United Nations to ROK: Testing Foreigners for AIDS to check ‘values and morality’ Is Discrimination

UNHRSeveral years back, an English teacher refused to take a second test for AIDS because she believed the testing was “discriminatory and an affront to her dignity” and was refused a contract renewal by the city of Ulsan. The United Nations Committee on the Elimination of Racial Discrimination took up the case and has decided that this is discrimination against foriengers and that they teacher should be compensated for lost revenue by the South Korean Government.

One article states that:

South Korean nationals in equivalent jobs were not required to do so (be tested for AIDS).
South Korea has said it scrapped the HIV/AIDS tests for expatriate teachers in 2010 (they knew it was discriminatory). The Geneva-based Committee on the Elimination of Racial Discrimination said the HIV/AIDS test “does not appear to be justified on public health grounds or any other ground and is a breach of the right to work without distinction to race, colour, national or ethnic origin”.
It called on South Korea to grant Ms Griffin “adequate compensation for the moral and material damages she suffered”.
It also said South Korea should “counter any manifestations of xenophobia, through stereotyping or stigmatising, of foreigners by public officials, the media and the public at large”, and gave the country 90 days to inform the committee of the steps it has taken. (cite)

This much delayed vindication should also be a reminder of just how low politicians (like Lee Ju-yeong or Kim Han-gil) can get in their pursuit of bad ideas (cite).

Much thanks to Professor Benjamin Wagner for news of this recent development.

An Insult that was Criminal

Suwon District Court sentenced four months in prison to two “Ilbe” members who were convicted of criminal insult. The insult unfolded in this manner: one defendant, last named Kim, purchased the school uniform for Danwon High School–the high school whose entire second year class nearly wiped out in the Sewol tragedy–for the purpose of Internet trolling. Kim discussed with the other defendant, last named Cho, about the best way to troll, and Cho suggested Kim take a picture of himself wearing the uniform and holding up a stick of fish cake. The caption for the picture would read: “I made a new friend”–that is to say, the drowned Danwon student is now friends with fish. (The picture can be seen here.)

This is one of the instances in which Korea’s criminal law against insult worked exactly as it was supposed to work. While I am hardly a fan of the way in which Korean law regulates speech, I have always found there is a sound policy reason to keep criminal insult in the books:  to punish people like these two assholes, who travel such lengths to make light of a massive tragedy, solely for the purpose of the lulz. A civilized society requires that its members act with a minimum level of decency, and it makes sense to hold this line upon the pains of the law.

US Defense ships Live Anthrax by mistake to South Korea

Korean media (Chosun article here) are reporting on a revelation that live anthrax was shipped by mistake to Joint United States Forces Korea Portal and Integrated Threat Recognition Program (ITRP) at Osan Airbase in South Korea, from Dugway, Utah in the US. Some report that it is the first time the ITRP program was officially acknowledged at all. Needlessly to say, this Hankyoreh article is highlighting the unanswered – whether the US government had notified the Korean government prior to the shipping of the anthrax, how much was shipped, and if they ship (hopefully dead) sample often.

주한미군사령부는 살아있는 탄저균 표본을 발견한 사실을 27일 한국 정부에 통보했다. 하지만 주한미군 쪽은 실험 목적이나 사전에 탄저균 이동 등의 상황을 한국 정부에 통보하고 협의했는지 등은 밝히지 않고 있다. 탄저균 양이 어느 정도인지, 얼마나 자주 탄저균을 들여오는지 등의 의문에도 답하지 않았다.

The same article says that North Korea is meant to possess up to 5000 tons of Anthrax, and only 100kg of it in a large metropolitan city would kill 1 million to 300 million people.

