Monday, August 31, 2009


North Korea Watch: How to Deal

This piece in today's Korea Times sounds like good advice, especially the part about "bored contempt."

"Treat North Korean provocations with bored contempt. The U.S. needs to reward the North when it acts responsibly and punish or ignore it when it acts badly. Reprogramming the DPRK won't be easy, but the regime has been on markedly better behavior over the last month than previously. For that Washington and other nations should respond favorably."

North Korea's threats, when matched with its actions in recent years, are deserving of nothing more.


Wednesday, August 26, 2009


North Korea Watch: Talks Underway

North-South Korean talks on reuniting families are underway, the AP reports.

The story doesn't have much else to offer, aside from background, but it says the talks are taking place at the North's Diamond Mountain resort. We'll stay up to date on this development.


Tuesday, August 25, 2009


Federer's Reading List

The Roger Federer fans at Bleacher Report were ecstatic to report that my wrap-up (or at least part of it) had appeared on Federer's own site today.

Me? I'm cool with it.

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North Korea Watch: Reunions and Rockets

South and North Korea are going to meet to discuss reunions among families separated between the two countries, according to the New York Times. It's a highly positive sign, given that it would be their first joint meeting in 55 years, the NYT says:

The meeting comes as North Korea appears to be shifting from provocations against Washington and Seoul — including a nuclear test and missile tests — toward more conciliatory gestures, among them the release of two American journalists earlier this month after a trip to Pyongyang by former President Bill Clinton.

If the two Koreas agree on a new round of family reunions, a selected group of Koreans from each side would be allowed to meet their children, brothers and sisters whom they have never met or communicated with since fighting ended in 1953.

Hopefully, the South's rocket launch today won't lead to any more childish paronoia from the North.

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Monday, August 24, 2009


North Korea Watch: U.S. Envoy Invited to Talks

Reuters reports that Stephen Bosworth, the U.S. chief nuclear negotiator for North Korea has been invited to nuclear talks.

If Bosworth does go, it would mark the first official bilateral talks between North Korea and the administration of President Barack Obama on the nuclear issue.



ATEK Update

The ATEK presidential nomination process I wrote about in Friday's Herald has been delayed by a week due to there being only one application received.

Read the update in Tuesday's Herald here.

I was informed after press time that should no more applications be received by Saturday, the one candidate who did apply will take office as ATEK president come Sept. 1. If more nominations are received, there will be an election period after which the new president takes office Sept. 10.


Thursday, August 20, 2009


North Korea Watch: How Many Enemies?

Doug Bandow of the Cato Institute asks why the US Military pursues such a massive military budget when it's greatest "threats" are Iran and North Korea:

Whatever could justify such outlays?

It certainly isn't the power of America's enemies. The American people rightly rank North Korea and Iran as adversaries of the U.S. But neither state poses even a minor threat to America.

The so-called Democratic People's Republic of Korea is an economic wreck; a half million or more people starved to death a decade ago. The regime is largely friendless and faces a destabilizing leadership transition. Pyongyang's large military is antiquated; though the North is developing both missile and nuclear technologies, it has no present ability to attack the U.S. and, in any case, would be wiped out by any retaliatory strike.

Moreover, the DPRK is constrained by its neighbors. South Korea enjoys 40 times the economic strength, twice the population, and a vast technological advantage. By some measures, the South's military budget is as large as North Korea's entire GDP. With its more modern, efficient military, Seoul alone could defeat the North.

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Drug Decriminalization in Portugal

Portugal may offer a way out of the drug war, a Cato Institute study shows.



ATEK Elections

Click here for my story on the ATEK presidential election in Friday's Herald.

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Wednesday, August 19, 2009


North Korea Watch: Meeting the Other Bill

New Mexico Governor Bill Richardson will be meeting with diplomats from North Korea, which some are interpreting as a further thaw in relations between the North and the United States.

Kim Jong-il also reportedly sent condolences to the family of former President Kim Dae-jung, who died yesterday.

