The Chinese on Okinawa: “Yeah, that’s ours, too.” More fun territorial disputes


The soft power, “peaceful rise” concept seems lost on the Middle Kingdom. The intimidate the crap out of everyone, especially Japan, The Philippines and Vietnam tact is apparently the plan of action.

Now, the PRC is claiming Okinawa.

It started with two Chinese academics earlier this month saying Japan’s claims to the islands were nonsense and that Japan’s annexation of the Ryukyu kingdom in 1879 amounted to an invasion, with the sovereignty still open for debate.

The use of the word “sovereignty” is a real rib tickler that one. Are the Chinese planning on reinstalling the old ruling class and letting them go it alone?

Now, a Chinese general has tossed in his take.

Luo Yuan, a two-star general in the People’s Liberation Army, raised the territorial stakes again this week, saying the Ryukyus had started paying tribute to China in 1372, half a millennium before they were seized by Japan.

Yuan took a nice little stroll on the rhetorical tightrope:

“Let’s for now not discuss whether [the Ryukyus] belong to China, they were certainly China’s tributary state. I am not saying all former tributary states belong to China, but we can say with certainty that the Ryukyus do not belong to Japan.”

Perhaps the islands are just some outcropping in no man’s land and I should lay my claim for a little beachfront property while I can.

You can read the rest on the unfolding Okinawa gripe, as well as the expected playing of the “Hashimoto card”, here.

Question: How extensively have Chinese hackers screwed the U.S. miltary?

Chinese Hackers

Bloomberg has put together a well reported and extensive look at what appears to have been a 5-year long game of cat and mouse-hack and evade with servers containing some of the U.S. military’s most sensitive and highly-coveted technology.

If F-22’s and F-35’s start dropping out of the sky during the Asian apocalypse in the Taiwan Strait, now you know why.

Beginning at least as early as 2007, Chinese computer spies raided the databanks of almost every major U.S. defense contractor and made off with some of the country’s most closely guarded technological secrets, according to two former Pentagon officials who asked not to be named because damage assessments of the incidents remain classified.

Truly infuriating is that some managers at key defense contractors, operating under lax government supervision, basically decided to simply accept the presence of Chinese hackers in their systems.

My feeling is that if an attacker has been in your environment for years, your data is gone,” Wallisch wrote in an e-mail to a colleague in December 2010, a few weeks before HBGary itself was hacked and the record stops.

“Everything about your business is known, cataloged, analyzed, by your enemy,” Wallisch wrote. “I don’t feel a sense of urgency anymore.

How you feeling now that your name is being plastered in the press, asshat?

One imagines that battlefield software is being rewritten and better safeguards put in place, but how about a little more attention to security this time, fellas?

Photo from The Economist

POSCO exec unhappy with ramen, smacks flight attendant with magazine


In the “You can’t make stuff this stupid up” department, a POSCO Energy board member, on a Korean Air flight from Incheon to L.A., was unhappy with his ramen so he reportedly whacked the flight attendant with a magazine.


Apparently, he first became unruly when he couldn’t get rice porridge and then became doubly incensed that the ramen he was given instead was too salty and not cooked properly.

Oh, and in a fit of defiance, he refused to buckle his seatbelt.

The pilot alerted U.S. authorities of the incoming knucklehead and, upon landing in L.A., Mr. Ramen was greeted by FBI agents and given the option to submit to questioning or return home. He took the next flight back –on another airline I would imagine.

According to the Joongang Ilbo, the exec claims it was all a BIG misunderstanding.

For his part, the board member reportedly said that he did not hit the female attendant with a magazine but that she came nearby and accidently ran into a magazine he was holding.

Yeah, that makes sense.

(HT to Chevy)

Korean-American excelling in role as Son of God


Michael Lee

Nice article and interview in the Joonang Ilbo today about Korean-American stage actor Michael Lee playing the lead in Andrew Lloyd Webber’s Jesus Christ Superstar.

