Monday, May 31, 2010

[A Rising South Korea] Apparently Mainstream Media Outlets Have Picked Up on The Story...*edit*

Note: It seems that recent articles on The Economist almost exactly corroborates what I have been writing about this entire time and takes the exact same position I have been taking up until now when I first discussed the possibility of a DPRK regime collpase and the major powers waiting out Kim Jong Il on March 25th, 2010.

Edit: 5/31

It seems many others are picking up on what is going on in North Korea, including mainstream publications such as The Economist now. I mentioned earlier that China is "looking rather feeble" these days, but The Economist goes one step further:
They [the Chinese] presumably fear jeopardising the stability of their renegade ally. But that is not just feeble, it is silly.
The Chinese are indeed continuing to look rather feeble:
Chinese Premier Wen Jiabao has steered clear of public discussion of North Korea’s role in the sinking since he arrived in South Korea yesterday. In contrast, Japanese Prime Minister Yukio Hatoyama today paid his respects at a cemetery where the 46 sailors who died in the sinking are buried, before flying to the resort island of Jeju for the two-day summit. There he said he would back any South Korean move to take the case to the United Nations Security Council.


The U.S. is joining South Korea in blaming North Korea for the sinking to “put China into an awkward position and keep hold on Japan and South Korea as its servants,” KCNA [North Korea] said.
I've been arguing the whole time South Korea has been in the driver's seat by internationalizing the issue, hence the reason why I preface these posts with "A Rising South Korea." Moreover, the rare press conference from the North Korea army seems that China must be furious at North Korea right now. This is happening not because South Korea is being held as a U.S. servant, but because of South Korean President Lee Myung Bak's handling of the issue.  

Moreover, I have been arguing against the Sunshine Policy for quite some time now as one of its supposed premises -- to bridge the income gap with North Korea for eventual unification -- has been flat wrong as the gap has only widened and continues to widen since the Sunshine Policy has taken hold -- in both absolute and relative terms. Well, it seems The Economist has a nice graph on that as well. 

And, it seems I should put a retraction here -- apparently China committed a pretty serious faux pas on their own by not notifying South Korean President Lee Myung Bak while he was in China...
Nonetheless, apparently there's a new study out by Bonnie S. Glaser and Scott Snyder that The Economist mentions. The link to the pdf file is here. I plan on giving it a full read through shortly, but as it details the potential consequences of what a North Korean collapse might lead to I'd suggest the Chinese government should give it a thorough read and perhaps reconsider what they are doing.

Koreans Invented Chinese Writing Part II

Returning to my first post on this blog, I set out to look for that Chinese newspaper article that the Japanese television show cites as it pokes fun at Korea:

"This was from an article from China's People's Republic Daily Newspaper (Japanese: Jinmin Nippo Sha)"

"A Seoul National University Professor may soon approach UNESCO to officially ask Kanji [Chinese characters] to become a World Treasure invented by Korea"
The resolution of the clip is pretty bad, but on the clip it appears as on May 25th, the People's Daily (인민 일보사, 人民日報社) reported that the inventor of Chinese Characters is Korean. And, well, I couldn't find the article, but I did stumble upon a Wikipedia entry, Anti-Korean Sentiment in China. The entry itself has "multiple issues," but it does cite a nice Yonhap article

Anyways, the Yonhap article reports:

한국이 한자(漢字)를 세계문화유산으로 신청하려 한다는 근거없는 보도로 중국 네티즌들이 발끈하고 있다.

신원도 알 수 없는 한국 학자의 '한반도 한자 발원론'을 전하며 아무런 근거도 없이 한국이 한자를 독점하려 한다고 주장하는 중국 언론의 어설픈 문화논쟁이 한국과 중국의 감정 대결을 부추기고 있다는 평가다.
Translation: Chinese Internet users are fuming over groundless reports of a South Korean request to classify Chinese characters as a world cultural treasure. The Chinese Press is without any factual basis accusing that a Korean scholar that can't possibly be known or identified -- the article goes on and later says the Chinese press identify him to be a Bak Jeong Su of Seoul National University --  is attempting to monopolize Chinese characters [as a Korean cultural treasure] in an attempt to incite a fight between Korea and China...

So, I think it's pretty clear. State owned Chinese media falsify information in an attempt to incite domestic rage at South Korea... Of course, South Korea too does the same, namely the reporting of Americans eating Australian beef while selling mad cow infested American meat to countries such as South Korea -- similar to how Yonhap picked up this story over what had -- has? -- been transpiring in China, the Wall Street Journal did the same. But anyways, the initial posting was targetted not at Chinese, but at Koreans who may have come to pick up on this reverse Chinese propaganda. While I had for some time contemplated starting a blog, it was not until I heard that Koreans invented Chinese Characters that I decided to create this blog...

On a side note... I'm guessing this expression 근거없는 is something North Korea uses a lot ... It translates literally into without ground/without basis or groundless... as in groundless accusations...

And, Yonhap itself is state owned as well, but i'd put its reporting on par with Xinhua more so than the number of state run newspapers... By the way, I wonder if that's how newspapers in China are still in business... It seems every newspaper without an online presence is disappearing or has already disappeared in the U.S...

Sunday, May 30, 2010

[A New Middle Kingdom] A glimpse into a hypothetical future

In California, the United States Air Force (USAF)  again successfully tested a new experimental hypersonic -- a speed that is a multiple of the speed of sound -- plane that is much faster than planes with traditional engines. Apparently, the plane, known as the X-51A and it sports a futuristic scramjet engine. Anyways, while the link to GlobalSecurity will tell you the techincal details of the plane, it does give a glimpse into how the United States sees the world in a generation or so.

For more on why the United States Air Force (USAF)  would like that I would look into the stated objectives of why the United States would be looking to purchase such a fast plane or develop "hypersonic technology." But, it does give a glimpse on how the United States sees the world or at least how the United States thinks the world might be a generation from now with many large continental sized economies.

