By Emily Senger - Tuesday, April 23, 2013 - 0 Comments
Left hand in his pocket is not OK
Note to westerners: Do not let your left hand remain in your pocket while shaking the hand of a dignitary in South Korea.
This is a lesson Microsoft founder Bill Gates is learning after a photo of his handshake with South Korean president Park Geun-hey was splashed on papers across the country Tuesday. Gates had one hand in his suit pocket during the handshake.
By Emily Senger - Wednesday, March 20, 2013 at 8:01 AM - 0 Comments
A series of cyber attacks Wednesday targeted major television stations, banks, government offices and…
A series of cyber attacks Wednesday targeted major television stations, banks, government offices and police in South Korea.
Servers were frozen and some banks reported that files were deleted, reports Reuters. “We sent down teams to all affected sites. We are now assessing the situation. This incident is pretty massive and will take a few days to collect evidence,” a police spokesperson said.
Banks were able to restore their service later Tuesday. But staff at the affected television stations — YTN, MBC and KBS — were still experiencing problems, though the were able to continue with broadcasts.
By Emily Senger - Monday, February 25, 2013 at 9:03 AM - 0 Comments
Daughter of former military ruler has tough words for North Korea
Park Geun-gye officially became South Korea’s first female president Monday and she did so with tough words for North Korea.
“I urge North Korea to abandon its nuclear ambitions without delay and embark on the path to peace and shared development,” she said in her inauguration address. She also told North Korea it shouldn’t waste its scarce resources on its nuclear program, reports Reuters.
Park, 61, is a right-wing politician and is the daughter of former South Korean military leader Park Chung-hee, who ruled the country in the ’60s and ’70s until he was assassinated. Park’s mother, Yuk Young-soo, was also assassinated, forcing Park to return from studies abroad to act as South Korea’s first lady when she was just 22. Continue…
By macleans.ca - Tuesday, February 19, 2013 at 7:00 PM - 0 Comments
South Korean and American troops prepare for a cold attack from the North Koreans
As North Korea ratchets up its bellicose threats, South Korean and American troops take part in joint military exercises near the border aimed at repulsing a winter invasion from the North.
By The Associated Press - Thursday, January 31, 2013 at 6:13 AM - 0 Comments
SEOUL, South Korea – A South Korean court sentenced the chairman of the country’s…
SEOUL, South Korea – A South Korean court sentenced the chairman of the country’s third-biggest conglomerate to four years in prison on Thursday for embezzling millions of dollars of company money for personal investments.
The ruling comes as South Koreans demand a tougher stance on crimes committed by bosses of chaebol as the family-controlled conglomerates that dominate South Korea’s economy are known.
Seoul Central District Court found Chey Tae-won guilty of embezzling 46.5 billion won ($42.7 million) from two companies within the SK Group conglomerate, which he invested in stock futures and options. Chey had denied the charge. SK Group said it was preparing an appeal.
Chaebol bosses found guilty of crimes have received suspended prison terms and presidential pardons in the past and court rulings have emphasized their contributions to South Korea’s economy. Some argued that prison sentences could damage the economy by depriving important companies of key decision makers.
By Aaron Wherry - Tuesday, November 6, 2012 at 1:24 PM - 0 Comments
In March, Mr. Harper visited Thailand, South Korea and Japan. Thailand is reportedly moving towards a cap-and-trade system. Japan has now introduced a carbon tax, while Tokyo has had a cap-and-trade system for the past year. South Korea passed cap-and-trade legislation in May.
In February, Mr. Harper visited China, which is now experimenting with a carbon market.
In January, Mr. Harper delivered a speech in Switzerland, which has both a carbon tax and a trading system.
(In September, Mr. Harper visited Russia, which is maybe (?) thinking about cap-and-trade.)