The title of the piece is, wait for it… “Korean-American resurrects role of Jesus in ‘Superstar'”

Lee is a veteran of the stage and has been involved with JC Superstar in various roles over the years.

Seeking to entrust the role of Jesus to someone with confidence, the organizer chose veteran Broadway musical actor Michael Lee, 39, who may be the only actor who has performed four of the roles in the musical. He first played Pontius Pilate in high school, then played Simon Zealotes, Judas Iscariot and Jesus Christ on Broadway.

You can check out the rest of the article for yourself here, and hear audio of the performance here. (Here, hear)

I never took much too to the church hymnals forced on me weekly by my parents (aside of “Morning has Broken” –coz Cat re-did it) but used to play my mother’s LP of the Superstar soundtrack quite a bit as a kid and quite enjoyed the title track.  Perhaps because I could utter the word “hell” without upsetting dear ol’ mom.

This was cross-posted on The Marmot’s Hole

Please stop scaring me with ‘terrorism’ headlines



I was sitting on the sofa enjoying my morning cigarette, perusing the Korea Times, and was shocked to to find on the front page of the site that there was another terrorist attack in America! This time in Texas!

I immediately went to Google News and did a search and indeed there was an explosion at a fertilizer factory in Waco, with a rising death toll, but it was not at all related to terrorism, rather an industrial explosion –of incredible force at that.

I went back and read the KT article and even it didn’t say anything about terrorism. Headline fail.

Headline Fail

Update: Even though several in the comments section (as well as the entirety of the world media) have said it is not terrorism, the KT has not changed the headline yet and have actually added a photo next to the headline in the past few hours since I last checked. Maybe they know something others don’t?

Headline Fail 2

Report: K-Pop Girl Groups Baring More Skin in Japan than in Korea. Really?


T-ara Bunny Style

T-ara from their Japanese release. And you thought that ‘Easter in the Saloon’ look died out with the old west didn’t ya?

The Ilbo that is Chosun recently reports that K-Pop girl bands are sexing it up for Japanese audiences by baring more skin (though I am not sure how that’s possible) and performing more provocatively when on the road abroad than they do in concerts back home.

With good reason say those in the know:

Girl bands need to capture the attention of fans in a foreign market so it is essential to bare more skin,” said Kim Won, an expert in Korean entertainment and culture. “But a sexy concept has its limitations and singers must show a unique talent to stay competitive.

Here is Girls' Generation at the Busan film fest, sans pole --you can decide the lesser of two 'innocents' for yourself.

Girls’ Generation at the Busan film fest, sans pole –you can decide the lesser of two ‘innocents’.

The article cites several instances, such as the Girls’ Generation, “who appeal to fans in Korea with their innocent image,” performing a pole dance in Japan wearing outfits that look like lingerie.

The article also mentions T-Ara (pictured above) making the lingerie play to for the Japanese market. And you thought that ‘Easter in the Saloon’ look died out with the old west didn’t ya?

I don’t know enough about K-Pop to comment on differences in the domestic market and abroad, but apparently pole dancing is an accepted form of exercise, from what I can gather.

In fact, according to my limited research on the Interweb, much of the article seems spurious in its contrasts.

So those of you considering booking flights to Japan out of worry you can’t catch the provocative version of K-pop here on the peninsula, worry not –there is really no big difference from what’s happening on stages in the ROK.

The thing is, K-Pop is based on being provocative both in Korea and abroad. Sure, there’s great choreography, good voices and catchy tunes, but in the end it’s all about the appearance of the girls that are dancing, singing and performing and what they are wearing while doing it.

This is not some form of fine art for disgruntled neighbors (on both sides) to pick at and draw nuanced contrasts on. I can just see Michelangelo now, dishing comments to a reporter: “That damned DaVinci is showing more skin in his paintings! I’ll make a nude statue and show him who’s provocative!”

T-ara performing recently in Japan. Oy vey.

T-ara performing recently in Japan. Apparently there is video of some Japanese fans laughing at the girl 3rd from the left for having trouble rising from the “sexy squat dance.” Some nationalist netizens went nuts. Yeah.

