Saturday, August 20, 2016

Swimmergate redux

I'm not the only person - as this Swimming World Magazine article reveals - to hear the news of the kerfuffle in Rio involving drunk American Olympic swimmers and think of what happened in Seoul in 1988.

Friday, August 19, 2016

Comfort Women, nationalism, and the inculcation of anti-Japanese feeling

[Note: There are some disturbing images below.]

The image above was posted on Facebook along with a message in Korean asking for support for this to be the new 100,000 won bill; it received 31,000 likes last I looked at it (awhile ago now, admittedly). For me, the movie title 'How to lose friends and alienate people' comes to mind. Well, it's not the first time a "ruthless political terrorist" has been suggested for the 100,000 won bill (the difference being that the above An Jung-geun bill hasn't been officially suggested). Should something like this come to pass, however, it would be amusing if Japan issued a bill with Hideyoshi Toyotomi and the 'ear mound' that stands in Kyoto on it.

On a similar topic was this column by 'foolsdie' in the Korea Times, titled 'Are we still allies?' which complained about Donald Trump's comments on the US-ROK alliance before turning in another direction:
Then, Obama's recent visit to Hiroshima acted as a wedge. It's laudable for him to try to free the world of the fetters of nuclear weapons. But here, memories of Japan's brutal occupation remain fresh even after the passage of 70 years. Obama was perhaps too engrossed in the heat of the moment to say out loud that the nuclear attacks were the result of Japan's aggression and those killed and maimed were the victims of its failed leadership. Ironically, his visit has freed ultranationalist Prime Minister Shinzo Abe and his ilk from the atrocities it had committed. Human rights are one of two pillars of U.S. foreign policy, with nonproliferation being the other. For sure, Obama's visit didn't help much on human rights.
Regarding "memories of Japan's brutal occupation remain fresh even after the passage of 70 years" (and I wonder why that is?), perhaps it's worth noting that most countries don't dedicate their education system and media to instilling historical bitterness quite like the Koreas, and thus not everyone believes that any given Japan-related news item is an occasion to dredge up memories of suffering. But I'll concede that it's a great way to keep people's minds off more important things. The Korean government itself apparently had no such complaints; a foreign ministry official said, "In such a historic speech, it is meaningful that he clearly mentioned Koreans, putting them on par with American and Japanese victims." Which might suggest that confirming victim status is a diplomatic victory. The problem is that it seems like aspiring to victim status is part of the Korean national identity, and thus there are some who would insist that Koreans' suffering should be elevated above everyone else's.

Michael Breen touched on the topic of Korea-Japan relations when he wondered if the comfort woman statue in front of the Japanese Embassy should be moved to the exit of Gangnam Station near where a woman was murdered because of her gender in May by a man who had been rejected by women. (Of course, he was mentally ill. It's interesting how when someone commits a crime that could be construed as sexist or racist (like murdering a foreign English teacher or a military doctor) they're often described as 'mentally unstable' or 'deranged'.) Breen describes
an interview with a prominent expert on prostitution. When I asked what she thought of the comfort women issue, she asked me to put my pen down so that she could rant politically incorrectly off-the-record.

"It's a joke," she said. "Pure hypocrisy."

We all know Japan was guilty of terrible things up to 1945, but, she said, this chauvinistic focus on justice for a historical matter is popular with Koreans because it conveniently distracts us from the real issue and our own continued guilt.

The real issue is the attitude in Korea of men towards women and human trafficking in the sex industry that operates on the scale it does as a consequence of that attitude.

That explained for me the odd fact that the comfort women story did not surface until 40 years after the war. People in 1945 were of course angry about the Japanese occupation but the comfort women did not appear important­ then, few even knew about it ­because male attitudes toward women and the trafficking of young women to service them hadn't changed with national liberation.
In a Korea Times column, Maija Rhee Devine (who will give a lecture for the RAS in September on the comfort women) asks "Are comfort women lying?" Her ultimate answer is no, but she points to criticism of the Korean Council for Women Drafted for Military Sexual Slavery by Japan, who are suspected of having "coached" the comfort women in some of their testimony.

