Friday, January 28, 2005


Aidan Foster-Carter's "Boycott or Business" succinctly summarizes an impressive number of recent developments in North Korea, North-South relations etc. A few appetizers include Foster-Carter's denunciation of the ROK's present policy on DPRK refugees:
Security is of course a proper concern. Yet this set of measures, which Rhee said will "have a deterrent effect," seems both mean-spirited and short-sighted. Maybe illegal, too: the ROK constitution still formally claims jurisdiction over the entire Peninsula and all its inhabitants, so can a state seek to exclude its own citizens? Questionable too, both legally (double jeopardy) and politically, is the idea of re-punishing those who had fallen foul of Kim Jong-il's regime: some will not be common criminals, and all have arguably suffered enough. Training is useful, but making life even harder for Northerners to get by in a society where most already feel alien and unwelcome seems both perverse and cruel.

To do all this from a selfish wish to repel boarders makes mockery of the lip-service paid to unification as the ultimate Korean dream. Finally, to make Kim Jong-il's victims suffer yet more, in the hope of wheedling their tormentor back to the table, suggests a failing of not only moral judgment but common sense. Seoul should know by now that Pyongyang cynically switches its umbrage on and off at will, largely regardless of actions by others.

and his observation that official DPRK support for the Kaesong Industrial Zone seems less than enthusiastic:
Will Kaesong too prove stillborn? The Dec. 15 celebration of Livingart's first output was ominous. Seoul's 380-strong delegation was headed by Unification Minister Chung Dong-young, on his first visit to North Korea, yet Northern media did not report his presence. Pyongyang sent a less senior official, who berated the South for alleged foot-dragging and even walked out during Chung's speech, to Hyundai's embarrassment.
There's much more, all written in Foster-Carter's imitable style. One may not agree with everything he writes, but one is seldom bored by it. Read the whole thing.


I'll be sure to tray a deep-fried Mars Bar. Thanks (?) to Marginal Revolution for noticing this phenomenon.
Like the Loch Ness monster, the deep-fried Mars bar has often been regarded as a Scottish myth.

But a study published Friday in a medical journal confirms that Scots consume thousands of the battered bars each week, and that more than a fifth of fish and chip shops — which specialize in deep-fried food — sell the strange sugary delicacy.
Children are the main consumers and some shops reported being asked to deep-fry other candy bars, including Snickers and Cadbury's Creme Eggs.

Tuesday, January 25, 2005


"What's in a name" asks the Wall Street Journal (registration required). Well, when it comes to the name of Seoul, apparently there is much to found in a name:
Seoul is changing its name in Chinese only, and therein lies the answer to the question.

In Chinese, Seoul is "Hancheng," but the city government now is asking China to use the term "Shou-er." The change would make it a closer transliteration of the internationally recognized "Seoul," and would avoid confusion with Hanguo, the Chinese name for South Korea, the metropolitan government says.

Except that, no such confusion would ever arise in Chinese, the language in question. In written Chinese, entirely different characters are used for the two Hans, and in spoken Mandarin or Cantonese, the tones are also different. Could the answer lie elsewhere?

The Han in Hancheng is the same Han used for "Chinese people" and the "Han Dynasty." In Chinese, therefore, Hancheng would also loosely mean "Chinese city."
Why now? The recent Sino-Korean dispute over Koguryô presents a likely reason:
Well, China recently has made the case that the medieval kingdom of Koguryo belonged to China. Some may think it is silly to worry about a state that existed between 37 BC and 668 A.D., but the statement has put Koreans on notice that Beijing may be readying to lay a claim to a chunk of North Korea when the Pyongyang regime collapses. You see, Koguryo straddled the present-day border between North Korea and Manchuria.

Suddenly, there is now the beginning of an intellectual debate in South Korea about whether China's rise represents a threat.
As someone who is almost done with a monograph on Qing (Chinese) imperialism in Korea of a hundred years ago, I can attest to the fact that such concerns are nothing new. And the end result will likely be the same: Yes, China is a "threat" but the only way to deal with it is engage in some new form of "Serving the Great" (????). Not the happiest of conclusions but at least Korea would get to keep its autonomy.

UPDATE: Much more information on the subject to be found here.

