Category Archives: South Korea

Time for Fresh Approaches to North Korea

A familiar op-ed in Monday’s Washington Post by Victor Cha (Asian Studies professor at Georgetown, director for Asian affairs on the National Security Council from 2004 to 2007, and deputy head of the U.S. delegation at the six-party talks) outlined how the U.S. should “disarm” North Korea. Put simply, the U.S. should get China and Russia to help, beef up financial sanctions, and strengthen the American alliance with South Korea … common proposals united by decades of ineffectiveness.

Instead, it is long past time for new ideas to reinvigorate U.S. relations with North Korea. I offer two examples here, one harnessing cellphones and the latest transmission technologies, the second going back to the armistice agreement that halted the Korean War in 1953.

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SK President Lee Visiting US; Obama Takes Him to … Detroit?

Got a chuckle at the first sentence in this article from today’s Times on SK President Lee’s visit to the U.S. – especially the part right after the word “treated”: “During the state visit of South Korea’s president, Lee Myung-bak, which began on Wednesday, he will be feted at a White House state dinner, invited to speak to a joint session of Congress, and treated to a road trip to Detroit with President Obama, where the two leaders plan to tour a General Motors factory together.” Having lived in South Korea, DC, and Detroit, I can think of a lot of places in the U.S. I’d take a visitor from the South. Of all of those places, “a road trip to Detroit” wouldn’t really make the list. Who knows though, maybe the President just really liked the Eminem ad for Chrysler. Guess we’ll see what a visit to the D does for U.S.-SK relations.
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Suspected North Korean cyberattack raises fears for S. Korea – Washington Post

An article from today’s Post provides a solid outline of recent North Korean cyberattacks on the South; a story we have been following here (NK Hackers Working with SK Organized Crime?, NK Hackers Take Down SK Bank, SK Cops: North Responsible for March Cyberattack, Cyberwar in Korea – Kim Jong-eun’s Key to the Throne?) for several months. Particularly salient, in my humble opinion, are the rumors/allegations that heir apparent Kim Jong-eun is behind the attacks, using them to outflank his brothers and win his father’s approval to become next in line. Whether or not he is personally behind the attacks, one of the safest bets in international security right now is that they will both continue and grow more sophisticated.
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Tips on Dealing with English Teacher Recruiters for South Korean Schools and Language Institutes

[Adapted from earlier writings on my 1stopKorea website] There are plenty of professional recruiters out there who will find you a great job. There are also plenty of sleazeballs just looking to get warm bodies on the plane. Never lose site of the fact that recruiters are paid to fill positions. A lot of them may advertise the fact that they don’t charge teachers – what they don’t tell you is that the schools pay them a bounty on each teacher provided. My first trip to Korea netted my recruiter a million Won, worth over $1200 at the time. It was worth it – I got a great job and met some fantastic people, but not everyone is so lucky. Below are some tips to help improve your odds.
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NK Hackers Working with SK Organized Crime?

The U.S. government (Voice of America) reported today that the South Korean police arrested five local organized crime members and charged them with collaborating with North Korean hackers to break into gaming websites to steal (for later sale) personal information. The North Korean hackers were based in China, the origin of a recent attack that reportedly stole the personal information of “nearly everyone” in South Korea – 35 million out of a total population of 49 million.
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The Cleanest Race: How North Koreans See Themselves and Why It Matters

[hang1column element=”div” width=”122″][/hang1column] [Book Review] Fantastic. Someone finally went through Seoul’s expansive archive of North Korean domestic media (magazines, TV programs, movies, etc.) to see what the North was/is telling its populace. The conclusion refutes those who see the North primarily through a communist ideological prism, instead painting a picture of the nation as a racist dictatorship focused on keeping its blood pure, populace ignorant, and elites entrenched. I’ve already cited Myers’ research in my own work and come across it in dozens of articles, a trend that is unlikely to change. Anyone interested in the North will enjoy and learn from this fresh take on the country and culture. While the illustrations, as shown by the book cover, add to the power and uniqueness of the text.
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Skilled Korean-English Translator? The SK Gov’t Needs Your Help

After finding over 200 errors in the Korean-language translation of the Korean-EU free trade agreement, delaying its ratification and forcing multiple resubmissions to the Korean Cabinet and National Assembly, the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Trade announced today that it had found 296 errors in the Korean translation of the free trade agreement with the United States. While the governing language of the treaties is normally English;  Korean businesses,  government agencies, and others rely on the Korean version – meaning any inaccuracies could create trade, tax, or other problems in the future. To help prevent additional mistakes, and further multiple resubmissions, the Korean government has even set up a website for people to peruse the documents and check the translations. Head to http://www.fta.go.kr/new/index.asp to take your shot.  
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Save U.S. Healthcare – Outsource It

