Tuesday, May 15, 2007

My Wikipedia Entry

Hey guys, if you love Korean nationalism and/or World Cup soccer, take a look at my wikipedia entry on the 2002 World Cup under the Case Studies section under Korean Nationlism - unless someone already changed it.

Monday, May 14, 2007

Opinions on North Korea

Awhile ago, I posted on three articles written by a British journalist who attended the Arirang Ceremonies in North Korea. He has also answered some questions written by viewers which have provided an interesting look at the people in North Korea. Mr. Scanlon, the journalist, has been to North Korea multiple times (this year and ten years ago, at least) and has some interesting observations, including that there is basically no rebellious sentiment and that people there think the concept of traveling freely within foreign countries as shocking.

In general, if there's one thing I learned from this class, it is to take North Korea much more seriously, and collect what little information we get from the inside very carefully, as it is probably the best way to form an understanding of the society there, even if no complete understanding of the internal workings will be formed without significant disclosure from within.

I have very much enjoyed this class! Thanks, everyone!

My Wikipedia entry

Let me share with you my experience with Wikipedia. I can't believe it. A few minutes after my first update, the whole section that I added was deleted. I didn't even have the time to print out the updated version. As we are required to hand in a hardcopy of the updated version, I went through all the procedure again, and got a printout. But now the whole section is gone, again.

Of course, I've chosen a very controversial topic. The section I added is titled "Political Connections between Goguryeo and the Chinese Central Plains Dynasties." Through examining a number of the ancient Chinese books, The Book of Jin, The Book of Wei, The Book of Beiqi, The Book of Sui, The Book of Tang, and even Samguk Sagi (Chronicles of the Three Kingdoms), it is evident that, in addition to the almost incessant wars during its existence, Goguryeo also had close political connections with the Chinese Central Plains dynasties, manifested by tribute and the conferring of dynastic titles on Goguryeo kings.

It is just amazing to me that someone constantly monitors this site...

My blog

I added an entry about Korean nationalism in the Dokdo/Takeshima dispute under Korean nationalism. I also started an entry about ethnic nationalism as there was none on that, but considering the fact that its 6:30 a.m. right now and I'm zombied out, I will stop. It's very bare and I talked a little bit about the 2002 World Cup and the Korean response to the VTech shooting. If I'm inspired enough later on this week I'll flesh it out with our readings...

Good night, or good morning everyone...

PS. How do you upload pictures onto the webpage??? I was able to upload the picture but couldn't get it to display on the webpage. After 20 minutes of trying I gave up. Some advice would be appreciated! Thanks!

6 Party Talks Wikipedia Entry

Here is my Wikipedia contribution: an update of the latest round of the 6 Party Talks. I actually made some minor changes to my original edit and ended up with an edit conflict, so hopefully that final final version will show up in a few days. The only difference is a few more internal Wiki links and a few spelling corrections.

Thank you all for a great blog and a great class. It was great to study and discuss the issues with all of you. If you'd like to keep it up, check out the Next Generation Asian Studies Forum and shoot me an e-mail to sign up! It should pick up shortly now that finals are winding down.

Saturday, May 12, 2007

Wikipedia entry

In the ultimate irony, here is my version of the Songun (military-first) site, which I edited today. Apologies to snowume for redoing it, but, in my defense, when we discussed it in class, this has always been what I've said I was covering. I hope you printed out and/or saved your editing for the site.

Friday, May 11, 2007

Wiki entry

here is my Wiki entry for Songun, Military First Policy. I hope it provides information on concept, which we did not touch on in class. Thanks.

Wednesday, May 09, 2007

Solipsistic Note from the Blogosphere

As a final post, I just wanted to say how much I enjoyed this class. It was great alienati--I mean talking with all of you openly about controversial issues in a perfectly calm and rational way.

I'm a little ambivalent about the blogging, though, since I find that, as perfectionist, I'm frustrated at the the tension between polishing my work and "dashing off" something quickly in the spirit of blogging. (Note to Prof. Larsen: when I say I'm a perfectionist in writing, this means I feel compelled to spend a long time anguishing over it, not that I can't manage to mispell "Goguryeo" ad nauseum).