As a congressman, Richardson embarked on several diplomatic missions during the 1990s, and was instrumental in getting American Evan Hunziker released from North Korea in 1996.

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Tuesday, August 18, 2009


A Libertarian View of Kim Dae-jung

Kim did, as Doug Bandow says here, have "manifest" flaws, but his committment to freedom and democracy were undeniable.

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Monday, August 17, 2009


Kim Dae-jung Dead at 83

Former President and Nobel Peace Prize winner Kim Dae-jung has died, a hospital spokesperson said.

Kim, South Korea's president from 1998-2003, had been in and out of hospitals for months do to pneumonia, The New York Times reports.

A long-time opposition leader during Korea's authoritarian past, Kim was imprisoned and nearly killed for his opposition to the military dictatorships of Park Chung-hee and Chun Doo-hwan. This, along with his eventual presidency, earned him comparisons to Nelson Mandela.

For more information check my earlier post.


Sunday, August 16, 2009


North Korea Watch: Joint Projects Resume

North Korea has agreed to "lift border restrictions with South Korea to allow reunions of separated families and restart stalled tourism ventures," the AP reports.

The North's official Korean Central News Agency said in a dispatch early Monday that it agreed to restart tours to the scenic Diamond Mountain resort and ancient sights in Kaesong in the North. The tours had been suspended in tensions after the inauguration of a conservative government in Seoul early last year.

The report did not say when the tours would resume.

The state news agency said the North also agreed to resume reunions of families separated by one of the world's most heavily fortified borders at Diamond Mountain before this year's annual "Chuseok" autumn harvest holiday in early October. Chuseok is one of the two biggest Korean traditional holidays celebrated in both Koreas and is equivalent to Thanksgiving in the United States.



High School Insecurities are Fatiguing

If I’d been a bit chunky in high school, I probably would have an aversion to Twinkies today that bordered on religious zeal. If I’d had a speech impediment then, perhaps I’d now be giving an earful to anyone I could trap long enough to tell how I overcame it.

Those weren’t problems of mine, though. My concern was that I was 6’3” and weighed 160 pounds when fully clothed. This is probably why, in my adulthood, I have demanded of myself that I be able to bench press more than any of my coworkers.

Fortunately, in the newspaper industry this is an easy target to reach: most reporters rarely lift anything heavier than a full coffee cup, and the best ones are too consumed with finding the scoop to concern themselves with exercise or a nutrient-rich diet (personal hygiene is also known to suffer).

When outlifting my fellow journalists got to be too easy, I began targeting the top 5 percentile of the gyms I used, and the top 2-3 percentile after I moved to Korea. I adopted the technique which states that each set should consist of no more than four repetitions, and on the fourth the vein in the lifter’s forehand should be visible from the moon.

After following this method for four or five sets, if the lifter is still able to open doors for himself, then he probably could have tried harder.

By my mid-20s it had paid off; I weighed in the neighborhood of 210 pounds, more and more people were asking me for help in ensuring that heavy things around the office were in the right place, and in the spring I could be seen tugging at shirts whose short sleeves weren’t quite wide enough.

Eventually, though, I paid the price for this obsession.

One day last year I pushed a weight as heavy as myself above me for four sets, four times each. The next day there was a sensation in my upper left pectoral that I at first mistook for the bounty of exercise, which is soreness. When it had spread to my left shoulder and grown more intense the day after that, I knew something was wrong, and that I needed to stop for awhile.

I didn’t pick up a weight for another two-three months, and when I did it was significantly lighter. Still, the following day the sensation, which I imagine is similar to having liquid magma poured in between your shoulder and arm bone, had come back.

I visited a doctor, who was immediately able to locate a creaking in my shoulder indicating that there was a fluid buildup between in the joint. He casually recommended that I avoid putting my left arm behind my back or over my head, and said in about four weeks I’d be fine.

This advice seemed at once both unrealistically hard and simplistic. For one, you do realize how hard it is to avoid such motions until you’ve put on a belt or taken off a shirt. For another, the sudden recurrence of pain months apart indicated something much more serious than what he had diagnosed me with.

