Thursday, September 30, 2010

Top 10 Favorite Waygook Bars



10 Magazine had an online polling competition to see what are the favorite drinking establishments in South Korea for waygooks.  There is nothing scientific about this, it is just a popularity contest of people willing to hit refresh and click a bunch of times to vote.  But here it is!
Yeah, it’s a popularity contest. That’s exactly what the Reader’s 10 is all about—finding out what is the most popular among our readers. This month we found out that the bar with the most enthusiastic fans in Korea happens to be a legendary expat hangout in Ulsan. Who knew?
Here are your 10 favorite bars, pubs and lounges in Korea:
10. Sam Ryan’s (Itaewon, Seoul)
9. Roofers (Itaewon, Seoul)
8. Wolfhound (Itaewon, Seoul)
7. LSG (Yeosu)
6. Holy Grill (downtown Daegu)
5. Traveler’s Bar (Bundang, Seongnam)
4. Speakeasy (downtown Gwangju)
3. Beer O’Clock (Sinchon, Seoul)
2. Dillinger’s (Itaewon, Seoul)
1. Benchwarmers (Ulsan)
Who would have thought a place in Ulsan would win.

Nintendo Gee!

I'm just a big fan of this.  I saw it first on the Grand Narrative, but I traced it back to here I think.

Gee by SNSD

What about Kim Jong-un's Older Brothers?

The Chosun Ilbo was kind enough to write an article covering my question of "Why is the third son getting the keys to country and not the first or second?"
With North Korean leader Kim Jong-il's third son Jong-un being effectively confirmed as heir to his father's leadership, pundits are wondering what will happen to his two older brothers. Kim Jong-nam (39) and Kim Jong-chol (29) appear to be facing contrasting fates. 
Jong-nam is only a half-brother to the other two, being the son of Kim Jong-il's ex-wife Song Hye-rim, who died in 2002, while Jong-chol and Jong-un are children of Kim Jong-il's third wife Ko Yong-hui, who died in 2004. 
Jong-nam was originally considered the favorite to succeed his father, but he fell into disgrace, apparently after telling the children of high-ranking North Korean officials in the late 1990s that he would pursue reforms if he became the next leader. Other factors were the defection to the West in 1996 of his aunt Song Hye-rang and his attempt to enter Japan on a forged Dominican passport. He has been living in virtual exile in China and Macau since 2001. 
What's up with Kim Jong-il having three wives all of whom are dead?  And how does he have a 39 year old son with a wife who died in 2002 and a 29 year old son with a wife who died in 2004?  Is Kim Jong-il trying to beat King Henry VIII for most ex wives in the pursuit of an heir?  How does he explain divorce or having multiple wives in the state media?
Jong-nam was in Pyongyang between July and September 2008, when Kim Jong-il suffered a massive stroke, but has apparently been unable to return since January 2009, when Jong-un was tapped to succeed his father. "He could end up just like Kim Pyong-il, Kim Jong-il's half brother and North Korean ambassador to Poland, who has been in virtual exile for 20 years," said a South Korean government source. 
But Jong-chol may do better. The reason he was not chosen to succeed his father is believed to be his effeminate and passive personality. There are even rumors that he suffers from excessive amounts of the female hormone estrogen as a side effect of steroid abuse. Jong-chol was reportedly an avid fan of action star Jean Claude Van Damme and tried to emulate his muscular idol. He was captured on film by a Japanese broadcaster at an Eric Clapton concert in Germany in 2006, but unlike Jong-nam with his flamboyant lifestyle, has done nothing to catch the attention of the media. 
He also apparently maintains a close relationship with Jong-un, and the two are said to enjoy playing basketball with their teams of body guards. Both attended school in Switzerland between 1993 and 1998. All this suggests Jong-chol will not be exiled when Jong-un comes to power but probably be given a post.
I wonder if the muscles from Brussels is aware of kind of impact he has had on the first family of North Korea.  No wonder pictures of these kids are never released to anyone.

I found a video of Jong-nam on the web.  A Japanese reporter caught him on the go apparently and got him to answer a few questions about his youngest brother.  What is amazing is that the interview between a Japanese reporter and a Korean dictator's son is done in English.

Wednesday, September 29, 2010

North Korean Transfer of Power Made Official

The speculation that has been persistent for years was made official today at the North Korean Workers' Party today.  (article here)
North Korea on Tuesday made the third-generation succession to the country's leadership official, the first such event since feudal times. The North's official media reported that leader Kim Jong-il (68) appointed his son Jong-un (27) a four-star Army general. Kim junior was also named to the central committee of the Workers Party and appointed vice-chairman of the party's powerful central military commission, which his father heads. 
Kim senior in turn succeeded his own father Kim Il-sung, the founder of modern North Korea. 
The KCNA news agency said Kim Jong-il promoted six people to the rank of general -- the others are his sister Kim Kyong-hui (64), Kim Jong-un, Choe Ryong-hae, Hyon Yong-chol, Choe Bu-il and Kim Kyong-ok. It was the first time the secretive regime has publicly named Kim Jong-un. 
A Unification Ministry said Kim Jong-il's promotion of both his son and sister "is a signal that he will hand down power for the third generation through the military and his family." 
Jong-un is 28 years old and was made a four star general after not having served a single day in the army.  Wow.  How can the military brass of the country who have been serving in that army their entire lives swallow that?  Many people think they can't, which is the point.
Earlier in June, Jang Song-taek (64), the administration director of the Workers Party who is Kim Kyong-hui's husband, was promoted to vice chairman of the top decision-making National Defense Commission.
Of the six, four -- Kim Jong-un, Kim Kyong-hui, Choe Ryong-hae and Kim Kyong-ok -- have no known military backgrounds. A South Korean security official said the military titles for four prominent civilians who will lead during the Kim Jong-un era point to a continuation of the "Songun" or "military-first" ideology. He added that probably means nuclear arms development will also continue, since it is closely linked to the doctrine. 
The North announced altogether 41 promotions of military brass. Among them, Gen. Ri Yong-ho, the chief of the Army general staff, was made a vice marshal. 
The party reelected Kim senior general secretary during its first extraordinary congress for the first time in 44 years, which started Tuesday and also elevated Kim Jong-un to his two senior party posts. After prior notice of an "important announcement" at 2 p.m. Tuesday, the North Korean media said the party congress "solemnly" declared that it reelected Kim. He was first elected to the post in October 1997. 
According to a former North Korean diplomat who defected to the South, Kim Jong-un's role as party secretary in charge of organization is tantamount to being appointed his father's official heir. Kim Jong-il was given the same post in 1973 and was officially named his father's successor a year later.
Like father, like son.  If Jung-un does take control after Jong-il's death, let us hope that isn't the case.  Here is some more coverage from the PBS News Hour.

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Mapping Stereotypes

This has been circulating around the internet, so I'd better share it.  A visual artist, Yanko Tsvetkov, has been making mapping stereotypes.  He has many different maps that you can look at, but I'll just post the "Europe according to USA" map stereotype.  I am American, so I feel free to laugh at these because they're pretty accurate stereotypes.