So I'm leaving you with a note from the "Hitchhikers' Guide to the Galaxy" movie soundtrack, "On Blogging":

Blog·ging - Blogging is the act of regularly updating your website with some humdrum information about your life or a link to something you just read on the internet in the mistaken belief that anyone actually cares.

It is the 21st century equivalent of hanging around railway stations, writing pithy but erudite descriptions of the passing trains. To take part in "blogging" or to use the appropriate terminology "to join the blogosphere" there are a couple of things you need to do. Firstly, you'll need to increase the size of your ego. Without a swollen ego you simply cannot achieve the levels of solipsism required by a modern blog. This necessary step is often missed by new bloggers, yet without it, you won't believe that anyone is remotely interested in what you've had for lunch today, how cute your cat Mittens is, or whether or not you designed some tedious internet protocol.

In fact blogging without a nova-sized ego can actually be dangerous. If you start using words like blogosphere there is a very real possibility that your own major intestine will leap straight up through your neck and throttle your brain in an attempt to preserve civilization. Fortunately there are various forms of medication to increase the size of your ego, many offering a money back guarantee that you will be at least twice as obnoxious in four weeks or less.

Until you are sufficiently obnoxious, you might feel the need to explain or at the very least describe the things you leap to. Experienced bloggers know that they are so important that readers will blindly follow their links. After all, a few seconds of one blogger's time is clearly more valuable than all the time spent by people discovering they really didn't care. The other thing you should do to become a successful blogger, is change your website to use dotted lines and unreadable tiny fonts, wherever possible.

Have a great rest of the semester, everyone!

Feminism and Partying

So you have to be a guy to get somewhere in the South Korean business world, which means you have to drink a LOT. But aren't women not supposed to drink as much as men?

A woman in South Korea has won damages from her boss, who coerced her to drink into 3am several nights a week to entertain clients.
It's a violation of human dignity to force one to drink against his or her will," Judge Kang-Young-ho was quoted as saying by the Associated Press (AP).
Her employer, according to AP, once threatened he would get a male colleague to kiss her if she did not take part in the drinking sessions. He also pressured her to drink when she was suffering from stomach problems, the agency reported.

Macao Bank "Scapegoat"

Here's that article I mentioned in class about the Macao bank being upset at the US for hanging them out to dry on the DPRK funds issue. Well, that's its opinion anyway.

It has submitted a petition against Treasury. Here's what it claims:

Delta Asia Group, parent company of BDA, released a copy of the 19-page petition filed with the Treasury last week by U.S. lawyer Mary Ellen Powers on behalf of Au and the group.
At the end of an 18-month investigation, the Treasury concluded that BDA turned a blind eye to illicit activities but decided to release the funds to Pyongyang to facilitate the stalled six-way denuclearization talks.

"(Releasing the funds) is inconsistent with any claim that the funds were actually the proceeds of illicit activities," Powers said in the petition.

"During a congressional hearing, (U.S. Deputy Assistant Treasury Secretary) Daniel Glaser refused to characterize the funds as 'ill-gotten gains' of illegal activity," she added.

Powers said the Treasury's ruling was simply aimed at sending a signal to the international financial community.

"Glaser admitted in his congressional testimony that (the Treasury) had singled out one small bank and imposed extraordinary sanctions with no warning in order to scare the financial community," she said in the petition.

Powers quoted former senior U.S. State Department official David Asher as saying BDA was just an "easy target" and that the ruling aimed to "kill the chicken to scare the monkey."

Kim Il-Sung Poems Rediscovered!

Tired of the same old songs to the Great Leader? Wish there were more? Well, now there's an exciting new sensation--reaching out from the 1930s!

The article, which is worth reading in full, says that "tens" of poems declaring the greatness of Kim Il-Sung that had been "widely disseminated" have been "discovered" in the DPRK. Then, in the next paragraph, says that they were discovered in northeastern China, in the "main military and political theatres of the Korean People's Revolutionary Army (KPRA)."

And, although all we have are written documents just discovered that no one noticed were missing before, the article states that they were "handed down orally by the people."

