Friday, August 20, 2004


Apparently that is what Ken Quinones was told (thanks to NK Zone)
“Leaders of the North Korea Workers’ Party mentioned that the economic reform measures were suspended due to criticism that reform measures just brought about inflation without economic profits,” said Quinones. He added, “The goal of North Korea is to strengthen the socialistic state control, not to switch over to capitalism.”
If this is accurate, this would be quite significant, to say the least.

UPDATE: One Randal Eastman provides abundant anecdotal evidence to the contrary. Some examples:
-- the Mushroom farm we visited needs better technology to increase
production of compost - the main ingredient for them to make more white button mushrooms. Would they like to - of course!

-- Ice cream entrepreneurs abound - and have a steady supply of

-- The Hamburger has arrived - with Korean characteristics

-- A restaurant promoting a seasonal special - very innovative.

-- A private outdoor beer garden & bulgogi restaurant -- catering to
its customers needs and with excellent food.

With less Korea expertise but no less spunk I have to tell you that I noticed a sea change of difference between my visit this July and the previous year in March 2003:

-- In Kim Il Sung square in Sinuiju we went for an evening walk after
dinner and 100 m from KIS statue across from the Railway station were at least half a dozen small informal kiosks (tents) selling snacks & smokes -- by the light of a single tiny candle. It would not have been out of place in that peaceful setting to see an old woman selling Russian icons. Market forces in their infancy and without the criminal elment that characterized Russia in the early 90's.

-- And I did see bananas being hawked at one point too.

-- Pyongyang was dramatically changed. Much more traffic on the road -- we saw a plethora of used japanese cars.
There's more.


Pacetown collects a list of Kerry's campaign promises made to date. Looks like a tall order.

Thursday, August 19, 2004


After watching Paul Hamm's dramatic comeback to win gold in the men's all around last night (and seeing the two Korean athletes see their gold and silver transformed to silver and bronze in an unanticipated bit of dramatic alchemy), I have to confess that one of my first thoughts was whether we would be seeing the 2004 analog of this (or this) appearing in cyberspace. Granted, Hamm's win was not as controversial as Ohno's 2002 victory but given the present political and cultural climate, I suspect conspiracy theories will bubble up. If anyone spots any good sites, let me know.

UPDATE: This will certainly start the conspiracy wheels turning. Sheesh.

UPDATE II: Here's more:, an Internet-based newspaper in South Korea, urged "a strong nationwide reaction to reclaim the gold medal that we have been robbed of."

Internet surfers posted complaints and called for an online campaign to "win back the lost gold.", a major South Korean Internet portal, carried a series of protest messages.

"Let's flood the IOC web site with our protests, urging it to reverse the decision on the medals. We should ask IOC, 'What makes it so afraid of the United States?'" one person wrote.

Another said: "I can't understand why FIG cannot reverse its medal decision while acknowledging its mistake. The American athlete who won the gold should give up the medal voluntarily."

Domestic media quoted Shin Bak-je, head of the South Korean delegation in Athens, as saying the country will take the case to the Court of Arbitration for Sport.

Wednesday, August 18, 2004


One might expect that I would know about the proposed expansion of my own university to Korea. But I had to read about it on Flying Yangban's blog. Who is going to teach at this satellite campus? I'd better go read the fine print of my contract!


Interesting piece on a proposed tunnel between Korea and Japan. There would seem to be considerable engineering challenges to such an undertaking but most of the reservations about the project appear to be otherwise motivated:
The Ministry of Construction and Transportation said there are no suitable financial resources and that the undersea tunnel is so long that it would be less efficient than air or surface shipments. The Korea Railroad Research Institute and the Korea Transport Institute presented a report containing the same conclusion last year.

Ahn Byung-min of the Korea Transport Institute said that if the construction is realized, Japan will become the hub of trade and the harbors of Pusan and Kwangyang in Korea will lose their current status.

Other opponents worry that Japan is expected to gain the upper hand in the logistical competitiveness in Northeast Asia, which will result in expanding Japanese influence over the Korean peninsula.

``The more we talk about it, the more it becomes obvious that it will damage Korea. For the sake of national interest, it is better to not discuss the project officially,'' a government official said.

However, many Korean scholars say that such reasoning comes from persecution phobia, which is not constructive for bilateral relationship. They say that ties between Korea and Japan should be approached from a different perspective from the past and that pursuing the Korea-Japan undersea tunnel project could be a turning point in doing so.

Connecting Tokyo to London? Posted by Hello


Taking on the resurgence of the mullet and other fashion mistakes that should have been left well alone; taking on John Kerry's candid interview with GQ
This part seemed typical:

"Kerry tells Hainey that he had a telephone relationship with Marlon Brando in 1985 and 1986, during the contras: 'He took a huge interest in it. And he would call me. He was always asking questions. And he'd give me advice. I took his advice on a couple of angles. A couple of points.'