K-pop girl group Lay-t, performing in Seoul.

K-pop girl group Lay-t, performing in Seoul. No, that’s not provocative.

4 Minute, performing at Kpop World

4 Minute, performing at Kpop World

-Music video for “Bloom” by Kpop star Gain. Her innocence in the domestic market kicks in at about the 2:20 mark.

A shorter version of this was also cross-posted on The Marmot’s Hole.

like idle wordship

PSY`s New Video: Making Obnoxious Cool? Or a Clever Piece of Satire?


Is PSY’s new video promoting the art of being obnoxious or a piece of clever commentary decrying how people treat each other? Or, is just PSY doing what he’s always done –pushing society’s buttons as we pay to watch him do it? Either way, a billion hits, here he comes.

BUSAN, South Korea — When I first heard PSY’s new song, “Gentleman”, I thought, “Meh, nothing special… not bad.” It will appease the big fans and is impressive enough for me that I won’t turn the dial when it comes on the radio.

And then I saw the video this morning and my take on the new tune went a bit deeper. While it’s very well produced and complements the catchy song, it did leave me unsure of the intended message. In a nutshell, the “Gentleman” video is basically 3:54 of PSY being randomly obnoxious to innocent bystanders, comprised overwhelmingly of women, as well as a group of kids on a soccer pitch.

Aside of it being interlaced with choreographed “Butt Dancing” in dozens of locales, the primary theme of the video is PSY playing the trickster with no regard for consequence. From “catching” a fart and throwing it in a stranger’s face in the library, to yanking off the top of sunbathers by the pool, it is an ode to obnoxiousness from near beginning to end. Is this trope a bit of clever satire or a validation to be obnoxious? Or is it simply PSY just being funny?

Aside of the obvious play on irony with the title “Gentleman”, no matter what the creative team behind the video might say it all means, we are only left with the imagery that we perceive as viewers and what we walk (or Butt Dance) away from it with.

The response on YouTube has been positive thus far, with 62,829 “dislikes” at this writing, and looking well on its way to being another big hit for the 35-year-old rapper whose made his name in the ROK, for better than a decade, by pushing society’s more envelope through the vehicle of infectious tunes.

What message, if any, is PSY trying to get across?

We could ask how will this play in a male-dominated culture. For better or for worse Korea ranks 108th on the Global Gender Gap index sandwiched between two bastions of progressive liberalism, Kuwait and the United Arab Emirates.

Be it the wealthy Korean national who told a Canadian divorce court last week about “an old saying that a woman before marriage will obey her father, a woman after marriage will obey her husband, and after giving birth to a son and the son is old enough, then a woman will be obedient to her son,” to the 2010 Korea National Survey of Domestic Violence and Sexual Violence that found “53.8 percent of respondents had experienced spousal abuse in the previous year,” and how 18 percent of the time police didn’t bother responding to the call.

Suffice it to say that abuse and discrimination towards women around the world is a pressing concern that vexes most of us to seemingly no end. A music video will certainly not remedy this, but the imagery of picking on women for laughs certainly doesn’t help.

It is interesting to note how, at the very beginning of the video, we see several much older Korean men on what is obviously a “girls’ day out” shopping. They carry brand name shopping bags through the store, they are finely groomed and manicured and they all end up sipping expensive caffeine in an outdoor cafe.

Is this where the clever commentary begins?

Or is the whole thing just a music video and I have wasted several minutes of your time for what might well be nothing more than column inches for commentators such as myself? Up to you, but it’s a worthy discussion topic considering PSY’s fame and influence now rivals icons such as Eminem, Chris Brown and others who catch hell for their portrayal of how people treat each other.

Will this induce more men around the world to more often be rude to others? Who knows, except that, sadly, it’s nothing new. Is this a chance for parents and peer groups to say, “Hey, douchebag, cut that out!” Hopefully so.

