Friday, March 30, 2012

EPIK Makes Big Changes To Hiring Process

I am currently an elementary school teacher working for EPIK (English Program in Korea) and every six months when they go through the next round of hirings, they usually tweak the contracts a little or up their applications requirements in a small way.  But, starting this month, applicants for EPIK teachers wanting to start at the beginning of the next school term in August will have some additional hoops to jump through.  I have two friends going through the EPIK application process now (with different recruitment companies) and both have confirmed with e-mails forwarded to me of the new EPIK guidelines.  I will include below some excerpts from the e-mails.

Change #1 - Level 3 applicants have been eliminated.  I came to Korea three years ago as a level 3 applicant, meaning I only had a bachelors degree.  I did not have a background in English, a master's degree, I was not a liscenced teacher, I had no prior teaching experience, and I did not have a TEFL certification of any kind.
Public schools in Korea have begun to consider only applicants at salary level 2 or more this term. With this, the easiest way for most people to get to a level 2 salary is taking a 100hr+ TEFL course. Fortunately, this is something that should pay for itself in the first month with the salary increase. Teachers must register for the TEFL course before applying to the program, the course itself does not need to be finished until July.
This actually should produce a more professional workforce and maybe should have been implemented years ago.

Change #2 - No more joint applicants.  Two friends, or a couple that wanted to be together that were not married were allowed to apply at the same time and usually were placed at the very least in the same area or city.  EPIK does not want to deal with these exceptions anymore.
EPIK has told us that they most likely will not be able to consider non-married joint applicants for positions this term and would prefer non-married joint applicants to apply as single applicants... The program has requested teachers don’t include friends or people you are in a non-married relationship with on your application.
Change #3 - Applicants can no longer request a specific city or province to be placed in.  On the application, you can only check a box for one of three things: "Provincial Province", "Metropolitan City", or "Seoul".  On all previous applications, new teachers chose either metropolitan cities or provinces and ranked them #1 through #5.  EPIK is apparently taking away this option to reduce on people complaining about not getting their top choices.  EPIK is also stressing that they have the power to place new teachers anywhere in the country and people need to accept the teaching assignment they are given wherever it is.

Change #4 - A GPA requirement is now in effect.
The program has informed us that they will only consider teachers with GPA’s of 2.5 or Above on a 4.0 system this term. If your University does not use 4.0 system, please write down your overall GPA on your application as it will show up on your transcripts. Many universities will use a percentage system, other universities a ranking system with classes or honours, please use this as your GPA on the application. We are advising teachers to apply with a percentage of 70% or higher or with any class/degree level. Teachers who are still in the process of finishing classes should list their current GPA for classes completed. I would advise all teachers with education, english, and post-graduate degrees to send in applications to be considered on a case by case basis.
Change #5 - A sample lesson plan must be submitted with the application form.  It even says on the application form "Minimum 2 pages, single-spaced".  I definitely think this will help weed out people who are not committed enough to even make a 2 page lesson plan when they apply for the program.

The problem with the EPIK application process is they do not hire the best applicants, but for the longest time they have hired anyone willing to get on a plane and move to Korea.  It has only been in the last three years that they have received enough applications to fill all the positions they want.  They still have the problem, however, that they hire on a first apply, first hired basis.  If you meet the minimum requirements and apply early, then the job is guaranteed.  It looks like they will still operate that way, but they will continue to creep up their application requirements as long as the supply of applicants exceeds their demand.

Obama's Soul Trip

President Obama met with other world leaders at this year's nuclear summit in Seoul, and The Daily Show covered it because the biggest news to come from the summit in the American news cycle was Obama caught on mic explaining that he would be able to do more on the issue of arms control after the election... because American voters believe the sky is the limit for the number of nukes we can own...

Wednesday, March 28, 2012

Black Hole in Boy's Pants Caused by Galaxy S2

I found this article and just had to make the joke about it... I hope the kid wasn't seriously injured.

A junior high-schooler in the southwestern city of Gwangju suffered burns to his buttocks Wednesday when the battery of his smartphone exploded in his trouser pocket. The parents said the boy's Galaxy S2 phone exploded in his trouser pocket as he was preparing for class at school on Wednesday afternoon. 
It was an extra battery that he had put in his rear pocket, which started smoking after what sounded like a thud. He suffered burns on his fingers and buttocks as he took the battery out of his pocket. According to school regulations that prohibit cell phone use during class, the boy had reportedly left his phone with the school authorities but kept the spare battery. 
The parents said they bought the phone in downtown Gwangju in December last year. Samsung Electronics staff collected the burnt battery when the parents notified them. A Samsung spokesman said, "The explosion of the battery occurred when it was separated from the device, so we are inspecting the battery in question with the manufacturer. It will take time to get to the bottom of this."
Seems like there is another good joke in there somewhere. 

China Launches 24 English News Network - CCTV America

Since moving abroad and escaping the corporate American media bubble, I have found a lot of foreign English based news programs and I have grown to appreciate their alternative perspectives on both American and international events.  I am a youtube subscriber to both Aljazeera English and Russia Television.  I also enjoy the PBS's News Hour and Comedy Central's Daily Show and Colbert Report, but beyond that, I cannot watch for-profit corporate news anymore because it is just so sensational and vitriol.

Anyone who appears on television and is given the power to reach audiences of millions of people is owned and censored by someone on certain issues.  I do not see an ethical difference between having a government funded bias or a corporate "for-profit" bias.  People should be smart enough to take in information and realize it has always been filtered first by someone with an agenda.  With that said, it should be fun to see what a China owned and operated cable news network has to say about world events and American foreign policy (in English!).

I cannot find their official Youtube Channel, so maybe that will come soon.  This is their website in the meantime and embedded below is a news piece from the PBS News Hour.  Check it out!

I Actually Admire James Cameron Now

I have a bachelor's of science degree in Geology and the true science nerd inside me is rejoicing with this amazing achievement.  I am a little annoyed that James Cameron isn't making his findings and videos immediately available to the public (and instead wants to release a for-profit 3D-film), but science is science and deep sea exploration is and has been an important frontier for human scientific advancement.  We really do have no idea what goes on down there for the most part and if government and public institutions cannot find funding to do stuff like deep sea and space exploration, I will have to settle for billionaires and celebrities taking care of it.