This is the best part:

They truthfully reflect the undying exploits performed by the President for the liberation of the country, political and military might of the KPRA and the great joy of the then people in attending him as the sun of the nation.
Who is he, Louis XIV? Anyway, here's a song list:

"Kim Il-so'ng [Kim Il Sung] Makes an Appearance in Korea"
"The Sun of the Korean People"
"Mt. Changbai Soaring High in Sky"
"Snow Flies"
"Let's Create Plum Tree Woods"
"Spring Water Brings up Heroes"
"Commander Kim Comes"
"Giant Footprint"
"Giddap! Let Cow take Mountain Path! "
"Mother Presents Roe Deer Leather"
"Song to Accompaniment of Hand-Clapping".

Korean Conscription Policy

I wish I could have joined you for the dinner, but I had to come home and study for the comprehensive exam.

We talked a bit about the role of military service in Korea. I actually did some comparative research in Taiwan and Seoul last summer (with the support of the Sigur Center). I posted a summary of my findings in my own blog in case you are interested.
Conscription Policy (1) Taiwan
Conscription Policy (2) South Korea
Conscription Policy (3) Differences
Conscription Policy (4) Possible Hypotheses


Many friends of mine have considered me as a Korean nationalist with strong nationalism. Politically speaking, of course, I don't consider me as a nationalist but I know that nationalism rooted deeply in myself often provokes me. Those readings explained why a person called "me" gets provoked and becomes nationalist. mobilization during the 2002 world cup was shown as a good example of Korean nationalism. It was also compared to mobilization during the democratization movement in 1980s. I believe that Korean history itself accumulates as factors and reasons, leading Korean people to mobilize easier. War taught Koreans how to go out to fulfil their purpose, and democratization movement showed people how to appeal to the power. These lessons and experiences formed as a Korean identity, which in turn impacted on forming Korean nationalism.

When do Koreans feel nationalism? despite total personal opinions, I think our Koreans feel nationalism whenever we feel inferiority. Readings provided key influences forming Korean nationalism such as war, colonialism, and imperialism, and so on. Koreans have victimized themselves and seemed to overcome inferior complexity through superior complexity, which was made artificially. The superior complexity plays as nationalism.

The Korean-American football star, who never looks like Korean, is Korean who can present "Korean superiority". The Korean -American golf star is also Korean (hanguk in) to Koreans, not Korean-American (hangukgye). There are countless examples, showing Koreans' tendency.

In this context, I think globalization would not affect Koreans' unique nationalism or Korean identity too much. Koreans will categorize Koreans abroad or Korean ethnics or mixed Koreans based on their success.

Following the Glorious Example of Comrade Sayaka...

Here's my Wikipedia assignment: an addition to the entry for Yongsan Garrison. It's the section entitled "Demonstrations at Yongsan Garrison."

Questions and (gentle) comments are welcome!

See you all tonight.

Monday, May 07, 2007

Thoughts on Korean Nationalism

Hi class,

I'm posting some thoughts on the readings and on the topic of Korean nationalism more generally here to contribute to class discussion in my absence.

Influences on the form of Korean nationalism
In an attempt to tie all the reading together, there seemed to be a few key influences on the formation of nationalism generally that applied to the case of Korea: colonialism, imperialism, war, external security threats, economic development and globalization. Specifically in the case of Korea, colonization by Japan, imperialism by the US, the Korean war (with its civil and international components and its ambiguous "ending"), developmentalism under the Park era in the ROK, juche in the DPRK and globalization. Although Tan'Gun and Hangul are unique symbols of Korea that have been appropriated in the creation of Korea's national identity, unique symbols of all countries are used to unify individuals under a political definition of "nation."

Demographic and geographic factors also contributed to the formulation of Korean nationalism. The territory of the Korean peninsula and ethnic homogeneity enabled a strong sense of cultural “Koreaness” to develop before the introduction of the concept of Korea as a nation. I don’t particularly agree with the conception of Korea as primordial nation, however, I do think these demographic and geographic factors made it very easy for the constructed idea of the Korean nation that emerged during the Choson dynasty to take root (especially because key unifying symbols and concepts existed).

