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Open Thread: March 31, 2014

Have a good week, folks.

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The Filipino air force is a joke.  The last jet fighters they had were the old F-5 Freedom Fighters that they retired in 2005.  Even their Defense Secretary teased, “Our Air Force… [is]… all air without force.”

China lays claim to much of the South China Sea (particularly the Spratly Islands) and have routinely violated the Philippines’ territorial claims with both military aircraft and ships.  As of now, the Filipinos have nothing to send in response, other than unintimidating prop planes, patrol boats and antiquated destroyers.  Although the Filipinos do not officially acknowledge they are seeking weapons to counter Chinese incursions, they are essentially trying to obtain specific weapons to counter Chinese incursions.

Yesterday, the Philippines and Korea signed a contract to provide 12 F/A-50 light fighter-bombers, within 38 months, for about $420 million.  As both a war capable plane and a trainer is it the be all and end all for what the Philippines needs to counter China?  No.  But, the Philippines is not a rich country and cannot afford to buy and maintain more capable planes such as Saab’s Gripen, the F-16C (Block 40 or better), the Sukhoi Su-27, etc.  Plus, they are nine years out of practice in flying jet fighters and probably couldn’t use top-of-the line planes to their fullest capabilities because they have no training infrastructure.  The Filipinos themselves acknowledge that the F/A-50 was the best they can do for now.

Manila buys fighter jets worth $520m

(Photo credit: Oman Daily Observer)

Predictably, the Chinese were not happy with this news.  Rumor has it (from the Chosun Ilbo via the Yomiuri Shimbun) that a “Chinese official” made a request to the Park administration to not sell the jets, which Korea reportedly ignored.

So, what could the Chinese hypothetically send against Filipino F/A-50s?  It would have to have long range, so probably Sukhoi Su-27s or Sukhoi Su-30MKK.  Head to head does an F/A-50 have a snowball’s chance in hell against an Su-30MMK?  Most likely not.  An Su-30 is faster, more powerful, has advanced beyond visual range (“BVR”) missiles and sensor driven helmet mounted displays that control “off-boresight” weapons.  However, the F/A-50 has something that may save it: Link-16.  The Philippines are buying long range ground based radars that they will station near the Spratlys.  If linked with the F/A-50s then they can see Chinese planes before Chinese planes can see them, thus giving the F/A-50s a fighting chance, particularly if they are armed with their own BVR missiles.

Lastly, as I had mentioned before, the procurement pattern for the T-50 family of jets appears to belie the fact that it was originally designed as a trainer.  The customers (namely Iraq and the Philippines) want this supposed “trainer” to fight.  As a cheap jet fighter in a “stop gap” role it may not be all that bad.  Smaller and poorer nations don’t have a lot of choices.  Back in the Cold War the Soviets and the Americans sold their poorer client states cheap and easy to maintain Mig-21 Fishbeds and F-5 Freedom Fighters.  America and Russia don’t offer these planes (or modern facsimiles) anymore so there is a market need.  At the end of the day the T-50 family might be a better 21st century F-5 than a 21st century version of a T-38.

Next up?  KAI is pitching the T-50 family to the UAE, PeruBotswana, Thailand, not to mention the U.S. T-X program (in conjunction with Lockheed).

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Say you are bestowed with the honor of being involved in the restoration of your nation’s number one national treasure which will allow you to contribute to a structure that will stand, hopefully, long after you’ve passed from this earth, and represent your commitment to your country and craft.  This is, one might think, the opportunity of a lifetime that few could imagine let alone dream of screwing up.

sin

Sin Eung-soo, the chief carpenter/master artisan who’s restored a number of national treasures, the latest being Sungnyemun (aka Namdaemun). (JoongAng Ilbo)

Yet what we’ve learned over the past several months since a “restored” Sungnyemun’s wood started cracking, its paint peeling, signboards falling apart (prompting President Park to order an investigation into the matter) paints a pathetic picture of greed, rampant corruption and bold disregard for integrity of any kind.  The most recent news emerging Thursday further highlights the turpitude of the “chief carpenter,” 71-year-old Sin Eung-soo, holder of an Important Intangible Cultural Property (IICP) title, who in addition to using “substandard” wood in the restoration of the gate and hastily carrying out the restoration, is now accused of stealing wood donated by the Korean public for the project.  He says he has no idea what happened (but he has said that there wasn’t enough time to do the work right).  It has been reported that the wood used in the restoration may have come from Russia, though Sin denied this following a raid on his office in January.