In the spring of 2014 I visited the Museum of Korean Modern Literature in Incheon and came across a large exhibit on the first floor about the comfort women. There were many comic books presented with each page as a poster affixed in order along the walls. One, below, was titled '70-year-long nightmare':

As always (as I've noted before regarding films here, and here, and here) it all begins with an overly simplistic tale of happy-go-lucky innocent children picking flowers (hell, even Peppermint Candy 'begins' this way) before history (or an evil invader) bowls them over.

Another was titled "Where are we going?" - I've posted a few pages below:

One has to admire the design of this work, though I couldn't help starting to feel that perhaps the artists were depicting the women's suffering a little too enthusiastically. And then I saw this comic:

What follows (I chose not to photograph it) is an incredibly graphic depiction of the rape of a child. That she was a child was made clear by the size of her breasts and lack of pubic hair - it was actually that graphic - and I was appalled that something like that was on display for people of all ages to view at the museum. That said, I wasn't particularly surprised by it, considering the apparent approval there is for such depictions of suffering, as well as the lack of concern there has been regarding raising the low age of consent in Korea. It also brought to mind this photo (of a foreign woman) posted in public as a photo contest entry at the Boryeong Mud Festival in 2011, at least in terms of female nudity being thoughtlessly allowed in a public forum. Also worth remembering is a blog post by Oranckay back in 2004 when the Korean government went out of its way to block its citizens from seeing videos of the beheading of Kim Sun-il in Iraq. In that post he referenced a Korean feminist website (perhaps Ilda) which criticized the government for trying to hide images of the death of a Korean male from the citizenry while letting images of the bodies of prostitute Yun Geum-i (killed by a G.I. in 1992) and the two girls run over by a U.S. bridge-layer (in 2002) proliferate without comment. These images were used to mobilize resistance to the U.S. presence in Korea, and in thinking of this - and of depictions of the comfort women - I'm reminded of a passage in Sheila Miyoshi Jager's 2003 book Narratives of Nation Building in Korea : A Genealogy of Patriotism which, while it refers to anti-USFK campaigns, is also applicable in some ways to the comfort women issue (and is very applicable to Anti-English Spectrum):
Like Sin [Ch'ae-ho], chuch'eron [the (supposedly) North Korean-influenced anti-imperialist 'philosophy' of leftist South Korean students popular from the mid-1980s to the 1990s] sees the entire history of the Korean people as an epic struggle to overcome foreign domination and feudal oppression. The historian's task, in other words, entails the examination of the experience and legacy of the Korean people's struggle to preserve their "core" identity. [...] Perceived as a significant threat to this core identity, miscegenation became associated with a whole host of related themes about the defense of the social body - the retrieval of a superior "core" Korean identity in the name of a phantasmic Korean essence. The ability of the foreign male to penetrate (literally) the inner and inviolable sanctum of Korean women and to establish conjugal alliances with them was perceived not only as a threat to the viability of the family, but as an act that undermined the fundamental cohesion and identity of the Korean nation. Thus we find in Korea that those women who formed marriage alliances across racial lines were popularly perceived as being women of "loose" morals: prostitutes, bar hostesses, or entertainers. In fact the were represented as the polemical inversion of the idealized virtuous female associated with Korea's traditional romance narratives. By allowing themselves to be appropriated by the West, these women were simultaneously perceived as being victims of Western imperialism and faithless profiteers of American capitalism. Both pitied and despised, the whore thus became the symbol of the nation's shame as well as the rallying point for national resistance. (Pages 71-72)
One can't help but notice the role women other than the comfort women play in depictions of the colonial era. Years ago I posted excerpts of children's books depicting the colonial era, which depict certain events the publishers thought were important, such as the murder of Queen Min by Japanese assassins;

The torture of Yu Gwan-sun by Japanese police;

The suppression of the Samil protests by Japanese police;

The assassination of D.W. Stevens in 1908;

The assassination of Ito Hirobumi in 1909;

Also included was Yun Bong-gil's bomb attack in Shanghai in 1932. What we see there, of course, is that the (passive) women serve as victims to motivate the (active) men to carry out acts of terrorism justifiable revenge. Likewise, images like these posted in a public space seem to promote or justify a continued antipathy towards Japan:

Having been reading about Canada's participation in World War I lately (in Marching As to War: Canada's Turbulent Years, 1899-1953 by Pierre Berton) I couldn't help but remember the final stanza of "In Flanders Fields":

Take up our quarrel with the foe:
To you from failing hands we throw
The torch; be yours to hold it high.
If ye break faith with us who die
We shall not sleep, though poppies grow
In Flanders fields.

As is noted in the poem's Wikipedia entry,
[Paul] Fussell criticized the poem in his work The Great War and Modern Memory (1975). He noted the distinction between the pastoral tone of the first nine lines and the "recruiting-poster rhetoric" of the third stanza. Describing it as "vicious" and "stupid", Fussell called the final lines a "propaganda argument against a negotiated peace".
Is the propagation of such images as those above (especially in a manner meant to communicate to the young) not, in its own way, similar propaganda? This is not to say Korea is the only side at fault, of course - political realities in both Japan and Korea militate against solving the Comfort Women and Dokdo issues, and Japan's apologies (listed here - to 2005 - by Konrad Lawson) have often fell short of the mark (though a cultural tendency towards indirectness plays a part in this). Another elephant in the room is the effect on Japanese attitudes towards the war of the U.S. occupation of Japan and the American decision to preserve the imperial institution and protect the Emperor from prosecution during the Tokyo trials; as John Dower has put it, if the Emperor, in whose name the war was fought, wasn't going to be held responsible, why should anyone else feel guilty? One can only hope that, much like an ascendant Germany pushed the UK and France into an alliance before WWI, China's rise will have a similar effect at some point in the future. But as long as the Korean Gordian Knot - its division - remains in place, other problems related to mid-20th century history will be difficult to solve. An insistence in Korea on allowing displays (and popular culture) to portray Korea as a historical victim to inculcate historical bitterness in order to distract the populace and/or encourage a nationalist belief in Korea's moral superiority strikes me as something that will be counterproductive in the long run - even if it has its uses in the short term.

Monday, August 15, 2016

Interviewed in the Korea Times

Jon Dunbar at the Korea Times interviewed me a couple weeks ago about my time in Korea this summer (spent studying Korean at SNU, among other things), future plans, and plans for the blog. As I say in the interview, I plan to blog here when I find the time (and over the next few weeks I should have some time at last, particularly to reflect on the changes Seoul has undergone in the year I was away) and would never take down the archives here. Many thanks to Jon for posting the interview.

On a somewhat related topic, I got to chat with Colin Marshall while I was in town and enjoyed reading his most recent post at the Los Angeles Review of Books Blog about Michael Stephens' 1990 book Lost in Seoul and Other Discoveries on the Korean Peninsula. I haven't read it or Michael Shapiro's The Shadow in the Sun: A Korean Year of Love and Sorrow (though I'd heard of both) but have read Simon Winchester's 1988 book Korea, a Walk Through the Land of Miracles, as well as Ian Baruma and Pico Iyer's work on the 1988 Olympics and P.J. O'Rourke's writing about the 1987 election (all of which are well worth reading). Having read Colin's post, I'll have to find Stephens' book - it sounds like an interesting read.

Wednesday, June 15, 2016

On Cheonggyecheon

Apologies to readers for the absence - but with classes done for the summer (other than a month of language study in Seoul) I'll try to post here more often.

A couple weeks ago the Guardian published a story about Cheonggyecheon 10+ years later by Colin Marshal which he interviewed me for - thanks to Colin for including me. Also worth reading by Colin is his article about 'English Cancer' (rather than English fever) in Korea.

On the topic of redevelopment the Joongang Daily published an article awhile back about Seoul's plans to "protect old districts" - but the map in the article makes clear just how much is still slated to be redeveloped...

(I've written about Cheonggyecheon here before, including about Time Magazine's glowing 2006 feature on then Seoul Mayor Lee Myung-bak, following mayor Oh Se-hoon's redevelopment plans (2MB 2.0), then initially controversial 'Spring' sculpture at Cheongyecheon's source, the dislocation of former Cheonggyecheon merchants, and the appearance of Cheonggyecheon in old films.)

Monday, May 02, 2016

Thoughts on the low age of consent and light sentences

While trying to find out more about this incredibly messed-up case - about a couple who beat their teenage daughter to death and then kept her body in the house for the better part of a year - I came across the following Joongang Ilbo news story by reporter Kim Min-gwan, from September 16 last year:
A man in his twenties who even received the motel fee from a 13-year-old schoolgirl found guilty of prostitution

A man in his twenties who met a 13-year-old runaway schoolgirl for sex but argued he wasn't guilty and said that "The schoolgirl paid more of the motel fee so it wasn't prostitution" was found guilty.

Seoul Eastern District Court announced on the 16th that is that it [sentenced] Mr. Lee (22), who had been charged with contravening the Law for Sexual Protection of Children and Youth, to a one-year sentence suspended for two years and ordered him to attend 40 hours of sexual assault treatment classes.

Mr. Lee came to know A (13) on June 10, 2015 via a smartphone chatting application. Learning that A had run away and needed a place to sleep he promised, "If you come to my house, I can put you up," and the next morning he called her out to the Uijeongbu Station area.

When he met A, Lee said, "It's hot right now, so let’s go and rest," and took A to a nearby motel. The motel fee was 20,000 won but Lee had only 8000 won in his pocket. Lee asked A, "Can you pay a little bit?" and got 10,000 won from her and, after getting a 2000 won discount, paid the motel fee.

After they had sex, Lee said, "My parents came home early so I can't put you put you up," and left A and returned home.

In court Lee claimed that "Since I had never promised to put her up at my house and I paid 8000 won of the motel fee but A paid 10,000 won, it wasn't buying sex."

Subsequently he protested that "Since A looked 20ish in her chatting program profile photo, in which she was wearing makeup, I didn't think she was a minor."

However, the court said, "It doesn't make any sense that you saw her face and didn't know she was 13." "Seeming to offer to put up a runaway victim at your house and meeting [her], you acted to buy sex to satisfy your sexual desire, and the fact that even after that you left her and ignored the fact that she was penniless because of you makes the nature of the crime very bad."

It added, "Because she expected that the defendant would give him a place to stay afterwards, she readily gave 10,000 won." "The defendant fully acknowledged the fact that he promised to provide payment for things like a place to stay and that, expecting this, A acceded to sex."

A court official said, "The amount of money when providing payment for prostitution does not matter; if it's true that payment is provided, then [the fact of] prostitution is established."
After moving on from my amazement at how someone could be that much of a scumbag, what I found interesting is that the defendant was content to suggest that he'd had consensual sex with a minor (though he did try to say "she looked 20ish"). Back in mid-2013 laws were changed regarding sex crimes (see here and here), particularly against minors, but these clearly did not affect age of consent, which is still 13, though there are certain limitations, as pointed out in this case, as well as its follow-up, higher-court appeal ruling, as described over at As is noted there, having sex with someone between the ages of 13 and 18 is not a crime unless you did so "by authority/deception" (though not by "position of authority"), while having sex with someone 12 years old or younger is "a crime (unless you had no way of knowing)." Even the latter part seems to have wiggle room (as it did in a case in Gangneung a few years ago where an instructor in an elementary school was initially let off by police for having sex with a 12 year old student because they were "in love" - until they found out he was also "in love" with a 15 year old former student).

In the case I translated above, the man was only given a suspended sentence, and in this case, from 2009, a man was sentenced only to 6 months in prison for paying for sex with an 11 year-old girl (and that 6 month sentence was seen as 'severe' punishment, despite the maximum sentence being 3 years). Most famously, in the "Na-yeong case," where a man raped an 8 year-old girl who "lost 80 percent of her colon and genital organs," the defendant had three years knocked off the maximum sentence of 15 years because "I was drunk" was considered a defense. What we see in these cases is that there doesn't seem to be any desire to give out maximum punishment to men who sexually assault or exploit children. One possible reason for this is described in a Joongang Ilbo editorial written when sex crime laws were changed in mid-2013:
The revisions are only a step forward, although a significant one. A bigger problem is our society’s misperceptions about sex crimes. According to a survey of policemen in small and mid-sized cities in South Gyeongsang, a whopping 53.8 percent said that sexual violence occurs due to women’s sexy dressing. Thirty-seven percent said it’s a woman’s fault when she is sexually attacked while drunk. That clearly illustrates our society’s generosity toward men’s sexual impulses.
You know there's a problem when the police answer this way (though perhaps we won't be too surprised by such attitudes coming from "small and mid-sized cities in South Gyeongsang," considering what happened in Miryang in 2004 - but it's sad to see these attitudes hadn't changed ten years later.

Daniel Tudor pointed out something that has been overlooked:
There have been attempts to raise the age of consent, such as that of then-Grand National Party lawmaker Kwon Seong-dong, who tried to lift it to 16 in 2012. I am mystified as to why it is still 13. With the ever-increasing concern over child protection, I doubt any political party would have anything to lose by throwing its weight behind a legal change here.
And yet this attempt to raise the age of consent went nowhere. As one ponders this fact in the light of lenient sentence after lenient sentence for those who sexually assault or exploit minors, one might be tempted to reach some rather unpleasant conclusions.

Friday, April 29, 2016

First joint Korean-U.S. film "Northeast of Seoul" aka "Seoul Affair" aka "Katherine's Escape" to screen Saturday

On  October 3, 1970, James Wade's Korea Times column "Scouting the City" (written under the pen name Alf Racketts) revealed that an international film production - Korea's first - was about to start filming under the name "Seoul Affair" (or "Northeast of Seoul"):

Alan Heyman (more about whom is here) wrote a score for the film, but it was never used.

On October 6, 1970, the Donga Ilbo reported that actress (or, as they put it, "glamour fox") Anita Ekberg, best known for her role in the Federico Fellini film "La Dolce Vita" (not yet released in Korea), was in Seoul for a joint American-Korean production titled "The Seoul Affair," set to start filming with director David Rich and actors John Ireland, Jon Buono, and Sin Yeong-gyun and Choe Ji-hui on October 15.

The Kyunghyang Sinmun, on the same day, in an article titled "Seoul’s autumn is very cold," also reported on Anita Ekberg (a 39 year-old "sexy fox" with the measurements 42-28-40 wearing a skirt that ended 30cm above the knees), saying that she was best known to Korean fans for the omnibus film "Boccaccio '70."

On October 10 the Joongang Ilbo published an article about the production. On October 24, in an article titled "Film like water...", the Maeil Gyeongje reported that local directors seeing the progress of David Rich's film "Seoul Affair" were astonished at his unconventional way of directing the film. While local directors would use 9000자 of film (I'm not sure what that measures) to make a movie, David Rich wanted to use 70,000자, which made his staff turn pale in shock. From their point of view, the director was using too much film, doing seven takes and only using one shot, and wasting precious film like water.

On November 7, the Donga Ilbo reported on possible other joint projects with an Italian director but nothing seems to have come of these (perhaps not a bad thing - did we really need a "Nazi gold hidden in Korea" story? Well, maybe...).

On December 21 the Kyunghyang Sinmun showed this photo of Anita Ekberg with co-star Sin Yeong-gyun:

But then that was that. At least in Korea. IMDB has '1972' written next to it, and posters such as the one below can be found, but it's not clear if it was released in the U.S. or not (only a 1990 German release is recorded).

In Korea, however, years went by with no mention of this film, as James Wade notes in this March 16, 1974 column:

Two weeks later, however, on April 2, 1974, the Maeil Gyeongje announced that a joint Korean-American production titled "캐서린의 탈출" ("Katherine’s Escape"), was to open soon. This was, indeed, a renamed "Seoul Affair," as this poster from the April 4, 1974 Donga Ilbo reveals:

On April 9, 1974, the Maeil Gyeongje stated the nation’s first American-Korean joint production had been playing at the Scala Theater since April 5.