This reminds me of "The world according to Americans" whose artistic source is unknown.

Notice how South Korea and Africa aren't even on the map.  That's because most Americans really know nothing about either of them.



Kim Da-mi

Who is she?  She plays the violin very well.  The Chosun Ilbo wrote about her so I looked her up on youtube.

Kim Da-mi /Courtesy of Kumho Asiana Cultural Foundation

Kim Da-mi took second place in the International Violin Competition Premio Paganini which ended without a top prize winner in Genova, Italy on Sunday.
One of the world's most prestigious music contests, it is held every two years. 
The 22-year-old Korean moved to the U.S. when she was in a middle school and graduated from the Curtis Institute of Music. 
Now a graduate student at the New England Conservatory, she has studied under Prof. Yang Hai-yup and world renowned violinists Aaron Rosand and Miriam Fried.
Check her out:



Pirate Party Politics in Russia?

There is a growing movement in Russia amongst internet users to legalize all non-profit file sharing websites.  In several European countries there has been the formation of new "pirate" parties that are pushing for the legalization of internet piracy and they argue the non-commercial free exchange of ideas are essential to fair and democratic societies.


Since I am posting this, you can take an educated guess at what I think.  But think about it.  When does a law have meaning?  A governing body can pass a law (that is the easiest part).  But then people have to willingly follow it.  If they do not do that you have to find a police force willing to enforce it.  If you can do that you then need a prosecutor to choose to pursue charges.  If you can do that, you then need a judge to hear the case and a jury of your peers to convict you.  This is becoming more and more difficult because people do not see the harm or injustice in ignoring copyright law.  Korea has laws, but there is zero enforcement.

The music and movie industry is just going to have to innovate and find new ways to adapt.  The global piracy trend shows no signs of stopping.  There is power in reaching more people by making music and movies free, I argue there is no loss for the artists in commercial opportunities to make great sums of wealth.  Music artists themselves are lucky anyways if they manage to see 5% of music sales.  The bloated corporate music industry is what is hurting, and people find it hard to find sympathy for them.
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South Korea's Trade with Russia Grows by 50 Times

Peace is good for trade and trade is good for peace.  After the Soviet collapse and the establishment of diplomatic and trade relations between South Korea and Russia, a healthy trade relationship has flourished between them over the last twenty years.  (Article here)
Trade between South Korea and Russia has recorded an over 50-fold jump since the two countries established diplomatic relations 20 years ago, a government report showed Wednesday.
Trade between the two countries stood at 9.98 billion U.S. dollars last year, a 52-fold increase from 190 million dollars in 1992 when statistics began to be tallied, according to the report by the Ministry of Strategy and Finance.
The trade volume between the two countries saw an over 90-fold surge to 18.1 billion dollars in 2008 compared with 1992, but temporarily declined last year due to the global financial crisis. It made a recovery to register 7.9 billion dollars in the first half of this year, up 89 percent from the same period a year before.
South Korea's exports to Russia soared 36-fold to 4.19 billion dollars in 2009, placing Russia as South Korea's 22nd-largest overseas market, while imports jumped 77-fold to 5.79 billion dollars.
South Korea had posted a trade deficit with Russia until 2005 but turned to black from 2006 through 2008, thanks to Russia's rapid growth. Last year's deficit of 1.59 billion dollars occurred due to the global financial crisis.
The ministry, meanwhile, stressed the necessity to expand economic cooperation with Russia that has high growth potential, in order for South Korea to secure future growth engines.
Strange how the amount of stuff coming in and out probably did not change by that much, but a defecit of 1.59 billion dollars can just magically appear through the act of currency manipulation.

Monday, September 27, 2010

Funny Japanese Warfare Simulation

Seriously... this is how the Japanese are preparing to wage war against Chinese or North Korean submarines if the worst should happen?  Maybe since Japan has a constitutionally restricted military, this is all they are allowed to do.

Georgians Swap Russian For English

I am speaking of the former Soviet Republic of Georgia and not "the peach state".

Georgia appears to be determined to distance itself from Russia, and they are taking the first steps to ensuring the next generation of Georgians speak English and share more Western values.

More than 200 native English speakers have arrived as volunteers in the country's pilot program to teach English as a second language in public schools.  The people of Georgia support this because (like in Korea) being able to speak English is seen as a necessity to secure a good job or enjoy financial security in the future.

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Korean Teachers' Verbal Abuse To Be Banned?

I noticed an extremely relevant, but vague article in the Korean Times.
Beginning next year, any form of verbal abuse inflicted by teachers on their students within classrooms will be banned as the Gyeonggi Provincial Office of Education sets out its guidelines to better protect the rights of students. 
Topics off limits are a student’s appearance, family background, academic records and sensitive issues that could embarrass them. Instead of corporal punishment, students who misbehave or violate school rules will be subject to writing repentant reports or doing voluntary service. 
Also in the guidelines, schools will not be able to “designate” the hair style, fashion, and other aspects of the appearance of students. Teachers’ standing guard at the main gates of schools to check for inappropriate dress and hairstyles in the morning will no longer be allowed. 
If necessary, examining a student’s belongings will be allowed, but conducted by same-sex teachers to avoid embarrassment if personal items are disclosed to the public. 
Such guidelines will be finalized no later than next month to come into effect in March of next year.
Interesting... I suppose we need to wait and see what the finalized guidelines are, but I feel like such a policy if enacted nation wide would drastically change the Korean education system.

My personal experiences sharing a classroom with a Korean teacher have been humbling at times.  Some Korean teachers are ruthless, both with the use of corporal punishment and personal attacks on students.  I admit it has bothered me at times, but not a day goes by that I forget to appreciate not living in a hyper-sensitive and excessively politically correct education culture like the schools I am familiar with back in the United States.

How is this going to be enforced?  I cannot imagine systems of punishment or reprimands for veteran Korean teachers who will continue to let their students know if they are fat or unattractive.
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AIDS/HIV Infection Rate of Nation's Capital Is Highest In America

There has been some recent headlines in the news about the AIDS/HIV epidemic in the United States.  Nearly 20% of Gay Men in America are HIV-Positive.  Half of them do not even know it, and are continuing to spread the disease unknowingly.  Additionally, AIDS/HIV is the leading cause of death for African American women between the ages of 25 to 34.

These numbers are horrifying, but I was shocked to learn the the city with the highest rate of infection in the United States is the nation's capital, Washington D.C.  A full 3% of the population are infected and the number could be as high as 5% including people who are unaware they are infected.  This rate of infection of the general population is higher than in cities like Port-au-prince, Haiti or Dakar, Senegal.

Here is a clip from the Alyona Show on RT.  She is interviewing Sheila Johnson who is the producer of a new documentary about the AIDS/HIV epidemic in DC, "The Other City."


There is a stigma attached to AIDS/HIV that "if you have it, you deserve it", which is pretty heartless.  How high does that percentage need to go before Congress acts to reverse the trend?  Just telling people to not have sex and to not do drugs has got us this far... it's time to act.