Here is some more info from the Washington Post:
The trip is the first attempt by humans to reach the Challenger Deep, the deepest point of the Mariana Trench, since two Navy lieutenants touched bottom in January 1960. On that trip, Don Walsh and Jacques Piccard spent just 20 minutes on the bottom inside the bathyscaphe Trieste, the only humans before Cameron to visit the spot. The sub kicked up so much silt that the pair saw virtually nothing outside their porthole. 
Cameron’s dive was expected to last about eight hours. According to plan, the innovative “vertical torpedo” — a lime-green submersible called Deepsea Challenger that Cameron helped design — was to plummet nearly 36,000 feet in just over 90 minutes, the swiftest deep dive with a human pilot. At the end of the dive, Cameron was to release 1,100 pounds of metal ballast, sending the vehicle shooting to the surface. 
High-tech “syntactic foam” that forms the core of the vehicle was designed to be compressed by the immense pressures, while a metal sphere less than four feet across kept Cameron safe. The sphere is pressurized, so he was not at risk for decompression sickness. 
An unmanned test dive Friday proved the sub worthy of surviving the crushing pressures of nearly eight tons per square inch — like an elephant standing on your toe. 
Redundant safety systems were designed to release the vehicle’s ballast and send it toward the surface if problems arose. There was enough oxygen on board for 56 hours. And if the sub got stuck in bottom muck, ocean saltwater would eat through straps holding the sphere inside the vertical torpedo, releasing the ballast in about two days. 
Four high-definition cameras recorded the trip for a television special and a 3-D theatrical film, with an eight-foot-tall bank ofhigh-intensity lights illuminating the depths of the trench, which lies far beyond the reach of sunlight. The Mariana Trench is a gash formed where one of the Earth’s huge tectonic plates, the Pacific plate, plunges under another, the Mariana plate. 
Besides filming the journey, Cameron aimed to collect rocks, soil and any deep-sea creatures he encountered, using hydraulic arms attached to the sub. Biologists and geologists from the Scripps Institution of Oceanography and NASA will scrutinize the samples for exotic microbes and clues to how the slippage of the two giant tectonic plates can cause earthquakes and tsunamis. 
That would have been awesome if he had got stuck at the bottom of the world for two days... just saying...

KPOP Korral - [EXO-K] - What is Love

I cannot say much about this group because they are soon to be lauched and announced by SM Entertainment.  There is a lot of hype around this guys, and this first song released by just two of their members has a good sound to it thus far.

Eat Your Kimchi has more about these guys.  It's fun when they admit in their segments that a lot of the videos that their fans vote to make them do aren't always interesting and enjoyable for them to review.  It's great to see genuine enthusiasm from them in this review.

Cool shot, but is that really the guy's iris?  Looks pretty anime to me.

Wednesday, March 21, 2012

North Korea to Throw Monster Birthday Party

North Korea's got a very special event coming up, and looks like they are spending all their piggy bank money to mark the occasion...

North Korea is about to spend an estimated US$2 billion, or one third of its annual budget, to mark the centenary of nation founder Kim Il-sung on April 15, plus an additional $850 million to build a three-stage rocket and launch pad for the event. The total would be enough to buy 4.75 million tons of rice based on current grain prices at $600 per ton as the regime holds out its hands for international food aid. 
North Korea's state budget last year was $5.7 billion, and the price tag of the centenary celebration has been estimated to be around $2 billion, according to a South Korean government source. The North invited representatives from 48 countries to Pyongyang for the centenary.


Over the last two or three years, there have been various big construction projects to mark the centenary, including the 105-story Ryugyong Hotel, a high-rise apartment block in the Mansudae district of Pyongyang, and a folk village and an aquarium in the capital. The aquarium will contain dolphins, and a 50 km canal is being dug to pump in sea water from Nampo.
It's just so random...
The North has mobilized soldiers and university students to make up for a shortage of workers, which is why it announced temporary closure of universities from June 2011 until next month. Even special forces have been mobilized to build the folk village in Pyongyang.
They shut down their univerisites for almost an entire year to force people to dance in their celebrations and build a fold village?
These astronomical sums are apparently being spent to honor the dying wishes of former leader Kim Jong-il. Kim's propaganda machine had vowed to turn North Korea into a "powerful and prosperous nation" by 2012. The regime even cited stress and overwork in the service of his pledges as the official reason for his death.

New leader Kim Jong-un now has to announce that the economic basket case is indeed a "powerful and prosperous nation" at a Workers Party conference in the middle of next month, where he is likely to be appointed general secretary of the party. A government official here said, "The North Korean economy is already moribund and could go completely bankrupt due to these efforts."
I can't read anything about North Korean celebrations anymore without thinking of this video mash-up!

Sunday, March 18, 2012

Korea's Incredible Shrinking Child Population

Because I am an English teacher here in South Korea, I spend all day with kids.  To me, it seems like they are everywhere all the time and I cannot get away from them.  But most Koreans I speak with often carry a melancholy tone about the shrinking school sizes and the narrowing family trees towards the bottom and the cost of starting a family feels more and more out of reach for many Koreans.

More women go on to university than men, while the number of elementary school students dropped by 34.2 percent in two decades, Statistics Korea said Thursday.

According to its report of the 2011 census, about 75 percent of women went to universities or colleges, compared to 70.2 percent of men. In addition, about 75.8 percent of elementary school teachers were women, a steep rise from 51.6 percent in 1991.

Due to the low birthrate, the number of elementary, middle and high school pupils dropped to 7 million, down 24.1 percent from 9.2 million in 1991. Elementary schools saw the biggest decrease in pupil numbers at 34.2 percent, followed by middle schools at 14.4 percent, and high schools at 12.1 percent.

But more teachers were placed in classrooms, with the 17.3 pupils per teacher at primary schools, compared to 34.4 in 1991.

The aging society was also evident. More than 31 percent of medical expenses last year were spent by over-65s. A total of 4,150 welfare facilities for elderly citizens have been established, a steep rise from 247 in 2000.

A total of 1,917,000 crimes were reported in 2010, which down about 11.6 percent from a year earlier. It translates into 3,750 cases reported for every 100,000 people. But the number of reported rapes increased 23.4 percent, to 19,939 cases.

Traffic accidents also showed a slight decrease, with 227,000 cases reported in 2010, down about 2.2 percent from a year before. The number of fatalities also dropped to 15.1 a day from 33.8 in 1990.