Moreover, Sin is accused of further wrongdoing in other restoration jobs, including Gyeongbok Palace during which four 200 to 300-year-old Geumgang pines donated by the Cultural Heritage Administration (CHA) vanished, a wrongdoing that links him to another criminal who’s been loaning out his heritage restoration certificate in exchange for large bribes while also bribing officials at the CHA.  In response to the allegations, the CHA has asked for time to “grasp more clearly” what occurred and how to fix it.

It is hard to know how far this will go, how many “restorations” involved corruption, use of inauthentic materials and careless, third-rate craftsmanship.  The suicide of one of the civilian investigators in late January could be a sign of how abysmal the whole opprobrious operation is.  The 56-year-old professor of wood science was found hanging by an electrical cord in his wood specimen lab at Chungbuk National University.  In a broadcast news interview days before the professor had claimed that some of the wood specimens he examined were not Geumgang pine.  Police had summoned the professor for questioning following the filing of a suit by one of the companies involved in the restoration claiming impropriety in the investigation.  Police say they have phone records indicating that the professor received a call immediately after his interview ended.

Seems like everyone was lining his or her pockets with nary a care about the historical structures on which they were working.  Sin’s career spans more than 50 years like many of the other master artisans involved with these projects; perhaps a comprehensive examination of all the restoration projects on which these people worked should be initiated.

And all of this started so well with “dedicated artisans of our time” turning the act of arson “into an opportunity to restore and transmit the legacy of Korea’s rich cultural traditions to posterity.”  An opportunity indeed.

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Andrei Lankov: North Korea can feed itself

Surprise, surprise, by and large yes says Andrei Lankov.  We here at TMH haven’t quoted or linked to Dr. Lankov for awhile since his regular Korea Times column ceased.  It doesn’t mean he isn’t eminently quotable or linkable.  It’s just been harder to find his latest musings without a regular column to go to.

Andrei appears to be freelancing more nowadays: Asia Times, Russia Beyond the Headlines and Al Jazeera.  Yes, Al Jazeera.  Andrei’s latest piece is in today’s Al Jazeera editorial section where he makes the claim that North Korea isn’t starving and can in fact feed itself:

One of the most commonly cited cliches is that North Korea is a “destitute, starving country”. Once upon a time, such a description was all too sadly correct: In the late 1990s, North Korea suffered a major famine that, according to the most recent research, led to between 500,000 and 600,000 deaths. However, starvation has long since ceased to be a fact of life in North Korea.

[...]

The gradual improvement in the food situation is closely related to changes in other areas of North Korea’s economic life. Contrary to what a majority of lay people tend to believe, the last decade has been one of moderate economic growth north of the DMZ.

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Quest for the T-X Holy Grail

The original rational for Korea Aerospace and Lockheed’s cooperation in developing the T-50 was to build a trainer that could qualify for the “whale” or “mother lode” account: America’s replacement for the venerable, but older than dirt, T-38 Talon.

KAI and Lockheed’s chief rival has always been Alenia Aermacchi’s M-346 Master.  In the global pre-battles between KAI and Alenia Aermacchi there have been wins and losses.  Alenia drew first blood with a win in Singapore.  Then KAI won an order from Indonesia.  Alenia won Israel.  KAI got a big order from Iraq.  Alenia won a modest order from Poland.  KAI is apparently dotting the i’s and crossing the t’s with the Philippines.  It’s been back and forth for the past four years.