This also reminds me of a funny (or sad) episode of South Park, in which the show correctly identified the public's disinterest in helping AIDS patients anymore.  Cartman needed on a plane at the last minute and had to lie and say he had cancer to get sympathy, because nobody cared when he told them he had AIDS.  He contracted it through a contaminated blood transfusion and was later cured at the end of the episode.

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Sunday, September 26, 2010

More Taco Bells Coming Soon To Korea?

I finally made it to the Taco Bell in Itaewon, Seoul last week.  I learned about it from Chris in South Korea.  It has been open already for more than two months, but the amount of business it has been consistently getting since then must be great.  I went there at 3pm on a Friday afternoon and was unable to find a place to sit down in its two floors of seating because it was so crowded.

It looks like Taco Bell is pleased with their success and are making plans to expand.  The Washington Post has the article.

On the day of Taco Bell's grand opening in Itaewon, the line stretched 40 minutes outside.
SEOUL - In South Korea, where talk of the border rarely involves dinner options, Taco Bell this summer opened a restaurant, its only one in Asia. But indeed, not its first.
Taco Bell had tried Asia before, and the pair didn't get along. The chain closed its two previous South Korean franchises in the early 1990s. It then pulled out of China in 2008, restoring Asia's reputation as a continent unconquered by the taco.
Taco Bell chose Seoul for its Asian re-launch, though, for a reason that has little to do with refried beans and sour cream. Seoul appealed to Taco Bell, executives say, because few cities on Earth can better turn a novelty into a mainstream obsession. In the time it takes for other countries to warm to a new product, South Koreans have already liked it, loved it, photographed it, blogged about it and waited in 30-minute lines for it for two weeks straight.
Are Koreans really going for it?  They put their only location in Asia in the more densely populated foreign district in Korea.  When I went there, easily more than half the people eating there were foreigners.  How well they can sell tacos outside of Itaewon has yet to be established.
Far away from a customer base in the United States that knows the delights and agonies of late-night taco dining, paid for entirely with pocket change, Taco Bell seeks a higher level of trendiness in South Korea. The new store's menu appears on an LED board. Wall hangings display a succession of culinary mood words: sizzle, steam, smash.
Shin Sang Yong, chief executive officer of M2G Ltd., the company that brought the chain to South Korea, thinks Taco Bell can work here because "people are ready for something new. They've had 20 years of pizza and hamburgers." Shin envisions opening 30 South Korean franchises in the next three years. One hundred in the next six. Right now, Seoul has about 30 Mexican and Tex-Mex restaurants.
It is true.  Koreans have taken to pizza and hamburgers and their Koreanized versions, Lotteria and Mr. Pizza, are everywhere.  Why not tacos?  Slap some bad Englishee on some clever adverts of skinny Koreans celebs chowing down on a soft shell burrito supreme and every pudgy middle school kid in the country will be bugging his parents to go to a Taco Bell.
The city's three-story Taco Bell opened July 11, with 40-minute lines on the first day. Business in the first month exceeded projections by 20 percent, Shin said.
It remains to be seen whether Taco Bell will prosper here, or elsewhere in Asia, over the long term. Since Taco Bell last existed here 15 years ago, little has fundamentally changed in the way people eat. What's different is how they decide where to eat. In the world's most wired country, two of every five people, according to some estimates, maintain a blog. One of South Korea's preeminent search engines, Naver, has a special category for "powerbloggers," many of whom love writing about food. Taco Bell has held special events for these bloggers, hoping to win their approval.
"They can kill a company," said Paul Yang, general manager of M2G. "People here are very fast. One of the fastest places to pick up trends. They lead pop culture in Asia - ahead of Japan, ahead of Hong Kong."
Food trends in South Korea can start from almost anywhere. In the past few years, South Korea has had sudden love affairs with doughnuts, frozen yogurt and waffles.
Two out of every five people have a blog?  That seems impossible... or maybe not...  They do love their doughnuts and waffles.  Now, if we can only get buttermilk pancakes to catch on.  I really miss those!
...
It is a cross-cultural truth that people like large quantities of sodium and fat, whether melted atop crust, sandwiched in a bun or stuffed in a tortilla. But Mexican food still faces some hurdles in Asia. Unlike other Yum! Brands franchises - KFC and Pizza Hut, in particular - Taco Bell has a limited international footprint, with just 250 stores outside the United States. Theories abound as to why Mexican food is a hard sell, but many food enthusiasts in Seoul say they think South Koreans are itching not just for Western food, but also for food that Westerners like.
"A crowd draws a crowd," said Daniel Gray, a Seoul resident and food blogger who offers Korean cooking classes and restaurant tours. "The fact that the foreigners start to go there, there's a huge line around the block - everybody sees that."
Taco Bell's menu, for now, is simple: burritos, tacos, nachos, quesadillas and other demonstrations of nacho cheese engineering, such as the Fries BellGrande, which consists of fries, sour cream, cheese and meat all layered together.
Yang says the restaurant might soon put up a sign showing newcomers how to properly eat a taco; so far, he has noticed South Koreans struggle to angle their heads, leading to a "taco at the wrong orientation," and spillage of ingredients.
Several young women sat on the second floor of Seoul's Taco Bell one recent evening, devoted equally to consuming and photographing their food. Jung Ji Yoon, a 20-year-old college student, said that she had eaten at Taco Bell several times this summer, finding the taste to be "good - especially compared to the price."
I want to see these picture boards explaining to Koreans how to eat tacos.

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KPOP Korral - [4Minute] - Huh


The girl group 4Minute consists of the members Nam JiHyun (남지현), Heo Gayoon (허가윤), Jeon Jiyoon (전지윤), Kim Hyun-Ah (김현아), and Kwon Sohyun (권소현).  They were created by Cube Entertainment in 2009 and have had a string of successful hits in a row.

The hype with this group surrounded Hyuna, who is a former member of the group Wonder Girls.  She left that group to form this group and is considered their leader.  The group recently has been promoting their music abroad in Thailand and the Phillipines, but they still are on the charts in Korea with their recent hits Huh and I My Me Mine.  I am a fan of both videos, but I think Huh is the better of the two.

Huh is supposed to be a response when you are laughed at, like "Huh! That's what you think!"


As far as KPOP live performances go, they are above the crowd.  The dances are fun and they look good.  Five is also a manageable number of girls.  When I see nine to eleven on stage I feel a little bombarded.


I hope they keep making more hits.  Things look bright for them.


A Growing Labor Movement in China?

For the first time in its modern economic history, China is beginning to show signs of labor shortages.  This has emboldened workers who are beginning to recognize their worth to the world's fastest growing economy.

Is the beginnings of a new labor movement taking hold in China?  Strikes have been breaking out across the country and workers are demanding better conditions, fewer hours, and more pay.  Because of recently passed legal legislation to help workers and the increasing shortage of manual labor, the strikes have been successful.

Al Jazeera's 101 East did a twenty minute special about this.