This Kyunghyang article reports that the Korean defense ministry is trying to develop their own vaccine by 2016. They have been asking the US to buy the vaccination for the last 10 years or so, but the US have turned them down due to lack of previous such cases (exporting anthrax vaccine) and lack of stock. Korean government does however, possesses some amount of antidote (Cipro, developed by Bayer), but this amount is nowhere near enough for the number of Korean troops. Kyunhyang also adds that the US have been vaccinating its own troops based in South Korea, since June 2002. (they started in September 1998, but stopped for a while)

Here is the link to CNN report in English on focusing on just the event.

Beating The Rap – Not Just for Rappers

yoo-seung-joon-wideYoo Seung-jun is a former Korean (American) pop star and was one of the biggest selling artists in Korean history, selling over 5 million records in the country. Yoo’s career in South Korea abruptly ended in 2002 due his taking on American citizenship so as to avoid doing mandatory military service in South Korea.

Yoo has now apologized and has offered to fullfil his military service however the government is not forgiving . . .

however . . .

as an editorial at the JoongAng Ilbo has pointed out:

Each year, 3,000 people give up their Korean citizenship to avoid serving in the military. In 2013, among the children of 15 high-ranking officials in the current Park Geun-hye administration – which includes Blue House secretaries – 16 gave up their Korean citizenship and were therefore exempted from service.
Shouldn’t the same strict standard apply to them as well? We may well be neglecting an even more serious issue as we harshly criticize celebrities for the same offense.

That is a good question to ask.

Sympathy for the Devil

Cho Hyun-ah arriving at Seoul Western Prosecutor's Office Dec. 30, 2014 - AP

South Korea’s High Court overturned a lower court’s February decision to imprison Cho Hyun-ah for one year for last December’s “nut rage” incident.  Seoul’s High court found that Cho did not violate aviation security law when she ordered the chief flight attendant off the December 5, 2014 flight, forcing the KAL airliner to return to the gate at JFK Airport.

Seoul’s high court meted out a 10-month prison sentence suspended for two years and set Cho free.  Deemed a flight risk before her trial, Cho had been jailed since her December arrest, and she effectively served five months in prison.

Seoul’s lower court had convicted Cho in February of “forcing a flight to change its route, obstructing the flight’s captain in the performance of his duties, forcing a crew member off a plane and assaulting a crew member.”  The lower court had found her not guilty of interfering with the transport ministry’s investigation into the incident.

At February’s trial, Cho pleaded not guilty and prosecutors sought a three year prison sentence.  Both sides appealed February’s decision and sentence.

In overturning the most serious of the lower court’s findings, Seoul’s High Court interpreted that Cho’s actions did not violate the aviation security law, which is meant to regulate severe acts such as hijacking. Seoul’s High Court determined that Cho’s actions posed no serious threat and that Cho’s demanding the return of the taxiing plane did not constitute forcing a plane to change its route.

Seoul’s High Court found that Cho had “shown remorse for the wrongdoing she committed. She must have learned a lesson from it. We judge she should have a chance to start her life anew.”

The head of the three judge panel Kim Sang-hwan found that even though Cho had used violence against crew members, Cho should be given a second chance.  The judge cited Cho’s “internal change” since Cho started serving her prison term.  Judge Kim also took into consideration that Cho had no prior convictions and was the mother of 2-year-old twins in lessening Cho’s sentence.

Former Korean Air executive Cho Hyun-ah, center, is surrounded by reporters at the Seoul High Court in Seoul, South Korea, Friday, May 22, 2015. The upper court Friday sentenced Cho to 10 months in prison and then suspended the sentence for two years. (AP Photo/Lee Jin-man)
Cho Hyun-ah is surrounded by reporters at the Seoul High Court in Seoul, South Korea, Friday, May 22, 2015. (AP Photo/Lee Jin-man)

Upon leaving the court house, Cho “made no comment in front of the TV cameras, bowing her head and burying her face in her hands as the media pressed in and yelled for her to say something.”

“It appears that she will have to live under heavy criticism from society and stigma,” said Judge Kim.

