Friday, September 28, 2007



An old commercial that I saw back in 2002.

Monday, September 24, 2007

Syria-North Korea?

More details are coming out now in the international media about the Israeli airstrike in Syria three weeks ago that provides details about how the attack was carried out and further explains the Syrian and North Korean reactions to the airstrike:

Israeli commandos seized nuclear material of North Korean origin during a daring raid on a secret military site in Syria before Israel bombed it this month, according to informed sources in Washington and Jerusalem.

The attack was launched with American approval on September 6 after Washington was shown evidence the material was nuclear related, the well-placed sources say.

They confirmed that samples taken from Syria for testing had been identified as North Korean. This raised fears that Syria might have joined North Korea and Iran in seeking to acquire nuclear weapons.

Israeli special forces had been gathering intelligence for several months in Syria, according to Israeli sources. They located the nuclear material at a compound near Dayr az-Zwar in the north. [Times of London]

The seizing of nuclear material by Israeli commandoes would explain the muted reaction by Syria to being bombed by Israel. The typical ploy after a bombing strike such as this is to claim a wedding party was bombed and to roll out a few corpses from the morgue for the eager international media to bash Israel with. Syria did none of this because Israel must have obtained something extremely sensitive in order to receive such a muted reaction from the Syrians and the world community at large.

What is also interesting is that the Bush Administration which has so much invested in "diplomacy" with North Korea that whatever evidence the Israelis had was enough to get the President to give his blessing for the raid:

Evidence that North Korean personnel were at the site is said to have been shared with President George W Bush over the summer. A senior American source said the administration sought proof of nuclear-related activities before giving the attack its blessing.

Diplomats in North Korea and China believe a number of North Koreans were killed in the strike, based on reports reaching Asian governments about conversations between Chinese and North Korean officials.

Syrian officials flew to Pyongyang, the North Korean capital, last week, reinforcing the view that the two nations were coordinating their response.

After reading this report the probability that some kind of nuclear material was captured by the Israelis is more likely. However, lets go through the possible scenarios. Some reports have claimed Israel bombed weapons going to Hezbollah in Lebanon. If that was the case Syria would have rolled out the wedding party bombing defense plus the raid happened no where near Lebanon. Additionally this raid was conducted with the approval of Turkey since it appears the Israelis may have used Turkish airspace during the raid and there has been no protests from Turkey. Bombing an arms shipment to Hezbollah probably would not have been enough justification for the Turks to give Israel use of their airspace. Thus I think a Hezbollah arms shipment can pretty much be ruled out.

Next is that a ballistic missile program supplied by North Korea was taken out. The fact that North Korea has been supplying missiles to Syria as well as Iran and Pakistan is well known. Four years ago a North Korean ship was intercepted smuggling missiles to even Yemen. So why would the Israelis want to bomb Syria over ballistic missiles when they have been living for years with the ballistic missiles Syria already has? Plus would bombing a missile program be enough to get the Turks to give approval to use their airspace? I doubt it. Also would the Syrian reaction be so muted to bombing a ballistic missile site? Once again I doubt it.

The only other scenario I can think of besides some kind of nuclear material is that maybe some chemical and biological weapons facility is what was raided. Possibly the Israeli raid captured some of these weapons as evidence and then bombed the place afterwards. The Syrians probably wouldn’t need the North Koreans to aid them with making these weapons however the North Korean engineers might have been there to help them mount the weapons on to their missiles. If the Israelis captured chemical and biological warheads that would cause the muted reaction we have seen from the Syrians so far. Could it be possible if WMDs were captured that they could be linked to being from Saddam Hussein’s former regime in Iraq? That would definitely have the Syrians squirming.

Whatever was raided three weeks ago I think the odds are pretty good that if it wasn’t nuclear material taken as evidence then it was some kind of other WMD program that was raided instead. What is clear is that the ambiguity the US and Israel have been keeping with this story is being used to maximize negotiating leverage against Syria and North Korea. I’m sure Israel would use the leverage to get Syria to stop sending arms to Hezbollah while the US would want Syria to quit funneling foreign jihadis into Iraq. In regards to North Korea the US is going to want to maintain the illusion of "progress" with the six party talks as much as possible. Despite all the ambiguity one thing that is clear is that however this whole issue unfolds it is going to be interesting.

