Friday, July 31, 2009

Naked News Update: "'Naked News' Shuts Up Shop

Earlier, I wrote of a new Naked News Channel in Korea. Well, according to the Chosun Ilbo, it is no more:
"The Korean version of the topless TV franchise "Naked News," which was launched on June 23, declared a halt of service on Thursday" ("'Naked News' Shuts Up Shop" : Chosun Ilbo).
Interestingly, the article reports that "Sources in the industry say management decided to pull out as the channel has [had] just 30,000 paid subscribers." Perhaps, once the country unifies, the country will be large enough to support eccentric businesses such as these.

North Korea Update Cont'd: Mobile Phones

On Another Front:

The Chosun Ilbo reports that:

"About 48,000 North Koreans had by the end of June subscribed to the mobile phone service that started in the North last December, VOAreported Wednesday quoting data released by the service operator.

Orascom, the Egyptian telecom firm that runs it, plans to expand the service area from Pyongyang to the whole of North Korea by the end of this year, VOA said. The operator is poised to start HSPA service at the request of foreigners in North Korea who need to use wireless high-speed internet there, the report said.

Currently, officials of the North Korean Workers' Party or the government are reportedly banned from using mobile phones for security reasons. Ordinary North Korean residents, whose monthly pay is about 4,000 North Korean won (aroundUS$30), cannot afford the service due to the high price of handsets, which cost at US$300-500, and the subscription fee" ("Some 50,000 N. Koreans Use Mobile Phones" : Chosun Ilbo)

So, I'm confused. There can't possibly be 48,000 diplomats and Kim Jong Il possibly can't have 48,000 children, then who are using all those mobile phones? The article mentions that members of the North Korean Workers Party (조선로동당) aren't allowed to use mobile phones and it's targeted for foreigners. But, 48,000 foreigners; that'd be a lot of people. So, could it be the 48,000 people are actually members of the Korean People's Army (조선인민군)?

North Korea Update: Relentless Scolding (잔소리) and the State of the Six Party Talks

While this is a blog that pays attention to both North and South Korea, I haven't made it much of a habit of following, tracking, and commenting on each individual bit of news as it comes out. And, I don't intend to unless there is something at least somewhat meaningful going on, such as the summit in Washington a couple months ago. At any rate none of the "stories" that have been coming out have really been all that important.

Since the missle tests on July 4th, North Korea has allegedly launched "Distributed Denial-Of-Service" or Attacks over the Internet on South Korean and U.S. governmental websites. South Korea's National Intelligence Service (NIS) have blamed North Korea, more specifically:

"It told lawmakers in a closed-door briefing Friday that a North Korean military research centre called 'Number 110' seems to have orchestrated the attacks, according to Yonhap news agency" (South Korea downgrades cyber attack alert AFP).

This is a complete non-issue as it pales in comparison to the attacks that take place on sites that refute South Korea's territorial claims on Liancourt Rocks (Dokdo, Takeshima, 독도, 獨島, 竹島) or a site refusing to give equal weight to the name East Sea as to that given to the Sea of Japan. Usually, these attacks come from regular, angry South Korean "netizens" -- by the way, I've always found netizens to be such a Korean-English word as whenever I hear it, it just reminds me of the English I would read in Korean newspapers. So, basically, the sophistication of these attacks is really no higher than hitting the refersh button over and over and over again. Cyberattacks from North Korea? C'mon now. It'll take much more than that for the United States to take North Korea seriously and give them one-on-one talks (By the way, whatever happened to Obama's pledge for one-on-one talks with any dictator?)

"Ruling out any direct talks with North Korea on nuclear disarmament negotiations, the US today said Pyongyang can only be engaged multilaterally through the six-party mechanism" ("US rules out any direct talks with North Korea" : Business Standard).

For, you see, I think North Korea does not very much like these six-party talks as it's basically like a situation when say I'm just interested in what just one particular person has to say, but there are these other people who have something to say to you as well (잔소리/Scolding from so many parties). On the other hand, from China's perspective, each round of its successful hosting shows that China has matured as a responsible power that understands the dangers of North Korean nuclear weapons proliferation and just hosting it shows off the country's power as it shows how China has brought North Korea to the negotiating table. It's mere hosting is seen as a success for China.

For the United States, it's a way to deflect responsibility or rather, a way to ensure that the United States is not the sole party responsible to denuclearize North Korea. Japan's foreign policy with respect to North Korea is held hostage to its very loud and powerful ultraconservative wing of the LDP as the forum has been the main and only one for Japan to express discontent at North Korea for not talking more about hostages (Even as recently, a group of South Korean fisherman have been taken into North Korean custody and a South Korean worker at Gaeseong still remains in North Korean custody). Yet, South Korea too, shows how it's a responsible party by placing sanctions on North Korea at least on a nominal basis and even having recently joined the PSI (Proliferation Security Initiative).

Then, only after having to hear all these things that these people (countries) have to say about your behavior and only then, can you finally get to hear what the United States (the only person you're interested in) has to say.

So, you can see the reasoning behind why:

"North Korea has said the purpose of the six-nation talks was to 'disarm and incapacitate' it"("North Korea Asserts New Willingness to Talk" : New York Times).

On a personal note, I'm surprised that North Korea hasn't done more to garner more U.S. attention and lets hope that this august will be a quiet august.

Tuesday, July 28, 2009

No Gun Ri (노근리).