The reason that I bring this up is that I think it should give pause to those in particularly China, who don't particularly care too much about who develops nuclear weapons, and to those in particularly Northeast Asia that some how see the United States as a threat to regional stability. I wrote earlier that the United States by geography is basically a giant island -- much bigger than Australia -- and, unlike her "junior sheriff" in the South Pacific, is situated in the middle of the world -- between East Asia and Europe/Africa. The feeling that this conjures is that the United States senses a potentially much more dangerous world in a couple decades as the globe is covered with many "new" countries that have at one time or another been exploited by the West and now see that it is their "rightful" turn in history to make an impact on the world.

When this time comes, it definitely won't be against the United States. The United States will be able to hide behind her oceans and by that time the United States will have a fully functional missile defense system that shields her, which seems to be making some remakable progress and which is not getting the attention of the domestic press. (I believe that means both those on the right and left in the United States are in agreement here.) The addition of a plane that can successfully bomb anything anywhere in the world within a couple hours flight from, say, California is something the United States is really after would truly make those annoying overseas basing arrangements -- e.g. Japan, South Korea, Central Asia... -- unnecessary. Additionally, the United States is the only country to still maintain three ways to launch nuclear weapons  -- by long distance planes, submarines, and intercontinetal ballistic missles. Furthermore, the United States still operates eleven aircraft carriers with one in reserve each of which is larger than any aircraft carrier in the world. So, it stands to reason that the United States will very much have the ability to just withdraw from the rest of the world, if it chooses that the world is just too dangerous. With this in mind, should not those that are benefitting from the current US-led world order choose to do more to ensure that the world is a much safer place?

On another note, with the rise in world trade and new powers with historical grievances, I feel it's not at all unwise to hedge against such a dangerous scenario that seems an awful lot like the period leading up to the Great War -- World War I.  And, while it's an oft used analogy, the rise of countries that have not held much sway in a few centuries -- or ever -- and have the ambition to do so makes the world seem that much more dangerous.

I believe a good bellweather is Japan, which recently succumbed to U.S. demands again -- basing problems. Japan does not have a peace treaty or any formal ties with both Russia and North Korea. The country has territorial disputes with all her neighbors -- Russia (Kuril Islands), Communist China/Taiwan (Senkaku Islands), and, finally, Korea (Liancourt Rocks). Perhaps, Okinawa should be included her as well as i'ts still basically being occupied by the United States.  I wonder how long it will be before Japan goes nuclear and how long it will take for the United States to switch from a pro-Israel to a pro-Iran -- meaning either war or some type of regime change -- in the Middle East, which seems to be in the best interest of the United States.

While there is hope that the next generation will lift a great number of people out of poverty, there is also the fear that it will spark wars all over the world. With this in mind, I have no idea why China thinks its a good idea that it's a good thing to have countries with nuclear powers surrounding her -- or probably pointed right at her. I mean North Korea can reach Beijing with her missiles, but, of course, its a very risky suicidal shot -- in the dark -- to try and hit the United States.

Monday, May 24, 2010

[A Rising South Korea] More on the handling of the Cheonan disaster/fiasco

When thinking of the Cheonan disaster/fiasco, probably a couple things that some people might think include whether the whole thing is a conspiracy -- as in why would North Korea do something so self-destructive and it seems to extremeley convenient for the Japanese  Prime Minister to renege on his campaign promises of moving U.S. bases off Okinawa-- and, also, whether South Korea unlike during previous administration has been doing the right thing by internationalizing the incident. But, of course, there is the evidence conducted by experts from South Korea, the United States, Japan, Australia -- and Sweden. (I wonder if they chose Sweden out of their expertise or because the name is not too different from Switzerland.)

Anyways, consider the recent announcement of combined U.S. - ROK naval exercises.
US-South Korean naval exercises tend to be smaller scale. Last week, the US cancelled a previously scheduled annual event called “Courageous Channel,” a naval exercise intended to practice the evacuation of noncombatants from the Korean peninsula. At the time, US military officials said that they did not want North Korea to think that the exercise, set to run from May 20-24, was a response to the Cheonan incident.

Now the US apparently wants to make the opposite impression, by announcing naval exercises billed as a direct response to the Cheonan’s sinking. According to a White House statement, President Obama has ordered his military commanders to coordinate closely with South Korea “to ensure readiness and to deter future aggression” by North Korea.
But, anyways, back to earlier posts, it's interesting to see the stark difference between what the U.S. is saying and what China is not saying.

U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton:
I will be discussing these issues with my counterparts in Beijing next week, and then I will travel to Seoul, to consult with our South Korean partners about the way forward. But let me be clear. This will not be and cannot be business as usual. There must be an international -- not just a regional, but an international -- response (US-Japan Joint Press Conference).
This suggests that the U.S. has not and will not simply be able to trade away a new round of UNSC sanctions on North Korea in exchange for China's announced support -- on the same day -- for a new round of sanctions against Iran. So, for a country such as South Korea that seeks so much prestige and respect as an independent and powerful country -- e.g. U.N. Security General, G-20 presidency, and the strange usage of trying to sound out Chinese names rather than use the Korean characters associated with each Chinese character. I simply cannot understand why some would like to go back to the Sunshine Policy.  

On a side note, with respect to Iran what is with upstart Brazil? Out of nowhere Brazil, which sits comfortably in South America, is naively complicating things that's in the best interest for the rest of the world.

Anyways, I believe what the U.S. Secretary of State was referring to when she used the term "not just a regional but an international response" is the trilateral meetings between China-Japan-South Korea in Gyeongju, South Korea (May 15th) -- home to the historical capital of Silla, which has symbolic imporance as Pyongyang was also the historical capital for a rival state on the Korean peninsula, Gogouryeo and those to be held at the end of the month in Jeju Island again at the foreign minister/secretary of state level. By the way, anybody take notice of how strange it is that while they take this to the United Nations, what nationality the U.N. Security Security General holds?

Anyways, consider U.S. remarks next to that of the Chinese...
But while expressing condolences for the South Korean sailors who died aboard the Cheonan, Chinese Foreign Minister Yang Jiechi merely reaffirmed Beijing's stance that "a scientific and objective investigation is important." Yang did not mention the possibility of a link between North Korea and the shipwreck (Chosun Ilbo).
This was before proof of North Korean involvement was put on display. A very big difference how this incident is being handled and, say, the kidnapping of South Korean fishermen and the shoooting of a civilian in Mount Geumgang.

