Wednesday, April 30, 2008

Principles vs Human Rights

This article was printed in the Washington Post today.

With all the drama surrounding the Beijing Olympics, the human rights issue is once again becoming a hot topic in the region. It seems like human rights become a hot topic every couple of years. This has coincided with South Korea's harder line on North Korea and North Korean human rights have once again become an issue. The article above is criticizing South Korea's moves because taking a hard line on North Korea just leads to more human suffering in the country. But what do you do? When dealing with North Korea, you are between a rock and a hard place. North Korea does not take the necessary measures to help ensure the survival of its people, and if others pressure them to do so, North Korea reacts negatively and the people suffer worse. So you either let North Korea let their people starve or deny them aid/cause them to reject aid.. and let the people starve. What is the point in regime survival and ideological triumph if there are no people left to rejoice?

What will always say Korea...Kimchi!!!

Due to the heavy nature of our recent postings, I decided to search the Internet for a comprehensive website about Kimchi in preparation for our class meal next week at the Korean restaurant. The website I found is managed by the Korean Agro-Fisheries Trade Corp and even has a kimchi character which has been trademarked in a variety of countries to highlight the true nature of Korean kimchi which greatly differs from Japanese kimuchi. The website also goes into detail about the evolution of kimchi during various historical periods in Korea. The evolution of kimchi and the ingredients used is attributed to the various patterns of trade in East Asia over the years and the pivotal introduction of the red chili to Korea from Japan in the early 17th century. The website also describes the fermentation process as well as the science and tricks of the trade behind delicious, fresh kimchi.

Movie Screening

Apparently on Monday at the Library of Congress the North Korean Freedom Coalition organized a screening of "Crossing" directed by Kim Tae-kyun in celebration of North Korean Freedom Week. The article in English from Chosun Ilbo expressed that there was a whole lot of crying going on during the movie that continued to build with each traumatic scene depicting the struggle of a North Korean family torn apart by famine and poverty and then the hardship of life as a refugee outside of the DPRK. For the material of the film hundreds of interview were conducted with North Korean refugees in China and South Korea in order to gain a realist insight into the actual situations they faced. The article compares the film on a humanitarian level to the "Diary of Anne Frank" has this film exposes the horrors of governmental policy and folly upon ordinary people. Hopefully this film will be shown at other events soon so that momentum and interest on the humanitarian situation in the DPRK will be recognized by more citizens worldwide as the art of the moving image is certainly a great communicator.

The patriotic deed of Yoon Bong-gil in 1932

"The Japanese National Anthem was being played, when a youth was seen to step forward and place a cylinder on the front of the dais and then dart backwards. A dull explosion immediately followed, but it attracted so little attention that the music continued playing. ... others were seen to collapse wounded and bleeding, while soldiers seized the youth and battered him. Subsequently, another bomb of the same pattern was found near the dais unexploded. "

[May 28th London News]

On 29th April, 1932, there was a bombing attack at Japanese army celebration of Emperor Hirohito's birthday in Shanghai. It was conducted by 25-year old Korean young man, Yoon Bong-gil. This bombing was targeted at Japanese imperialists. It actually killed Yoshinori Shirakawa (a general of Imperial Japanese Army), and Kawabata Sadaji,(a Government Chancellor of Japaneses residents in Shanghai) and injured Kenkichi Ueda (Division 9 commander of Japanese Imperial Army), Kuramatsu Murai (Japanese Consul-General in Shanghai) and Shigemitsu Mamoru (Japanese Envoy in Shanghai).

Yoon Bong-gil was captured on the spot, sentenced to death by Japanese military court in Shanghai and transferred to Osaka prison in Novemeber. He was executed in Kanazawa on 18th December that year.

I respect for all his patriotic deeds and sacrifice himself for the liberation of Korea.
Through this historic event, on the other hand, I also contemplate the definition of history.
It can be seen as a terrorist attack in terms of Japan. However, he was regarded as an intrepid hero for other Japanese colonies in Asia, not to mention Korea. This clearly demonstrates how history can be differently interpreted by its own national context and sentiment.

Tuesday, April 29, 2008

A Very Rough Landing

Oh yeah, what ever happened to South Korea’s first astronaut Yi So-yeon, who launched into space on April 8? I asked myself that question yesterday, surfed around, and found these reports. Here. Here. And here.

Apparently, the 29 yr-old Ph.D graduate of Korea Advanced Institute of Science and Technology (so I guess she’s kind of smart) got a pretty good scare as the Soyuz TMA-12 re-entered Earth’s atmosphere on Sat Apr 19. Due to still-unknown complications, the spacecraft went out-of-control and landed well short of the intended landing site in Russia. We’re talking 260 miles off course!! And the Soyuz ended up in Kazakhstan!!

Fortunately, everyone was OK. And when the astronauts cracked open the capsule door, the they were greeted by Kazah locals, who were probably quite surprised that martians do in fact look like humans. At any rate, I’m sure Borat must’ve had fun with that.

Kidding aside, Yi So-yeon was hospitalized today for severe back pains as a result of the landing. One of the reports said she probably absorbed more shock b/c the capsule hit the ground near her seat.

Let’s hope and pray that this talented young woman quickly restores to full health and goes on to have a long and successful career.

Monday, April 28, 2008

Prolonged Stalemate

I found this op-ed in the Korea Times that advances an overall balanced perspective (in my opinion) on the recent US-ROK-DPRK dialogue.

The author appropriately places blame on all three nations for failing to build trust. While it’s no surprise that the North rejects President Lee Myung-bak new strategy, the manner in which it did made matters exponentially counterproductive and calls into question the North’s intentions to seriously work with the South’s new government. At the same time, Mr. Lee has a dilemma on his hands. He has committed to implementing a tougher North Korea policy. But is ready to weather the economic, political, and security implications in sticking to this policy should the KJR become more provocative?
Equally compelling is Lee’s stance at time when the US seems to be reversing course.

Sunday, April 27, 2008

Olympic Torch Psses through Seoul...Chinese take the day

I just wanted to follow up now that the Olympic torch for the Beijing Olympics has successfully passed through Seoul on its way to North Korea. The torch was not extinguished nor stopped and there was a relatively small group of protesters which were overwhelmed by thousands of Patriotic flag waving Chinese students. Fist fights broke out as the Chinese students sought to cross the police line separating the two groups.

South Korea's Top Student

The education has always been a top issue in every country.
The South Korea is no exception.
This NY Times article is about top-notch Korean students who strive to get into U.S. universities. This story led me think of lots of things. (i.e., about Korean society, its cramming stytem of education, and even myself)

Indeed, it is a solemn reflection of Korean society.
It is a quite well-known fact that Korean students work so hard to get into prestigeous universities.
Korean students' absolute objective is to go on to prestigeous university.
Unless they achieve their goal, it is commonly observed that they retake the Korean SAT simply to get into specific university, based on the perception that it determines their life significantly.
As article described, going to American schools is a prevalent phenomenon or fad among top-notch students. This group of students are assuredly top students who hope to unfold their dreams by going to U.S. universities.
Their parents can also afford to get high education to their children.

I have mixed feelings about this matter since I am exactly inbetween.
I dislike its negativities for sure.
(Excessive competition, distrust, lack of morality, academic cliquishness)
However, it makes me feel somewhat sad to see this as an object of scorn, at the same time. Because it is natural for human to pursue such ambitions in order to live in better conditions, including myself. Besides, the enthusiasm about education undoubtedly served as a great impetus to move Korean economy forward.
One of the student's statement lingers my mind.
"I feel proud that I’ve endured another day."

What do you interpret this phenomenon?
Please check out the life of these highly motivated Korean students.

Saturday, April 26, 2008

More Dokdo/Takeshima..

A couple weeks ago Dr. Larsen circulated a new fancy document produced by the Japanese Ministry of Foreign Affairs on Takeshima. A couple days ago the Chosun Ilbo published a response to this document. I did not notice any new/unusual points. These are the type of things that keep the cycle of provocations going. One side does something, like publish a document or make a comment, the other responds.. etc. And both sides think they are completely 100% correct.. so what can you do to end it??

This is the Japanese document.

This is the response in Chosun Ilbo, which tends to be a more conservative paper that often publishes stories about "threats" and "insults" to Korea.

This is completely unrelated to our class, but I found a really good Korean radio station online. It plays different kinds of Korean music at different times of the day. Sometimes it has annoying English lessons, so just check it out at a different time if you tune in during that. You should listen to this station as you write your final paper.. for inspiration.

Olympic Torch To Pass Through Seoul

United States embassy in Seoul has warned Americans living in Seoul to avoid "unnecessary travel" on Sunday April 27. As the Olympic torch, set to pass through the streets of the capital city, will most likely meet resistance by anti-Chinese , human rights protesters. As you may know, (unless you have been living in a cave or Gelman library), the Olympic torch relay for the Beijing 2008 summer Olympics has been disrupted several times around the globe and Seoul now braces for similar protests. South Korean Polices vow to crack down on any and all planned disturbances.
"Those who attempt to stop the relay will surely be arrested on the site and given stern punishment," an NPA official said to Yonhap news. I sincerely hope that there will not be any violence but I also think that protesters need to be allowed to express their extreme anger toward China since there seems to be lack of any consistent substinative response on the part of world leaders. An outcry from the populous in Asia, especially in countries in China's back yard may carry more weight with Chinese people than those coming from the west.
In the meantime China is doing its best to encourage friend ship (and discourage hooliganism) during this historic time. Chinese Ambassador to S Korea: Share dream, promote friendship

Friday, April 25, 2008

Kill 'Em All (1-5) Freedom and Democracy

I post a documentary film that I wanted to share with you all during the class.
The title is "Kill'em all" (BBC), which attempts to disclose highly controversial incident in a objective manner. Please check thess all 5 pieces.

Korean National image

Korea’s national image has fallen. According to Germany’s brand agency Anholt-GMI, Korea ranked 25th in the national brand power category among 35 nations in 2005, but it fell to the 32nd place among 38 nations in the last quarter of 2007. It even trails China and Mexico. Korea’s national brand is far weaker than its economic power.

To me, strong nationalism and indominatable spirit come up to my mind first when I think of my home country, the Korea.
If we confine only to the South Korea, I have to admit that those factors are seen as negativity of Korea, meanwhile they surely served as a momentum of development.
How can you describe your image of the Korea? Is it close to positive or negative?

Al-Jazeera People Power North Korea

The documentary film that I mentioned after class this week was Peter Tetteroo's "Welcome to North Korea", which was posted by Axel already. Thanks, Axel!
Along with Peter'Tetteroo's in 2001,
I would like to recommend you to watch this. This was produced by another German journalist Pieter Fleury. It was aired in Al-Jazeera TV.
It interestingly demonstrated North Korea's anti-Americanism.
Indeed, three things that define NK are national pride, anti-Americanism and siege mentality. Particulary, some phrase which came out of from little child's mouth still lingers my mind after watching this video clip.
"The pathetic Americans kneel on the ground. They beg for mercy."

This remind me of Professor Kirk Larsen's anecdote about generational inheritance of anti-Japanism occurred in the subway, Seoul.

Thursday, April 24, 2008

NK diplomacy as an agenda of U.S. presidential race

While watching U.S. presidential preliminary race, I have the impression that the Iraq war is the only important agenda here. Undeniably, it was hard to hear about any DPRK-related foreign policies from potential candiadates. However, it appears that Demorcrat Barack Obama's recent appeasement nuanced toward DPRK is still a contentious issue, triggering criticism from opponents. According to the article, Republican presidential candidate John McCain challenged Democrat Barack Obama's approach to diplomacy on Thursday, saying U.S. charges that North Korea gave nuclear assistance to Syria showed the folly of unconditional talks with foreign adversaries. Specifically, MaCain said that:
"should explain to the American people how talking unconditionally to dictators like Kim Jong-il in the aftermath of recent disclosures advances American interests."
Apparently, it is quite widely accepted that engagement is inevitable appraoch for the U.S.
Even assuming so, it remains as a great unresolved dispute as to how the U.S. cope with such rebellious state as the DPRK between the appeasement and the hardline.
The U.S. possibly maintains its consistency toward DPRK in the next administration?
That must be the questions for many.
Check out this article.

Economy is Slow Going

Finally, some really good numbers on the South Korean economy thanks to first quarter reports. The news is not rosy as the economy is at its slowest expansion in 3 years. Factors of the economic slowdown include the rise in oil costs and consumer spending decreasing by the day. The second quarter is predicted to slow even more adding pressure to President Lee's new to-do-list. It appears that although raw input costs have risen which inevitably halts corporate spending and expansion, South Korea is simply reflecting the impact of the global recession caused by the US credit crisis. Time will tell if the Bank of Korea will also be reduced to cutting interest rates like in so many other countries have when faced with the dire need to stimulate the economy. For a complete article and the quips of senior South Korean economists, click here.

US to import North Korean...

US to import North Korean... soju?!

This soju will run $90-$100 a box and $10-$12 a bottle. I wonder if this will actually happen and if it will expand.

Wednesday, April 23, 2008


Sorry but I realized that I had forgotten to post references for the documentary I included in my blog post earlier. The title of the video is:

"Welcome to North Korea" by Peter Tetteroo for KRO Television, 2001

Length: 50 minutes

US to brief on alleged N.Korea-Syria nuclear link

The Bush Administration has decided that it would start briefing members of Congress today on alleged connections between Syria and North Korea in creating a nuclear powered reactor. This occurs months after an Israeli air raid in Syria on Sept. 6th, 2007 revealed suspicious structures in Syria. At first, only "appropriate" members of Congress had been informed, which is often the case when dealing with sensitive matters concerning international issues. Even though other lawmakers will be briefed today, they will only be the ones serving on military and intelligence committees.

The issue is that the United States wants to negotiate with North Korean officials, yet most of the work had been done behind closed doors. As more information is known about the Syrian issue, it can become problematic as Syria was never covered in previous negotiations/talks. As the situation develops, it will be interesting to see what this can lead to in the future.

As we have seen in class throughout the semester, negotiations with the North Korean regime have always been complicated. As the Bush presidency comes to a close this year, it will be interesting to see what their last efforts in the field of foreign affairs yield. Soon, another Administration will have to start negotiating with them, which can only leave us to wonder what their strategy will be concerning North Korea.


Also, I found this interesting documentary that was shot in 2001 by a Dutch reporter crew. It is interesting to watch if you get the chance.

Tuesday, April 22, 2008

The Samsung chairman, Lee Kun-hee, resigns over scandal

Samsung Group Chairman Lee Kun-hee, who had been indicted on tax evasion and other charges, said Tuesday he was stepping down after 20 years as chief of South Korea's biggest conglomerate. There is some news article from the New York times.
Special prosecutors Thursday indicted Lee on charges of evading 112.8 billion won ($113 million) in taxes, ending a three-month probe in the family-run conglomerate prompted by allegations of wrongdoing by a former Samsung lawyer. However, the Prosecutors dismissed the most explosive claim -that Samsung used affiliates to raise a slush fund to bribe influential South Koreans for lack of evidence. They also decided to indict Lee without arrest, saying his apprehension was too big a risk for South Korea, citing ''the extremely competitive global economic situation.''
These results from the special prosecutors provoked widespread criticism from Korean public. However, it is not expected for Lee Kun-hee to step down.
Besides his stepping down, Samsung said that it would eliminate its Strategic Planning Office, long a lightning rod for critics of its management structure. Samsung also said Lee would pay the taxes he is accused of evading and that $4.5 trillion of won ($4.5 billion) of his assets special investigators discovered in stock and bank accounts would not be used by Lee personally. Addressing two key issues, Samsung said it would not move into the banking sector, nor would it set up a holding company.
Lee Kun-hee’s decision was surprising to most of Korean people, but it is still controversial because the family succession structure is still intact.
For example, Park Won-suk, a senior official with the People's Solidarity for Participatory Democracy, a leading shareholders' activist group said that "This cannot be considered a major reform measure even with Lee stepping down, because the management structure of Samsung is built up so that he can influence it as he wishes anyway."

Chairman Lee Kun-hee and Vice Chairman Lee Hak-soo

The Bataan Death March

Have you ever heard of the Bataan Death March?

It is one of the Japanese war crime took place in the Philippines in 1942. The 60-mile (97 km) march occurred after the three-month Battle of Bataan in the Philippines (1941–42), during World War II. The march involves the forcible transfer of 90,000 to 100,000 American and Filipino prisoners captured by the Japanese in the Philippines from the Bataan peninsula to prison camps. During the march, Japanese soldiers committed wide-ranging physical abuse, murder, and very high fatalities were inflicted upon the prisoners and civilians along the route. Beheadings, cut throats and being casually shot were the more common and merciful actions — compared to bayonet stabbings, rapes, guttings (disembowelments), numerous rifle butt beatings and a deliberate refusal to allow the prisoners food or water while keeping them continually marching for nearly a week (for the slowest survivors) in tropical heat. It was as horrible as other Japanese war crime.

I found a website which contains testimony from the Bataan survivors. What I found very interesting in the website is the American victims’ attitude in comparison with Asian countries’ public’s attitude. Most of Asian countries’ museum and websites contains certain degree of nationalism and collective antipathy against Japan (For example, the Chinese website on the Nanking massacre). However, this site is just trying to record and remember what happened in the Bataan and trying not to be emotional. Is this a difference of culture? Or American public perceived Japan was underwent enough punishment while Asian countries’ public still do not think so?

Some testimonies from the website:

"On the first day, I saw two things I will never forget. A Filipino man had been beheaded. His body lay on the ground with blood everywhere. His head was a short distance away. Also, there was a dead Filipino woman with her legs spread apart and her dress pulled up over her. She obviously had been raped and there was a bamboo stake in her private area. These are instances I would like to forget."

"They were expected to keep up like everyone else, regardless of their condition. But, some wounded prisoners just couldn't go on. They were either bayoneted, beat with clubs, rifle butts, or shot. Some soldiers had diarrhea so bad that they couldn't keep up and the Japanese shot them."


Whatever else one may think of him, Christopher Hitchens is seldom if ever at a loss for words. Here, he takes on North Korea and what he sees as the Bush Administration's decoupling of disarmament and human rights issues. I have quite a bit of sympathy for his overarching point: what are we going to say to the citizens of North Korea if and when their oppressive regime collapses about what we did concerning their plight in the 90s and the 00s? On the other hand, it is hard to know what to do with this concern. What, exactly, would Hitchens or anyone else have Washington do about P'yongyang? Tighter sanctions (which would hurt the marginalized "hostile classes" of North Korea more than the leadership)? Stronger rhetoric (which always seems to prompt a howl of protest from the DPRK)? Something else? Like Gen. John Hodge of the USAMGIK in the late 1940s, I don't know the answer to this but wish I did.

Sunday, April 20, 2008

Kicking it at Camp David

Publicly, it seems as if President Bush and President Lee have been getting along as well as expected during Lee Myung-bak's trip to Camp David. The future of trade relations between the two countries topped the discussion list as the realization of a South Korea-US FTA may be realized since the South Korean Parliament rescinded the ban of US beef imports. Bush declared that he will press Congress to agree to the FTA agreement but the increased importation of Korean cars under the agreement poses a problem under the Democratic controlled Congress.
Bush also spoke of the need to gain a definitive declaration of nuclear capabilities from North Korea as key to moving the stalled 6PT along with any hope of actual long term resolve of the North Korean Nuclear problem. Article

Without such a a declaration and a way to figure out if whatever claim by the North is actually a fact is the only way in which not to repeat the eventual breakdown of the GAF of 1994 in which concessions were made only to buy time against North Korea. I do not think the North Korean people who are starving all over again and the group of countries negotiation with the "rouge regime" have the time or energy to let this eruption of attention gathering occur again.

Wednesday, April 16, 2008

The Word of the Week is RICE

I have not been able to tune in to any news outlet in the past week without hearing about the rise in rice prices and the potential devastating effects a rice shortage has already put into motion. Already there have been riots in Haiti and a restriction of rice exports by Vietnam and India. With the focus centered on how the rising cost of rice will cripple impoverished people worldwide, I immediately wondered if South Korea may readjust their recent attitude toward North Korea in order to mitigate more starvation of their neighbors. The Korean Times published an article today explaining President Lee's swift actions to stave off potential hunger in the North. Part of the strategy for increasing production and food security includes storing grain in Russia's Far East and leasing land in Southeast Asia for possible simultaneous 2 or 3 crop production.

Korea and John McCain (continued)

McCain and Korea on YouTube:

"We must support our Korean allies" or John McCain's Perspectives on Korea

As we all known, Sen. John McCain has become the "soon-to-be" Republican nominee for the preseidential election to held in November. As such, he has traveled a lot over the past few months all over the world (he visited with G. Brown and N. Sarkozy) and has taken on issues of foreign issues a little bit more frequently. Therefore, his op-ed in an Arizona newspaper seems interesting, especially when it deals with relations between S. Korea and the U.S. This is also the same week that Lee Myung-bak will be in Washington, D.C.

In essence, his op-ed reminds the readers of the sacrifices made by all countries during the Korean War, but it also touches upon a lot of issues that we have talked about in class: abductions, nuclear programs, food shortages, lack of basic freedoms, etc... If you have the chance, read it as it is an interesting outline of a potential president of the United States' Korean policy...


Tuesday, April 15, 2008

Kwangju Democratic Movement

Hello. Tomorrow is the discussion about the Kwangju Uprising/Massacre/Democracy Movement/Incident. Here are a couple youtube videos to watch. I think reading about something is completely different than seeing it on video. Seeing the videos make it more personal and real.

This is a video that shows American newscasts covering the Gwangju Movement. It is VERY interesting. I think the 3rd video (the one that is playing at around the 5:00 time) is the best one.

This video is a "Remember Gwangju" video, so it focuses on the violence and destruction. I am wondering about a couple scenes from this video. In the video, you see caskets lined up with Korean flags on them and people massed to view them. Then you see more scenes of caskets made of wood with the names written on them. There is a clear difference between the memorials, so I am assuming the first group of caskets that looked more respected with the flag were soldiers who died and the others were citizens.

This is an EBS channel video, which is Korean. I think it is probably really informative.. but it is in Korean. Be aware, this one has really sad music.

This video shows a later democratic movement in 1987. I think it is the one discussed in the introduction Gi-Wook Shin from "Contentious Kwangju". Look on page xxv. I could be wrong, but I am pretty sure that part of the reading is about the movement in this video. When trying to find more information about this.. I found an interesting article from the China Post. The article is here.

First the Pope. Now who else is coming?

So Washington, DC is quite the place to be in this week. The blooming Cherry Blossoms. The Pope celebrating mass at Nationals Stadium. And finally, ROK President Lee Myung-bak’s visit to the White House on April 18-19.

This article in outlines Mr. Lee’s agenda, and you know the two main topics to be discussed will be the KORUS-FTA and North Korea’s nuclear program.
Because Lee promised to revitalize the ROK economy during his campaign, he certainly has to be concerned over recent protectionist actions and rhetoric coming from US Congress and presidential candidates Barack Obama and Hillary Clinton, especially after the House rejected the Colombia FTA. In my opinion, I hope Congress and the next administration will look beyond the economic implications of this FTA and think more broadly of the security benefits of a strengthened US-ROK alliance. Also on the table will be the issue of what to do with the pesky North. Mr. Lee’s firmer stance on the DPRK is certainly a welcome change for President Bush, who was at odds with Roh Moo Hyun’s engagement policies. However with Bush’s lame-duck status, our presidential candidates have yet to express their strategies in dealing with the North Korean nuclear issue. At any rate, it should be interesting to hear the statements coming out of the North following Mr. Lee’s visit to the White House and his subsequent stop in Japan on April 21-21.

Sunday, April 13, 2008

Samsung investigation and 'the Catholic Priests' Association for Justice'

International Harald Tribune had an article about 'the Catholic Priests' Association for Justice' and Samsung inquiry in Korea.
The Catholic Priests' Association for Justice performed a central role in South Korean struggle for democracy during the 1980s. And now the priests are fighting against Samsung, the country's largest conglomerate, which faces allegations of large-scale bribery.
With their brave efforts, Samsung's chairman, Lee Kun Hee, was questioned, for a second time by an independent counsel investigating the corruption charges on last Friday. Lee said that "All this is due to my oversight," after a five-hour interrogation. "I will take all responsibility, whether moral or legal. I appeal for leniency for my subordinates." Lee, 66, also said he would "seriously consider shaking up my group's management structure and its management lineup, including myself." But he did not clarify whether he admitted to any wrongdoing or would step down. Bodyguards whisked him away while protesters called for his punishment.

The priests consider Samsung as 'a more elusive Leviathan' than the past dictators. In other words, they are arguing that Samsung, a father-to-son dynasty which bribes governments, politicians and judges and crushes its labor union, is a counter-force against the real democracy in Korea as military government was during 1980s.
The months-long investigation has entered the final stages. And the counsel is expected to release its findings by April 23. However, many people in Korea are skeptical about the investigation because they believe that Samsung is too powerful to handle, and the new Lee government, which is very neoliberalistic and pro-corporation, does not have strong will to investigate Samsung.

Friday, April 11, 2008


A series of short documentary-like clips of one person's encounters with the DPRK can be seen here. I find it interesting to consider what the very fact that this guy was allowed to visit and film in the North says about the current state of DPRK-foreign relations.

update: This looks interesting too.

Thursday, April 10, 2008

Current views of former anti-Japanese students

Hello. I found an Asahi Shimbun article that talks about some South Koreans who were student protesters against normalized relations with Japan and Park Chung Hee and how their views have changed today. I didn't know it before reading this article, but the new president Lee Myung Bak falls in this category. He was a student anti-Japanese activist, but today he is promoting strong South Korean-Japanese ties for the sake of development. This article also talks about how some Japanese also did not support normalized relations because they thought it may represent revival of Japanese imperialism over a former colony. This article has some opinions that are not usually covered in South Korean-Japanese relations publications. This is the article.

Wednesday, April 09, 2008

Political Consensus

I go on Korea Times online everyday and I have overlooked this article everyday for several weeks. I finally clicked on the link tonight, and it happened to be about what our class discussed today. This is an opinion piece written by Andrei Lankov. I think the article has some good information. I don't know how I feel about his point that there was not loud dissent in the 1953-1979 period in South Korea. I think there was dissent, but it was forced to be quiet. I don't think dissent was non-existent, though it may have been ignored. We will hear more about this next week. Article.

Rocket Man vs. the Bulldozer

So I just picked up this week’s Economist. And for those of you who haven’t read it yet, there’s a good article on recent North-South relations aptly titled “Rocket Man v. Bulldozer”. As anticipated in my “Sing Song Diplomacy” entry last month, it looks like music can win hearts and minds for only about oh…..a day. The Economist essay details Kim Jong-Il’s actions in response to Lee Myung-bak’s more aggressive strategy. Since February, KJI has kicked out South Korean business officials, launch naval missiles into the sea, and sent his MIG’s and army units provocatively close to the DMZ. Although the South has remained relatively calm – calling the missile tests “routine military exercises, one has to wonder how long Lee Myung-bak’s approach can persevere in the face of criticism and a DPRK looking upset a strengthening US-ROK alliance. Mr. Lee's promise of economic revitalization already looks to be in trouble with the indefinite shelving of some investment projects in the North. Indeed, both the "Rocket Man" and the Bulldozer" are playing a high-stakes game of chicken.


Japan's Foreign Ministry throws down the gauntlet here. I find the timing of this a bit puzzling since the rhetoric of the newly elected South Korean president, Myung-bak Lee, appeared to provide an opening for not going down the usual path of conflict and controversy. Plus ca change ...

Tuesday, April 08, 2008

‘China’s Political Fragility’ and ethnic minority problems

I went to Prof. Susan Shirk’s lecture today, titled as “The Foreign Policy Implications of china’s Political Fragility.” You will be able to find her interview on her recent book (China: Fragile Superpower) here and her lecture clip here. Her lecture was very good in general: she mentioned various sources of instability and the Chinese political leader’s concern for them.

However, I was surprised that she did not even mention about ethnic minority problems in China. It is very recent phenomenon, but the Tibetan case clearly demonstrates the backfiring of Chinese policy toward ethnic minority and ‘historical revisionism’. I guess she didn't understand how imfortant and sensitive the enthnicity and history issues are in the Asian culture.

I think that as much as China trying to infuse nationalism and seeking integration by historical revisionist projects such as the South West project for Tibetans, it will inevitably create resentment from minorities and even create 'resistance nationalisms' from minorities' sides. (I mentioned about the relations between the South East project and Tibet demonstrations in my previous posting on Tibet's demonstration)
At the same time, historical revisionism and nationalism will inevitably raise some ontological questions within China: What is China? Who is Chinese? The Han Chinese? The communist Chinese? Or anybody who is in current Chinese national borders? Those will be very difficult to answer and make the Chinese government's attempt as self-contradictory.
The worst case for the Chinese government is when the economic polarization problem is worsened and combined with the ethnic minority problem. It will be the most explosive situation in China.

Monday, April 07, 2008

Pieces of Memories from the Ground

In preparation for our discussion of the Korean War, I called my grandma to see what she could remember of my grandfather's experience as a member of the air force during the Korean War. (My grandfather currently resides in Arlington Cemetery, a victim of a car crash when I was 9. I get more angry about it as the years go by at the irony of him living through WWII, Korea, and Vietnam only to die in a car accident.)
I think my grandma surprised herself at how much she remembered. Although Grandpa flew bombing missions in the Atlantic during WWII right up until the end, the interwar period saw a dramatic increase of the technology and style of the planes into jets. Although he just needed some training, the large number of young pilot fresh from school and with superior training on the newer birds allowed Grandpa to be stationed on the ground. For more about the aircraft used in the Korean War by the U.S. and how technological innovation and capability restriction determined the evolution of aerial support in the war, click here. He experienced a few trips of R&R in Japan during his station in Korea and did not return until his mission ended.
He did bring an interesting souvenir home form Korea, though. Apparently, the area in South Korea where he was stationed was quite friendly with the U.S. soldiers and my grandfather became good friends with one family in particular. Because the family knew my grandfather was going to be a father soon, the patriarch of the family presented my grandfather with a set of traditional Korean baby clothes which were made by his wife. My grandma recalled how impressed she was with the vibrant colors and at the fact that the family went to the trouble to make clothes for a boy and a girls since she was indeed expecting twins.
Time permitting this weekend, it would be good to find some of his military logs as kept them all from each tour of duty served.

Saturday, April 05, 2008

North Korea Shortage Worsens

I know this is a topic that was previously discussed by Axel (here), but it is one that I find fascinating and wanted to revisit and comment on myself.
In case you haven't heard North Korea is once again in a food shortage.
The World Food Program has warned (Mar 2008) that the North could face the worst food shortage seen in quite some time. Since severe floods swept through last summer, destroying over 10% of the North's crops the country has yet to fully recover. In this article from Radio-Netherlands Everyday North Koreans are failing to report to work citing hunger as the cause. Coupons are being introduced in Pyongyang where hunger and malnutrition could lead to death. According to (this) article from the associated press, the shortage has even begun to touch even the communist country's "elite class" (I know it sounds like an oxymoron to me too) who find themselves under ration also. What makes this even more dangerous is the fact that tensions between North Korea, South Korea and the US seem to heightened at this time.
Food shortages are not a unique occurrence in North Korea so why is this different then all of the other times?
In a 2006 BBC News article titled "North Korea Food Shortage Critical" the issue of North Korea's seemingly perpetual food shortage again was once again placed on the table. At this time it was as a result of
President Kim Jong-Il's nuclear test, which prompted many in the international community to think twice before sending aid to the North. Prior to that BBC in 2005 published an article in which they discussed how North Korea's geography contributes to its chronic food problems. From the BBC: "North Korea is not an agrarian country," said Kathi Zellweger, a frequent visitor to the country with aid organization Caritas. It is mostly rugged mountain terrain, and only about 18% is arable." According to a 2005 USA today Article on the same issue the World Food Program at that time fed a quarter of North Korea's Population. It said that the Korean government farm system had Fallen apart and as a result famine was believed to have killed around 2 million people.
In the April 4th edition of the New York Times Kim Jung Il was quoted as saying that he didn't need any help form the South and called the New president of south Korea an impostor and a U.S. sycophant. A statement that would make his people's situation even more difficult to improve. Also, Don't forget that the "dear leader" will not forgo his big- birthday- bash (yes thats 3 b's) Food shortage or not. In 1990's during the last great famine in North Korea, while millions were dying, plans for Kim Jung Il's birthday celebrations carried on.

So if it is true that North Korea is not an agrarian nation, its farm system is all but dead, it relies nearly completely on the outside world to feed a significant part of its population and its leader (who, obviously holds his poor in such low regard), is more than willing to use the starvation of his people as a bargaining chip to get what he wants then why hold back aid to the people of North Korea? The starvation of innocent people should not depend on whim of its leader. If food aid continued to come into North Korea no matter what kind of stance Kim Jung Il takes on denuclearizing wouldn't that take away a major negotiating weapon? I could not understand why the west and South Korea punish the North Korean People for the actions of actions of its leader. Does not with holding food aid to a starving people make our governments just as culpable as their own government in their demise?
I'm anxious to hear a response on this one

South Korea Added to U.S. Visa Waiver Program

If you are South Korean and looking to visit the U.S. for a vacation you may want to hold your plans until Later 2008.
According to the Korea Times: "
South Koreans will be able to visit the United States for up to three months visa-free beginning December." In a meeting late last month with Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice South Korean Foreign Minister Yu Myung-hwan said that The US and South Korea: "agreed to expedite the process of Korea's participation in the U.S. Visa Waiver Program to promote people-to-people exchange and mutual understanding between our two countries."
Perhaps this is a foreshadowing of good things to come between the nations who have seen relations grow tense during the Bush 2/ Roh administrations. It certainly looks like a positive step in the right direction
. According to the Korea TImes piece, Secretary Michael Chertoff will sign a memorandum of understanding during President Lee Myung-bak's U.S. visit later this month.

Friday, April 04, 2008

North Korea changing its tune

As we have seen recently, the language used by North and South Korea had changed drastically. As a result, North Korea is now asking China for food assistance instead of Seoul. This comes as a result of the heightened tension between the two states over the past few days. Beijing has yet to respond to this appeal, but Seoul said it would still provide assistance if asked for it.
This is the result of a change in rethoric between the two states, a situation everyone will be monitoring fairly closely.


Tuesday, April 01, 2008

Current Situation on the Peninsula

Hello. We have seen some news about Lee Myung-bak's North Korean policy and the North Korean reactions, and today had a video that was a good mini overview of the situation as it stands today. It also interviews some South Koreans to get their take on the situation. According to this video, South Koreans are not that concerned with the North's reaction and seem to see it as natural considering there is a new president with different policies. I don't know how long the video will be visible, but it is in today's cnn videos (April 1, 2008) and is titled Korean Tensions Escalate.

Africa: North Korea's New Friend?

This is an interesting article that I found online today that mentions a state visit conducted by Kim Yong Nam, the president of the Presidium of the Supreme People’s Assembly, to several African countries. This is a part of a "goodwill" tour undertaken by the North Korean leader to different African states to sign agreements in education, health, and other related topics. This is interesting because Uganda and North Korea have enjoyed good relations since 1972 (date of the establishment of diplomatic relations) and Ugandan president Museveni has often "Saluted the late Kim Il Sung for his commendable and outstanding work towards the development of Korea and in the same vein lauded his successor Kim Jong Il for having effectively continued implementing the policies of Kim Il Sung."

As part of the tour, the North Korean leader will travel to Namibia and the Democratic Republic of the Congo as well.