To echo Joshua, where is Kim Jong-Bill when you need him?

More over at the Marmot’s Hole, One Free Korea, and DPRK Forum.

Saturday, September 22, 2007

Happy 11th Birthday Claudia. (My Daughter)

Happy Birthday my little angel. I have no idea where you are or how to contact you on 9-22-07. I am writing this down, so, maybe, one day, you will find this letter and know that I was thinking of you today.

I know that you think that I have forgotten all about you, but I have not. I have always prayed for you, and your brother Sean, that, one day, we will be reunited again. I miss you 2 so much. Its like a huge hole in my heart and nothing can fill that hole.

I am always wondering, how are you doing? Have you had your first boyfriend yet, what do you like, hate and everything. The last time I saw you was in Dec 1999, I have thought of you 2 every day since. I hope that one day you will read this and realize that your father loves you very much.

Happy 11th Birthday, My Daughter.

Signed Daddy.

Tuesday, September 18, 2007

The Brave One

Opens in Korea. Oct 11, 2007

How i saw it. Cam DVD

Opening Weeekend in USA. $13,471,488 2,755 Screens 9-14-07 to 9-16-07

Plot. A woman struggles to recover from a brutal attack by setting out on a mission for revenge.

At the start of the film, it looks like Death Wish You see a loving couple brutalized and with only Jodie Foster surviving. You see her buying a gun to protect herself and then you see her start to protect and to kill those who would do harm. We are introduced to Terrance Howard as a sub plot who soon becomes part of her radio show.

But what soon becomes apparent is that her vigilantism is becoming her therapy by her killing to respond to her trauma. The viewer is left to ask what is the road that she is on. Is it the right path by doing justice or is her descent into madness by murder. If you a fan of "The Batman" comic, I believe that you will like this film. Due to both being similar, in the need for revenge.

i will not spoil the end of the film, but be sure to watch it to make sure you really understand what kind of an ending you saw. If you are looking for an original idea, then this will not be the film for you.One could make a case for this film being a killing porn film. If you are looking for a good film to see, then this will be a film that you should watch one time.

Grade C+
Shut Up and Sing

Opens In Korea. Oct 3 2007.

How I saw it. DVD Screener.

Opening weekend in USA. $50,103 (USA) (29 October 2006) (4 Screens)

Plot. A documentary on the Dixie Chicks in the wake of singer Natalie Maines' anti-George W. Bush statement at a 2003 concert.


As a reviewer, I know that they're certain films that I will never review due to personal baggage that I will bring to it. For instance, I will never review a Michael Moore or a Jane Fonda. To be very honest, I had zero interest in ever reviewing this film. I made a promise to somebody, that if, this film was ever given a release date in Korea, that, I would, review it. As you can see above, it has a date.

Now allot of the readers of my reviews know a few things, I am from Texas, I vote Republican and that I am an US Army vet. I thought that this needed to be known, especially for this one. So If what I have said above upsets you, then stop reading this review now.

To be honest I never was that much of a fan of the "Dixie Chicks" before or after 2003. I always considered them too lighty but each of their CD's would have one song that I'd like. (If you have never listened to their music, may I please recommend, "Traveling Soldier" and their cover of Stevie Nicks song "Landslide". I have always thought that these were their 2 biggest hits)

What I do remember is me, being a soldier, during the 1990-91 Gulf War. I can recall stars and other so-called leaders always asking why would we want to be soldiers. It has and always will rub me the wrong way and I never liked nor have I ever liked some so-called leader or star saying that we are ashamed or we support our troops and in reality its all talk and no action. I saw allot of phonies during that time and it has always left a very bad taste in my mouth.

Now readers, I do support the war in Iraq and in Afghanistan. If I thought that evil men would solve all of the problems by just talking to them, then I would ban war all together. Sad to say, that idea has rarely worked. It was not words that opened the gates of Auschwitz, nor ended the reigns of Pol Pot, Hitler, Idi Amin and many other dictators through out history. It was by the sword or by the barrel of many guns. i think that world has forgotten that.