Of all the authors, Moon is the most critical of convergence of these forces, particularly the role of developmentalism, in the conception of Korean national identity:
“Nationalism as a way to legitimize repressions and exploitation of the populace throughout the process. Industrialization as a national project gained priority in the postwar period of economic development. The reality of the Cold War has also shaped nationalist rhetoric, which touts “the building of a prosperous and strong Korean nation.” Specifically, the issue of national defense has become crucial to state nationalism in Korea, due to the unique experience of the Korean War and the continuing military confrontation between North and South. The effectiveness of state nationalism depends upon the collective memory of Japanese colonization and the Korean war, as well as on popular recognition of neo-colonial aspects of the American military and strategic dominance in Korea and Korean’s technological and economic dependence upon the United States and Japan” (34).

Ethnic nationalism: "dangerous, discursive & destructive," a potential force for reunification, or counter to colonialism?
The KBS survey Shin (and Larsen) cites, indicating that 68.2% of Koreans view "blood" as the most important criteria of the Korean nation, ties in well with Schmid's discussion of the role of Koreans abroad in maintaining a sense of Korean identity under Japanese colonial rule. It is easy to see that under a colonial power, one key differentiating factor (that fits within the cultural emphasis on lineage) was Korean ethnicity.

While watching the DPRK documentary, Professor Larsen commented on the appearance of clearly Korean and completely alien aspects. Despite the divergent courses of national identity development (juche and developmentalism), salient features of "Koreaness" exist. Given the completely different political or civil conceptions of national identity and citizenship in the ROK and DPRK, ethnic nationalism could be the only feasible integrative option in the case of reunification. Moreover, I find the current political or civil conception of nationalism in the US(since the US deals with ethnic diversity, I would argue the form of national identity must be constructed of civil values) problematic and ultimately "destructive" and "dangerous."

One key function of nationalism is its ability to unite individuals under a political identity. In the case of the US, a national myth of accepting diversity exists (i.e. "melting pot"). As South Korea is increasingly affected by globalization (and particularly immigration) it will be interesting to see how the conception of Korean identity develops - if it will adopt more of a civic or political tone or if ethnic nationalism will become stronger. Although ethnic nationalism, combined with developmentalism, was a profound mobilizing force and would be easy continue unifying and motivating Koreans for generations, I can see the use of Korea's accomplishment of democratization and emergence of civil society as a way to change the conception to a more civic tone. For example, civic groups in Kwangju (that have emerged as Korean civil society has developed in the last twenty years) focus on the city's image as a "Mecca for democracy."

Mechanisms of transmitting and inculcating nationalism
What particularly interested me in the Jager piece was how she linked the abstract notion of Korean nationalism with various mechanisms that "make" Korean citizens. Although I didn't see Foucault mentioned in any of the chapters we read, the discussion of Saemul Undong particularly reminded me of Foucault's discussions of the "technologies of the self" in Discipline and Punish: the Birth of Prison. Jager describes the socialization process through which farmers are transformed away from the influence of sadaejuui and into independent, productive and patriotic modern citizens and workers through a regimen that combined rigid schedules and exercise with patriotic rituals. This ideal of the patriotic farmer/worker was further incentivized through the Saemaul Prize, which connected national heroism to work.

Military conscription is a another process, referenced as a significant contributing factor but not as thoroughly described by Moon, through which Korean citizenship is inculcated through directly connecting physical activities, schedules, regimens, and signals with a highly developed national purpose. As Moon argues that this participation reinforces a militarized Korean national identity that further asserts patriarchy; men are active participants and women are relegated to the domestic sphere by lack of this opportunity to participate.

Jager's symbolic analysis of the War Memorial provides insight into another mechanism socializing visitors towards a particular conception of Korean national identity. Like our discussion of textbooks earlier in the semester, although the are no measurements of pre-War Memorial visit thoughts on Korean nationalism and post-War Memorial feelings of patriotism and it is hard to say that the particular conception of Korean nationalism presented resonates similarly with all visitors, it is a valuable indicator of one state sanctioned conception of national identity with socializing capabilities. It is the active participatory aspect of visiting, seeing, pledging and interacting with state sanctioned symbols that, I think, inculcates a sense of pride in the Korean military and the Korean nation and further asserts the state's construction of national identity. This is especially evident in Jager's discussion of visitors being able to touch weapons and the exhibition manual that explicates how visitors are to connect their visit with actions to patriotism: “The aim of the War Memorial is to become a place where people can go to pledge themselves to the dream of realizing national unification by learning form our heroes and from their pride and love of country” (125). Moreover, the War Memorial simultaneously sanctifies and makes the ideal of sacrifice for Korea accessible through the "One Hero per Month" exhibit which seeks to forge a "homogeneous and continuous national subject who is both unique and yet ordinary, distinct yet indistinguishable” (123).