With respect to arguing directly against the rather ridiculous positions -- blame the South Korean President?! -- taken by the South Korean left recently, I'll defer to the regular Korea bloggers.

Friday, May 21, 2010

[A Rising South Korea] Talk of war is a good thing... Yes, a good thing...

The odds for North Korea to win the 2010 World Cup in South Africa is are set at 1000:1 -- I'm going to have to put down a small wager here. (only New Zealand is being given worse odds at 2000:1.) Though they will have to survive Brazil and Portugal in the first round, they do have two Japanese born, ethnic Korean professional soccer players who have vowed to represent DPRK in the world cup. I hope they can come through. Interestingly enough, I believe the only two Asian "nations" to have gone beyond the first round is, well, made it to the quarterfinals are North Korea (1966) and South Korea (2002). They both made it to the quarterfinals...  

Anyways, talk of war is just people like us realizing that South Korea is definitely taking a leading role in this crisis by internationlizing this incident as it forces China and to an extent the U.S. to address the issue. So here, when we read about 3,000+ articles about the possibility of war, it's actually a good thing. Yes, I'm saying it's a good thing [well, not so much for China] as it puts a giant magnifying glass on both China and obscure, little North Korea. This makes the political and diplomatic price of China supporting North Korea very expensive and, of course, further marginalizes North Korea. But here, just in case this is left to misinterpretation, studies have suggested, such as those by Stephen Haggard and Marcus Noland most recently, that North Korea is losing control over the country on her own and combining their study with their earlier studies, it appears NGOs seem to have almost a neglible role on the flow of refugees. So, I'm not advocating that we should (or there is even a need) to directly try to cause regime change. This was before the currency crisis showed the world how far North Korea had fallen. We should on the other hand be properly prepared to move in soldiers in the event of Kim Jong Il dying before Communist China does...

It's best for the U.S. to show unequivocal public support and sympathy for South Korea, while China stumbles through this mess. I don't think there will be six party talks nor would North Korea be willing to go back to China for a round of six-party talks after a new round of UNSC Sanctions (again, it'll be more of a 5 on 1 forum then). And, just to recall, it cost China at least $2.1 billion for those sanctions and climbing last time around.

Interestingly, if South Korea had not internationalized the incident, I believe as in previous South Korean administrations -- nothing would've happened and Communist China would be able to play a two-Korea policy, while both Koreas adhere to a one-China policy.

But, especially those on the left in South Korea should realize that talk of potential war is really a good thing especially if South Korea continues to experience economic growth rates of 5% or so as it forces the two continental country's to address the issue. It definitely is a good demonstration of how far South Korea has come.

But, of course, if Japan starts to feel capital flight, then it's time to of course get out of Northeast Asia.

But, seriously, with all the rage over North Korea and so much information out there (Google News has 3,433 4,666 similar articles on the Cheonan incident, which is about the same level seen when the health care reform package in the U.S. was passed) that it's hard to know what to believe. But, after reading quite a few editorials, I think South Korea is definitely coming of age. While I continue to believe absolutely nothing beyond the symbolic will be necessary on the part of the U.S. (perhaps a new UNSC resolution if South Korea plays her cards right) and a trip by U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton should suffice -- and maybe even putting North Korea back on the list of states sponsoring terrorism. But, if South Korea continues to internationalize the issue, the U.S. won't be able to simply just trade away North Korea for Iran to China.

And, on a side note here, China should realize the difference between delivering [the U.S. delivering Taiwan to China] and the image of trying to pretend that they can deliver [six party talks]. They should note that the U.S. looks at Taiwanese independence rather dismally -- of course, the U.S. does placate Taiwanese interests by selling them high end U.S. weaponry.

I wrote earlier about what we should be looking for before Kim Jong Il's visit and again during his visit. This was before any real attention was paid to news of the Cheonan sinking. The two things were:

1) Will there be a new UNSC resolution against North Korea ? [It's looking more and more likely]

2) Will North Korea receive additional aid? [Joongang Ilbo reported no, which news organizations and bloggers around the world picked up on]

The answers appear to be looking as if China is hedging very much against a North Korean collapse after the death of Kim Jong Il and China is looking rather feeble.

Wednesday, May 19, 2010

South Korea -- Lee Myung Bak's Presidency Until Today...

I'm thoroughly impressed by the job South Korean President Lee Myung Bak has done. While he got off to a rocky start and began with a couple rather ridiculous campaign promises (e.g. 747 plan or 7% growth rate, improving the canal system in South Korea in the 21st century), he has guided the highly export dependent country through the "Great Recession" and the country after having chalked up positive economic growth last year is set to witness another 5% in real growth this year and slightly less next year.

But, what I find to be the most amazing is how effective he seems to be when steering South Korea through this Cheonan tragedy/fiasco (on the part of North Korea). I mean, just a couple years ago, it seemed to be the case that South Korea under the now defunct Sunshine Policy looked rather impotent. Not too long ago the country continued to give money to North Korea even as it became increasingly clear that North Korea really had no intent to reform the country. North Korea last year formally went from being a revolutionary communist kingdom to a military-first (probably fascist) revolutionary kingdom. Of course, at the same time the income gap between the South and North continued to and continues to widen.

Nonetheless, when the U.S. raised the ante by pretty much bending over backwards to see if North Korea would actually give up its nuclear weapons program, it was far from clear if the South Korean government had the courage, the political fortitude to withstand a very loud opposition those that had previously supported the Sunshine Policy as well as from within the party (Park Chung Hee's daughter) and the foresightedness to do more than just give into short-term North Korean demands for aid.  I mean the U.S. at that point gave North Korea money back it made from counterfeiting U.S. dollars among other ridiculous activities that "state" would actually engage in and even irked Japan to the point of notifying the country a good thirty minutes before taking North Korea off the list of states sponsoring terrorism... Japan, of course, was at that point being held hostage by its domestic outrage over having its citizens kidnapped.

But, it seems clear today that Lee Myung Bak is indeed coming through for his country. He flew into China mere days before Kim Jong Il's train arrived. There are reports (all seemingly quoting Joongang Ilbo) that China refused to give further aid or food to Kim Jong Il's kingdom, a visit from the Chinese foreign minister to Gyeongju of all places (the historical capital of Silla and where I believe the city is now currently so devoid of economic or actually any activity outside of its tourists that it lost its baseball team a few years back), and appears to be building an international consensus where it actually looks as if another round United Nations Security Council (UNSC) of sanctions might go through.