About 34.8 percent of the population donated money to charity in 2011, showing an increase from 31.6 percent in 2006.
These are all fascinating statistics.  That is also incredible that the average size of classrooms in 1991 was nearly twice what it is today, when most of my classes average around 26 now.

Korean Wedding Costs Average Over $175,000 USD

This might be the most absurd thing I have ever posted... But these figures could also be misleading if this is the mean average and not the median average.  The median average would be a much more reliable reported average cost for Korean weddings.  I am suspicious this is the mean average and it has been screwed by a few millionaires.

The average cost of a wedding has surpassed W200 million (US$1=W1,126) for the first time. Including the receptions, gifts or dowry, home furnishings and honeymoon, couples spent an average of W208 million last year on getting married, according to a survey of 310 newlyweds conducted by a matchmaking firm Sunoo and commissioned by the Chosun Ilbo. 
When a similar study was conducted in 2009, the average cost stood at W175.4 million, showing growth in excess of W30 million over a three-year period. Sunoo has tracked the cost of weddings every two to three years since 1999, and the results clearly show that expenses are rising too quickly for young couples to handle. 
During the decade following the Asian financial crisis in late 1997, the average wages of Koreans in their 20s and 30s increased two-fold on average, but wedding costs jumped three-fold from W76.3 million in 1999 to W208 million in 2012. The cost of a wedding has almost doubled since 2005. 
The parents of couples had to pitch in to cover the shortfall. Chun Sang-jin at Sogang University said, "More couples are turning to their parents since they cannot manage the costs on their own." Heightened expectations, the desire to be ostentatious and the indulgence of doting parents all lead to this trend of expensive weddings. 
Koreans do not marry young.  They wait until their late 20s or their early 30s and up until this point, they usually live at home with their family and they save their money.  They save their money to pay for a wedding and buy their own place to start their own family.  Parents want the best for their kids (and want grandkids) so they chip into the occasion as well (especially if they are anxious to marry them off).
The cost of weddings has surged by tens of millions of won every four or five years. It hovered below W100 million as of 2001, then grew to W134.9 million in 2003 and W172.4 million in 2007. 
By and large, the surges were related to rising real estate prices. But while the cost of buying a home tripled from W42.62 million to W142.2 million over the 2003 to 2007 period, the cost of organizing a wedding more than quadrupled from W4.57 million to W17.22 million over the same period. 
Prof. Yoo Sung-yul of Baekseok University, who oversaw the latest study, said, "Richer people tend to flaunt their wealth and power through lavish weddings, and more people in the middle class are jumping on the bandwagon to keep up with the Jones." 
The growing burden imposed by lavish weddings is partly to blame for the declining number of couples tying the knot every year. In 1999, 360,000 couples got married. But by 2010, the figure had dropped to 320,000.
One thing I love about Korea, is everyone hates rich people here.  And it is absolutely true.  Koreans who experience success and make a lot of money have no shame and insist that everyone else know it (and know their place in Korean society) and they flaunt their wealth.  Most Koreans envy them and want to feel the same, so it becomes a competition and spending more money and acquiring a lot of debt is the end result.

I have been to several Korean weddings here... and I cannot fathom how anything close to this much money was spent.  The ceremony is less than a hour, everyone rushes to the buffet, and everyone goes home before 3pm.

Korean Assemblywoman Declares War on Addiction

The Korean Times reported this week there might be a more consolidated and forceful push by the national government to crack down on causes of addiction and offer more services and aid to people who need assistance in recovery from addiction.
“Sportsmen have proceeded with schemes to fix matches in baseball, following soccer games. This is a kind of addiction phenomenon, presumed to be widely spread in every corner of our society. We have joined hands to prevent our nation from being an addiction republic.” 
Cho Hyeon-seop, 50, made the remarks, upon launching a nationwide campaign center on the prevention of a variety of addictions at the National Assembly, Tuesday. Jo had served as the chief of the addiction prevention and cure center under the Prime Minister’s Office. 
She has embarked on a “war against addiction.” An estimated 1,500 experts and 16 civic groups, including a group of victims of gambling, the campaign headquarters on the expulsion of Internet gambling, and a group of alcohol addiction survivors, have decided to fight together against a variety of addictions. As an expert in preventing addiction and curing addicts, she has agreed to lead the body. 
Doesn't everyone just love a good "War on (insert word with negative connotation here)"?  I am totally in favor in creating a more equal and just society and promoting the common good and general welfare, but using "war" and an analogy to address any serious situation does nothing to help it and gives people an over-simplified snap-shot of any serious issue.
“There are about 8 million addicts in a variety of sectors, about 16 percent of the nation’s total population ­ 2.3 million gambling addicts, 1.7 million Internet addicts, 1.6 million alcohol addicts, 1.5 million drug addicts and 800,000 game addicts.” 
As a doctorate psychiatrist, she had served as the chief of the technology support at the National Alcohol Council Center designated by the Ministry of Health and Welfare and a professor at the College of Nursing at Seoul National University. 
She said if family members are counted, those suffering from addiction both directly and indirectly accounts for nearly half of the population. 
The addition rate is far higher than those in advanced countries. “If the current trend persists, all people could become gambling addicts,” said Cho. 
She cited a lack of government policy and entertainment as major factors leading Korea to become “the nation of addiction.” “For example, let’s look at the casino in Kangwon Land. The government (the Ministry of Culture, Sports and Tourism) is a promoter of a casino and simultaneously a regulator of gambling. How well does the government supervise the casino?” she asked. “Actually, the government has no medium- and long-term plan for addicts.” 
There are very few casinos that operate in South Korea, and all of them except one have Koreans banned from it.  There is just one casino in the whole country that it is legal for Koreans to gamble at, with a claimed 2.3 million gambling addicts in the country, are they really going to try and vilify and shutdown that one place?
Cho also said that she can hardly understand why the government does not control Internet gambling sites, while the rapidly growing Sports Toto betting population has become a social problem. 
“The authorities concerned seem to have no intention to increase funds to rehabilitate addicts despite the rapid growth in numbers, as well as no effective policies,” she said. 
“This has caused economic losses as much as hundreds of trillions of won nationwide every year, including 78 trillion won in gambling and 21 trillion won in alcohol addiction.” 
Rehabilitation is important, but that usually is the hardest sell for people to justify spending tax dollars.  In most societies, people would rather their tax dollars be spent on prosecutions and incarceration than on treatment and rehabilitation.  It certainly is ass-backwards.
“Their role is clear. They have to diagnose what causes people to be addicted to something bad and to create a variety preventive measures and cures. They would be able to create a synergy effect by cracking down and joining hands with civic groups. 
Cho pointed out that it is more important to prepare systematic support. “We could curb the growth of the addicted population if the system is rooted deep although it is necessary for many people to join in rehabilitation activities,” she said. “The government has to seek legislation and a system under which addicts can stand on their own feet after surviving.”
I definitely think addiction to these variety of negative things is a result of Koreans in generally being a very unhappy people.  There is too much competition, stress, and pressure in society and people form addictions as a means of escape.  I am actually impressed the rates of addiction is not already higher considering the ease and abundance of alcohol, technology, and broadband speeds in this country.