Aside from the worldwide notoriety and igniting of the smoldering embers below the tinderbox that Korean society is in relation to its chaebols, I think her sentence, given her time served, seems fair.  Clearly, the three years sentence sought by prosecution was excessive as would be any sentence over one year.

My major objections to the High Court’s lessening Cho’s sentence are that KAL executives and an investigator who once worked for KAL (daddy’s fiefdom company) obstructed justice on Cho’s behalf and the reduction of her sentence from one year to 10 months (suspended) reduces the sense of seriousness of her crimes.   Of course, serious crimes or lengths of prison sentences haven’t prevented Chaebol heads or their family members from returning to their positions in the past.

Cho still faces civil lawsuits, not in Korea’s mealy civil courts, in New York.

(Featured image Cho Hyun-ah leaves a Seoul court in December. Photograph: Ahn Young-joon/AP)


A question of love

This MBC report(in Korean) highlights the problem of the increasing number of failed marriages in the case of Korean farmers marrying women from abroad, mainly South East Asian countries (Vietnam, Philippines etc)

It is said last year 43 percent of such marriages ended up in divorce, and including non-divorce cases where the women simply left home, it could be as high as 60 percent.
Previously the news had highlighted the plight from the women’s point of view, sometimes citing violence from the husbands as a reason for the women to leave home in the first place, but it is interesting to see this report shows the other side of the fence, portraying the women themselves as only getting married in order to obtain the (Korean) nationality, and then leaving the farm/country life to go work in the city (often in Karaoke bars frequented by workers from other South East Asian countries).

I have probably said it before, and I will say it again.
I have little sympathy for either party.

I don’t even know why people would go on internet dating sites, let alone inter-country marriages arranged by brokers.
Am I old-fashioned?

Often people would say that is easy if you are a girl, or if you are eligible, but I don’t think this is the case necessarily. I find it strange that it is not easy to fall in love with somebody around you, if you are looking, with somebody around you or at school or at workplace. In the depths of Korean farmland, it might indeed be the case, but then to have to go abroad to bring wives?
In the case of women friends that I have around the globe, “who are fast approaching or missed their golden window of opportunity in terms of age” according to themselves, I find they are/were simply too picky..

This reminds me to look up and link to another recent article from Chosun that I have been informed from my mother that my parents had a fight over this morning. It says that men are more vulnerable to their “first love” apparently, and says that it was mostly men who were susceptible to a voice phishing scam which involved “I am your first-love in primary school” whereas most women find out by the age of 40 that all men are pretty much the same. So what did my parents fight about? My father told my mother about the article and asked how it was in her case. Her answer was “I found out much earlier than that (that all men are pretty much the same)”, with which my father got all huffed up and stormed off the hill by himself.
Cute, my parents.

Language Buffs (and others) might find this interesting

I came across this very interesting article/podcast that I would like to share with TMH readers. The podcast is actually much more interesting and goes into much more detail, leaving the theme of the North/South Korean dictionary smartphone app to go into how Korean just changes for everybody when it interviews a KA woman who has never actually lived in Korea but learned it from her mother who left in the 1970’s.

The only thing I wanted to point out listening to that interview is that it is probably *not* because of the fact that the waitress didn’t know what she meant when she said the word 다꾸앙 that she rolled her eyes, it is more likely that she knew but also know that this is one of those words that the Korean government at some point actively discouraged Koreans from using due to the Japanese origin. This is actually the one word that I think Koreans (South Korea) are stupid and go over the top with their nationalistic tendencies..just like the North Koreans they are actually accusing of..I mean the yellow pickled radish is so clearly Japanese in origin, and it is supposedly named after a Buddhist monk of the same name..to actively make up a new word called 단무지, just to replace something that has been in use.