So I went to an Oriental medicine doctor, who very quickly found that something more was wrong: My whole skeletal system was out of alignment. My pelvis was crooked and my left shoulder higher than my right. The first step toward correcting it would be acupuncture.

Many Westerners fear this, but I actually was not worried about the idea of having needles in my shoulder. Too bad none of them went there: Apparently treating bone alignment problems requires lots of needles in fun places like right beside the thumbnail, the tip of the pinky toe, and the underside of the knee.

You may be wondering if this was painful: Let’s just say that after the last needle had been inserted and I’d released my last gasp, I understood enough Korean to know that my doctor was laughing, not just at me, but at Westerners in general who have a low tolerance for needles in their digits.

The second part of my treatment has been rest, and after a few weeks the pain has decreased. What’s more, the number of needles required has also gone down, and they’ve been moved to places that result in less gasping.

Still, the doctor insists that I get rest, and he knows just enough English to tell me to avoid the gym because, as he puts it, “You might fatigued.”

"You should only walking,” he continues. “Otherwise, I think you will fatigued.”

I take him at his words, no matter how poorly utilized they may seem. My attempts at surmounting my high school insecurities by bench pressing a compact car will have to wait.

And so will this column. Until I’m sure I can left both arms over my head without paying for it the next day, I have to assume I haven’t rested enough. Hopefully it won’t take more than a couple of months before you see me again.

Whatever happens, though, I wish you all well, and that you won’t too much fatigued.


Saturday, August 15, 2009


North Korea Watch: Empty Threats

When stories like this are even acknowledged, it's usually by right-wing American think tanks agitating for "confrontation" with the North, or paranoid expats who think they need to move as far south as possible and stock up and instant noodles.

But just read this:

"Should the U.S. imperialists and the Lee Myung-bak group threaten the DPRK with nukes, it will retaliate against them with nukes," the spokesman warned.
"If they tighten 'sanctions' and push 'confrontation' to an extreme phase, the DPRK will react with a merciless retaliation of its own style and an all-out war of justice," he said.

North Korea has, at best, 0.2 percent the capability that the United States has. How can anyone take this saber-rattling seriously?


Thursday, August 13, 2009


Roger Ebert on 'Thirst'

Roger Ebert has given a mostly positive review to Thirst by Korea's leading auteur Park Chan-wook. Ebert writes:

"Park Chan-wook of South Korea is today’s most successful director of horror films, perhaps because there’s always more than horror to them. He seems to be probing alarming depths of human nature.

"His best-known film is the masterful “Old Boy,” about a man who is taken captive and locked up for years for no reason he can guess and none he is supplied with. Now comes “Thirst,” a blood-drenched vampire film about, unexpectedly, a Roman Catholic priest. The priest is a deeply good man, which is crucial to the story: He dies in the first place because he volunteered as a subject for a deadly medical experiment."

I own most of Park's previous films, and his Oldboy ranks among my favorite films by anyone.

His films certainly aren't for the squeamish, but they tend address the difficulties of acting in a moral manner when facing other overwhelming urges, as well as the consequences of failing to be moral.

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Daniel's First Swimming Lesson

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A Little Known Fact About Gangwon Province

It's the Korean capital of cows that are actually excited about being eaten.

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Photos From the Baby Store

Makds pekfext sezce to me.

And good company it is.

This Is Not. A Complete Sentence.

I know what you're thinking and yes, there is audio.

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North Korea Watch: South Korean Worker Released

On the heels of Bill Clinton's successful diplomacy, the head of Hyundai Asan has managed to negotiate the release of a South Korean worker detained since March.

The sad part is, all I can think is What is John Bolton going to complain about this time?



The One One Four

Click here for my story in The Herald on The One One Four, a new site offering news to expats in Korea. I will add a link to them on the side panel of this blog.