Now for the film, I was living in Texas at the time of the incident. When I first heard the comment, my exact thought was, "Oh great, another phony, Well I will never by a Cd by them anytime soon." Then I forgot about it. Then a few days later something was happening. Radio stations around Dallas, quit playing their songs, then I heard that stations all over the US quit playing their music. The documentary shows and tells about one super radio chain that ordered its stations to no longer play their song and it tries to make into into a bad light.

Here is where the film lost me. As a former soldier, I firmly believe in the freedom of the press and the right to be an idiot, if you want to. What I can not stand is when those same people whine because there is a loss of monetary reaction to what they said. The Dixie Chicks lost radio, sponsors, concert and many other things because of what was said. The film tries to make them out as heroes. My question was, what in the heck are they heroes for? I never saw them trying to save any lives or do anything that is worthy of being called a hero. All I saw was a once promising Country act, thought out the film, turn on its fan base. I thought it was sad.

In the end the film makes them out to be heroes and in the end if this is a hero, then please do not call me one for saving lives and protecting the innocent from the evil men of the world. the word is worthless if this group is called a hero.

Overall, if you like the statement, then you will probably like them film and I will highly recommend it for you, when it opens in Korea. If you did not like the statement, then pass on this film, as I will when it comes to Korea.

Grade. F

Sunday, September 16, 2007

D-War is unleashed upon USA

My Review of D-War

Rotten Tomatoes Brutalizing ‘D-War’


So, far, D-War has earned a 14% at Rotten Tomatoes, which isn’t really so bad, considering it was 14% higher than commenter ZZOOzzoo expected.

We all knew the film was going to get panned — my wife, for instance, described it as the worst film she’d ever seen. And this was just one day after we’d watched “Showgirls” on OCN. But some of the commentary so far has been hilarious.

Wrote Brian Tallerico of UnderGroundOnline:

On a script level, D-War is the movie that Ed Wood would have made in the era of CGI, complete with awkward editing, wooden acting, and a story that becomes impossible to care about at all.

Meanwhile, Josh Larsen wrote in the Naperville Sun:

Yet the only real entertainment comes from watching Robert Forster, in the Mr. Miyagi role, fruitlessly trying to explain the difference between an Imoogi, a Buraki and a Yuh Yi Joo.

Actually, I was wondering what Robert Forster was doing in this. Must have needed the paycheck.

My personal favorite, however, was courtesy Uri Lessing at eFilmCritic.com:

This is not a movie to watch for escapism. This is a movie to watch with a bunch of friends and heckle mercilessly.

Uri saves the best for last, though:

“D-War” comes from South Korea, and according to the newspaper, JoongAng Daily, the Korean prints of the film ended with the following statement from director, Shim Hyung-rae: “D-War and I will succeed in the world market without fail,” I’m guessing Hyung-rae wrote that statement while smoking the same stuff he was on when he wrote the script for this abominable movie.

Ouch. One wonders if the netizens will share the critics’ sense of humor once they discover what’s being written.

On a bright note, at least Jin Jung-gwon might feel vindicated.

Now, here’s some quality reporting — StarNews (Korean) reports that “D-War” is the 4th most popular search word at Yahoo.com, and that netizens there have given the film a “B-” rating. So, diligent citizen reporter that I am, I checked it out — yep, it’s a lot of Koreans driving up the grade (odd that StarNews should neglect to mention that), which despite this has still managed to fall to C-.

UPDATE: MoneyToday Star News (Korean) with more classic journalism:

Attention is focusing on how successful D-War, which opened on Sept 14 on 2,267 screens across the United States, will be.In particular, with local critics and media giving ‘D-War’ mixed reviews, people are watching to see how much it will affect the film’s box office results.

Mixed reviews? Wouldn’t that suggest that somebody’s actually given it a positive review?

Anyway, the piece noted that the Hollywood Reporter skewered the film, and that the Golden Raspberry Awards have given “D-War” its “Best Bad Movie of the Weak” award.

My favorite line of the piece is this:

In the reviews posted at Rotten Tomatoes, a website syndicating many US film critics, D-War has been getting not-so-good ratings.

