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Paris Baguette goes to… Paris?

In a move that can be determined as either the height of hubris or the proverbial roll of the dice, the parent company of Paris Baguette has decided to open up its newest location in the heart of Paris, France.

(Photo from Korean Herald)

Ah, notice the “Boulangerie” (French for “bakery”) sign a bit more prominently displayed than the “PB” or “Paris Baguette” signage.  Personally, I question the attempt to bring croissants infused with hot dogs to a population as finicky with their pastries as the French.  Then again, it couldn’t have been more offensive as opening up a Taco Bell in Mexico or a Pizza Hut in Italy.  Wait, there are no Pizza Huts in Italy.  Good thing too as it might create some anti-American backlash.

Asia observer Donald Kirk pens an interesting article over at Forbes with his take:

[SPC Group is]… opening a Paris Baguette, mais oui, in the heart of the city that provides its name.  Along with French restaurants that are truly French, Paris Baguette decided to compete where it’s likely to attract the most scrutiny and appraisal by knowledgeable customers.

[...]

The idea is to go beyond the chain’s Korean roots, to show it’s truly French, to match the most sophisticated, subtlest tastes of any French restaurant. In keeping with that approach, Paris Baguette is a little reluctant to publicize its history as a Korean company in the hands of a Korean billionaire, Hur Young-in,  chairman of  SPC

So, to “show it’s truly French” to French people in Paris, huh?  Okay, good luck with that Mr. Hur.

Dancing and Parody Power

dancing

The PRC wants soft power; wants Kung Fu Panda – can’t get their heavy, bloody hands on it, however some Chinese do parody pretty well and much to North Korea’s discomfort.

Let the Conspiracy Theories Begin

Police announced today that they had found Yoo Byeong-Eon’s badly decomposed body on June 12, nearly six weeks ago:

The chief of police in Suncheon, Yoo Hyung-ho, told reporters that the body was 80% decomposed when an autopsy was started June 13, a day after the body was found. Yonhap said the body was found in a plum field in the city of Suncheon, about 300 kilometers (186 miles) south of Seoul.

He said authorities were able to match DNA from the body to the billionaire and also used a fingerprint from the right index finger.

Water cooler talk has centered around the timing.  Just yesterday, I spoke to several who noted that this coming Thursday would mark the 100-day anniversary since the Sewol Ferry tragedy.  At least one had intended to attend a planned candlelight march and demonstration in Seoul.  Today she expressed incredulity at the timing of the announcement with the upcoming July 30 elections, the farmers’ rice protests, and again the 100-day anniversary and planned candlelight march.

Others expressed dismay with the wasted effort and resources in searching for a dead body six weeks in police possession.  Lest readers forget that Korea had conducted a nationwide (and international) manhunt for Yoo Byeon-Eon, I have been by the Evangelical Baptist Church’s Geumsuwon compound in Anseong at least twice since June 12, and police searched every vehicle that passed on Rte. 38, backing up traffic for a kilometer.  Police had a considerable and convincing show of uniformed officers at that location.

I note that the linked article stated that Korean authorities had identified Yoo Byeong-Eon’s badly decomposed body by his DNA and a fingerprint from his right index finger.  I understand the toxicology reports can take up to six weeks and even that DNA test results, however long they take, might not be immediate, but six weeks?

I can come up with no reasonable explanation for the delay in announcing the results of the fingerprint match.

Finally, I understand (in my admittedly limited understanding of Korean culture) that inquiries into fault and wrong-doing of those who commit suicide come to a halt.  I remember RMH’s suicide, which in effect ended the investigations into his alleged dealings.  I wonder whether Yoo Byeong-Eon (if he indeed committed suicide) will be afforded the same courtesy.

UPDATE:  Suncheon police chief Woo Hyung-Ho (identified as “Yoo Hyung-ho” in the cited article above) admitted to a botched investigation:

“Woo acknowledged that investigators had also been slow in connecting the body with the fugitive businessman.

It was found just a few kilometres from a villa Yoo was known to have used, and next to the corpse was a bag containing an autobiography Yoo wrote in prison in the 1990s.