By Emma Teitel - Tuesday, October 2, 2012 at 10:53 AM - 0 Comments
Despite the riches seen in the viral video, South Korea has a spending problem
Park Jae-Sang, a.k.a. Psy (short for Psycho), the moderately plump 34-year-old rapper behind the massive international hit Gangnam Style, is not your average South Korean pop star. Not only because he “isn’t very good-looking,” says 24-year-old Canadian-Korean pop fan Leslie Yun, but because “he’s the antithesis of what is popular in Korean pop music right now.” Unlike the perfectly coiffed boy and girl groups topping Korea’s charts, Psy is a master of satire. The subject at the heart of Gangnam Style—which has over 274 million views—is mass consumption in the nouveau riche Seoul neighbourhood of Gangnam where Psy grew up. The average South Korean has five credit cards; by 2010, Korean household debt had reached a staggering 155 per cent of disposable income—higher even than the U.S. just before the subprime crisis. In the music video, Psy does his famous horse dance (which he’s been doing at sports events and award shows ever since) and mocks the phony opulence of his old neighbourhood, replacing confetti with bits of garbage and partying in a parking garage. “Korean culture has always been about saving face,” says Yun, “especially in Gangnam.” Whether a man and his invisible horse will change that, remains to be seen.
By Peter Nowak - Monday, July 9, 2012 at 10:27 AM - 0 Comments
Oh sure, we like to joke about how modern pop stars are robots, merely carrying out pre-programmed actions and singing computerized songs that are guaranteed to sell thanks to the algorithms that write them. But we were only, kidding, right?
Nope. It looks like South Korean robot makers are going to have the last laugh after all. Dongbu Robot says it is going to launch robots this year that impersonate K-pop stars such as Girls Generation and Super Junior. The robots will be able to re-enact the actual stars’ dances and movements through more than 20 motor joints throughout their bodies and will have realistic artificial skin, according to the company.
What’s more, users will be able to download new songs into the robot and watch them perform. It’s Guitar Hero on a whole other level.
By Aaron Wherry - Friday, August 26, 2011 at 3:50 PM - 10 Comments
The Liberals say the Conservatives spent $50-million to bring the G8 leaders to Tony Clement’s Ontario riding, but don’t think it’s important to invest $10-million to showcase Canada to millions of visitors at the 2012 fair. The Liberals say snubbing South Korea is shortsighted and will hurt the Canadian tourism industry and the economic recovery in general.
By Chris Sorensen - Tuesday, August 16, 2011 at 12:30 PM - 10 Comments
Once the butt of jokes, the South Korean companies are suddenly the fastest-growing automakers
Hyundai’s entry into the North American car market in the 1980s was an inauspicious one. Though low-priced models like the Excel and the Pony attracted frugal buyers, the South Korean company’s name quickly became synonymous with unreliable cars, and even found itself the butt of comedians’ jokes. But these days, Hyundai and its sister brand Kia have become the biggest growth stories in the automotive world—so much so that some are talking about the possibility of South Korea one day rivalling Japan’s industry clout. Continue…
By Cigdem Iltan - Thursday, July 21, 2011 at 12:00 PM - 0 Comments
Virtual grocery shopping comes to Seoul’s subway system
Subway platforms are normally just places for people to avoid eye contact while blasting 80 decibels into their eardrums. But during a recent experiment in Seoul, commuters could also buy groceries without having to lug heavy bags or stand in line.
The grocery giant Tesco plastered the walls of a subway station in the South Korean capital with life-sized photos of meat, dairy and produce displays, with each product bearing a unique barcode to be scanned with a smartphone. After people filled their virtual shopping carts and paid the bill using an app, their purchases were delivered to their front door when they returned home at the end of the workday. During the three-month trial, Tesco says 10,287 customers used the service, while online sales rose 130 per cent. The company is now looking for other high-traffic venues to host a shopping experience, free from the chill of the ice cream aisle.
By Erica Alini - Thursday, January 13, 2011 at 12:40 PM - 1 Comment
South Koreans reconsider whether receiving a perfectly hot pizza at their door is worth the cost
Fast-food delivery can be a deadly business. In South Korea, accidents involving motorcycle delivery men topped 4,000 in the last five years (1,395 in 2009 alone), and fatal collisions, labour unions say, have probably reached into the double digits in the last decade. So the government is taking action: last week, it launched an advertising campaign to increase public awareness of the dangers. In addition to ads on radio and TV, the effort includes distributing leaflets citing delivery men injury rates to customers at the very restaurants and food chains that have made breakneck rides a staple of South Korea’s fast-food culture. “It’s not that I want to deliberately disobey traffic laws, but when you have customers breathing down your neck, it’s really hard not to,” delivery man Bang Chang-min told the L.A. Times. “When I’m on a bike, I’m under so much pressure that I feel I transform into somebody else.”