This and another word I had an argument with a very stubborn Korean woman (who herself had lived in the US) and that other word was 건배 (cheers) In her very unsightly Pusan accent(boy, she is loud) with spittle flying out of her mouth, she objected in front of all the foreign people who asked me how to say “cheers” in Korean, and when I said “건배” she was like “No, it’s 위하여! 건배 is Chinese or Japanese! Koreans say 위하여!” – so I had to quickly explain this background of how the Korean authorities every so often, getting the urge to arbitrarily purge the influence of a perfectly good language and overhaul a perfectly good system (included is the new Romanization). The laugh was on her when the Kyosu (professor) in charge of the conference stood up from the other end of the table (he had not heard the conversation on this end) and toasted “건배!” – she went red in the face and said “he’s from the old generation”..The funny thing is, it is not just the old generation, even now most young people in Korea will say 건배, so it is actually she is just stuck in some weird time slip limbo by herself..위하여 is just going to to go into history into the room 101 of arbitrary bad ideas..

Times like these, it easy to see why the Japanese use the katakana system for words of foreign origin. Talk about hang-ups carrying over to the area of language, talk about nationalism lacking in self-confidence.

CNN International butchers “Park Geun-hye”

UK Daily Mirror's Butchered PGH Photo

In the run up to John Kerry’s speech at Korea University today, CNN International reported in news briefs that United States Secretary of State John Kerry met with South Korean President Park Geun-hye.  Both news readers, Zain Asher and Rosemary Church, butchered the pronunciation of President Park’s name, using the same mispronunciation “Park Gun-high”.

I understand that some names from one language and culture get garbled, perhaps necessarily, when vocalized by speakers of another culture.  Speakers of some languages don’t make certain sounds in their languages, and the transliteration of those sounds across alphabets sets the stain.

The problem isn’t unique to Asian pronunciations or those languages that use different alphabets.  American English speakers badly butcher the artist Van Gogh’s name (the proper phonetic rendering I will leave for a spirited debate in the comments before its inevitable devolving into ad hominems and anarchy).  Some names that English native speakers should properly vocalize are not for no other reason than differences in language flow.  Tennis great Maria Sharapova, whose name’s sounds native English speakers should reasonably approximate (save for the final syllable of her surname), gets spoken as ‘Share-uh-POH-va’.  Upon hearing her name vocalized by a native Russian speaker, I could immediately echo ‘Sha-rrah-puh-vwa’.  I have met some native English speakers who have difficulty with the trilled, or rolling, ‘r’-sound as spoken in Spanish and Italian and in Maria Sharpova’s Russian pronunciation of her given name and first syllable of her surname.

Americans and other native English speakers can learn to recognize and properly pronounce other cultures’ names that do not follow the rules or even guidelines of English, as any basketball fan knows with Duke’s Coach Mike Krzyzewski and any political junkie knows with Carter’s National Security Advisor and (underrated) political pundit Zbigniew Brzezinski.  So, there’s no excuse.

I blame Koreans.

Of course, CNN’s news readers deserve the initial blame for mispronouncing President Park Geun-hye’s name:  they didn’t do their research and should have asked someone, if not on staff then somewhere.  Nonetheless, the growing Korean diaspora and community, which are gaining in numbers and influence, seem content to silently let this and other Korean name pronunciation errors stand.

Unlike Maria Sharapova, whose brand brings in more bling than her prodigious tennis earnings and (perhaps) for business reasons wants to Americanize the pronunciation of her name, Koreans have no such excuse.  I’m lookin’ at you “Hee-seop Choi“.  Choi Hee-seop should have instructed baseball announcers in Chicago, Miami, and Los Angeles in his name’s proper pronunciation.  Given Choi’s failing or inability to do so, native Korean-speaking baseball fans in those cities should have told baseball announcers Choi’s name’s correct pronunciation.   Even Olympic gymnast Nadia Comaneci set the world straight as a 14 year old.

I wrote to CNN International offering to help them to better pronounce Korean names by connecting CNN International staff with native Korean speakers:

Correct Pronunciation of South Korean President Park Geun-hye’s Name
Dear CNN International,

Your news readers are mispronouncing South Korean President Park Geun-hye’s name. President Park’s name is pronounced “pak k͈ɯnh(j)e” or approximately “Pock Gewn-hyeh”.