I'm impressed.

Monday, May 17, 2010

Correction and commentary on U.S. Military Spending, Of Japan, the F-22

I earlier wrote that defense spending is roughly at 7% of U.S. GDP, but just googling it, puts it at 4.16% (including the two on-going wars) in 2008 and simply wikipedia-ing it shows that military spending shrank in absolute terms (along with the size of the economy) from 2008 to 2009. And, of course, 7% of about $13 trillion or so is about $900 billion (it's less than $700 billion), so that 4% figure looks right.

Note: I took the chart on the right from wikipedia, but I'm not a big fan of the other graphs that look at U.S. defense spending in terms of  per-capita spending on income defense in fixed U.S. dollars which does not take into account a richer U.S. economy (a better graph would be that as  % of GDP per year)...

U.S. military spending as a share of GDP does not at all seem that high (I think 7% would have been fairly close to historical peace time highs of the Reagan years, but 4% while we are still "fighting" two wars does not seem at all that bad), but I'd think it's unfair to criticize the level of military spending whether domestically or from an international perspective.

In fact, California has lost a lot of jobs because of reduced military spending back in the 90s -- (I believe) Southern California has traditionally had a hi-tech aerospace industry that had traditionally maintained a lot of high paying jobs -- until well Northman-Grumman formed (I believe the merger did away with the largest U.S. defense contractor headquartered in Southern California... And, on a side note, it's been a while since Los Angeles stood as the corporate headquarters for any major U.S. corporation --  the last major one to have been headquartered in L.A. was Atlantic Richfield Corporation (ARCO), which is now a part of good ol' BP or which was until recently known as British Petroleum).  

But, in the aggregate, the defense industry continues to be a huge exporter to the rest of the world. For example, Japan's airforce has nice F-15J's (I'm guessing J stands for Japan). And, South Korea has some nice, well, F-15K's (again, I'm guessing K stands for Korea). And, on a side note, I'd think it'd be a good idea to export those F-22s to Japan as the U.S. looks set to be unable to afford to build anymore F-22s unless, well, a rich Japan, which is eager to buy these planes, does indeed buy them and, of course, it'd be a nice way to "reward" the Japanese and re-affirm the U.S.-Japanese alliance while the U.S. doesn't have to close down the F-22 assembly line...

The current administration, which has done a fantastic job regarding North Korea (and South Korea, if they send Secretary of State Clinton within the next month or so and pass the KORUS FTA) , seems to be doing a rather feeble attempt to tell the Japanese how important they are to the United States (of course, not as feeble as the Japanese Prime Minister looked as he rather meekly explained the necessity of having U.S. troops stay in Okinawa). And, it looks like they are the only major country the U.S. would eventually be willing to sell the F-22 to and the only country with the means to purchase them).

But, anyways, the point is, well, I don't think military spending is at all too high and it ensures the U.S. will continue to be at the forefront of the sciences (e.g. the two national labs - Lawrence Livermore/Los Alamos that is behind the U.S. nuclear weapons program are managed by University of California -- well, at least, partially -- as a result of espionage by Chinese scientists at Los Alamos). In fact, if anything should be done, well, the U.S. should continue to encourage allies to spend more (e.g. Japan(~0.9% of GDP or so), South Korea (~3% of GDP is still not that high as, well, let' see North Korea spends about a quarter on defense)).  

Now, I think it's a bit unfair to criticize "rising" U.S. military spending, which when set as a moving average looks pretty constant as a share of GDP (3% to 4%) even as you leave in the two wars from 2000 to 2011 in the above graph (consider that the U.S. economy has been in recession during most of 2008-10). Moreover, that graph that I link to makes the U.S. spend a lot more than it does, but it should considered that the Chinese do not at all leave fully disclose their military spending).

Thursday, May 13, 2010

So apparently FIFA sold exclusive rights to broadcast World Cup Games in the Koreas to a...

...South Korean company (SBS - apparently, the only major South Korean private television broadcaster), but North and South Korea are both represented in the upcoming World Cup. And, of course, with transmission to North Korea requiring government approval, SBS, it looks like North Koreans won't get to watch the games after all... (I think in the World Cup qualifiers between North and South Korea, the match that was originally scheduled to be played in North Korea had to be played in China as the North wouldn't allow the South to raise their flag)...

And, they are "planning to resume negotiations" - a common phrase heard in Korean newspapers about North Korea or actually anything to do with North Korea... But, resume negotiations makes it sound so much more serious than it really is...

Well, look at how poor it makes North Korea look.

(Lee Tae-hoon | Korea Times):

``In view of the North's recent provocative postures against the South, it is the government position that the North must pay an appropriate price to SBS for the broadcast rights under internationally accepted norms,'' an official at the Ministry of Unification said. He also did not rule out the possibility of banning broadcasts even after SBS and the North reach a formal agreement, saying that the government may have to reject any request to transmit games to the North for political reasons.

``We did not ask the North to make nuclear bombs and be belligerent,'' he said.

SBS is planning to resume negotiations and conclude the deal later this month or early next month at the latest.

North Korea received a free feed from the games of the 2006 World Cup in Germany during the Roh Moo-hyun administration, which practiced a more engaging policy than that of incumbent President Lee Myung-bak.

The expenses of the 150 million won ($132,600) in transmissions were covered by the inter-Korean cooperation fund and broadcast development fund."
Yea, of course, SBS is probably going to, well, lose some money. But, check that figure out: $132,600... The "free" feed in 2006 was $132,600. Seriously, how is it that people can defend North Korea?

Monday, May 10, 2010

So, what should be done about North Korea?

Among other things that are going on, there seems to be a lot of speculation in major U.S. publications, among the South Korean Press, and, well, pretty much all over the place about what to do about North Korea. Though domestic U.S. media is currently preoccupied with the BP spill ($30+ billion dollar loss in market cap), there seem to be almost a daily number of articles & incredible number of editorials on the topic in the past couple weeks... Well, here's my position South Korea should do nothing in full FDR fashion by switching from blaming U.S. and Japan for hampering Korean reunification to Chinese selfishness ("stability" so it can get "rich") and support for North Korea (the hapless North Koreans, who are being taken advantage of by the Chinese). I meant in full FDR fashion as a way of slowly building or manufacturing consent (whichever term you prefer) for possible unification. In material terms, South Korea should do nothing as NGOs don't seem to be particularly effective and, just let North Korea be -- without subsidies. Nothing else though.  

