The Marmot's Hole

Korea... in Blog Format

Open Thread, December 5, 2015 – The Turkish Gollum Edition

erdogan

While some complain about Park Gun-Hye and want to protest against her administration, there is a law in Turkey about insulting the president, so a doctor, who made this amusing photo-collage has lost his job and is under threat with two years of prison. IMHO, Erdogan is definitely more evil than Gollum.

Ruthless Samsung Executive Insider Trading?

The Financial Services Commission (FSC) in Seoul has announced that they are investigating certain Samsung executives for insider trading (share manipulation) before the announced Cheil Industries and Samsung C&T merger deal that pitted Samsung’s Lee family heirs against investors, including Elliott Associates.

. . . nine Samsung executives purchased as much as 50 billion won ($43 million) of Cheil Industries stock before Samsung announced a deal to combine Cheil and another Samsung company in May.

So where did this inside tip come from to motivate this little proxy army of Samsung executives? Oy vey!

Psy Strikes Again

 

daddy

Psy has a new video out to go with his new song and it will undoubtedly remind one that there is no one quite like Psy, who apparently got his funny habits from his daddy. Click on the photo for the video.

I•Seoul•U …Riiight

Seoul City government released an explanation for and decryption key to its inscrutable I.Seoul.U brand at its official website.

I.Seoul.You logo

Aesthetically, not bad.  I can see Seoul selling some t-shirts to some tourists, the schlemiels in the no soap, radio joke genre who make schlimazels of the rest of the world.  I•Seoul•U is the soup that spills from their soul.

I.Seoul.You - Between people, there is Seoul

I had a strong negative initial reaction to Seoul coming between you and I.  I have a stronger negative even visceral reaction to the idea that “Seoul is at the center of all relationships”.  I would have gone with “mutual respect” or “tolerance” (someone help me out here), but I suspect that “I•Tolerate•U” for Seoul city’s branding would have proved ironic (if not hostile) on too many levels and even more inscrutable as Seoul’s brand.

I.Seoul.You - Seoul fills the gap between the dots

Everyone else get that?  Yeah, me neither.

I.Seoul.You - Korean and English brought together as one

“The letter “O” in “SEOUL” is expressed as the Korean letter “ㅇ,” illustrating the pride of Koreans and highlighting Seoul’s coexistence with the rest of the world.”  Okay, I can buy that.

“The Korean letter ‘ㅇ’ is also the same shape as the traditional Korean door handle. Therefore, it also suggests that ‘you and I knock on the door to Seoul and walk in together.’ ”  Riiiiight


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Hallelujah!

…which I believe means it’s about time in some long lost, all but forgotten (except for Hallelujah!), dead language.

In a move expected to be approved by the National Assembly on Wednesday, Korea will implement sweeping reforms in its tax system to include a tax on religious leaders’ incomes.  “The revision categorizes income of religious leaders as ‘religious income,’ instead of what is currently classified as an ‘honorarium,’ and it will be collected under the same conditions as regular workers’ income.  The revised code levies a tax based on the level of income. Currently, all pastors, clergy and monks receive a flat tax exemption of 80 percent, regardless of how much they make.”

Starting in 2018, if a pastor earns 40 million won ($34,500) or less annually, an income tax of 20 percent of total income will be imposed. Religious leaders earning between 40 million won and 80 million won a year will pay 40 percent of their total income.

Higher-earning church leaders earning between 80 million won and 150 million won will be taxed 60 percent, and anyone earning above 150 million won will be taxed 80 percent.

The tax system reforms will also revise the regulations governing corporate cars.   Under the current tax code, all vehicle expenses are included as a business expense.

Once a vehicle is registered under the name of a business, the car is included as an expense, which also includes the consumption tax generated when buying a car – including gas, auto insurance, auto taxes and toll fees.

The government also refunds the value-added tax paid by corporate car owners.

A firm can also report 20 percent of the price of the vehicle as a business expense for the first five years. Therefore, if a firm purchases a 200 million won car under its name, the firm can report 40 million won as an expense per year, meaning the user can include 200 million won as expenses that are not subject to taxes for five years.

