Category: Politics

News Update 10-11-2013

By , October 11, 2013 2:15 pm

A survey of 21 advanced countries shows that student respect for teachers is lowest in Korea. Only 11% of Korean said students respected teachers. Korea was actually third from the bottom, above Israel and Japan.


Korea has privately run prisons. According to the Korea Times, The inmates of Somang often describe the prison as a “hotel” when compared to other prisons they’ve been in.

It appears to be working. The average national recidivism rate is 62%, whereas Somang prison’s target is 4%.

The difference between this and private prisons in the United States? Somang is not-for-profit.


Namdaemun is Korea’s largest traditional market. As such it attracts many foreign tourists already. What could make it better? turn it into a department store.

some folks are born silver spoon in hand,
Lord, they don’t help themselves, oh

It ain’t me, it ain’t me,
I ain’t one of the almost 200 high-ranking government officials who dodged mandatory military service.


An increasing number of Koreans who went to America to study are returning to Korea afterwards rather than working in America – due to how hard it is to get a job over there.

The accused Nakji murderer has been acquitted on his third appeal. The father of the victim says he no longer believes in the law.

Who’s that creep taking videos of girls on the subway? He’s the head of a large corporation.


In North Korean news, the Huffington Post has an article about marijuana in the hermit kingdom. Apparently, “it’s not a drug, man”.

And North Korea is accusing Switzerland of discrimination, specifically with regards to ski equipment, which falls under the UN sanction against exporting “luxury goods” to North Korea.

It appears North Korea might be right in this case. After all, poor and rich alike go skiing.


War propaganda from North Korea always has something of a robust quality to it.

Whether it’s “defending” their country from the ruthless American “invaders”, or protecting their cultural heritage, the unique and specific graphic style lends itself to any use at all.

check out the billboard on this article.

Attack the mountain!


If you’re interested in joining the National Geographic Traveler photo contest, don’t go to North Korea. That’s one of the wastelands ineligible for the contest, along with Iran, Sudan, Syria, New Jersey, Vermont and Québec.

Québec’s a little bit pissed.


Up in the sky! It’s a bird! It’s a plane! It’s a balloon with a poster about Kim Jong-Un’s wife being in a porno.


More on the busker busker controversy from Asian junkie.

It’s all based on his recent interview with VICE’s music arm, NOISEY.

My favorite quote:

““We were popular because we were on TV, but we couldn’t legally make money,” Moore says, underscoring a strange norm in Korean entertainment law. “We were at ‘amateur status’ in the broadcasting contract. So, like, Coca-Cola comes in and we spend all day doing a Coca-Cola commercial, but they pay the [show’s] company—not the artist. We were on the show for eight weeks straight, and we did commercials for eight weeks straight. We took home no money from that.””

News Update 2013-07-29

By , July 29, 2013 2:51 am

news update

A new law makes smoking in PC-bangs illegal. So what’s any self-respecting PC-bang owner to do? Shut down, apparently, and reopen as a “smoking room (with free PC use).

A man was sentenced to just 7 years in prison for the serial rape of his daughter. (Korean Article)

Several students drowned when 90 were ordered into the water without lifejackets and with only two trainee lifeguards. (Korean Article)

Korean companies are being ordered to sell their holdings in the Russian fishing industry in a landmark antitrust ruling

The anniversary of the Korean war has passed, and North Korea has marked it with their annual “Victory Day” celebration.

Meanwhile, Ken Bae is still being held by North Korea for espionage.

Japanese PM Shinzo Abe agrees with the Philippines: “Whoever those islands belong to, it’s not China, you got it?”

Entertainment soldiers are being punished for their breaches of protocol.

Barack Obama has declared July 27th to be National Korean War Veterans Armistice Day. In keeping with Korean custom, this day is not a day off of work.

That video with foreigners abusing a Korean girl, that people thought might have been fake? It turns out it’s fake.

From the author of the article:

And something I should dedicate a whole article to: the whole Northern Limit Line / NIS scandal is spiraling out of control.

The Incheon Free Economic Zone is on its last legs after news that the Cheongna project may be cancelled.

News Update 07/21/2013

By , July 21, 2013 10:23 pm

news updateHey guys, I’m sorry but I haven’t been up to my usual schedule with these news updates for the last couple weeks. I’ve been busy with other things, you see.