Geez, don't these Chinese workers sound like a bunch of communists asserting their workers' rights and demanding a more fair share for their labor?
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North Korea Planning Biggest Military Parade Ever

Why not?  Kim Jong-il is getting ready to hand over power, why not plan the biggest military parade ever?  That'll inspire the millions of starving people living without hope and cheer.  I guess my only question is why would they ever have a military parade that was not the biggest one they have ever had?  Seems like every parade they have should then be the biggest one ever... or else how can you measure progress in your society?

Here's a taste of what NK parade's are like, and then Yonhap has the story.


SEOUL, Sept. 26 (Yonhap) -- North Korea is gearing up for an unprecedented-scale military parade apparently to mark an upcoming national event, multiple government sources here said Sunday.
A number of troops, missiles, armored vehicles and artillery rockets have been converging on the Mirim Airbase in Pyongyang since July 12, while as many as 10,000 soldiers have rehearsed for a parade that will be inspected by leader Kim Jong-il, the sources said, requesting anonymity.
The sources said it may become North Korea's largest-ever military parade in that the number of troops mobilized is more than double the size in previous events.
"Judging from the current preparations, it is likely to be a large-scale event different from previous years," said a source monitoring North Korea affairs.
The North's powerful Workers' Party plans to convene a rare conference of representatives on Tuesday and will also celebrate the 65th founding anniversary on Oct. 10.
Another source said that among weapons to be deployed at the air base is movable missile launch pads, which indicate the secretive North may show off its various missiles during the parade.
"We are not in the stage yet to talk specifically about equipment but missile-related equipment is on display," the source said.
A North Korean defector, speaking on the condition of anonymity, said about 5,000 troops usually take part in parades organized by the North's military.
"Given the scale of the event this time, however, chances are high that it will be arranged by the National Defense Commission and attended by Kim Jong-il," he said.
Anyone else think it is strange that we need a North Korean defector to remain anonymous to pass us valuable information such as how many of their soldiers participate in military parades?
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Japan's Currency Move Could Effect Won

If you are like me, you probably do not go more than a week without checking the exchange rate between Won and Dollars.  Here is a graph for the exchange rate over the last two years.

The crazy up and down spikes in the beginning was the start of the global recession.  Korea deliberately devalued its currency by nearly a third to protect itself.  But Korea and Asia in general pulled out of the recession pretty quickly.  The won was then doing fantastic in the spring time.  Then that boat sank and it shook the market.  People actually thought there might be war this time and the currency took a hit.

However, since the summer elections in Korea ended and the quiting down of the Cheonan sinking, the Won has been on the move again in the right direction.  Business Week wrote an article talking about the dynamics at play between Japan and Korea and their currency control policies.
Will Korea follow Japan's lead and weaken its currency? Speculation about Korean won intervention has circulated among currency traders in Seoul since Sept. 15, when Japan sold enough of its own currency to drive the yen down 2.5 percent in one day. "We think the Bank of Japan will intervene in the yen until it hits 88 per dollar," says Yun Se Min, a Seoul-based currency trader at Busan Bank. "This will provoke the Korean central bank to intervene." The yen is trading around 84 to the dollar: The cheaper it gets, the more affordable its exports will be, especially in the U.S.
It's a little hard to figure out why the Koreans expect an intervention by the Bank of Korea. True, at almost 1160 to the greenback today, the won is 27 percent stronger than at its weakest point in March of last year, when the global economy was in terrible shape. Compared to its strongest point in the fall of 2007, though, the won is still almost 30 percent weaker. Though the median estimate of currency strategists is for the won to strengthen another 9 percent through 2011, that would still leave it weaker than three years ago.
Meanwhile, Korea is thriving. Aided in part by a weak won, Korea's exports will probably increase 26 percent this year, according to the government. Investors have pushed the benchmark Kospi Index up 9 percent this year: Japan's Nikkei has dropped 9 percent.
Yet the Koreans are starting to worry. All those repatriated profits and portfolio fund dollars have pushed the won up over 3 percent in September, making it Asia's best performer. "The most critical factor is whether the won remains at the current level," says Cho Hwan Eik, president of the Seoul-based Korea Trade-Investment Promotion Agency. He adds that export growth may start to slow in the fourth quarter if the won gets much stronger. "We're not in a safe zone," he says. Lee Seung Woo, a consumer electronics analyst at Shingyoung Securities in Seoul, says that with demand for personal computers and televisions weak, a stronger won would be a further burden for Korean tech companies.
The won faces "the strongest appreciation pressures" in the region, according to a Sept. 13 report by Goldman Sachs (GS). If the won does keep strengthening—and if a weaker yen makes archrival Japan more competitive—pressure will mount on Seoul to act.
The bottom line: The Korean won has remained surprisingly weak for two years, giving Korean exporters an edge. Now it is strengthening.
Every country in the world wants to sell their products to the United States.  What will happen when the United States is no longer able to buy them?  The United States itself wants to devalue its currency in relation to the Chinese because of staggering trade deficits.  Unemployment remains high in the states and people cannot buy as much.  I think Korea and Japan should be reformulating their strategies.

Here's to hoping the Won stays strong!

Japan's Elderly Problem and Nursing Crisis

Al Jazeera posted two reports about Japan that share many parallels with Korea.  Modernized, urban living and longer lifespans have led to an increasing problem of what to do with the all the old people.

It has always been tradition in Japan that children take care of their parents in old age and continue to live together.  Respect for the elderly has always been a supreme virtue.  However, many factors are changing this such as parents having fewer or no children, or children having to work demanding jobs that leave them unable to care for their parents.

Within forty years, 25% of Japan's population will be over the age of 75.  They currently have 40,000 citizens over the age of 100.  They have a lot of old people, and are struggling to keep track of them and care for them.


The report mentioned the man who was thought to be Japan's oldest living man, Sogen Kato.  He was thought to be 111 years old, but police eventually discovered two months ago that he had died over thirty years ago and his body lay mummified in his bed.  His family had been committing pension fraud.

This led to a national hunt in Japan for its elderly and it was discovered that 230,000 centenarians (people who are 100 years or older) were in fact dead and the government did not know.  Many elderly have been dying alone and uncared for and Japanese society is struggling to address this.

The rise in Japan's aging population is also coming at the same time as a massive nursing shortage.  There is a nursing shortage in every industrialized country, because the pay is low and the work is hard.  A Japanese nurse's death, Nobuo Miuro, was even declared a "karoshi" or a death by overwork because the job can be so demanding.

The nursing shortage in Japan is officially at 15,000 but could just as well be as high as 60,000.  This has led to a pilot program of letting foreign nurses move to Japan to work.  They have come from Indonesia and the Philippines and there are only 254 of them.  They recently had to take a Japanese standardized nursing exam to stay in the country (entirely in Japanese) and only three were able to pass it.  Many Japanese do not know what the answer is to this problem, but they do not think it is foreign nurses.

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Monday, September 20, 2010

70 Million Fat People in India and Growing

The popularity of oily and sweet foods combined with a modern life style (driving everywhere and sitting in front of a computer for eight hours) has led to a staggering rise in obesity in urban areas of India.