I've never found too much interest at what happened at No-Gun-Ri (노근리) when it was all the rage a few years ago in the Korean mainstream. No-Gun-Ri was where Americans allegedly committed genocide against Korean civilians/refugees. There is a counter argument over at rokdrop that actually examines the legitimacy (he goes into some detail) of those claims, but on a personal level I've found No-Gun-Ri to be a non-issue.

I mean the Korean War was a Korean Civil War, so even if everything those Associated Press "investigative reporters" allege to have happened actually did happen, what would that mean? Absolutely nothing. It was a civil war where Koreans on each side committed atrocities regularly and on scales that are unbelievable by today's standards -- Think about what happened in Jeju-do during that time. Nonetheless, I think it's a bit premature to get into discussing what happened fifty or sixty years ago.

Seriously. Until unification occurs, only one part of the story can be told.

On a side note, I wonder what the Vietnamese will say about South Korean soldiers' conduct during the Vietnam War in twenty years. South Korean soldiers had no qualms about clearing out entire Vietnamese villages (some might call this genocide) then just as the Vietnamese have no qualms about accepting South Korean investment today. But Vietnam, unlike Korea is not divided, and looks set to be a rising and regional power. I wonder what the Vietnamese will say in a generation?

Monday, July 27, 2009

Of Textbooks and Computer Games

Oh, and by the way this brings me to a post about the ridiculous system of English education in Korea. Again, I don't think I'll ever be able to get over how English is taught before Sino-Korean Characters(한자, 漢字)!. You see, I don’t understand why there aren’t specific books made for the Korean market. (maybe there were or are now, but I haven’t come across them…).

I remember one thing that I hated and I guess this is a double edged sword in that I hated how large the Korean computer gaming market was. You see when I lived in Korea I loved playing computer games (now, I just like to buy the game and see how good the graphics look on my computer, show it off to a couple people who could care less, and then end up selling it in a couple months) … But, I swear just as certain Korean grandparents can play Go (바둑) at that age; I’m going to playing Civilization X or at least show off to my grandchildren how nice the graphics are...

Well, anyways, the problem with the Korean computer gaming market being so big (and I believe the online gaming market was the largest in the world before World of Warcraft and broadband Internet – by the way, should this word still be capitalized really took off in the rest of the world?

Anyways, the Korean computer gaming market being “big” is all nice if you’re a Korean-Korean or a native Korean since this means companies such as Electronic Arts will invest the time and money to localize the game (as in at the very least translate the game into Korean). But, for people like me, well, …

You see, I always loved the game Civilization. When I was in Korea, Civilization 3 came out and that’s when I learned what the word 문명 (*civilization*) meant. It was nice; all the menus were in Korean and all, and while I could understand what “Install” was or “Options” was in Korean, when it came to actually playing the game and moving these "historical units," I was quite frustrated … (Of course, for Korea it was a boon, I mean this was the beginning of Korean cultural or media exports that were no longer about building gigantic ships that no other country asides from either a China or Japan has desire to build, but finally songs, computer games, television dramas, movies, etc…)

But anyways, for me, it wasn’t that great. At least, for playing “문명” (Civilization, if you don’t have a Korean font installed). But, you see, as an English teacher there I saw a parallel. The funny thing is that you would think that Korea would have the largest market for books teaching Koreans English from a Korean perspective. But, I cannot tell you how many times I came across expensive, no, very expensive textbooks published by large American or British companies that were published to teach the domestic market (Americans or the British) English. In America, the last time I studied grammar – and I’m not sure if this is true for rest of America, but the last time I studied grammar was I believe in fifth or sixth grade.

I remember the teacher correcting us if we wrote I would of rather than I would’ve

You see, that’s a problem that native English speakers of Americans have when learning how to write in English and not one that Koreans would have.

If these game companies can localize games for the large domestic market in Korea, then these gigantic publishing houses should do the same for these ESL books (Of course, they might exist already, but textbooks not localized for the domestic Korean market should not be allowed into the market as they do a great disservice to those trying to learn and teach English).
Please excuse my generalizations, but please do understand that I’m speaking about a wide and I mean a wide range of topics in this blog).

Exorbitant Privilege, Update

The term Exorbitant Privilege:

The exorbitant privilege is a term coined in the 1960s by Valéry Giscard d'Estaing, then the French Minister of Finance. It is generally misattributed to Charles de Gaulle. It refers to the benefit the United States had in the US Dollar being the international reserve currency: the US would not face a balance of payments crisis, because it purchased imports in its own currency (“Exorbitant Privilege” Brad DeLong’s Website).

I initially found this term on Wikipedia, but when I looked at the reference I saw that it was none other than Professor Brad DeLong, who wrote the definition. I took his courses, Macroeconomic Theory and the American Economic History (Econ 101B, 113 at UC Berkeley, respectively).

Sunday, July 26, 2009

A Schizophrenic Han

(Probably Part I of II) Part II can be found here.
From previous posts, such as this one, you can tell I am somewhat sympathetic towards Lee Myung Bak. He just seems to be the wrong president at the wrong time, but anyways I just read this article and every single time I read something like this, the political situation in Korea boggles the mind (But on a side note, I'd also argue that South Korea is one of just two East Asian countries with democratic institutions - Taiwan being the other one. And Japan, well, we'll see). That is, how on earth can people care so vehemently (and violently) about civil rights on the margin when there's North Korea just a fiften minute drive away (of course, it's not really about civil rights. It seems to be more about getting even in my opinion).

But anyways, how can those in Korea (those few that care about politics that is, which in and of itself is amazing -- Considering that half the country still remains divided, the country is still just yet another middle income country, the country is at WAR and has been for half a century) care so little about politics.