However, all this is early dress rehearsal for the estimated 350 new jet trainers that the U.S. Air Force will need.  This is, to say the least, a huge account, that neither side can afford to lose, thus both are playing to win.  Alenia has partnered with General Dynamics, one of the largest U.S. based aerospace companies, and has offered to manufacture the M-346 at General Dynamics’ plants in Arizona and North Carolina.  Needless to say the Koreans and Lockheed are probably dreaming up the same manufacturing arrangement in order to buyrecruit the support of influential Congressman.

Today’s Flightglobal has an excellent summary analysis (with a lot of pretty pictures) of the upcoming battle:

Richard Aboulafia, vice-president of analysis at Teal Group, calls the KAI/Lockheed T-50 Golden Eagle the “most capable” option – but also probably the most expensive to buy and operate. Lockheed declines to discuss prices, but Aboulafia estimates the T-50’s flyaway cost will be $26 million per aircraft.

[...]

The T-50, which has been in service since the mid-2000s, can reach Mach 1.5 and pull 8g, Lockheed says. The type’s single General Electric F404 engine also has an afterburner. “If the [USAF] has the budget, and they want [pilots] to [transition] easily into an F-22 or F-35, the T-50 is the choice,” says Aboulafia.

The BAE/Northrop Hawk option is the cheapest at an estimated $21 million per, but they are clearly the dark horse in this fight.  The Alenia Aermacchi option is in the middle at an estimated $24 million per.

Aboulafia says Alenia Aermacchi’s T-100 – a derivative of its M-346 trainer – holds the middle ground. The aircraft are “very modern”, have “great flying characteristics” and will likely cost about $24 million each, he estimates. The M-346 (below) is powered by two Honeywell F124-200 turbofans, can pull 8g and reach 590kt at 5,000ft (1,520m), according to Alenia Aermacchi.

[...]

“It’s a good compromise,” says Aboulafia of the T-100. “The market has spoken to that. Israel and Singapore [are] two of the most prestigious militaries around.”

Here is a blog with an interesting (but technical) specification comparison between the two jets.

It will be an interesting, hard fought battle between the two.  I am not normally a betting man, but looking at the selection process I would say that the M-346 Master has the edge if a pure trainer is what you are looking for.  Key U.S. allies with similar air power doctrines have the M-346 or have it on order (Singapore, Poland and Israel).  Out of all the KAI wins, only Indonesia has selected the T-50 as a pure trainer.  The procurement history would favor the M-346 and imply that the T-50 a bit of an underdog.  However, as it often happens, the USAF may want the “Cadillac” option and if so, then that would give the T-50 the edge.

USAF%20T-50.jpg

(Photo credit: Flightglobal)

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Encyclopedia of Korean Buddhism

The Ven. Hyewon and friend (and sometimes MH poster) David Mason have recently released the first-ever encyclopedia of Korean Buddhism.

David’s got a ton of info about the book and how to purchase it at his website, so please, click on over and give it a look.

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Avengers trouble

So… is this whole “Avengers” thing just a great big pain in the ass?

Maybe:

When Disney’s Marvel Studios decided to shoot part of the upcoming “Avengers” sequel in Seoul, the city government and state-run film agencies welcomed the decision with fanfare – and with rosy estimates about potential benefits from the elevation of Seoul’s image and the boost it will give to tourism.

But in the face of unprecedented traffic control on some of the city’s busiest districts for more than 10 days, some are questioning whether the government is offering too much support to the filming of “The Avengers: Age of Ultron” at the expense of citizens’ convenience.

The areas that will be blocked off will include major bridges on the Han River such as Cheongdam and Mapo bridges, and important arteries near Gangnam subway station and Digital Media City (DMC) in Sangam-dong, western Seoul, starting from March 30 through April 13.

I hope the image improvement and tourism boost is worth the hassle.

What’s more, the trouble may extend beyond traffic. According to the Korea Times, the government may have blown its entire wad of cash to support foreign film productions:

The support comes in the form of a “location incentive” offered by the government-backed Korean Film Council (KOFIC), which offers foreign productions up to a 30-percent cash rebate on money spent here.