KPOP Korral - [Big Bang] - Fantastic Baby, Blue, & Bad Boy

The KPOP scene has been upended the last month by the return of Big Bang (빅뱅).  G-Dragon, Taeyang, T.O.P., Daesung, and Seungri (탑, 지드래곤, 태양, 대성, & 승리) are back and they released three new singles and three new videos in the last month. The songs are Blue, Bad Boy, and Fantastic Baby.

The videos are pretty consistent with their previous work and they all pretty good.  Each song has a different sound and feel, so check 'em all out.

In general, I think the female KPOP groups have a greater chance of achieving international fame in the West, but if there was one male group that could make it big in North America / Europe, it would have to be Big Bang.

Friday, March 16, 2012

Korean Minors Buy Alcohol With Few Obstacles

I was shocked when I arrived in South Korea to discovered that cheap beer and hard alcohol was for sale everywhere... all time time.  When I arrived, I heard the joke that "Koreans are considered the Irish of Asia."  With that said, it does not shock me at all that minors in Korea have no difficult finding alcohol if they want it.

Teenagers can buy alcoholic beverages without difficulty, despite the government’s efforts to prevent underage drinking, a recent survey showed. 
As many as 82.5 percent of adolescents questioned replied that they could buy alcohol when they tried to do, according to the results of the online survey on the health of the young conducted in 2010 by the Center for Disease Control and Prevention. A report on drinking among Korean teenagers based on the outcome was published in the latest issue of the weekly, Health & Disease, Sunday. 
The drinking issue is also serious even for middle school students with 58 percent of first graders and 75.3 percent of third graders replying that they easily bought alcoholic beverages. The rate jumped to 75.3 percent for first graders of high schools and to 89.4 percent to seniors, showing that high school students succeeded in nine out of 10 attempts. 
Female students were more successful in buying alcohol than male students at the ratio of 83.6 percent to 81.7 percent. Only second and third graders of male high schools recorded higher rates than females. 
Also, among teenage drinkers, 28.3 percent have bought at convenience stores or local supermarkets in residential areas, which means there were few restraints on their access.

In terms of age, 7 percent of first graders of middle school bought alcohol at convenience stores or small shops. The rate increased to 17.1 percent for second graders, 27.5 percent for third graders, and 36.4 percent, 33.8 percent and 28 percent in high school grades, respectively. 
And 20.2 percent purchased alcohol at restaurants, soju bang or Korean style pubs, bars or nightclubs, while 19 percent replied that they drank at their friend’s home and 15 percent drank with adults.
Of the less than 20% who could not successfully buy alcohol, they probably were just dumb enough to try and do it while wearing their school uniform.  I imagine a change of clothes to make yourself look older would be all that is required to get what you want.

There are several big differences between minor drinking in America and minors drinking in South Korea.  High school students in America will drink and drive to get home, whereas Korean kids cannot drive.  Likewise, America underage drinkers will drink at house parties or places without adult supervision, whereas here in Korea I do not imagine there are many place in the city these kids can hide with their boos without someone (a bartender, a shop owner) at least knowing that they are there.

A lot of American minors who drink also do not have strenuous academic schedules, and can be drunk or hung over a lot without it affecting their official academic responsibilities.  Korean high school kids could never do that.
Although the underage drinking rate has been on the decline, peaking in 2005, the “alcohol risk rate” of teenagers has steadily increased to 47.2 percent in 2010. The alcohol risk rate is five small glasses or more for males in one session a month and three or more for females. 
Nearly two of 10 minors got drunk on one day or more last month and nearly four out of 10 created problems due to drinking twice or more in the last year, according to the report. 
As another eye-catching one, more female students drank harmful amounts at 51.5 percent to 44.4 percent, and made more problems than male students at 40.2 percent to 37.7 percent.
Although these statistics might seem "bad", they probably are still nothing compared to the underage drinking problems in The United States, even though it is much more difficult for a minor to buy alcohol in America.

Pregnant Women Getting More Money?

I had no idea that pregnant women in South Korea get any sort of government funds for having babies.  It really is not that much (to justify or offset the enormous costs of having a child), but it is probably more meant to be a nice gesture.

I think in Western society, this kind of payment for getting pregnant of only a couple hundred dollars would be seen as awkward or insulting.  But it actually remains consistent with Korean (and Asian) culture of giving money for special occasions.  At weddings, graduations, and other special events, Koreans mostly do not buy gifts, and they just give money.

The title of the article was actually "Allowance for Women Pregnant with Twins to Rise."
Government support for women pregnant with twins will increase from July as more women have twins. The Ministry for Health, Welfare and Family Affairs on Wednesday announced a W700,000 (US$1=W1,126) prenatal allowance for women who are pregnant with two or more babies. 
Currently, all pregnant women are given a W400,000 prenatal allowance, which will rise to W500,000 on April 1. But pregnant women expecting twins will get an additional W200,000 from July due to the increasing number of twin or triplet pregnancies as a result of growing recourse to fertility treatment, which boosts the chances of multiple pregnancies. 
According to Statistics Korea, the proportion of twins among newborns has grown over 60 percent over the last decade, from 1.69 out of 100 in 2000 to 2.74 in 2010. 
A Health Ministry official said the new measure takes into account that women who expect twins face higher prenatal care costs.
More twins!  Fun stuff!

Copyright / Patent Laws Must Change

After learning more and more about copyright and patent laws, the more and more I despise them.  If you have not already formed an opinion for yourself, there are a couple videos worth checking out.

There first is by my CJP Grey, which gives a great and concise history of copy right.

I also recently posted about all the never ending patent lawsuits that have been raging on for more than a year now between Samsung and Apple.  And then I watched this very well made video:

Patent and Copyright laws are supposed to spur creativity and ingenuity, but the world's largest and most powerful companies are now using these laws to stifle and impede creativity and ingenuity.  This upsets me.