How Can This Go On In Korea?
"Now the former president’s supporters are blockading the halls of parliament 24 hours a day, preventing deputies from getting into the chamber and any laws from being passed (see picture). Progressives are demanding the president apologise for Mr Roh’s suicide, claiming that prosecutors who were investigating him were operating at Mr Lee’s behest—a charge the president furiously denies" ("Political confrontation in South Korea: Long, hot summer" Economist)
To take a look at how ridiculous this is, we need to briefly examine Korean history (When Koreans often proudly claim a 5,000 year history, they are referring back to 2333 BCE as the beginning of the Korean People. Koreans not unlike that of Israelis do not distinguish ethnicity from nationality -- although recent trends in South Korea seem to be breaking from tradition among many others, including teaching English before Sino-Korean Characters).

It doesn't make sense to me that there's a country that has pretty much had the same borders and unified borders since the 7th century can care so much about the freedom of the press at the margin when half of the country will -- I honestly believe -- go down in history as the worst example of a totalitarian government that systematically implements human rights violations (perputating ignorance is just as big a human rights violation in my honest opinion as physical torture -- think fascism -- and here North Korea has no parallels).

By the way, on a tangent here, for those Koreans, who believe in this newly created North-South States Period Theory or 남북국시대 (신라+발해 = Korea), let me tell you -- it's pure rubbish, which I would like to address in detail one day(The main question behind that issue comes down to who were the Mohe (말갈, 靺鞨) people. What is uncontested is that the people that lived under Balhae were not the same as that lived under Silla).

But anyways, what is important here is how it is undisputedable that there has been a Korean state since the 7th century. Yet, after about 1300 years as one united (한 나라), half the country comes to be moderately wealthy after a relatively, short period of immense humiliation (36 years out of 5000?) and destitution (is there a precedent in Korean history, where Korea was like an island before? Because, South Korea right now surely resembles an island state like a large Singapore).

To get to the heart of the matter, it's hard to take complaints against the current Lee Myung Bak president seriously when these same people can condone what's going on in the northern half of the peninsula, yet be so vehemently be against alleged human rights violations against the Lee Myung Bak administration that if true would lay on the margins.

Freedom of press violations? (This is where I would say perpetuating ignorance is also a crime against humanity" c'mon Americans only eat Australian beef? Anyways, yes, it looks like Lee Myung Bak is trying to limit some of the gains made by the (State run) news organizations, but still... it pales in comparison to the North.

Are Koreans Schizophrenic? How on Earth can you look at a country when there's a shared history -- imagine, let's say, a thousand years of a country with no minorities. No sense of other. I mean, in the United States, there were Indians, and then the Irish and Germans and then the Latins, etc etc... But, in Korea, there was the Kim clan and Lee clan (of course, gets more detailed) than that and, yes, the Chang clan...
While, half their fellow bretheren -- half of the clan members are just having the time of their lives under Kim Jong Il, freedom of the press is so important or an apology that important or necessary? Does it serve any function other than to ask for the current South Korean president to belittle himself?

Wednesday, July 22, 2009

British Documentary About the Korean War

Talking about President Truman (see the post below), who I believe was the single reason that the Korean War was bloody as it was and ended in the way it did. He fired General MacArthur and refused the hundreds of thousands of soldiers the Republic of China (Taiwan) wanted to send over to fight in Korea (But that would've made for an intersting story -- Chinese soldiers fighting on both sides of the war) .

British Documentary About the Korean War – July, August 1950

I saw this at

But on another note, I wonder how many soldiers from how many different nationalities actually fought in Korea.

Monday, July 20, 2009

The Power Of Words Part II and of a Korean War Memorial... in Northern Ireland

This past weekend I was in Belfast, Ireland on what I'd like to say was an epic adventure. While I was enjoying the sight of:

I came across this:

If you can't see the words, this is what it says:


the Officers and Men




Who lost their lives



and especially those were killed

under(?) this place


3rd - 4th January 1951."

Here I was in a rather small capital of Northern Ireland, which is still and probably always will be a part of the United Kingdom --an opinion of which I don't have. But anyways, it's a city hall! And, on the grounds of this city hall (it's a small city with a population of some 267,500 according to the NISRA), there's a memorial that dedicates the lives of those that fought and died in Korea nearly sixty years ago.

All because of the words of one man -- Harry Truman (who single handedly decided to intervene in the Korean War; again, I can't remember where I read it, but there was a declassified CIA document that an article cited that even had if Soviet spies had access to all CIA information at the time, they would've discovered that nobody in the CIA establishment would've believed the U.S. would fight a war in Korea). So, it was basically Harry Truman, who singlehandley decided that there would be this memorial to the dead on the grounds of a city hall in Belfast!

And, especially, at the behest of the United States, and one man at that -- who got the United Kingdom, got these British -- no, these Irishmen to go and fight halfway across the world. They went all the way to the Far East -- in Korea (Where?). Anyways, I guess what makes this so particularly sad is the thought: is there no better place to pay respects to the fallen Irish soldiers (without calling them British) than on the grounds of a city hall?!

You see I had no idea any Irishmen fought in the Korean War or the Coalition of the Willing 1950s version, but to me it strikes a parallel with those Koreans who fought for the Japanese Empire during World War II. The sad thing is that these Irish who fought on behalf of the United Kingdom, who then fought on behalf of the United Nations by request of the United States doesn't even get proper recognition.

