations, and if I assume 30 years per generation, or 750 years from now, Koreans will become extinct on the Korean peninsula. That’s how the “simulation” projected the year 2750.
Absurdity such as the above is the reason I belabor methodology in my posts about studies. Every bit as important as results is the methodology in obtaining those results. I can make any study say anything I want by altering the methodology.
…which brings me to the real points of this blog entry:
Douglas Martin of the NY Times writes a eulogy, if not obituary for Chung Eun-yong, the gentleman whose protestations exposed the tragedy of No Gun Ri; the killing of more than 100 Korean civilians by American forces during the Korean War.
Mr. Chung’s protests against the killings, years later, gained the attention of Choe Sang-Hun (one of our favorite reporters with the NY Times) and others, who went on to write about this event.
Words fall short.
Korean Independence Day [from Japanese rule] was last week, August 15th. It is also known as Gwangbokjeol (광복절) or “Restoration of Light” day. Any ways, the way in which it is celebrated by some Koreans has riled up some Japanese Netizens. Of particular discomfort was the Japanese soldier “execution” water fight.
(Images from Kyunghyang Shinmun via RocketNews24.com)
Some translated Japanese Netizen commentary:
“Hey, Members of the UN…are you going to stay silent on this?”
“And yet, if something like this happened in Japan, there would be a huge uproar.”
“I’m starting to think that Korea is a third world country.”
“What century are we in? Until when are they going to keep doing nonsense like that?”
“A country that is not that different from North Korea. Or rather…worse than…”
“Isn’t this on par with hate speech?”
“Members of the UN…isn’t this sort of imprinting a really bad idea on children?”
Okay, so I don’t exactly think that the water fight, mock “execution,” is in the best taste, but asking the U.N. to look into this? As horrible it is for kids to shoot water at imaginary Japanese imperialist troops, I somehow think the U.N. has bigger fish to fry.
In what may or may not be a sign of changed times, the drug bust of “Dozens of foreign English teachers” has not gone viral even though the intrigue and insinuations are heavy. On Wednesday evening, Yonhap broke the story, which was then carried by the The Korea Times (no not that one) and The Herald.
As usual with these cases, the details are spotty and rather confusing. Two things that stand out for now:
“Shin and his group mostly dealt with foreigners, given that if they are (caught and) convicted of drug related charges, they could be punished and kicked out of their jobs,” the police said.
Well, that’s some policy.
The police investigation showed that the arrested Nigerian drug dealer has taught English at a kindergarten in Yongin near Suwon while he was under the influence of marijuana.
Oh, there is one more thing that bears mentioning:
An American English teacher, who was among those arrested, shaved all his hair to evade a drug test, but he was tested positive in a urine examination, the police said.
He must have watched a lot of CSI or something.
All jocularity aside, perhaps this will not be the usual case of judging all English teachers as evil drug users living in Korea because they’ve been banished from their homes. One can only hope.
Interestingly, the Washington Post’s editorial board has emphatically come out against Congressional candidates Barbara Comstock (Republican) and John Foust (Democrat) stated desire to introduce legislation to co-teach the “East Sea” along side the “Sea of Japan” in text books. Both the candidates have made the campaign promise to their Korean American constituencies that, if elected, they will bring up the topic nationally in the U.S. Congress.
The WaPo’s editorial response was surprisingly strong, from the headline (“Pandering to Northern Va.’s Koreans is going to extremes”) right down to the actual text of the article which went into highly rhetorical phrases such as “poking their noses in a bitter dispute…” or “anguish and abuse…” etc.
Well, although I half jokingly said that Virginian Congressional candidates were “pandering” to their Korean American voters in an earlier post, I didn’t think the WaPo’s editorial board would take it so seriously!
Any ways, feel free to comment away. However, bear in mind that what the Korean Americans in northern Virginia are asking for is that the term “East Sea” be taught along side the “Sea of Japan.” The Korean Americans here, at last not officially, are not asking for “East Sea” to replace “Sea of Japan.” Unfortunately, there seems to be a lot of confusion on that particular point in this debate.
Apparently so. Back in 2009 51 Koreans were arrested for illegally selling American MREs. Well, last month more people have been arrested for selling American MREs! Apparently, the people are being arrested not so much for selling the MREs but for selling expired MREs (i.e. after 10 years). Supposedly, Korean hikers and campers like expired American MREs. At $2 a pop for a meal containing 3,000 calories, it is hard to beat the price too.