My Man Crush on Niel deGrasse Tyson

I have a new favorite person in the world, and it is astrophysicist Niel deGrasse Tyson.  A recent video went viral online and it hit me pretty hard.  America ended their maned space shuttle missions last year and America's ability to push the frontiers of technology and science in space has grinded to a halt.  There is no public demand or desire to boldly go where no man has gone before in America, and that makes me sad.

Here is Niel talking about "his man" Sir Isaac Newton.  I love the way this guy talks about science.

I also saw this recently!  If you don't know who at least two of the three men below are, then we can't be friends.

Wednesday, March 14, 2012

Korean Scientists to Clone a Woolly Mammoth

The world has not quite reached the point of Jurassic Park and cloning ancient species of dinosaurs, but scientists that have already successfully cloned living animals are now setting their sights on recently extinct animals where living tissue can still be found of one.

The deal was signed by Vasily Vasiliev, vice rector of North-Eastern Federal University of the Sakha Republic, and controversial cloning pioneer Hwang Woo-Suk of South Korea's Sooam Biotech Research Foundation, on Tuesday. 
Hwang was a national hero until some of his research into creating human stem cells was found in 2006 to have been faked. But his work in creating Snuppy, the world's first cloned dog, in 2005, has been verified by experts. 
Stem cell scientists are now setting their sights on the extinct woolly mammoth, after global warming thawed Siberia's permafrost and uncovered remains of the animal. 
South Korean scientist Hwang Woo-Suk (L) and Vasily Vasiliev (R), vice director of North-Eastern Federal University of Russia's Sakha Republic, exchange agreements during a signing ceremony on joint research at Hwang's office in Seoul. The research collaboration agreement will help Russian and S.Korean scientists to recreate a woolly mammoth which last walked the earth some 10,000 years ago. Sooam said it would launch research this year if the Russian university can ship the remains. The Beijing Genomics Institute will also take part in the project. 
The South Korean foundation said it would transfer technology to the Russian university, which has already been involved in joint research with Japanese scientists to bring a mammoth back to life. 
"The first and hardest mission is to restore mammoth cells," another Sooam researcher, Hwang In-Sung, told AFP. His colleagues would join Russian scientists in trying to find well-preserved tissue with an undamaged gene. 
By replacing the nuclei of egg cells from an elephant with those taken from the mammoth's somatic cells, embryos with mammoth DNA could be produced and planted into elephant wombs for delivery, he said. 
Sooam will use an Indian elephant for its somatic cell nucleus transfer. The somatic cells are body cells, such as those of internal organs, skin, bones and blood. 
"This will be a really tough job, but we believe it is possible because our institute is good at cloning animals," Hwang In-Sung said. 
South Korean experts have previously cloned animals including a cow, a cat, dogs, a pig and a wolf. 
Last October Hwang Woo-Suk unveiled eight cloned coyotes in a project sponsored by a provincial government.
This is going to be so awesome!!

Happy Pi Day / White Day!

March 14th is White Day in Korea, a holiday similar to Valentine's Day... however, I will always prefer to celebrate today (3/14) as Pi Day!

Korean Men Spend Big Bucks to Look Pretty

I read an article in the Chosun Ilbo... and there are some statistics in there that I simply think cannot be true.  But I do believe that young Korean men like wearing cosmetic products and they also make for excellent test subjects for the world market in men's beauty products.

High-end foreign cosmetics brand SK-II recently introduced a skincare line for men in Korea, its first such foray in any country. The decision came after liquid essence for men, which hit local stores last October and costs W160,000 (US$1=1,120) a bottle, saw a month's worth of inventory sell out in just four days. 
"Korea accounts for 40 percent of the world's high-end cosmetics market for men, and Korean men are often considered in the industry as test beds for new products," a sales associate of SK-II said. 
Men are quickly forming the main ranks of cosmetics shoppers, with the domestic market for men's beauty products growing 15 percent each year. Industry watchers expect the market will surpass W1 trillion this year. 
In Korea, concealers, products that minimize pores and whitening products have seen higher sales growth than basic skincare products such as lotions or skin conditioners among men. Meanwhile, domestic cosmetics brand Amore Pacific opened a make-up store for men in the trendy Hongik University area in northern Seoul and it attracts 300 customers a day on average.
The same holds true for apparel. Sales of women's clothing at Lotte Department Store nationwide fell 5 percent in January compared to a year earlier, but increased 7 percent over the same period for men's clothing. Shinsegae Department Store became the first retailer in the industry to open a section last year specializing only in men's fashion and sales have already risen 450 percent since it opened. 
Domestic retailers say Korean men in their 20s and 30s have grown up watching popular men's dance groups since the late 1990s and are used to spending money on personal grooming. For example, many online shopping sites saw a surge in sales of men's undergarments that make the wearer look more muscular. Sales of body shaping or padded underwear rose 170 percent in February from one year earlier, according to popular online shopping mall 11st.
I think it makes sense in such a hyper-competitive place (Korea), that both women and men now will seek out any advantage they can find to get a job, to find a spouse, and to make a sale.  Putting on 15 minutes worth of makeup in the morning is a small sacrifice and more and more guys are going to start doing this.

Fancy US Spy Plane Will ... Spy ... on North Korea

The Nuclear Security Summit is coming up this week, and the United States has decided to watch the North Koreans extra carefully for the event.

The U.S. and South Korea plan to deploy a high-powered American surveillance aircraft to watch North Korea during the Nuclear Security Summit in Seoul on March 26-27.

The E-8C J-STARS is capable of tracking hundreds of vehicles, military installations and missiles simultaneously within a 200 to 500 km area. "By flying over the demilitarized zone, the aircraft can get a clear picture of North Korean troop movements around Pyongyang and Wonsan and even beyond," a military source said. 
While AWACS surveillance planes monitor aircraft and other airborne targets, the J-STARS handles targets on the ground.

The J-STARS has a wingspan of 44.2 m and is 46.6 m long. It can stay airborne for up to 11 hours at a time and monitor an area about five times the size of the Korean Peninsula for eight hours.
This just makes me wonder... what do the United States do the rest of the time?  They just have satellites watching and tracking their military's movements?  How much better can this plane be than a satellite?  Also... why is this public news and why is it announced?  Is it advantageous to the United States that North Korea knows this so it acts as a deterrence?