By awarding the rebate to Avengers, KOFIC maxed out its annual 1 billion won ($930,000) budget for the program.

For a production like Avengers, USD 930,000 doesn’t sound like a whole lot of cash. Wonder if Marvel Studios will even notice it.

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Shameless, lying whores!

That, essentially, is what Japanese lawmaker Nariaki Nakayama called the Comfort Women during a recent, lecture in Hyogo, Japan.

Noting that Japanese women, too, had served as Comfort Women, he said, “But there are no Japanese women who say themselves that they were a Comfort Women. They are ashamed. Korean women aren’t this way. They only lie. One can’t help but think they are a different race.”

Continuing his anthropological analysis, he said, “Koreans are completely different from Japanese. They have no concept of shame.”

For added amusement, re-read that, this time keeping in mind that Nakayama served as Prime Minister Koizumi’s Minister of Education, Culture, Sports, Science and Technology.

The Japan Times called Nakayama “gaffe-prone,” which I guess is technically true, if one consider a string of racist, historically revisionist statements “gaffes.” As TK alludes to in the comments, these sorts of statements would ordinarily end a person’s political career in pretty much any other country in the developed world. Not in Japan, however, and I think a lot of the responsibility lays with Japan’s media, which refuses to call extremist speech extremist, hence giving the impression that such ideas are part of the mainstream.

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Dongdaemun Design Plaza: the Mothership Has Landed

Zaha Hadid’s $450 million Dongdaemun Design Plaza has finally opened.

And yeah, not everyone’s happy with it.

People’s Commissar for Architecture Park Won-soon—who also doubles as Seoul’s mayor—had this to say about Seoul’s newest architectural landmark:

“When you look at the building and how it stands in its surroundings, which includes several high-rise structures such as the Doota building, the word that comes to mind is ‘unbalanced.’ You look at the building from a certain angle, how the sloped roof influences the skyline, and you have to say that is an ugly sight,’’ Park said at a meeting with senior journalists at city hall on Tuesday.

“Most of the job on DDP was already done by the time I became mayor. So was Gwanghwamun Square, described by many architects as the city’s worst architectural creation, and the new city hall,’’ he added.

“I did not think that redoing them would be the right approach as that would only create new problems. My focus is to find the right content to fill these spaces, allowing them to improve the lives of people with the experiences they provide and also provide an easier place for artists to display their work.’’

To be honest, I know where the mayor is coming from on this. I could talk all day about everything Park’s predecessor Oh Se-hoon did wrong, not just with Dongdaemun but also with the Floating Islands, Gwanghwamun Square, the new Seoul City Hall, the Hangang River Opera House fiasco and a lot of lesser known urban redevelopment projects. Park loathes monumental construction and redevelopment projects, which is a good thing more times than not, and he’s a whole lot better at utilizing existing spaces.

That said, “ugly” is very much a subjective thing. I went to the Dongdaemun Design Plaza every day since its opening save yesterday, and frankly, as a work of art, it’s absolutely stunning. But hey, don’t take my word for it—read what Mihn Hyun-jun, the man who designed the beautiful Seoul branch of the National Museum of Modern and Contemporary Art, had to say about it:

Mihn Hyun-jun, a professor at Hongik University’s School of Architecture and the person who designed the Seoul branch of the National Museum of Modern and Contemporary Art, said that he believes the design plaza “is the best architecture designed by Hadid.”

“There are criticisms about the high cost,” said Mihn. “However, the outcome has perfect completeness, artistically speaking. It did cost a lot, but that’s the price we had to pay for Hadid’s design.

“It’s time for this country to have something new and fresh.”

Church!

And with all due respect to Mayor Park, and paraphrasing a commenter on my Facebook page, the only way you’d be able to get an architectural project to harmonize with its surroundings in Dongdaemun is by telling the architect to build it as ugly as possible.