Korean and eastern cultures value the correct pronunciation of their names the same as in western cultures. I can connect your research staff with native Korean speakers and offer my assistance to do so.


As I take a breath from cleaning up my small part of my small world, I’ll hold that breath waiting for CNN’s reply.

(Featured image courtesy of ripped from UK’s Daily Mirror, which inexplicably butchered Park Geun-hye’s photo of today’s meeting with Secretary of State John Kerry.)

Pizza night

Pizza Vending Machine

Wednesday might have been Prince Spaghetti day for Anthony Martinetti in the north end of Boston, but Friday night was pizza night for Anonymous_Joseph growing up on the east side of Anonymous_City.  Whereas the north end of Boston was home to the Prince Spaghetti company, my Anonymous_Hometown had some of the best pizzerias, featuring wood-fired brick oven, hand-tossed pizzas.  The pizza makers were like clockworks, stewing their fresh tomatoes into sauce at four in the morning daily.  When I go back, I plan to eat pizza for the first year.  (BTW, my Philistine reader, just as true steak lovers order theirs seared on the outside and bleeding rare on the inside, true pizza lovers order the Margherita.)

The KT US, if you can trust them at the risk of being dragged out into the streets and shot, announced “the world’s first pizza vending machine has landed in Korea.”

World’s first pizza-making vending machine in S. Korea

By Rachel Lee

The world’s first pizza vending machine has landed in Korea.

The “Let’s Pizza,” made in Italy, was launched at Seoul Food 2015, Tuesday, at Kintex in Ilsan, Gyeonggi Province.

The four-day food industry exhibition, established in 1983, is the third largest in Asia. Under the theme “Wave on the Table,” about 1,480 exhibitors from 44 countries are taking part.

The vending machine creates the pizza by kneading the dough, mixing the ingredients and selecting the toppings ― margherita, pepperoni, ham or bacon. The pizza takes about three minutes to bake.

“All the ingredients used are from Italy, and we use 100 percent real cheese,” Seo Soo-jin, 28, CEO of distributor P & Food System, told The Korea Times. “It’s good quality and the prices are reasonable, too.”

Prices are expected to be between 6,200 (US$5.70) and 6,800 won (US$6.25) for a whole pizza. Cash, credit and check cards can be used in the machine.

The company said maintenance was designed to be quick and easy, with daily cleaning taking about 10 minutes and a weekly cleaning requiring 45 minutes.

The Let’s Pizza machine has enough flour and tomato for 100 pizzas before it requires filling.

“Our product has drawn a massive interest among those visiting Seoul Food because the pizzas taste great,” Seo said.

The “Let’s Pizza” machine can be placed at public places including underground stations, universities, theme parks, stadiums, theaters and swimming pools.

No word yet  whether corn will be added to a localized menu.

I wish them well and am initially curious enough to override my instincts to squeeze a penny into copper wire to spring for one.

(Photo Courtesy of Ripped from Working P Company.  Somehow, I don’t think they’ll mind.)

Korean media calls NYT ‘potentially racist'; pot calls kettle ‘potentially black’

Korea Nail Salon Owners - Fighting!

Today’s KT cited Korean media reactions to a NYT investigative article about the alleged exploitation of workers at New York City’s Korean dominated nail salons.  The KT claimed Korean media view the article as “potentially racist” and focused on The New York Times’ “distortion of the truth” and the fear of a potential backlash that could lead to racial discrimination against Koreans in America:

Various Korean news outlets claim the article is a “distortion of truth against Korean-owned nail shops.”

Joongang Ilbo’s affiliate channel JTBC reported that wage differences were related only to workers’ years of experience, and that most shops pay the legal wage.

Lee Sang-ho, from the Korean Society in New York, told JTBC, “This could trigger negative views of Koreans and lead to racial discrimination against Koreans in America.”