According to RT, researchers claim that Indian people genetically are at a greater risk of becoming overweight than other people around the world... is that really true?  Interesting thoughts...

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Steve Jobs Might Be A Ninja

An unusual internet hoax has caught on and gone so far as to force Apple to have to come out and publicly deny it.  Longer story found here on CNN.

Huffington Post has the gist:
Apple called a report that CEO Steve Jobs was stopped at the Kansai International Airport for trying to bring Ninja throwing stars aboard his flight "pure fiction".
Jobs may not be a secret Ninja, but that hasn't stopped Jimmy Lai's Next Media Animation from imagining (and animating) the alleged airport altercation.
The Taiwanese studio created a short video that shows how a Ninja Steve Jobs might have reacted to airport security finding his cache of Ninja stars. Watch the original video atNMA.com, or see it below.
Here is the video:

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KPOP Korral - [After School] - Bang



One of the most popular songs of 2010 so far has been the song Bang(뱅) by After School (애프터스쿨).  This group currently has eight members and they are Park Kahi (박지영), Kim Jung Ah (김정아), Lee Joo Yeon (이주연), Rebecca Kim (김레베카), Uee (김유진), Im Jin Ah (임진아), Oh Hye Rin (오혜린), and Park Soo Young (박수영).  The are under the Pledis Entertainment label and their website can be found here.

This video oozes sex appeal.  It also projects a high level of confidence and fierceness that is rarely observed from a female KPOP group.  Even though it is so overtly sexual, it is in no way promoting the Asian-female sexual stereotypes of being submissive and weak.  This is some of KPOP's best in my opinion.


Additionally, the girls of After School gave some phenomenal live performances for this song.  Of all the live performances that I have observed by any group on youtube thus far this year, this has been the best one.  Someone tell me if the link goes dead and I'll find it again.

Sunday, September 19, 2010

Japanese Men Resist Sex Appeal of Girls' Generation For Now



Arguably the most successful Korean pop music group of the last two years has been Girls' Generation (AKA SNSD 소녀시대).  Continuing the growing trend of KPOP successes such as Wonder Girls and Rain, they are trying to expand their influence to foreign markets beyond Korea.

Girl's Generation has successfully landed in Japan:
Korea's top pop group Girls' Generation has been welcomed enthusiastically in Japan. 
The girl band's debut single "Genie" released Wednesday topped the music video chart of Japan's iTunes on the day of its release as well as the video clip and ring tone charts on Japan's largest music site Music.jp and largest mobile site Recochoku. 
The number of pre-orders for "Genie" has exceeded 80,000, and there is still a rush of additional orders after the release. 
Their plan was simple.  Drop in these nine clones of the same gorgeous Korean woman, dress them in skimpy sailor outfits, and let the men of Japan wet themselves with excitement.  Only, that is not what has happened.  Young Japanese women appear to be going crazy for SNSD and not the young men as was planned.
Korean girl groups are attracting more fervent admirers among their own sex in Japan than from the young men they are ostensibly manufactured to appeal to. About 80 percent of the audience at the debut showcase of Girls' Generation at the Ariake Coliseum in Tokyo on Aug. 25 were female, from teenagers to women in their 30s. Plenty of them even sported Girls' Generation outfits.
Things are much the same with other Korean girl groups like 4 Minute, Kara and Brown Eyed Girls. Management agencies admit that even though the bands were meant to target male fans, more than half of the fans are young girls. In Korea, girl bands have traditionally been popular among men of all ages, from teens to those in their 50s.
Why are the girls of Japan going for Korean popstars?  The Chosun Ilbo gave some analysis.
AKB 48 and Morning Musume are the leading Japanese girl bands this year. Dressed in frilly princess dresses and much given to winsome smiles, they dance and sing to routines mainly choreographed with dainty movements of hands and feet. But Korean girl groups have a bolder, more dynamic image. They wear angular uniforms or tight skinny jeans, and dance to choreography that uses the whole body. On stage, they appear confident and charismatic.
Kim Young-min of agency SM Entertainment said, "Japanese girls who've had enough of Japanese girl bands that strictly appeal to men's protective instincts seem to take bolder Korean girl groups as a role model."
I know absolutely nothing about JPOP.  But I already thought Korean women were kind of "dainty" compared to Western pop stars.  I guess when compared to China or Japan, the women of Korea do appear more confident and dynamic.  Never thought of that before...
Thanks to their notoriously grueling training, Korean girl groups tend to be better at dancing and singing than Japanese ones. Members of Korean girl bands go through an average of three to six years of training, while Japanese girls get just six months to a year. 
Japanese management agencies recently shifted from quality to quantity, on the assumption that anyone can become an "idol" with the right marketing support. AKB 48, as the name suggests, has 48 members who perform a daily gig for fans in a small theatre in Tokyo's Akihabara. Often members are launched straight off the street and then learn on the job due to these schedules.
Wow!  All subjective analysis!  I love it!  I keep hearing about KPOP stars who trained for six years... and I just do not buy it.  A year sounds about right, but they have got to stop telling people that they have been training for six years, it is not fooling anyone.
Oricon, the Japanese equivalent to charts provider Billboard, recently said Japanese girls in their teens and 20s are taking to Korean girl bands during a lull for Korean boy bands.  Bands such as TVXQ, Big Bang and SHINee turned Japanese girls on to K-pop, with the number of Japanese TVXQ fans estimated at over 300,000.
Apparently sexy Korean men have already opened the door in Japan for girl KPOP groups.  Young Japanese girls first watched clips of groups like TVXQ, Big Bang, and SHINee, and now they want to be like confident and sexy Korean women.  Hmmm... maybe... it's a theory in the works...

They released a Japanese version of their song, "Genie" and are promoting it now in Japan.  

Here it is:





The Suicide Rate Gets Worse in 2009

I say many wonderful things about South Korea when I talk to family and friends back home.  But inevitably, I end up giving the shocking statistic that Koreans kill themselves at an alarming rate.  They have the highest suicide rate in the developed world and new reports about data collected from 2009 indicates the problem is only getting worse.

First, on average, 40 Koreans Kill Themselves Every Day:
Some 14,579 people killed themselves last year, or a daily average of about 40, the National Police Agency said Wednesday. That was an increase of 18.8 percent from 2008. 
People over 61 made up the largest portion with 4,614 suicides or 31.6 percent. Police said this was mainly linked to disease and stress caused by economic hardship. 
Among those in their 40s, 2,770 killed themselves, accounting for 19 percent of the total, followed by those in their 50s with 2,427 (16.6 percent), and those in their 30s with 2,508 (17.2 percent). Suicides among 20s continue to increase from 1,428 in 2005 to 1, 793 last year. Some 452 youngsters under 20 killed themselves. 
By gender, 9,395 men and 5,167 women took their own lives. Among people in their 40s, men outnumbered women by 2.4:1 and among those in their 50s by 3.1: 1. 
The largest proportion or 28.3 percent apparently killed themselves due to mental problems, followed by 21.9 percent because of physical diseases; 16.2 percent over economic hardship; 12.6 percent due to domestic conflict; 7.1 percent due to relationship problems; and 6.6 percent due to trouble at work.
To begin, suicides in Korea may be underreported.  To spare families and communities the grief, I have heard many times that suicides are ruled by detectives as accidental homicides.  This is not unique to Korea, family and friends always want to believe that the loss of a loved one was an accident and not a suicide.