On April 13, James Wade weighed in with a review of the film:

Though he wasn't impressed, a week later, on April 16, the Maeil Gyeongje reported that it had brought in 34,000 viewers in the ten days between April 5 and April 14. Just to compare, it reports that a movie titled "Yu Kwan-sun" (about the national heroine of the Samil Protests in 1919 had brought in only 7,676 people in the same time period, while over 46 days the "Poseidon Adventure" had attracted 120,000 viewers. One wonders if this is correct, considering the Korean Film archive records there having been 31,291 viewers. Unfortunately, the Maeil Gyeongje's film listings section doesn't seem to be a regular feature, so nothing more is said about it.

Should you be curious to see the film, this Saturday, April 30, at 3pm, the Royal Asiatic Society Cinema Club and Seoul Film Society will have a free screening of the film at Seoul Global Center's Haechi Hall, on the 5th Floor of M Plaza in Myeong-dong.

Directions to Seoul Global Center's Haechi Hall can be found here and here, and more information about the film and screening is here.

Thursday, April 21, 2016

Modern day slavery in the 1970s, 1980s, and today

This story, about the decade or more of abuse of children and disabled people that went on at the Brothers Home in Busan, is pretty horrific. Almost as much as the government's attitude towards it:
The current government, however, refuses to revisit the case, and is blocking a push by an opposition lawmaker to do so on the grounds that the evidence is too old.

Ahn Jeong-tae, an official from Seoul's Ministry of the Interior, said focusing on just one human rights incident would financially burden the government and set a bad precedent. The Brothers' victims, he said, should have submitted their case to a temporary truth-finding commission established in the mid-2000s to investigate past atrocities. "We can't make separate laws for every incident and there have been so many incidents since the Korean War," Ahn said.
Well, we wouldn't want any more dirt on the president's father to be dug up, would we?
In 1975, dictator President Park Chung-hee, father of current President Park Geun-hye, issued a directive to police and local officials to "purify" city streets of vagrants. Police officers, assisted by shop owners, rounded up panhandlers, small-time street merchants selling gum and trinkets, the disabled, lost or unattended children, and dissidents, including a college student who'd been holding anti-government leaflets.

They ended up as prisoners at 36 nationwide facilities. By 1986, the number of inmates had jumped over five years from 8,600 to more than 16,000, according to government documents obtained by AP. Nearly 4,000 were at Brothers. But about 90 percent of them didn't even meet the government's definition of "vagrant" and therefore shouldn't have been confined there, former prosecutor Kim Yong Won told the AP, based on Brothers' records and interviews compiled before government officials ended his investigation.
The article makes a provocative claim:
Choi was one of thousands — the homeless, the drunk, but mostly children and the disabled — rounded up off the streets ahead of the 1988 Seoul Olympics, which the ruling dictators saw as international validation of South Korea's arrival as a modern country.
Except that Choi was arrested in 1982. Still, considering who was president at the time and the general 'clean ups' that take place in Olympic cities, it wouldn't be surprising. You'd think that the mass abuse of children would prompt more outrage, but keeping in mind the short sentences handed out for rape of children or the low age of consent, perhaps we shouldn't be too surprised. Maybe a movie needs to be made to draw attention, like 'The Crucible' or the one about the Burger King murder in Itaewon which resulted in the case being reopened.

Also related - since the children and inmates at Brothers House were made to work for free on goods made for export - is this story of modern day slavery on an island in southwestern Jeollanam-do; a video is here (hat tip to Gord Sellar).

This isn't anything new, however, as this November 28, 1971 Korea Times article makes clear:

Wednesday, April 20, 2016

EPIK fail


Over at 10원 Tips, Sam Nordberg has found the source of this photo and reveals the extent to which it was photoshopped.

While I think of it, it might be worth revisiting the photo contest winner posted here, and this post as well.

Original Post:

A few weeks ago I posted about how female E-2 visa-holders now outnumbered males, and also posted images showing how female foreign teachers have been depicted in promotional material for SMOE, EPIK, and hagwons. And then I stumbled across this EPIK page:

If you click to enlarge it to full size, as it appears on the webpage, it's clear enough that... well, that the photographer and whoever designed the web page were male. Needless to say, I can't imagine EPIK depicting a female Korean teacher this way.

The sample contracts on that page declare that the "Employee shall not behave in any manner that may damage or tarnish the reputation of the teaching profession in general or of the S.M.O.E. program and the undersigned Employer in particular during the Term of Employment" and
the "Employee shall not be involved in any activities that may cause harm to the students or be of detriment to the reputation of the school, District Office of Education, and Seoul Metropolitan Office of Education." Perhaps it should add in a clause stating that the "Employer shall not depict Employees in promotional material in a way that tarnishes their image"?

Perhaps that could be said of the contract itself:
"The Employer will immediately report the Employee to the appropriate agencies once the Employer becomes aware of any illegal action (Narcotics, etc.) by the Employee and the Employee shall be subject to prosecution and punishment according to Korean Law." 

Perhaps I'm overstating things, but still, there's legally covering all the bases and then there's acting like you're expecting certain illegal behavior from your employees.

Monday, April 11, 2016

Interview with The Korea File on WW2 POWs in Colonial Seoul

Last year I posted links to an interview Andre Goulet did with me for his podcast, The Korea File (Part 1: "A History of Korean Social Movements," Part 2: "Korean Identity and Anti-Americanism," Part 3: "Weed, Counterculture and Dictatorship") and a few weeks ago he posted a the final part, "Prisoners and Propaganda: WW2 POWs in Colonial Seoul."

Thanks again to Andre inviting me to do this interview; have a look under "Episodes" here to look through the other interviews about Korean music, culture, and society he's done.

More about the WWII allied POWs in Korea can be found here.

Wednesday, March 30, 2016

Ugly foreigners' retaliatory driving and building climbing

The Korea Times published a column yesterday titled "Ugly Foreigners":
A video went viral over the weekend, showing an Italian person stopping his car in the middle of the road, getting out and while shaking his fist, spewed what sounded as obscenities. The scene was captured in the "black box" camera of the car behind him. The woman in that car was quoted by a cable channel as saying, "He cursed at me but I didn't get out for the fear that he would physically harm me."

The man, a resident in Korea, was outraged when he was honked at when cut in on the Olympic Expressway near the Seongsu Bridge at around 3 p.m. Sunday. He was booked without physical detention for endangerment by a sudden change of lanes. The police sent the case to prosecutors with a recommendation for indictment.[...]

They may hope that they will be given the benefit of extenuating circumstances for not promptly keeping abreast with a law change, introduced last month, which has strengthened penalties significantly after a number of road rage cases involving Koreans.
Good to hear such laws have been passed. This SBS report documented two more foreigners misbehaving on the road, asking "Just because you live in Korea, does it mean you have to emulate even our rough driving culture?" [Hat tip to Robert Koehler.]

Did they learn it in Seoul? Foreigner retaliatory driving.

Best not to copy such behavior, though, since the result might be this:

It was pointed out that the Korea Times columnist who wrote "Ugly Foreigners" (Foolsdie!) also wrote a column called "Ugly Koreans," which perhaps leads one to cancel out the other. However, the column opens with this: "The situation facing Koreans in the Philippines may be aptly compared to 'ugly Koreans in the land of outlaws.'" The article portrays the Philippines as violent, dangerous and corrupt; the mistake these Korean citizens who get murdered there (more than in any other country outside Korea) have made was to move to such a dangerous place; only brief mention is made that "the tendency among some Koreans to look down on people from Southeast Asia may have also been in play."

For an actual look at 'ugly Koreans,' perhaps try here:
The Korea Communications Standards Commission warned the nation's No.1 portal website Naver to use"voluntary restraint" after it posted video links to the drama entitled "Lily Fever," according to Hankook Ilbo, Monday. The mandate came after netizens reported the drama's bold portrayal of homosexuality.

The watchdog was cited as saying homosexual love scenes in the drama "incited sexual curiosity and tempted viewers to imitate the acts in practice" thus "violating social orders in terms of ethical values."
Isn't the suicide rate high enough already?

As for misbehaving foreigners, this photo appeared the other day of 'daredevils' Vitaliy Raskalov and Vadim Makhorov at the top of Lotte Tower, on its way to reaching a height of 555 meters and 123 floors (it would already be considered South Korea’s tallest building if not for the powers that be not counting buildings unless they're finished - thanks a lot, Pyongyang's Ryugyong Hotel!).