He said Korean owners of nail shops in New York would hold a press conference disputing the NYT report.

SBS also reported that Korean owners were planning an official response stating that most of the article was untrue and pointing out that there might be a backlash against Koreans in the U.S.

Based on journalist Sarah Maslin Nir’s 13-month investigation, The New York Times published the two-part piece with part two as the lead article on its website.  Part one, Perfect Nails, Poisoned Workers, focused on health issues faced by the nail technicians.  Part two, The Price of Nice Nails, used the words Korea or Korean 23 times.  Here is a sampling.

Korean workers routinely earn twice as much as their peers, valued above others by the Korean owners who dominate the industry and who are often shockingly plain-spoken in their disparagement of workers of other backgrounds. Chinese workers occupy the next rung in the hierarchy; Hispanics and other non-Asians are at the bottom.

An Ethnic Caste System

As the throngs of manicurists gather in Flushing, Queens, every morning, the patter of “good mornings” is mostly in Chinese and Spanish, with the occasional snatches of Tibetan or Nepali. Korean is hardly ever heard among these workers heading to salons outside New York City, many of them hours away.

But to the customer settling into the comfort of a pedicure chair in Manhattan, it can seem as if nearly the entire work force is Korean.

The contrast stems from the stark ethnic hierarchy imposed by nail salon owners. Seventy percent to 80 percent of salons in the city are Korean-owned, according to the Korean American Nail Salon Association.

…Manicurists from Korea dominate in Manhattan; others are often shuttled to the other boroughs or out of the city, where business is slower.

…Korean manicurists, particularly if they are youthful and attractive, typically have their pick of the most desirable jobs in the industry — shiny shops on Madison Avenue and in other affluent parts of the city. Non-Korean manicurists are often forced into less desirable jobs in the boroughs outside Manhattan or even farther out from the city, where customers are typically fewer and tips often paltry.

In general, Korean workers earn at least 15 percent to 25 percent more than their counterparts, but the disparity can sometimes be much greater, according to manicurists, beauty school instructors and owners.

Some bosses deliberately prey on the desperation of Hispanic manicurists, who are often drowning under large debts owed to “coyotes” who smuggled them across the border, workers and advocates say.

Many Korean owners are frank about their prejudices. “Spanish employees” are not as smart as Koreans, or as sanitary, said Mal Sung Noh, 68, who is known as Mary, at the front desk of Rose Nails, a salon she owns on the Upper East Side. …Ms. Noh said she kept her Hispanic manicurists at the lowest rung of work. “They don’t want to learn more,” she said.

Ethnic discrimination imbues other aspects of salon life. Male pedicure customers are despised by many manicurists for their thick toenails and hair-covered knuckles. When a man comes into the store, almost invariably a non-Korean worker is first draft for his foot bath, salon workers said.

Ana Luisa Camas, 32, an Ecuadorean immigrant, said that at a Korean-owned Connecticut salon where she worked, she and her Hispanic colleagues were made to sit in silence during their entire 12-hour shifts, while the Korean manicurists were free to chat.

…Lhamo Dolma, 39, a manicurist from Tibet who goes by Jackey, recalled a former job at a Brooklyn salon where she had to eat lunch every day standing in a kitchenette with the shop’s other non-Korean workers, while her Korean counterparts ate at their desks.

“Their country people, they are completely free,” she said in an interview in her house in Queens, seated on a low settee beneath her household’s Buddhist shrine. She began to cry. “Why do they make us two different?” she said. “Everybody is the same.”

…Many owners defended their business methods as the only way to stay afloat.

Ansik Nam, former president of the Korean American Nail Salon Association, said that in the early 2000s, scores of owners held an emergency meeting at a Korean restaurant in Flushing, hoping to prevent manicure and pedicure prices from sagging further. He said no agreement was reached.

