Israel and South Korea strengthening ties through the Busan Israel House


You might have caught a headline earlier in the month about Busan being home to Asia’s first holocaust museum, housed in the newly-opened Busan Israel House cultural center.

Michael Fraiman has put together an interesting piece for Busan Haps about how it came to be –including an interview with the founder, Jay Kronish.

Basically, the Israeli ambassador gave Kronish and his Korean wife Keum-won the marching orders, but not the government funding, so he had to practically go door to door in Israel raising funds and acquiring exhibit material.

An interesting part of the piece:

Israel’s relationship with South Korea has developed strangely and quickly in the last decade. Israelis have in fact been thirsting for Korean culture since 2003, when My Lovely Sam Soon, an internationally popular Korean drama, hit the Holy Land with force. As recently as 2011, Israeli Hallyu fans were starting to cook Korean meals they’d seen on TV.

According to a recent Jerusalem Post article, around 40,000 Koreans visited Israel in 2012, more than any other Asian country. Only 12,000 Israeli tourists reciprocated, which doesn’t sound significant until one recalls that Israel’s population is 7.6 million, roughly one seventh of South Korea’s.

You can read the rest here.


On the uniqueness of ‘Jeong’ and my inability to understand even if I tried really really hard

Interesting piece in the Korea Times today about Dr. John Linton called, “I am Korean.”

The doc’s family has lived on the peninsula for four generations, and he describes himself as “a countryman from Suncheon,” which is where he spent most of his boyhood following his birth in North Jeolla Province in 1959.

Linton, whose place on the Park transition team and feelings on dicator Lincoln were recently written of by uncle Marmot, is an interesting guy and the story of his family is a great read, but today’s article and interview kinda got me depressed.

While I like to think myself a reasonably intelligent person, it turns out I will never understand the meaning of “jeong” –the uniquely Korean feeling of kinship to both each other and objects, that cannot be translated into English and, says the doc, can only be deciphered by Koreans.

Linton, who describes himself as “Korean to the bone” and has drank heavily of the ondol-aid, is one those fortunate enough to grasp it:

Jeong is a very particular sentimental attitude that is without equivalence in other countries of the world. It is unique to Korea. It is difficult to translate into English because it is a special one that goes beyond mere affection and loyalty.

And while the rest of the world is segregated from the knowing, we are at least welcome to visit:

Korea has a virtuous tradition of offering warm hospitality for guests. For instance, the current immigration office has been teaching languages, providing places for wedding ceremonies and hosting bazaar events for multicultural families, which is hardly seen in any other nations.

As far as embracing multiculturalism, California, with its government-published driver’s handbook printed in Chinese, Russian, Tagalog, Korean, Spanish and Vietnamese, might argue with Linton’s assertion. But, as a nominal Californian myself, I won’t bore you with that which you most likely could not understand –unless you’ve lived in the Golden State.

Perhaps I am simply jealous due to my inherent incomprehension of jeong, but there is a hint of consolation.

According to a paper presented at the UCLA Medical Center entitled The Significance of “Jeong” in Korean Culture and Psychotherapy, by doctors Christopher K. Chung & Samson Cho, even Koreans themselves may not fully understand this unique concept.

Unlike other emotions, such as depression, anger, and anxiety, jeong is not entirely definable even in the Korean language; it is ambiguous and amorphous. The best description is that jeong has multiple faces.

Thankfully, Chung and Cho do take a crack at it in their paper –thus allowing me some insight:

Jeong is difficult to define. One Korean-English dictionary defines it as “feeling, love, sentiment, passion, human nature, sympathy, heart.” Although it is complicated to introduce a clear definition of jeong, it seems to include all of the above as well as more basic feelings, such as attachment, bond, affection, or even bondage.

Well, there you go —I’m almost there, man. All I have to do is tackle the elusive concepts of “love,” “passion,” and “attachment” and boom, I might well get this jeong thing down.

Before I get carried away, the paper does discuss the negative aspects of jeong and the pursuant “corrupt behaviors” of an “in-crowd versus out-crowd” mentality and how…

greater emphasis seems to be placed on loyalty, jeong, and commitment than in logic, reason, or the law in many Asian countries. The opposite seems to be true in Western culture.

Well, there you go. Again.

For some reason the article and my subsequent reading of the UCLA paper got me thinking about that line in The Avengers when Captain America is told that Thor and his brother Loki are “like gods,” to which the Cap’n replies: “There’s only one God, ma’am, and I’m pretty sure he doesn’t dress like that.”

At any rate, I am handy with chopsticks, I love kimchi and I eat chili peppers with the best of them. All of which, according to some of my Korean friends and associates makes me —regardless my understanding of jeong— “Korean”, too.