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Tuesday, August 11, 2009


North Korea Watch: The Financial Noose

The U.S. government is imposing financial sanctions on a North Korean company believed to be aiding in its missile development program, the AP reports.

The Treasury Department's action covers Korea Hyoksin Trading Corp. It means any bank accounts of other financial assets found in the United States that belong to the company must be frozen. Americans also are forbidden from doing business with the firm.

Read the rest here.


Monday, August 10, 2009


North Korea Watch: Kudos to Bill

Here's something you won't here very often, especially from Lew Rockwell's site: A commendation for former President Clinton for his diplomacy. My favorite part was this:

The neocons are now spreading the bizarre scare story that North Korea is selling decrepit Burma (Myanmar) a reactor to supposedly make nuclear weapons. What Burma would do with nuclear weapons goes unexplained. Bomb Laos?


India Detains North Korea Ship

Amazing when you can do to a nation whose weapons aren't pointed at you.


Sunday, August 09, 2009


In Peril in Pyongyang?

Were the captured journalist in North Korea ever really in danger? The author of this certain doesn't think so.



Four Days in North Korea

This piece on Slate is interesting, especially the part about never having seen a banana before.


Saturday, August 08, 2009


Kim Dae-jung Hospitalized

South Korean TV news has reported that former president Kim Dae-jung (1998-2003) is seriously ill and has been rushed to the hospital. Kim, better known among his supporters as "DJ" is 84 and has been in poor health recently.

If he were to die it would be South Korea's second president, and second left-leaning leader, to die this year following the suicide of Roh Moo-hyun in May.

Kim was imprisoned under the authoritarian rule of former President Park Chung-hee in the 1970s, having run against Park in the 1971 election. He was granted clemency after Park's assassination in 1979, only to be arrested again and sentenced to execution for sedition. With the intervention of the U.S. government and a letter from Pope John Paul II, Kim was granted clemency but exiled until 1995.

After Kim's election in 1998, he instituted the Sunshine Policy, which sought reconciliation and engagement with the North, for fear that a sudden collapse of the North would be disastrous for both.

Kim took part in the first ever summit between North and South Korean leaders in 2000, meeting Kim Jong-il and winning the Nobel Peace Prize. His presidency was, however, marred by economic concerns, particularly involving the Korea Exchange Bank.

For more information on Kim Dae-jung click here.

(Update: Word is now that Kim's condition has stabilized, though he remains under watch at Severance Hospital.)


Wednesday, August 05, 2009


North Korea Watch: Kristof Speaks

Nicholas Kristof of the NYT is someone whose foreign policy views I've normally found quite sensible.

His double-take on North Korea, though, is somewhat confusing, especially the day after we've been handed some actual good news pertaining to the North. Now he's suggesting "toughened sanctions backed by military force if necessary." Furthermore, he says it would be a "nightmare" if "Iran simply decided to save time and buy a nuclear weapon or two from North Korea."

Question, Nick: How many of those nuclear weapons has North Korea used against us? How many has it used against South Korea? How many has it used for any purpose except testing?

If your answer is, as mine is, zero, then I have to ask what the "nightmare" is. Krisof supposes two things: A) If Iran and Myanmar possess nuclear technology, they will use it, even though using would certainly spell an end to their regimes, and B) "doing something" is our best choice in this matter.

Each of these countries knows that it cannot win a conflict with the United States, and none of them are connected to a surrogate terrorist group that has proven an ability to strike the U.S.

The comments under Kristof's link on his Facebook page were quite appropriate, especially this one: "If I were a small country labeled "evil" by the USA I'd want nukes, too."

And this one: "Given that we have no good options now, perhaps we should follow the Hippocratic oath - first of all do no harm. We should let nature take its course w/ Kim Jong-Il and see how this all plays out when he's gone."



North Korea Watch: Keeping Up Appearances

Sending former President Clinton to North Korea to arrange the release of the Current TV journalists may have been designed to allow the North to save face, according to The Associated Press.