All this deadline pressure is why motorcycles zigzagging through traffic, running red lights and even driving on the sidewalk has become so common, say local activists. But the increasing number of injuries and recent death of a Pizza Hut delivery man is forcing South Koreans to reconsider whether receiving a perfectly hot pizza at their door is worth the cost.
By Nicholas Köhler - Thursday, October 21, 2010 at 4:20 PM - 0 Comments
The main ingredient in the national dish has been hit by blight
South Koreans eat over two million tonnes of kimchi a year. The dish, composed of fermented cabbage, radish and chili paste and served with every meal, is such a staple that in the 1960s, when Seoul sent soldiers to fight in Vietnam, special arrangements were made to equip the men with kimchi. More recently, scientists prepared for the first South Korean astronaut’s trip into space by designing a bacteria-free kimchi that would not mutate in orbit.
So it is nothing less than a national calamity that bad weather has blighted the latest crop of napa cabbage—kimchi’s sine qua non—causing prices per head to spike from $4 to $14 or more. The government has responded with bailouts that haven’t assuaged the public. When President Lee Myung-bak assured his countrymen he would only eat kimchi made from the rounder cabbages more common in Europe and North America, South Koreans responded with anger, pointing out they aren’t much cheaper. “That is like Marie Antoinette saying, ‘Let them eat cake!’” wrote one blogger.
By Patricia Treble - Thursday, October 14, 2010 at 8:20 AM - 0 Comments
A grim new report details horrific abuses in the world’s illegal fishing industry
The illegal fishing industry sweeps up 31 per cent of the world’s catches into the holds of ships often barely able to stay afloat. For the crews, life aboard those vessels is akin to slavery, claims the London-based Environmental Justice Foundation. In a grim report, it details systemic violations of human rights. Men live in cramped conditions, often without access to clean water, for months if not years at a time. On one South Korean ship, 200 crew members lived in a small wooden structure, perched on the stern, that could be swept to sea in a storm. The vessels resupply far from shore, in part to stop crews from escaping. And in the end, the men might not end up with anything, as exploitative fees reduce their wages to a pittance.
The ships, which operate around the world, savage the fishing stocks of poor nations unable to enforce quotas or controls. And since some of the ships the EJF investigated had European Union import licences, it’s a safe bet that fish caught using slave labour was eaten on Western dining tables.
By Michael Petrou with Patricia Treble - Tuesday, August 10, 2010 at 3:08 PM - 0 Comments
Sanctions, diplomacy, force—can anything sway the Dear Leader?
It’s not often that the United States so candidly admits its impotence in the face of aggressive acts by hostile regimes. But there was Robert Gates, the U.S. secretary of defence, discussing options the United States and the rest of the world have to deal with Kim Jong Il’s North Korea, after an international investigation concluded North Korea torpedoed and sunk the Cheonan, a South Korean navy ship, killing 46 sailors on board. “I think there is no good answer,” he told the BBC in June. “You can bring together additional pressure. You can do another resolution in the UN. But as long as the regime doesn’t care what the outside world thinks of it, as long as it doesn’t care about the well-being of its people, there’s not a lot you can do about it, to be quite frank—unless you’re willing at some point to use military force. And nobody wants to do that.”
Instead, the United States and South Korea are going to great lengths to show that they can use force, even if they won’t. The two allies carried out joint naval exercises off the Korean peninsula in July. The exercises were designed to remind North Korea of America’s support for the South. The regime in Pyongyang duly threw a tantrum and threatened a “physical response,” but the fact remains that—with the exception of new American sanctions—North Korea will suffer little as a result of its attack.
By Michael Friscolanti - Thursday, June 10, 2010 at 12:20 PM - 4 Comments
South Korean officials began briefing foreign diplomats about what the investigation found
On May 16, the federal government issued a short press release, proudly announcing that “Canada is sending three naval experts to South Korea” to help investigate the suspicious sinking of the warship Cheonan. “We are pleased to provide assistance to a key partner in the region,” said Foreign Affairs Minister Lawrence Cannon. Peter MacKay, the defence minister, praised the military’s ability to “deliver excellence and project leadership abroad.”
By Tom Henheffer - Thursday, February 18, 2010 at 3:00 PM - 10 Comments
The country’s sex workers generate 1.6 per cent of total GDP
In 2004, the South Korean government enacted new laws designed to crack down on the country’s sex trade, which by some estimates accounted for a whopping 4.1 per cent of GDP. To some extent, those regulations were successful: according to the Korean Women’s Development Institute, a think tank dedicated to researching women’s issues in South Korea, the sex trade now generates approximately 1.6 per cent of GDP, or about $14 billion annually (by comparison, South Korea’s agriculture industry accounts for roughly three per cent of GDP).