Not-so-good ratings? It’s got a fucking 13%!

Within the general current, overseas Koreans are giving the film good reviews on Korean community websites, drawing attention.

You don’t say? Despite the threat from the gyopo crowd, however, I think Russell Crowe and Christian Bale can rest easy this weekend.

I shouldn’t be too hard on MoneyToday Star News, though. They at least tried to convey the Razzie in the making. That’s more that we can say for Newsis correspondent Noh Chang-hyeon, who must have been smoking the same shit as Shim Hyung-rae when he penned this joke, entitled, “Green Light to D-War Success in US: Audience Give Film Over B+ on Opening Day.” Roh went to the film opening in New York, and apparently found a whole lot of folk who liked the film. I mean, seriously, it’s almost worth learning Korean just to read this thing — it’s jaw-dropping.

And speaking of Rotton Tomatoes, I’m not sure what it is, but I don’t think Dustin Putman of TheMovieBoy.com liked the film:

“Dragon Wars” is destined to go down in history as one of cinema’s most blunderingly, catastrophically bad big-budget films of the last few decades. Only worth seeing with a large group of friends and a bottle of hard liquor by your side, the movie bypasses the barest hints of behind-the-scenes sanity and enters a realm where the viewer legitimately wonders if what he or she is watching was made by homosapiens.

At this point, however, I have to wonder whether all these bad reviews might actually help the film in the end — could “D-War” become a cult classic?

Tuesday, September 11, 2007

Sunday, September 09, 2007

Frack You KBS

CORRECTION: In all fairness to KBS, it looks like the line in question in this post was mistranslated, and I didn't check the original (linked below) directly, since I was blogging in a mad heat from work. So, the line in question was actually different in Korean, as Robert noted in his comment to this post. But since I don't erase posts, and one of the points of this blog is to keep an ongoing record of my thoughts on a lot of things, I print this correction and point you to the relevant correct translation here for your convenience. You can also just read it in the comments section below.

Take note, however, that my overall stance on this show, as well as my little line of invective in response to KBS's obvious agenda in undertaking this kind of yellow journalism – stands. You can read my other opinions about this subject from my last few posts
here and here.

Thanks, Korea Beat, for covering this. You are one part of helping foreigners defend themselves here by at least allowing a lot of the stereotyping that goes on behind the safe lines of the language barrier to at least get to the ears of the people in question.

And all my the schools I worked at wondered why I never allowed any Korean news crew into my classroom. Well, here's what KBS is saying:


Police claim that S would even smoke marijuana into the early morning and then go to school and teach the students. Police explained that not only S but most foreign English teachers teach English by day and smoke marijuana by night.

A source at the foreign affairs division of the Seoul Police Department said, “American and Canadian English teachers think Korea is a ‘land of opportunity.’

OK. I've known some foreign losers here. I've also come across some people whom I personally don't like. But "most foreign English teachers teach English by day and smoke marijuana by night?" I say again: "FUCK YOU, KBS."

Now, foreign English teachers aren't all saints, and yeah, a lot of us/them do enjoy the easy access to Korean women, which is a part of the draw to teaching in Asia for many young men fresh out of college and looking for adventure. But trust me – you don't need any drugs with which to "seduce" Korean women, since white skin is more than enough in many normal bars and dance clubs in Korea. Maybe that fact doesn't sit well with you, me, or some conservative, insecure Korean men – but it's a fact that there's a joking quip that white men are "issued their Korean girlfriend right off the plane at the airport."

No drugs required. All you need is decades of American movie, television, and other forms of pop culture immersion, along with an ample helping of the cultural colonial attitude best summed up as what Koreans know very well as 사대주의.

And as for the allegation itself – WHAT THE FUCK? I must apologize to my delicately-tempered readers, since my use of colorful language is rife today, but WHAT THE SAM FUCK? On what basis is that statement made, on what foundation do the incompetent Korean Keystone Kops have to make the allegation that "most foreign English teachers teach English by day and smoke marijuana by night"?!

Where does that come from? On the basis that the majority of the English teachers they arrest perhaps do so? Well, that's some pretty faulty fucking logic, if I may again engage in colorful turns of phrase. I won't even comment on how idiotic that statement is.