"British casualties were 1,078 killed in action, 2,674 wounded and 1,060 missing or taken prisoner" ("The Korean War: An Overview" : BBC).

Or, the first Korean, who won a gold medal at the Olympics, but had to do so as a "Japanese citizen" or the first "Japanese" graduate of Stanford who couldn't use his Korean name. Not quite sure how I went from the Korean War to Stanford to the Olympics, but anyways... That's what I felt when I saw that yesterday morning.

Breaking Down Borders: Korea, Fall 2009 Semester Update

The syllabus has been now been updated to include reading material required for the course to meet the requirements set by the Academic Senate. The syllabus can be found here, but is still subject to approval by the ASUC.

Friday, July 17, 2009

The Power of Words and of Democracy, Japan, and Sarah Palin

I remember a few years back during the Good Ol' Days we had ... a George W. Bush as president of the White House. I didn't really appreciate what people meant when they believed the United States was the country most dangerous to world security and stability at that point in time yet. (See my post America the Dangerous). By the way, just as in the post below, please send me corrections. I would hate to think that I would be propagating something untrue.

Ahh. Those were the good ol' days. The U.S. economy was booming (after a sharp, but short-lived contraction after 9-11). Well, the U.S. President at the time, George W. Bush was in Japan for a summit with then Japanese Prime Minister Koizumi (I guess those were the good ol' times for Japan too... at least on a relative basis, considering the past twenty years now).

Oh, and on a side note, for those thinking the decline of the LDP and the recent dissolution of the Diet in Japan after the humilitating defeat of the ruling LDP in recent elections in Tokyo is the start of a new multiparty democratic regime in Japan.

Think Again.

Compare how Shinjiro Koizumi (former Japanese Prime Minister Junichiro Koizumi's son has been "annointed" to succeed his father). This is straight from the Japan Times (Kim Jong Un is the son of Kim Jong Il reported to succeed his father once he returns to Mount Paekdu as the next ruler of the North Korean regime) :

"And, as Aera pointed out, the strategy for making sure Koizumi Junior gets the seat is strikingly similar to the one currently being carried out in North Korea. Even if Shinjiro is Koizumi's second son and not his third, he's 28 years old, the same age as Jong Un and Hidetada when they were picked for their jobs" ("My son, I give you power over the people" : Japan Times).

Anyways, well, when George W. Bush was in Japan, he did something amazing; he confused the word "devaluation" with "deflation." You see, Japan had been experiencing problems of falling prices -- deflation, for a very long time and it was the biggest issue in Japan at that time. So, if he were to meet the Japanese Prime Minister, it would be quite natural to talk about U.S. backing for Koizumi's strategy to flight deflation.

But, during the press conference after the summit:

"A remark by US President George W Bush about "devaluation" in Japan has caused confusion in the currency markets. The yen fell as some traders interpreted the comment as meaning the US favoured a devaluation of the Japanese currency" ("Bush gaffe hits yen" : BBC)

His exact words were:
"He [Japanese Prime Minister Junichiro Koizumi] said I want to make it very clear to you exactly what I intend to do and he talked about non-performing loans, the devaluation issue and regulatory reform and he placed equal emphasis on all three" (Feb. 18, 2002).
The problem, you see, though, is that there was no devaluation issue at the time (Where, the U.S. would tacitlty approve a Japanese policy of trying to rid deflation by the Japanese Central Bank lowering the value of the Yen versus the Dollar -- in effect, exporting Japan's economic problems, which of course, the U.S. was not in favor of).

Ironically, that is exactly what the U.S. seems to be doing. But, more on this perhaps some time in the future since I just started studying this (it's basically what the second half of the course I am taking about is: EC321: Money and Banking), so in all fairness I don't really have an informed opinion.

But, on paper though, the U.S. enjoys an Exorbitant Privilege as the U.S. enjoys the ability to issue debt in her own currency (dollars) andat lower comparative interest rates (for example, treasury bills are considered safe debt to own) so depreciation is much more beneficial to the U.S. than say it would have been for Japan (but on a personal level, I think Japan should be commended for not depreciating her currency during this time when competitors in China and particularly South Korea went through a period of protracted depreciation, either explicitly (Korea) or implicitly (Japan)).

Of course, the fact that he "misspoke" cost like I believe a sharp drop in the value of the Yen, but the fact that one wrong word by this President led to billions of losses (or gains) by investors who were taking George W. Bush's words seriously is/was a pretty scary thought -- Thank God that there is no chance of a Palin adminsitration:
"This bombshell was unexpected, and makes it highly unlikely that she will ever be president" ("The passing of Palin" : Economist)
Anyways, when I first read that I just couldn't believe it. How on Earth could this not have gotten more media coverage? No, not with respect to Sarah Palin. That's more like (How on Earth could she have gotten so much media coverage?) But, more interestingly, here's this word that when spoken recklessly and carelessly by one person it has the power to affect all those that take him/her seriously -- especially if we are speaking of billions, well trillions, of yen.

Thursday, July 16, 2009


I made a mistake regarding the Chinese flag. It has been updated below.

Monday, July 13, 2009

China and Another Bankrupt Ideology

All the spare time recently has gone to sightseeing, studying, and just the general process of being overseas and stuff, so I haven't had an opportunity to update this blog. And, the stuff I did want to write about was about the trees here, or the awkward signs, or the language, or the castles, or the villages, you know some of the more pleasent stuff in life -- but the outrageous way in which Turks in Xinjiang(新疆, 신강) have been treated should be recognized as a serious threat to both the United States and Korea for we can now see Communist China for who she really is and why we as responsible citizens should care.

