Saturday, March 20, 2010


New K-Pop Video

Jeaok is back. I will gladly do PR for him for as long as he'll keep it up.

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Monday, March 15, 2010


North Korea Watch: Wine and Dine Me

Only a week after threatening to "blow up" South Korea for daring to conduct joint military drills with the U.S., North Korea is trying to lure the capitalist pigs to the South back to make a deal.

North Korea has revised an investment law to lure South Korean and other investors back to a free-trade zone on its northeast border with China and Russia, a news report said on Sunday.

Yonhap news agency, quoting unnamed Seoul officials, said the January 27 revision of the law paved the way for "Korean compatriots living outside the DPRK (North Korea)" to invest in the Rason free-trade zone.

In 1999 the North revised a law governing Rason to ban South Korean investors from the zone, Yonhap said.

The latest revision seeks to lure them and other foreigners back in, by reducing taxes and simplifying regulations, it said.

Their state-controlled media will probably continue to say crazy things, but there's not much incentive to annihilate those who are giving Kim Jong-il the funds it takes to keep his wine cellar stocked.


Thursday, March 11, 2010


North Korea Watch: Not So Great Divide

SEOUL | North Korea has recently created an army division in charge of newly developed intermediate-range missiles capable of striking U.S. forces in Japan and Guam, a South Korean news agency said Tuesday.

The report came as North Korea stepped up its war rhetoric against the U.S. and South Korea after the allies started their annual drills aimed at improving their defense capabilities.

I'll spare you more of my thoughts on the "stepped up war rhetoric." Read on:

"The missiles could pose a threat to U.S. forces in Japan, Guam and other Pacific areas where they would be redeployed in time of emergency on the Korean Peninsula, Yonhap said.

The report, however, didn't provide further details such as how many missiles the new division possesses and where they are positioned."

Yes, they could theoretically pose a threat to U.S. forces, should the North suddenly become completely indifferent to the concept of "counterattack." Interesting how the South Korean government could have such specific information about their presence, but no details or numbers. Almost like the North wanted them to know ...



Adverse Possession

Korea's Ven. Beopjeong passed away following a bout with lung cancer today.

"Beopjeong, whose most famous book is 'Without Possession,' maintained a frugal and secluded life while preaching the virtue of possessing nothing, a soothing message to Koreans tired of chasing their possessive desire in vain.

"'When you do not own anything, you actually own everything in the world.' This one line in 'Without Possession,' a collection of 35 short essays, sums up the Venerable Beopjeong's lifelong philosophy."

Apparently Without Possession sold 3 million copies in the three decades following its publication. But let me ask those who purchased a copy of it this: Isn't buying a book called Without Possession itself a repudiation of its core teaching?

And if the Ven. Beopjeong wanted his teaching of the avoidance of possessions to spread, then how did he expect that to happen without people buying his books?



Wednesday, March 10, 2010


Pyongyang Traffic Girls From the Sky

Just watch. I have nothing to add.

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North Korea Watch: Trading is Light

For the first time in more than a decade, trade is down in North Korea, apparently going from bad to ... more bad.

The report by the state-run Korea Development Institute made available on Wednesday said the largest impact came from a sharp decline in trade with China, the North's biggest benefactor that its leader is expected to visit in coming weeks.

Trade with South Korea and the European Union was also down, and the combined decline in trade with the three parties that account for nearly 90 percent of the North's trade points to an overall decline of at least 5 percent in the past year, KDI said in the report.

South Korea is not surprising, given the problems over Mt. Geumgang, and the EU isn't altogether surprising with the given North Korea's generally bad behavior culminating in sanctions.

But China? I guess that's why they're working so hard to rectify the situation.


Tuesday, March 09, 2010


North Korea Watch: Parsing Reuters

North Korea (claims to be) on combat alert as U.S., South hold drills

SEOUL (Reuters) – North Korea said on Monday it had put its army on full combat alert, ready to "blow up" South Korea as joint drills between the South and the United States got underway (which they traditionally do, though we will of course neglect to mention that they make this threat every friggin' time there are joint exercises between the two allies, at least until the attention-getting part of the story is past).

The drills, seen by Pyongyang as nuclear war maneuvers (at least according to their Central News Agency, which has been making ridiculous claims about its impending actions as long as any of us can remember), last for about two weeks and are aimed at testing the allies' defense readiness. They draw fiery rhetoric from the North each year (which every single news source dutifully reports regardless of how incredible it is) that fuels tensions on the Korean peninsula, though they have been held for decades without major incident.

"The units of the three services of the KPA (Korean People's Army) should keep themselves fully ready to go into action in order to blow up the citadel (whatever that means) of aggressors once the order is issued," the North's KCNA news agency quoted its military command as saying (though they probably never did).