What’s more alarming is the context that the owners of the salons get mentioned in:

On a morning last May, Jing Ren, a 20-year-old who had recently arrived from China, stood among them for the first time, headed to a job at a salon in a Long Island strip mall.  …Tucked in her pocket was $100 in carefully folded bills for another expense: the fee the salon owner charges each new employee for her job. The deal was the same as it is for beginning manicurists in almost any salon in the New York area. She would work for no wages, subsisting on meager tips, until her boss decided she was skillful enough to merit a wage.

It would take nearly three months before her boss paid her. Thirty dollars a day.

…The New York Times interviewed more than 150 nail salon workers and owners, in four languages, and found that a vast majority of workers are paid below minimum wage; sometimes they are not even paid. Workers endure all manner of humiliation, including having their tips docked as punishment for minor transgressions, constant video monitoring by owners, even physical abuse. Employers are rarely punished for labor and other violations.

…Asian-language newspapers are rife with classified ads listing manicurist jobs paying so little the daily wage can at first glance appear to be a typo. Ads in Chinese in both Sing Tao Daily and World Journal for NYC Nail Spa, a second-story salon on the Upper West Side of Manhattan, advertised a starting wage of $10 a day. The rate was confirmed by several workers.

Lawsuits filed in New York courts allege a long list of abuses: the salon in East Northport, N.Y., where workers said they were paid just $1.50 an hour during a 66-hour workweek; the Harlem salon that manicurists said charged them for drinking the water, yet on slow days paid them nothing at all; the minichain of Long Island salons whose workers said they were not only underpaid but also kicked as they sat on pedicure stools, and verbally abused.

…Among the hidden customs are how new manicurists get started. Most must hand over cash — usually $100 to $200, but sometimes much more — as a training fee. Weeks or months of work in a kind of unpaid apprenticeship follows.

Ms. Ren spent almost three months painting on pedicures and slathering feet with paraffin wax before one afternoon in the late summer when her boss drew her into a waxing room and told her she would finally be paid.

“I just burst into laughter unconsciously,” Ms. Ren said. “I have been working for so long while making zero money; now finally my hard work paid off.”

That night her cousins threw her a party. The next payday she learned her day wage would amount to under $3 an hour.

Responses to the NYT exposé have been immediate and massive.  The NYT articles’ comments sections have comments that number in the thousands.  Interestingly, I did not find an anti-Korean bias in any of the comments and few mentions of the words Korea or Koreans.  Those that did mention Koreans mentioned them in the context of their relations with other Asians.  The NYT seems to have even turned the article into a mini-franchise with published entries on how to be a socially conscious salon customer,  a NY Times blog entry about readers’ responses, and an interview with the piece’s author.

The article’s author Sarah Maslin Nir  opened a Facebook page for questions with questions and comments numbering in the hundreds.  At the time of this writing, none of the 12 references to Korean or Koreans expressed negativity toward Korea or Koreans.  FB users’ questions centered around how to get more money to the exploited workers and whether the shops’ landlords or others were somehow culpable.  Commenters also commended the NYT for publishing the article in Korean, Chinese, and Spanish, some pledging to give the article to their manicurists.

Slate answered the question Worried That Your Manicurist Is Being Exploited? Tipping More Probably Won’t Help, specifically citing Korean businesses.

So how can customers go about getting their fingernails varnished ethically? Well, one approach would be to avoid businesses that are primarily staffed by vulnerable immigrants. There are downsides to this. First, it will obviously cost you more to go somewhere that employs less easily exploited staff. Second, it feels extremely xenophobic—you’d basically be vowing to avoid Korean businesses. Third, by not patronizing your former favorite salon, you’re more or less guaranteeing that its employees earn even less.

On Sunday, New York Governor Andrew Cuomo ordered emergency measures to combat health hazards and wage theft in the nail salon industry in response to the NYT article.  The Governor’s strong actions were reported in the New York Times, Time Magazine, Business Insider (“following last week’s NYT bombshell report”), and a raft of others. CBS Los Angeles reported that the problem exists in Los Angeles too.  LA and NYC are a continent apart, and I can’t make the connection.