“We admit that … the investigations on his belongings were imperfect,” Woo said.

“We could have identified him far earlier if we had worked more actively,” he added.

“Woo’s frankness was apparently not appreciated by his superiors and shortly after the press briefing it was announced that he had been removed from his post as police chief.”  Ouch.

State-owned Arirang news reported that the DNA tests took so long because the badly decomposed body necessitated that DNA be sampled from his bones.   Arirang also reported that Yoo’s body was found wearing a “high-priced” Italian made winter jacket, a hat, and no shoes and lying near a bag etched with “Love like a Dream” (the title of his authored book), alcohol (Yoo was said to be a non-drinker),  parts of a copy of his book, and a brand of bottled water owned by Yoo’s company and that he drank exclusively.

The Korea Herald reported that “insiders raised the possibility that investigators may have regarded the body as that of an elderly resident from the provincial district.  Investigators had reportedly told the plum farm owner” who had found the body “that the body ‘seemed to be an ordinary homeless person.’ ”  I find investigators reactions, delays, inaction, and unwillingness to at least consider that the body could be Yoo’s given the circumstantial evidence inexplicable.

Members of Yoo’s Evangelical Baptist Church remain non-believers:

Despite the forensic evidence gathered by the police, the church’s followers refused to believe the body found in Suncheon was Yoo’s.

“The body was too decomposed to be his,” said church spokesman Lee Tae-Jong, who was also suspicious about the alcohol found at the scene.

“Chairman Yoo seldom drinks,” Lee told the YTN news channel.

“I suspect this is a trap laid by police in their efforts to capture him,” he added.

Open Thread: July 18th, 2014

Hey, fellas.  I figured since the last few Open Threads came out a bit late, that we would at least be a little early with this weekend’s edition.  Mr. Marmot has told me that normal blogging will commence next week.

Korean beer consumers voting with their feet

Many foreign beer drinkers complain that Korean beers suck.  Comments range from donkey piss to kinda drinkable if really, really cold.  Personally, I like Korean beer with spicy Korean food and have never really thought of Korean beers as terrible.  However, there is nothing like the free market to bring out a little objectivity to the debate.

According to data from the Korea Customs Service consumption of imported beer has risen sharply:

South Korea’s beer imports reached a record-high level in the first half of this year, exceeding the nation’s beer exports.

Beer imports to the country surged 28.5 percent on-year to US$50.8 million during the January-June period, the highest figure since comparable numbers were first made available in 2000…

[...]

Imported beer['s] tonnage has increased more than 15 times since 2000…

So, are the Koreans flocking to British stouts or American lagers?  No.

Imports of Japanese beer came to 13,818 tons, accounting for the largest portion of the figure at 25.8 percent. The list was trailed by the Netherlands, Germany, and China at 8,887 tons, 7,825 tons and 5,067 tons, respectively.

Nippon number one!  At least in beer imports.

Netherlands?  Would that mean Heinekens are popular in Korea?

A different kind of Chinese invasion

Tourists and RMB.  Yep, Korea is becoming awash in both.  Quartz article sums it up nicely:

Chinese tourists are heading to South Korea more than any other destination this year, according to travel agency Ctrip. That’s because political instability has turned many off Thailand, and China’s ties with South Korea have been warming.

Invasion central?  Jejudo.

But most of all there is the undeniable appeal of JejuThe resort island off the South Korean coast is drawing Chinese tourists with its subtropical climate, visa-free status, and attractions like casinos and an erotic-sculpture theme park known as Loveland.

[...]

In 2013, almost four million mainland Chinese tourists visited South Korea, and 1.8 million of them went to Jeju…If Ctrip’s predictions are correct, the number of mainland tourists visiting South Korea will rise to 5.6 million this year—equal to over 10% of South Korea’s population.

Chinese tourism for 2014 may equal 10% of the ROK’s population?  Holy cow!

 

Open Thread: July 14, 2014

Apologies to Uncle Marmot and all.