Great article on Foreign Policy’s website today about outsourcing U.S. healthcare to other,  cheaper (pretty much every country on the planet) countries as one method for reducing American healthcare costs. For example,  rather than paying for a knee replacement procedure that costs over $10K in the States, offer the patient the choice of having it done for $1,500 (including travel!) in India or Hungary. It saves the U.S. taxpayer money,  adds a little competition for the ridiculous U.S. system,  plus gets the patient a nice little vacation. Having been the victim lucky recipient of numerous medical procedures in both the U.S. and South Korea (spend enough time riding a motorcycle in Seoul and you’ll have a similar opportunity),  I can say without a doubt I have no problem with this idea. The treatment I received in Seoul,  under Korea’s government-run medical system (the horror!), was cheaper,  faster,  and equal-to, if not better, than treatment I have received in the States. Add a free vacation to the deal and who wouldn’t be interested? Off the top of my head: the last trip I took to the dentist in the U.S., with health insurance, cost me $70 out of pocket (plus whatever insurance paid) just for the cleaning. The last time I went to the dentist in Korea it cost me less than $30 and included removal of a wisdom tooth. The last visit I made to a hospital in Seoul was a trip to the emergency room for x-rays after a motorcycle accident. The total time in the hospital,  including consultation,  x-ray,  reading of the x-ray,  and prescription, was less than 30 minutes. The cost? $20.  
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My Korean Deli: Risking It All for a Convenience Store

[hang1column element=”div” width=”122″][/hang1column] [Book Review] Insipid. A combination of pretentious rich kid, publishing connections, caricatured first and 1.5 generation Korean immigrants, and a storyline built around a sheltered intellectual meeting ‘real’ people and engaging in ‘real’ work. People who have never done either may find this book interesting, for everyone else, don’t waste your time. Actual quote, “However, I also sometimes feel like a lab rat in some cosmic sociological experiment to judge the effect of precipitous class descent via a kind of Wittgensteinian wormhole of reverse migration.” The author follows with a sentence trying to explain what he just wrote, which left me feeling punished, like I’d just been forced to waste two sentences of my time instead of just the one. On a better note, the book is at least a quick read and … well, that’s about all of the upside I could find.
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‘Homemade’ Bombs Explode at Seoul Station, Express Bus Terminal; No Injuries, Little Damage Reported

It’s not every day that you wake up to read reports of bombings at bus and rail stations in South Korea, but today was suddenly that day. Yonhap, as well as MBC and the Chosun Ilbo, report that two “homemade” bombs went off just before noon, one at Seoul Station and the other at the Express Bus Terminal down in Kangnam. There were no injuries reported, but the police evacuated the areas and launched a nationwide check of public transportation facilities, including subways and airports. According to police reports, the bombs were pretty unsophisticated, mainly electrical wire and a small can of butane gas, so were likely the work of a disgruntled whackadoo instead of international terrorists, though police are not ruling out terrorism. The disgruntled nutjob theory has recent precedent, as anyone who remembers the arson that destroyed Namdaemun can attest. The bombs were put into public lockers early in the morning, according to CCTV footage from Seoul Station that showed a man placing a bag containing the bomb in a public locker at 5:51am. The explosions occurred hours later – at 11:22 in Seoul Station and 11:58 at the bus terminal. UPDATE (17 May): The disgruntled whackadoo theory proved to be correct, as the police arrested a man on Sunday and charged him with setting the bombs. Motivation? Stock losses. The man had apparently lost money in the market and decided to get back in the black by purchasing futures contracts, then using the bombings to influence the market. Outcome? In an effort to prevent a repeat of the incident, Korean police announced Tuesday that they would “crack down” on websites showing people how to make bombs – the man charged with the crime reportedly learned how to make the bombs through the Internet.  
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  • Ridiculous that #SouthKorea gov't fears this site. Hopefully Moon changes. North Korea Tech & censorship in SK https://t.co/vKZK7lKNSD - posted on 26/06/2017

  • Interesting use of NGO social media counternarrative capabilities: How Facebook Can Fight the Hate https://t.co/8TFLeYNXrC - posted on 25/06/2017

  • A state that desires isolation is punished ...by being isolated? Huh? - Do American Travelers Belong in North Korea? https://t.co/nkgblnVoWQ - posted on 22/06/2017

  • If only policy was to beg China, up sanctions, pass UN res., & make mil threats, then we'd ... oh wait. #NorthKorea https://t.co/dpUAWi0jX8 - posted on 11/06/2017

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