Returning to the featured image for this piece, I can’t help but giggle at the overwhelming force aligning against those (fighting!) salon owners.  My mood is then tempered by the Korean media’s choice of angle in this story.

EDIT:  I regret my choice of title for this article, only because the title seems to have devolved discussion into charges of “sensationalism” and detracted from the piece’s real issue.  I would have replaced this piece’s original featured image with the headline from the article that inspired this piece (see below).

As far as charges of sensationalism go, I see only three places in the original piece that are not purely objective, lack citation, and interject opinion:

  1. “What’s more alarming is the context that the owners of the salons get mentioned in:”
  2. “LA and NYC are a continent apart, and I can’t make the connection.”
  3. “Returning to the featured image for this piece, I can’t help but giggle at the overwhelming force aligning against those (fighting!) salon owners. My mood is then tempered by the Korean media’s choice of angle in this story.”

All other statements and claims are cited.  My goal is to return the emphasis to the content of the piece.  If I could rewrite the piece’s title, I would have likely used a title adapted from this piece’s inspirationKorean media calls NYT ‘potentially racist’

Screen capture of KT article that inspired this piece:

KT - Local Mdia Call NYT 'Potentially Racist'


Strange Denials

South Gyeongsang Province Gov. Hong Joon-pyo (Yonhap)

Prosecutors will question South Gyeongsang Province Govenor Hong Joon-pyo Friday at 10 a.m. over allegations that he received 100 million won from late Keangnam chairman Sung Woan-jong in 2011.  Sung named Hong and the amount in a note found in Sung’s shirt pocket on Sung’s dead body the day Sung committed suicide.  Hong is the first of the eight fingered in Sung’s note to be questioned by the prosecution.

Hong is a former prosecutor who launched a political career in the 2000’s after prosecuting many high-profile corruption cases in the 1980’s – 1990’s.  Friday he will face questioning from his former “junior prosecutors“:

The prosecution decided to call in Hong after the authorities obtained testimony from Yoon Seong-mo, the former vice president of Keangnam Enterprises, who claimed that he was the one who carried the political funds to the former four-term lawmaker four years ago. Hong was then running for chairman of the Grand National Party, the precursor to the ruling Saenuri Party.

…The prosecution appears confident about the case as authorities have also interrogated Hong’s aide to cross-check Yoon’s testimony. For the prosecution, the outcome of summoning Hong is crucial as they are also tasked to reveal the truth behind the scandal that involves President Park Geun-hye’s close confidants including former Prime Minister Lee Wan-koo and incumbent Chief of Staff Lee Byung-kee.

“Pundits said it would not be easy to bring the ex-prosecutor to court as he knows the process well.”

Hong seems to have taken the aforementioned former Prime Minister Lee Wan-koo’s and PGH’s incumbent Chief of Staff Lee Byung-kee’s tactic of spinning the press with strange denials.  According to the Korea Herald,

The governor tried to water down the claim, raising fresh speculation that Yoon has been making inconsistent testimonies. Hong claimed Yoon’s memory was not accurate because he delivered Sung’s money to many politicians.

That not only doesn’t make me think he’s innocent but also makes me wonder how he knows Yoon “delivered Sung’s money to many politicians”?  I can only hope that prosecutors press Hong to elaborate.

Hong’s denial follows Lee Wan-koo’s threat (?) of suicide (!), Lee Byung-kee’s vow to quit immediately if any of the bribery allegations against him are proven to be true (duh), and my personal favorite, PGH’s first Chief of Staff Huh Tae-yeol’s spit-take worthy  non-sequitur “‘such money trade is unimaginable’ as then-candidate Park stressed the need for a ‘clean primary’.”

There are more, but I’ve got to towel off my keyboard.

(Featured photo:  South Gyeongsang Province Gov. Hong Joon-pyo. (Yonhap))