Tuesday, March 13, 2012

Apple to Hire Army of Korean Speakers to Fight Samsung

I check the front page of Google News every day and for almost a year now, a continuous headline has been the lawsuits, counter lawsuits, and counter-counter lawsuits between Apple and Samsung all over the world. Both these technology giants have produced similar devices and services and both are claiming foul play and that the other has infringed on their patent designs.

Here's a brief BBC report:

Apple is the world's most profitable company right now, so they are fighting off the hoards of other technology companies attempting to mimic and steal their formula for success.  Samsung is their biggest rival in the tablet industry and now Apple is apparently getting serious about fighting off this Korean threat by recruiting and paying their own small army of Korean speakers to help in their legal fight.

Apple is beefing up its ability to understand the language of Samsung Electronics, its strongest rival in the realm of smartphones and tablets. 
According to FOSS Patents, a blog specializing in technology patent issues that has closely followed the patent war between Apple and Samsung, Apple recently recruited a small army of Korean-American contract attorneys and document reviewers so that it can better read the lines - or between the lines - of the Korean-language documents in patent cases. 
“Through two of the law firms it’s already working with, Apple now has access to 73 additional, apparently Korean-American lawyers as well as 20 document reviewers of the same ethnicity,” Tech-watcher Florian Mueller, who runs the blog, said in a posting on March 9. The two law firms are Morrison & Foerster, which works on Apple’s patent claims against Samsung, and Wilmer Hale, which defends Apple against Samsung’s claims. 
The two law firms recently submitted to the International Trade Commission documents that contained the signatures of the newly-hired Korean-American lawyers agreeing to the terms of a protective order, according to Mueller. Law firms can share ITC documents with only those who have agreed to respect the protective order. 
“Apple is facing a huge challenge in dealing with truckloads of Korean-language documents produced by Samsung in two federal lawsuits in California and two ITC investigations,” Mueller wrote. “There’s a substantial risk for Apple that it may miss out on important and potentially incriminating evidence” because few of its lawyers can read or search Korean documents. 
Apple and Samsung Electronics and - the world’s No. 1 and No. 2 smartphone makers - have been engaged in numerous lawsuits concerning patent violations across the globe since April of last year. They now amount to about 30 different suits in 10 countries. 
“Apple v. Samsung is a high-stakes battle and Apple’s budget is presumably large enough to bring in many Korean-speaking professionals at rates that should be attractive to them,” Mueller added. On Feb. 27, Apple’s market capitalization reached a record $500.1 billion. Apple now has at least twice the market cap of all but three other U.S.-listed public companies: ExxonMobil ($410.7 billion), PetroChina ($281.9 billion) and Microsoft ($267.4 billion.) 
The patent expert said it’s likely that the lawyers are on contract to Apple for now, but good performers could be recruited by one of the law firms. 
“The temporary recruitment of 93 people to analyze Samsung documents for Apple demonstrates the resolve with which the number one company in the industry is fighting against the number two. The message to Samsung is that the Korean language barrier is surmountable - with a bunch of cash,” he said. 
Hahaha... yeah, cold hard cash probably trumps ethnic pride and nationalism.  Here is another video showing the similarities just in hardware design.

Cheaper Wine Coming to Korea This Week!

Local wine importers are announcing their plans to lower the prices of their U.S. wines as the Korea-U.S. free trade agreement goes into force on Thursday after much delay.

The trade pact lifts a 15 percent tariff on wine imports from the country.
Shindong Wine, one of the nation’s leading wine importers, said yesterday that consumers will be able to purchase bottles of Robert Mondavi at discounts of up to 14 percent from Thursday.

With the change in price tag, consumers will be able to buy a bottle of Robert Mondavi Cabernet Sauvignon at an 11 percent discount, which will see the price drop from 78,000 won to 69,000 won at Hyundai Department Store.

A bottle of Woodbridge by Robert Mondavi Merlot will cost 21,000 won, down 14 percent.

“Once the tariff on American wine is lifted, products will gain more price competitiveness in the local market,” said Yoo Tae-young, an official from Shindong Wine.

“We expect this to spur change in the overall wine industry.”
Prior to Shindong Wine’s announcement, Keumyang International, Korea’s No. 1 wine importer, also said it will lower the prices of 42 different wines it imports from the U.S. by 10 percent starting Thursday.
Psshhh!  Who pays 69,000 for a bottle of red wine from the Hyundai Department Store?  I usually get all my wine from Home Plus and I wait for a decent selection on the three for 20,000 won shelf.  I expect that to be three for 17,000 won now.  lol

Monday, March 12, 2012

KPOP Korral - [Sunny Hill] - The Grasshopper Song

Sunny Hill (써니힐) is a five member group signed by LOEN Entertainment.  The group originally had three members, and the added a four last year, and then recently added their fifth this year.  There members are 

Their latest single is The Grasshopper Song (베짱이 찬가) and I love everything about this video.

I loved Eat Your Kimchi's review of this song.

A song that I really liked by Sunny Hill last year was Midnight Circus.

These guys are great.  I hope they keep making great work!


Happy Daylight Savings Time!

Happy Daylight Savings Time!  No joke, I don't care for DST and am glad Korea doesn't observe it.

Sunday, March 11, 2012

Waygook Weekend Update - March 10th 2012

Hey everyone,

My best friend from high school has taken up comedy as his full time career path and he lives in Austin, Texas right now.  He started a youtube channel and does daily update videos about what's trending on the internet.  I thought I'd pay him some respect and steal the format of his show and give comedy a try while talking about topics related to Korea.

No guarantees this will be a regular thing yet, I had fun making this, but scripting, filming, and editing videos takes a really long time...

Here is the script for the video and the links to the stories...

Anyounghaseyo everyone and welcome to the waygook weekend update. I’m your host Wes Broe and these are your headlines for the weekend of Saturday March 10th.

Veteran actor Hong Seok-Cheon was back in the headlines this week after the Los Angeles Times ran a feature on him. Hong Seok-Cheon has become one of South Korea’s leading gay rights activists after coming out of the closet in 2000.

Mr. Hong claims he made history this week as the first gay man to discuss sex and sexual orientation on-air in Korea while guest appearing on the popular TV show “Star Lecture Series”.

He is most well-known for being the onetime host of a popular 1990s childrens’ citcom, Po Po Po, that was often referred to as South Korea’s version of Sesame Street.