There is a major misconception that the suicide rate is a result of mostly students killing themselves for poor grades or business men killing themselves for losing their job.  Those are the stories that make headlines in the papers.  However, the suicide epidemic in Korea is actually amongst the elderly and the poor.  Of those who committed suicide, 31.6 percent were over the age of 61.  Reasons I have heard for this include they feel like an economic burden on their family or society.  The government should be doing more to help the elderly poor so as to reduce this horrifying trend.  I argue that suicides run in the family.  Children of parents who committed suicide are more likely to commit suicide themselves.

Second, Juvenile Suicides are on the Rise:
The number of suicides among youngsters is on a steep rise. Last year 202 people who killed themselves were still at school, up 47 percent from 137 in 2008, the Ministry of Education, Science and Technology said Sunday. 
The figure was around 100 to 140 until 2008 but surpassed 200 for the first time in 2009. High school students made up the largest share or 140, followed by 56 middle school students and 6 elementary school children. 
Park Hee-keun, a ministry official, said, "Impulsive and emotionally unstable adolescents seem to have been affected by the 'Werther Effect' with the increasing number of suicides committed by celebrities." Since 2005, many celebrities including actresses Lee Eun-joo, Jung Da-bin, Choi Jin-sil, actors Ahn Jae-hwan, Choi Jin-young, Park Yong-ha and singer Yuni committed suicide. 
Among reasons for juvenile suicides, family conflict accounted for 69 cases; depression for 27; poor performance at school 23; romantic relationships 12; illness or physical problems 7; and bullying or violence 4.
I am an English teacher in a public school, and thankfully I have never had a student of mine commit suicide, but I know other native English teachers that have.  It is traumatic for teachers I think.  I cannot imagine what effect it has on the other students who have known the deceased their entire lives.  Suicide is contagious, and copycat suicides of celebrities is part of that.  I would be really interested to know of these students who killed themselves, how many had either a parent, grandparent, or sibling that committed suicide as well.  There is probably a strong correlation.

The "reasons" statistics for juvenile suicides also make no sense.  Cannot a child both have family conflicts and poor performance at school be the reason for the suicide?  In theory,  a child could have all of these reasons be contributing factors.  Bizarre that in police reports they would give only a single defining reason to explain the death.


When To Not Drive For Chuseok

The Chosun Ilbo was kind enough to give us the survey results to know when to avoid the roads:
Traffic congestion during Chuseok or Korean Thanksgiving, which falls on Sept. 22 this year, is expected to be most serious on the morning of Sept. 21 when travelers hit expressways to travel to their hometowns, and on the afternoon of Sept. 22, when they travel back to urban areas. 
In a survey by the Korea Transport Institute for the Ministry of Land, Transport and Maritime Affairs, 40.3 percent of respondents said they will travel to their hometowns on the morning of Sept. 21. That was followed by the morning of Chuseok (19.3 percent) and the afternoon of Sept. 21 (14.5 percent). 
Meanwhile, 36 percent of respondents said they will hit expressways to travel back to urban areas on the afternoon of Sept. 22, followed by the afternoon of Sept. 23 (29.1 percent) and the morning of Sept. 23 (15.7 percent). 
What does this mean?  It means if you have a flexible schedule at all, you should consider not traveling on the morning of September 21st or the afternoon of September 22nd.

Chuseok this year is a weird time, being a tuesday, wednesday, and thursday.  Many schools and companies are giving their employees either the monday before or the friday after the day off as well, which should alleviate a little the road jams.
This estimate is similar to traffic flow during previous Chuseok holidays, showing that traffic along nationwide expressways will not be distributed any better even though some companies take as many as nine days off for Chuseok this year. 
On the most congested days, it will likely take as many as four hours for vehicles to travel from Seoul to Daejeon, eight hours to Busan, six hours and 30 minutes to Gwangju or Mokpo, and four hours and 30 minutes to Gangneung. 
Some 81.1 respondents said they will take their own cars, followed by buses (13.6 percent), trains (4.1 percent) and airplanes (0.7 percent).
From Seoul to Gwangju it is estimated to be six and a half hours, and I know that this trip is usually around four hours.  So... an additional half hours should be expected for every hour you anticipate being on the road.

Happy Chuseok!

South Korea is 5th Worldwide in Road Fatalities

I suspected they were bad, but I am surprised that it is this bad:
Korean roads are the fifth deadly in the world, according to a survey by the International Transport Forum. 
Quoting a survey by the Paris-based forum, the U.K. Daily Mail on Wednesday said Korea ranked fifth among 33 major countries with 12 road deaths per 100,000 people. It tails Malaysia (23.8 deaths), Argentina (18.4), Greece (13.8), and Cambodia (12.6). 
The U.S. ranked seventh with 11.1 deaths and Japan tied with Switzerland at 27th with 4.5. The U.K. was the safest with a mere 3.8. 
Korea topped the list in terms of annual road fatalities per billion km driven with 20.1 deaths, followed by the Czech Republic (19.4) and Malaysia (17.7).
Something to remember with these numbers is that it is per 100,000 people, and not per 100,000 cars or drivers.  I am sure that there are more road fatalities in countries like China and India per 100,000 cars or drivers.  But larger percentages of their populations (millions of people who never leave their villages) do not have cars and are not driving at all.

Whereas, Korea has a robust automotive industry and a world class network of highways and roads.  Once a family hits middle class, they buy a car and learn how to drive it for the first time when they are in their thirties or forties.  I have no statistics to back this up, but I bet a lot of elderly people in Korea are learning to drive as their children finally earn them enough income to afford a car to drive, and those people might be a contributing growing percentage of road fatalities.

You could also blame the staggering amount of alcohol consumption in Korea or the complete lack of traffic law enforcement.  Take your pick!

Thursday, September 16, 2010

South Korea Has Coffin Academies?

This is just weird and creepy.  South Korea has the highest suicide rate in the developed world, and I just do not see how participating in something like this can help anyone who suffers from depression or suicidal thoughts.

Al Jazeera has the report:
In an attempt to improve and find a meaning to their lives some South Koreans have taken the unusual step of going to the grave.
At South Korea's coffin-academy people come to die, in order to learn how to live.
The people remain inside coffins for a total of ten minutes. And the funeral director says, it is in these quiet moments, that he has seen lives transformed.
Many say the near-death experiences which they term 'well-dying' are the best way to achieve long lasting inner peace.
Al Jazeera's Steve Chao reports from Daejeon in South Korea.

What the heck is a thirteen year old girl doing there participating in a living funeral?  Cultural differences be damned, this is NOT healthy.

The Governator Catches the KTX


The above photo is a reference to the movie Predator if you are confused.

The Last Action Hero made it to South Korea this week.

Article Here:
California Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger was given a red-carpet welcome in Korea on Wednesday, meeting President Lee Myung-bak, two government ministers and two top CEOs. Seoul gave Schwarzenegger the VIP treatment because the state of California is pursuing a W50 trillion (US$1=W1,163) high-speed rail project, which presents major business opportunities for Korean companies. 
...
After lunch he rushed over to Seoul Station and hopped on the KTX bullet train that took him to Asan in South Chungcheong Province as railway officials explained Korea's technological prowess in high-speed rail construction and operation. Schwarzenegger said he was "impressed" at the speed and efficiency of Korea's high-speed rail and wanted to learn more.
California is seeking to build a bullet train network at a cost of $42.6 billion, and bidding is scheduled to begin in the second half of 2012. Seven countries including Korea are expected to take part.
These high-speed rail projects happening right now in the United States is one of the center pieces of President Obama's economic stimulus package.  The United States desperately needs high speed rail, and no place more than along the coasts between major cities in California and New England.  That would be fantastic if South Korea could get some of those construction and design contracts.

I am sure Arnold never predicted something such as Youtube would come along, but he (and many other American celebrities) made ridiculous commercials in Japan in the 80s and 90s and assumed nobody in the English speaking world would ever see them.  Well, someone found them all and made a greatest hits collection on Youtube of all of Arnold's more absurd Japanese commercials.

They're all great, but my favorite is at 7:20.


First Korean Women's ROTC Program Established


The Chosun Ilbo wrote an editorial titled "Glass Ceiling in the Military Must Be Shattered":
The Defense Ministry has chosen Sookmyung Women's University as Korea's first university to operate the Reserve Officers' Training Corps program for women, and six of the universities with the ROTC program for men are allowed to take in five female cadets from this year. The first group of female ROTC cadets will be commissioned into service in 2013.
The ministry plans to expand the number of commissioned female officers from the current 4.3 percent (3,111 officers) to 7.7 percent over the next 10 years, while increasing the number of non-commissioned female officers from 2.9 percent (3,051 officers) to 5.5 percent. Women account for 16 percent of the officers in the U.S. military, 8.1 percent in the U.K. and 13 percent in France. 
These statistics are interesting, but maybe misleading.  The other Western military powers mentioned are all volunteer armies.  Whereas, every male in South Korea has to join the military.  Women in South Korea are exempted and therefore it only makes sense that they would account for such a smaller percentage.  If anything, I am shocked the number of female officers now is as high as 4.3 percent.

I have attended job fairs and graduate fairs in the United States and military recruiters are desperate for officer applicants with specialty skills in computers, languages, or medicine.  I am sure that is why it is so high in the United States.  Simple demand for highly skilled people (regardless of their gender) has led to that high of a percentage.
The Korean military must open its doors further to qualified women to keep abreast of the growing importance of technology, computers, automated systems and communications networks in the military. As of 2008, women accounted for 42 percent of 894,987 public servants. The Air Force Academy admitted its first female cadet in 1997 and the Military and Navy academies followed suit in 1998 and 1999. At first, there was skepticism over the moves, but the graduation of skilled female officers has brought new vigor to the military. 
Really?  "abreast"?  Was that a coincidental pun or not?
Korea's birthrate stands at only 1.15 children. That is the lowest in the world and leads to a decline in the number of eligible male recruits, triggering intense debate over whether to lengthen or shorten mandatory military service. The women’s ROTC program could offer a solution to this manpower dilemma. 
But the government should look at more than numbers if female officers are to present genuine solutions. It must let female officers harbor big aspirations. 
In the U.S., Ann Elizabeth Dunwoody became the first female four-star generals as commanding general for the Army Material Command in 2008. But Korea has seen only five female generals in its military history since a nursing commander became the country's first female general in 2002. They were all from the nursing corps and reached no rank higher than major general. The only current active-duty female general is the president of the Armed Forces Nursing Academy. If women are to become part of the core of our military, the glass ceiling must be shattered so that they can become generals in combat and other commands too.
Korea's female soldiers mark 60 years of service this year. The new milestones will mark new achievements for the entire military.
I agree with this editorial.  But one thing about South Korea that makes them different from western powers is that they do not see the genders as equal yet.  They do not even pretend in the slightest.  Women in South Korea still have an American 1950's image expected of them.  They have to do all the cooking, cleaning, childcare, and are expected to look good all the time and baby their husbands when they get home from work.  Despite knowing how women in the western world have socially evolved since then, Korean women still do it.  They wear the heels.  They give up their careers to be stay at home moms.  They cook.  They clean.  They become their husband's second mother.  This is still a patriarchal society and it is socially expected for men to be favored over women in almost every way.

There is no reason military service cannot be required for every man and women in South Korea.  This is already the case countries like Israel.  Military service could then perhaps be reduced for everyone down to fifteen or even twelve months.  It would make more citizens combat trained and better prepared in the event the North ever tried something.

I found this video, there are a few pictures of female special forces.  I am sure these women know how to kill me just as fast as any Korean man in the special forces:


KPOP Korral - [2NE1] - Can't Nobody, Clap Your Hands, & Go Away


2NE1 is one of the hottest KPOP groups of 2010 and my clear favorite group in KPOP.  I have liked them since the first time I saw them.  The reason for this is because they have a good sound, a fun image, and are proud individuals.  Too many girl groups are just five to nine identical looking women with slightly different hair styles doing all they can to look submissive and cute.  There is a proud place in KPOP for that, but it looks the same to me.  2NE1 is the most unique group and therefore they get my highest recommendation for good KPOP.

With that said... I was disappointed with their latest album.  CL, Minzy, Dara, and Bom decided to be bold and release and promote three singles all at the same time.  Allkpop.com had this to say about their decision to release three singles at once:
You’ve read correctly, folks – the female hip-hop quartet 2NE1 will be promoting not one, not two, butthree tracks simultaneously at one given period of time!
Such decision is definitely unprecedented in K-pop industry (or perhaps any other music industries out there), since most artists tend to promote only one, two at max, song at a time. Not only that, triple promotion is quite risky and adventurous as well, with such large amount of money at stake.
Many professionals have expressed their concerns toward YG’s decision. If three tracks will be promoted, an unbelievable amount of money will have to be spent on making the music videos for all the songs. Also, the rankings on various music charts will be in mess, which would cause a great deal of damage.
Founder of YG, Yang Hyun Suk revealed, “As a music producer, I’ve heard the ‘double title track’ promotional method a couple of times. However, this is my first time hearing of three title tracks. The reason we’ve decided to choose this path anyway is because our wish to spread 2NE1’s various unique music styles is bigger than our desire to win first place.
The review of the album was not entirely favorable either.  The ending comments summed it up best and I am going to have to agree with allkpop.com about their latest album:
I’m going to be quite frank. I was really shocked by the amount of auto-tune in the album, and so after my first run-through, I felt disappointed, and even bereft. Yes, there were highlights in the form of “Clap Your Hands”, “It Hurts (Slow)”, and “Go Away.” Yes, the girls did not compromise on that sass, that swagger, which makes their delivery unique and their presence charismatic. But what happened? Perhaps it’s just me hating on auto-tune, like the way stiff art critics hate on Jackson Pollock.
It’s new, it’s fairly provocative in the way that these girls won’t hold back. I do recommend you give the record a few good turns, and flesh out how you feel about it. Regardless of whether my review interested or infuriated you, I stand by this point at the end of the day: 2NE1 is one of the most interesting groups in the Korean music industry, and I will continue to support them as they continue to transcend limitations and expectations.
I actually think these girls are great dancers with pretty good voices, so the extreme artificial sound of their voices is a disappointment.  Here are the songs, you can be the judge yourself about the amounts of auto-tune.  Even for KPOP, it is over the top in my opinion.