Names of Typhoons

The Typhoon in the region of Korea/Japan at the moment is called 너구리.

너구리 is the Korean word for Raccoon Dog (and not Raccoon, which are also called 아메리카 너구리 (America-noguri) in Korean)

I don’t remember the last time a typhoon was named after a Korean word (OK, maybe I have a vague recollection of Nabi 나비, but I was not sure if it came from the Korean word back then) so I decided to look up the convention of typhoon naming.

As expected there are some humorous comments on the internet related to how this typhoon is named after one of the most popular instant noodles in Korea. Incidentally, the reason why the instant noodles is named 너구리 is also interesting, as the *tenkasu (bits of tempura batter pieces)* which used to come in the 너구리’s 건더기스프 has disappeared, and the why たぬき udon/soba is named tanuki is also interesting, but I digress.
For those interested, this link in Korean explains a lot.

Back to the typhoon naming.

This Korean Meteorology webpage has information on how the names were provided -10 each from 14 countries which lie within the influence of Typhoon. These are placed in 5 different groups and every typhoon gets its name taken in turn from each group.

Since North Korea also submitted 10 entries, there are 20 Korean words floating around to be used. Say what you will about North Korea, looking at their entries and how they are spelled, they have the right idea about keeping the words sounding Korean.

Hereis the complete list of the 140 names from the 14 different countries and their meaning.

Apparently, the words submitted from South Korea carry the wish that it should not cause a large damage, and therefore the names are chosen from weaker and softer of the animal kingdom.

Finally, the piece of information I found most interesting is that every year, typhoons that caused a large damage in that year get their names replaced by new entries submitted from the same country.

From the article link :

우리나라가 제출한 태풍 ‘나비’의 경우 2005년 일본을 강타하며 엄청난 재해를 일으켜 ‘독수리’라는 이름으로 바뀌었다. 이 밖에도 ‘봉선화’가 ‘노을’로(2002년), ‘매미’가 ‘무지개’로(2003년), ‘수달’이 ‘미리내’로(2004년) 각각 대체됐다.

In the case of South Korea, 4 names have been replaced already.

너구리’s left South Korea but caused havoc in Nagiso in Nagano prefecture in Japan.

Here’s hoping that 너구리 goes away quietly in the night, and does not cause any more damage anywhere.

iPhone Security Problems in China?

According to Reuters, Chinese state media on Friday branded Apple Inc’s iPhone a threat to national security because of the smartphone’s ability to track and time-stamp user locations. Apple’s competitor, Samsung also has the means to track phones and log locations, however it is not made by the evil Americans.

I suppose the iPhone could really be a threat to state security if too many Chinese started using the ethics finder app . . . this is more a sign of insecurity than a lack of security!

Not The Role Model Hoped For

I remember reading of how Ahn Chang-ho help instill civil spirit, pride and honorable virtues in the Korean expatriate communities in California, Hawaii and Mexico.  I think he would be appalled to pick up the paper and read how one established and well-known Korean business in the US is now under investigation for enslaving Chinese-Koreans and hosting prostitution – Spa World in Fairfax County, Virginia.

Update:

It seems there is more of a back story to the events at Spa World – the spa owner and some clients reportedly were uncomfortable with at least one transgender customer and thought they could simply ban the LGBT crowd, however, this is a political and social issue (as demonstrated through this facebook page and has caused them trouble due to their misunderstanding of the issues involved. As a result of the backlash against the spa, Spa World has clarified its position, stating that they do not bar gays or transgenders and that they are welcomed.

Reading through the reports, it seems that some customers were uncomfortable being around one transgender customer and complained to Spa World management.  They asked her to leave, setting into motion a series of events that may or may not have lead up to the charges involving enslavement and prostitution.  The spa has every right to discourage people from having sex on the premises, as since it seems that some people think that Spa World is a great sex hookup spot!

One interesting result of all this is that since Fairfax County and Virginia have no laws prohibiting discrimination by businesses against members of the lesbian-gay-bisexual-transgendered community, this incidence may prompt political action to address this issue.