Under such exemptions, many companies and individual entrepreneurs purchase luxury cars under the firm’s name.

But lawmakers want to lower the 20 percent limit to a standardized 8 million won per vehicle per year, meaning that it would take 25 years to repay the cost of a 200 million won car.

Firms will also be limited to claim a maximum of 10 million won a year in operational costs.

Perhaps we will see the last of Protestant preachers riding around in cars like a new Chairman and more driving their own cars like an older Parson.


Against the clergies’ 50 years of wrangling, hand wringing, and prayers and in a bit of irony, I finally have an iota of evidence supporting the existence of their metaphysical God.

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The Tweet that set Korea atwitter… Really

A one word twitter response to Park Geun-Hye’s likening local protesters in masks to ISIS lit up Korean mainstream and social media and made mainstream and social media around the world.  Really.

Alastair Gale, Seoul bureau chief of The Wall Street Journal, posted to his Twitter account, “South Korea’s president compares local protesters in masks to ISIS. Really.”   His one word commentary questioning PGH’s comparison “captured what many were thinking with highly evocative understatement”, as John Power wrote in his piece for The Diplomat.

Alastair Gale - Really tweet

The Korea Times in an editorial, also run by Yonhap News, published the following:

Worrisome is that the anti-mask proposal comes as the President is increasingly showing a “my way or highway” tendency, using law above dialogue and confrontation above reconciliation as her primary means of governance. Regarding the mask ban, the latest survey, conducted by Realmeter, shows that 54.6 percent are against it with 40.8 percent who support it. Park is pushing for the renationalization of history textbooks, although a majority of people oppose it, along with even conservative newspapers, the erstwhile supporters of Park, calling it a foul.

History is also against her on the mask ban as well. There have been several attempts to push for the anti-mask legislation, favored by police for making it easier to identify leaders of protests. In 2003, police tried unsuccessfully to have a relevant revision submitted to the National Assembly, while, respectively in 2006 and 2007, a bill was submitted but left unattended. In 2008 after the candlelit vigils, that almost toppled the Lee Myung-bak administration, a similar attempt was shot down as the Constitutional Court sided with progressive nongovernmental organizations, ruling that it ran against the spirit of the basic law to suppress protests. The National Human Rights Commission also rejected it as well.

Gale’s Tweet was shared over 3,300 times and translated into Korean by local media.  The Hankyoreh published a piece in Korean as did SBS.   Facebook comments on the many shares half-facetiously, which means half-seriously, inquired about Mr. Gale’s civil liberty.

Really.  Really?  Really.


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This Flavour Is Not Comforting . . .

anti_smoking

The truth is sometimes bitter

The Ministry of Health’s latest anti-smoking campaign seems to have gotten a response from the public that tells me that it is a step in the right direction (click on the graphic above for the video advert itself). South Korean Government is becoming more and more anti-smoking since the tremendous negative impact upon the health care system is self-evident and prices for cigarettes here have been amongst the cheapest in the world (cite).

Sometimes, in an effort not to directly offend smokers, anti-smoking bells or announcements are used that can be activate by anyone that is bothered by nearby smoking (cite), however this latest ad campaign (above) has illicited more protestation from smokers, who feel this campaign is insulting and makes them feel uncomfortable with their addiction.

Open Thread, November 28, 2015

Now soju has legs . . .

The Two Faces of Tragedy & The Lack of Trust

sinkingOf the three most precious commodities in Korea – land, silence and trust – trust is the most difficult to obtain

Both South Korea and the PRC have experienced terrible tragedies in having a cruise ship, filled with passengers sink, resulting in the deaths of many. Though the accidents are very similar, the results are very different and telling but both share a common problem and that is the lack of trust.

When the Sewol sank, the public demanded answers. The relatives demanded accountability, which is still wanting. Memorials were erected, people paid their respects and mourned.  Several safety inspectors, shipping company employees, Coast Guard officials were prosecuted. Out of 388 people directly and indirectly related to the accident 154 were arrested (cite).