When he came out of the closet in 2000, he was immediately fired from his program and cast out as a pariah in Korean society.

He reflected on his decision to come out then and claims with Korea’s traditional Confucian origins and its modern embracement of Christianity, he should really have seen it coming.

When reached for comment by the old people of Korea, they responded by saying… “who? Oh yeah, that guy. He’s not gay. And even if he is, we assure you, he is the only Korean that is.”,0,6884637,full.story

On the popular Korean Blog The Marmot’s Hole, photos surfaced of Koreans drinking alcohol on a subway car, being loud, and blocking the subway doors and walking paths for the other passengers.

This is really only news because photos of white English teachers doing the exact same thing surfaced last year and Korean netizens threw a collective hissy fit and claimed waygooks had no respect for Korea.

When asked for comment about the glaring hypocrisy of the situation, Korean netizens responded by saying well, whatever, unlike some foreigners at least Koreans never park their cars on the sidewalks, urinate in the streets, pass out drunk in public places, or cut in line at the grocery stores.

It was reported this week on Busan Haps, the magazine for what’s happening in Busan, that the program for native English speaking teachers in public schools in Busan will be cut dramatically next year.

The Busan MOE claims that last year 522 teachers were employed in the district and they went more than 4 billion won over budget because they over hired.

Due to cuts last year, and more cuts coming this next year to their English education budgets, the city of Busan said it will have to let go at least 55 and as many as 75 native teachers for next year.

The Busan Office of Education says it is embarrassed by these cuts and is going to have to adjust its recruitment goals for the second semester to compensate.

When reached for comment by some of the adorable children attending an elementary school that is about to lose their native teacher, they said “Hi, how are you. I’m fine, and you Nice to meet you. Nice to meet you, too.”

The United States announced this week a breakthrough with North Korea in efforts to start a full-fledged bilateral and multilateral talks on denuclearization.

In their high-level meetings in Beijing late last month, the North agreed to freeze its uranium-enrichment program at the Yongbyon nuclear site and refrain from nuclear and long-range missile tests while dialogue is under way.

In return, the United States has promised to the North Korean government 240,000 tons of food aid, and the promise that they would talk to the Harlem Globe Trotters and see if they could be persuaded to play a charity exhibition game in Pyeongyang vs Kim Jong-eun and thirty of his closest body guards.

The Dong-a Ilbo reported this week that Radio Free Asia could quote a confidential source from within the North Korea military that more than 10 North Korean soldiers were killed and tens of others injured by South Korean counterattacks after the North shelled Yeonpyeong Island in 2010.

The South Korean military remains confident after their counter response shelling, that North Korean forces are reluctant to fight or engage artillery fire with South Korean forces again.

When asked for comment on these claims, the official response from the North Korean regime was that the counter artillery fire from the South not only missed and failed to harm any of their forces, but it managed open fissures in the earth in which rare and amazing treasures poured forth.

They then added, thanks for the gold and bullet-proof unicorns that we found as a result of your feeble and inept counter-attack.

The Chosun Ilbo reported this week that statistics show that a growing number of Koreans are putting off marriage until they are in their 40s.

The gyeonggido Family and Women’s Research Institute surveyed that the number of men in their 40s who are tying the knot for the first time increased by more than 4-fold from a decade ago, while the number for women more than doubled.

The articled commented that the main reason for Koreans waiting so long to be married is that they want to be financially secure and have a fulfilling career before they settle down and marry.

Senior executives at Korea’s largest corporations were shocked by these statistics, claiming that they had no idea their employees by the time they reached their 40s were starting to feel financially secure enough to start a family.

They claimed they were do their part and improve those statistics and make sure their employees never felt financially secure enough to start a family.

And now for the weather, me dressed as a ninja.

It’s going to be very cloudy tonight. Good chance of heavy fog… you won’t see me coming…

Thanks me, the payment of 100 pounds of gold will soon be ours.

South Korean K-pop star Ham Eun-jung was back in the headlines this week, as disgusting Korean internet trolls remain unwilling to leave this woman and her body image alone.

Eun-jeong is a popular singer from the K-POP group T-ara, and she was photographed this week in Indonesia while filming a television episode of the MBC variety show “We Got Married.”

Korean netizens kept commenting about how much chubbier she looks in these photos and how her v-line chin was nowhere to be seen.

When asked for comment from some random American guy, he said “why is that skinny, Korean girl wearing high heeled shoes in the jungle?”

The Korean JoongAng Daily reported this week that seven Korean teenage boys allegedly carried out a cyber attack on the web site of the Ministry of Gender Equality and Family.

Last year the Ministry of Gender Equality and Family enacted numerous unfavorable laws targeting children including the now infamous “Cinderella Policy”.

This policy prohibits any minor from logging onto the internet and playing online games between the hours of midnight and 6am.

The policy aims to reduce the growing trend of computer gaming addiction amongst children in Korea. The teenagers claimed they orchestrated the cyber attack on the ministry’s website because they feel that older people don’t care what they think and they don’t want them to be happy.

To which every Korean in the nation collectively sighed and said, “ahhh, feels the same way for us, too, sometimes”.

That’s all for tonight… be sure to toon in next week!|home|newslist1

Thursday, March 8, 2012

8-Bit KPOP

Allkpop already found this months ago... but I just discovered it!

A Japanese artist named Danjyon Kimura created a 20 track KPOP 8-Bit ensemble.  This is so much fun.

The full list of tracks include:

00 Orange Caramel – Bangkok City
02 Rainbow – A
03 BEAST – Breath
04 KARA – Mr.
05 miss A – Bad Girl Good Girl
06 4minute – Mirror Mirror
07 BIGBANG – Lie
08 T-ara – Bo Peep Bo Peep
09 SHINee – Ring Ding Dong
10 Brown Eyed Girls – Abracadabra
11 U-KISS – Man Man Ha Ni
12 2NE1 – Go Away
14 f(x) – Pinocchio(Danger)
15 少女時代(SNSD) – Oh!
16 CNBLUE – I’m A Loner
17 FTIsland – Flower Rock
18 2PM – I’ll Be Back
19 東方神起(TVXQ) – Rising Sun

Kony 2012

This 30 minute video put out by the organization, Invisible Children, has ignited the internet.  This is one of the most well put-together and concise videos I have ever seen.  Very powerful and very moving.

With that said...

