Sunday, May 8, 2011

North Korea Cyber Attacks Nonghyup Bank

A couple weeks ago my facebook news feed erupted with a lot of annoyed native English teachers complaining about their banking services provider, Nonghyup, being closed unexpectedly.  Nonghyup closed its doors and cut off ATM and check cards services for three days because of a security breach that crippled the bank.  I was not able to withdrawl or use any of my personal money for three days.  If you work for EPIK (like I do), then you have to bank with Nonghyup and many other government employees also have to bank with Nonghyup exclusively.  As it turns out, it looks like North Korea was responsible for the cyber attack.

Banking operations at Nonghyup, a South Korean farm co-operative, were halted by the cyber intrusion, leaving customers unable to access their money. 
The Seoul prosecutors' office called it "unprecedented cyber-terror deliberately planned" by North Korea. 
It said the software used matched that used in earlier attacks by Pyongyang. 
Prosecutors said that a laptop used by a subcontractor "became in September 2010 a zombie PC operated by the North, which... later remotely staged the attack through the laptop". 
One of the Internet Protocol (IP) addresses used to break into Nonghyup's system was the same as one used in March for a distributed denial-of-service (DDoS) attack that originated in North Korea, they added. 
The software used in the incident was also similar to that employed in July 2009, when a number of South Korean government websites were attacked, the prosecutors said. 
The latest attack caused a three-day service outage at the bank - also called the National Agricultural Co-operative Federation - and caused the records of some credit card customers to be deleted. 
South Korean media outlets have in the past accused North Korea of running an internet warfare unit aimed at hacking into US and South Korean government and financial networks. 
The two Koreas technically remain at war following the 1950-53 Korean War, and tensions have been high in recent months in the wake of two deadly incidents. 
South Korea blames North Korea for sinking its Cheonan warship in March 2010, with the loss of 46 lives, although North Korea denies any role in the incident. 
Four South Koreans were also killed when North Korean troops shelled a border island in November 2010.
South Korea has some of the most strict internet laws in the world, but that does not mean they are the best or the smartest.  South Korea passed a myriad of internet laws around 2006 and none of them have been updated by lawmakers since.  The internet evolves quickly and a lot of government agencies and businesses are being hampered by these laws to rely on outdated security software (like activeX plugin request) because that is what Korean law states they must use, even though it has become outdated and unsafe.

NMA TV Animates for The Daily Show

The Royal Wedding was last weekend, but its covered got overshadowed by the death of OBL.  The Royal Family actually banned satirical and news shows from using any of the footage from the Royal Wedding.  So the crew at the Daily Show contacted the Taiwanese animating crew at Next Media Animation to make a funny clip to mock the Royal Wedding.  I enjoy their work and this one was pretty good...

I often hear from British foreign teachers here in South Korea how much they dislike the Royal family.  They also often claim that they are a waste of tax money and completely worthless.  I found a clip by CJP Grey explaining the true cost of the Royal Family to British tax payers.  This was really interesting information on an issue I have ever cared about...

Superman Renounces US Citizenship

Looks like Superman and the United States have some irreconcilable differences.  He will no longer be fighting for "truth, justice, and the American way" and will need to come up with a new slogan.

Superman is no longer an American. 
In Action Comics’ new record-breaking 900th issue, the iconic super hero renounces his U.S citizenship following a clash with the federal government. 
The Man of Steel, created by Jerry Siegel and Joe Shuster in 1938, has always been recognized as a devoted American warrior who constantly fought evil, but as of Thursday, he is no longer the country's own to claim. 
"I intend to speak before the United Nations tomorrow and inform them that I am renouncing my U.S. citizenship," he says in a cell in the issue. "I'm tired of having my actions construed as instruments of U.S. policy." 
Superman even questions his longtime motto: "Truth, justice and the American way."

