Wednesday, March 31, 2010

"Vice Guide to North Korea"

This video was suggested after class today, by one of the students enrolled in the DeCal.

It seems to be a very bizarre place over there.

Monday, March 29, 2010

The term, Viet(Yue/越/월), in Vietnam ... a drive down to Los Angeles...

Correction: Date for Nanyue (Nam Viet Kingdom)  

Last week, I came down to Los Angeles for spring break. On the way down here, through the power of uloop, I had the fortune of speaking with a Vietnamese-American. It was a diverse mix in the car in that there were American-born Korean-Americans, an international college student from Korea, and a second generation Vietnamese-American. The drive is not short and during this drive for a brief moment, we talked about Viet means. We had a native-Korean speaker, who was born and educated in the S. Korea up until college, so we could to some extent translate between English-Korean-Classical Chinese Characters-Vietnamese. Though as the Vietnamese language adopted the Latin or Roman script things made it a little bit more difficult.

Anyways, what I find strange about the word Vietnam is that as the Korean pronounciation of the classical Chinese characters for Vietnam(越南) are similar in pronounciation to at least the English word Vietnam (Weol'nam) -- though on a separate side note and from recent arrivals from Korea, it seems that the dictionary as provided by (the korean-english and not the korean-sino-korean dictionary), it appears Weol'nam is not used as frequently as Koreans now use the Korean pronounciation of the English word Vietnam (which to me makes no sense). But anyways, under the assumption that the word for Vietnam in Korean, Weol'nam, derives from the same characters as Vietnam, then I find that there is something particular strange about this word.

You see, "nam"(南) means south. For example, in (Sino-)Korean, Nam-Mi(南美) means South America (the continent). But, notice that here Nam is a prefix here and not a suffix. So, it would mean that the term Nam(南) is being used to modify the second -- South America. But, when Nam is used as a suffix, it means "South of." So, I find it strange (perhaps, it's a bit like how Hungary is well, mistakenly, called Hungary), but anyways, I wanted to see what this meant. And, I thought it be of historical interest since I know almost nothing of Chinese history -- particularly after the center of Chinese civilization moved further south to the Yangtze River (further away from the Korean peninsula that is).

Well, Wikipedia gives the etymology of Vietnam to be:
Việt Nam (Vietnamese pronunciation: [vjə̀tnam]) was adopted as the official name of the country by Emperor Gia Long in 1804.[4] It is a variation of "Nam Việt" (南越, Southern Việt), a name used in ancient times.[5] In 1839, Emperor Minh Mạng renamed the country Đại Nam ("Great South").[6] In 1945, the nation's official name was changed back to "Vietnam". The name is also sometimes rendered as "Viet Nam" in English.[7]
So, it does look like the word Vietnam is from the same Classical Chinese characters, but Nam Viet and Viet Nam seem to be more than just a mere variation. Consider that the former means Southern Viet and that the latter means South of Viet. Southern Viet would suggest a link with Viet (?) and South of Viet would suggest that Viet would be a term that had been ascribed to people living to the north of Vietnam and is a name that appears to be given to it by the Chinese. I believe Vietnam (Dai Viet -- which I take to be Great Viet or 大越 since Dai is close to the Sino-Korean word Dae, which also means Great) had to struggle continuously for her independence from the Chinese for most of her history. I believe Northern Vietnam was a part of Chinese kingdoms until the end of the first millenium at which point the Dai Viet emerged. (Though even here, I believe Dai Viet was conquered by the Chinese as late as during the Ming Empire). (The history of Southern Vietnam seems to be more complex as there were people who lived there that practiced Hinduism (which would put it oddly out of place with its neighbors). Anyways, I didn't want to get in to a heated debate in the middle of a car ride, but it had always perked my curiosity and I guess this is what this blog is here for. And, Wikipedia's entries of Vietnam are look surprisingly sparse for the country that is supposed to be the next Japan (no, not the next South Korea (it's unified for one) -- but the next Japan; the country already has a population larger than South Korea and most of Vietnam, unlike South Korea, which (I believe) which has for past two consecutive years had the lowest feritility rate in the world, is young and its population growing fast).

But, the character for Viet (越) seems to be Yue in -- I'm guessing -- Mandarin. On a side note, I had this discussion last year with an ethnic Chinese from Vietnam that said the pitch for Yue and Viet were different -- making it different words (I don't know if it has a different pitch, but it does have the same character. And, if it has the same etymologoical (from Wikipedia):

In ancient times, the northern Han Chinese referred to the peoples to their south collectively as the Yue. Historian Luo Xianglin has suggested that these peoples shared a common ancestry with the Xia Dynasty. There is little evidence, however, that the Yue peoples held any common identity. Historical texts often refer to the Hundred Yue tribes (Chinese: 百越; pinyin: Bǎi Yuè; Cantonese Yale: Baak Yuht; Vietnamese: Bách Việt). The "Treatise of Geography" in Han Shu notes: "In the seven or eight thousand li from Jiaozhi to Kuaiji (modern southern Jiangsu or northern Zhejiang) the Hundred Yue are everywhere, each with their own clans."
But, interestingly, note where Zhejiang province is:
So, it appears that as the above quote says that the term Viet (Yue/越) referred to a lot more than just a single group of people and probably to a region and even a kingdom -- "one of the feudal states within the China area was the kingdom of Yue, located south of Hangzhou Bay; it included what is now Fujian province" (Britannica Online).

Moreover, Britannica gives a definition of Yüeh (Yue/Viet/越) as an

aboriginal people of South China who in the 5th–4th century bce formed a powerful kingdom in present-day Zhejiang and Fujian provinces. The name Vietnam means “south of the Yue,” and some Chinese scholars consider the Vietnamese to be descendants of the Yue.
Also, there seemed to be a kingdom called Nanyue or Nam Viet (南越) that encompassed the northern parts of present day Vietnam and the Cantonese speaking regions of Southern China in 2000 BCE (though I'm not sure at that time what regions actually spoke Cantonese). I mean this is about 4,000 years ago and about eighteen hundred years before China was first unified. Anyways, it does appear that the term Viet was originally given by those not living in Vietnam today (I believe in the first millenium the "Chinese" did a rather poor job of assimilating the local Vietnamese) and, was, perhaps, too different from the origins of the name (Barbara).

Also, there seemed to be kingdom called Nanyue or Nam Viet (南越):

[Nam Viet was an] ancient kingdom occupying much of what is now northern Vietnam and the southern Chinese provinces of Kwangtung and Kwangsi. The kingdom was formed in 207 bce, during the breakup of the Ch’in dynasty (221–206 bce), when the Ch’in governor of Yüeh (now Kwangtung and Kwangsi provinces) declared his territory independent. His son Chao T’o (Trieu Da) expanded the new kingdom southward, incorporating the Red River delta and the area as far south as Da Nang (Encyclopedia Britannica).
Nonetheless, it does seem the Vietnamese had a much harder time from the Chinese than Koreans. And, the term Vietnam suggests that the country is/was outside the fringe of Chinese civilization if it is to the South of Yue. Or, if Vietnam is just a mere variation of Nam Viet than the Han Chinese have come to conquer both culturally and physically a lot of land in the past few millenia. Anyways, I believe the Vietnamese and Chinese(pl) langugaes are very closely related (and I don't mean just in terms of vocabulary or loan words).