Most of Africa in general is a pretty f'd up place and there is no way this guy could continue to operate if local government and police authorities were not at least a little involved in keeping his operation going.  This video doesn't give us all the information, but I am sure it is more complicated than just "kill or capture this one guy".  In general... I firmly believe it is not good policy and I don't support the practice of foreign powers going into less developed countries and settling their disputes for them. It is not and should not be our business. Denying these people, or any people, the right of self-determination leads them to reject whatever outcome (positive or not) that we thrust upon them.

However, this is an awareness campaign.  I believe the statistic in the video that less than 1% of the world knows who Kony is, and this guy is arguably the world's worst human rights abuser. George Clooney is right in this video, mass murders should be as famous as Hollywood actors and people should work together to stop them. The people of Uganda have to stop this from happening, and there is a lot the West can do to help them (without doing it for them) and that is what I support. Being aware never hurt anyone and that is the main focus of this internet campaign.  Everyone should be aware and help the people in all parts of the world who are struggling and suffering to improve their lives.

Wednesday, March 7, 2012

New Documentary About Bullying

Bullying has always been a problem.  Every culture at every point in time has had bullies who intimidate and pick on others to get what they want or feel better about themselves.  I was lucky enough to escape my childhood without being the target, but I was easily a bystander and watched other beings picked on by the bullies of my childhood schools.  The problem with kids is they always believe that they are the only one, and they cannot grasp the world waiting for them beyond today.  It gets better...

I saw this plea on facebook from Ellen to get the rating changed of an upcoming documentary about bullying.  It got an "R" rating for strong language (such bullshit) while on-screen sex and violence in movies like Twilight get the PG-13 pass.  All of the language in the film is in context and has an educational purpose I'm sure.

And here is the trailer for the film.  Korea has plenty of its own problems with bullying.  I really do think that bullying is not new, nor is it getting worse.  I think just that technology and the internet allows for people for the first time to see bullying of children on cell phone cameras and then easily shared over the internet.  Imagine the terrible things people could have watched if everyone in the deep south in the 1960s and 1970s had iphones with HD cameras.


Eat Your Kimchi recently also did a video about their experience with bullying.  I have always taught elementary school, and I'm sure it still exists, but I imagine it is not as bad as students at the middle and high school levels.

Korean Teens Rage Against Cinderella Policy

It is being reported that several teenage Korean boys allegedly coordinated their own cyber attack on the website for the Korean Ministry of Gender Equality and Family.  Last year the Ministry enected several unpopular policies affecting teenages including the "Cinderella Policy," which has attempted to stop minors from being able to play online games between the hours of midnight and 6am
The Cyber Crime Investigation Team of National Police Agency said yesterday it caught seven boys disseminating malicious code to paralyze the ministry’s Web site and booked their 16-year-old leader without detention. 
The boys attempted distributed denial-of service attacks on the Web site four times from Jan. 26 to 29, but the attacks failed because the police detected them immediately. 
“The attacks were made on four different occasions,” investigator Yang Jong-min told the Korea JoongAng Daily, “and one was made at midnight.” 
The police said the boys were clever enough to change the IP address of their computer to make it look like the attack was coming from outside Korea. 
I'm not exactly a cyber terrorist... but doesn't that seem like the least you could do?  How can that be deemed 'clever' when if they had done anything else it would have been incredibly moronic of them.
When questioned by police, the boys said they hated a series of policies by the ministry, particularly the Cinderella Policy that’s been in effect since November. 
It prohibits underage people from playing online games between midnight and 6:00 a.m. to curb computer game addiction. 
They also dislike the ministry’s screening of music and animated television shows to see if they’re suitable for children.
“I felt like the ministry doesn’t care about what we [teenagers] think,” the 16-year-old alleged ringleader told police during questioning.
That's correct.  They don't care what you think.  Now get back to studying your asses off.

Cheap Korean Cosmetics Sell Well in Japan

The title of the article from The Chosun Ilbo is titled "Korean Cosmetics Take Japan by Storm", but the author of the article used the word "cheap" three different times to explain the quality of Korean cosmetics.  This is just an interesting way to describe their nations' good and services.  In the west we use the more economically soft term "inexpensive" to avoid the negative associations of the word "cheap" with poor quality.

Not Koreans.  They love anything "cheap".  Seriously, though, the cosmetics here are fantastic and with their pop culture projecting so many beautiful Korean faces over the Pacific Rim, it makes sense that foreign nations would want to hord Korean beauty products.
Shinjuku Station in Tokyo was packed with people last Thursday even though it was long after the morning rush hour when Missha, the cheap Korean cosmetics brand, opened a store there.

People rushed in the moment the sales assistants gave the signal. Within half an hour the shop ran out of the 100 jars of Missha Super Aqua Cell Renew Snail Cream priced at 3,480 yen (approximately W48,000), which it had prepared as giveaways. About 1,200 customers visited the shop on its opening day.

The Shinjuku Station shopping mall alone is a battlefield for cosmetics brands. Global brands like L'Occitane, The Body Shop and DHC have stores there, and among Korean brands Missha joins Etude House and SkinFood.

The Missha and Etude shops are strategically located in an area all passengers at Shinjuku Station must pass, and the station is so central that some 3 million people pass through in a day, with 80,000 of them just visiting the shopping mall.

Korean cosmetics brands perform remarkably well in Japan. Missha Japan, which was established in 2005, saw sales increase from 296 million yen in 2006 to 1.98 billion last year, more than six times in six years. Missha Japan's vice president Kim Doo-kyum said, "Missha offers not just low-priced products for teenagers but also products that appeal to people of all age groups."

Etude, which opened its first brand shop in Japan last November, is also doing well. While Missha tries to attract customers of all age groups with its subdued, refined interior, Etude's shop is decorated like a doll house and uses images of its model boy band SHINee. It expects to achieve sales of about 400 million yen (W5.5 billion) this year. SkinFood has grown so rapidly that it now has 18 shops in Japan and earns 1.5 billion yen (W20.6 billion) annually.

The main advantage of Korean cosmetics is that they are cheap. A 39-year-old woman in Shinjuku Station said, "Some time ago, I started buying Korean cosmetics because they're cheaper than Japanese brands and their quality is just as good."

Their popularity also owes something to the appeal of beautiful Korean actresses and their use of natural ingredients like snails and ginseng. Last year, Missha earned 2 billion yen (W27.5 billion) from sales of Snail Cream, the largest revenue for a single product there.
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