Song #1 - Can't Nobody


Song #2 - Go Away


Song #3 - Clap Your Hands (박수쳐)


The are still my favorite...

KPOP Korral - [2NE1] - Try to Follow Me


2NE1 is part of the YG Entertainment family and debuted last year.  They were initially being called the female version of Big Bang, and made several appearances with them to spike their popularity.  The group name has several meanings, obviously "21" or "ToAnyone" and their name was said to be the name of a group that "will produce music that is fresh like the age of 21. And like the number '21' in a game of Blackjack, it’s meant to never lose."  It has also been said to stand for "New Evolution of the 21'st Century".

The group's four members are CL (Lee Chae Rin, 이채린), Bom (Park Bom, 박봄), Dara (Sandara Park, 박산다라), and Minzy (Gong Min Ji, 공민지).  They released the song "Try to Follow Me" (날 따라 해봐요) earlier this year and the video was one of my favorites thus far of 2010.


Their official website

Additionally, to highlight all the individual talents of each of the four members, at the end of last year all four members released solo songs and then promoted them as a group.

CL and Minzy released a duet titled "Please Don't Go" and just did some awesome live performances.  No music video was produced.  If this link goes dead, someone should tell me so I can find another performance.


Park Bom released a slower tempo song titled "You and I".  It has a fun (maybe sad) story.


Finally, Dara released a single titled "Kiss".  I like this the least because she obviously partnered with Cass Beer to promote this song and the beer is disgusting.  The product placement in this video is so horrendous that I at first thought this was some kind of joke of a long commercial and not actually a music video.

US Navy Delays Plans to Remove 8,500 Soldiers from Okinawa

The military bases in Japan have been a rising point of contention in the Japanese government.  World War II ended sixty years ago and Japan was constitutionally limited to a small defense force.  The US officially acts as Japan's military in the event of conflict.  However, many Japanese feel like the time in right for the United States to reduce their military presence and let the Japanese reclaim their own security.

RT filed a report:


Currently 18% of the main island of Okinawa is occupied by the United States military.  Residents of the island complain about the size of the bases (when space is so limited) as well as noise pollutions and crime.  According to the treaty that Japan signed that let to the creation of these military bases, American citizens attached to the bases cannot be tried under Japanese law.  US citizens are above Japanese law and can only be held accountable for their actions my military courts.  The report says that 90% of crime is alcohol or traffic related, but there have been cases of rape or murder.

We will see what happens, but I am certain that under no circumstances does the United States want to relocate or remove their bases when North Korea remains unstable and China continues to grow in strength.

Tuesday, September 14, 2010

Youtube and the Real Name Verification Law

If you are foreigner and new to Korea and possibly excited to start your own blog or post videos of your new life for family members back home to see, you might be confused why Youtube will not let you.



You might see a green error message when you try to upload a videao after creating your youtube account.  It states the following both in Korean and English:

본인확인제로 인해 한국 국가 설정시 동영상/댓글 업로드 기능을 자발적으로 비활성화합니다.
We have voluntarily disabled this functionality on kr.youtube.com because of the Korean real-name verification law.
Likwise if you try and post any kind of comment on Youtube, you will get a simpler error message with no explanation.  Well then... what is the "Korean real-name verification law"?

Can I Bring My Video Games to South Korea?

Someone asked if they can bring their XBOX 360 to South Korea and I also own and play an XBOX 360 and I did some google searches and failed to find a website with a clear guide to this problem.  I managed to figure it out with by experimentation after I arrived in Korea.  So, I will try and do my best to pass on what I have learned.

I came to Korea with my XBOX 360.  I did so with out knowing how electronics outside of North America differ.  I currently have with me a variety of electronics made in (or rather made for) the United States: a Gateway laptop, a WD external hardrive, a Nikon camera, a Nokia cell phone, and a Sony mp3 player.  All of these electronics have worked fine when I just use a common prong adapter.  However, certain electronics cannot be used anywhere in the world.  Video games systems are one of these unfortunate exceptions.  So if you have a Microsoft XBOX 360, Sony Playstation 3, or Nintendo Wii, this applies to you if you want to bring your consoles to South Korea.

Sunday, September 12, 2010

MC Mong Caught Pulling Teeth to Avoid Military Service

A South Korean hip hop artist, Mc Mong (MC 몽) is in deep trouble.  


The story found here:
Entertainer and singer MC Mong delayed serving in the military for seven years and pulled out his own teeth to obtain an exemption from compulsory military service in 2007, the Seoul police said Friday.
The Crime Investigation Division of the Seoul Metro Police Agency said the singer postponed joining the military on seven occasions between 1999 and 2006. His reasons included overseas traveling and preparing for civil service exams. But, according to police, he used the time for filming a movie and releasing a new music record.
The police also confirmed that the singer extracted healthy teeth to be exempted from military duty. In 1998, when the singer had his first physical examination for military service, his dental condition was marked as “normal.” When he was officially exempted for poor dental health in 2007, the record showed that he had 12 teeth missing. 
Although the singer claimed that all of the 12 teeth had decayed, the police said four of the extracted teeth were perfectly healthy, and were pulled out without a valid reason. Police plan to arrest the singer without detention. 
I have been told that Koreans do not fluoridate their water.  As a result there is a lot of tooth decay in the country.  I have met some Koreans with some very poor sets of teeth, but having twelve teeth pulled is pretty extreme.  I guess I am also unclear why missing this many teeth would give someone an exemption from military service anyways...
On Thursday, police also arrested 11 B-boys who purposely injured their shoulders by over-training to dodge their military duty. 
Meanwhile, "One Night, Two Days,'" of which MC Mong is a cast member, decided to edit the scenes in which he appeared. The show which is to be aired in the evening today will be broadcast 15 minutes shorter than the original version which lasts 80 minutes.
Production crew of the show said whether Mong remains for the show will be decided after further discussions.
However, the "Haha-Mong" show was broadcast on Sunday morning with scenes in which MC Mong appears unedited. It triggered fierce criticism by many viewers, which eventually led to the shutdown of its website.
MC Mong is not the first male celebrity to resist and delay Korea's mandatory two year military service for men.  He will not be the last either.  I checked out some of his videos and for a "hip hop" artist he looks like a really friendly and nice guy.  This decisions to avoid the draft might have led to the end of his career.

Here is his iceream song that came out a couple years ago:


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