I will comment on how extremely far-flung from reality that statement it. Even I, after nearly 8 years in and out of Korea, after going through the idiotic Ohno-inspired "Fucking USA", the anti-American bullshit of late 2002-2003, the abominable niggeration of the Bubble Sisters, and even other stupid news coverage – even I am flabbergasted at such an irresponsible, unfounded, and so socially dangerous a statement as that.

"Most foreign English teachers teach English by day and smoke marijuana by night." Jumpin' JE-hosaphat, that is seriously wack.

That's just soooooo far from any reality I've observed here in Korea, even when the quality of foreigners was far, far, far worse than it is now, which is a VAST improvement over when *I MYSELF* found foriegners to be scary, back in the early 90's in Korea. That's when the media should have been concerned – not now.

But we all know why this is happening – AGAIN and AGAIN and AGAIN and AGAIN.

Fucking Korean media – pure, Hearst-level, 1890's yellow journalism. At best, something to put at the bottom of my kitty litter box. Why I am surprised?

Next-after-next SeoulGlow episode: interviews with fellow foreigners about their reaction. And a friend or two to help with the subtitling in Korean, if you got it. We, as this constructed "community" of "foreigners", need to at least make a statement.

Fuck, I'm pissed.

If you be down, I'm considering taking this Saturday night to go to Hongdae – the spawning grounds of us evil, drug-peddling, Korean-women-corrupting foreigners – and doing interviews in the various nooks and crannies there.

Who's game?

Bush Told Roh 2x and Roh still blew it

UPDATE #4: Thanks to commenter extraordinaire Sonagi, what Roh actually said is a whole lot "clearer" to me now and DPRK Studies has an updated posting on Roh’s actual comments that sums things up very well.

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UPDATE #3: DPRK Studies believes Roh is just stupid while OFK believes this was planned attack on Bush before the Korean presidential election to show how Roh will stand up to the hated Yankees. I don’t think Roh is stupid, he is just incompetent.

Also everyone seems to be picking up on the Korean media cover up of this exchange as well. The only Korean media source I have seen bring up the exchange was the Joong Ang Ilbo which briefly mentioned a "testy exchange" between the two leaders.

___________________________________________________

UPDATE #2: This story is definitely getting around. It is currently on the front page of the Drudge Report now. The Marmot and Nomad have a postings up on this as well. KU Studies looks at the current US-ROK relationship as defined by this exchange in the context of what it means towards the possible unification of the two Koreas. More over at DPRK Forum.

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UPDATE #1: Video of the exchange is now available on CNN (HT: Jack). Unfortunately you cannot hear what President Roh says in Korean or more importantly what the interpreter says in Korean.

___________________________________________________

In what is probably the last meeting between President Bush and South Korean President Roh Moo-hyun it ended in what is the perfect analogy of the current relationship between the US and Korea, an incoherent argument over North Korea:

In a testy public exchange Friday with South Korean President Roh Moo-hyun, President Bush said the United States would formally end the Korean War only when North Korea halts its nuclear weapons program.

The two leaders met on the sidelines of a 21-nation Pacific Rim summit here, spending much of their roughly one-hour session discussing the international standoff over the communist North’s pursuit of atomic arms.

They agreed there had been progress. But then they had a before-the-cameras back-and-forth that was remarkable in the diplomatic world of understatement and subtlety.

Roh pushed Bush to be "clearer" about his position on an official end to the 1950-53 Korean War. The two Koreas were divided by the conflict, which ended in a truce, not a peace treaty, meaning they still remain technically at war.

The leaders’ tone remained light, but Bush responded firmly: "I can’t make it any more clear, Mr. President. We look forward to the day when we can end the Korean War. That will happen when Kim Jong Il verifiably gets rid of his weapons programs and his weapons." […]

The tense moments with Roh came as the leaders each made statements to reporters after their meeting. Roh concluded his by questioning why Bush hadn’t mention the issue of the war’s end.

"I might be wrong. I think I did not hear President Bush mention a declaration to end the Korean War just now," Roh said through an interpreter. "Did you say so, President Bush?"