Gender, Agency, Participation and National Identity
As Moon offers hope for Korean women to emerge from self and socially-ascribed relegation to the domestic sphere, Jager’s conclusion of the new idea of Korean masculinity based on Kim Dae Jung’s example of endurance and forgiveness as legitimate and powerful offers an alternative to the previous militarized option of masculinity. Hopefully the new model of masculinity identified by Kim, with the emerging sense of agency for Korean women, will extend a sense of agency for individuals to construct their own identity as Korean citizens – male and female.

On a final note, I can't help but think my view of Morocco is somehow seen through the lens of Korean nationalism. Which, has actually made for some interesting comparisons, particularly regarding (colonial & post-colonial) language policy and the impact of the colonial power on the education system (the French and Spanish really did not build schools in Morocco, let alone impose a blueprint for an education system, which is making me reconsider the validity of Carter Eckert's suggestion of the Japanese contributions to Korea's development.)

Friday, May 04, 2007

The Fate of BDA

There has been some comment in the media about a South Korean takeover of Banco Delta Asia in response to its impending bankruptcy. Yonhap article, and blog comments from dprkstudies.

We'll have to see for sure, but I stand by my earlier assessment that BDA would go under one way or another.

Does this story belong in the irony column?

An Interesting Interpretation of North Korea

Because I'm kind of cruel to myself, and I have a bizarre desire to read things that make me frustrated, I picked up the entirety of Bruce Cumings book North Korea: Another Country in the library. OK, so it was also for research for my nationalism class because I needed someone who liked North Korea. And he does. But I read most of the rest of it and was... surprised.

Cumings spends significant amounts of time berating not only the US government but also the US population for forgetting about Korea and subsequently ignoring it. How could, he wonders, the US society simply forget about all the horrible things they did in Korea? (Because, maybe, we've done that and more in other places? And we don't think about that either?) He, as we read, accuses the US government of racism, stupidity, and cruelty.

However, for me, the hardest part to swallow was Cumings' discussion of life in North Korea. He does make the point that their rhetoric is difficult to swallow and overwhelming every part of life, that their belief that juche and Kim's philosophies will solve everything are ridiculous. But he goes on to describe how wonderful Pyongyang is. It's very clean. The people are orderly, humble, unassuming, honorable, and kind. They are so wonderfully traditional, family values are everywhere, young people don't even hold hands, let alone have premarital sex. He emphasizes their triumph over a slave-holding, class stratified society. He praises how they held on to Confucian values so strongly, that they have created a "family state". They have modern conveniences without any of the evil, awful corruption of modern society. They are egalitarian, with a very small elite ruling over a country where everyone else is equal. The people in North Korea are everything traditional Koreans should be. Even people in South Korea look up to their ability to preserve the true Korean nation. It is a modern Utopia. No, seriously, he calls it Utopia. It is perfect, rural, bucolic, serene, and wonderful. OK, yes, the government's a little repressive. But really, it's not Kim Jong Il's fault. He's a nice, sensitive man who is uncomfortable about his body, and really just wants to live a normal life. It's kind of shame about the hair, though. They have succeeded where the South Koreans have failed, in creating an independent state free of outside predatory influences. South Koreans, of course, have been dependent on the US, and cannot compete with the the North's victorious independent course in the world.

Cumings, in his book, equates North Korea's society with a perfect traditional society seeking to preserve itself. The experience of reading it reminded me, strongly, of reading the Japanese history textbooks. When you read them, it seems plausible that what is written is correct, that North Korea really is clean and wonderful, and it's really just because no one understands them that they're so despised. (I mean, really, the ambassadors don't even speak Korean! How could they possibly appreciate the perfection that is North Korea?) And yet, reading it, you also feel something... off. Cumings presents an incredibly one-sided picture of North Korea and seems to miss completely that most of the West's dislike of the country stems from a revulsion to the thought control and lack of rights or freedoms. He spends little time discussing the recent collapses, just mentions them after going into detail how wonderful and successful they were in the 70's and 80's. He completely ignores what, and I'm believing Prof. Larsen here, is a strong class society that DOES dictate how well you do in life. The military is hardly talked about at all. Communism is not the cause of any of their society's controls, it is simply traditional values (ones South Koreans wish they could emulate!) which dictate how the people behave.

In the end, I found the experience rather unnerving, because this is a scholar I've read before, who I know is generally respected, even if there do seem to be two of him. However, after writing a book with dual purposes (I can only assume his goals were to criticize American policy and public memory, as well as "changing our opinions" on the wonderful, Utopian, egalitarian North Korea), he has accomplished neither goal with me. Another review, associated with George Mason University, can be found here. Also, if you go into the comments here, there's an interesting argument by random people about the North vs. the South. There are, despite Cumings' accusations, people who agree with him here in the United States. And here's another, perhaps more respectable one? from the Atlantic.

Thursday, May 03, 2007

Technical Question

I see how we can check the number of posts we've written (under "edit posts"), but is there an accurate way to check the number of comments? I've tried searching the site through Google, but I know it's not bringing up all of them. Does anyone have a recommendation?


Drugs in North Korea? I am shocked, shocked.

There's a juicy article today about drug deals among the North Korean elite. It also mentions a certain "underground casino" for foreigners at the Yangkag Hotel in Yyongyang. A Google search on this hotel brings up three links--all referring to this article.

North Korea is supposedly a pusher's dream:

One North Korean tradesman ‘H’ revealed, “Drug dealers con North Koreans with money by saying that the ‘medicine’ clears the head and acts as an aphrodisiac by giving you strength. Then they let the buyers taste-test the drug for free.” H said, “After a few times, the majority of these people become addicted and the dealer sets up a relationship to sell the drug for a long time.”
The article says the drugs are mostly made in the district of Hamheung, but I'm waiting for the North Korean government to finally put two and two together and blame the CIA for all this debauchery.

Problems Learning English in South Korea

Despite South Korea's obsession with learning English, it ranked among the lowest in Asia in ability to use the language, and just dropped to 134th in TOEFL speaking scores worldwide.

I wonder if Korean language learning is a similar experience to what I saw in China. I taught English to several hundred Chinese children--somewhat against my will, like when I was lured under false pretenses and driven two hours outside of Beijing to teach an English lesson (but that's another story). The students were not supposed to have fun when learning English, because the teachers who were my minders believed that staring at textbooks and repeating after the white person was giving the students their money's worth (my Asian-American friend was rejected, incidentally, because he didn't look foreign enough). When I took them outside to play English Simon Says or other games that practiced their speaking ability outside of the classroom, all but one of my minders told me to never do that again.

There were plenty of Chinese teenagers who were not shy at all at forcing an English language lesson on the bus, at Tiananmen Square, or in a restaurant, and, much as I didn't like being a walking dictionary, I have to admit some people in China were good at practicing everyday English.

This article claims that Koreans just aren't practicing the language outside of the classroom, and it's affecting their capability to be competitive in the global market. Why would this be? Are more people there shy? Maybe there aren't as many foreigners around in Seoul? Any ideas?

ROK Abductees

This article brings up an interesting point: with all the hoopla over Japanese abductees, why is no one talking about South Korea's? Obviously, it's because South Korea doesn't want to be shut out of its fragile dialogue with the North through the 6 Party process. But according to this article, the US State Dept. has deleted mention of the 485 ROK abductees in its country report on DPRK this year.

I'm confused, though--when I did a CNTRL+F search on the 2006 Country Report on human rights for the DPRK just released, the statement was there, just like it was in last year's. Did we add it back in or is this paper really not fact-checking?

Silla's US Invasion

The history of Silla's now being taught in the US? That's what thought when I first saw this article, but it seems it's just in an elementary school teaching aid.

According to the Korea Society, on May 1, the world history magazine “Calliope,” which has been used as additional world history reading material for U.S. high school students, covered the history of the Silla Dynasty in the entire 50 pages of its March issue.
It seems a little pathetic to write a whole article on this--who cares if a tiny magazine covers part of Korean history? This quote is also odd:

I thought it would be a good chance to acknowledge Korea and Silla properly through this special edition since Korean ancient history has been inappropriately appraised between Japan and China in the U.S.
Inappropriately appraised? How much do US 'tweens really know about ancient Japanese and Chinese history?

"Disneyland is Too Far"

Okay, this post has nothing to do with Korea, but the contents of this article my friend sent me are so unbelievable/hilarious for the massive and blatant act of piracy they present, I had to share them with you.

Presenting Shijingshan Amusement Park, a fun and exciting themepark in Beijing that's not Disnelyand...seriously...


In a tantalizingly short piece, the May 2007 issue of National Geographic reports that the fossilized remains of the "largest known female ancestor of humans" was discovered "near China's border with North Korea."
"Living 260,000 years ago ...she also 'represents the most northern and eastern zone of human habitation that we know of during the Pleistocene epoch.'"
No mention of the find on the KCNA website (yet).

Wednesday, May 02, 2007

Government to Confiscate Land

This Joongang Ilbo article states that the government will confiscate about $6.7 million worth of land from the heirs of Japanese collaborators. The property will then be given to the heirs of independence fighters.

Although nice in theory, this act is alarming to me. Some of the evidence is more than 100 years old, and it is essentially the heirs of the collaborators, who have done nothing wrong, that are being punished. I can only see two possible justifications for this move: either the government thinks it's ok to punish heirs for violations committed by ancestors, or the land decrees are void due to the illegality of the colonization.

The first would be especially troubling because a free society can't allow a person to be punished due to the actions of others unless there is a fiduciary relationship. These acts took place several generations ago so there is no fiduciary duty. Imagine if we could be personally held accountable for the actions of our ancestors over 100 years ago. Where would the chain of liability end? Could it lead to a de facto caste system for these people?

In a weird way, this reminds me of Larry's earlier post on Cho's grandmother taking responsibility for his actions. But one could kind of understand a parent or grandparent being held responsible for a child's actions (although Cho was obviously not a child). We're talking about people being held responsible for the actions of their great great great great grandfather.

If it's the second reason then the government would have to hold all contracts created during the colonial period void. It would also have to prove that the colonization was illegal. This is not only impossible, but would also lead to absolute chaos.


According to a South Korean news report, members of a North Korean youth soccer team had all sorts of questions about life in the South. For example:
"What is the cross for?", one asks, and when told asks again, "What is a church?" The answer seemed to baffle them. When an official explained that many young South Koreans wear glasses because they use computers a lot, one team member said, "In North Korea, only few children and scholars who read lots of books wear glasses."
Take with the requisite usual grains of salt.

On the flip side, at a conference GWU hosted last week, Don Oberdorfer made the claim that one in ten residents of P'yongyang have radio access to the outside (with the number rising as high as 1 in 3 or even 1 in 2 along the border) and many watch DVDs produced in the ROK. He also relayed the account of a visitor to P'yongyang who was approached by a waitress in a hotel who proceeded to ask in hushed tones "Does Madonna really have AIDS?" These developments are seemingly difficult to square with the complete lack of knowledge expressed by the soccer kids. Perhaps the naivete is an act (of self-preservation)?

Tuesday, May 01, 2007


I just noticed this--it happened today (1 May). Did anyone manage to go?

Train: Film & Discussion
Join the CRF and The Institute for Multi-Track Diplomacy (IMTD) for a screening of the award-winning documentary film, Seoul Train which spotlights a harrowing and potentially explosive human rights crisis where a small group works to make a big difference in the lives of desperate refugees. A discussion will follow the movie regarding North Korea Refugees in China. Refreshments provided!

Time: 7:30 pm - 9:00 pm
Location: Lindner Family Commons - 1957 E Street
Sponsor: Conflict Resolution Forum

US Continues To List N. Korea As State Sponsor Of Terrorism

The State Department continues to name N. Korea one of the five alleged state sponsors of terrorism along with Cuba, Iran, Syria and Sudan, despite the Feb.13 six-nation agreement, in which the US says it might eliminate N. Korea from the list. See this article.

Will this Country Reports on terrorism, usually released at the end of April every year by the State Department, affect the ongoing dialogues?

Victor Cha Reveals NSC Time Machine Secret

I'll bet that got your attention. For clarification see my previous post and Prof Larsen's comment.

Some interesting non-development developments in the 6 Party Talks this week. First, the un-frozen BDA funds might actually have a new home/homes. Banks in Russia and Italy, two bastions of clean government and effectively-controlled organized crime, have offered their services to the North, according to this article from the South China Morning Post. Given Professor Larsen's comparison of Kim Jong-Il to a mob boss, I find this development most amusing. Of course, as the issue of where to transfer the money may soon be resolved, the issue of what institution will oversee the transfer emerges as the next obstacle in the road. Stunner...

Also, in other non-news news, the U.S. still considers North Korea to be a state sponsor of terrorism! According to this piece from the JoongAng Daily, the so-called hermit kingdom was included in a report on the subject released Monday. Do not fret though, advocates of engagement, "the process of removing the reclusive nation from the list has started."

It's nice to see that both sides are working hard to make it seem like they're thinking about moving forward with the talks.

In the event that things do start to move forward, the International Crisis Group (ICG) has offered its perspective on where things will/need to go. For those not familiar with ICG, it's an excellent organization that concentrates on "hot spots" for...well...crises. Examples include Taiwan, Kashmir, Afghanistan, and the Korean Peninsula. They publish some outstanding stuff in my opinion, combining thorough reporting with optimistic yet pragmatic analysis.

The latest Korea report is entitled "After the North Korea Nuclear Breakthrough: Compliance or Confrontation?" I haven't had the chance to read through it thoroughly, but it appears to offer a legitimate roadmap for progress. If I get to it soon, I'll post a synopsis.

Sea of Japan controversy

Well, it looks like the Sea of Japan/East Sea conflict is back on the agenda. Apparently there is a meeting on the 7th of the International Hydrographic Organization that will reopen the issue and potentially put it up for vote. Although most of the 78 member countries support the "Sea of Japan" name, Korean officials have vowed to lessen support for this or block the voting.

I personally think this is ridiculous as the article even points out that the "Sea of Japan" name has been used internationally since 1929. As we discussed in class, it may be the "East Sea" from the Korean perspective, but not the Japanese. And, I think Larry(?) pointed it out, without the geographical presence of Japan, there wouldn't even be a "sea" in the first place. I personally hope that this issue IS put up for vote at the IHO and settled once and for all. This is one area in which Korean nationalism has run amok.

Washington Post article on Victor Cha

I came across an interesting article on Victor Cha in the Washington Post this morning, discussing his time in office. He is apparently leaving the NSC for Georgetown, so the article profiles his time in government - what he learned and how he influenced policy, etc. Apparently, he was a big proponent of getting back to the table with Pyongyang in 2006. His "hawk engagement" policy approach seemed to win the support of the president. It's a quick and interesting read. The link is below.

NSC Post a Real-World Lesson for Cha

No Gun Ri wiki entry

I updated the No Gun Ri wikipedia entry. The base article was very detailed already, there were no new major sections for me to add, but the tone of the article was not neutral in the areas where it should have been neutral, such as the background information. There were two competing perspectives to the events at No Gun Ri presented in the entry, the AP argument and the US military argument. The arguments differ in the degree of culpability they put on the US military. It seemed as though much of the entry sided with the US military account, particularly the Bateman argument.

I focused on three things in updating the page:

1) Rewriting sections whose bias in tone was obvious - making the statements more neutral and reordering the evidence presented to give basic facts before delving into the controversial facts.

2) Adding 2 maps (one South Korea map with the No Gun Ri area marked, and one map of the No Gun Ri vicinity, pointing out the rail overpasses and the strafed areas), and 4 area images taken by aerial cameras (the images I showed in class) to provide a visualization to where the events occurred.

3) Expanding the US Army report's section by writing an introductory paragraph and pulling out the five most important key conclusions (from the pagelong list that was there in the initial entry).

One thing I learned about wiki entries - even if they are sourced correctly, they can tell remarkably different stories depending on whose side the author takes. This article was sourced in some places well, and in others not well at all, but regardless it was clear that the author of a majority of the content sided with the US military account.

Any comments or feedback is welcomed!! Thank you =)