Similarly, I believe North Korea's opportunity to receive U.S. aid (or the U.S. just buying out North Korea's WMD program) has come and gone. So, I'd suggest that it is high time to prepare the South Korean public for unification -- FDR style. I mean there is the planning over the what ifs -- I spoke earlier about OPLAN-5029, which details U.S. and South Korean (ROK) armed forces crossing over into North Korea primarily to secure North Korea's weapons of mass destruction (they have stockpiles of chemical and biological weapons that get less media attention, though I'm not as sure of the latter). But, this is just one small aspect.  On a side note, unlike Iraq or Afghanistan there is also a rich country with the right people to occupy the country, if necessary. Though, of course, unlike invading Iraq or Afghanistan, the war might turn out to be much more like World War I, but against a much more suicidal enemy (kind of like Imperial Japan).

With the current Cheonan sinking incident it's time for the South Korean government to slowly manufacture consent not unlike the Sunshine Policy, which did the same against unification for the past deacde. For example, anti-North Korean sentiment should naturally be diverted to anti-Chinese sentiment since South Korea really can't (and shouldn't) do anything (For example, long term DPRK concessions to the Chinese, such as, the port of Rajin -- which looks like a reality, should be as well known as Dokdo). 

The U.S. should continue to give symbolic assurances (aside from ratifying KORUS, which goes beyond the symbolic and which should have been ratified much, much earlier) of U.S. support for South Korea and. For starters, avoid (skip) the six-party talks until the Cheonan incident get's resolved and Kim Jong Il dies. This should serve to build pro-U.S. support for any unified Korea or for whichever type of regime comes next. Given South Korea's national psyche and inclination to blame outside forces, this shouldn't take too long. If this is indeed what happens, we'll be less likely to hear from Korean press about Dokdo (Liancourt Rocks) and more about Goguryeo (Goguryeo) for a long while.  
I don't put much weight on the thought of the Chinese ever deciding to actually add North Korea to China proper (I mean North Korea is not a Xinjiang or Tibet. And, I think there's probably a reason why nobody aside from the Tang Dynasty in the 7th century and Japan in modern times really tried to annex Korea (though I believe it was discussed in China during the latter days of the 19th century to ward off Japanese influence and it's not just because of the historical, tributary system in Asia).  Imagine trying to govern the most xenophobic, nationalistic, and ethnocentric (perhaps, racist) people in the world.  

Moreover, I'm not fully convinced that China is fully backing the North Korea regime. If anything, China would love to be in the position of the United States -- hence, the reason why the South Korean President was met days before Kim Jong Il. Moreover, these concessions in the form of long term leases of ports (Rajin) or mines, etc, seem more like short term hedges against a North Korean collapse and just create North Korean resentment toward China. And, if anything, while we always consider how South Koreans might lean in the event of unification, I'd bet that current Chinese policies in North Korea would cement Anti-Chinese sentiment among North Koreans in a future, unified Korean peninsula for generations.

After a couple of decades as being the lone ranger in Northeast Asia (Japan and Australia really don't count here), it seems the U.S. is finally in a rather nice position.

China? Decidedly, less so.

Sunday, May 9, 2010

[School] Of Racism and how to respond when you think your teacher is not brilliant and you think are smarter

Edit: 05/18/2010 -- The professor I mention in this posting does not maintain a blog as far as I'm aware of. Also, the linguistics course was taken during a past summer term.

In Korea... I guess you'd really be taught to "obey" [I get flashbacks from this one scene in this Korean movie, 친구(Friends), where the high school teacher recites words in broken English and then expects students to repeat after him] or even in the United States, I mean it is human nature, that when you are in a classroom it is an asymmetrical relationship. The teacher stands on a pedestal (though not as high as those in  Korea), but one that is above the students. While it may be easier to speak with a teacher on a variety of subjects, when you directly question the knowledgeability of a teacher, then in fact it might come off as you are indeed challenging the very authority of the teacher and his or her right to teach.

For one reason or another, I've only had the opportunity to really "choose" one course -- a course that satisfies the american cultures requirement (I would cite double majoring as the primary culprit here and I did get to create/instruct a course for four semesters to the point where I'm at the pass/no pass cap).

But, I went through two courses before currently taking Introduction to Sociology (where I see a lot of similarities with Economics as in its a social science, but rather than problem sets I'm largely responsible for writing papers and participating in class), but nonetheless one of which was this Linguistics Course: Ling 55AC... I believe the course was something about the American Languages, which I felt to be sufficiently interesting to enroll in.

But, unfortunately, the professor -- actually, the official title was I believe a lecturer, who is teaching a course with a doctorate in linguistics kept saying things that were factually incorrect and on an elementary level. Now as a student that was there to not just to meet a graduation requirement (American Cultures requirement), but also to learn something on a topic he really enjoys and in a field that he is interested in, he felt it necessary to question these factually incorrect statements.

For example, on the second day of the course or so, the professor on a slide mentioned the Romance Languages family as being fundamentally different from the Germanic languages, such as English. Now, the funny thing about this is that, well, they are of course in the same language family -- Indo-European. The thing is the Indo-European language family is so wide and vast I wanted clarification and asked if she had meant if they were branches of a larger family or are these languages classified to belong in completely different languages.

(On a side note, you see, I would say until the advent of DNA, languages were the best way to look at the initial origins of a people. This is the best way to say that the origins of the Korean people are racially different from that of the Chinese (the difference between Korean and Chinese is as different as English is from Navajo plus loan words.). By the way, this is not a racist appeal. This is an assertion backed by studies of the "Korean Haplogroup." For example, unlike in Modern Turkey, where it appears that the appearance of Turks led to no change in the genetic makeup of the people there aside from the mere fact that modern "Turks" look to be exactly the same people (about) except rather than speaking Greek, they now speak Turkish and go to Mosques. On the other hand, you can directly appeal to genetic evidence (Korean Haplogroup to support that Koreans are indeed very different from "Chinese" -- Well, aside from those assimilated Manchurians or Mongolians. Anyways, that's a tangent, but the point was to point out the interest in lingustics).