"It could provide an opportunity to move forward on the nuclear issue, and that's not necessarily a bad thing," said Victor Cha, former Asia chief at the National Security Council. "The history with the North Koreans, as they have just done the past few months, is to put themselves out on a ledge. And they always need help getting off that ledge."

By giving them nothing except an audience with a former president, the Obama administration may have provided an opportunity for North Korea to return to negotiations, possibly even in the six-party talks.

(Secretary of State Hillary Clinton) said the U.S. was not counting on a breakthrough but also said it could lubricate the way for the North to return to six-party talks about its nuclear program with the U.S., Russia, China, Japan and South Korea.

Just don't expect it to happen right away, as the North still demands one-on-one negotiations with the U.S., which the American government refuses to accept as long as the North defies sanctions. However, this move may have left the door open for future talks, as the former president is well-regarded in the North:

Pardoning Ling and Lee satisfied North Korea's need to continue maintaining that the two women had committed a crime while dispatching the former president as emissary served the Obama administration's desire not to expend diplomatic capital winning their freedom, Sneider said.



Breaking News: John Bolton is an Idiot

Somewhere, I like to think the following conversation is taking place. (Apologies to Mike Judge.)

First Guy: Well, at least your name isn't John Bolton.
Second Guy: You know, there's nothing wrong with that name.
FG: There was nothing wrong with it until that no-talent neocon got nominated to diplomatic posts and started writing Op-Eds.
SG: You know, you could go by Jonathan.
FG: No way. Why should I change? He's the one who sucks at diplomacy.

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North Korea Watch: How Did Bill Do It?

According to this, former President Clinton succeeded where his wife, and the rest of the Obama administration failed, in that he could afford to beg.

In large part because Bill Clinton did what no Obama administration official could: go to North Korea with hat in hand to retrieve the journalists. Such a visit by a senior administration official would perhaps give up too much leverage when issues like Pyongyang's nuclear weapons program remain on the table.

Of course, the fact that North Korea actually got nothing out of the deal besides Clinton's visit is still too much for hawkish critics.

Critics say Bill Clinton's visit only rewarded North Korea for its recent provocative actions.

"I think it is quite a concession to North Koreans. North Korea craves affirmation, especially a high profile former president of the united states," said Peter Brookes of The Heritage Foundation. "Some people would say this is actually rewarding bad behavior."

However, North Korea received nothing out of the deal aside from the intangible quality The Heritage (Heritage of what? Chestbeating?) Foundation calls "affirmation."



North Korea Watch: Slip-Slided Away

Maybe the well-oiled machine is showing some wear, Yonhap reports:

SEOUL, Aug. 5 (Yonhap) -- North Korean media outlets, whose outputs and their timing are strictly dictated by the state, made repeated blunders while reporting on former U.S. President Bill Clinton's two-day visit to the country.

North Korea first reported Clinton's arrival around noon on Tuesday through Radio Pyongyang and the Korean Central Broadcasting Station, its state-run radio channels.

Both made on-air blunders, apparently due to miscommunication between the anchors and producers.

"Former U.S. Pres...." the male anchor of Radio Pyongyang started out in Korean. The broadcast was abruptly suspended mid-sentence, followed by nearly 10 seconds of silence and then five minutes of music before the anchor returned to say Clinton arrived in the North Korean capital.


Tuesday, August 04, 2009


North Korea Watch: Off They Go

According to this, former President Clinton and the two Current TV reporters have now departed North Korea.

We'll be waiting patiently for an explanation from the White House as to how they got the North to agree so suddenly (assuming that ever comes) but this should at least buy us some respite from the hawkish talk of need for "action" against the North.



North Korea Watch: Slick Willie to the Rescue (!?)

Something tells me there's a lot more going on here than we're allowed to know. Either way, journalists everywhere should be happy to see them going free.


Monday, August 03, 2009


North Korea Watch: Slick Willie to the Rescue

Reuters reports that former president Clinton is off to North Korea in an effort to negotiate the release of Euna Lee and Laura Ling of Current TV.

Click here for the rest of the story.


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