Sunday, May 20, 2007

Whats going on around me in Korea.....

Friendliness Between Japan and Korea Withering

Friendliness Between Japan and Korea Withering
Goodwill between Korea and Japan has declined from a high point of mutual bonhomie during the 2002 World Cup, which was co-hosted by the two nations.

According to a survey by Gallup Korea and the Japan Research Center, 20 percent of Koreans have friendly feelings towards Japan and 36 percent of Japanese felt the same towards Korea.

In a 2002 survey by the Chosun Ilbo and Mainichi Shimbun, 35 percent of Koreans and 69 percent of Japanese had friendly views of the other country.

When asked the reason for their antipathy, most Koreans cited the territorial dispute over the Dok-do Islets, while most Japanese said they're turned off by anti-Japanese sentiment in Korea.

Regarding Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe's visit to the Yasukuni Shrine, 79 percent of Korean respondents said they were opposed to the visit, far more than the 8 percent who said they accepted it.

In Japan, 34 percent of the respondents accepted the visit while almost the same number, 32 percent, opposed it.

When asked which country Korea should be close with, Koreans chose the U.S. (37 percent), North Korea (28 percent), China (20 percent), and Japan (5 percent). Japanese said Japan should be closest to the U.S. (42 percent), China (17 percent), South Korea (6 percent) and North Korea (3 percent).

The survey was conducted in March through one-on-one interviews with 1,502 adults from Korea and 1,124 adults from Japan.

US misunderstanding of Korean culture fanned anti-Americanism?

Katrin Fraser who is set to become the new director for Asian affairs at the U.S. National Security Council, apparently feels the Bush administration’s “lack of understanding of Korean culture” has fanned anti-American sentiment in Korea. According to Ye Olde Chosun, she particularly criticized Bush’s labeling of North Korea as “evil” as running counter to Korean cultural norms:

She says South Korea’s “swift and largely negative reaction” came from two factors. One was a gradual buildup of anti-U.S. sentiment due to Bush’s rejection of engagement with North Korea, and the other “cultural insensitivity on the part of the Bush administration.” By calling North Korea “evil,” Bush offended against Korean norms of relationship management and communication, which focus on face-saving and “kibun,” she said.

“If the president had demonstrated an awareness of the importance of maintaining kibun in relating to Koreans (North or South), perhaps the South Korean response to his statement would have been more muted,” she writes.

She’s partly right — at least in the sense that at the public level, the maintaining of gibun is, generally speaking, important to Koreans in both North and South when it involves utterances directed at them personally or at the group of which they are a part. Of course, judging from North Korea’s routine ideological, racial and even personal attacks on the United States, Japan, South Korea’s opposition Grand National Party or public figures it dislikes, Seoul’s rhetoric toward Japan, or for that matter some of the heated public discourse within South Korea itself, the gibun of other parties can be of considerably less consequence.

For most of the post-Korean War period, South Korea’s rhetoric towards North Korea hardly took into account the gibun of North Korea’s leadership. If Bush had called the North Korean regime “evil” ten or fifteen years ago, it might have been well received by many South Koreans. Heck, if he’d called Japan “evil,” it would have been met with spontaneous street celebrations, even today. The difference is that over the last 10 years, South Koreans have moved away from viewing North Koreans as “horned communist devils” and more towards viewing them as part of the tribe, so to speak. The issue then becomes one not of the Bush administration failing to understand the Korean cultural concept of gibun, but rather one of it failing to understand — or care about — the a) changing nature of Korean nationalism and national identity and b) the priority Seoul placed on improving relations with the North.


Robert’s remarks are dead-on. Ms. Fraser does seem out of touch regarding the dynamics of the region and doesn’t seem to realize her own comments portray the South Koreans as hypocrites. Then again, the touchy-feely politicians rarely ever see any flaws in those they are trying to coddle.

In regards to Arelius’ comments….I’ve seen the same things right here in Korea. Just two days ago the subject of the Norks concentration camps came up in conversation with a group that involved two South Koreans. They both went into 100% complete denial mode about the North doing anything of the sort and even went so far as to insinuate that most of the Norks problems (including the food shortages) were the result of the US trying to isolate the North from the rest of the world. Now these were young S. Korean university students but it does give an insight into how the younger generation of Koreans view their Northern cousins. It’s that same old “Koreans are always the victims” routine only now the victims are the Norks.

When the curtain finally is pulled back on the North and the world sees first hand the atrocities the Norks have committed, the South will have to answer some very difficult questions. I have a feeling that the South Koreans won’t be able to buy enough gibun to hide their shame for denying for decades what’s been going on in the North and for helping prop up the KJI regime.