Monday, January 24, 2005


that Pittsburgh Steelers wide receiver Hines Ward's mother is Korean. Ward has much praise for his mom:
I went to live with her when I was in second grade. She was amazing. She had three jobs. Cleaned dishes at the Atlanta airport. Cleaned hotels. Was a grocery-store cashier. She'd work till two in the morning, then get up to make me breakfast before her airport job. She'd come home from that, and before she left for her next job, she'd have lunch on the table for me when I came home from school. I could never, ever repay my mother for everything she did for me.

• ON HIS MOTHER'S LASTING LESSON Humility. Through all my success, the wins, the Pro Bowls, she tells me, 'Be grateful for your opportunity. Be humble.' She still works, at a high school cafeteria, and when I go there to have lunch with her, the people say, 'Man, your mom works harder than anyone.' That makes me so proud. That's how her life has been. My mother wanted no government assistance. Nobody gave her nothing. Like me in the NFL. Nobody's given me anything


The Chosun Ilbo reports that the signboard presently hanging from Kwanghwamun which was written by former President Park Chung Hee (Pak Chông-hûi) is due to be taken down. The Korean Cultural Heritage Administration (CHA) announced the move, stating that the signboard isn't consistent with "the character of Gyeongbok Palace, the main palace of the Yi Dynasty" (not to mention the fact that it is written right-to-left rather than left-to-right as most traditional signboards are).

The conservative Chosun Ilbo cries foul, noting that the decision to remove the signboard can be taken as a sign of disapproval of Pak and his dictatorial rule. In addition, the decision to replace the signboard with caligraphy from the Chosôn King Chôngjo (r. 1776-1800) is thought to be politically motivated as some have attempted to compare President Roh Moo-hyun with Chôngjo. Some of the specifics of the objections follow:
But there are other matters to be examined.

One is that the present Gwangwhamun was moved to the east of Gyeongbok Palace in 1926, when colonial Japan attempted to demolish it while building its Governor General Office. It was again moved and rebuilt at the present site in 1968. There the gate now stands, 14.5m to the east of the original site and with its wooden upper story rebuilt in reinforced concrete. It is thus not unreasonable to suspect an ulterior motive in the CHA's sudden rush to replace the signboard without a complete restoration of the structure.

Next, the characters that are to be used in the new signboard have been chosen from a scroll King Jeongjo presented to a temple in Hamgyeong province. Calligraphy for the signboard of a main gate of a palace should be different from that used for a temple epigraph in both strength and feeling.

Third, the CHA disapproves of the current signboard because it was written by a non-expert and a man of power. There are also stories making the rounds that the administration wants use King Jeongjo's scroll because the current government’s management style is similar to the monarch's - championing reform and attempting to move the capital. However, comparison between King Jeongjo's reforms with those of the incumbent administration is perhaps a little awkward.

The Gwangwhamun signboard written by ex-president Park, having hung there for 37 years now, has attained a certain historic value all its own. If it must be changed, it won't be late to do so as and when the reinforced concrete structure is replaced with a wooden one.
Tempest in a teapot? Perhaps, but symbols and rituals are far from inconsequential even in modern polities.

Kwanghwa-mun. Click to enlarge and you can barely see the signboard in question Posted by Hello

UPDATE: More thoughts on this matter here.


One can't fault these guys for lack of adaptability and creativity. They have moved from African potentates and European lotteries to good old American soldiers in Iraq. Sordid details are as follows:
Dear Friend,

My name is Mathew Buchanan, I am an American soldier, I am serving in the military of the 1st Armoured Division in Iraq, As you know we are being attacked by insurgents everyday and car bombs.We managed to move funds belonging to Saddam Hussien's family.

We want to move this money to you, so that you may invest it for us and keep our share for banking.We will take 50%, my partner and I. You take the other 50%. no strings attached, just help us move it out of Iraq, Iraq is a warzone. We plan on using diplomatic courier and shipping the money out in one large silver box, using diplomatic immunity.

If you are interested I will send you the full details, my job is to find a good partner that we can trust and that will assist us. Can I ! trust you? When you receive this letter,kindly send me an e-mail signifying your interest including your most confidential telephone/fax numbers for quick communication also your contact details. This business is risk free. The box can be shipped out in 48hrs.


Col.Mathew Buchanan
I never saw the film, but doesn't this sound a little too much like Three Kings?

Sunday, January 23, 2005


Just spent the weekend in Binghamton, NY attending the funeral of Kathy's grandmother. Was there for the lowest recorded temperature in the town's history (13 degrees below zero) and for the big blizzard. That slowed down our return but we eventually made it back to Fredericksburg where the current temperature is a balmy 19 degrees. Good to be back.

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