"It’s up to Kim Jong Il," Bush said.

Roh pressed on. "If you could be a little bit clearer," he said, prompting nervous laughter from the U.S. delegation and a look of annoyance from Bush. [Tom Raum, AP]

I have to wonder if the delegation was laughing at the situation or laughing at Roh. I have been looking for video of this exchange, but could not find any yet. Interestingly enough Yonhap mentioned nothing about the exchange between Roh and Bush and actually put a positive spin on the meeting.

Friday’s Roh-Bush meeting, the eighth South Korea-U.S. summit during Roh’s term, lasted over 70 minutes in a "very friendly and warm atmosphere," presidential spokesman Cheon Ho-seon said, noting Bush called Roh his friend during the talks.

Roh and Bush have said that the settlement of the North Korean nuclear issue would lead to multilateral negotiations on the establishment of a permanent peace regime on the Korean Peninsula. [Yonhap]

"Very friendly and warm atmosphere"? If you say so Yonhap.

Over at KBS there wasn’t much said about the exchange either:

U.S. President George W. Bush says that if North Korea abandons its nuclear ambitions, Washington is willing to sign a formal peace treaty with the communist state.

He made the remarks during talks with President Roh Moo-hyun Friday in Sydney, where the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation summit is under way.

When Mr. Roh asked Bush to elaborate, the U.S. leader said the treaty will replace the inter-Korean armistice that ended the Korean War in 1953.

Bush said that whether the U.S. makes the peace offer is not important but that all depends on North Korean leader Kim Jong-il, urging him to get rid of his nukes and complete verification procedures. He added that progress is being made but that the ultimate decision lies with Pyongyang. [KBS]

I have to wonder if Roh had a poor interpreter or is he really that incompetent? What does he not understand about the Korean War officially ending once Kim Jong-il ends all of his illicit weapons programs?

This argument with Roh has made international headlines and is currently on the front page of Yahoo, CNN, and Fox News. I have to think that Roh has high hopes of having the US and North Korea end the Korean War during his term and wants to use the upcoming inter-Korean summit to announce it. He is desperation mode for some kind of legacy, but Bush isn’t going to give him any kind of legacy unless Kim Jong-il verifiably disarms his nuclear weapons programs which he has no intent to do for reasons I have listed before.

First the ransom payment to the Taliban and now this. It hasn’t been a good week for US-Korea relations. Bush’s expression in the above photograph says it all about the current state of the US-Korea relationship.

Thursday, September 06, 2007

http://metropolitician.blogs.com/scribblings_of_the_metrop/2007/09/the-vulgar-natu.html

The Vulgar Nature of the Korean News Media

Wow – it's really, really on, now.

60 whole minutes of bad journalism – a key informant is the "ex-girlfriends of English teacher" confirming all the media stereotypes about foreigners that they've been perpetrating for years.

 Cms Icsfiles Artimage 2007 09 03 C 2Tc Chu601 Emb00000Cac1519

No matter what the distorted media picture says, here's what I observed from my own experience, and believe is echoed by most of the people I know:

– Almost all foreign teachers I know in Korea are all qualified and have real degrees. It's the old streetlight-and-the-key idea; if you just look for your key where you can easily find it – under the streetlight – or expect to see it, then that's the only place it will be. So when the Korean media's busy salivating for any scandal involving fake degrees, it will find them. Funny thing is, as most foreigners working in Korean organizations have suspected for years, there are a lot of Koreans working with some seriously fake resumes.

– Almost all foreign teachers I know in Korea, as well as any I've heard of, spend their time teaching their classes, doing some tutoring on the side, and generally spending their time just like Koreans do: going to get a bit to eat, having a few drinks, watching movies, shopping, seeing some shows or exhibits, touring around the country – whatever. Yet, the Korean media would have you think that all we do is sit around smoking out, waiting in alleyways for unsuspecting Korean women, and sit around on computers making fake degrees for our friends. And there's any problem with fake degrees, the real problem is with lax hiring practices and hagwon owners (many of whom themselves have fake degrees, ahem) who actually don't care, or even know that their walking dictionary is a faker. In the end, all one has to do is pick up the fucking phone to confirm resume information. Who's really being stupid here? The schools and hagwons who get faked out by a non-graduate, or the faker?