The anti-US movement was quite active since the 1980’s, grew greatly in the 1990’s, and was jump started not due to President Bush, but rather due to former South Korean President Kim Dae-jung’s June 2000 Inter-Korean Summit. After the Inter-Korean Summit Korean nationalism was sky high and much of the general Korean public thought unification was near and that the US was now the problem preventing it. This has since proven to be absurd with the disclosure that Kim Dae-jung bought the summit along with the follow on Nobel Peace Prize with a $500 million dollar bribe to North Korea and the continuing defiance of the international community with North Korea ballistic missile and nuclear tests. However, after that summit the Korean mind set was clearly that the US was the problem now, not North Korea.

Without this mind set, "The Great Water Dumping Scandal of 2000" (WHICH GAVE US THE KOREAN FILM "THE HOST") would not have created such a massive anti-US backlash. There was no "misunderstanding of Korean culture" from President Bush back in 2000 to cause such a large anti-US back lash to a minor and a highly hypocritical incident.

The same can be said for the 2000 Koon-ni Range protests as well. That range has been used by the US Air Force for decades, but suddenly in 2000 it becomes a national issue spreading anti-US hate. The protests at the range continued for years afterward with the Korean government giving the US Air Force no alternate range to use. The US Air Force had to in fact fly crews to Thailand to conduct training there because of the Koon-ni Range issue.

Perhaps Ms. Fraser can point out the "misunderstanding of Korean culture" to those of us that were here in 2000 who remember this hate so well.


After an $80 million bribe a train has finally traveled a few miles across the DMZ into North Korea:

Trains crossed the heavily fortified Demilitarized Zone on Thursday for the first rail journey through the border dividing the two Koreas in more than half a century, the latest symbol of historic reconciliation between the longtime foes.The one-time test run of trains through the 2 1/2-mile-wide no man’s land along two restored tracks on the west and east sides of the peninsula comes after repeated delays since the rail lines were linked in 2003 — and despite unresolved tensions over the North’s nuclear weapons.

As all ways you can count on the South Korean uni-fiction minister to describe thing in ethnic terms:

"It is not simply a test run. It means reconnecting the severed bloodline of our people. It means that the heart of the Korean peninsula is beating again," Unification Minister Lee Jae-joung said at a ceremony at Munsan station, 7 miles south of the Demilitarized Zone, before boarding the train.

Instead of trying to justify things in ethnic terms in a typical pathetic attempt to appeal to Korea’s homogeneous society, how about Minister Lee justify this one time test run in economic terms? How the heck do you justify one test run by bribing the North Koreans with $80 million dollars:

Each year since 2004, the two Korea's had agreed to hold the trial runs and had even set a date, but canceled each time because North Korea’s military did not promise a guarantee of security or safe passage. During the latest round of general-level talks, North Korea insisted it would provide only a one-off security guarantee.

As if it was doing South Korea a huge favor, North Korea got US$80 million worth of raw materials from the South to manufacture shoes, soap and other goods, for allowing one trial run of the reconnected railways.

This is just like the June 2000 Inter-Korean summit where approximately $500 million dollars worth of bribes were paid by the Kim Dae-jung government to secure a photo op with Kim Jong-il and justify the Sunshine Policy. The Inter-Korean summit was nothing more than the world’s most expensive photo op. Likewise this news today is simply the world’s most expensive train ride.

A sea by any other name.

South Korea has sent a special delegation this week to Monaco to lobby the International Hydrographic Organization (IHO) on the question of the use of the name “Sea of Japan”, which as you may know the Korean government wants changed to “East Sea”.

The goal of the delegation is to “make efforts to prevent the IHO from holding a vote on the issue. If the vote is held, we will pursue the goal of making member countries abstain,” according to a Korean Foreign Ministry official. Mainly because the “prevailing sentiment of the member countries is to recognize the current use of only Sea of Japan”. Yes, it seems it makes a difference to absolutely no one except Korea.

“Still, the government is not ruling out the possibility of the issue being put to a vote, as IHO regulations allow members to present urgent issues on an emergency basis as long as the other member nations consent,” the official said on condition of anonymity due to the sensitivity of the issue.

Urgent issue? Emergency basis? Sensitivity? Mountains, molehills, proportion? Maybe I’m wrong though. Maybe I’m just missing the extensive coverage of this ‘urgent issue’ in the rest of the world’s press.

Korean-Japan Tunnel?