Thursday, March 25, 2010

So, what's going on in North Korea these days?

Although North Korea's recent currency reform debacle is showing the world how far the DPRK government has fallen, it also seems that at the same time the Do Not Let North Korea Fail at all costs idea I have been writing about up until now may no longer be applicable. Especially as media coverage on the DPRK's food situation seems to be rather sparse -- or at the very least given little attention, my guess is that the United States and South Korea have all, but given up on negotiating with North Korea and are waiting to see what happens when Kim Jong Il dies. And, while China seems to have come through on aid after the implementation of the most recent round of sanctions, these sanctions do seem to be working and I believe the U.S. estimates that arm sales by North Korea have dropped in half. Plus, as there is no longer a lifeline from South Korea as under the previous two South Korean administrations (consider the threat by North Korea to seize South Korean assets in the DPRK), it finally seems the powers that be have all agreed to finally strangle stop subsidizing Kim Jong Il's regime. It will be interesting to see how this plays out, but we can get a rough glimpse at how North Koreans may perceive their government by looking at studies that have been coming out ever since the end of the famine and how much control the DPRK government retains over its people.

In particular, consider the study, "Political Attitudes under Repression: Evidence from North Korean Refugees" by Stephan Haggard and Marcus Noland (The pdf file is free). This was published just this month and is at the cutting edge of what is known about how North Koreans may feel about their government. I would at the very least read through the introduction and look at the nice graphs.  Even though the study is at the cutting edge of what is currently known, consider that one of the aspects of the study was to see if North Koreans make jokes about the government or Kim Jong Il -- I believe in order to see how much control the government still has over its people. These views had to be extrapolated out of representative samples of North Koreans living outside of the country. This goes to show how little information on North Korea has been available in the past and even with large numbers of North Koreans leaving their country recently, how little is still actually known about North Korea.

Unlike their earlier studies, such as, "Exit Polls: Refugee Assessments of North Korea's transition," this study focused more on changing views of North Koreans' government in the past decade or so (again, it highlights how much more information on North Korea has become available in the aftermath of the famine).

The study tries to address what North Koreans thought were the best paths at social mobility in terms of "getting ahead" or "making money." The study suggests a picture of a government that is widely thought to be corrupt  -- the study shows becoming a government official or a party member as the best way to get ahead and engaging in market, corrupt, or criminal activity as the best way to make money (working hard at assigned task looks to be at zero percent). Also, of note is that the study suggests the vast majority of North Koreans blame failed DPRK policies for their economic plight and, unsurprisingly, zero percent to global economic factors.

However, while the study again showed economic reasons as the primary reason for leaving North Korea, also of note is that in the study's samples 1% cited religious freedom to be their primary motive for leaving. Combining this with their earilier work that show a similarly low figure leaving North Korea primarily due to the assistance of NGOs, I wonder how effective NGOs truly are -- as most are led by religious movements.

So, perhaps, it's a good bet to see if the DPRK will manage to survive another -- revolutionary -- hereditary succession.

Tuesday, March 23, 2010

[DeCal] Answers to previous assignment, Upcoming Presentations

Group 4
We will be meeting with Group 4 at 7:00pm, March 29th at the Free Speech Movement Cafe. As mentioned in class, due to spring break, we have decided to put off presentations by Groups 1 & 2 for another week. April 4th's lecture will bring us into what has been going on very, very recently in North Korea.
Answers for the in-class assignment (03/09/2010):
Topic: 1945-53 and South Korea (1953-97)
1. What were the 3 factors in the divergence between South and North Korea? In particular, what advantages did South Korea have that North Korea did not. [What factors did they share?]

By far the greatest advantage that South Korea had that North Korea did not was access to a gigantic consumer market that was more than willing to buy up anything South Korea would produce. Additionally, this was assisted by having access to foreign technology, foreign capital, and a superpower willing to both protect and subsidize the development of South Korea's economy.

Both South and North Korea have a legacy of a homogenous people with a strong sense of shared identity. For example, as pointed out with the sudden dip in gold prices in 1997 (as families in South Korea felt it to be a national duty to sell their gold to help the country regain some foreign reserves), the Koreas did not have to worry about a group (until about the 1980s, the Jeolla provinces come to mind here) that felt that they did not have a stake in the government. Koreans felt that if the country as a whole were to become richer, then they too would be better off. This allowed Korea to do things that might not be politically feasible in places such as Indonesia (where a slight reduction in gasoline subsidies sparked riots a couple years ago), such as quadrupling the price of gasoline overnight by fiat in the wake of the Arab Oil Embargo. Another example that comes to mind is systematic devaluation (and thus stealing money or "sacrificing" away the money of Korean households as their real purchasing power declines). Domestic consumption was discouraged and the government was able to extract high rates of savings from South Korean households and thereafter direct these savings into invesetment into "strategic" industries. These policies were in the aggregate very positive and saw South Korea take off on a path of sustained economic development (up until 1997 at which point Korean economic development took a different path). On a side note, this is the exact same explanation that is the rationale behind some of the more bizarre North Korean propaganda -- a common theme that (North) Koreans have a shared destiny (this of course, has probably changed somewhat since the famine).

Additionally, traditional Confucian values of education provided a highly educated, cheap labor force (which was unable to organize until the early 1990s and very similar to China's current policy of "official labor unions") with institutions that were only moderately corrupt. The term moderately corrupt is used to indicate that while corruption was (probably) pervasive throughout all levels of the country, even its dicatators were forward looking dictators that wanted to create a more prosperous and wealthy Korea.

And, finally, the most important is the mere presence of U.S. soldiers. When South Korea's geographical location and her neighbors -- the Soviet Union, North Korea, Communist China, and Japan are considered, it becomes clear how much South Korea would have had to invest toin an army/navy/air force that could credibly defend the country (it would have cost a fortune and probably take a ballistic missile program and nuclear weapons -- I imagine). Well, instead, that money went into developing the country further.

We can see many tangents with China's management of her economy with South Korea today [Taiwan's economic development was less about state directed economic growth into strategic industries and national champions, but rather the development of small and medium sized businesses. This is why there we are familiar with large, Korean multinational companies, such as Samsung or Hyundai, while Taiwan's smaller high tech companies do not have brand power that is usually associated with economies of scale and usually make components or chips for larger companies on a contractual basis, such as making chips for AMD or NVIDIA].

2. During the Korean War, from the perspective of those involved, what was gained (or lost) ?
China kept a buffer state between the U.S. soldiers and its boundary. Arguably, the country chose to defend North Korea rather than "unite" China -- by invading Taiwan. It was also a huge propaganda win for the Chinese government as PRC soldiers were able to stop the almighty United States. Nonetheless, the country lost hundreds of thousands of people (I'm guessing more), including Mao Tse Dong's only child.