– Yeah, many foreign men enjoy a lot of attention from Korean women (which is really the crux of a lot of this media bullshit), but that's not illegal, and pretty inevitable. Perhaps the Korean government should ban Hollywood movies, television shows, and pop music – and activate re-education programs to eliminate decades of American influence. Then "easy" Korean women will stop showing up in Itaewon and Hongdae bars, and the men can go back to being celibate scholars, sitting at home and studying hangul and Korean history, waiting with bated breath for their next conversation class to start.

The Korean media is always looking for a scandal, and race-baiting stories of foreigners as "sexual predators" are the favorites. Too bad there hasn't been, to date, a story actually involving foreigners committing sexual crimes. It's mostly been limited to the Korean media skimming message boards, blogs, and even YouTube looking for something juicy. Too bad the "scandals" have all been legal and consensual acts, even if some of the stuff they've scraped up is in bad taste.

And taking things out of cultural context – fact is, in America, I'd say nearly everyone I know has smoked pot or at least experimented with other stuff in college. Even the Presidents of the United States admitted to doing drugs (Clinton "didn't inhale" his pot supposedly, and Bush was a heavy drinker and did coke). This is not to say that it's OK to do it in Korea, but then again, when the only people being targeted and watched closely are foreigners, is it any wonder foreigners keep getting busted?

And if we wanted to talk about cultural context, then by American standards, half the Koreans I know are simple high-functioning alcoholics. And ask anyone who'd lived in Korea – even on my heaviest drinking day of my life, I could never go toe-to-toe with the average Korean salaryman. So who is more "depraved," again? As long as we're making judgments.

In the end, this really reminds me of the conventional wisdom that would sometimes pass as "journalism" in the pre-Civil Rights American South. The vast, vast majority of black men weren't going around raping white women, but many white people knew it as a "fact" that they were, and were ready to act to prevent it. And the racial/gender dynamics are the same, as much of this anti-foreigner discourse (well, much of modern Korean nationalist discourse itself) is centered around notions of protecting an innocent, infantilized, and highly feminized notion of national "pride" and "culture."

This is an old fucking trope. As old as kijichon fiction and film, which consistently relied on the stock racist image of the ultimate degradation of the nation, which always involves an innocent Korean girl forced to prostitute herself to the (invariably black) American GI.

One may think this an alarmist analysis, but when you break it down, and you look at the consistent pattern of the crap that gets reported as "news" regarding foreigners in this country – that bottom-scraping YTN Hongdae report, the "HIV foreigner" story and the YTN YouTube non-scandal are the best recent examples – it's all rooted in the racist, sexist symbology of fear and anger of foreign cock entering Korean pussy.

And I'll leave it at that, without spin or any more fancy academic ideas to break it down. Because it's a vulgar thought, it is best left expressed as a vulgarity. And as far as the Korean media goes – relying on emails from Hotmail accounts, YouTube videos, and the ubiquitous "Korean ex-girlfriend" who of course, never engaged in any of the pot-smoking herself – such race-baiting in reporting, lack of professionalism in confirming hearsay without talking to the party in question, or even double-confirming legitimate sources – this is the ultimate in vulgar news.

Sunday, September 02, 2007

Ransom is Material Support For Terrorism

With friends like these ….

Thanks to the weakness of the South Korean government, it’s a great day to be a terrorist. I second what other Korea bloggers are saying about the Taliban’s victory over South Korea. The Nomad: ”[W]hen Canada criticizes you for being soft on terrorism, you’re in big trouble.” Andy Jackson quotes the Taliban thusly:

“We will do the same thing with the other allies in Afghanistan, because we found this way to be successful.”

So there you have it. Roh is perfectly willing to get pay off terrorists and yield to their demands, no matter how many Afghans or American soldiers are killed as a result. In retrospect, we’d have been far better off had South Korea never sent its 210 non-combat troops to Afghanistan at all. Instead of helping the effort, those troops’ negotiated withdrawal handed Taliban one of their greatest symbolic victories in a kind of warfare in which propaganda and symbolism are everything.