I should put Wangkon down as a direct contributor to this thread as well.  Thank you to everyone that added to this thread!

The World According to Xi and Hitler-mania

After China has engaged in rancorous disputes with several neighbours in Asia – Vietnam and the Philippines – over their egregious claims to most of the “South China Sea” and after the US has participated in joint military exercises with countries like the Philippines, and the decision by the Japanese cabinet to reinterpret the constitution, giving the Japanese military freedom to fight overseas, Chinese President Xi now thinks that “China-US confrontation, to the two countries and the world, would definitely be a disaster” and the US should “should mutually respect and treat each other equally, and respect the other’s sovereignty and territorial integrity”, i.e., give us what we want or else. (cite)

Adding to the flames of hate against Japan that is so in style with Chinese politicians, A Chinese newspaper’s graphic showing a mushroom cloud engulfing the Japanese cities of Hiroshima and Nagasaki accompaning an article that claimed “Japan wants a war again” (cite)

Not to be outdone by flaming, flying Chinese dragon rhetoric, a Malaysian member of parliament tweeted about the soccer game between Germany and Brazil, declaring WELL DONE..BRAVO…LONG LIVE HITLER…

Hitler’s example lives on . . .

Open Thread: July 7, 2014

Have fun, folk.

PS: Regular blogging to restart from this evening.

A New Era in Korea – Minus the American Influence

President Xi of the People’s Republic of China, and a large entourage of Chinese businessmen (Alibaba, Baidu), are currently visiting South Korea. The PRC is hoping for improved business ties but this time, there is, IMHO, the possibility of a sea change on the Korean peninsula.

Why and how?

China wants to change that status quo – they want to do so through money and through a redefinition of regional security – without American influence.

First, in business, China is proposing the foundation of a $50 billion “Asian Infrastructure Investment Bank”, first proposed by President Xi in October 2013, during a tour of Southeast Asia. This bank would have the PRC holding a fifty-percent stake in this bank and has hinted at benefits to those nations that participate and Xi’s visit to Seoul, currently under way is very much about the benefits to South Korea. (we will get to what South Korea might actually want from joining this venture shortly). South Korea has expressed an intent to become an offshore trading centre in Chinese currency (renminbi) and this current meeting is expected to address this as well.
For South Korea, this is useful and important since South Korea’s two-way trade with China was $229 billion last year, exceeding the combined value of South Korea’s trade with the U.S. and Japan. Xi told reporters after the 2013 summit that the two countries will strive to boost their trade to top $300 billion (cite). This trade has been hampered by the fact that both countries transactions have been based in US Dollars (because the Yuan and Won are not directly traded) which costs more and reflects the indirect influence of things American in Asia. A statement from South Korea’s finance ministry and central bank said the South Korean won will become directly exchangeable with the yuan, joining major currencies such as the U.S. dollar, Japanese yen and euro that are convertible with the Chinese currency. The decision also makes the yuan only the second currency after the U.S. dollar that is directly convertible with the won. (cite)
China has also given consent to South Korea’s investment of tens of billions of yuan (billions of USD) in Chinese bonds and stocks. The PRC Government is encouraging businesses to invest in Korea as well. Chinese investors are highly interested in cultural content, software and real estate development, thus would explain the drive by the Korean side to have Chinese investment in the so far failed Saemangeum Project (cite) or the attempt at luring Chinese investment in the Yeosu – Dadohae Haesang National Park area, as well as some yet to be announced projects.