I want this news update to start a regular weekly schedule again like I had planned to do last month.

First up, North Korean news. As we approach the 60th anniversary of the Korean War, that conflict and its belligerents come more and more readily to mind for people living outside of the country. The Hankoryeh hasa series of photos from the war in two parts.

North Korea has decided to pick the former ambassador to the UK, Ri Yong-ho to represent the DPRK at a regional peace conference.

The truce village hotline remains severed since Pyongyang disconnected it in March.

And North Korea is warning of a “catastrophe” if South Korean and American forces undertake their annual military drill in August. Yawn.

In Japan, Prime Minister Shinzo Abe won a resounding victory and renewed his claim to the disputed Diaoyu / Senkaku islands.

Earlier this year, he made Korean newspapers by posing in a jet fighter bearing the number 731.

And in May, he went with a bunch of lawmakers to pay homage to Japan’s WW2 war dead at the Yasukuni shrine.

And remember how the Saenuri Party had that transcript of the 2007 inter-Korean summit given to them by the NIS, and the Democrat Party wanted to see the original copy to make sure that it wasn’t being doctored? The one leaked by the NIS earlier this month in order to draw attention away from the election scandal?

Well… they can’t find it anymore. More here from R. Elgin at the marmot’s hole.

A little bit more locally, police have arrested several gangsters right here in Ulsan. Translation coming soon.

As of earlier this month, the laws on rape have been updated. (korean article here) for example from now on, it is possible to punish the rape of a man, life sentences will be possible for the rape of children, and sex crimes are no longer subject to complaint, meaning they do not have to be reported by the victim themselves in order to be punishable.

Almost immediately after this law has come into effect, someone’s been arrested for one of the new crimes.

According to a survey from Transparency International, corruption is rife in South Korea and getting worse. In the rankings South Korea fares better than China, Indonesia and the Philippines, but worse than Thailand, the United States, and Japan.

Speaking of corruption, the prosecutors of finally released the list of suspects in the high profile bribery-via-sex “Wonju orgy villa” case. The list 18 members long includes former vice justice minister Kim Hak-eui, who spearheaded the “war on porn” in South Korea in the last few years.

I find it funny that the man who hates porn so much apparently starred in one. Quote: “Police also confirmed that they do indeed have three much-discussed video files that allegedly show Kim having sex with [a woman who claims she was enforced to have sex] at the villa.”

Just as English is based on Latin and Greek, and an understanding of Latin etymology (from the Greek etymon meaning “true sense”, and the suffix -logia meaning “study of” helps one understand English spelling and vocabulary, Korean is based on old Chinese, and an understanding of hanja helps one understand Korean spelling and vocabulary.

So should kids learn it in school? Parents groups and NGOs complain against the policy, whereas Korean netizens mostly claim it’s important to understand the roots of modern Korean despite its utter disuse in everyday life. For comparison, consider this newspaper from 1975. It’s practically unreadable without understanding hanja.

One last item of news today. Mr. Gusts of Popular Feeling has been providing an ongoing commentary on the Facebook video scandal here.

The video which you might have already seen, depicts some uncouth rogues from the United Kingdom playing with and assaulting a Korean girl.

The video was either staged or not staged. But it represents either profoundly bad judgment or sheer perverted malice against foreigners to take the video, re-edit it to make the participants look even worse, and publicly release it as fact. We have only to wait and see what happens.

On the National Intelligence Service

By , June 25, 2013 2:12 pm

Welcome back, sports fans, to another Korean News Update. Two weeks ago, North and South Korea looked like they were going to talk things out again – but that didn’t happen.

The National Intelligence Service – a holdover from the more oppressive Southern regimes of the past – has been all over the news this past week: after being caught meddling in the past election in favour of Park Geun-hye, three quarters of the population are in favour of a parliamentary investigation.

According to the poll, even 40% of Saenuri party members consider it “a scandal where a state organization interfered illegally in an election.”

University organizations, unsurprisingly, are leading the more active call for investigations. The activists feel that because the government and ruling party benefit from the interference, they’re reluctant to incriminate themselves even to the cost of this challenge to democracy.

As well, the NIS released a formerly secret transcript from the 2007 inter-Korean summit. This release may have also been done illegally.

Although at this point there’s no proof that the ruling government nor Saenuri Party itself is involved, and they are claiming ignorance, they don’t have to be involved for the NIS to be dismantled. But it appears the NIS is still sore about Roh Moo-hyun trying to reform it.

Security Intelligence Services aroung the world – like CSIS in Canada, ASIS in Australia, and the NSA in the United States generally run a fine line – protecting the countries they spy on. They constantly run the risk of overstepping their bounds in spying on their own citizens. As regular news-readers will know, the United States ran into flak for its warrantless, mass-wiretap program. Two years ago, the Korean NIS admitted to tapping all South Korean gmail accounts. And the UK was recently caught doing similar misdeeds to its own people.

As Jon Stewart put it, the problem isn’t that they broke laws. The problem is that none of these agencies had to. That is, without even stronger legal restrictions on what they can and can’t do – with or without official approval – the NIS is nothing but a relic of a time that Korea should leave behind.

News Update 06/09/2013

By , June 9, 2013 12:46 am

news update

Did I miss anything important? Have something to say? Comment here or on Facebook.

This week, in international news, North Korea came out of the blue to “just talk about it”. They’re meeting at Panmunjom soon to discuss the re-opening of both the beleaguered Kaesong Industrial Complex and the Mt. Kumgang resort, along with reunions of families that remain separated between the two countries.

This comes about a week after Seoul had rejected a North Korean offer to rejoin the six-party talks concerning nuclear disarmament.

It seems that issues like nuclear disarmament are off the table for these meetings, but the re-opening of Gaesong would be good (for some). Ban Ki-moon is considering visiting the complex himself. Previously, he’s expressed strong support for the complex, calling it a “successful example of inter-Korean cooperation”.

Others have criticized it as institutionalized exploitation of North Korean workers on behalf of the regime and wealthy conglomerates in the South.

In National news, meanwhile, defectors hiding in Laos who were threatened with extradition back to North Korea were moved to the South Korean embassy in an operation personally commanded by President Park Geun-hye. The President has earned firm approval ratings. The overall consensus appears to be that Park is a good leader, but bad at choosing appointees, all things considered.

The Financial Supervisory Service is collaborating with regulators in the US and Singapore to find assets hidden by Koreans in tax havens like the Cayman Islands. As usual, Investigative Journalists are the ones to prompt this renewed effort.


A new study by SKTel has revealed the demographics of Korean social media – with unsurprising results. They show that the biggest group is in their 20s, followed by those in their 30s and 40s.

This is totally unsurprising – and accounts for all users who accessed social media more than once a month.

I think if they narrowed their focus to “more than once a week” or “more than once a day”, all those 60-year-olds wouldn’t outnumber the teenagers.


And speaking of “more than once a day”, there is now a legal definition of Stalking that includes “requesting a date after three refusals” alongside other Creepy standbys as “following the other person” or “watching the other person from a distance”.


For all Bloomberg’s blustering, Korea still has a very high entrepreneurship rate, and there are more “incubators” than you can shake a stick at. A now-dated article by Jung Ku-hyun at the Maureen and Mike Mansfield Foundationexplores reasons why.


Have you thanked a plastic surgeon lately? “Let Me In”, a show on Story On Network, sponsors women to have work done, and films their experiences for a reality-tv audience.

Here’s a clip about a trans-girl.

And here’s another about a girl with a “big head and weird chin”.


And in other news,

Two recent cases of mob thinking by Korean Protestants make me feel distinctly awkward about my own affiliation.

Ahn Cheol-su is founding a policy think-tank for progressive politics, though he denies the label.

He also didn’t know how much instant ramyun costs.

Textbooks in Korea might get a whole lot worse, if Kwon Hee-young has his way.

News Update 05-27-2013

By , May 27, 2013 4:43 am

This week in the region, North Korea wants to play nice (again). When this doesn’t work, they’ll probably go and do something provocative (again). The Mayor of Osaka is getting an earful from surviving South Korean comfort women about his earlier comments. And Mount Kumgang is open again… but South Korea still won’t let its people go.

After their failed attempts to create a literal sea of firebomb the whalesprovoke an international crisis that they could use as leverage to get more protection money international aid, North Korea is suddenly and totally unexpectedly willing to talk again. They’ve called further meetings of the six-party talks, which include China, Russia, Japan, the US, South Korea, and themselves.

Since they censor and catalogue all the outgoing mail in North Korea, Dear Leader Kim was forced to send his letter by personal courier. In this letter, he re-affirmed the strong, historical “friendship” between North Korea and China, making reference to the Chinese Revolution.

For its part, Seoul remains skeptical – but put the cart before the horse in its response, saying that before the nuclear disarmament talks can start, “North Korea should first reveal its intent to denuclearize.”

Elsewhere in North Korea, tourists are visiting Mount Kumgang Resort again. Since 1998, South Koreans and other foreign tourists have been allowed by the DPRK to visit Mount Kumgang. The South Korean government has banned its citizens from travelling there after a fatal shooting in July of 2008. Since then, very few people have visited the resort.

Unfortunately, the new wave of tourists are Chinese tourists. At Egypt’s 3,500 year old Luxor Temple, Ding Jinhao was apparently there. And at the Botanical Gardens in Taitung, Taiwan last year, 500 leaves on 30 agave plants were carved into, leaving such wisdom as “Henan province Wang Gang” and “Nanjing Xiao Su was here”.

According to the article, in Taitung, these vandals even argue with the groundskeepers when they tell them to stop destroying the plants.

In both cases, the netizen response was the same: anger at the vandals, and resignation that “This is how China is”.


Meanwhile, in Japan, Osaka Mayor Toru Hashimoto is being put through the wringer. Two former sex slaves have cancelled their plans to meet with him. One of them, Kim Bok-dong, said that he should resign. I agree.

In national news, while everyone is worried about danger from the North, we are more at risk of a lot of other things here. The citations Elgin put up on the Marmot’s hole are worth reading into, if you’re interested in the details and hard numbers that (should) go into decision-making.

Among advanced countries, for example, South Korea has the highest rate of industrial accidents. And among OECD countries, South Korea has the second-longest working hours. (Mexico has the longest.)

Whereas production on weekends in other countries means hiring more workers, for Korean companies it simply means telling your employees “you no longer have weekends off”.

And Korean workers are not taking this lying down – here in Ulsan, workers at the Hyundai car plant have been on strike for 11 weekends. The strike ended May 25th.

The ongoing dispute between major manufacturing companies in Korea and Labour Unions here has to do with how wages should be calculated for overtime and severance.

Overtime and severance are calculated based on base wage. Many companies artificially decrease base wage by putting 60% of it into monthly bonuses and contract-end severance pay.

This allows them to avoid paying much in overtime, since the base wage doubled is still only 80% of take-home pay.

This shortfall in overtime between what unions want [double take-home pay] and what currently exists [double base wage only] is so great that if the manufacturers here lose the court cases currently on the table, altogether they will have to pay 34 Billion dollars to cover three years of unpaid overtime, higher pension provisions, and increased overtime wages in the first year after the court ruling.

News Update 05-20-2013

By , May 20, 2013 9:12 am

news update

NEWS UPDATE 05/20/2013

First, regional news. North Korea’s missiles weren’t a big deal, Japan is going crazy, and China thinks the whole world belongs to China.

So, there’s more important things this week than North Korea launching a few missiles into the sea. Although there’s been no threats of nuclear annihilation lately, North Korea still refuses to talk about re-opening the Kaesong industrial facility, and the Southerners who work there are out of a job. And it doesn’t help that when the North said they could come back to pack up all their stuff and do maintenance on the machines, business owners in the South said no.

Meanwhile, the mayor of Osaka, who must be feeling quite cowed by pressure from everyone who’s not an ultranationalist, admitted he might have “lacked sensitivity” when he said that wartime sex slaves, the so-called “comfort women”, were necessary. Restoration Party member Nishimura said that he might go back to red light districts in Osaka to look for South Korean comfort women – propping up the not uncommon feeling among Japan’s conservative nationalists that South Koreans living in Japan must be either criminals or prostitutes.

Even level-headed, bloggers dedicated to mutual understanding between SKorea and Japan have started getting angry about Japan’s hard right turn as of late.

China, as a contender for “most likely to be begrudgingly put up with” in the World High School Yearbook, has claimed that Okinawa actually should belong to them – along with an ongoing dispute about some other islands also claimed by Japan, and some islands also claimed by the Philippines.

When it comes to any of these disputed territories, we will eventually be asked our opinion – either about Dokdo/Takeshima when we’re in Korea or Japan, or any of the others. My stock answer is this: “It certainly doesn’t belong to Canada.”

And, Domestically

The Hankoryeh has a series of articles on Korea’s emerging problem of Elder Care.

As explained before, the social contract in Korea used to be that Parents would provide for their children until they retired, and then their children, now independent adults thanks to their parents’ guidance, would provide for them. But with “crisis-level” youth unemployment, and an inadequate pension program, old folks in Korea by and large don’t have a great time.

Meanwhile, Namyang dairy is under pressure and protest over their overuse of “mireonaegi” (밀어내기). Mireonaegi is a commonplace practice among people who sell through authorized retailers – like Coke or Pepsi. Often, these giants will include extra goods with an order, and (of course) charge the retailer for these extras. This is most often used to promote new products. According to the article, retailers expect about 20%-30% extra product with each order and plan accordingly.

But Namyang has been forcing its retailers to pay for as much as 900% extra on top of their orders, and to pay for products that are very close to expiry that they’ll certainly have to throw away.

They’ve already faced similar protests in 2006 and 2009, both times being ordered by the Fair Trade Commission and the court to pay compensation and change its business practices. But both times instead of paying compensation to the wronged parties, it continued to threaten retailers and even demanded bribes.

According to Namyang CEO Hong Won-shik, “having the largest market share is not possible without breaking the law”. Even back in 1998, Namyang was dedicated to illegal market manipulation – stockpiling products in warehouses, causing a price spike which they then took advantage of.

Park Geun-hye, a president who came to power precisely by campaigning against actions like this, has predictably said that these actions are intolerable. I think she should put her money where her mouth is. She campaigned on it, and:

Indeed, immediately after being sworn in as President on February 25, she delivered a speech that hinted strongly that she fully intended to keep the nation’s chaebols on a tighter leash.
“By rooting out various unfair practices and rectifying the misguided habits of the past which have frustrated small business owners… we will provide active support to ensure that everyone can live up to his fullest potential,” she said.

Link (here).

I’m optimistic. Whereas some politicians abandon campaign pledges as soon as they hold office, Park Geun-hye seems not to be.

News update 05-12-2013

By , May 13, 2013 12:13 am

news update

In Korean news, this week:

Convenience Store market oversaturated

Is the world ending, or are people just making dire predictions about the Korean Economy?

Gord Sellar made that MBC Parody last year

Study of 1.5 million teenagers in 75 countries finds that girls are better at reading and boys are better at math

Is coverage of foreign teachers’ crimes really so much more? Yes, it turns out.

Yoon Chang-joong situation spirals out of control

“It wasn’t me”, says construction magnate accused of sex party bribes

And like a half dozen other things


As reported in the Hankoryeh last week, over half of South Korean convenience stores average under one million won in sales a day. One-quarter of all stores have sales under 100,000 won for overnight shifts.

The data is helpfully broken down by zoning. That family-run convenience store on the corner near where you live? They’re probably losing money, if they hire staff and don’t run it themselves. Convenience stores are the most popular type of franchise for new small business owners. The government has ordered that new stores should not be allowed to open within 250 metres of each other.

Fun fact: did you know that convenience stores are required to be open 24/7? And did you know that “marts” do not have this requirement?



Anyone who knows me knows I don’t like Myeongdong. It was one of the first places I was told about when I came to Korea – “oh, you should go to Myeongdong in Seoul. Many foreigners go there to enjoy shopping.”

Well, I did. But I hated it. Even Itaewon is better for the soul than Myeongdong’s overpriced faux-Korean style.

Well, Maze28 (aka 한국에 가자, or “let’s go to korea”) has been collecting photos of K-Pop idols in Myeongdong, and around Seoul and businesses like Tony Moly and outside of Seoul in Busan, for some unknown reason. I presume he collects these photos to atone for some past wrongdoing, or purely as an exercise in masochism.

If you’re one of the strange people who enjoy seeing advertisements with K-Pop Idols in them, then click the link above. Otherwise, consider it a warning not to go to Myeongdong.

Aside, if you’re interested in seeing the people that middle-school girls talk about, click on through and you can pair faces with names really easily.



For the Huffington Post, the Korean economy has a few problems – he’s predicting Korea may fall into the same trap of Japan’s “lost decades”.

He cites this as evidence:

1. an aging population and lowest fertility rate in the world.
2. too many university graduates
3. high youth unemployment
4. high private debt load
5. persistent social inequality

I have nothing meaningful to add, except that solving any of these problems may help solve the others – solving recent-graduate unemployment would create more revenue for the pension program and lower privately-held debt.



The title says it all, folks. Your friend and mine Gord Sellar was the one who made the parody video last year, after MBC decided to broadcast a hit piece vilifying interracial couples.

He had distanced himself from it until he had left Korea, which has a bad reputation when it comes to understanding western humour (i.e. satire).

In fact, Saturday Night Live Korea’s Weekend Update segment is being sued by Byun Hee-jae, the Korea Communications Standards commission reprimanded Gag Concert for not using honorifics when talking about the president, and depending on how these issues play out, we could start seeing either much better comedy in Korea or much worse.

I’m no Picasso posted something a month ago on international couples, and if you’re interested in a blog about such a thing, check hers out.



Well, not exactly. Don’t worry, it’s more nuanced than that. What they found is quoted here, at length. You can find the executive summary of the study too.

When it comes to reading, sex difference is smaller at the high end of the performance continuum. That means among those who are best at reading, or best at math, there’s a smaller difference between boys and girls. But at the bottom of the scale, quote: “in 2009, the bottom 5% of boys scored 50 points lower than the bottom 5% of girls”.

But the opposite is true in math. For those who do poorly in math, there is little difference between boys and girls. But at the high end, the difference is much greater.

From the study:

“Interventions that focus on high-achieving girls in mathematics and on low-achieving boys in reading are likely to yield the strongest educational benefits.”



Popular Gusts of Feeling has a really interesting article for those of us who wonder if the media really has it in for Foreign teachers.

Long story short, in terms of number of articles on national news, that American teacher who was wanted on a warrant he fled 8 years ago when he came to Korea got more media attention than a middle school teacher who attempted to rape one of his students, a high school teacher who repeatedly molested a student, an elementary school vice principal who molested nine children, a law school professor who was dismissed for touching a law student, and an elementary school teacher who broke into someone’s apartment and tried to rape them – the single foreign teacher who was wanted for (alleged) rape got more news coverage than all of them put together.

If you’re interested in reading more, check out Popular Gusts’ articles here, connecting the news with North Korean propaganda, and here, for his translation of a Kukmin Ilbo editorial.



According to the victim, immediately after the Park Geun-hye’s first meeting with Barack Obama, on May 7th Spokesman Yoon Chang-joong was drinking alone with the female intern for the Korean embassy. After drinking, he groped her. She brought a friend, which defused the situation. But later that night, Yoon summoned her to his room. She refused and he screamed insults at her over the phone. When she did finally go to his room, Yoon answered the door in his underwear. She left and called the police after talking with her friends at the embassy. Yoon packed his bags and took the first flight to Seoul. Upon hearing about all of this, the Blue House decided to fire him on the spot.

But like any of these stories, there’s two sides. Of course, Yoon claims innocence in the whole matter.

The Presidential Chief of Staff, even, has apologized deeply for these allegations, calling it very shameful and unacceptable.

I have this to say.




Note: the English Dong-a Ilbo uses the word “Contractor”, which carries connotations of manual work. Rather, he was a business-owner who bid on government construction contracts.

Construction magnate Yoon, accused of a sex-bribery scandal involving high-ranking officials and who’s who types, predictably denied everything.

Police also have testimonies from ten women who said they went to Yoon’s vacation home to provide sex for patrons.



One-woman anti-multiculturalism protest actually stirs thoughtful debate.

New York Korean-American rapper Awkwafina raps about her vag in a new music video

Life is still not super great for gays in Korea

An article about the bittersweet, romantic story of a full passport

Sixth North American Workshop on Korean Literature deadline is July 31st

Analysts say Japan isn’t trying to devalue its currency

Popular Gusts thinks noses look like dicks

News Update 2013/4/24: The “I’m glad I was late with this edition” edition!

By , April 24, 2013 3:03 am

Two dummkopfs in Daegu firebomb a hagwon

Why is YouTube slow in Korea?

Two volunteer opportunities worth getting involved in

What do you want to know about the North and South?

The Angel of Death comes to SKorean Chaebols

Teacher beats a student, then masturbates in the hallway.

All is calm on the 38th parallel – but that doesn’t stop a mom from worrying.

Singlehood, Elderly Suicides, and Youth Unemployment on the rise


On Monday, two idiots calling themselves the “anti-American, anti-fascist struggle committee” dropped off a bunch of leaflets and threw what was apparently a molotov cocktail made with a soju bottle at a kids’ hagwon in Daegu. Apparently, they mistook the hagwon for an official American cultural outreach centre, showing once again that radical South Koreans pose a greater threat to foreigners than the radical in Pyeongyang.

The police have released surveillance photos, which you can see here.



In South Korea, all objective measures show we’re enjoying one of the fastest Internet connection speeds in the world. The average connection is 14 Mbps. So why do Youtube videos take so long to load? The reason is they’re being forced to host their servers in Japan and China because South Korea has completely disregarded Net Neutrality.

1. YouTube tried to set up their server in South Korea.
2. Internet Service Providers pressured YouTube to pay fee since YouTube sucks up so much traffic.
3. YouTube responded with “why do I have to pay since users subscribe and pay Internet fees to watch our content?” and decided not to install their own server in South Korea.
4. As a result, YouTube in South Korea comes from servers in adjacent countries.
5. Now, Korean Internet service providers have to pay traffic fees to other foreign service providers.
6. The outcome: Korean YouTube slowed down and Korean Internet providers wind up paying lots of money to other nations.



The Grand Narrative brought my attention to these causes – an opportunity for volunteering and a way to involve oneself in changing Korean culture for the better.

The Korean Unwed Mothers’ Families Association is an organization that promotes the rights of children and the rights of unwed pregnant women, unwed mothers, and their children.

Based in Daegu, they have opportunities to voluteer in that city and in Seoul.

As well, May 10-11 in Seoul is the 3rd annual Single Mom’s Day Conference. They have much the same goals. Link Here.

And last, Jeju Island has a unique Korean culture all its own. History has isolated it from the peninsula, and it developed a shamanistic, shrine-based religion that is in danger of being forgotten forever as the number of believers rapidly declines.

Giuseppe Rositano is putting together a documentary that highlights and documents the Jejuan religion.



Myers is one of the foremost experts on North Korea – and Gusts of Popular Feeling has collected together some of the better interviews he’s done.

It’s really worth reading, if you want to know more about North Korea than most South Koreans do.

Meanwhile, The United States has rejected North Korea’s demand to be recognized as a nuclear power.

And as investigators deal with the mountains of evidence against the duo who bombed the Boston Marathon, North Korea felt it necessary to give the following statement: “Wasn’t us, we swear!”



The President, Park Geun-Hye, was elected late last year with support from moderates and leftists in Korea. She won their approval with her harsh rhetoric against the massive conglomerates, or Chaebols (재벌) that dominate the Korean economic landscape.

It appears she may be able to make good on her promises. The Fair Trade Commission’s Investigation Bureau is to be re-introduced after eight years of closure, bringing with it a new name: “Conglomerate Supervising Agency”.

The new agency will have the authority to examine internal company practices, investigate external dealings based on government regulations, and track down shareholding conflicts-of-interest.



Part-Time teacher Mr. A discovered that one of his students was listening to music in class. So he beat him severely, then went out into the hallway, dropped his pants, and masturbated furiously in front of many of his students.

A spokesperson for the police commented, in part: “…the teacher does not appear to have any mental problems…”

엥 애때리다가 흥분해서 애들 앞에사 자위한 놈이 정신적으로 문제가 없어보인다고?

요즘 세상 컨셉은 돌아이인가..



Even as we all know that the threat from the North is no more or less real than it is when they’re not making idle threats, the families of South Korean soldiers, especially the recent conscripts, are definitely feeling the tension more than most.

After all, for those in the military, reassurances about the complete air, ground, and naval superiority of the South’s armed forces in concert with the United States do nothing to allay the worry that’s only natural to feel for a loved one away from home in the army.

KoreaBANG has more here. Quotes from the article, that :

“My heart stops every time I hear the Jindo air sirens”

“for someone like me who has sent their only son to the military, I can’t even begin to describe my worry.”

and a couple little turds from the comments section:

“Bullshit…is it only your sons who go to the military??? Almost all of us have to go…the guys in there right now just have shitty luck.”

“I’m sorry to say this, but North Korea must be thrilled to see articles like this. They love to see South Koreans quaking in fear.”