As for those times when they affix me with the label upon seeing my love of chili peppers, I usually reply: “No, you are Mexican.”

That usually goes over well.

PRC’s South China Sea Grab Goes from Sensational to Subtle


Hey, if we put this flag here, there's going to be no room for my house!
Hey, if we put this flag here, there’s going to be no room for my villa!

Whatever your position on what belongs to who in the South China Sea dispute (“East Sea” in Vietnamese), you gotta give credit to China for their creative efforts in pushing their claim to the whole sea. Well, in their defense, not the whole thing, just around 80%.

As you can see in the image, these are some pretty ambitious claims by China. At some points the line is 450 km from the mainland.

China’s territorial claims have been infamously demarcated by what is referred to as the “Nine-Dotted Line” –which the Vietnamese call Đường lưỡi bò, “ox’s tongue line.”

I don’t want to go too deep into the history books on China’s claim, but some of it stems from the early 15th-century voyages of Chinese admiral Zheng He, the Muslim eunuch who, from 1405-1433, led several voyages as far as Africa’s Somali coast to highlight China’s status as super bad ass –the common term used before “super power.”

Had the new emperor not decided to re-focus resources on defending the northern borders and had be been able to resist paranoia about Chinese masses attaining too much knowledge, it is likely that Zheng He would have gone around the Horn of Africa before Vasca de Gama did in 1497 and we might all be speaking Chinese.

The Chinese “Treasure Ships” that Zheng He commanded dwarfed anything Europe had to offer and their support ships, which numbered in the hundreds, would have easily defeated a Spanish or Portuguese fleet had they been foolish enough to confront them.

There are scholarly disputes as to whether the Treasure Ships were huge or “very big”, but suffice it to say, China ruled the seas and the Europeans were probably lucky their less advanced technology hadn’t gotten them around the horn of Africa until the end of the century.

The Chinese "Treasure Ships" dwarfed anything Europe had to offer. There are scholarly disputes as to whether they were huge or "very big", suffice it to say, China ruled the seas.

The Chinese “Treasure Ships” dwarfed anything Europe had to offer. There are scholarly disputes as to whether they were huge or “very big”, suffice it to say, China ruled the seas.

Ok, I went too deep, but it’s a great story and you should check it out.

The Subtle Approach

At any rate, aside of bullying its neighbors on the high seas these days with proxy fisherman, China is employing subtle approaches to getting the Nine-Dotted Line out there in the public eye.

There was the recent news of printing the lines in Chinese passports –which the Vietnamese and the Philippines refuse to stamp and in response are instead issuing visas on a separate piece of paper.

The passports were blatant, but China’s other tacts are a growing more and more nuanced. The Vietnamese media reported recently that Air China, the flagship carrier for the ROC, now shows the Nine-Dotted Line on the route map featured in their inflight magazine.

Not the greatest image, yet all that is available with the breaking news. You can see the Nine-Dotted Line demarcated on the Air China flight route.

Not the greatest image, but you can see where the Nine Dotted Line is on those route line maps that keep me occupied in my seat for hours.

And if that weren’t enough, Chinese-made inflatable globes manufactured for resellers around the globe have shown up in Australia and the Philippines with the Nine-Dotted Line printed on them.

Beach Ball Nine Dotted Line China

China, sneaking in the Nine-Dotted Line wherever they can. Even without customer’s knowing it.

Say what you will about Chinese government’s methods, but one things is beyond dispute: when they put their mind to something, they give it their all.

Who Said the FTA was Going to be Bad for South Korea? The Early Numbers Certainly Don’t



Tempers flared as protests erupted leading up to the signing of the KORUS FTA one year ago. Early numbers indicate a lot of people may have been better off staying at home. (PHOTO USA-Today)

This week will mark one year since the KORUS FTA signing. Far too soon for either side to go popping corks, but those popping off about the devastating damage it would do to the South Korean economy might want to look at the early trade numbers. It would seem Korea is doing fine.

From Yonhap:

According to government data, South Korea’s exports to the U.S. reached US$53.8 billion between March 2012 and January 2013, up 2.67 percent from a year earlier, while imports dropped 7.35 percent on-year to reach $39.1 billion over the cited period. South Korea enjoyed a trade surplus of $14.7 billion during the cited period, up 44 percent from a year earlier, the data showed.

I am no economist, but 44% is a decent gain, right?

Another Yonhap report said that U.S. imports from all countries rose 3 percent in January, while imports from Korea soared 18 percent. And, according to a Korean commerce official:

Lowered tariffs allowed local firms to sell their products overseas at lower prices, raising the competitiveness of those companies.