There is also the issue of the recent Conference on Interaction and Confidence Building Measures in Asia (CICA) and the PRCs desire to exclude powers – such as the U.S. – from regional security, suggesting an arrangement, guided by the PRC that is more than a little reminiscent of the Greater East Asia Co-Prosperity Sphere plan of Showa Japanese origin. As reported in The Diplomat:

Xi called for the creation of a “new regional security cooperation architecture.” He proposed that CICA become “a security dialogue and cooperation platform” for all of Asia, from which countries can explore the possibility of creating a regional security framework. He further indicated that China would take a leading role in exploring the creation of a “code of conduct for regional security and [an] Asian security partnership program.”
In promoting China’s vision for a new regional security framework, Xi took specific aim at the basis for the current status quo: military alliances. Xi tied such alliances to “the outdated thinking of [the] Cold War.” “We cannot just have security for one or a few countries while leaving the rest insecure,” Xi said. “A military alliance which is targeted at a third party is not conducive to common regional security.” Xi in turn offered an alternative vision for Asia, one based on an all-inclusive regional security framework rather than individual alliances with external actors like the United States.” (cite )

The real horse dealing that is not hinted at in the Korean press (which has been very quiet yet unmistakably pro-Chinese) is how will the PRC, under Xi, will resolve the issue of reunification between the two Koreas. The South Korean Government reportedly wants substantial help from Xi for making reunification a reality – in both financial aid and in the momentum that can only come from the DPRK’s only substantial supporter. Though many believe that the PRC will likely not destabilize the DPRK, if the ROK buys into the Chinese sphere of financial and political influence, rejects the American presence in the region and further guarantees their responsibility in dealing with the potential North Korean refugee problem, I honestly don’t see how a belligerent DPRK could possibly avoid change and reunification with the southern half since it would be a matter of survival to do so.

I suppose this is logical; solving Korea’s problem long-standing problem with the north and the cost of unification, while resulting in the exit of America’s influence in Korea and pushing the US further out of the region and likely gaining more support for the egregious regional claims made by the PRC. There is little America can do about this too, since the Chinese have the means to deliver the reality of unification to South Korea and whereas the U.S. can not.

Looking into a Sino-Korean future; also worrisome is the shortage of personnel to staff the larger Korean projects and the increased likelihood that more Chinese will see living and working in Korea as business ties and opportunities grow in the future. What impact this will have on Korean society remains to be seen and considering the tremendous potential influx of money into Korea, the Korea of fifty years from now will likely be a very different one from what we observe today in terms of world view and its relationship with Europe and the US.  Some may even talk about Korea as being a Chinese colony, wistfully remembering the days when their elders talked about how Korea was really an American colony.

Snowpiercer to be shown on 250 screens in North America

Some of you may know, but Snowpiercer officially debuted in North America last week on about eight theaters in major metro areas.  It’s average take of over $20k per theater over the weekend was impressive enough that North American distributor Harvey Weinstein is expanding the release to 250 theaters this coming Friday (July 4th, happy birthday America!).

Wait a minute?  Didn’t this flick come out like in a year ago in Korea?  Why, yes it did.  It took so long to come out in the States probably due to some disagreements with Director Bong Joon-ho and the North American distributor on how well it would, uh, translate for a North American audience.  The Boston Globe has more of the grisly details on those “disagreements” here.

When Snowpiercer opened up last week it did so to largely positive reviews.  Among the more positive reviews, I liked Rolling Stone’s.

For shits and giggles, Variety compares Michael Bay and Transformers 4 to Bong Joon-ho and Snowpiercer.  But seriously, is there a comparison other then similar debut dates and the fact that both genres are “science fiction”?  It’s an amusing article none-the-less and perhaps enlightening on two different takes on movie globalization.

Japanese man self immolates himself in apparent protest to Abe’s collective self-defense law changes

Yesterday afternoon a Japanese man, apparently in his 60′s, wearing standard salaryman attire, sat on some girders near the busy Shinjuku Station.  With a blow horn he  announced that he would immolate himself in protest to Prime Minister Shinzo Abe’s controversial collective self-defense law changes.

man shinjuku south exist self immolate burn death protest abe shinzo collective self defense law suicide death

(Image from Japan Trends)

According to the blog Japan Trends, he cited government actions to “involve Japan more in war,” droned on for 30 or so minutes protesting Abe and his government and then proceeded to poured several bottle of brown liquid onto himself and eventually making good on his claims by igniting himself.  There is a YouTube video of the actual suicide moment.  The footage is graphic, so viewer discretion is advised.

Here’s more at Japan Times and Al Jazeera.

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