United States:
This largely depends on what angle you're observing the situation from. But, by and large, the most significant benefit was that there was "no communist dagger" pointed at Japan and the United States too was able to secure a buffer state between U.S. occupied Japan and the "monolithic" Communist bloc. The United States lost about 50,000 soldiers. Nonetheless, the U.S. was left with defending and helping to develop a very poor country with no natural resources. U.S. soldiers have been in South Korea continuously from 1945 to today. However, the true dividends for the U.S. did come, but much much later (As discussed in class, the 1988 Seoul Olympics was probably a larger triumph for the United States than it was for South Korea).

Millions of people died. The country remained divided. And, there was no reconciliation of the fissures that were built up during the Japanese colonial period.

[Not really discussed] Probably the biggest benefactor of the war was that Japan was able to re-industrialize by supplying the United States war effort on the Korean Peninsula.

Soviet Union:
[Not sure here] But, I believe the Soviet Union didn't lose anything at all aside from the weaponry it supplied to North Korea and it's jet planes it got to test against U.S. pilots

3. At what point did the South become more prosperous than the North? [Not discussed, but, implicitly implied, at what point did South Korea become seen to be the more "legitimate" Korean state on the peninsula?]

Around 1980 is the point where GDP per capita figures -- an imperfect measure by any means when you have one country just building tanks and another building container ships, steel, etc for export take separate trajectories. But, nonetheless, after 1980, it becomes much more difficult to argue that the North was richer than the South.

I would say that the Summer Olympics of 1988 held in Seoul was the time when South Korea became to seen as the more "legitimate" state. The country recently held free and fair elections in 1987 and emerged as a democracy just in time for the olympics. Not only was the country seen to be much, more prosperous than the North (consider that South Korea had income levels comparable to subsistence economies in subsaharan Africa), but consider the year. After the Soviet Union invaded Afghanistan in 1979, the first world (the US+friends) boycotted the summer olympics held in the Soviet Union in 1980. Then, consider that the second world (the USSR+friends) boycotted the summer olympics of 1984 held in Los Angeles. Only North Korea and Cuba boycotted the summer olympics of 1988 in Seoul, South Korea.

I suggest that it is at this point that all the billions of dollars subsidizing South Korea inally paid off for the United States.

4. What do you think about the fact that South Korea only recently emerged as a country with true democratic institutions? In your opinion does this seem surprising? Why or why not?

I thought it to be surprising that South Korea only recently emerged as a democracy and am even more surprised that this happened at all. South Korea as a Confucian society is a very vertically oriented society with no democratic traditions. Nonetheless, I suspect that unequal development is the probable suspect here as development of the southwestern Jeolla provinces was ignored during both the Japanese colonial period and during the military dictatorships that followed. You can check this by looking at voting patterns, which consistently show upwards of 95% of the people from the Jeolla provinces voting for the same candidate. At the same time, you have large numbers of people in the Southeast (Gyeongsang Provinces) and even Seoul that vote for candidates for the party that has been associated for military dictatorships (Although I mean political parties here, they are, by and large, undeveleoped as in they do not yet run on issues and are more keen to appeal to regionalism or are parties based around a single candidate... not unlike that of Teddy Roosevelt's Progressive Party or Ross Perot's Reform Party --- except it happens not once every hundred years or so, but every five years.

What makes a school great?

Anyways, well, as I mentioned before, I grew up in an unincorporated suburb of Glendale and I went to Crescenta Valley High School for a couple years -- it's a nice public school for the most part as you can see from the standardized scores, it was also a Blue Ribbon School, and I believe the school sends roughly twenty students a year to UC Berkeley. Those from my high school class that have graduated from UC Berkeley all seem to have graduated from Haas and seem to all be doing rather nice at least financially), but anyways, I went to this school for a little more than two years. And there's definitely a small town atmosphere here (though I wonder if this sense of community will remain intact with the rather large and continuous influx of Korean-Americans into this community -- in the past ten years, at least a couple new Korean supermarkets opened up, the bus stands have Korean language advertisements, and there are even Korean newspaper stands at the local Ralphs (like a Safeway, a regular supermarket). The liquor store that's been here for probably a couple generations now sells soju (as I guess the Korean supermarket that opened up next to it couldn't get a liquor license). Anyways, that's something I would not want to get into, but there might be lessons to be taken from neighboring La Canada-Flintridge.

Anyways, I grew up pretty close to a park with a basketball court; my brother and I and our neighbors would often go down there and at times we would run into this bald man who was probably 30 at the time I'm guessing, who just never ever missed a three pointer. We thought he was probably the best basketball player we had ever seen. When I went to high school, he was my history teacher and was also the head coach of the high school basketball team. Another neighbor, who I believe still lives a couple houses down, was this one couple who would pay me and my brother to water their garden for a week each summer as they would take their yearly vacation. But, this was no ordinary task for two pre-teens. We are talking about a Secret Garden here. It was extensive to put it mildly. Anyways, we did well for a few years until one unfortunate summer, where most of his plants, flowers, and grass died. He became my high school counselor at CVHS, ironically, and not by choice either -- it just my happened that my last name began with a letter in between A and G?

And, while even back in 1996-1999 or so, there were still significant Korean miniorities -- perhaps a fifth at that time, it still had this small town feeling. And, this is what I'd like to talk about. You see, I was one of those delinquents as they say in high school. In between periods, you'd most likely find me in the bathroom having a cigarette or hopping over the fence to cut class or something... And, of course, there was the "evil" security guard to avoid. And, of course, there was the sheriff on campus.

But, nonetheless, I remember in my junior year I was doing fairly well academically; I was taking probably all advanced placement courses or honors courses and had largeley recovered from a freshman gpa that rounds to zero.

When I would get caught for doing something I probably shouldn't have done, especially for smoking, I would come up with some pretty ridiculous excuses. But, I never realized what a great dean I had (I can't remember his name) until, well, I got kicked out and as I think back about high school now. Whenever, the sheriff (and this man just got around; one moment he would be walking in the middle of campus and -- way past his bed time -- he'd be breaking parties up in neighboring La Canada-Flintridge) or the security guard or a teacher would send me to the deans' office I would come up with some pretty ridiculous stories.
In particular,

I remember the dean saying, "So, Joe were you smoking in the bathroom again?"

And, I would go off for about five or ten minutes with some ridiculous no... absurd..excuse. In particular, one time I remember saying, "We live in a great country. But, unfortunately the thing about living in a society as great as ours is since everyone is presumed to be innocent until proven guilty that there are times when it's the case that even when you're absolutely sure that somebody did something wrong unless you have definitive proof (like a pack of cigarettes or a lighter), we, unfortunately, have to let these people go. I can't believe I said this, but yes, I said this type of stuff all the time and the crazier thing is actually listened (and probably laughed) and would even comment on things I would say. If I was in a school, in say, Korea, I would've probably gotten beat with a stick until I confessed the truth.