But Sealing Cheng, an anthropologist at Wellesley College in Massachusetts who specializes in sexuality, prostitution and human rights in South Korea, argues the government’s efforts don’t always work as intended. While the sex trade laws target pimps and brothel owners, and offer financial and vocational assistance for victims of prostitution, they also establish fines and jail terms for the approximately 269,000 sex workers in the country. “It makes life difficult for a lot of women who, for some reason, remain in the trade. If there isn’t adequate assistance for them, they won’t leave.”
The crackdown is also forcing prostitution further underground. When illicit massage parlours are raided, they often reopen as “hostess bars,” where women are paid for their company but don’t specifically have to sleep with clients, although they often do. “They’re moving too quickly for the government to shut them down,” says Whasoon Byun, a researcher with the Korean Women’s Development Institute.
By Chris Sorensen - Thursday, February 18, 2010 at 3:00 PM - 8 Comments
The manufacturing heartland is ailing. Can it be saved?
The process of rebuilding after the Great Recession has begun in earnest inside a dingy mall in Oshawa, Ont. There, some 200 men and women pass through the doors of an employment “action centre” each week in search of a new job and, in some cases, a complete reset of their lives. Many are former auto workers laid off after General Motors shuttered its Oshawa truck plant and scaled back production at a neighbouring car plant last year. Others worked at parts companies. Few have easily transferable skills and many don’t even have a high school diploma.
Connie Snelgrove is the centre’s coordinator. She briefly worked for a supplier that built car seats, but lost her job in 2008. “I was only there two years, so I knew what the real world was—that everybody else [without skills or an education] is making $8 to $10 an hour,” says Snelgrove. “But these guys have been making good money and have been in the same environment for so long. I knew they were going to be in for a culture shock.”
Once comfortably part of this country’s large middle class—loosely defined as people who are neither rich nor poor and measured by things like a steady job, home ownership and a pension—thousands of Canadians are now turning to people like Snelgrove for help after losing their jobs and suddenly finding themselves on the margins of society. The fact that the employment upheaval, which cost nearly half a million Canadians their jobs over the past year, comes at a time when many households are carrying near record amounts of debt has only served to compound the financial pain, raising the risk of missed mortgage payments and bankruptcies.
By macleans.ca - Friday, January 8, 2010 at 9:01 AM - 6 Comments
Newsmakers of the week
Behind the mask, even more Iron
She’s known as the “Iron Lady,” but new revelations about former British prime minister Margaret Thatcher show the extent to which that was true. According to recently released secret files dating back to her time as PM, she told then-U.S. president Jimmy Carter she had personally “handled” the guns currently being used by the Northern Ireland police force, and decided the American-made Ruger pistol was a better shot. Maggie also liked whisky, preferred refugees from Poland or Hungary to ones from Asia, and didn’t like to be bored: in another file, she scolds staff for not organizing a “sufficiently interesting” itinerary for her first U.S. trip.
NBA all-star Gilbert Arenas has done the impossible: he’s trumped Tiger Woods in the athletes-behaving-badly department. A locker-room dispute with Washington Wizards teammate Javaris Crittenton over a gambling debt apparently led Arenas to reach for a handgun. Crittenton grabbed a gun, too, the New York Post reported, and a Christmas Eve standoff ensued. (That the team name was changed from the Bullets over concerns about gun violence adds to the sad irony.) No guns were discharged, but Arenas has since laid down covering fire on Twitter. Among the tweets the self-described “goof ball” posted: “I hav 2 change subjects umM what about that TIGER WOODS I heard he dated 2 MIDGETS.”
Bet you think this song is about me
European media reported last week that in an effort to attract a million new members to his People of Freedom party, Italian PM Silvio Berlusconi planned to launch a new political campaign, with posters featuring his bloodied and beaten face and the slogan “Love always wins over hate.” The 73-year-old, who spent four days in hospital after being attacked during a rally in Milan last month, received plenty of public sympathy after being struck in the face with a miniature Duomo statue; in one poll, his popularity rose from 45 to 48 per cent. His aides deny any plans to feature the infamous photo, but the party’s campaign song is changing. Roughly translated, the existing anthem includes the line “Thank God that Silvio exists.” It will be replaced by the slightly less megalomaniacal “Thank God we exist.”