From the And-Monkeys-Might-Fly-Out-My-Butt Department comes this report on the proposed construction of an undersea tunnel that would link Japan and Korea.


Currently three tunnels are under review. The first at 209 km would link Karatsu in Saga Prefecture, Japan to the southern island known as Shimonoshima of Japan’s Tsushima to Geoje in Korea’s South Gyeongsang Province. The second tunnel (217 km) would link Karatsu to the nothern island (or Kaminoshima) of Tsushima, to Geoje. The third tunnel (231 km) would link Karatsu to Tsushima to Busan.


Any one of the proposed routes would make such an undersea tunnel the world’s longest, and more than four times longer than the Channel Tunnel that links Britain and France.

The benefits of linking Japan with Korea by tunnel are mostly economic, because it would cut the cost of transporting goods between the two countries by about 30 percent. However, some Koreans oppose project, claiming it would provide a means for Japan to “advance into the continent.”

LOST THE LINK BUT STILL A NICE STORY.............................................

Never mind what the Koreans are on about, even China agrees that the water mass that separates Japan from the Korean Peninsula is called The Sea of Japan.

The Korea Times publication is reporting that the Chinese Government official website ( has the water mass listed as the Sea of Japan, not the East Sea as Korea calls it.


The Korean Embassy in China asked the Chinese government for a correction but has not yet received a response.

Park Ki-tae, the head of Voluntary Agency Network of Korea (VANK), said that the Web site reflects the Chinese government’s official stance.

Park said that the agency would send a letter of complaint to the Chinese government. He said it is likely a correction will be made.

“China has an understanding of Japanese colonization, and it is actually the first time the name was found in China,” Park said.


As far as I am concerned, there is no reason to change the name of the sea. It strikes me as interesting that the Koreans are so hell bent on changing the name of this sea that they are taking unfair shots at Japan in their media not to mention the ridiculous YouTube postings we’ve seen recently. But alas, I doubt much will change.


Foot-in-Mouth Disease

A Chosun Ilbo article, “Senior Officials Struck by Foot-in-Mouth Disease,” reports that the chief of the state-run think tank “Korea Information Society Development Institute” made the following comment at a breakfast meeting with thirty business figures while talking about the importance of the female workforce:

“Women are more developed creatures than men since they have one more hole.”

The newspaper also reports that Gwangmyeong Mayor Lee Hyo-seon made the following “faux pas” at a luncheon with a visiting delegation from the Washington branch of the presidential Advisory Council on Democratic and Peaceful Unification:

“When I visited Washington D.C., I saw niggers swarm all around the city,” he said. “How can you live in such a scary place? I was so afraid that I didn’t come out of my hotel at night.”

The mayor said that he didn’t “exactly remember whether he used the word ‘nigger,’” but he promised to apologize.

What an idiot! If he cannot remember if he used the word “nigger” at that particular time, then that suggests he, at least,” uses the word at other times.

These kinds of comments go beyond “foot-in-mouth” disease; they show the true character of these goofballs.

NOW FOR THE ACTUAL ARTICLE...................

Senior Officials Struck by Foot-in-Mouth Disease

The head of a state-run think tank has sparked controversy with an offensive remark about women. Korea Information Society Development Institute chief Suk Ho-ick was delivering a lecture on the Korean IT industry at a breakfast meeting with 30 business figures at the Lotte Hotel in Seoul on Wednesday. Talking about the importance of the female workforce as a growth potential for the 21st century, he said, “Women are more developed creatures than men since they have one more hole.”

Women's studies scholar Min Ga-young of Hongik University said the KISDI head’s remarks demonstrated a pervasive view among men of women not as equals but as sex object. Suk on Thursday said he had no intention to denigrate women and was merely emphasizing the important role of women in the future.

Meanwhile, Gwangmyeong Mayor Lee Hyo-seon has invited censure again with offensive remarks about African-Americans. Lee was forced to give up his membership in the Grand National Party after he made derogatory remarks about Jeolla Province last July. On Monday, Lee made the faux pas at a luncheon with a visiting delegation from the Washington branch of the presidential Advisory Council on Democratic and Peaceful Unification. “When I visited Washington D.C., I saw niggers swarm all around the city," he said. "How can you live in such a scary place? I was so afraid that I didn’t come out of my hotel at night.”

The delegation were in the Korean city to form a twin relationship with the Gwangmyeong branch of the unification council. The mayor on Thursday said he made the remark “because my guide warned me not to go out at night since there were many African-Americans in Washington. I don’t exactly remember whether I used the word “nigger.” He promised to apologize to the delegation as soon as they arrive back in Washington.

No comments: