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Archive for February, 2006

Don’t forget to vote

Posted by Brian on February 28, 2006

The Joongang Ilbo is running an online poll asking readers to vote for the top athlete of the Torino winter games. The three finalists are two Koreans and some foreigner. I’ll let you guess which of the three is pulling in a mere 6% of the vote.

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Posted in Korean Issues | Leave a Comment »

No more Ohno!

Posted by Brian on February 27, 2006

Today in class, while talking about the Winter Olympics, a few students made some disparaging remarks about Ohno. Apparently, from what I’ve heard, he’s been accused of jumping the gun (Joel has the details here if you’re curious) at the start of a race. And you know, it made me angry.

Even after their compatriots threatened Ohno’s life and the Korean delegation nearly ruined the integrity of the Salt Lake games by threatening a boycott (only after finishing the short track events, of course), they still have to take shots at Ohno. As if he’s the one who should be apologizing to them…

Even with their short track team sweeping the short track events in Turino this year and further cementing themselves as the short track powerhouse, they still have to belittle his accomplishments.

Even after outdoing their own predictions this year and with two of their short track racers winning triple golds, they still have to rip into Ohno.

Even after finishing seventh overall and outperforming their rivals in China and Japan, they still have to accuse Ohno of cheating.

It just seemed like so much gratuitous negativity during a time when Koreans should be ecstatic over their team’s performance. Salt Lake City was four frickin years ago… isn’t time we moved on?

UPDATE: Party Pooper expresses a similar sentiment here. And here’s an article saying Ohno won “another gold medal of luck.” It’s unfortunate, but this Ohno bashing is a real reminder of what I don’t like about Korean people: the emotionalism, the pettiness, and the grudge-holding.

And this is a real classy graph. Would they do the same if they were o nthe bottom? 

Posted in Korean Issues | 3 Comments »

Dokdo Riders

Posted by Brian on February 26, 2006

It’s articles in the Korean media like this one that make a joy to be a blogger on Korean issues.

The story: five adventurous young men calling themselves the Dokdo Riders will travel the world spreading the news about Korea’s rightful ownership of Dokdo (aka Dok Island). Here’s the genesis of the trip:

“I first thought up the trip during my military service after I read the book, Success Is A Journey,” said Kang Sang-kyun, the 25-year-old leader of the group. Brain Tracy`s account of a journey taken with friends from the west coast of America to South Africa by car, inspired Kang to design his own journey.He found a friend in the military, Yi Gang-seok, 25, who shared his dream. Yi then persuaded three more friends to join in the plan. Kim Young-been, the third to join the group, offered the idea of a motorcycle trip. The motorcycle was an icon that symbolized romanticized freedom and departure from the confined, strict atmosphere of the military.

When the territorial dispute over the Dokdo islets escalated last March after Japan`s Shimane prefecture declared Feb. 22 as “Takeshima day,” Kang got the idea of adding the “Dokdo cause” to his trip, which brought along the publicity. “Takeshima” is the Japanese name for the islets that Koreans call Dokdo.

The cynic in me thinks that the “Dokdo cause” just might be an easy way to pick up some funding for their journey. Rather than bust their asses trying to fund this trip themselves, they could have figured they could just slap the label “Dokdo” on the trip and – boom – instant publicity. How many Korean companies would love to attach their name to this little stunt in some capacity or another?

How will they go about preaching their message? The story continues:

They will also conduct a street campaign to collect signatures to support Korea`s claim to the Dokdo islets. They will perform “Samulnori,” the Korean traditional dance involving drums and “loud music” to attract people`s attention, mainly on university campuses or public squares. “We`ll hand out pamphlets and souvenirs to people who stop by to watch us,” said Kim.

I’ve grown accustomed to the cacaphony of the streets of Seoul, with every vendor blasting loud music in hopes of attracting customers to their shop. But blaring loud music in American cities seems like a case of Korean people taking Korean cultural trends and applying them in the west, expecting to get the same response. I wonder how Joe Six-pack will respond to the Dokdo Riders polluting the air with loud music in hopes of attracting attention to their cause.

As has been said by other bloggers, these kids need a serious schooling in what the world cares about and what it doesn’t. Genocide in Africa barely registers in the minds of most Americans, so why on earth would ownership of a couple of rocks in the middle of nowhere strike a cord?

Posted in Korean Issues | 2 Comments »

R.I.P., Don Knotts

Posted by Brian on February 26, 2006

Don Knotts has died. Bummer.

One of my joys from childhood was catching showings of The Private Eyes with Don Knotts and Tim Conway, without a doubt one of the goofiest, funniest movies ever. The two of them were absolutely hilarious together.