"Truth, justice, and the American way -- it's not enough anymore," he states. 
Superman's creators defended the decision. 
"Superman is a visitor from a distant planet who has long embraced American values. As a character and an icon, he embodies the best of the American Way," DC's co-publishers, Jim Lee and Dan DiDio said in a statement to "In a short story in ACTION COMICS 900, Superman announces his intention to put a global focus on his never ending battle, but he remains, as always, committed to his adopted home and his roots as a Kansas farm boy from Smallville." 
The landmark issue is certainly sparking controversy. 
"Besides being riddled with a blatant lack of patriotism, and respect for our country, Superman's current creators are belittling the United States as a whole. By denouncing his citizenship, Superman becomes an eerie metaphor for the current economic and power status the country holds worldwide," Hollywood publicist and GOP activist Angie Meyer told FOX411's Pop Tarts column. 
But not everyone is outraged by Superman's citizenship surrender. 
"Superman has always been bigger than the United States. In an age rife with immigration paranoia, it’s refreshing to see an alien refugee tell the United States that it’s as important to him as any other country on Earth -- which, in turn, is as important to Superman as any other planet in the multiverse," wrote Wired blogger Scott Thill. 
"The genius of Superman is that he belongs to everyone, for the dual purposes of peace and protection," Thill added. "He’s above ephemeral geopolitics and nationalist concerns, a universal agent unlike any other found in pop culture."
This prompted Stephen Colbert to include Superman on his Theatdown this week.

Happy Children's Day

Both South Korea and Japan celebrated Children's Day on May 5th.  It is a national holiday to celebrate children.  Kids get the day off school and most businesses are closed.

It was a somber day for a lot of families in Japan that lost parents and children earlier this year.  I saw a touching clip on Al Jazeera.

Wednesday, May 4, 2011

Google Office in Seoul Raided by Police

I do not think anyone should be surprised by this anymore.  If you own a smart phone or tablet, then your service provider and the government knows where you are at all times and everything that you do on that device.  The information exists, and corporations and governments cannot help themselves but collect and exploit that information.

Last week a class action lawsuit was filed against Apple for their location tracking technology in the iphone.  Another class action lawsuit has also been filed against Google for their location tracking technology in the Android phone.  South Korea is following up on this information and made a visit to Google South Korea's main office in Seoul.

SEOUL (MarketWatch) -- South Korean police raided Google Inc.'s local office on Tuesday as part of an investigation into whether the U.S. search giant's local unit has been illegally collecting individuals' private location data through its mobile advertising platform. 
The police said it is looking into allegations that Google's AdMob platform was used to illegally collect private data about people's geographical locations. It didn't elaborate. 
A Google Korea spokeswoman confirmed that the police visited the Seoul unit to investigate how cellphones and tablets that run on Google's Android operating system collect information about users' location. 
"Google will fully cooperate with the investigation," the spokeswoman said. 
In November 2009, Google purchased mobile advertising start-up AdMob Inc. for $750 million as part of a push to extend its dominance in Internet advertising to mobile phones. 
Tuesday's police action is the latest in a number of investigations of Google in South Korea to determine whether the company has broken local regulations. 
South Korea is the most wired country on the planet and has some of the most complicated and strict internet enforcement and privacy laws.  South Korean internet police have already picked fights with Youtube and Facebook.  They aren't scared to go after Google either.
In August last year, the National Police Agency launched an investigation into whether the U.S. company collected and stored private information illegally while it prepared for the South Korean launch of its "Street View" mapping service, which provides panoramic views of streets for Internet users. 
Separately, two South Korean search portals--Naver and Daum Communications Corp. (035720.KQ) -- filed a complaint last month with the country's Fair Trade Commission against Google for allegedly limiting their access to Android smartphones. 
No further announcements have been made by regulators about the status of these investigations, which Google Korea has said it will co-operate with. In the latter case the company has said Android is an open platform and carrier partners are free to decide which applications and services to include on their Android phones. Google also told Dow Jones Newswires Tuesday that neither the policy agency nor the antitrust regulator has further contacted the company about these issues. 
The latest probe into Google came just a few days after South Korea's telecommunication regulator, the Korea Communications Commission, said it sent a list of inquiries to Apple Inc.'s (AAPL) Korea unit to clarify how it collects location data from iPhone and iPad users, reflecting concerns about the collection and storage of private information gathered from smartphones and tablet devices.