By the way, no, these excuses almost never worked. He suspended me here and there and harshly, especially if it was more severe than smoking cigarettes, but if I think back about it now. He was a great dean and teacher and I doubt that if I grew up in another country I would've come across a dean like this (or teachers like him). I would have literally gotten beat with a stick on an everyday basis probably. But, here's a dean that actually treated with respect as young adults  and there were a lot of other teachers like him too. And, I bet all over the country as well.

Unfortunately for me, and a lot of other students, the dean got promoted in my junior year. And, in his place, was a new guy in a suit -- literally. He would wear a suit and glasses every single day. After two encounters with this new dean, he thought it was a good idea for me to go to continuation school. Though the school offered not a single course that I was taking at the time --- (AP American Literature/AP US History/AP Chemistry/Spanish/Pre-Calculus, etc etc)... Though I didn't go directly to continuation school, when I did get there they said pre-calculus was not offered and that I should take Algebra I. Of course, the teacher there said this fully aware that I didn't need to take Algebra I as most college bound students would either take Algebra I in middle school or skip it entirely, so, naturally, it's a course that wouldn't show up in our high school transcripts. What was the point of me taking a class that I should've taken in middle school? It didn't look like I was college bound. I dropped out in a week

(I did take all those courses again at the junior collge level), but I mean I'm not writing this to point out the dean in the suit, but here to point out the dean, who would listen to a kid give him a speech about the way society is after he pretty much got caught smoking a cigarette. And, I wonder if this is something that is unique to America's school system and suppose if this is what makes America's schools great.

Monday, March 22, 2010

[DeCal] Response Paper due March 30th

Questions to answer in response to Group 1's presentation:

How did north korea’s ideology change? (hint: constitution)
How is juche seen to be illegitimate (by those living in north korea)   What were the reasons and factors driving this?
How did the DPRK army develop their strategy (1948 vs 1990s)?

1 page, double spaced, times new roman, font 12
staple your in-class notes to it. 
Group 1 is omitted from this assignment. 

Thursday, March 18, 2010

Japanese Tourists, California's Higher Education System, & Me

As a result of recent state budget cuts, tuition increases, and proposed increases in the ratio of out-of-state and international students -- who pay higher fees, many in California feel that access to higher education in California is being threatened. Have no fear though, for you see, today, as I was walking through campus I came across two Japanese tourists. They asked me where they can eat. Now, coming across Japanese tourists is not something new, but hey, I came across them not at Disneyland, but in front of Bancroft Library - right smack in the middle of campus. (I recommended "GBC" or Golden Bear Cafe). As I was headed in that general direction, I walked them there. Perhaps, I should've walked them to Northside? Pat Brown's or even the Free Speech Movement Cafe? Anyways...

For one thing, they said they were here sightseeing and that they were students from a university west of Tokyo, but they were sightseeing not Disneyland, but UC Berkeley. I mean you see people take pictures at Berkeley all the time, but I always presumed it was because their son or daughter is studying here and they were very proud that their child has come to study at one of the more well recognized universities in the world. But, would you choose to spend money to visit UC Berkeley? They were second year undergraduate students majoring  in linguistics. Yesterday they were in San Francisco they said and tomorrow they will head down to Los Angeles (a better bet in my opinion). I imagine that while it's spring break here, well technically starting tomorrow morning for me, that it is probably the equivalent of summer break over in Japan -- I believe the school year in Japan starts in the spring.

But anyways, the interesting question was, why on earth would Japanese tourists visit UC Berkeley? When I visited Japan, some of the things I did was relax at an outdoor sauna (spa?) or a natural springs located in some mountains somewhere between Osaka and Kyoto and even watching Last Samurai (the movie is still one of my all time favorites). By the way, I feel I spend more time on blogger than on facebook; I should message my old Japanese friend. Other activities included going to Osaka and visiting my friend's university in Kyoto and speaking with an old Japanese man on the J-Line, who said that it was strange that I looked Korean, but I spoke English. Anyways, visiting my friend's university was nice in that I got to see where he studied and how it was (tranquil and peaceful are the adjectives that come to mind here), but if I had planned the trip I definitely would not have placed visiting a Japanese university at the top or anywhere on the list. 

And, I guess this is something that those demonstrating against letting in a higher ratio of international and out-of-state students seem to forget. One of the greatest assets that California has built up by investing so heavily -- perhaps even excessively -- in its higher education system are its internationally recognizable public institutions of higher learning. Consider the size of the UC library (second largest in the world?), there's hydrogen, helium, oxyen, and, of course, Californium, and Berkelium), etc etc. But, perhaps, it's about time to cash in on this. If there are Japanese tourists that willingly come to visit UC Berkeley, then imagine the number of students that would want to study here (though the percentage of alumni that give back seems to be rather tiny). Of course, there's externalities aside from just mere income transfers... Knowledge spillovers, economies of scale come to mind here...
Anyways, the second thing that this brought up, is well, brand names aren't build up by advertising on television (maybe aside from those television advertisements in between college football). They are built after decades and decades of academic accomplishment and, perhaps, an open university that accepts top foreign students. Now, consider the oftenly cited claim of the superiority of Korea's or East Asia's secondary education system. For example, "Oh, the math and science that undergrads learn in America is taught at secondary school." But, I doubt Korea's secondary education system is superior to the United States. Yes, it has been shown (Hanushek and Kimko, in a 2001 paper published in the Journal of American Economic Review ) that higher test scores in science and math translate into higher rates of economic growth -- but, this is through 1990. I believe it won't hold against equally developed economies. Consider Japan and the U.S. post-1995 or so. Would you rather have an innovation based economy or one that survives by making manufacturing electronics (commodities) primarily on the basis of cheap labor (China) or even technology (Japan, Korea, Taiwan) or components for, let's say, Apple. But, anyways, what is not fostered in Korea's secondary schools or its school systems (or Japan's) is the ability to think critically and ask questions. (Disclaimer: By the way, my senior honors thesis is turning out to be on international student flows in higher education, but anyways:)

The United States recent focus on standardized test scores is something I wish the country would stay away from (And, no, I've always done fine on standardized tests), but the Korean or Japanese education system is not something that I believe we should try to emulate. For one thing, consider, what would happen to a secondary school student that constantly challenges a teacher's authority not because he doesn't want to study, but because he questions whether the teacher is right or why it's important to learn exactly what he's learning. That student would either get kicked out of the system -- for questioning the the authority of the teacher and have no chance of getting back in or be forced to take the path of "rote memorization, regurgitating formulas or facts or equations, so that he can score as high as possible on a standardized test." And, well, for all of Korea's higher standardized test scores, they can't win a Nobel Prize (no, Kim Dae Jung does not count).  Or, of course, he would come to the United States, if he had the money. In the U.S., well, conformance is -- upto a certain degree -- not cool. When I was in Seoul, I never once visited Seoul National Universitiy except to stop near the campus for a job interview (at a private English Academy -- that I eventually turned down). For example, I always hear about how Korean students already learned how to do Calculus or Chemistry or something in high school. But, you see, that's when the learning stops. In the United States, the educational system is setup so that you will continually be learning for the rest of your life (Why ask Why?).