There is also the well publicized issue of bullying in South Korea where, in some cases, continued abuse at the hands of classmates has led to suicide. It’s become such a pressing issue that the current and previous president both vowed to aggressively address the problem. Bullies generally aren’t too bright, so they are unlikely to blame a music video in the principle’s office as a rationale for thuggish acts. But the obvious case is there if they wanted to make it after throwing a fart in a classmate’s face.

Perhaps PSY’s saving grace in this debate is that he is simply a really nice guy. If you’ve ever seen him interviewed, his demeanor and character are one of a humble and gracious man who, by all outward appearance, is a dedicated husband and father who would unlikely approve of the behavior in the video within his own circle. And there’s the wash. Why glamorize it, then? That’s not a question any of us can answer.

During one interview, as “Gangnam Style” was blazing across the planet, an English talk show host commented that PSY was wearing, those “little, tiny, what we call ‘lady socks’”.

To which PSY coyly replied, “You know, I don’t know why, but some lady things really fit for me.”

Oh well. Enjoy the video for what it is, which is entertainment, take from it what you will, which is what you would anyway, and by all means please, be nice to the ladies and to your classmates, OK?

Don’t Believe the (American) Hype on North Korea


University of Southern California professor and head of the school’s Korean Studies Institute, David Kang, says Americans should chill out over North Korea.  The South certainly isn’t too concerned, so why are the Miguks?

He points to a Donga Ilbo poll last week, showing that “4.5 percent of South Koreans think North Korea means to start a war. In contrast, a CNN poll reveals that 51 percent of Americans think the latest round of name-calling will only end in war, and 41 percent think North Korea is an ‘immediate threat’ to the U.S.”

What for? asks Kang:

Reading the entire statements by the KCNA would actually give a fairly clear view of North Korea’s position. The problem is that most North Korean statements reported in the Western press are done so with the first clause missing. That is, almost all North Korean rhetoric is of the form “IF you attack us first, we will hit you back.” Incidentally, that’s what we’re telling the North Koreans, too.

If you can ignore the hilarious Communist-style rhetoric about ‘capitalist running dogs’ and the like, the situation is actually quite stable, because despite their bluster, the North Korean rhetoric is also cast almost entirely in deterrent terms.

You can read the rest here at Haps.

Also check out Robert Kelly’s piece “North Korea is the Boy Who Cried Wolf: There Will be no War” over at The Diplomat. (That goes for you too, mom. Everything’s going to be OK.)

Jazz on the Rise in the ROK

I didn’t know it, but apparently jazz is seeing its star rising on the peninsula. Not that bland Kenny G kinda “jazz”, but the good ol’ traditional stuff. There were over 100 jazz offerings released in Korea in 2012 alone.

I interviewed jazz singer-songwriter Jumi Lee in the latest issue of Haps about her music and jazz in Korea.

Among other things, I was curious why she chose to sing only in English, a language she scarcely speaks, on her debut CD The Rising Sun. Her response was interesting:

“Frankly, when I sing in Korean, I cannot sing well, especially the high-pitched tones. It is really difficult to sing in Korean, as other musicians will attest,” says Lee. “Even though Korean can be very poetic and highly expressive, it is not easy to sing well.”

One other thing of note, which I didn’t include in the article, was concerning her choice of the title “The Rising Sun.” Lee was a bit shocked when I explained, through the interpreter, the Japanese connection to that term. I have a feeling she’ll be a little more thorough in researching the name of her next release.

You can read the rest and check out some of Jumi Lee’s great tunes here.

Feature: Flight Attendants Can Now Wear Pants, but the Question Remains, Does Sex Sell Anyway?


BUSAN, South Korea — With the final coffin nail being hammered into Asiana Airlines’ dress code this week and the last of Korea’s flight attendants finally given the option to wear trousers, persistent questions once again arise: Does the way your flight attendant looks or dresses have any impact on your travel preference?

In other words, does sex sell?

Most asking the question are doing just that, asking. As yet, there is no conclusive evidence showing that how much skin your flight attendant flashes or how much six-pack a male model displays actually affects your purchase of the product they are shilling. But that doesn’t mean the airline industry, and nearly every other industry, will not continue to work something sexual into their product display under the myth that sex actually does increase sales.