Well, the teacher said, they were of a different language family. And, then I asked about the Basque (you see, since I was a kid, I almost always had an atlas around -- and especially if you had taken the DeCal this semester you  might understand why I would tend to draw so many maps in class, but thoses atlases also contained maps of language families). While the Romance languages are very similar in that they are direct descendants of a single language -- Latin, they belong in one large language family called Indo-European. In fact, all European languages in class belong to the same family except for, well, the Basque langauge.

By the way, this is a picture I took while I was in Irun, Spain (a "Basque" city)... By the way, it seems each region in Spain has signs in two different languages. In Irun there were Spanish and Basque and in Barcelona there were Spanish and Cataloninan... I didn't get to visit Andaluz and Ibiza had only one set of signs. What was interesting was the complete absence of English pretty much in the country though.
 (Basque Region, Spain)
("아~ 이런 버스도 있구나!... " It's a play on Korean words... Irunbus sounds like "This kind of bus" -- Ahh.. I guess these kind of buses do indeed exist!... err, lost in translation...)
But, anyways, aside from Basque language, every European language is an Indo-European language. Is this one fact, particularly important? Well, I guess not. But, if you consider that you are learning from a teacher, who has a doctorate in linguistics, then it may directly question how much this person may actually know. Now, after I heard that the second time, of course, I had to clarify that "well, I thought all European languages from Slavic to Germanic to a Romance language were all related except for that strange Basque language." She responded. And, it wasn't just a, perhaps, let me check it out kind of deal. She flatly denied my assertion and then very openly retracted the claim the next day. Unfortunately, I found myself now having to drop the course for another reason, but I would have dropped the class anyways. How are you supposed to respond to a situation like this where a teacher is so vain (I mean you would think just getting placed as a lecturer at a well regarded research university would be enough to put you on that pedestal. I believe she was here as a lecturer and not here to do post doctoral research -- though honestly I'm not sure if outside of let's say that teaches languages, if that's at all possible).

But, how are you supposed to respond in a situation like this?

Are you supposed to take this academic seriously or pretend that you don't care -- as much of the rest of the class did and just get your grade (probably handed out all A's I'm guessing) or find this situation is rather ridiculous and walk away? I chose the latter.

Anyways, I found myself never taking a course from a lecturer again very carefull, particularly after another episode with a different lecturer (This time it was a lecturer from the Business Department, who teaches Econ courses as well and, well, I felt I had a very unprofessional experience with and, which, I bet would have had a fair chance to be the first successful grade appeal in an Economics course in the past three years or so. I mean I basically got screwed).

But, nonetheless, grade appeals -- even if you win -- is not something I wanted to go through with in the first place and after speaking with a senior faculty member, who wallked me through the pros and cons (he's a really great professor) of a grade appeal, I just took my grade. He also told me the story of Cantor about how there's always politics in Academia after he told me he met this one academic renowned for his personality ... I'm not sure, but anyways, that was on a completely different day with a completely different topic.

But anyways, I didn't think such things (either one) happened (frequently) in the United States or as often (I vivdly remember there was this one Korean I tutored in Korea, who was on his way to UC Berkeley as a postdoc -- I believe whose specialty was lithium batteries. But, nonetheless, he literally feared a senior faculty member -- by the way, he was from the M.I.T. of Korea (I don't think it's unfit to be American-centric in higher education). I mean what I sensed from that specialist was utter fear."

Anyways, back to the conversation regarding the pros and cons, one aspect my professor mentioned that I found to be a big red con was how traditionally grade appeals have usually been considered for a student with an F or so, and not for some student that feels he was wronged and would like his grade changed from a "B+ to an A-/A" and especially not because of a few inappropriate comments and a final that was "specially for me" written for me. Though he did find the "special final" rather odd. But, anyways, what are you supposed to do in situations like this? Over a marginal course grade, it definitely wasn't worth it. I had enough on my plate.

In high school, it'd be hard as, well, you had to take the course regardless of who was instructing it. So, you'd be at the mercy of extremely vain and unfair teachers. From my personal experiences, I'd say it's definitely worse at adult or continuation schools. By the way, I'm very skeptical of instructors at adult school or continuation schools. I mean there are some terrible teachers there. I mean if you thought the teacher was a complete, hmm, idiot, well, you couldn't really say it unless, well, you were ready to be removed from class and, perhaps, dropped from school.

But, in college it's quite the opposite case -- you can just drop the course. Of course, I ended up taking a sociology course rather than a linguistics one, but hey I guess that's life. Life's not always fair, but the funny thing is, well, though I might find these two isolated cases out of the many classes I have taken to be extremely annoying, I've come across others that have been in far more unjust predicaments-- namely, first hand experience of racism in my adolescent years and quite a dose of it in Korea.

And, no, I'd say on a personal level, I'm probably one of the last people who would say things are racist, especially in light of how racist Koreans are or may come off (sometimes its just very ethnocentric). Of course, I do live in California, so I can't speak for other places. But, I do remember a Korean-American friend of mine got kicked out of high school after getting into a fight with a white kid -- the white kid did not receive any punishment I believe. And, another incident where they called the sheriffs and arrested two Korean-Americans for getting into a fight with another white kid. I am pretty convinced that had these been fights between white kids or white on white or even Korean-on-Korean they would've just been sent home for a couple days.

[School] Never too late to go back to -- or stay in -- school...

A couple days ago, I was at the new cafe they opened up on the Northside of campus and, well, I was there to visit my professor. And, he seemed to be speaking with a couple people at that moment I got in and I wanted to get a copy of my paper out of my backpack. So, I put down my backpack on this one table and there was a lady that was sitting there. I just asked if anyone was sitting there and she said no. So, I took to opening my first North Face backpack -- there's a factory outlet in Berkeley, but the lady said, "you know people usually introduce themselves or say something when they sit next to some one they don't know." I wasn't sure if she was a professor or not.