Tuesday, May 3, 2011

Japan Has 'Wonderful Dream' to Host 2020 Olympics

Japan is facing billions of dollars in reconstruction costs, but they are also thinking about making a bid to host the 2020 Olympic games.  The Japanese Olympic Committee thinks that hosting the games will have a healing effect on the country.  Certainly, South Korea hosting the 1988 Olympic games did wonders for their economy and their national pride.  The world probably would give it to them thinking it would help them recover from the devastation.  The last time Japan hosted the Summer games was in 1964.

Past countries to host the summer games, from Wikipedia:

TSA Security Made Miss USA Cry

I personally have not flown back to the United States in the last two years... but I am dreading the day I will have to go through security and get my nut sack pat down.

The full body scanners take a full body image of your front and back.  All of your bio-metric specifications are then recorded on a computer.  The government claims they do not keep this information... but the government does not have the best record of being honest about respecting the privacy of Americans (or non-Americans passing through our airports).  Another reason is money.  These machines are very expensive and former Secretary of Homeland Security Michael Chertoff personally is profiting from the sales of machines he says are absolutely essential to preventing terrorist attacks.

Now, in order to persuade people to willingly stand in line and use the full body scanners to get a naked picture taken of them, the TSA has invented a pat down procedure more invasive and offensive than any regular police pat down.  TSA employees have to perform a procedure to be invasive and to make the person feel uncomfortable.  They have to otherwise nobody would ever choose to go through one of the full body scanners, thus making them pointless.  It is a comfort battle for passengers between the lesser of two evils.

Miss USA 2003 Susie Castillo is a frequent flyer and recently passed through the Dallas Airport and felt like TSA went too far.  We need more celebrities to make these videos and speak out, because nobody listens when average people complain...

Susie then went on the today show.  She made some great points.  How come these TSA screening procedures are not being used at the White House or the Pentagon?  If this is the best way to screen and catch terrorists, why is it only happening in airports and not all government buildings?  What about foreign airports?  They have other methods that have worked for them just fine.  There is no evidence that the TSA enhanced pat downs do anything to protect passengers more than metal detectors, behavioral profiling, and dog units.

KPOP Korral - [Lee Hyun] - You Are the Best of My Life

Lee Hyun (이현) is a singer and the leader of a ballad group called 8Eight.  I do not normally enjoy Korean ballad songs, but this video is very amusing to watch.  I recommend checking it out, even if you also do not care for ballads.

It is interesting to see in this video what Koreans view as being unattractive.  They just gave a normal looking woman freckles and pig tails and all of a sudden she is hideous.  Hilarious!  It reminded me of the movie "She's All That", which then reminded me of the parody movie of that movie, "Not Another Teen Movie."  All you have to do is give an attractive woman glasses and a pony tail and BAAM, she's hideous... lol

Sunday, May 1, 2011

IMF Predicts China Overtaking the USA in PPP by 2016

The International Monetary Fund has released new figures last week predicting that China will overtake the United States by 2016 in an important economic indicator, PPP (purchasing power parity).

America's economic dominance on the world stage could end in five years, according to a new report.

The International Monetary Fund's latest forecast predicts that China's economy will outflank the United States' in 2016. 
That moment would come more than a decade earlier than most forecasters suggest. However, other forecasts compare the gross domestic products and current exchange rates of the U.S. and China in arguing that it will be many years before the countries trade places.MarketWatch reported that the IMF is using what's known as "purchasing power parities," comparing what residents of both countries earn and spend domestically.

Based on that comparison, China's economy will rise from $11.2 trillion in 2011 to $19 trillion in 2016. The U.S. economy will rise at a slower pace, from $15.2 trillion to $18.8 trillion in that period. According to MarketWatch, China's share of the global economy will hit 18 percent, while the United States' share will lag behind at 17.7 percent. 
The finding comes at a rocky time for the U.S. economy. Though the job market has improved since the 2008 Wall Street collapse, unemployment remains high and Washington has struggled to balance stimulus and incentive programs against the need to close the deficit.