The comments were made after China, the North's main benefactor, said it wanted stalled nuclear disarmament talks resumed before July. It urged all parties to the six-country forum, including the United States and South Korea, to try harder (although the talks will remain meaningless as long as China, along with Russia, is determined to reward North Korea's behavior with trade and economic aid. Still, we really should "try harder").

The North has come under pressure to return to the disarmament (which won't ever happen) -for-aid nuclear talks because of (pointless) U.N. sanctions imposed after a May 2009 nuclear test.

The North said at the weekend that any talks to denuclearize the Korean peninsula would "naturally come to a standstill" because of the drills. North Korea conducted "live fire" exercises near sea borders with the South earlier this year.

Sanctions have dealt a blow to its wobbly economy (or so we like to tell ourselves), and a botched currency move late last year has sparked inflation and rare civil unrest.

The two Koreas are technically still at war because their 1950-53 conflict ended with an armistice and not a peace treaty.

The Resolve/Foal Eagle drills involve about 18,000 U.S. troops, U.S. Forces Korea said, with 8,000 coming from abroad and 10,000 already stationed in the South.

The South's Defense Ministry said about 20,000 of its troops would participate.

The United States, which fought on behalf of the South during the war, has about 28,000 troops in the country to support its 670,000 soldiers. The North's deploys most of its 1.2 million troops near the border with the South.

(This is where the story ends, without context or any sense of history. But it sure does have an eye-catching lead that will surely land it at the top of more than a few search engines, guaranteed to make those in Middle America who know none of these things for themselves believe war is a distinct possibility. And to think, some people question our credibility.)

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Monday, March 08, 2010


New Column

My latest column on Adventist Today is up and available here.

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Wednesday, March 03, 2010


North Korea Watch: Exciting Foreign Investment Opportunity!

Revaluing its currency didn't work so well, so North Korea is desperate to attract FDI, The Herald reports

Regardless of its questionable charms as an investment spot, Pyongyang began laying out economic policies reminiscent of China's market opening and reform measures in the early 1990s.

North Korea announced a 10-year plan to build infrastructure using foreign investment, and reportedly designated eight cities including Pyongyang as special economic zones.


Tuesday, March 02, 2010


Ebert on The Chaser

On Jan. 27 (while I was in America, and on a lengthy vacation from blogging) Roger Ebert gave a three and a half-star review to The Chaser, a sleeper hit in Korea in 2008 that has since arrived in America.

While noting the film's brutal, unfiltered violence, Ebert was mostly positive:

"The Chaser" is an expert serial-killer film from South Korea and a poster child for what a well-made thriller looked like in the classic days ...

When I see a film like this, it reminds me of what we're missing. So many recent movies are all smoke and mirrors. A thriller is opening soon in which the star cannot be clearly seen to complete any physical act in an action sequence. We might as well be reading a comic strip, where our minds are expected to fill in the movement between the frames. You sit there and "The Chaser" unfolds, and the director knows what he wants and how to do it without insulting us. In addition to remaking this movie, Hollywood should study it.

My wife bought The Chaser for me on DVD as a birthday gift in September 2008. Neither of us knew anything about it, really, as she doesn't study film with the interest that I do, while the language barrier prevents me from keeping fully up to date on Korean cinema.

Many of the movies scenes were shocking in their content, especially one near the end involving a hammer. There was a time in my youth such a film would have made me afraid to leave my apartment for fear of serial killers that might lurk on other floors. Thankfully those days have passed, though I was somewhat hesitant to let my wife travel alone in the days that followed.

My visceral reaction to the film's content does not mean that I can't recognize that it was well-shot and well-acted. It does a particularly good job of exposing the corruption and inefficacy of the Korean police. One day, keeping these salient points in mind, I may be able to watch it again.

But not anytime soon.

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North Korea Watch: China Bound

Kim Jong-il will be taking his first trip off of North Korean soil in four years to visit China, according to BusinessWeek.

China, North Korea’s biggest political and economic ally, is the only country for Kim’s communist regime to reach out to for support as the U.S., Japan and South Korea increase pressure on the North to return to nuclear disarmament talks, said Park Joon Young, professor of international relations at Ewha Womans University. North Korea may also need more help from China to prop up an economy hurt by United Nations sanctions on cross- border financial transactions.

“Kim Jong Il would have to show commitment to returning to international dialogue if he wants to get China’s support,” Park said in Seoul. “Kim’s China visit, which is highly likely, heightens the prospects of the disarmament talks resuming.”

Maybe while he's there he can get China to loan N.K. some more soldiers.



North Korea Watch: Just Say No

The good news is that North Korea is no longer trafficking drugs.

The bad news is that they are still counterfeiting brand cigarettes and laundering money. Well, actually the report says "counterfeiting," but if I say "laundering" then I have an excuse to play this clip, and shee-it, I've been waiting for one.


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