Of the “Dongfangzhixing” or Eastern Star in the PRC, approximately 454 people were on board and unlike the Sewol, there is still no answer provided as to why the captain of this ship continued sailing when warned of the approaching storm that sank the ship or why sudden turns were executed before the ship sank.

The relatives of victims in both cases were concerned with the lack of accountability on the part of both governments. Korean parents of the Sewol victims became embroiled in attempts to use the accident as political fodder against the current government. Some parents ended up being detained by police at some point due to their participation in protests (cite).  Likewise, in China, parents and families of victims were essentially treated as “troublemakers” and enemies of the state:

They (Party officials) tried to prevent us from going to the rescue site, and they wouldn’t even let us have a meeting of the victims’ families,” said a woman who lost her mother but asked not to be named for fear of inviting trouble from authorities.
“That’s why they sent so many officials — they were just there to watch us,” she said.
Questions immediately surfaced about why the captain of the vessel had not dropped anchor in the face of a violent storm and about whether a refitting of the ship to carry more passengers had undermined its stability, but those questions were swiftly suppressed — as instructions went out to local media to remove reporters from the scene and to strictly follow the party line. (cite)

Both cases saw concerns of the victim’s family with accountability and dis-trust with the government’s role in both tragedies.  As time has progressed, both cases illustrate the inherent problems with corruption and its effect upon public safety. While the prosecution in South Korea actually arrested people for their roles in the Sewol affair, there has been a vacuum of information on the Chinese sinking and a lack of accountability:

. . . All the news we heard was about the glorious behavior of officials and soldiers who rescued people, . . . We heard so little about what actually happened that night and who should take responsibility.

Mourning the dead is one example of a marked difference between the two governments. Koreans widely mourned the deaths from the Sewol, with large memorials, however, in the PRC, the government effectively silenced any public mourning from the families with intimidation and threats.

Meanwhile, in South Korea, even the president’s role in the Sewol affair has taken a strange twist.

After much deliberation and obvious concern over the lack of impartial investigators over the sinking of the Sewol, the investigative committee under the National Assembly investigating the Sewol ferry disaster has decided to examine President Park’s role in the aftermath of the sinking, however, the ruling party seems to have a big problem with doing so, in fact,

Members of the committee nominated by the ruling Saenuri Party opposed the decision and wanted to exclude an investigation of President Park’s instructions that day. Four committee members nominated by the Saenuri Party threatened to quit if such an investigation proceeded.
Blue House spokesman Jeong Yeon-guk said the decision was an “unconstitutional idea” (!?). (cite)

This odd behaviour can explained better if we were to recall the tale of a certain Japanese reporter, who reported upon rumours that had appeared in Korean media about the whereabouts of the president during a mysterious seven-hour lapse.  (cite)

Open Thread: November 23, 2015

 


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An Obit for Kim Young-Sam

Former President Kim Young-sam has died at 87 and Choe Sang-hun has posted a timely and concise summary of his life here.

. . . And Now American Kids Should Have to Learn How To Eat Dried Squid at Games

high-fiveSouth Korea’s baseball team shutout the American team, 8–0, in the Premier 12 final game. (additional coverage here)  The irony of this brilliant win is that many of the Korean players are likely to end up playing for American MLB teams. None of the players on the American team were on the MLB roster, however, still it is safe to say Korean baseball tickets are not only cheap here but are worth the time to go see a live game.

South Korean professor indicted for defaming comfort women

Prosecutors indicted a South Korean university professor on defamation charges, alleging that she falsely described some former “comfort women” as prostitutes who acted without coercion to provide sex to Japanese soldiers during World War II.   On November 18, prosecutors charged without detention Park Yu-ha for statements made in her book “Comfort Women of the Empire”.  Park is a professor at Sejong University.

The Asahi Shimbun wrote,

In the book, Park wrote that she sees the relationship between the “empire” (Japan) and the “colony” (Korean Peninsula) as the backdrop for the Korean comfort women issue.