In the absence of a deficit-reduction deal, Standard & Poor's rating agency last week announced that it was downgrading the U.S. debt outlook from stable to negative, warning that a failure to strike a deficit agreement could lead to a lower credit rating in the future.
RT has more for an explanation of what this means:

Is Time Magazine's Top 100 a Joke?

Is real news not getting covered by Time Magazine when they spend their time and resources to print subjective lists of famous people?  Last month Korean netizens flooded Time Magazine's website with votes to make sure for the third time in the last couple years Rain was ranked number one by online votes as the world's most influential person.

Are pop stars like Rain and Justin Bieber really deserving of being one of the hundred most influential people on the planet?  Are they really influential?  Or are they just popular and people just love reading lists.

Korean Pop Stars Profit More From Foreign Sales

The BBC ran an article this week about the the Korean Wave.  The article was kind enough to not mention how rampant and common it is amongst Koreans to illegally download and file share their favorite KPOP songs and dramas.  However, that is the only explanation I can draw from why Korean music sold in Korea is so cheap, and why it is sold for such a higher price in foreign markets with a lower percentage of the population with high speed broadband internet.

[...] Bands such as Kara and Super Junior have become household names in much of Asia. They belong to a new hip generation of South Korean artists that has launched the musical genre K-pop. 
Coupled with the success of Korean TV shows and films, they are part of a wider cultural movement here that has become known as Korean wave. [...] 
The number of people who visited South Korea specifically to attend events such as album launches, concerts and awards ceremonies doubled to 34,000 in 2010. [...]
And the fact that K-pop's unique style is attracting foreign fans is something that benefits both the people who visit South Korea and the bands whose music they like. 
That is why Ms Tanaka is stocking up on Korean music in Seoul. A CD that costs 15,000 won in South Korea ($13.81) is four times more expensive in Japan. 
In fact, according to music industry veteran Bernie Cho, K-pop stars do much better financially when they sell their music abroad, rather than just at home. His company, DFSB Kollective, markets and distributes a range of Korean music. 
"If you bought a single on iTunes in the US, you're paying around $1," he says. 
"In Korea, the price was originally 50 cents, it dropped to 12 cents, then it dropped to six cents. And the artists are getting 35% of that - they're making two cents a download." 
To legally download a song in Korea on iTunes, it only costs 6 cents, and the Korean music industry still cannot convince Koreans to legally purchase music instead of illegally file sharing.
According to Mr Cho, many of K-pop's top acts are selling 100,000 or 150,000 albums straight after release. It is an impressive number in any major market. 
"Music is so heavily discounted in Korea that a lot of them are looking to go overseas, or are relying on their popularity to boost their income in other ways, like acting or advertising," he says. 
Indeed, there are not many KPOP stars who just sell music.  All of them are aspiring actors and want endorsement deals because they make so little off of record sales.  They also have very heavy tour schedules and have to promote themselves a ton because live performances is how they get their fans to actually pay for their music.
That diversity of roles is helping to spread their appeal to other countries, as well as to other areas of the South Korean economy. Many tourists who come for the music also buy the clothes and cosmetic brands promoted by Korean stars. 
According to South Korea's Trade and Investment Agency, income from cultural exports like pop music and TV shows has been rising by about 10% a year. In 2008, it was worth almost $2bn. 
The success of the South Korean economy was, for decades, laid at the door of the big "chaebol" or family firms. 
While conglomerates such as Samsung and Hyundai still form the backbone of the country's financial structure, many people now believe that the Korean national brand itself is changing to reflect this new passion for Korean wave. 
Mr Cho cites the English-language websites devoted to Korean wave, which attract more visitors than the Korean-language versions. 
For people under a certain age, all across Asia - and increasingly in Europe and the US too - the South Korea of today is just as likely to be associated with pop music or TV dramas as with cars or microchips.
I still think that Korean pop stars have failed to penetrate any music markets outside of Asia.  Although, I say it is only a matter of time.  Some music agency here is going to figure out the right formula and finally strike it big in the English speaking Western world.

I don't know about you guys, but I think KPOP way more fun and interesting than current American pop stars like Justin Bieber.

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