Personally, I don’t see how Koreans can be all that excited about 10 year old (or older) beef “patties,” faux pork “ribs,” chili & beans, cajun rice & sausage, meat loaf with gravy, etc. However, according to this video, even a Desert Storm era MRE can be edible. Any ways, I just don’t see the aforementioned flavors being all that exciting to the Korean palate. Anyone have some inside information here?
A Forbes Magazine article, The World’s Most Influential Cities, hashed a summary of Joel Klotkin (et al.)’s findings in Size Is Not the Answer: The Changing Face of the Global City.
London ranked first, and New York “ranked 2nd… in an essential statistical tie with London with virtually identical scores.” Paris came in a distant third.
Here is a list of the top 20: 1) London. 2) New York. 3) Paris. 4) Singapore. 5) Tokyo. 6) Hong Kong. 7) Dubai. 8) Beijing. 8)Sydney. 10 Los Angeles. 10) San Francisco Bay Area. 10) Toronto. 13) Zurich. 14) Frankfurt. 14) Houston. 16) The Randstad (Amsterdam Area). 16) Seoul. 16) Washington Metropolitan Area. 19) Shanghai. 20) Abu Dhabi. 20) Chicago.
The report listed the top 51 world cities (see Appendix A). Notable for their poor representation were BRICS (Beijing, Shanghai, 23- Sao Paolo, 31 – Johannesburg, 31 – Mumbai, 34 – Delhi, 47 – Guangzhou), Africa (Johannesburg, 47 – Lagos), and South America (Sao Paolo, 44 – Buenos Aries).
The report’s stated goal in ranking cities was to address “a growing need to re-evaluate which (cities) are truly significant global players and which are simply large places that are more tied to their national economies than critical global hubs.” Rather than rate cities by more traditional criteria, the authors concluded that “these new global hubs thrive not primarily due to their size, but as a result of their greater efficiencies.”
What are those new criteria? Cities were assessed based on the following eight categories: 1) Air Connectivity. 2) Diversity. 3) Foreign Direct Investment. 4) Corporate Headquarters. 5) Producer Services. 6) Financial Services. 7)Technology and Media. 8) Importance of city as a strategic location or hub for key global industries not otherwise measured above. The authors claim their rankings differ from other global cities surveys because they “focus on criteria that are directly relevant to a city’s global economic impact and power… when discussing the concept of the ‘global city’, global economic power is the sine qua non ingredient.”
Blah, blah, blah… So, What About Seoul?
Although the report did not state the relative weight given to each criterion, I surmise that Seoul did well in corporate headquarters and financial services. Seoul ranks seventh in the world measured by value of shares traded in metropolitan area stock exchanges. (New York is number one and trades in value as much as the other top 10 combined (see Figure C-1). Seoul likely scored well in technology. Korea is the most-wired nation in the world and has a tech-savvy netizenry. Media, however, is a mixed bag. Korea scores very high in its export of popular culture, but if media means print and broadcast news sources… Yikes!)
Other Findings (and my opinion of how Seoul stacks up):
“Global hubs are helped by their facility with English…. English dominates the global economic system… This linguistic, digital and cultural congruence poses concerns for major competing cities, including those Russia and mainland China.” (…and Korea. For whatever the reason, Korea’s investment in English has not matched its return vis-a-vis other Asian countries.)
“Since the late Enlightenment, great cities, often built around markets, were typically places not just for the rich and their servants, but also for the aspirational middle and lower classes. A great city, wrote Rene Descartes in the 17th century, represented ‘an inventory of the possible’.” (Seoul seems every bit the promised land or land of opportunity to Koreans and perhaps Asians of every stripe save Japanese.)
“These global cities reflect a new model of urbanism that… rests on a simple economic formula: please and lure the ultra-rich, so that with the surplus wealth they generate, you can then serve the rest of the population.” (One word: Chaebols)
“Much has been written about the emergence of powerful new cities, particularly in East Asia, but it is critical not to overlook the enormous power of historical inertia. ‘It is inevitable’, a manager at Shanghai’s Guotai, a large Chinese investment bank, boasted to the Washington Post, ‘ that we will take the US’s place as the world leader.’ Yet, it will be a long time, perhaps decades or even longer, before any city on the Chinese mainland approaches the global influence of the long-established global hubs.” (I found their findings of “historical inertia” in their “new” approach ironic though consistent with their findings. Historical inertia from yesteryear presently works against Seoul, but as the world becomes more aware of the Miracle on the Han and recent years become yesteryears, historical inertia will work for Seoul.)
