The Marmot's Hole (Formerly the Hushoor)

Robert Koehler's completely non-sensical and probably unread blog concerning ex-pat life in Korea, among other things.

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Thursday, May 01, 2003

Wednesday, April 30, 2003
Why isn't this SOB in jail?

The NYT Pyongyang Edition Korean Central News Agency reports:

The headquarters of All-People Movement for National Unity was reportedly formed in Seoul on April 25 with due ceremony to boost exchanges and cooperation between the north and south of Korea. At the inaugural ceremony So Kyong Won, active at reunification movement organizations, was elected permanent co-representative of the headquarters and former chairman of the South Korean Teachers Union Yun Yong Gyu, prof. Ri Yang Hui of Myongji University and co-representative of the Buddhist Human Rights Committee Jin Kwan its co-representatives.
Speeches were made and a "letter for world peace" was read out.
We, intellectuals, can not but strongly demand national sovereignty and right to existence under the present international order which only imposes compromise and submission upon us, the letter said, calling for realizing national cooperation and sovereignty to smash the U.S. hostile policy toward North Korea and cope with the threat of war.

So Kyong Won? In case you aren't familiar with the former National Assemblyman-turned-Communist agitator, Mr. Soh made headlines last year when he and a group of twenty student radicals beat then kidnapped a US serviceman off a Seoul subway and forced him to speak at an anti-American rally at Kyung Hee University. Now, in most countries, that usually lands you a lengthy prison sentence. But oddly enough, that doesn't appear to be the case in the Republic of Korea. At the time of the kidnapping, the Chosun Ilbo commented that:
The Korean authorities need to get to the bottom of what is central to the case. By American standards, being held or taken anywhere by a group of demonstrators can appear to have been a momentary kidnapping of its soldiers, and forcing someone to apologize for a past event with which the individual in question had no involvement is illegal and violent activity. It is about this in particular that the US embassy and the United States Forces Korea are so strongly protesting with the Korean government

That, of course, begs the question, "What are they by Korean standards?"

Don't ask me. I just live here.

More Signs of a US Withdrawal

KBS TV is reporting that the the US Department of Defense has requested that South Korea assume full responsibility for guarding the Joint Security Area (JSA) in Panmunjom. This is not the first time the DoD has made such a request - in 1992, a similar proposal was shelved because of Korean objections. The Korean Ministry of Defense is reportedly opposed to the withdrawal of the American contingent, claiming that the "time is not right" for the removal of the American tripwire along the DMZ. This comes on the heals of the USFK's announcement of plans to redeploy its 2nd Infantry Division from bases north of Seoul to the Pyongtaek-Osan area.

Koreas Kind of But Not Really Agree on Peaceful Resolution of Nuke Crisis

The Korea Times reports:

South and North Korea agreed to work toward a peaceful resolution of the nuclear crisis based on dialogue at the 10th ministerial talks, which ended yesterday. However, later in the day, Pyongyang warned in a Foreign Ministry statement it will not rule out military action if Washington proceeds with the plan to impose additional sanctions against it.

Extending the meeting in the North Korean capital by one day, negotiators of the Koreas issued a six-point joint statement, arriving at a half-solution for the nuclear issue by leaving open the possibility of South Korea taking part in future multilateral dialogue, alongside the United States, in the joint statement.

``South and North Korea will thoroughly consult each other¡¯s position on the nuclear issue on the Korean peninsula and will continue cooperation to resolve the issue peacefully through dialogue,¡¯¡¯ it said.

Would someone be kind enough to tell me what exactly a "half-solution" is? Truth be told, most agree that the ministerial talks were an absolute bust as far as the muclear issue is concerned. South Korea was once again told to go screw themselves, and Seoul obligingly proceeded to do just that. Moroever, by issuing a joint statement with the North Koreans calling for a "peaceful resolution" to the crisis, Seoul is undercutting Washington ONCE AGAIN in case the Bush team decides that force is required. But fear not - the discussions weren't a complete failure, apparently. The Times continues:

In contrast to the disappointing results on the nuclear issue, Seoul and Pyongyang made inroads on the economic and cooperation fronts by scheduling an additional round of family reunions in Mt. Kumgang, North Korea, around June 15 and the next round of Inter-Korean Economic Cooperation Promotion Committee meeting May 19-22 in Pyongyang.

North Korea also agreed to positively consider sending athletes and a cheering squad to the Daegu Summer Universiade Aug. 21-31, and also offered to assist South Korea¡¯s bid for the 2010 Winter Olympics in Pyeongchang, Kangwon Province.

Well, I can sleep better tonight now.

Tuesday, April 29, 2003

Monday, April 28, 2003
The Hankyoreh's Pissed, and They Want an Apology Now!

The USFK (United States Forces Korea) can do no right. In an official editorial, the Rodong Hankyoreh Shinmun demanded that USFK authorities apologize for announcing a planned redeployment of the 8th Army's 2nd Infantry Division from the DMZ without first consulting Seoul. And they pulled no punches, either. First line of the editorial:

For Deputy Chief of Staff of U.S. Forces Korea Maj. Gen. James Soligan to announce unilaterally moving the 2nd Infantry Division to the Osan-Pyontaek area [south of the Han River] was very RUDE and ARROGANT.

Don't hold back - tell us how you really feel.

Anyway, the Hankyoreh is under the impression that the good general was trying to score a fait accompli (which, thanks to the article, I can now say in Korean) by playing through the media. With official talks currently under way between the ROK and the USFK authorities concerning the future role and disposition of American forces on the peninsula, for General Soligan to announce a redeployment without the prior consent of the Korean government does seem a wee-bit odd. The only possible explanations I can think of are 1) miscommunication between the Korean government and USFK, 2) the Korean government has already given its consent, but the Hankyoreh hasn't gotten the message yet, or 3) the USFK is getting frustrated with the mechinations of Comrade Noh the Korean government, Noh's Red Guards local NGOs, and the Fifth Columnists State Department, and Soligan really was trying to pull a fast one. To my knowledge, since Soligan's press conference, the Korean government has yet to bitch publically about the announced redeployment, which really makes me wonder what the hell is really going on here.