Rest in peace, Mr. Knotts

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Posted in Movies/TV | Leave a Comment »

On Korean Reporters

Posted by Brian on February 26, 2006

There’s some interesting discussion going on over at Plunge’s blog regarding the nature of reporters in Korea. Specifically, they’re talking about the Toby Dawson case, in which yet another American athlete with Korean blood is waylayed by the over-zealous Korean media with questions about his parentage.

Their abominable behavior reminds me of an important rule that any reader would be wise to keep in mind when they read anything in the Korean press. And that rule is: Korean reporters are Korean first, reporters second. I’ll explain.

In James Fallows’ book, Breaking the News: How the Media Undermine American Democracy, he reports a heated discussion on a television discussion on journalistic ethics during the Vietnam war. Seated with two members of the military were two journalists who had been doing work in Vietnam covering the war for the American press. One question put to the journalists was along the lines of, “If you were in the jungle covering the war as an impartial observer and you stumbled upon a ambush planned by the Viet Cong, would you attempt to warn any approaching American soldiers?” One reporter said no, the other waffled a bit before saying no. Needless to say, the military men were pissed.

You may or may not agree with their answer, but it does demonstrate the seriousness of the journalists’ commitment to their journalistic ethos. Rather than get involved and, as Americans, help their own side’s soldiers, they would remain committed to their goal of being independent news reporters rather than news makers.

Put Korean reporters on the case with an unknowing Korean unit walking into a trap, and you won’t get the same response.  In a case like this, Koreans close ranks.

This attitude pretty much colors everything you see and hear on Korean TV and in the papers. Have you ever wondered why Korean “experts” on this subject or that always seem to agree with overwhelming Korean opinion, no matter how contentious the issue (Ohno wasn’t fouled; the World Cup refereeing was fair; the tank driver was careless; your fan at home can kill you)? Now you know why. The “Korean perspective” trumps everything else.

The fall of Dr. Hwang, however, seems to indicate that this may be breaking down. With the Dr. Hwang case, you had maverick Korean researchers working with Korean reporters to bring out the truth. All this despite the fact that Dr. Hwang was bringing mountains of recognition for Korea from the foreign media. This, of course, is a good sign.

On the flip side, it would appear that the American media is slipping when it comes to upholding their commitment to fairness and independence. Consider the poor treatment given to Al Gore by the media during the 2000 election, or the number of wimpy journalists who are part of the current White House press corp who will accept at face value any answer, no matter how evasive, disengenuous, or dishonest it is.

Still, the tendency for Korean reporters to parrot the national line, whatever that national line is, makes it difficult to trust them when it comes to their reporting on issues that are sensitive to their Korean readers. More often than not, their desire to appeal to the masses along with their own nationalistic inclinations puts their objectivity deep into the realm of doubt.

Posted in Korean Issues | 1 Comment »

U.S Outsources Homeland Security to North Korea

Posted by Brian on February 23, 2006

Via Newsweek:

Feb. 21, 2006 – Homeland Security Secretary Michael Chertoff raised eyebrows today by announcing that the United States would outsource all of it homeland security operations to a little-known North Korean firm called Jim Kong-Il Inc.

Coming just days after the controversial decision to allow several major U.S. ports to be run by a company based in the United Arab Emirates, the outsourcing of the nation’s homeland security functions to an obscure company based in an Axis of Evil country struck some in Washington as ill-timed at best.

But Chertoff vigorously defended the decision in a Washington press conference this afternoon, calling Jim Kong-Il Inc. the “right firm for the job,” adding, “I looked into the company and it seems okay.”

When asked exactly how thoroughly he had vetted the North Korean firm, Chertoff said, “Well, I mean, I haven’t Googled it or anything but you just have to trust me on this one.”

Almost nothing is known about the North Korean company that is about to control the U.S.’s entire homeland security apparatus, nor about its highly reclusive founder, the mercurial Jim Kong-Il.

In an official statement released today, Jim Kong-Il said that his company’s first official act on behalf of the U.S. would be to collect all of the nation’s nuclear fuel rods.

“It is of utmost importance that America’s nuclear fuel rods do not fall into the wrong hands,” his statement read.  “Therefore, we will collect all of those fuel rods and ship them to North Korea immediately.”

Elsewhere, Vice President Dick Dick Cheney admitted having a beer at lunch before advocating the invasion of Iraq.

Posted in Humor | 1 Comment »

Modesty…

Posted by Brian on February 22, 2006

From the Korea Herald:

I am not just saying this because I am an American of Korean descent, but I really believe that the Korean people are smart. Actually, the word “smart” does not do full justice. I think the Korean people are amazingly smart.

Though it would appear that modesty isn’t their strong suit…

Posted in Korean Issues | 1 Comment »

Oh, those wimpy soccer players…

Posted by Brian on February 20, 2006

It’s hard to believe that an athlete can recover from an injury like this in time for the World Cup in June:

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That’s Italian star Franceso Totti with his foot pointing in a direction it shouldn’t.

Posted in Other | 4 Comments »