One of the report’s appendices presented a summary of findings and a special section that noted the ascendancy of East Asia, Fighting for the Future: The Battle for East Asia, singled out Tokyo, Seoul, and China. “It seems likely that the primary challenge to the New York–London duopoly will come from East Asia.”
The report found Tokyo “no longer ascendant, but still important.” The authors based their conclusion on two critical factors: “the relative decline of the Japanese economy paired with the simultaneous rise of China (and other emerging economies like Korea).” They found a third critical problem in Japan’s “cultural insularity—something that could have been overlooked when Japan dominated Asia’s economy, but now a severe liability going forward.” Relating this to Seoul, I think that the rise of the behemoth that is China’s economy, the long-term decline in and aging of Korea’s population, and Korea’s cultural insularity will similarly work against Seoul’s ascendancy.
Here’s the special section on Seoul (see Appendix C):
Seoul Makes a Bid
Given the growth of the Korean economy and the expanding footprint of that country’s large conglomerates, Seoul must be considered a de facto global city. Yet, like Tokyo, the Korean capital, although gaining in terms of the number of foreign residents, lacks the demographic diversity of a London or New York; few foreign large companies locate their regional headquarters in Seoul. Due to major global players such as Samsung and Hyundai, Seoul is ranked 4th, tied with Paris, in the total number of Forbes 2000 global headquarters.
“Much has been written about the emergence of powerful new cities, particularly in East Asia, but it is critical not to overlook the enormous power of historical inertia. ‘It is inevitable’, a manager at Shanghai’s Guotai, a large Chinese investment bank, boasted to the Washington Post, ‘ that we will take the US’s place as the world leader.’ Yet, it will be a long time, perhaps decades or even longer, before any city on the Chinese mainland approaches the global influence of the long-established global hubs.”
Although I am happy for the boost in international prestige both the report’s (and Forbes Magazine’s) ranking and underlying criteria represent for Seoul, I can read into them caution for the rest of Korea. A South African magazine’s observation about London’s ranking – why this is flattering, worrisome and deceiving – could easily and even more so apply to Seoul’s:
It’s almost 18 years since Newsweek magazine’s “London Rules” cover trumpeted the triumphs of what came to be dubbed Cool Britannia. Two years after that, though, the magazine ran an “Uncool Britannia” piece illustrating how little of the capital’s glamour had been distributed across the rest of the nation. London as a city-state is great for the capital city, terrible for the rest of the country. There needs to be greater decentralization, even if that saps a little of London’s swagger on the global stage.
Finally, the report, admittedly, ranked cities only by global influence factors and omitted quality of life considerations (you know, things that people rather than governments and global corporations find intrinsically critical):
Other surveys measure different things and weigh factors that we do not consider intrinsically critical. For example, the Mercer Quality of Living Survey and the Monocle Quality of Life Survey are focused on lifestyle in the city. These surveys frequently rank smaller cities such as Vienna (1st in the Mercer survey) and Copenhagen (1st in the Monocle survey) very highly, but these are generally not the most important or dynamic business hubs. It is notable that Monocle’s and The Economist’s headquarters remain in London, despite the city’s low score in quality of life rankings. Clearly, there is a difference between ease of living and economic dynamism.
A Google News search of “forbes ‘world’s most influential cities’” reveals that the piece got picked up by news outlets around the world (particularly in U.K., U.A.E., Russia, South Africa, and Australia). The Toronto Star, in Canadian fashion, published an opinion piece, Others see Toronto as a success. Why don’t we? Interestingly, I didn’t find a single U.S. paper that reported on the piece. I’m sure Korean media will soon pick it up.
The numbers are in and apparently “Myeongryang: Roaring Currents” will be the most successful Korean film made to date with admissions rates estimated to be well over 14 million after just 18 days of release. The previous record was James Cameron’s “Avatar” in 2009 which had about 13.62 million admissions total, thus Roaring Currents will, excuse the expression, blow Avatar out of the water. So far, the film has brought in gross receipts of W109.7 billion for CJ Entertainment.
(Image from Soopi.com)
Sure, a competently done movie about Korea’s greatest hero fighting a near impossible battle against that perennial Korean enemy the Japanese would certainly expect to do well. It would appear that most critics believe the special effects to be quite good, even by Hollywood standards, however those same critics also believe the movie to have a healthy dose of nationalism. At least one Korean critic lambasted the movie for overly playing to nationalistic heart strings. However, the movie’s success may not be attributed to nationalism alone as some critics believe that the Korean population’s need for something inspirational after the Sewol disaster may be driving some of its admissions.