As we know, family is everything in Korea. Many of our Korean friends and romantic interests, even into their 30s, live at home with their parents. But according to the latest statistics, 1 in 4 Koreans were living alone – this is an even higher rate than in the United States and Australia. The Grand Narrative has more here, but suffice to say that most of these singles are lonely middle-class workingmen or impoverished women in their 60s and older.

Putting aside the oft-cited collectivism of Korean society (excellent disagreement here), we must acknowledge a recent quadrupling of the number of people 65 and older committing suicide, written about in the New York Times.

The Korean Pension plan that we all pay into barely affords the elderly basic living costs. And if someone was already retired in 1988 when the KPP was enacted, they get nothing. Some who kill themselves out of feelings of betrayal, when their successful children elsewhere in the country do nothing to support them.

Meanwhile, the government has approved a higher retirement age, saying it will allow experienced workers to contribute longer and reduce pressure on pension funds.

Elder suicides remain the symptom of a greater problem here – as some parents drain their savings to pay for hagwon fees and send their children abroad to become fluent in English, one in five people between 15 and 29 is unable to find work. Even doctoral degree holders and graduates of famous universities overseas are taking unpaid internships.

These remain huge problems for South Korea. It’s totally wrong-headed to pin the blame on some vague claim of “changes to Korean society”, as some have. But I know South Korea will either solve these problems soon or wait twenty or thirty years until the baby boom generation dies off.


This week’s bonus content: a 2006 documentary about an American deserter to North Korea. Yeah, you read that right. Some South Koreans and Americans defected to the North. This guy’s been living there for 40 years now! Youtube Here.

News Tidbits for 2/18/2013

By , March 1, 2013 11:08 am

Editors Note: As Marty has moved on, David Alexander will be taking over the News Tidbits column. We’d like to welcome David to the team (and apologize for the lateness of this posting).

Here’s some news tidbits for the week of February 18th, 2013.

A politician seeking to expose corporate corruption was ejected from office – for exposing corporate corruption. Specifically, Roh Hoe-Chan recorded conversations between Samsung Chairman Lee Kun-hee and his brother that revealed bribes paid by Samsung to public prosecutors, politicians, and presidential candidates. He posted the recordings online, and received a suspended prison sentence.
Now, he’s lost his seat in parliament too.


A police investigation into an acid leak at a Samsung factory in January reveals the company lied when it said that the leak had been contained. When 10 liters of hydrofluoric acid leaked from a pipe at the main semiconductor plant in Hwaseong on Jan. 28th, it killed one worker and injured four others. Samsung claimed that there was no possibility of acid escaping from the plant itself. A fine of 1 million won (US$ 923) has already been levied on Samsung for not reporting the incident until after that one crew member died at a hospital.


The new finance minister, Hyun Oh Seok has said he may set hard limits on the scale of fiscal stimulus to be provided to a faltering economy feeling the effects of the rising value of the won. The new president, Park Geun-hye has promised to expand social programs and welfare to the tune of 131.4 trillion won.


Are you normal? What’s normal for a foreign English teacher in Korea? Christian Thurston has posted the results of a survey he conducted late 2012. It answers such questions as “is it true that foreign men date korean women more than foreign women date korean men?” (yes) “Who is happier in their job – the average Hagwon teacher, or the average Public teacher?” (Public, by a wide margin).


Imports of luxury goods increased 2.93 per cent compared to 2011 – hitting a record high of US$ 8.6 billion last year. According to the article, sales of imported luxury watches such as Rolex, IWC and Breguet surged 20.6 per cent at Lotte, 26.3 per cent at Hyundai, 18 per cent at Shinsegae and 38 per cent at Galleria last year. One can only hope that this represents more executives retiring – freeing up room for advancement among Korea’s younger generations.


A Japanese right-winger has (finally) been indicted for defacing public monuments in Seoul. You may remember when he defaced the monuments in June 2012(here’s an excellent article about it.)
Currently in Japan, he will be tried in absentia if he refuses to return to Korea. If he is sentenced to prison, Seoul can request his extradition under current treaties with Japan.


According to a Gallup poll for Japanese paper Yomiuri Shimbun, 37% of Japanese feel South Korea is a military threat to their country. This has risen from 23% last year, and a major part of the increase is attributable to former President Lee Myung-bak’s visit to Dokdo, and aggressive posturing between Japanese and Korean politicians over the disputed island. In terms of “the biggest military threat to Japan”, China has taken that position for the first time in the poll’s history.