She explained that as the war progressed, Korean women who were poor and lacked protection of their rights were sent to battlefronts as comfort women for Japanese troops.

In the book, Park raised the issue of whether the women were “sex slaves” or “prostitutes.”

Based on testimonies of former comfort women and other people, Park said the actual conditions and circumstances surrounding the women were diverse.

“It is extremely regrettable that my ideas were not accepted,” Park said on Nov. 19. “But the indictment has become an opportunity for my assertions to be known widely.”

The prosecutors office contends that the Korean comfort women were forced by the Japanese government and Japan’s military forces into sexual slavery.  The prosecutors office cited the Kono Statement issued in 1993 by then Japanese Chief Cabinet Secretary Yohei Kono and the United Nations report promulgated in 1997.

“Prosecutors took issue with what they described as ‘false facts’ in Park’s book.  One is her description saying comfort women were within the framework of ‘prostitution’ and comforted Japanese soldiers with ‘patriotism.’ The other is a passage saying that, officially, the comfort women were not forcibly taken away by Japanese forces, at least on the Korean Peninsula.”

Park published “Comfort Women of the Empire” in summer 2013.  Former comfort women filed a criminal defamation complaint against Park in June 2014 and won an injunction against publication of the book in February 2015.  The Seoul Eastern District Court iruled that the publication of the book would not be allowed unless some parts were deleted.

In a 2015 interview with The Asahi Shimbun, Park said,

“she wrote the book in an attempt to re-portray them in light of the variety of testimonies provided by former comfort women.  She said their words opened her eyes to the sheer diversity of the circumstances and experiences of Korean comfort women, and to the bigger picture of ‘an empire and its colony.’

“Park believes that Japan did not recruit comfort women in Korea, which was part of Japan from Tokyo’s perspective, in quite the same way that it did on the front lines and in occupied areas, such as in the Philippines. In those areas, records show that Japanese soldiers were directly involved in the forcible and violent taking away of comfort women. ‘Many of the Korean comfort women were apparently recruited while being cheated by agents of prostitution, some of whom were Koreans, or being sold by their parents,’ Park said. ‘While some have testified they were forcibly taken away by military personnel, I suppose that such cases, if there were any, were exceptional.’

But Park emphasized that Japan is not exempt from its responsibility for the comfort women, who were taken to ‘comfort stations’ against their will and experienced pain. That is because she sees the relationship of an empire and a colony in the backdrop of the Korean comfort women issue.

The Japan Times in a commentary, Rightists distort author Park Yu-ha’s views on ‘comfort women’, published the following:

Park Yu-ha, an academic at Sejong University in Seoul, is the darling of the Japanese right because of her alleged stance on the “comfort women” system. But their cherry-picking of her writings distorts her views and twists them into support for the revisionists’ vindicating and exonerating narrative.  Park presents a nuanced analysis of the comfort women system, one that challenges the prevailing consensus in South Korea, but she is also quite critical of the role Japan played.

I highly recommend reading the Japan Times’ commentary.


The human tragedy that is the comfort women’s story, as heinous as whatever the truth might be, is not the real and present danger facing Korea today.   The real danger wrapped in this criminal charge is the criminal prosecution of scholarship (if not historical facts and truth itself).  The market place of ideas winnows poor scholarship, fallacious reasoning, or “false facts” along with their authors without the need of criminal prosecution.

The real story here is the Korean government’s prosecution of speech, regardless of truth value.

 


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Open Thread: November 14, 2015

The all-interesting-and-important-news-in-the-world-is happening-everywhere-but-here edition.

EDIT:  Apparently, important things are happening here.  Fortunately, none affected the expat community’s Saturday night bar plans.


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Hello from A Korean Music Highschool

hello

Just another day in high school, working out a really nice version of Adele’s “Hello“.
The only thing I hope is these kids learn more than just using Cubase or copying other singers.

Update

This wonderful singer was invited to sing on the Ellen Degeneres Show in the US.
Much congratulations to this young and excellent singer! (thanks to “brier” for the tip).

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