In Korea, the system is setup so that the vast majority of "learning" is in high school and learning at the undergraduate level is a joke (I have many, many anecdotal stories here and there are, of course, many empirical studies here done as well, and, of course, there's the fact that South Korea decided to adopt the U.S.' liberal education system (two years of general education before all else). Also, consider what the mandatory military draft does to Korea's undergraduate education system. But one story that comes to mind is an English conversational partner I had that scored above the 99.97% percentile or so on the KSAT and then flunked out of Seoul National University for playing too much Starcraft -- he of course, did end up graduating and is probably making a lot of money now at one of the top multinational firms in Korea. I thought him to be smart, but what if he had grown up in the U.S.? Maybe he would've discovered a cure for cancer... Or not...

Wednesday, March 17, 2010

About this blog - *Updated* (March 17th, 2010)

Updated Sept. 9th, 2010

In this blog, I feel I have an outlet, where I can express my views and opinions on issues or events going around in this world that in the absence of this blog, I feel I otherwise would not have. I mostly write about issues that I feel strongly about. I usually relate it to my own personal life experiences either in  school or not. Sometimes, I write about what I feel I like to share. At other times, I find myself too busy to write anything at all or with nothing I'd like to share. My views are not written to be as provocative as possible; it's just the case that I might have views that might not always be right in the middle. However, I try to defend or justify my views as I best can.

I write a lot about Korea as I find a lot of interest in that country for its own sake -- something that may not be shared by others in general. The country has such a strange history -- same borders, same people for so long that it has led to the development of rather peculiar institutions that I believe are unique to the Korean peninsula  Sometimes, I feel this is something that is relevant to a larger audience (Sometimes not). I wrote a series on my personal experiences that I feel have strongly shaped who I am today and how I view the world and Korea in particular.

While I haven't profited from this blog nor do I expect to anytime soon or ever -with such a niche audience, I do reserve the right to change my views in light of new information. In particular, I also reserve the right to be wrong and to change my mind in light of new information. Postings on this blog may not be reprinted or reused in full without my permission  --  Sometimes, I post entire essays. I do give permission and encourage others to expand upon my postings or reprint short excerpts of my postings provided that the author of the posting and the name of the blog are cited.

About the name of this blog

Stella Kim, who is now a UC Berkeley  alumnus first started and created the DeCal, an accredited student-led course, entitled "Breaking Down Borders: North Korea."

--Joe Chang

China is NOT the key to North Korea Part II

[So, for those in the DeCal, I mentioned I was a little bit late as I was busy posting a comment on a blog.]

I saw a comment that I felt I had to comment on. It's a comment left on one of Professor Brad DeLong's postings on his weblog, "Grapling Reality..." The post itself was actually about what exactly happened during the latter part of the Bretton Woods period, but the comment that was left presumed -- not unlike the Los Angeles Times Editorial -- that China has this influence over North Korea. In fact, the only country that has direct influence over North Korea is the United States, if the country can ever agree on a single policy and choose to actually carry it out. A quick glimpse at the history of North Korea's nuclear program and South Korea's short stint with building its nuclear program was when the two states feared that their futures were being chosen for them by China and the United States (i.e. the Koreas reconciled after Nixon's trip, North Korea "warned that this development would 'force Pyongyang to take certain actions to build certain types of weapons by our own means'" after Russia notified the DPRK it was going to normalize relations with South Korea (Snyder 33) -- , etc etc).

Nonetheless, I wrote earlier about an editiorial in the Los Angeles Times about this common misperception that China is the key to the "North Korea problem." Well, since that time, I've found more information that supports what I've been saying all along -- China has no influence in North Korea.

Here is a table from China's Rise and the Two Koreas: Politics, Economics, Security (If I copy large portions of the book, then I'm sure I'll run into copyright issues), but anyways check the circled period and buy the book -- it's a very comprehensive look at what's been going on recently...

KEDO (Korean Energy Development Organization) was a plan that was agreed upon during the Clinton Administration that basically offered two light water nuclear power plants, heavy oil, and other aid to North Korea in exchange for North Korea abandoning/suspending its nuclear weapons program + staying in the NPT.  

Notice that basically what happened during this period was that North Korea's dependence lessend as the country was able to extract aid from other countries. In Dec. 2002, there was an exchange (and if you read the details of what puportedly happened -- it really is interesting as North Korea was preparing to return the U.S.S. Sherman to say thank you for the heavy crude that the U.S. had been providing) where the United States accused North Korea and allegedly acknowledged the existence of a secret uranium enrichment program (another way of building nuclear weapons). Soon after, KEDO became defunct and the U.S. began it's "CVID" policy. Interestingly, at the very same time, shipments of petroleum from China went up.

However,  perhaps, most interestingly, Scott Snyder writes:

"China is reported to have pleedged economic aid and energy assistance worth as much as US$50 million to secure North Korean participation in the second round of six-party talks in February 2004" (125)  [1]
It's as if China wishes to project this image that the country does have leverage over North Korea. But, as argued in this book and as I have been saying all along in this blog... However, Scott Snyder puts it best when he writes:

Thus, China's increased use of aid, trade, and investment as vehicles for enhancing political influence on North Korea has thus far worked in precisely the opposite manner, making China hostage to and enabler of North Korean provocations (132).
Moreover, if you think about it, if Korea ever does re-unifiy, I believe a unified country will be in the exact same position that North Korea is in right now. It will either have to have U.S. troops on the peninsula or have a nuclear weapons program -- the country neighbors China, Japan, and Russia...

Primary Source:
Note: I briefly tried googling the Washington Post Article to no avail. This is the source that Scott Snyder cites in China's Rise and the Two Koreas: Politics, Economics, Security.
[1] Samuel S. Kim, "China's Conflict-Management Approach to the Nuclear Standoff on the Korean Peninsula." Asian Perspective 30, no.1 (2006): 5-38 as cited in Edward Cody and Anthony Faiola, "N. Korea's Kim Reportedly in China for Talks," Washington Post, April 20, 2004; Ralph Cossa, "CVID, WMD, and Elections Galore," in Brad Glosserman and Sun Namkung eds., Comparative Connections 6, no. 1 (April 2004): 1-18.

Monday, March 15, 2010

We do live in a "democracy" -- the Armenian Genocide Resolution and the North Korean Human Rights Act of 2004

Today -- Armenia.

We see this when we see that the federal government -- particularly Congress, makes decisions that are not in the best interest of the country. As the federal government draws its power directly from the electorate, it functions a bit like how people do... it makes mistakes and listens to some people more than others. I would think Health Care is probably the most obvious example, but one that I'd rather talk about and that today's post takes us to is -- the Armenian Genocide.