Various news agenies are reporting that the South Korean government paid a ransom of either $2 million or $20 million. Taliban sources are claiming that it was the higher of those amounts. Either sum is enough to build plenty of IED’s to kill American soldiers. [Another update: Seoul has finally gotten around to denying that it paid ransom — yeah, and Larry Craig’s still denying a few things, too – while the Chosun Ilbo publishes a photograph of the Korean spy who probably negotiated it, and who posed arm-in-arm with the terrorists.]

ransom.JPG

We forget that the Taliban helped kill 3,000 Americans in our own country. If our government is serious about halting material support for terrorism, the Treasury Department will track down the South Korean and Saudi entities that funneled this money to the Taliban, invoke Executive Order 13,224, and freeze all of their assets colder than Hillary Clinton’s smile. Ideally, that will happen before the money paid by our “allies” is used by our enemies to kill our soldiers. Government entities, too? Yes, especially government entities.

Korean papers have been passing along similar rumors:

Observers have said that the possibility of a ransom deal was high, in the form of Seoul providing financial support to local tribes supporting the Taliban. [Joongang Ilbo]

I hope that the observers are wrong, or at least that South Korea’s bag-men will once again pay ransom to the wrong people.

There is also the symbolic victory of forcing South Korea out of the war, to the extent it was ever in.

Taliban negotiator Qari Mohammad Bashir said the two sides reached agreement when the Taliban withdrew its demand for the release of Taliban prisoners in exchange for Korean hostages while Korea promised to pull its troops out of Afghanistan by late this year and compel Korean missionaries leave the central Asian country by late this month, according to Pajhwok Afghan News. However, there was speculation of other, under-the-table agreements. [Chosun Ilbo]

Can there be much doubt that the agreement included yet another “huge ransom,” or that the man under the table, as usual, was South Korea’s anti-American President Roh Moo Hyun?

Tell me it isn’t so, then.

Inevitably, this will mean more problems for us in Afghanistan, and when that happens, the extra forces needed to deal with that should come straight out of U.S. Forces, Korea. At the current rate, the USFK commander will soon be a first lieutenant stationed in Okinawa.

An emotional reaction? To a degree, yes. But what harm would that really do to our national interests? South Korea is a rich country with twice the population and many times the economic power of North Korea. America helped transform South Korea from medieval agrarianism into a functioning democracy. Our decades of defense commitment and favorable trade helped make it one of the world’s economic and technological powers, one that is more than capable of self defense (meanwhile, North Korea has sunken beneath rural agrarianism). Yet our alliance with South Korea today is one of the world’s most lopsided in terms of the mutual flow of benefits. South Korea has been useless or worse as an ally against the terrorists, extraordinarily unhelpful with North Korea, an irritant in our regional security framework (since Japan is a part of that), and a self-declared neutral in checking China’s regional ambitions. South Korea is actually cutting its own military, leaving American taxpayers to take up the slack. There doesn’t seem to be much South Korean gratitude for this expensive commitment, either, judging by displays like these, or polls that consistently show South Korea to be one of the most anti-American countries in Asia.

Instead of advancing our interest in disarming Kim Jong Il, having troops in South Korea makes those troops hostages to Kim Jong Il’s guns. It prevents us from making a clean break from South Korea’s appeasement policy, or taking effective financial measures to disrupt the flow of South Korean money that keeps Kim Jong Il in power and allows him the choice of not disarming. Without U.S. ground forces in Korea, our options for dealing with North Korea widen, and South Korea knows that.

Aside from further alienating its American benefactor, South Korea will continue to pay a price in other ways, because terrorists never strike an easy victim just once. The leader of a self-described ally has probably just handed the Taliban a second heaping helping of material support, thus stamping “kidnap me” in fluorescent letters in every Republic of Korea passport. Yes, these particular hostages’ choice of itinerary made them especially vulnerable, but next time, the Taliban will reach out further for new victories.

Finally, a reader takes note of the deafening silence of the “silent majority” of moderate Muslims that supposedly exists … somewhere. I can’t recall having heard a murmur from them during this entire episode. How about you?

More here, here, and here.