Which ones? Perhaps the article has the details, and we will learn that Kerry based his pro-Sandinista policies on Mr. Brando’s keen grasp of Central American political dynamics. After all, Mr. Brando appeared, dimly, in a movie about a war set in a hot place with many broad-leafed plants, which gave him keen insights on the geopolitical struggle that temporarily manifested itself in Nicaragua.
taking on "Give Peace a Chance"; and considering how the GQ reporter would have written about its "A beer with ..." series with teetotaller George W. Bush
“Mind if I have a beer?” you ask. “That’s sort of the angle we use for this segment.” Bush's reaction:

1. With a tight expression, and beady eyes that dart left and right before fixing on you with the strange, almost unworldly hatred that the Salem judges must have felt for the voluptuous women they sought to hang for witchcraft, the president gives a curt nod of approval

2. “Hey, it’s August in Washington. Gotta cool down. I’m going to stick with this coke, if I can get a refill here? See, she won’t give me one. Thinks I should switch to the diet stuff. Alright, what’s your first question?"

Your call.
All in one bleat. Just read the whole dang thing.

Tuesday, August 17, 2004


Every once in a while, a story or number will cross my desk that will get me to thinking. In this case, I read a story about DPRK imports of oil from the PRC. A snippet:
United Press International ("N. KOREA BUYS MORE CHINESE CRUDE OIL", 2004-08-17) reported that the DPRK bought 301,000 tons of crude oil from the PRC in the first half of this year, ROK officials said Tuesday. The impoverished nation paid $70 million for PRC crude for the six months, up 7 percent over a year ago, the ROK's Unification Ministry said in a report.
The PRC's oil delivery to the DPRK has averaged around $10 million monthly, officials said.
So how much oil are we talking about? If the DPRK paid today's price of about $46 @ barrel then we can surmise that North Korea imported about 217,391 barrels a month. Chances are, the PRC gave the DPRK a discount. So, let's assume a neighborly price of $30 @ barrel: this translates into 333,333 barrels a month or somewhere between two and a half and four million barrels a year (if I am reading this chart of unknown provenance correctly, that is less oil than Japan imports every day). The state of California imported at least 60 times that amount in 2003.

I'm not sure what to make of these comparisons. The DPRK has no domestic sources of oil but China has not been its only source of foreign oil; Russia and Iran have sold oil to North Korea in the past. According to this somewhat dated report, oil accounts for only 6 percent of North Korea's energy consumption. Hydroelectric and coal provide the lion's share of North Korean energy. Still, one gets the impression that for all the vaunted opening and reforms of the last couple of years, seen from a broadly comparative global scale, not much seems to be going in the DPRK.


"Movie Led Man to Strangle Lover" reads the headline. The actual story, however, is just a tiny bit different:
A MAN who said the movie, The Passion of the Christ, led him to confess to strangling his girlfriend was sentenced to 75 years in prison.

Dan Leach II, 21, was sentenced yesterday after pleading guilty earlier in the week. He must serve half of his sentence before becoming eligible for parole.
Led him to strangle her, caused him to confess having strangled her, aw what's the difference anyway? (Thanks to Susanna at Cut on the Bias for noticing this).

Monday, August 16, 2004


is rapdily turning into the nightmare team, losing to Puerto Rico 92-73. "Good riddance," I say. Jim Caple has more to say:
It was a little fun the first time in 1992, when we saw perhaps the greatest basketball team of all time play. But it started losing its appeal as soon as the players under the contract of one shoe company used the American flag to cover up the logo of another shoe company. It was a petty act, and it only got worse with each subsequent Olympics.

What is so aggravating is the way the basketball team sets itself apart from the rest of the world's Olympians -- both literally and figuratively. Following in the grand tradition of luxury accommodations, this year's team is staying on the Queen Mary II, anchored outside of town and protected by NATO.

Why shouldn't they? They're not Olympians -- that's beneath them. They're the Dream Team, and they can't be bothered hanging with mere world champions like Paul Hamm and Rulon Gardner. I still remember how the 1996 team marched into the stadium well behind the other U.S. athletes, as if they were their own country, which they probably thought they were. Given the way the U.S. Olympic committee caters to the basketball team's every whim, I was just surprised Li'l Penny wasn't the flagbearer that year.


A former student of mine stumbled across this post and mentions it on his blog here. He also has some interesting posts on "street theater" in China and a man who is walking around the world. In other former student news, another re-discovers Metallica (I have to confess that this song used to kind of give me the creeps), and gives a nice "anatomy of a show" (look out for COG). Still another seems to quite like Rush. This album has always been my favorite of theirs. Any other former students out there that I'm not reading?

UPDATE: Another student sent me a note pointing to his blog here. Keep the notices coming!

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