What Does It Mean To Be Chinese?

You see the Chinese flag has five stars. Each of the five stars represents an ethnic group that is supposed to compose the Chinese nation. These five stars represent the Han Chinese, the Turks of Xinjiang, Tibetans, Manchurians, and Mongolians. I was in fact referring to the older flag of the KMT (the pro-mainland party in Taiwan) during 1912-1928:
"五族共和" (Five ethnic groups together in harmony) -- Thank you Gudong.
Nonetheless, it is still indeed the ideology of the current communist regime in China that ethnicity has nothing do with nationality (Hence, Tibetans are Chinese according to this thought).
The ideology is so that just like you have Chinese-Americans in the United States, you have a Chinese nation of multiple ethnic groups, including Koreans. But, they don't get a star (But, of course, the crucial difference would be that Chinese-Americans willingly migrated to the United States whereas those five groups outside of Manchurians, who for all practical purposes no longer exist as a distinct ethnic group, were either physically conquered and/or culturally assimilated by the Han).

This should be of particular importance to Koreans as this was the main reason given by the Chinese government as to why the Chinese government claims Goguryeo as a kingdom in Northeast China as a minority Chinese kingdom. The logic being that since China is not a nation of a single ethnic group -- as in an Israel or Korea -- then it is possible for those people of Goguryeo or even Koreans to be ethnically Korean, but their nationality to be Chinese.

Of course, with uprisings in Tibet last year (and comparisons with Native Americans by Han Chinese) and Xinjiang this year, we all now know that just like communism, this concept or ideology of Chinese nationality is, well, bankrupt. China is a nation of Han Chinese who are systematically taking advantage of her ethnic minorities and continuing a ten-thousand year history of absorbing smaller, neighboring countries and ethnic groups one-by-one. Interestingly, the first character, "Xin" (新,신), Xinjiang, represents new as if it's some new land for the Chinese to settle.

This process of conquest and assimilation is not just a communist thing, you see. The Republic of China (Taiwan), even claims what is left of Mongolia. And, this I believe is more of a Chinese thing. This has been going on for hundreds and hundreds, no thousands, of years (Think about the initial assimilation of the Cantonese civilization). But, the easiest way to look at it is by looking at something none other than where the Great Wall of China is.

You see, for most of history, well, up until 1644 (when the barbarians conquered China for good), the Great Wall was meant to protect civilization (China) from the uncivilized or not as civilized (the rest of the world, pretty much). China was pretty much "contained" to the east coast with tributary states to the northeast (Korea, Japan) and to the south (Dai Viet, though, this state was directly ruled by the Chinese as late as during the Ming period), but did at times directly rule over states in the west. Nonetheless, even as late as the 19th century, when Manchurian rulers finally allowed the Han to settle in Manchuria (those areas northeast of the Great Wall), most of Manchuria was scarcely populated and the region was devoid of Han Chinese, which certainly is not the case today. Much of the lands that were occupied by barbarians are now part of China proper and the barbarians there speak Mandarin.

I remember a few years ago the term that China kept using was the "peaceful rise of China" or so, as if, to tell the world that you know what, the middle kingdom -- literally (中國), is returning to it's proper place as the center of the world and will do so in a very peaceful way. By the way, I'm sorry to tell you Sinophiles out there, but I doubt this will ever happen again, for you see, the United States is now here and by geography and ideology (and, perhaps, even destiny) the country sits right in the middle -- between the West and the Far East.

The last time the Han Chinese tried to conquer Korea (7th century C.E.) when the Tang turned on Silla, the Tang were much bigger than Silla, but nowhere near the proportions that either one of the Koreas today faces (This is one of the reasons why
I believe North Korea has a nuclear weapons program and why I believe a unified Korea will need either a nuclear weapons program or an iron tight alliance with the United States for perpetuity). Do you think Korea could have survived up until today had the Chinese borders been like how it is today for the past couple thousand years?

I'm not disputing the territorial claims that Communist China makes with respect to Tibet nor Xinjiang (though Taiwan is a whole another matter, but that's for another day), but I'm pretty sure nobody believes the Chinese government's definition of what it means to be Chinese now.

Thursday, July 9, 2009

Effects of an Economic Downturn : Feeling Pain, the Korean Way

As to what is going on in the southern half of the Korean Peninsula, Koreans seem to be going through some very turbulent times (but, hey, this is the downside of having such an overly educated workforce without a strong emphasis on innovation)? Nonetheless, this being Korea, as the WSJ usually loves to say (and I guess from this article, what the New York Times also sees in Korea:)

"Just as distinctly Korean may be the lengths to which some go to hide their newly humble status."

And, perhaps, to point again, at the sense of duty and responsibility that Koreans toward family, the pains of an economic downturn, in thisConfucian society are felt communally. As one native Korean puts it:

"If my parents knew what I was doing now, they would pity me," he said. "Now, I look at the ocean and think, I should have worked harder at the cellphone store, and be a better man for my family" ("With Wounded Pride, Unemployed Koreans Quietly Turn to Manual Labor | New York Times)

I would like to thank a certain Ms. S.J. Kim for pointing this article out on Facebook.

Interestingly, a comment like the one above cited in the New York Times article sounds no different than something a Korean-American or a Korean living in the northern half of the peninsula might say. Aspects such as why this is so will be discussed extensively in the coming semester.