Mihn also noted that in the case of Dongdaemun, “the form came first, then came the purpose.” Which can end in disaster—see the Floating Islands. Thankfully, Dongdaemun Design Plaza has opened with Seoul Fashion Week, an exhibit of national treasures from the Kansong Museum of Art and some other cool exhibitions; accordingly, it’s drawing in a ton of visitors, most of whom, from what I could tell, seemed sincerely impressed with what they were seeing… and there’s a lot to see.

Yours Truly has posted a ton of photos taken during the first few days of the Dongdaemun Design Plaza here.

Marmot’s Note: Sorry for my own personal lack of posting—been terribly busy and, frankly, a bit burned out. And thanks to all my cobloggers for posting some good stuff in the meantime.

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In a drawn out courtship affair with more twists and turns than Luke and Laura, Ross and Rachel, or even 길라임 and 김주원, it looks like Korea has finally pulled the trigger on officially picking a winner for their F-X (phase 3) bid.  The results were a bit of a forgone conclusion after the F-15SE was rejected last year, but (drum roll, please) the ROK has selected Lockheed Martin’s F-35 Lightening II.

According to a Lockheed’s press release:

 The Republic of Korea has formally announced its decision to procure the Lockheed Martin F-35 Lightning II aircraft for its F-X fighter acquisition program.

[...]

Following a comprehensive evaluation process for their F-X program, the Republic of Korea becomes the third Foreign Military Sales country to procure the F-35, joining Israel and Japan who selected the F-35A in 2010 and 2011, respectively.

My thoughts?  Personally, I am not too enthusiastic regarding the F-35.  Much of the independent press has been bad.  The Aussies don’t think it’s all that stealthy.  The think tank Rand Corporation doesn’t think it’s all that maneuverable and is underpowered to boot.  The Australians needed a lot of convincing and are still not completely on board yet.  The Canadians are wavering.  Even an American general made the amazing admission that the F-35 might not be all that useful without an F-22 riding shotgun (i.e. watching its “6″) for it.

Well, the Korean government originally wanted the F-15SE.  It was the Korean air force that insisted on the F-35 (particularly a few dodgy ex-generals).

The good news is that the ROK’s purchase should make unit costs lower (via “economies of scale”) for the U.S. and her participating allies.  Lockheed will apparently provide some (potentially restricted?) unspecified technical help for the development of the KF-X.  I’m sure there are plenty of people in Ft. Worth, Texas happy with the order, not to mention Lockheed shareholders.

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Open Thread: Mar 23, 2014

Have a good Sunday, people.

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to quote from a comment by the commenter Wedge , Obama has persuaded president Park to hold a three way summit during the tea breaks of the Nuclear Security Summit in the city of the Hague next week.

Here is the BBC article in English and here is the link to a Segye Ilbo news article (in Korean) after the announcement was made. Interestingly, the Segye Ilbo’s take on the fact that the official announcement came from the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and not directly from the Blue House, could be due to Park trying to “downplay” the event. It’s understandable, if I had been on the world news media saying “I won’t I won’t I won’t (meet him) ” I would feel a little peevish at saying “aw alright then I will.”

Park’s meant to have softened up a bit within the last few days since Abe’s announced not to revise the Kono statement. He’s a funny one as well – “I might I might I might (revise it)”- “oh alright then I won’t.”

That’s why we still need Uncle Sugar.

Interestingly, when I did a quick news search in English at the start of writing this post, the top news link hits were the Chinese sources. They are obviously very interested to snoop at what’s being said at this water cooler gathering behind their backs.
North Korea, *should be* too as it probably concerns them as well, but the way they fit in the picture in my head is still the big fat slow-witted kid playing by himself in the corner, killing ants with a stick.. oblivious to all of this..