The Korea Herald published an article titled "Daredevils unwelcome in Korea":
After the 20-year-old Raskalov updated his Instagram account with a photo of his feet precariously atop Seoul’s Lotte World Tower, Sunday, the Korean public responded with fierce criticism of his “reckless” and “irresponsible” behavior. [...] Users left lengthy tirades under Raskalov’s photo in Korean, admonishing the adventurer for what they saw as unwarranted entry into private property, which could have resulted in disastrous accidents.

One Korean user with Instagram handle “heuum_” called Raskalov “an unarmed IS soldier” in the sense that he poses a threat to the safety of innocent people around him. “He’s being a nuisance in a foreign country. Safety is the utmost principle at a construction site. He is thoughtless to be doing this without safety measures,” heuum_ said. [...]

Lotte World Tower authorities had been wary of Raskalov and Makhorov entering its premises ever since it was reported the two were traveling in Korea. Roughly 400 security agents had been stationed around the construction site.
Well, that's embarrassing, then. As the Korea Times notes, the site even had posters up telling them they were banned from the building. How that didn't work, I've no idea. On the bright side, at least they weren't leaving graffiti.

Monday, March 28, 2016

When it comes to E-2 visa-holders, women now outnumber men

In my previous post I looked at immigration statistics for E-2s from 1993 to present, as depicted in this graph:

Year end immigration statistics can be found here. Actually, the 2004 figure above, of 11,344, is incorrect. The correct figure is 10,862, meaning that E-2 numbers plateaued (and even decreased slightly) from 2002 to 2004.

Here are the figures from 1993 to 2015 broken down by gender:

Year - Total  (Male / Female)

1993 - 1,136  (775 / 351)
1994 - 2,241  (1,471 / 770)
1995 - 4,230  (2,593 / 1,637)
1996 - 7,473  (4,413 / 3,060)
1997 - 7,607  (4,567 / 3,040)
1998 - 4,927  (3,231 / 1,696)
1999 - 5,009  (3,334 / 1,675)
2000 - 6,414  (4,091 / 2,323)
2001 - 8,388  (5,289 / 3,099)
2002 - 10,864  (6,672 / 4,192)
2003 - 10,822  (6,714 / 4,108)
2004 - 10,862  (6,636 / 4,226)
2005 - 12,439  (7,502 / 4,937)
2006 - 15,001  (8,992 / 6,009)
2007 - 17,721  (10,399 / 7,322)
2008 - 19,771  (11,223 / 8,548)
2009 - 22,642  (12,739 / 9,903)
2010 - 23,317  (12,905 / 10,430)
2011 - 22,541  (12,375 / 10,166)
2012 - 21,603  (11,382 / 10,221)
2013 - 20,030  (10,509 / 9,521)
2014 - 17,949  (9,074 / 8,875)
2015 - 16,144  (7,883 / 8,261)

Here are these figures depicted in a graph:

What you notice is that not only have the number of female teachers decreased far more slowly that male teachers (in fact, in 2012, male teachers decreased by almost 1,000, while female teachers increased by 55), but in 2015, for the first time, female teachers outnumbered male teachers on E-2 visas.

Considering ads by the ministry of education in different locals (such as Seoul or Daegu, the source of images below), and the fact that female teachers are highlighted, it's perhaps not that surprising.

Private education companies have leaned in this direction as well:

"English that you learn while enjoying yourself."

"More fun than an American drama! More exciting than a (Western) pop song!"

Recruiters Job and Consulting (whose ads I've looked at before: 123) also primarily used stock images of blue-eyed women in its advertisements:

The media has in the past portrayed male teachers (and soldiers) as potential predators, while portraying female teachers as sex objects (and so more desirable), as I looked at in depth here. Whether that is influencing this demographic shift I have no idea, but it may have influenced the choice of women in the PR/advertising images above. In terms of numbers, as public school hiring has dropped over the past 5 years (along with hagwon hiring as well), the number of male teachers has dropped by 5,000, while the number of female teachers have dropped by only 2,100. Whatever the reason for this, it's interesting to see the a gender balance that has been in place since the 1980s (especially so, back then, when most teachers either came from a military background or discovered Korea while they were travelling around Asia) change the way it has.