Wednesday, July 8, 2009

Breaking Down Borders: Korea, Fall 2009 Semester

I have just received word that both Professor Elaine Kim and the departmental chair of the Ethnic Studies department at UC Berkeley, have both signed off on there being another "Breaking Down Borders: Korea" class next semester. Now with just the approval of the Academic Senate, "Breaking Down Borders: Korea" will now be available this coming fall semester.

Provided there is enough room, although last semester, we actually had a waiting list for upper classmen, I welcome people to audit the course. In that, you just come in to participate and contribute to the discussion. The syllabus can be found here (I do realize there are quite a few typos).

Articles, such as, the one above is a good example of what will be discussed over the course of the fall semester.

Tuesday, July 7, 2009

North Korea, Koreas Update

On the North Korean front:

Nothing exciting to speak of as North Korea really is running out of things to do, firing missiles on July 4th has been done before and no missile came close to Hawaii. Kangnam I safely returned back to North Korea. But, what has recently begun appearing on the news is if the North Korean succession story is for real or just to grab Hillary Clinton’s (United States) attention. More on this later.

South Korea – Japan held a summit. Of course, nothing came of it since still the dominant relationships in East Asia are still the bilateral relationships with the United States. Of course, what should be interesting for Korean nationalists, whose national psyche or “han” has not fully healed yet, is how they react to the trilateral meeting between the United States-China-Japan that will be held shortly. Previous overtures by China on such a meeting were declined on the part of the United States to assuage South Korean insecurities. However, with the financial crisis the United States consented this time.

With this in mind, South Korea’s foreign policy priority number one should still solely be on unification and nothing else. Ideas such as being a neutral or balancing party (former South Korean President Roh Moo Hyun) or of building closer ties with ASEAN (South Korean President Lee Myung Bak’s New Asia Initiative) might seem great, but it’s just fanciful(wishful) thinking on the part of a confused half nation. This has been a repeated theme in this blog. Zhiqun Zhu writes:

“Korea's dream to become a leading player in international affairs will also likely be wishful thinking if the nation remains divided. Nevertheless, Lee, just like Roh, is commendable for his attempts to enhance South Korea's international profile and to contribute to peace and development in Asia” (South Korea in a new Asia initiative Asia Times).

Of Public Education, LSE

So, I started class on Monday… And, wow, was I in for a surprise.

The students at LSE’s summer school program…

“Generally, around two-thirds of applications come from full-time undergraduate students. The remaining third is made up of postgraduate and research students, and professionals from a wide variety of institutions and businesses” (Entry Requirements London School of Economics and Political Science).

When I walked into class on Monday, the page couldn’t be more wrong if it was describing just this class. I would guess that about half of the students are working professionals, if not more, and perhaps another quarter would be graduate students. If you look at it from an age perspective, I’d guess that with my twenty-seven years I’d be right around the middle or median. Nonetheless, unfortunately, for these working professionals (and perhaps for even some graduate students), just the fact that they have temporarily left the work force and are in effect re-entry students puts them at a huge disadvantage and will simply be – in my opinion – outgunned and outclassed.

Despite what many may say about the state of public institutions of higher learning, such as, the University of California, Berkeley, I took my intermediate economic theory courses from Professor J. Bradford DeLong and Associate Professor Stefano DellaVigna at Berkeley and I believe this puts me at a huge advantage. I feel, for the first time, in a very, very long time that I am very well prepared (those feelings about me taking multivariate calculus in 2001 have reversed itself).

You see, in those classes, we very thoroughly studied constrained optimization and particularly in Professor DellaVigna’s course, we even dealt with two different types of intertemporal optimization or optimization between differing time periods (which is exactly what the first couple problems we are studying are about …spend money now or save and spend it later… in the Money in Utility Function Models). But, most importantly, the professors at Berkeley didn’t leave out the math and almost all analysis on problem sets, midterms, and final exams were of the kind where students had to mathematically derive a model under certain assumptions and then see what happens in equilibrium.

At LSE, it is no different. The students here that are not familiar with these problems will I believe not be able to catch up in time for the first exam as the first exam is exactly a week away and the course itself is only three weeks long. When LSE says these courses are “intensive,” believe it.

Well, it’s not just working professionals you see. Tuesday was the first day discussion/seminar sections were held. There was this one American student that kept asking questions and who later said, “He studied all these things, but in the United States we don’t do derivatives.” While I did ask him what school he was from though (a small private school), but uncharacteristically, I didn’t say anything; I did start working on two thank you emails to the Professors at Berkeley though.

On a different note, if examined on an ethnic and racial basis, then I would say the course is very diverse – But, of course, for this statement to be true, you would have to first assume that the one and a half billion people living in Northeast Asia don’t exist (that is there are no Chinese, Koreans, or Japanese).

On the class roster, I recognized zero, that’s right, zero Korean surnames, and, perhaps, three Chinese surnames with no potential of any of them being Korean (*ahem* except for mine of course). I also recognized one Japanese surname, but that’s the professor’s.

This is going to be an interesting couple weeks and I’m so curious as to the type of backgrounds that some of these students have. I also briefly spoke with a graduate student from the University of Naples and a Danish lady (isn’t a Danish a type of cake with frosting on top?) in her mid thirties, I’m guessing, who thought the course would help her find a better job.
At any rate, public universities do need massive assistance and I believe this is something that will need to find a solution for universities, such as a UC Berkeley to remain competitive with private universities.