Joe: "Oh no. Sorry. I'm just here to visit a professor. Are you a professor too?
Some Professor?: "No, I'm an anthropology student, trying to finish up my dissertation. Kinda frustrated at the moment."
Joe: "Really? Anthropology?" [At this point, I must've had a flashback to Anthropology 3AC, a course I dropped deciding as I thought it was, well, decidedly boring after two days -- as a double major, there's very few courses in which I can directly choose the electives]. What's your dissertation on?"
Anthro Student: "... How private property/land rights came to be after the collapse of communism. In particular, I'm writing on what happened in the Soviet Union."
Joe: "Oh really? [I didn't remember the intro to anthro course talking about communism] That might be very useful for China [I believe has a psuedo-land rights system in the rural areas with more rights to landownership in the cities] and North Korea one day... "
Anthro Student: "Well, in fact, I believe China [I think she thought I was Chinese] has implemented a landowning system in the rural areas."
Joe: "Hmm..Really, I had heard that there was a lot of dissatisifaction among the rural populace at the communist party at local levels?"
Anthro Student: "Well, there's a system in the cities where its more like owning a condiminium. And, they switched from a collective system to one with more individual rights."
Joe: "Hmm.. Sounds like that's setting up for an eventual collapse of the communist system... Well, I'm Joe by the way... What's your name?"
Anthro Student: [Traces of ADD present itself when I tend to forget names a second after I hear it]: "[Insert name]"
Joe: "Well it was nice to meet you [Insert name]. But, I gotta speak to my professor. Good luck with your presentation."

But, anyways, what I gained from this conversation was that:
#1. Anthropology didn't sound so boring as I first thought.
#2. As this lady must've been ten years my senior or more (or not), but that she was still in school.

I guess it's never too late to do what you think want to do provided, well, it's something you'd like to do.   It's been a topic that's been on my mind a lot recently. With that said, I'm not sure how many more years I'm going to be in school [very broke] in some fashion or not.

Disclaimer: I came across a study that people in highly theoretical fields reach their intellectual prime in their mid to late twenties except for empirical economists, where it said the accrual of age brings additional knowledge and insight.

Saturday, May 8, 2010

2010 and still the "Irish of Asia..."

It's been a really, really long time since a true European country dominated the seas and had dominion over much of the world, but yet there are writers out there, who continue to look at East Asia through a Eurocentric lens -- take this article in the NRO for example. Under the title, the author writes the caption:
On “the Irish of Asia,” premature technology, making friends with the family gun, and more(April Diary - John Derbyshire).
I mean what annoys me about an analogy like this is that why a country in East Asia cannot be considered in its own context. Why the misleading reference to Ireland even as a dated reference? The author goes so far as to say "the Irish squared?" Ireland in contrast was not so much about a country that was fought over for its strategic geography, but more so about finding herself to be next to a much, much bigger island. Additionally, the causes for the extreme nationalism that is found in East Asia have reasons -- particularly in Korea(and Japan, where it sits dormant at the moment, and China on a separate level), that are not at all common with the Irish or other European nations, but more so with each other -- extremely long history as a single people for starters.

By the way, I had the opportunity to visit Northern Ireland last summer and if there's anything forgotten about the forgotten war, I think I saw it. In front of Belfast City Hall, there was a memorial to the Irish that had fallen in the Korean War; I thought it highly tragic and (just a tad ironic) that this is the only place where the Irish could mourn for those that had fallen in a far flung war literally on the other side of the world as Irishmen and not soldiers fighting on behalf of Great Britain. I'm not sure if the Irish that did fight there were conscripted and if they had any idea why they were there, but they were -- but, I doubt they were thinking they were fighting in "Ireland."

But, nonetheless, to the core part of this posting. I mean it is 2010 and Korea has pretty much had the same borders with the same people more or less since the 7th centure CE though with different names across the times. And, yes, Korea has had a very tragic history in the past century and a half or so and past tragedies are still current in that they have yet to play out (the peninsula remains divided), but I do not think that it does justice to Korea (or to the fallen Irish or to the readers of that article) to consider the country in a manner that comes off so ...

Yes, Korea's modern history which begins in 1876 is all about foreign powers fighting over influence on the tiny peninsula (Ganghwa Treaty 1876, First Sino-Japanese War (1894-95), Russo-Japanese War (1904-05), Japanese Annexation (1910-1945), Second World War (1937-1945), and the  Korean War (1950-53)).

However, since that time half of the peninsula has come to host the Olympics (1988), co-hosted the World Cup (2002), and is set to hold the World Expo in 2012 -- maybe they'll build a new Eiffel tower then, who knows? Now, these are contemporary events that have happened in a single generation and I'm not referring to some obscure technological advancement or historical event that may have occurred first on the Korean Peninsula thousands or hundreds of years ago. Additionally, there's a good chance that the average Chinese-American or Taiwanese-American in at least California will have more as much  knowledge of Korean dramas, music, and movies as the than the average Korean-American. It is also a member of and is soon set to host the G-20 (for whatever that is worth) and also one of two Asian nations (yes, out of all of Asia)  that is a member of the OECD. Additionally, the country is the third largest source nation for international students in the United States (behind India and China). There's also a large Diaspora of Koreans in the United States (about 2m), China (another 2m), and Japan (<700,000). And, South Korea stands as the United States' seventh largest trading partner (ahead of all countries in the E.U. minus Germany and the United Kingdom). Additionally, Korea will also find herself to be overrepresented at the upcoming World Cup in South Africa with both North and South Korea playing there.

Finally, more people live in the Korean Peninsula (73 to 74 million people or so) than all of Great Britain and Ireland put together (yes, that's more than England, Scotland, Wales, Northern Ireland, and Ireland) or France or Italy or for that matter any European country aside from Germany and, perhaps, Turkey one day.

I think it's about time that this writer realizes that he is doing both a disservice to himself and gives the impression that he doesn't know what he's talking about when readers will most likely recognize Korea in its own context. It is, after all, 2010.

Friday, May 7, 2010

South Korean Won and the Brazilian Real as Reserve Currencies?

Of course, not.