You see, I was raised in an unincorporated suburb of, well, Glendale, perhaps fifteen minutes by freeway to downtown Los Angeles. The neighbors across the street from my mother's house are an Armenian-American family. Just as the surname, Kim, is synonomous with Koreans, Armenian surnames usually end in "yan" or "ian" --  in my hometown, there were a significant number of Armenians. And, well, Glendale is home to:

The city of Glendale is home to the third largest Armenian community outside of Armenia, after Moscow and Los Angeles. According to the United States 2000 Census Glendale is home to 53,854 Armenian-Americans [16] (pking up 27.6% of the total population),
If you include, neighboring, Los Angeles, I believe greater Los Angeles, you come up with a very large number of Armenian-Americans that are concentrated into a small area. This influences what types of politicians are elected in these districts. For some reason (Rep. David Dreier's "safe" seat) -- my mother's address has been carved out of Glendale(literally, if you take a look at this map) -- (this is  my..., no, "his" district, actually. Although I did vote for him the last time around. It's just that there was no one else to vote for).
Gerrymandering, I guess that's another interesting topic. But, anyways: as there are a large number of Armenian-Americans concentrated in a relatively small region -- Glendale and Los Angeles, there will be politicians that more or less will vote on issues that more or less represent the views of its most important constitutents -- the ones that can organize. And, for Glendale and, importantly, for the rest of the United States, Turkey, and Armenia -- the issue is the Armenian Genocide. And, growing up where I did, I remember in high school, there were holidays -- well, during those days, everyday was a holiday -- but in particular, there was a Martin Luther King Day, a President's Day, and, well, an "Armenian Genocide Day." In some classes, maybe two or three students would bother to show up. [I also remember hearing the opinion of one classmate tell me the difference between real Armenians (the ones from Russia and who say "Barev" when saying "Hi") and those from Persia (who say "Parev"), who I suppose were "less Armenian" as they were probably influenced by Persian culture].

Anyways, I do have a point here; just bear with me. Historically, Armenia, I believe, is noted to be the first country to have embraced Christianity and Armenians have traditionally lived in what is now Turkey, the Kurdish Areas of Iraq, Russia, the South Caucasus, and Iran. I believe there is even an old Armenian quarter in Jerusalem. Anyways, Turkey is an important country to the United States for a number of reasons, not excluding the facts that country is home to a large U.S. air base, a member of NATO, and, has a secular, democratic form of government. But anyways, about a hundred years ago, large numbers of Armenians, -- Turks and Kurds, ironically, came to, well, I believe purge the Turkish and Kurdish regions of ethnic Armenians. So, it's an issue that is very dear to ethnic-Armenians and the way that the U.S. government is setup, we have a system, where we have members of Congress vote on the basis of how a small group of people feel -- usually those that are the loudest and most organized -- about labelling this, a genocide.

"The measure, which risks offending Turkey, a U.S. ally, is being handled more cautiously after the 2007 effort, when it appeared headed toward approval."
And, then the caption on another Los Angeles Times article, dated March 5th, after passage of the resolution to label it a genocide says:
The resolution sparks instant backlash from the Turkish government, which warns that the passage could negatively affect the country's relations with the U.S.
On the one hand, Turkey is a large and important country to the United States; Armenia, well, unfortunately, is not. This is very similar to, well, North Korea. North Korea is just not an important country to the United States did it not do all the things the U.S. did not want them to do? (A better paradoxirony I cannot think of). However, in a strange twist of events, this same pattern happened with result to passage of the law that required the U.S. government to accept any political refugee from North Korea -- The North Korean Human Rights Act of 2004. The bill was in large part passed by the actions by well, an alliance between Korean-American evangelical Christians and the evangelical wing of the Republican Party back in 2004 (Korean-Americans are for the most part, predominantly Christian; also of note, South Korea's minority Christian population sends the second largest number of Christian missionaries to the rest of the world). In an interview in Christianity Today:

Stan Guthrie: "Does this bill have the support of the Bush administration?"

Michael Horowitz: "Well, the Bush administration has been very mixed on North Korea. I think the President personally has just been powerful in his condemnation of the human rights violations of the regime. … The administration didn't take a prominent role. This was a matter that moved forward because of the powerful evangelical community and evangelical human rights effort."

The issue of why so many Koreans came to adopt Christianity is a whole separate issue, but perhaps, I'll write about that next time. I wonder if this form of government that the United States enjoys is a luxury that countries, such as China or even Japan, do not enjoy. We do live in a "democracy." You just have to talk really loud. Consider Fox News.

Sunday, March 14, 2010

So, I got into a fight with a fake Buddhist Monk

I was walking to the library today and I happened to pass by a Buddhist monk, who I'm venturing to guess, is here to study at UC Berkeley. She looked rather young and,  I'd also venture to guess, probably Korean as she wore a grey robe with a brown sash (I've never been to China, but I believe Buddhist monks there wear orange robes. Though it's hard to make generalizations about China, since it's such a huge country). But, my family members always mention there's some famous Buddhist scholar that is studying at Berkeley and that I should seek them out.

Nonetheless, it reminded me of a little incident I had with a fake Buddhist monk last Sunday. Last Sunday morning, while I was outside on Telegraph Avenue having a cigarette -- yes, it's a disgusting habit, but I plan to kick the habit again shortly, and, well, this middle aged white man wearing orange robes - not unlike that of a Buddhist monk -- with tatoos covering his palms and arms in what I took to be Sanscrit characters approached me and said, "I'm a wandering Buddhist monk and I just came back from Malaysia. Would you happen to have a cigarette?"

Normally, I would have just either ducked the question or I would've just given him a cigarette and have been on my way. But, I thought this to be rather peculiar. It's not everyday a Buddhist Monk walks up to you and asks for a cigarette. Well, I told him I had a pack in my car and I was walking there now. If he'd walk with me to my car, then I'd happily give him a cigarette. I was in my pajamas.
Joe: "Malaysia, you say?"
Fake Monk: "Yes. Malaysia. It was a wonderful experience ... "
Joe: "I see. But, isn't Malaysia a Muslim country?"
Fake Monk: "Yes, there are Muslims there, but it's also a Buddhist country. About half Buddhist and half Muslim."

You see, well, I grew up in a family with deep Buddhist roots. In my pre-teen days, I remember reciting Buddhist scripture before going to sleep, particularly 반야심경 or Heart of Perfect Wisdom Sutra ("마하반야 바라밀다심경" (摩訶般若波羅蜜多心経), 日本: 般若波羅蜜多心經, 中文: 般若波羅蜜多心經). Thanks to this fake monk, I actually found the Korean pronounciation along with an interpretation in Korean of the original Sanscrit characters). And, my mom's oldest sister -- my aunt -- is the head monk of a Buddhist temple in northern Seoul. I know very little Buddhist scripture and am probably more aquainted with the Bible -- I took a "New Testament as English Literature" for a single semester. 

Joe: "That sounds like...[nonsense]" -- From what little I do know of Malaysia -- aside from their great commercials telling us to visit the country, I do know they have a very rigid form of affirmative action (and that their country avoided the East Asian Financial Crisis by imposing capital controls). The country is majority ethnic-Malay [Muslims] along with significant numbers of ethnic-Chinese [I'm guessing mostly Buddhistm plus Shamanism+Daoism+Confucianism] and ethnic-Indians Tamils (from India) [mostly Hindus].

So, I went into about a five minute lecture about affirmative action.