What really got me about the Hankyoreh's editorial, however, was how it finished up:

The more serious problem is that the US military is running the "Future of the US-ROK Alliance" talks by itself. On the one hand, we will be expected to shoulder a portion of the costs involved in the move, and on the other, there have been no discussions yet as to the readjustments in our defense costs that will follow as a result of the diminished role of USFK. Our government must demand that the USFK authorities officially apologize and retract what was said during [Gen. Soligan's] press conference.

All this coming from a paper that was routinely calling for a complete American withdrawal just four months ago. Frankly, I have no idea why the USFK allows itself to be party to this charade (come to think of it, I do have an idea, and I suspect the reason lays in Foggy Bottom). From both a military and a geopolitical standpoint, our facilities here in South Korea are nearly worthless; the American presence serves only to give political assurances of support to a nation that no longer needs nor, IMHO, deserves such assurances. Withdraw them to Guam, Okinawa, Hawaii, San Diego, anywhere... as long as it's off the Korean peninsula. This farce has gone on way too long.

From the Marmot's man in Seoul

Well, it seems that the Marmot has Korean politics well covered this week, so I'll just add a little bit to the Korean section. Being too lazy to write anything original, I think I will just post copies off some things I wrote on the "Totalwar" Forum:

My multi-cultural experience

I am a teaching at Ansan College in Ansan, Korea. I proctored an exam this morning.

When I walked into the room, I saw one student sitting at her desk, surrounded by several classmates. Her father had died last week and she was sick to her stomach. The other students were trying to to consol her and doing what they could to get her ready for the test. I asked if she was able to take the test and she said yes.

For several minutes, while we were waiting for the test period to begin, her friends worked on her. First they pulled on her fingers and bent her wrists back. Then they gently beat her arms and back. During all this, they looked at and talked to her with great sympathy. Finally they, got out some needles and started pricking her fingers. They used a tissue to collect the blood. That seemed to do the trick and she was ready when the exam started.

Korean culture can be maddening to outsiders but the kindness that Koreans show to members of their group is definitely a redeeming quality. However, I told my girlfriend (Korean) about that story and how it impressed me. She then pointed out that they would never have been so kind to her if she were a "wangta" (outsider). Like the Japanese, Koreans can be merciless to those who don't fit in, much more so than in the West.

The first "pepper" of the season

Also, I had my first "pepper" sighting of the year today.

In traditional Korean culture, parents were very proud to have sons and would let their little boys run around nude so that everyone could see his little "pepper." I lived in a rural area for two years and would have a dozen or so "pepper sightings" every summer. Today was the first really warm day of the year in Korea and, sure enough, there was a little boy wearing a T-shirt and nothing else playing outside on the sidewalk with his mom.


OK, I think I have this picture thing figured out. I'm going to give it a test now.

I played for the Yonsei University OB ("Old Boy") American football team last fall. I and several other "big noses" were on the team (BTW, I'm #91). Unfortunately, I hurt my knee and will have to skip this spring's season, but I hope I can come back this fall.

Sunday, April 27, 2003
I Told You So

This just in, courtesy Yahoo:

South Korea demanded Sunday that North Korea abandon any atomic weapons development, but Northern negotiators in Pyongyang stonewalled the nuclear discussion, calling it a matter between North Korea and the United States.

Chief North Korean delegate Kim Ryong Song refused to confirm a claim made during talks last week with U.S. and Chinese officials in Beijing that North Korea is making nuclear weapons, and instead sought to steer Sunday's Cabinet-level talks toward aid inter-Korean economic projects, Seoul officials said.

Now, I direct you to my post of April 19th.

Well, it was a pathetic nice try, schmucks guys. But don't say I didn't tell you so.

Mt. Mudung

Went with one of the other teachers here at Kwangju University to Mt. Mudung (Mudungsan), the guardian mountain of the Kwangju metropolitan area. It's quite a broad massif, and it makes for quite a pleasant little hike. The spring flowers were is full bloom, and if you're an azelea fan, you would have been in for a real treat. Mt. Mudung is almost covered with azeleas this time of year; we found a whole field of them high up the ridge line near Jungmori Pass. Azeleas weren't the only flowers out in force; higher up, we came across bushes of these white flowers, as well as these small yellow flowers, although I have no clue as to what they are called. It was just a cornicopia of color, and yet another reminder why I love living in this country so much (shitty politics aside).

The mountain's main temple, Jungshim-sa, isn't anything to write home about, although the walk up to it was nice enough - the path is lined with yellow flowering bushes, which go well with the lotus lanterns and stone steps that indicate the way. At the temple is this transplanted palm tree, which should give you an idea as to how mild the climate is in this part of the country. For your viewing enjoyment, I snapped this shot of the temple's collection of hangari, clay pots used for storing the bean and red pepper pastes that are ubiquitous in Korean cooking.

We started up the mountain rather late, and by the time we got back down, it was late afternoon and the sun was well on its way to its daily date with the horizon. The path down was, in many ways, better than the one going up; we passed numerous streams and pine groves, the sound of the rushing water more than compensating for the day's exertions. As the sun set and we approached the bottom, the bell at Chungshim-sa Temple rang out; once you've been to the top of a mountain, it's always a surreal experience coming back to civilization. As reward for our efforts, we treated ourselves to a barley-rice dinner at this restaurant in front of Chungshim-sa Temple; as the picture would suggest, the atmosphere was just sublime.