Sunday, July 5, 2009

Forming Views on Korea Part IV: Formal Education and of a Lifelong Love

Okay, I decided to write this after I got into a ridiculous discussion on Facebook and facing this long flight from LAX to Heathrow I wanted to address this ridiculous notion that if you don’t have a formal education you just picked up ideas from Wikipedia or are regurgitating articles. Moreover, without a formal education your ideas can only be taken so seriously; But, I do love Wikipedia, especially for Math, where I can easily grab formulas and derivations or history, where I can just get a glimpse of a "generally accepted" view that’s usually cited. And, newspapers and magazines as well. Of course, there are scholarly articles and textbooks, too.

I’m laughing out loud as I write this and the man sitting next to me keeps staring over – I’m still a few hours away from Heathrow. "Hahaha, excuse me, I just can’t stop laughing as I think about this. I have a brother that’s a year and a half (빨른 83) younger and, well, that was a huge age gap when we were children. I can’t remember exactly why, but I remember this one time when we were really young, my brother and I did something that made my mom want to reward us with a toy. She asked us what we wanted: I’m not sure what my brother, Lee (우리 둘다 외자입니다), wanted, but, I’m like really laughing out loud now; I know what I wanted.

You see, I’ve always had a thing for having the coolest thing (I just registered with twitter as well and i’m going to try blogging with my iPhone 3GS shortly as well). And, well, my feelings toward having the best things are no different … towards maps. Yes, maps…

You see, when the Soviet Union collapsed, the map of the world changed and old maps that had the Soviet Union still were just not applicable anymore. Also, Yugoslavia had already by that time seen a couple countries leave and declare independence. So, for our well earned toy, my brother and I "agreed" to ask for the National Geographic Atlas (~$80 to ~$100, or so). Haha, Lee, I’m sorry (형이 진짜 미안하다).

That atlas had it all (By the way, if you ask me where my love for Korea comes from, my mom is probably a prime influence. She cancelled the subscription to the National Geographic after the National Geographic Society refused to give equal consideration to the name East Sea as to that of the Sea of Japan when).

My mom did get him something else later (probably a doll) and plus I never got to go to Hawaii. By the way, 김영주, this is why and how I survived the final round in the Geography Bee in 5th grade my old friend – However, regarding the math contests, I think it was 'cause of something else ;) Considering the pressure your mother put on you, God, how were we friends back then? you must’ve hated me.

I remember back in high school or was it middle school? No, it had to be high school since by then we would "practice" driving our "borrowed" parent’s cars. My friend, Mr. Rhee, would sleep over every so often – going to class was always a secondary thing by then. I’m sorry 엄마(Mom).

(By the way, Mr. Rhee, I hope you are indeed free to pursue what you have always wanted to do in life and are more than just content in whatever endeavors you may find yourself in today. It’s been too long since I last saw you my friend. And, I can even still fondly recall how back in fifth grade, we would work so hard to write our own Choose Your Own Adventure Books).

There’s a huge gap between my childhood and after, but anyways, while the teenage years also included the days that we’d go joyriding oh so often (well, didn’t we all?), and also the days where the cops would harass us (justifiably so), my love and study of what is going in the world never went away. When Mr. Rhee and I were probably fifteen or so (1996?) we were just talking and smoking cigarettes in front of the local supermarket, Ralphs. The store used to be open 24.7 during those days and I think it was like two or three a.m. And, by the way, if you’re Korean-American and go to Korea try the word, "슈퍼" (Super) rather than "마켓" (Market) if Market isn’t understood.

Trust me. I had to learn by mistake.

Well, anyways, Mr. Rhee and I were just innocently talking and looking around inside the store Until, out of nowhere, we were surrounded by eight cops with their guns pointed. They apparently mistook us for two Mexican gangbangers (I blame you, Mr. Rhee. It wasn’t my head that was shaved). Well, they were sheriffs actually and they felt bad. They felt so bad actually that they even gave back our cigarettes and dropped us off at my house. We talked and smoked for a bit until we both passed out. Of course, to Mr. Rhee’s dismay, I turned on CNN Headline News right before we went to sleep as I would do every night. I always liked the news; I was fifteen.

This was also the time when the Internet was AOL and AOL was the Internet (I’m now thinking 1996-97). Well, during those days, I would follow news on Korea in a manner similar to how I use Google News now. I would go to the AOL Keyword: "News" and search for the keyword "Korea." Of course, this was AOL and the nineties, so there weren’t thousands of different articles for the same story. Anyways, almost all my knowledge of the Asian IMF Crisis as it pertains to South Korea and Japan comes from these days and I believe it’s more than just regurgitating the news. And, it was from reading the news back then that I came to the view that I now hold about former South Korean President Kim Dae Jung’s presidency during the IMF –amazing, albeit unfinished job of reforming the economy. I still hadn’t lived in Korea yet nor did I even have the slightest inkling that I eventually would one day. Of course, I hadn’t read any books on Korea either except of course for these articles; I was 16 (17 in Korean Age) in 1997.

When I did get to Korea, I took one quarter of Introductory Korean (일급, level 1) at Yonsei University’s Korean Language Institute. And, two days of Introductory Korean (이급) at Ewha Women’s University’s Korean Language Program (I needed to extend my visa and they had these night courses). But, studying Korean because I had to made it boring – quite the paradox I’d say. So, I went to Japan instead and visited a friend, who treated me with the best courtesy I have ever experienced. His parents made the best Japanese food I’ve ever eaten.