Friend in high places
France’s first lady, Carla Bruni, has befriended a homeless man who lives on the street between her home in the 16th arrondissement and her son’s school. In addition to chatting with Denis, 53, about books and music and providing him with a “military-type duvet,” Bruni is said to have given him a signed copy of her latest CD. “My friends from the street told me that as [it] has got her signature, it’s worth a lot of money,” Denis told Closer magazine. “I couldn’t care less, I prefer to keep it; having said that, I lent it to someone two months ago who hasn’t given it back.” The police no longer bother him, Denis said. He isn’t the only beneficiary of Bruni’s do-gooding. Two French nationals, Céline Faye and Sarah Zaknoun, held in a Dominican Republic prison for 18 months on drug trafficking charges, were pardoned on Christmas Eve after Bruni took up their cause. “It’s thanks to her that we are here,” said Faye.
After some 25 years of competitive mushing, William Kleedehn of Carcross, Yukon, has sold off most of his sled dogs and announced his retirement. The German-born Kleedehn moved to Canada as a young man after reading a newspaper story in 1978 about the 1,850-km Iditarod race from Anchorage to Nome, Alaska. Kleedehn, 50, never won the Iditarod or the gruelling Yukon Quest, though he did win many mid-distance races. He is hanging on to eight puppies and two adult dogs for recreational mushing, but, he vows, “I won’t let it rule my life again.” At the top of his to-do list are travels to South America and Australia, by more conventional means.
Bubba’s other bombshell
While the focus on Ken Gormley’s soon-to-be-released book, The Death of American Virtue: Clinton vs. Starr, has mostly been Monica Lewinsky’s claim that Bill Clinton lied under oath about their relationship, one of the book’s most shocking revelations is that the former president was nearly the victim of a 1996 bomb attack organized by Osama bin Laden. On a state visit to Manila, Clinton’s motorcade was diverted at the last minute after secret service officers received a “crackly message” that included the word “wedding,” commonly used by terrorists as code word for assassination. It was later found that a nearby bridge the president would have crossed was rigged with explosives.
Love and rockets
Israeli whistle-blower Mordechai Vanunu is in trouble again. Not for spilling the beans on Israel’s nuclear program—he’s already had his knuckles rapped for that, twice—but for having a Norwegian girlfriend. Vanunu was first arrested in 1986, after disclosing information about Israel’s clandestine nuclear program to the Sunday Times. He spent 18 years in jail—then went back to the slammer for six months in 2007 after violating his parole by contacting media again. Now he’s been arrested a third time. The Israeli secret service is worried he’s telling secrets to his girlfriend. (Vanunu is banned from travelling abroad as well as speaking with foreigners.) According to his lawyer, though, the girlfriend “is not interested in nuclear business; she’s interested in Mordechai Vanunu.”
Lights, cameras, order, order!
In her bid for “100 per cent physical custody” of her son, Tripp Johnston-Palin, Bristol Palin, the 19-year-old daughter of Sarah Palin, had argued that keeping the custody battle private was in Tripp’s best interests. She also claimed Levi Johnston, the one-year-old’s father, only wanted to make the hearing public to promote himself. Johnston recently posed for Playgirl and has been on something of a media campaign since splitting with Bristol last spring. Nonetheless, the proceedings will play out in open court following a court decision last week. Johnston, who is seeking joint custody, must be pleased. He said he did “not feel protected against Sarah Palin in a closed proceeding.”
One for the little folk
The jury is still out on whether Raj Rajaratnam, founder of the hedge fund Galleon Group, which closed in October, took part in insider trading (he pleaded not guilty), but apparently the Sri Lankan is guilty of pulling some rather peculiar stunts. According to the Wall Street Journal, Rajaratnam once offered $5,000 to any employee who would agree to be tasered (a female trader actually obliged). On another occasion, Rajaratnam introduced a dwarf, whom he said he’d hired to cover small-cap stocks (get it?), to employees. That turned out to be an April Fool’s joke.