One half-Korean viewer took exception to the fact that many of the characters (both Korean and Japanese) took on familiar one dimensional caricatures. Commander Bae Seol (who deserted Admiral Yi a day before the battle) was portrayed by an actor who had an untrustworthy ferret face. The Japanese were, predictably a bit evil and/or crazy looking. Admiral Yi, predictably was appropriately heroic, serious and savior-like.
(Image from FilmsMash.com)
Out of all the articles I read about the film I thought the interview with an historian on the film’s inaccuracies was most interesting. Anyways, I saw the movie last week and I thought it was all right. To me it wasn’t any less nationalistic than say Mel Gibson’s “The Patriot” or both the “300” movies. The battle scenes were competently done and exciting in my opinion. Listen, let’s not kid ourselves here. I agree with Jay Seaver over at eFilmCritic.com. It’s not going to be Academy Award winning material nor is it going to be a completely accurate historical documentary. It’s going to be crafted as an effects-laden crowd-pleaser and like “The Patriot” or “300,” historical license is going to be taken.
Solidifying North Korea’s already dominant position as the more comically entertaining of the two Koreas, Pyongyang reacted to speculation that the three short-range rockets fired off the east coast before Francis’s arrival and the two launched shortly after were in reaction to the Pope’s visit:
“We don’t know and in fact have no interest at all in why he is traveling to South Korea and what he is going to plot with the South Korean puppets,” Pyongyang’s official Korean Central News Agency quoted Kim In-yong, a North Korean rocket scientist, as saying in reference to the pope.
The real question, the report quoted Mr. Kim as saying, was: “Why of all the days of the year, as numerous as the hairs of a cow, did the pope choose to come to the South on the very day we had planned to test our rockets?”
Reading between the lines, I see that North Korea has developed, to what diabolical end I do not know, a strain of nearly hairless cow with precisely 365 hairs in most years. I will continue to monitor North Korean media for references to Kim In-yong or infer in lack thereof that Mr. Kim and his kin got sent to gulags for letting slip state secrets in South Korea’s most widely read English-language blog dealing with Korea-related topics.
Surprisingly (certainly to me), the Catholic Church does have a presence in North Korea. Known as the “silent church”, Pyongyang has sanctioned one Catholic church, which has no official ties to the Vatican and is led by an itinerant South Korean Father John Park who has traveled to Pyongyang once a year since 2000 to celebrate mass. The State maintains strict controls, and I doubt that Father Park administers the sacrament of confession: “a confidential one-on-one conversation between a South Korean — even if that person is a priest — and a North Korean is impossible and both could be accused of espionage.” North Korea has not a single priest residing in the country. The United States claims North Korea’s few state-run churches exist only for the appearance of religious freedom.
As for numbers, the United Nations estimates about 800 Catholics in North Korea while North Korea’s state-run Korean Catholic Association asserts about 3,000 “registered Catholics.” I wonder the reason for the North’s higher number, especially given that the regime is officially atheist.
Members of North Korea’s religious groups and the groups themselves are often criticized as being fake. Here’s MH favorite Andrei Lankov’s take:
“The North Korean government is tolerant of a small controlled religious presence within the country or is willing to fake such presence,” said Andrei Lankov, an associate professor in social sciences at Kookmin University in South Korea.
“Even if some members are true believers, they are selected by the government. The police authorities, the secret police, is checking your background,” he said.
North Korea’s constitution does allow its people to practice religion. However, in the same constitution, it also says it won’t allow it to be “used for drawing in foreign forces or for harming the State or social order.”
Dr. Lankov concluded, “from their (North Korea’s) point of view, it is a very real threat. Right now, Christianity seems to be their most dangerous ideological challenge to the existing regime.”
I would like to ask him whether Christianity in general or Catholicism specifically is the threat. We have seen in our lifetimes the irresistible political force, even to the Soviet Union and a well-backed Communist state and party, that the Catholic Church and pope can be. I wonder could the next pope be Asian or even Korean?
For the Pope’s final mass on Monday for “peace and reconciliation for the Korean peninsula”, Vatican representatives had invited North Korea to send a delegation. North Korea rejected the invitation. The state-run Korean Catholics Association cited the annual joint military exercises between U.S. and South Korean forces as the reason for rejection. Apparently as fervently as they might feel about the Pope, North Korean Catholics feel even more so about the annual joint military exercises.