Fake Monk: [He went on about five minutes longer about what he saw and an article he read four years ago... ]
Joe: [I popped out my iPhone 3GS and, opened up Safari, and showed him the statistics from Wikipedia].
Fake Monk: "Are you going to believe a person that was there for three years or believe something from a book?"
Joe: "Well, I guess, if I was interested in the life experiences of a fake Buddhist monk, then I would go and ask you. But, if I want to know what the statistics, then I'd turn to an encyclopedia. If I had dropped acid and then said I had some profound insight into the world, you wouldn't take me seriously."

Fake Monk: "Affirmative action is not a bad thing..."
Joe: "I'm not saying it is. I just brought that up to show you that the country isn't half Buddhist or Chinese."
Fake Monk: "A big deal. I was off by a few percent."

Then, I went into a ten minute lecture about the brief history of Malaysia, the exodus of Cantonese speakers into Southeast Asia [and the rest of the world, pretty much] in the 1800s, and how the British brought with them large numbers of ethnic Indians.

Joe: "So, back to acid..."

The fake monk walked away. It had been about thirty minutes since we both finished our cigarettes. I saw him again talking to a different group of college students a couple days later near Johnson's market. I'm not usually one to preach what I think I know or do not know to people who might care less, but hey that's why I'm trying to get into Academia where people might find this useful and interest in these things might come in handy. By the way, I guess this posting might describe how I was ten years ago.

And, no, monks don't even eat meat and, for the most part, are not even allowed to marry. I find it offensive that an individual will go to great lengths to call himself a Buddhist Monk so he can indulge in an "earthly desire."
And, I am indeed at the library to continue writing my senior thesis paper, which I believe will be helped out greatly by a rough knowledge on the background of certain countries (it's a cross country study, where I believe I have hit numbers and an equation that - in my opinon -- have put all examined, published literature of empirical studies on the same topic to shame). But here, I don't trust my judgement of what is good enough and that's where I need the life experiences of a real academic and not a book. Though, it appears what has been published as facts or conclusions are remarkably the mistakes I tried to go around. Anyways, I'm not ready to share that yet. Tho

Thursday, March 11, 2010

"Taiwanese" Language

I made a couple claims about the Taiwanese language in the Breaking Down Borders: Korea course this past week; I fail to see what's so Taiwanese about it. First, I claimed that the Taiwanese Language actually derives from settlers that came from the Chinese mainland less than a few centuries ago. I didn't know the name of this province in China, but thankfully, one of the students in the class did -- the one completely surrounded by mountains -- [Fuzhou, 福州].

And, this map is a lot more detailed than the one I drew in class. I'm getting quite accustomed to chalk, by the way -- much more amenable to discussion than a stale PowerPoint Presentation. Anyways:

"Regional variations within Taiwanese may be traced back to Hokkien variants spoken in Southern Fujian" (The map on the left is from Wikipedia as well the quote above).

Nonetheless, I made this point because the Taiwanese dialect was not introduced by settlers from Mainland China until the 16th century[1]. Of course, there exists the real "indigenous" languages in Taiwan as well. And, this was made in the context to refute that Taiwan has been a part of China since time immemorial. The Qing dynasty (by the way -- technically a Manchurian dynasty, so it was never part of a Han Chinese dynasty) annexed the island in only 1684, only after defeating the Dutch who had already controlled the island for a century or so. Of course, then Japan took control of the island after the first Sino-Japanese War, who kept it from 1894-1945. On a side note, you can probably tell, I'm not a big fan of "China" controlled Taiwan since the beginning of time nonsense.

So anyways, the point is, "Taiwanese" is actually a dialect of mainland Chinese that comprise about 70% of the population that date back to settlers from the 16th century. And, Mandarin is an even more recent addition to the island. And, of course, ther are the indigenous speakers of the Taiwanese indigenous languages scattered in the mountaineous middle part of the island.

Primary Source:
[1]Shepherd, John R. (1993), Statecraft and Political Economy on the Taiwan Frontier, 1600–1800, Stanford, California: Stanford University Press, p. 7 Reprinted Taipei: SMC Publishing, 1995.

[DeCal] In class assignment, Review - 03/09/2010

Topic: 1945-53 and South Korea (1953-97)
Lecture Date: Tues, 03/09/2010

For 1953-97 [South Korea]: This is an overview of the lecture. This should also help Group 3 when presenting on North Korea (1953-97) and assist those trying to make up the in-class assigment. We will be meeting with Group 3 at 7:00pm at the Free Speech Cafe, Group 4 at 7:15pm -- this Sunday: March 14th,

In-class Assignment (03/09/2010):

1. What were the 3 factors in the divergence between South and North Korea? In particular, what advantages did South Korea have that North Korea did not. [What factors did they share?]

2. During the Korean War, from the perspective of those involved, what was gained (or lost) ?

3. At what point did the South become more prosperous than the North? [Not discussed, but, implicitly implied, at what point did South Korea become seen to be the more "legitimate" Korean state on the peninsula?]

4. What do you think about the fact that South Korea only recently emerged as a country with true democratic institutions? In your opinion does this seem surprising? Why or why not?

Answers will be posted next week.

Thursday, March 4, 2010

[DeCal] PowerPoint File Is Now Available

Please come to class.

The PowerPoint file for Leah Yi & Tori Bazz's portion of the presentation is available here.

[DeCal] Readings, Change of Group Presentations

Reassignment of Group Presentations:
The rationale behind re-assigning presentations topics is that as most of history is very dense, it takes an enormous effort on the part of students, when presenting on topics far removed from the present, to not get lost in names, dates, and events and to still take something useful away from all of this. For example, while the  presentation on the Korean War three semesters ago was excellent in giving an overview of the major battles and the general direction of the war, none of the covered material proved to be particularly relevant to better understanding the Koreas of today.

I'm firmly of the belief that most of the heavy lifting should be done by student instructors and that as the focus of this course is not Korean History, this aspect should largely be left to student instructors. At one point, all presentations were given by a single student instructor (Spring 2009). With that in mind, I felt the effort of students in groups 1 and 2 would better spent on applying the conclusions from the historical presentations that student instructors give to contemporary issues. Group 1 will now be presenting on North Korea's Nuclear Program, Disarmament, and Six Party Talks. Group 2 will now be presenting on Unification. Both groups will now be presenting in MarchApril.

I have volunteered to cover the post-colonial period, the Korean War, and South Korea up until 1997 this following Tuesday.

I have posted the recommended and required readings for all presentation groups except for groups that will be presenting in April. Please see the syllabus for more.

[Decal] Updated Syllabus - Downloadable

ASAMST 98/198 : Section 9, Spring 2010
Breaking Down Borders: Korea

The updated syllabus can be found here.

Tuesday, March 2, 2010

[DeCal] Change in group presentations!!