New blood on the ice
When Canada’s Olympic hockey roster was announced last week, perhaps the biggest surprise was the inclusion of 20-year-old Drew Doughty. Sports commentators across the country talked about a “changing of the guard”—more experienced defencemen, like Jay Bouwmeester and Dion Phaneuf, were left off the team. It caught even the L.A. Kings defenceman off guard. Doughty slept through the call of a lifetime and only found out he’d been selected after checking his voice mail. Then he woke up his roomie, Kings captain Dustin Brown, who will also be in Vancouver—as leader of Team U.S.A. Brown is already dreading meeting Doughty on the ice. “I’m not too afraid of his bodychecks,” said Brown. “It’s his hip checks.”
Can a child have two mothers? Yes, and no. When Lisa Miller and Janet Jenkins, a lesbian couple living in Vermont, separated in 2003, a judge awarded custody of their child to Miller and visitation rights to Jenkins. That same year, Miller, the biological mother, moved to Virginia, renounced homosexuality, and adopted the evangelical Christian faith. She appealed to the supreme courts of Virginia and Vermont to revoke Jenkins’s right to see their daughter Isabella, born via artificial insemination in 2002, on the grounds that a relationship with Jenkins would hamper her new religion. The courts ruled against her, noting custody cases for same-sex couples worked like those for heterosexual couples. Miller still refused to let Jenkins see the child—so the court reversed custody to ensure Jenkins would have access to Isabella. Miller has since disappeared, along with the child.
Bailout, Korean style
In an attempt to bolster the country’s 2018 Winter Olympic bid, South Korea’s president, Lee Myung-bak, pardoned Lee Kun-hee, former chairman of Samsung, who had been convicted of tax evasion and breach of trust. The move allows Lee to try to regain membership in the International Olympic Committee, and take the lead in Pyeongchang County’s bid. Critics say the pardon confirmed the common view that corporate heavyweights are above the law in Korea. “A criminal convict travelling around the world campaigning for South Korea’s Olympic bid,” says Kim Sang-jo, an economist at Hansung University, “will only hurt our national interest and image.”
Good man walking
After 23 years of togetherness—they were never married—Susan Sarandon and Tim Robbins have split up. The couple had long been considered tops among Hollywood’s socially conscious crew; they championed anti-globalization and Ralph Nader, while opposing the U.S. invasion of Iraq. In 1999, Sarandon was made a UNICEF goodwill ambassador—whatever that means. Apparently the two actually split in the summer but didn’t notify the press until now—hmm, wonder if that has anything to do with Sarandon’s new movie, The Lovely Bones, out now and considered an Oscar contender.
Dog’s best friend
Here’s a heartwarming story: two Montreal women are taking a trip to Vancouver to retrieve a dog they’ve never met for a family they hardly know. After Fred the dog was found in a trailer with his owner, Cyril Roy, three days after Roy’s death, Frank Palumbo, a dog-lover and owner of a freight company, pledged to get the seven-year-old kugsha home. His wife, Mélanie Pellerin, and her friend Christianne Hendershott flew to Vancouver to pick up Fred, then boarded a train for the four-day ride. VIA Rail chipped in with free first-class tickets for them, plus an extra ticket for Fred, who will eventually settle down in Ontario with one of Cyril’s sisters, a dog breeder.
By Aaron Wherry - Wednesday, July 22, 2009 at 7:12 PM - 4 Comments
Coincidentally, I was researching something the other day and came across the following incident in a February 1997 dispatch from Canadian Press on a particularly testy day in the Commons. Continue…
By Patricia Treble - Thursday, May 28, 2009 at 8:40 AM - 0 Comments
President Lee Myung-bak tied aid to nuclear disarmament
As North Korea ratchets up tensions with its southern neighbour, being seen as pro-South is increasingly perilous in the hermit kingdom. A southern news agency just reported that the leading pro-reconciliation deputy in the North, Choe Sung Chol, was executed last year, though some analysts believe he was sent to a re-education camp or possibly banished to a chicken farm. Other pro-South officials have been replaced by military hard-liners.
Relations have soured since last year’s election in the South of conservative President Lee Myung-bak, who ended years of “sunshine” aid flowing north and linked economic assistance to nuclear disarmament by Kim Jong Il’s nation. The North’s position soon hardened. “North Korea launched a probe into corruption last spring. However it later escalated into a political purge as inter-Korean relations worsened,” Lee Seung-yong, director of a southern research group that has extensive dealings across the border, told Reuters. “North Korea might have needed scapegoats. Reconciliation, which blossomed under liberal governments in Seoul, had caused a kind of admiration for South Korea among some party cadres.”