Oh, and if you want to buy a plane ticket to/from South Korea with Korean Airlines, then buy it in South Korea. Also, aside from visa purposes, the certificate of enrollment at a Korean language school is good for getting discounts. They give discounts to students (Confucianism again pokes its Korean head out here again with its reverence for students). As soon as you get there enroll in a mileage plan for this (where you receive a Skyteam Card Number that begins with a BK instead of a BA, everything will transfer over later if you move back to the States). They won’t do it if you buy it from the United States.

Well, so there; there you have it. That’s the entirety of my formal education of Korea (perhaps, for now) – almost half a year of study of the Korean language in my nearly thirty years of existence. So, if you can’t see what I’m trying to say because of the strength of my formal educational background, then that would be quite the shame.

But, on the other side, I swear London has some funny, funny looking streets. I wish I could bring over like a GMC Envoy or a Ford Excursion. We would have some fun here. And, can you imagine someone using this ...

Anyways no matter where you get the ideas, it’s basically the ability to connect different ideas and facts and observations and put them together into a single coherent observation or thought that makes for an idea that is original, and unique. Technically my last pre-Europe post, and I’m too tired to go on about this right now (by the way, there are a lot of people with some extensive formal education here. Met about 8 guys from Yale, some super rich Russians, and a lot from prestigious universities in India that I’ve just never heard of before)…

I always have and always will like learning for learning’s sake (provided it doesn’t feel I’m being forced to study). And, of course, I like to study and be around things (or people) that interest me, such as Korea.

No book or degree can give you that. Looking back through the Looking Glass, it really has been and continues to be a life long love. I feel it a duty to share what I learned though. Aside from the Decal and this blog, I also volunteer at the local YWCA, although I wish I could put in more time. The next semester will be the third semester I will be doing it. If you want to practice speaking English in private, then head over to the Young Women’s Christian Association in Berkeley, CA (no, you don’t have to be a woman or a Christian and while this may be Berkeley, a Communist – though, again, that being Berkeley you could be all of those, which would probably make for some interesting conversation). Wow, Berkeley seems a world away from the London School of Economics.

For more information, e-mail
Jane Abrahms (the program is very short on volunteers).

Also, we do live in the great state of California where you can pick up any new skills on the cheap at a local community college. You can probably find English as a Second Language courses for a fraction of the price English Institutions abroad charge. Or, maybe take a course in German before heading over to Germany.

Anyways, my postings from now on will incorporate more formal education. I am taking
EC321: Money and Banking beginning tomorrow afternoon (I feel Macroeconomics after the undergraduate level with the subjects deep connections with history is a good fit for me). By the way, I do like formal education. 우리 어머님깨, 감사합니다.

The earlier posts:

Forming Views on Korea, Part I, People

Forming Views on Korea, Part II, Reading, Korean

Forming Views on Korea, Part III, Life as an Illegal

Thursday, July 2, 2009

China is NOT the key to North Korea

I'm actually in the middle of studying for a make up test later today, so I have a flight in a few hours, but this editorial caught my eye. To be honest, it’s flimsy editorials like this one that make me want to write this blog. I can’t find exactly who the author is, but somehow it made to the Los Angeles Times.
"North Korean leader Kim Jong Il decided long ago that nuclear weapons were his best protection against an external threat of regime change" ("China is the key to North Korea" Los Angeles Times).
A couple posts down, I describe why South Korea’s foreign policy is held hostage at least with respect to North Korea due primarily to the location of Seoul. But, what I didn’t mention in that post was how while the United States could attack North Korea without much risk to being attacked at home, U.S. foreign policy too is held hostage to the fact that there are still about 28,500 U.S. soldiers in South Korea. An invasion by North Korea with or without nuclear weapons would not only destroy Seoul, but kill most of those U.S. soldiers overnight. Former President George W. Bush was told this exact same thing by former Saudi Ambassador and Crown Prince Bandar (Check out Bob Woodward’s State of Denial: Bush at War, Part III ). If twenty thousand U.S. soldiers died overnight from a North Korean invasion, then there would be no need for a congressional or public debate about the need for a U.S. invasion of North Korea. It would be done (Another reason why as I wrote earlier that Extended Deterrence was solely for propaganda purposes).

If North Korea has artillerly that can flatten Seoul and kill 28,000 thousand American soldiers and about twenty million living Koreans overnight, then this should be enough to protect against a "regime change." Then which country would have the most to lose if North Korea actually developed a full-fledged nuclear program? So, it’s not the U.S. and it’s definitely not South Korea. Japan, maybe? Recall the United States decision to notify Japan only twenty minutes before taking North Korea off the list of states sponsoring terrorism. The only terrorists North Korea actually harbored were those of the Red Army (Communist Japanese Terrorists). And, moreover, if Japan feels it “necessary” that to protect against North Korea that Japan too needs nuclear weapons, when of course, the country doesn’t (remember, Extended Deterrence covers Japan as well), then who loses?


So, if China would lose out the most if North Korea developed nuclear weapons and China is not doing too well as the more North Korea backtracks the more China’s lack of power shows (i.e. failure of six party talks, continual and unending foreign aid from Beijing), then does China really have the power to do anything in North Korea?

Perhaps. But, what if North Korea had let’s say dozens of nukes that couldn’t go thousands of miles, but could fit on its Rodong missiles that could hit Beijing?

So, no. It is to protect the North Korean regime from a China rather than a United States and China does not have the power to change North Korean policy and will see the country’s ability to do anything at all get smaller and smaller as North Korea’s nuclear program matures.

Anyways, I will be taking a break for a few days – unless I see articles like this again, and I will actually be flying on July 4th with more than a slight bit of irony to London to attend summer school there for the next 6 weeks.