- Monday, 13 August 2012 23:01
[Book Review] Wonky, but surprisingly readable – Nation Building in South Korea: Koreans, Americans, and the Making of a Democracy
traces the history of U.S. “nation building,” or “stand back and let the Koreans do their thing – ing” in South Korea.
For a book in English, it contains a surprisingly large amount of the Korean perspective in building their nation into the success that it is today. Still, it seems too heavily focused on the U.S. role, while underplaying the role of the South Koreans. Perhaps a more reflective title would be The U.S. Role in South Korean Nation Building
Either way, the book is an informative, readable history on U.S. – Korea relations and Korean development.
- Wednesday, 01 August 2012 19:16
A mildly interesting story
, for those of us selling content in Korea at least, says the average South Korean household spends W224,413 (roughly $200) per month on “media,” including charges for mobile phone, Internet, cable TV, home phone, and (printed) newspapers and magazines.
For someone currently paying for the same services in the U.S., with its far slower Internet speeds and cable bills that can easily hit $100 a month, the breakdown is striking:
- W172,136 ($155) a month for cellphone service (again, this is per household, not per person)
- W27,148 ($25) a month for Internet
- W16,347 ($15) a month for cable (reminding me how fondly I recall that bill from Seoul, compared to DC)
- W14,960 ($13.50) a month for home phone, for those who still have it
- and W14,423 ($13) a month for newspapers and magazines
The survey, of 500 adults age 20-60, also asked people to rank the importance of various media forms on a scale from 1 to 5, with 5 being the most important. The Internet was ranked highest at 4.32, followed closely by mobile phones at 4.30, broadcast TV at 3.7, home phones at 2.5, and (printed) newspaper and magazines at 2.4.
- Monday, 30 July 2012 17:03
One of the best (i.e. amusing and somewhat readable) and most interesting (i.e. not solely about the godlike exploits of the Great/Dear/Newest Leader) articles
from North Korea’s official news agency I’ve come across in a while. Give it a click
if you have a few minutes.
With the recent change in leadership brought on by the death of Kim Jong-il and succession of his son Kim Jong-un, has come heightened speculation on possible changes, reforms, modernization, and the like in North Korea. This article is North Korea’s forceful response. Some of the highlights, aside from the headline:
- “Upset by this, the puppet group [i.e. South Korea] let experts in the north affairs and others interpret the stirring situation of the DPRK in a self-centered manner, vociferating about ‘signs of policy change’ and ‘attempt at reform and opening’. This ridiculous rhetoric only revealed its ignorance and sinister intention against the DPRK.”
- “As far as ‘signs of policy change’ are concerned, there can not be any slightest change in all policies of the DPRK as they are meant to carry forward and accomplish the ideas and cause of the peerlessly great persons generation after generation [highlighting and justifying the family-based leadership successions], to all intents and purposes.”
- “From decades of trumpeting ‘reform and opening’ to impose their corrupt system upon the DPRK, the hostile forces now seem to have been preoccupied by hallucination that such a move is taking place in the DPRK. Such idiots ignorant of the DPRK are professing experts in the north affairs. Pitiful are the U.S. and the puppet group which are resorting to foolish ambition on the basis of their sham analysis.”
- [My favorite]: “To expect ‘policy change’ and ‘reform and opening’ from the DPRK is nothing but a foolish and silly dream just like wanting the sun to rise in the west.”
Except for a few changes around the edges, this is one of the rare times North Korea’s official line actually conflates with reality.
- Monday, 02 July 2012 18:36
Two surprising North Korea stories today: Inter-Korean mailman goes legit
about a new South Korean organization focused on helping separated family members send mail and donations, plus arrange meetings, with people inside the North (actions normally semi-legal, at best, in SK). The story highlights the experience and skills the organization’s 80-year-old founder has used to overcome barriers to
get items into, and information out of, North Korea. A useful, interesting skill set indeed.
The second is China hires tens of thousands of North Korean guest workers
about China’s plan to support the North, and dodge sanctions on aid to NK, by granting visas to at least 40,000 guest workers to labor in factories, mines, and construction projects in Chinese cities along the border. These northeastern areas of China, unlike the southeast and other more developed regions, have little need for additional, low-cost workers – highlighting both the concerns China has over North Koreans getting past its border region, and the aid-based, versus business-need, focus of the effort.
- Wednesday, 09 May 2012 20:49
UPDATE (3 July): Pyongyang denied it was responsible for the jamming. Thanks to North Korea Tech for the updated info (and my apologies for taking so long to post it).