By Cameron Ainsworth-Vincze - Monday, December 1, 2008 at 9:00 AM - 2 Comments
Myung-Bak now wants to start rewriting textbooks
To increase his chances of winning South Korea’s presidential election last year, Lee Myung-bak pledged to revitalize the economy, implement tougher policies toward North Korea and strengthen ties with the United States. At the time it appeared that the conservative Myung-bak had captured the mood of the country, as he won the election in a landslide. But since taking office in February, President Myung-bak’s administration has promoted some rather hawkish ideas that are raising the ire of many South Koreans.
First came plans to force Internet users in one of the world’s most wired nations to adhere to stricter libel and slander laws. The proposal, still in the implementation stage, aims to curb negative commentary and fear-mongering, but it is being widely viewed as an infringement on freedom of speech. Now Myung-bak’s right-wing government is causing an uproar over a popular high-school textbook’s version of how American and Soviet forces seized control of Korea from Japanese colonialists after the Second World War. Nobody is taking issue with the fact that Soviet forces swept into Korea and installed a Communist-friendly regime in the north while American military forces controlled the south. What does infuriate conservatives is that the textbook proclaims that after Japan’s occupation, Korea became a divided peninsula ruled by foreign powers instead of two self-determining states. “It was not our national flag that was hoisted to replace the Japanese flag,” reads the textbook. “The flag that flew in its place was the American Stars and Stripes. Our liberation through the Allied forces’ victory prevented us from building a new country according to our own wishes.”
Conservatives believe such a declaration hurts national pride and have asked the authors to delete or change 55 sections in the textbook that “undermine the legitimacy of the South Korean government.” The authors are refusing to comply, arguing that the government is trying to “beautify” the country’s much-disputed past.
By Patricia Treble - Thursday, October 9, 2008 at 12:00 AM - 0 Comments
Many North Koreans make it to Thailand, only to be sent back
For ordinary North Koreans, the coming months are looking bleak. This year’s harvest will produce only about 75 per cent of the country’s basic needs. And so far the secretive dictatorship hasn’t asked for help from South Korea since that nation’s new conservative government cut off unconditional aid earlier this year. This summer the UN World Food Program (WFP) warned that the situation would “exacerbate food insecurity for 6.5 million North Koreans already at risk of hunger,” raising the spectre of a famine like that of the 1990s that killed an estimated two million people. Tae Keung-ha, president of a Seoul-based radio station that broadcasts into the North, estimates that more than 100,000 have already starved to death this year
Because the heavily guarded border between North and South Korea is impassable, the main migration route for those fleeing the hermit kingdom goes through China to a third country, often Thailand, before ending up in the South. But as numbers increase, and Seoul falls behind in processing them, a bottleneck has developed in Thailand. There, the North Koreans are considered illegal migrants, not refugees, and can be sent back. Last week Reuters reported that Seoul was contemplating building refugee centres in Thailand, though Bangkok rejects the idea.
And for the more than 14,000 North Koreans who’ve made it to the South, adjusting to life in the fast-paced capitalist society has not been easy. Given little resettlement aid, they discover that work is hard to find. Some decide to move on and seek asylum elsewhere. This week Seoul announced a crackdown, including possible criminal prosecution, on those wanting to move abroad. Kim Ho Nyeon of the Unification Ministry states: “We need to curb this kind of fake asylum seeking, which is not desirable and creates room for cross-border disputes.”
By Charlie Gillis - Thursday, August 28, 2008 at 3:07 PM - 0 Comments
This is as good an explanation I’ve seen yet for the LPGA’s linguistic ultimatum….
This is as good an explanation I’ve seen yet for the LPGA’s linguistic ultimatum. Unless you’ve been following the fortunes of Se Ri Pak and Karrie Webb, the tour’s financial challenges were probably not something you were aware of.
Still, as Robert Thompson concludes, dwindling interest and desperation are no excuse for discrimination. And given the obvious surge of interest in women’s golf taking place in Korea, you’d think the tour might move more of its eggs into the Asian basket rather than scrapping it out for what’s left of the U.S. sports market. Or forcing its Asian players to learn the lingua franca of American couch potatoes.
A quick perusal of the LPGA calendar shows one tournament per year in South Africa, France, the U.K., Canada, Japan and China. Two take place in Singapore. Mexico holds three. The vast majority—25—occur on U.S. soil.
Number of events scheduled for South Korea? One.