Go figure. Lower tariffs + good products + world’s richest market = competitive gains. Freaky.

This is not to say that sectors of the SK economy are not taking a hit. I haven’t seen the complete numbers, but American oranges are doing well –up 30% over last year on $150 million in sales– along with cherries jumping 80% to $80 million.

American Car ImportsAs for U.S. car imports, they have doubled this past year –though there is some debate as to what exactly the words “country of origin” mean. That will likely get more traction considering that the American-produced Toyota Camry was voted Korea’s Car of the Year by Korean journalists last month.

That aside, the South Korean auto industry looks to be benefiting quite well from the pact. (Though it should be noted, Americans have more money to spend than last year.)

Vehicle exports to the U.S. gained 21 percent on-year to $10.22 billion over the cited period, while vehicle imports almost doubled to $720 million…Auto parts, among others, benefited most from the trade pact with exports to the U.S. rising 12.6 percent to $5.23 billion, according to the data.

That’s $10 billion in Korean cars being sold in the U.S. versus $720 million in American cars being sold in the ROK. Once again, I ‘m not an economist but…

On a side note, things are not going so well –or maybe they are– with the Korean-EU FTA, says Hankyoreh. They claim that the numbers out of Brussels and those out of Seoul are painting different pictures of who is getting the most out of their trade pact.

This was cross-posted in The Marmot’s Hole.

Idiots on Parade: Guess Who is Chinese, Japanese or Korean [VIDEO]


Sigh. Another one of those videos. Yah, I can’t resist watching them either, but I am way past the point of cringing anymore. Were these all random picks or did the author edit in the biggest knuckleheads? At least he has the one pair of sharp guys that nail every question with the correct answer. 

Korean Researcher: Oral Sex Cause for Increase in Head and Neck Cancer



If you really love her (or him), let them know that what they are doing right now could be deadly.

If you really love her (or him), let them know that what they are doing right now could be very dangerous.

Hat tip to Robert over at the Marmot’s Hole for spotting this gem in The Korea Times. According to the headline, “Cancer experts says no to oral sex, more green tea,” it would seem that Professor Shin Dong-moon, a Yonsei graduate now at Emory University, feels that getting to third base could be very, VERY dangerous to your health.

Here is the article pasted in its entirety so you can draw from it what you will. But allow me to quickly summarize:

Putting either cigarettes, alcohol or genitalia in your mouth can increase the chances of cancer and is thus highly dangerous.

We believe that oral sex is the cause of the rapid increase in head and neck cancer over the past 10 years. It is vital that anyone with symptoms receive vaccines against the human papillomavirus (HPV).”

Such was the statement from Prof Shin Dong-moon of Emory University who is a specialist in head and neck cancer.

There are over 100 varieties of HPVs and they are usually transmitted through sexual activities. There are high-risk contaminations which affects organs like the womb. Prof Shin, 62, said some 34 percent of women aged between 18 and 79 are infected with HPV, most of which is associated with a more open sex culture in the country.

The rate of infection is as high as 50 percent for those aged between 18 and 29 The situation is similar in countries like the United States.

“Throat cancer used to be a rarity over a decade ago but the increase in smoking and drinking has given rise to its incursion. There is every possibility that HPV will turn into a worldwide epidemic. ”

He went on to say that changes in sexual activities and dietary trends are essential for reining in such possibilities. A graduate of the Severance medical school of Yonsei University, Shin first joined MD Anderson hospital for cancer treatment and research before heading to Emory.

Duly noted. Though where is the part about green tea that the headline mentions?

I wonder if the Korea Times shelved this story until after Valentine’s Day?

Dennis Rodman Visits North Korea, Hopes to “Run Into” PSY


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Dennis Rodman Arrives in North Korea. Should the U.S. send in the drones now?

Dennis Rodman Arrives in North Korea. Is this a good time for the U.S. to send in the drones?

For what it’s worth, Dennis Rodman, also known as “The Worm” is visiting North Korea. Yeah. Dictator 3.0, Kim Jong-un, is apparently big on the NBA, and Rodman is probably the only guy nutty enough to pay his Royal Kimness a visit.

The 51-year-old former NBA standout, both on and off the court, arrived in Pyongyang on Tuesday with three Harlem Globetrotters in tow. Rodman, who will play some exhibition b-ball and run some workshops for kids, also visited the national museum where a Michael Jordan-signed basketball given to Kim Jong-il in 2000 by Secretary of State Madeleine K. Albright is displayed among national treasures.

Rodnam is also taking part in a documentary being filmed there by Canadian-American journalist Shane Smith, who told reporters:

It’s weird because when you go there, it’s all very anti-American,” Smith said. “North Korean kids are fed anti-American propaganda from pretty much the day they are born. But it’s O.K. to like American basketball.

While people may rag on Rodman for this enormous publicity stunt dubbed, “basketball diplomacy,” I think it’s a good thing and certainly can’t make the U.S.-North Korean relationship any worse than it already is.

We got invited and we just came over to have some fun,” Rodman said. “Hopefully, everything will be O.K. and the kids will have a good time with the games.

Apparently, Rodman is not well versed in geography, much less diplomacy. This was made painfully apparent by his dispatch on Twitter:

Maybe I’ll run into the Gangnam Style dude while I’m here.

Weak Dennis, very weak.

And yet, for all his weirdness, geopolitical ignorance and bad hair, his intentions seem valid and worthy.

I’m not a politician. Kim Jung Un & North Korean people are basketball fans. I love everyone. Period. End of story.

Perhaps the best quote was when he was introduced to the General Secretary of the North Korean Basketball Association. Rodman extended his hand and said “Cool man, nice to meet you.”

No, no wait. This one is even better. From ESPN:

Shown a photo of a snarling Rodman, piercings dangling from his lower lip and two massive tattoos emblazoned on his chest, one North Korean in Pyongyang recoiled and said: “He looks like a monster!

Ah yes, the nuances of diplomacy.

More Than Half of Korean Nurses Report Being Sexually Harassed or Assaulted by Doctors and Patients



A new study conducted at Donga University in Busan shows some alarming figures.

A new study conducted at Donga University in Busan shows some alarming figures.

According to research by Ko Jin-hee at Donga University in Busan, South Korea, more than half of Korean nurses surveyed say they have been sexually harassed or assaulted.

The Korea Times article reports that of the 347 participants in the study, 55.3 percent reported that they were sexually assaulted within their first two years of service.

The most popular mode of the degenerates, according to the KT:

Specifics varied: some assailants tried to lure the nurses to blind spots; some acted like they wanted sexual services; some tried to have sexual intercourse.

The numbers jump for nurses in the five to ten year bracket with a whopping 70 percent saying they have been harassed and 68 percent of those who have worked more than ten years reporting abuse.

According to Ko’s findings, 51 percent said that the incidents take place at after work gatherings and 38 percent during work hours.

Doctors were the most frequent assailants followed by patients, patient’s guardians and hospital workers.

11 percent of those surveyed pretended to go along with it “out of hopelessness” or, as the KT put it, “fear of mess up the mood.”

Hey ya’ll! It’s K-Country! Is K-Pop Turnin’ Country to Keep Itself Fresh?




I hear tell that them folks over there in tha K-pop studios, that’s producin’ all them fine tunes, are gettin’ wise to tha fact that their, ohhh, what’s that word… genre, might be gettin’ a little on tha stale side. They’s a figurin’ that dog just won’t hunt forevuh.

So, looks like they done went and thunk on tryin’ supmtin’ new to give a little life to them tunes they makin’. Country K-pop!

From Time Magazine:

Country music and K-Pop may seem like strange bedfellows right now, but musicians and producers are betting that this unlikely union could yield the next chart-busting hit. Meaning: we could start hearing American-music influences in one of the world’s most popular and dynamic pop genres.

I ain’t too crazy about them “bedfellows” they talkin’ ’bout, what with a lotta them fellah singers already lookin’ a little girly, but K-pop mixed with country? Hail yeah!

As fer that “American influence” they speakin’ of well, I didn’t even know that K-pop was a traditional Korean music. Now I love it even more. I’m callin’ mama right now!

This was also posted at The Marmot’s Hole

Cemetery Vultures: Losing Your Head (and your money) Over Ancestor Worship


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If you cherish your deceased loved ones, you might want to encase your loved ones in cement in Vietnam.

If you cherish your deceased loved ones, you might want to encase them in cement in Vietnam.

I am not one to kick the religious beliefs of others —hell, I once did a drunken rain dance in hopes of quitting smoking— but if your thing is ancestor worship, as it is in much of Asia, then you might want to be careful how you bury your loved ones in Vietnam.

This from an article about “cemetery vultures” at news service:

Some people saw a small piece of paper sticking on the grave. They picked up the paper to read and all of them were appalled. “Your grandfather’s head is in our hands. If you want to get it back for reburial, you must redeem with VND50 million ($2,500). Preparing the money, we will call to tell you the place and time,” the piece of paper wrote. Some family members jumped into the grave in a hurry to check and they did not find the head.

Well, there you have it. Grave desecration and beheading for profit. It would seem that some Vietnamese are taking their recent transformation to capitalism to the fullest extent.