How about Thailand’s budget carrier Nok Air? They recently caught heat for their ad campaign, and subsequent calendar, featuring flight attendants in bikinis —with the blithely expressed intent of raising ticket sales.

To the joy of Nok Air management (I am guessing primarily men), the campaign received over 200,000 “Likes” on Facebook, but does that prove anything other than people literally liked what they saw and ignores the fact that if Thai Airways offers a ticket for less money, people will choose that over a great pair of legs?

So why continue the age old ploy?

As early as the 1920’s advertisers have perpetuated the myth that sex sells, even on items as innocuous as tire stem valve caps. While there might be some phallic connection to be made by armchair psychologists or amateur comedians over tire stems, there is little to back up the belief that sexually suggestive imagery influences how people will cap pressure coming from their stem.

According to Dr. Renee Garfinkle, writing in Psychology Today, the “sexiniess” of an ad might very well attract the passing eye, but interestingly, the sexier the display is, the less likely the viewer will remember it.

Garfinkle writes:

“In fact, what a visual hint of sex will accomplish, a visual barrage of sex can destroy. Not long ago, researchers at Iowa State University found that viewers of programs with sexually explicit or violent content were less likely to remember commercials immediately after watching and even 24 hours later.”

The Iowa study found that the majority of people aged 18-54 who saw ads while watching sexual or violent TV content were less likely to remember the advertised products than those who saw ads while watching “neutral” programming.

Another study by the University of Southern California, called Can Victoria’s Secret change the future?, finds that sexual imagery related to a product, while garnering a person’s immediate attention and literally increasing people’s “views,” in the end, just leaves them feeling frustrated.

So, for now, the jury is still out as to the effectiveness of sex in pushing products. But it’s nice that the ladies working at Asiana can choose what they want to wear. And they should have that right—especially considering management’s obvious intent to increase ticket sales by exploiting the employee’s body.

To the industry’s credit, I suppose, they at least offer role-playing seminars on how flight attendants can best reject propositions while in flight. But isn’t that really a case of dressing up the buffet table to near-perfection and then training the staff how to tackle you before you can fill your plate? The contradictions abound on the outbound and the inbound.

At any rate, the next time you are booking a ticket you can judge for yourself: are you going pass on Asiana because there will be fewer skirts? Or is it really all about the peanuts?

This week, Korea-based Asiana Airlines finally gave in to union and human right group’s demands and will allow flight attendants the option to wear trousers rather than skirts. Last month, Thailand’s Nok Air started a new campaign with flight attendants in bikinis. The question remains, does any of it influence your purchase?

Case Study: An Airline Ad

Here is an interesting example as to the mindset of advertising agencies and the company’s that pay them. Watch the ad and notice, there are practically no men in it —just an ongoing stream of sexy women in different countries that Korean Air flies to and, that you can, through the purchase of a ticket, possibly meet.

Perhaps more telling is the imagery of the men in the ad.

Guy One: A janitor cleaning what appears to be an empty high-rise office. Outside the window, a giant woman paints red lipstick on her lips. He’s interested. As the shot moves outdoors to the giant woman, we see that she is using the building as a mirror. Sorry guy, she doesn’t see you anyway and she’s off to date a non-janitor. And why are you cleaning an already immaculate empty office?

Guy Two: Straddling a bridge in Seoul, he walks toward another hot girl trying to maintain his balance so he can “cross that bridge,” while Seoul Tower stand fully erect piercing the sky. And the left hand side of the bridge doesn’t know what the right hand side of the bridge is doing.

Guy Three: Shall we have dinner over my phallic symbol? Why not? This whole date is on the fly anyway, and I didn’t have to pay for your seat.

Side note: As is often the case in Korean ads, none of the women enticing you is actually Asian. Even in the Asian countries being featured. Some of the flight attendants are Asian, yes, but none of the women being held up as sex symbols are. That’s just weird.