Hi, so Joe decided to present on what group 1 and 2 originally were going to present on.  Here are the changes:

March 9 - Joe presents (1945-53, Div. of Institutions: ROK) 
March 16 - Group 3 presents (Div. of Institutions DPRK)
March 30 - Group 4 presents (Famine in DPRK)
April 6 - Group 1 presents (6 party talks on DPRK Nuclear disarmament)
April 13 - Group 2 presents (6 party talks on Reunification)
April 20 - TBA
April 27 - Guest lecturer: Professor Christine Hong

Monday, March 1, 2010

*Draft* The Hungarian Language

So, I was in the elevator in my apartment today and as the elevator is the size of a small closet -- it's super awkward not to to strike up a conversation. There was this one guy in there that I never saw before and he had an accent and I asked him where he was from. "Hungary," he said.

And, I remember I had this one English conversational partner in Korea, who spoke Hungarian, Korean, and Japanese. He told me that there were similarities in the Hungarian language on one hand and Korean and Japanese on the other -- the latter two languages, for the most part -- can literally be translated character for character without any grammatical mistakes. Both languages are also characterized by having a complex set of verb conjugations that address the relative social rank of the listener, not to mention the formality of a situation. It's also been argued that people on the Korean Peninsula and Western Japan ("Wa Japan"/倭) spoke mutually intelligible languages until about the 7the century (about the time Silla unified the Korean peninsula). 

Note: I know I've been searching for this paper I read a while back with the title along the lines of "Japonic-Gorguyeo languages(?)" published in like 2002/03 or so by some academic in I think Pennsylvania. Please e-mail me this article if you come across it.

Note: After reading the article, I really got no better sense of how the Hungarian language is. I'll come back to this topic when I have something...
But, I do that know that some linguists classify all three languages under a single language family: Ural-Altaic languages. Yes, that's from Hungary (and even Finland ) all the way through Central Asia and to East Asia (skipping over areas that are now populated by only Mandarin speakers, but were not so a couple centuries back). Yes, you might think it's broad, but you should check out the Indo-European language family that not only includes the Romance Languages (French, Italian, Spanish, and Romanian), but also all of Europe minus the ancient Basque region, where I stopped by out of historical interest during a backpacking trip to Europe last summer. It also includes most of the languages found in Iran and India.

Anyways, as I told the guy in the elevator that I had heard Hungarian was actually related or similar to some languages in East Asia, I asked him if their were honorifics. Surprisingly, he said, yes, they address older people differently than they do younger people. So, as I write my midterm paper, I was curious to Google (or better yet, Wikipedia it). Now, I'm no linguist and I'm not sure if there is even a connection here (I'm not sure if there are even honorifics in Turkish or Mongolian, but I think perhaps that can be a talking point next time I randomly meet somebody from Turkey or Mongolia. I do know there is a store here that is owned by a Mongolian immigrant right down the street).

Hungarian has a four-tiered system for expressing levels of politeness.
Much like Japanese, the Korean language has complex gradations. It uses honorifics and no less than seven speech levels, each with a singular/plural distinction, making for fourteen basic verb stems. Nevertheless, most levels have all but disappeared from everyday language, so one can simplify this into the basic distinction between plain and polite conjugations of verbs and adjectives. In general, the plain form is used when speaking to family, close friends, and social inferiors, and the polite form otherwise. When two Korean-speaking strangers meet where none is the obvious social superior, both use the polite form; when it is determined that one or both can switch to the plain form, one often asks for permission for this switch. The phrase used to describe this is 말을 놓다 mareul nota (literally “to release language”). In Korean, the polite form is called 존댓말 jondaenmal and the plain form is called 예사말 yesanmal or 반말 banmal. In contrast to the neutral term 예사말 yesanmal, 반말 banmal (literally “half speech”) often has a rather negative connotation, referring for instance to the plain form that one may deliberately use to provoke someone who should be addressed in the polite form.

There is a similar phenomenon called 높임말 nopimmal, which is honorific speech triggered not by the addressee but by the content of an expression. It is used independently of the speech levels. For example, in -하십니다 -hasimnida “do(es) …”, the speaker uses the infix -si- to honour the subject of the sentence and the ending -mnida to express courtesy or politeness (or simply his distance) towards the addressee. As the subject of the sentence and the addressee do not have to be the same person both forms can be mixed. The speaker can honour a higher person he is talking about with the infix -si- while talking to a friend who is addressed in the informal banmal.
In Japanese, as in Vietnamese, kinship terms, titles, or names are commonly used instead of first-, second- or third-person pronouns; real personal pronouns do not exist in the language, and the words most closely corresponding to them are grammatically nouns. As in Korean, there are several levels of politeness regarding social hierarchy, and polite language encompasses not only pronouns but also verb endings and vocabulary as well. (See the articles Japanese pronouns and Honorific speech in Japanese for more information.)
On a side note: It's accepted that Vietnamese is not related to Japanese at least in terms of origins of the language. Vietnamese along with Chinese and Tibet are part of the Sino-Tibetan language family.

Maybe I was sitting next to a NK refugee...("탈북자, 전 세계 23개국에 정착" - RFA)

Found this gem at One Free Korea.

The picture to the left is from Yonhap News found in the article: "탈북자, 전 세계 23개국에 정착 [North Korean Refugees have been accepted in 23 countries around the world]" (Radio Free Asia). The table below is also from the same article, but it's from the UNHCR. While the original article is in Korean (that's within my grasp of understanding), there's not much of particular interest there that can't be seen from the chart below. However, One Free Korea does take a deeper look at the chart.
Check the table to the right. It seems Germany and the United Kingdom have accepted a rather large number of refugees.

This reminds me though. As I was backpacking in Europe last summer, I sat next to this Korean woman that was around my mother's age in France -- I was headed to Versailles. She too said she had to get off at that exit and she was actually headed to work. I believe she had a menial job there and thought it rather unfortunate. And, by the way, I remember thinking France - well at least Paris,  seemed a lot more cosmopolitan and open to immigration and resembled the United States a lot more in this regard than the United Kingdom (I had the great fortune of being able to travel all over the U.K. - including Scotland, Wales, and Northern Ireland (by boat) while I was taking classes at LSE in London). The United Kingdom on the other hand just seemed like a backwards, yet very expensive version of the United States in terms of culture and language. Some of their phrases posted on those street signs seemed so awkward...

But, anyways, the strange thing is, she had this rather peculiar accent -- very peculiar. And, I did meet plenty of ethnic-Korean Chinese in South Korea. Most of the ones I came across - however - had very strong, almost Chinese accents when speaking Korean. However, this lady was native in Korean, but she just had a rather strange accent and she did "accidently" say "Joseon Mal" rather than "Hanguk Mal" while we were conversing (They both mean the Korean language). However, Joseon is used as written in the posts below only by Korean-Chinese, North Koreans, and, perhaps, a few Korean-Japanese. When I finally asked this lady where she was from, there was this like awkward pause as she told me she was an ethnic-Korean Chinese from the Yanbian Korean (Joseon) Autonomous  Region in Jilian Province in NE China (연변 조선족 자치주, 中文: 延邊朝鮮族自治州). So, I don't know. I wonder how she got there and how she's doing now. Perhaps, she was one of those lucky few that managed to escape the living hell that is North Korea or not...

Anyways, should get back to my papers...