But, it seems the world has changed a lot since 1997-98.
I quote:
A handful had comfortably outpaced the dollar this year before the latest market tremors had investors grasping for greenbacks. Two such currencies are the Australian dollar and the Canadian dollar. Both are issued by rich countries with stable banks that have not sullied the public finances. Another is the South Korean won. Brazil’s real may over time develop as a reliable store of value. The trouble is, securities issued in these currencies are a tiny fraction of those available in the world’s four main currencies, says Stephen Jen of BlueGold Capital, a hedge fund. The lack of scale and liquidity limits their role as reserve currencies. The dollar has those plainer qualities in abundance (Economist).
Interestingly, no mention of the Chinese Yuan.

Thursday, May 6, 2010

[Avatar] A very insightful article on Avatar -- "Avatar and Empire"

With the release of Avatar on Blu-Ray, I found what I found to be a very insightful and concise review of Avatar, yes, Avatar by Naomi Wolf, entitled "Avatar and Empire." She suggests Avatar is the first mainstream movie that looks at the United States from the perspective of the rest of the world. And, well, I think with a movie that costs of half a billion dollars, I would think it definitely would have been a grave mistake to film a movie that doesn't consider the perspective of the rest of the world.

And, no, Avatar is not a remake of Pocahontas.

On a side note, I can't think of a better example of a 1979 paper that models international trade using monopolistic competition and scale economies than this half a billion dollar movie. 

Kim Jong Il visits China

Shortly after the failed currency reforms, I last talked about how North Korea was in danger of collapse and wondered what would happen when Kim Jong Il shortly visits China. Well, Kim Jong Il is in China now and this time North Korea apparently blew up a South Korean ship.

There seems to be mounting evidence that North Korea recently blew up a South Korean ship (and no, I don't believe that North Korea blew up the BP oil rig from Cuba for a second). But, what is particularly interesting is what is going on in China and to see what, if anything, North Korean leader Kim Jong Il can extract from China this time.  In particular, it'd be interesting to see:

1)How China addresses the Cheonan incident, if at all. In particular, whether South Korea takes this incident to the UNSC for token sanctions, which would, again, require China to side against North Korea. The last time China did this it cost the Chinese $2.1 billion in aid, a visit by a high ranking Chinese communist official, and the prestige from hosting six-party talks.

And, in particular,
2)What type of additional aid North Korea receives from China, if any -- such as investment.

As it has become clear for a while now that North Korea will not give up its nuclear weapons program, what will China now do? As South Korea and the United States will not provide aid, it puts South Korea in particular at risk of pushing North Korea into China's camp. But, with North Korea allegedly blowing up the South Korean ship, Cheonan, it will be intereseting to see what happens from this point on. I mean it was interesting enough to see that the Chinese President Hu Jintao met with South Korea President Lee Myung Bak just a few days before Kim Jong Il's first visit to China since 2006. But, will China strain relations with South Korea and be seen as a supporter of yet another rogue (I'd itching to use the word "terrorist" here) nation for the sake of stability? A lot has changed for China since 1998 when they last bailed out North Korea -- the country has joined the WTO, hosted the Olympics, and is set to be the second largest economy in the world, if it isn't already. It seems that the trilateral alignment that Scott Snyder mentions in China's Rise and the Two Koreas: Politics, Economics, Security that is necessary to actually coordinate an effective policy might indeed already be underway and that the end of the DPRK might indeed not be that far off.

On a side note, I'd like to clarify so that everyone understands that North Korea was taken off the terrorist list not because the United States believed that North Korea wasn't a state sponsoring terrorism, but that the previous administration did so just to see if, well, let's give them everything they want and see if they'll give up their nukes -- which they didn't. And, the Obama administration is picking up right, where the last administration left off with an approrpiate definition of  the word "engagement."

As for North Korea being a terrorist state, let's see...
state sponsored manufacturing of illicit substances, counterfeit U.S. dollar bills, torture, proliferation of weapons of mass destruction technology (i.e. Syria), ballistic missiles (i.e. Yemen, Iran(Shahab-3)), kidnapping civilians from foreign soil or waters (Japan, South Korea), blowing up foreign airliners (Korean Airlines flight in 1987 to name one), shooting a South Korean civilian (Mount Geumgang), allowing terrorist organizations to take refuge in the country (Japan's Red Army faction back), etc...

Monday, May 3, 2010

[DeCal] Four Semesters later...

I would like to express my gratitude to Professor Elaine Kim. She has given me the opportunity to first construct and, then, instruct a class over the past four semesters. She has been both a faculty sponsor and my mentor for the Breaking Down Borders: Korea DeCal that has been offered over the past four semesters.

On a personal level, I am of the sincere belief that nothing helps an individual more than trying to teach or explain a set of ideas to another person. I highly doubt that had I not had the opportunity to engage in this DeCal that I would not currently be able to formalize some of the arguments or points that I can make about Korea in general -- they would still be ideas floating around in my head with no consistent theme or sentence tying them together.

On a more personal level, several years ago I was a high school dropout and having been sent to live in remote Korea I came across a book that I instantly fell in love with -- Korea's Place in the Sun. I find it absolutely remarkable that I would come to teach a course based largely around this book just a few years later and under the faculty sponsorship of Professor Elaine Kim, whose experiences I read directly in the chapter Professor Bruce Cumings devotes to the Korean-American experience.

More so, as a student that is highly enthusiastic about what is going on in that part of the world, I believe it has also given other students an opportunity to learn more about Korea. In the past four semesters, there have been about a hundred twenty students that I believe would not have had the opportunity to pick up a couple units and come to hear some of the things they did. I believe for many, its the last exposure they will have to Korea at school and, which should be of particular importance to residents of California, where I believe this year's census will show that there will probably be about two million ethnic-Koreans in the United States with a million in California. I believe this has been the ultimate objective of this course as the student facilitator/student instructor (I'm sure the DeCal will take on a direction of its own).
I believe any student that has taken this class will have the foundation and tools to be able to discuss North Korea to the point where they can look at an editorial in a newspaper and wonder, if journalists sometimes just run out of things to write about?

Note: it helps a great deal that there's not that much known about North Korea. As mentioned in class, most of what was known and written about Kim Jong Il's three children were taken directly from the book by Japanese chef that used to cook for Kim Jong Il. This was in English, Korean, Japanese, etc etc ... Of course, we could just go directly to the source and cut-out all the misinformation...