Lately, Japan has been seen talking to this fat slow kid more so than usual. The primary topic they want to bring up is the Japanese abductees as usual, but I think it might just be because they were getting the silent treatment from the fat kid’s sister, that they “might as well talk with the dim brother, see if they get anywhere”.
The very strange relationship between Japan and North Korea, [click to continue…]

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oopsViktor Ahn‘s father has stated that if there is not a serious reform of the Korean Skating Union, more Korean skaters will leave their passports behind and take up competition through other countries. (cite)

Can this really be surprising considering the jealousy, backbiting and bully-tactics reportedly employed by the skating union?

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Koreans have protested the American FTA as being a means by which American law could be used to subvert Korean interests. Likewise, America has managed to insert themselves into other countries practices through treaty. One current bit of American legislation that has finally come about is the 2010 Foreign Account Tax Compliance Act (FATCA), which affects all Americans living overseas that keep a bank account in a foreign country.

South Korea has finally negotiated an reciprocal FATCA agreement with the US (that goes into effect this September) so that Korea can snoop on the Koreans that may have evaded paying Korean taxes by keeping their money in America. Likewise, the National Tax Services (NTS) will provide information about Americans, in Korea, with account balances of $10,000 or more to the U.S. Internal Revenue Service, beginning in September. This has happened because, the American Government thinks that there are so many Americans evading taxes overseas, thus robbing the country of money (they so desperately need to waste). The result is FATCA. The real fact is this treaty will not stop tax evasion and will likely cost the government more to implement it than is taken in by it:

. . . In the past, the OECD has used pressure and coercion to compel low-tax jurisdictions to agree to rules against their own economic interests. It is unclear how well such tactics will work in this instance, however, as the new rules impose a much more significant cost by signifying an end to the idea that nations can attract investment by offering more competitive tax systems than those of the high-tax welfare states. (cite).

So not only does America waste my tax money but South Korea will put the extra cost of reporting expatriates, through NTS, upon the already burdened banks (additional cite) or will they waste the tax I pay them here just to make American’s lives more complicated!?

Living overseas is already a burden for the American expatriate:

. . . No group is more severely impacted than U.S. persons living abroad. For those living and working in foreign countries, it is almost a given that they must report and pay tax where they live. But they must also continue to file taxes in the U.S. What’s more, U.S. reporting is based on their worldwide income, even though they are paying taxes in the country where they live. (cite)

Reading through the wiki article for FATCA lists the deficits of this treaty as:

  • Cost. Although numbers are still somewhat speculative, estimates of the additional revenue raised seem to be heavily outweighed by the cost of implementing the legislation. The Association of Certified Financial Crime Specialists (ACFCS) claims FATCA is expected to raise revenues of approximately US$800 million per year for the US Treasury; however, the costs of implementation are more difficult to estimate, and estimates between hundreds of millions and over US$10 billion have been published. ACFCS also claims it is extremely likely that the cost of implementing FATCA (which will be borne by the foreign financial institutions) will far outweigh the revenues raised by the US Treasury, even excluding the additional costs to the US Internal Revenue Service for the staffing and resources needed to process the data produced. Unusually, FATCA was not subject to a cost/benefit analysis by the United States House Committee on Ways and Means.
  • Capital flight. The primary mechanism for enforcing the compliance of foreign financial institutions is a punitive withholding levy on US assets. This may create a strong incentive for foreign financial institutions to divest (or not invest) in US assets, resulting in capital flight.
  • Foreign relations. Forcing foreign financial institutions and foreign governments to collect data on U.S. citizens at their own expense and transmit it to the IRS has been called divisive. Canada’s Finance Minister Jim Flaherty has raised an issue with this “far reaching and extraterritorial implications” which would require Canadian banks to become extensions of the IRS and would jeopardize Canadians’ privacy rights. (also this article from Canada) There are also reports of many foreign banks refusing to open accounts for Americans, making it harder for Americans to live and work abroad.
  • Extraterritoriality. The legislation enables U.S. authorities to impose regulatory costs, and potentially penalties, on foreign financial institutions who otherwise have few if any dealings with the United States. The U.S. has sought to ameliorate that criticism by offering reciprocity to potential countries who sign Intergovernmental Agreements, but the idea of the US Government providing information on its citizens to foreign governments has also proved controversial. The law’s interference in the relationship between individual Americans or dual nationals and non-American banks led Georges Ugeux to term it “bullying and selfish.”
  • Citizenship renunciations. Time magazine has reported a sevenfold increase in Americans renouncing U.S. citizenship between 2008 and 2011, and has attributed this at least in part to FATCA. According to the The New American a record number of Americans have given up U.S. citizenship in 2012 “amid IRS Abuse” and “facing an increasingly out-of-control federal government in Washington, D.C” . According to the BBC, the act is one of the reasons for a surge of Americans renouncing their citizenship – a rise from 189 people in the second quarter of 2012 to 1,131 people in Q2/2013. Another surge in renunciations in 2013 to record levels has been reported in the news media, with FATCA cited as a factor in the decision of many of the renunciants.  Forbes Magazine writes that the renunciation of citizenship by Americans is up by 221%, as of this time (cite).
  • American citizens living abroad. According to the Canadian Broadcasting Corporation many Americans living abroad may face large fines as a result of this legislation. According to the story a forty-years old developmentally disabled man, and a Canadian man married to an American will become some of the victims of this law. According to Time (magazine) American citizens living abroad are unable to open foreign bank accounts.
  • IRS not ready. According to the NYTimes it is unclear whether the IRS is ready to handle millions of new complicated filings per year.  According to one former IRS Deputy Commissioner, this summer is going to be one large FATCA “train-wreck” (cite).
  • Effect on “accidental Americans”. The reporting requirements, including penalties, apply to all U.S. citizens, including those who are unaware that they have U.S. citizenship. Since the U.S. considers “all persons born in the U.S., and most foreign-born persons with American parents, to be citizens, FATCA affects a large number of foreign residents who are unaware that the U.S. considers them citizens.
  • Complexity. Doubts have been expressed as to workability of FATCA due to its complexity, and the legislative timetable for implementation has already been pushed back twice.

So, is FATCA good, bad or not a factor for Americans living in South Korea?

Bad – If you are living here and earning income, you will spend more time and money complying with this extra tax hassle just to prove you don’t owe anything to the government or have complied with current tax law. For foreign non-Americans, in America, this is possibly also bad news since under U.S. diplomatic agreements to enact FATCA, U.S. financial firms must share information on foreign-born U.S. residents with foreign governments (cite).
IMHO, this is bad legislation that is directly from the nightmares of so many Americans that fear ever increasing government encroachment into their private affairs if not pocketbooks. I place this sort of government handiwork into the same category as the Department of Justice arranging to arrest foreigners on a layover through the US because they run a foreign online casino that Americans might spend money on – forget the law or the rights of individual, this is all about a bungled, misinformed, congressionally-lead, grabbing of money and not about fighting tax evasion.

More useful links for Americans on FATCA and for information to fight this legislation:

http://americansabroad.org/issues/fatca/

pursuance-of-money
photo credit: Celestine Chua via photopin cc
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As you all know every healthy Korean male is suppose to serve a two year stint in the armed forces.  It ain’t easy and it ain’t relished by most Korean men.  However, some time after their service, many Korean men develop strangely nostalgic memories of their service.  The Korean has a good series on this here and here.

Capitalizing on this phenomenon is MBC’s reality show “Real Men” where older Korean actors relive their days in the military for the benefit of their television audiences.  Surprisingly, the show has become popular with women who want to know a little bit of what their men had gone through.

Any ways, now “Real Men” has started to have troops from the U.S. 2nd Infantry Division interact with the Korean stars.  The American troopers, for example, don’t seem to mind eating Korean food.  What’s the first thought that runs across the Koreans’ minds when they see the non-Korean faces?  “Gosh, my English sucks.”  A surprising number of the American troops knew some Korean.  The cross cultural exchange is “interesting,” to say the least.

‘진짜 사나이’ 샘 해밍턴 “250원 바나나라떼 정말 맛있어” 극찬

(Photo credit edaily)

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