North Korea has reportedly revived
last year’s campaign to jam GPS signals in South Korea, harassing flights around both Incheon and Kimpo international airports. Affected airlines include Korean Air, United, and Delta, plus international freight carriers FedEx and UPS.
Last year’s jamming campaign
only lasted for a few days, but this year’s has been ongoing since the end of April. The South plans to protest the North’s action (something I’m sure is keeping NK’s leaders awake nights) to the International Telecommunication Union. Much handwringing and a very light slapping of wrists likely to ensue.
Unlike last year, there are no reports of the jamming affecting cellphone systems inside Seoul – perhaps due to SK Telecom (and presumably others) updating their systems
to protect against NK jamming.
Interesting to see how NK, easily East Asia’s least technologically advanced country, is attempting to weaponize the technological sophistication of its rivals by finding and exploiting the new weaknesses of the networked era. Jamming GPS signals and launching hacker offensives at the South is a relatively cheap, safe, and punishment-free way of tormenting its neighbor, giving Pyongyang’s military and hardliners something to do, and developing a new chip to be traded away for some future benefit. Worth keeping an eye on.
- Wednesday, 28 March 2012 18:09
Partly for work, partly for personal interest, I’ve been following reports on North Korea’s efforts in cyberspace, including a cyber-attack on Korea University
, an attack on the South’s agriculture bank and cooperative
, and speculation that Kim Jeong-Eun was behind at least some of the cyber attacks
prior to taking over the country in December upon the death of his father.
U.S. defense officials are also tracking North Korea’s cyber activities, saying in testimony on Capitol Hill today that the North has added “sophisticated cyber attack capabilities
” that mark “a skilled team of hackers
” as the newest addition to North Korea’s arsenal.
Given the limited ability to definitively trace and prove the origin of cyber attacks, I’m not sure how these new capabilities fit in with the North’s unique method of international relations. A method whereby the North intentionally creates and escalates international tension, before trading away a reduction in those tensions in return for aid from China, South Korea, and elsewhere. If cyber attacks can’t be traced to the North, how can the North use them as a bargaining chip?
Read more ...
- Friday, 09 March 2012 19:24
(subtitled: What economists can’t tell you about the most isolated country on Earth
) on the North Korean economy by Marcus Noland.
While the best quote comes at the end of the article (“Former U.S. Vice President Walter Mondale once counseled me that anyone who claims to be an expert on the North is a liar or a fool.”), the piece is an excellent reminder on the scarcity of accurate data coming out of the North. Take a look
if you have time – a 10-minute read.
- Tuesday, 06 March 2012 19:41
The new Associated Press bureau in Pyongyang (which opened in January 2012) has brought some more unique coverage out of the North, this time on North Korean live fire exercises
near the DMZ. The North’s drills reportedly come in response to joint U.S. – South Korean exercises, no surprise there. What is a surprise are photos, as shown here (apparently soldiers in every army around the world wedge blocks under vehicle wheels), and video
from the exercise, both courtesy the new AP bureau. I don’t see the bureau providing much hard news, but it is good to see some new reporting coming out of the North.
- Thursday, 01 March 2012 23:44
UPDATE (13 March): Right down to the word “tribute.” Compare the post on the recent U.S. deal with North Korea, below, with yesterday’s editorial from the Washington Post on the same subject. Thanks for coming out guys, way to be the ball, way to lead.
UPDATE (2 March): The AP’s new Pyongyang bureau weighs in on the new agreement in this article from the Washington Post. Not surprisingly, the citizens of Pyongyang allowed to speak to the AP are mistrustful of the U.S. and not very hopeful of any reduction in tensions. Going forward, it will be interesting to see what kind of reports this new bureau will be able to dispatch from the North.
Not to be overly pessimistic, but unless you are a starving North Korean, the recent headlines (JoongAng Daily
, Washington Post
) about North Korea agreeing to suspend nuclear weapons testing, long-range missile launches, and uranium enrichment activities for U.S. food aid really don’t mean much.
As South Korea trades in electronics, cars, and the rest, North Korea trades in international tension. The recent deal allows the North to acquire 240-300,000 tons (accounts vary) of badly needed food aid from the U.S. in return for hitting pause, not stop, on its nuclear and long-range missile development programs. Once the food arrives, there is little to prevent Pyongyang from resuming either of these activities.
Read more ...