United States

My July Diplomat Essay: The Korean ‘OPCON’ Soap Opera Rolls on – Hint: just drop it

Thank you for waiting out my summer break. I need summers to get some writing done, but inevitably I didn’t get nearly what I needed to wrapped up. Should you ever hear that argument that college professors slack, because we only teach 2/2 or 3/3, you ought to try writing for these journals. Just read this. That is why we don’t teach 30 hours a week. 

But I am still writing for The Diplomat, a gig I really enjoy. Here is my piece from August on the endless soap opera of the transfer of wartime operational control (‘OPCON’) from the US to the Republic of Korea.


First Gay Marriage in South Korea Causes a Stir

 


Int'l Symposium on Concluding a Peace Treaty on the Korean Peninsula

 

By Taryn Assaf

For Peace

For Peace

On Friday, July 26th 2013, the ISC team participated in the International Symposium on Concluding a Peace Treaty on the Korean Peninsula held at the Seoul Women’s Plaza, organized by the People’s Movement for Opposing War and Achieving Peace. The conference was attended by a number of scholars, journalists, politicians and activists from Korea, Canada, Japan, the United States and China, as well as a number of veterans of the Korean peace movement, some of whom had spent over 30 years as political prisoners. The conference addressed key issues on the topic of peace on the Peninsula and reunification of the two Koreas. Speakers investigated the “threat” of North Korea, obstacles to peace (including United States militarism and imperialism, state nationalism, and the relationships between the countries of Northeast Asia) and recommendations for peace (including reunification, normalization of relations between the two Koreas, denuclearization of Northeast Asia, and independence from the United States).


A Defense of Obama’s ‘Strategic Patience’ on North Korea

Newsweek Korea cover 2

Newsweek Korea asked me to participate in a cover story debate on Obama’s strategic patience. A friend of mine wrote against it; I wrote in defense. Here is the Korean language text at the NWK website. Below is my original English language version.


Agree with Heinlein’s ‘Citizens vs. Civilians’? then this US Military History is for you: Book Review

Starship-Troopers-starship-troopers-13578603-1024-768

I was asked by a participating member of the H-Diplo/ISSF network to review The American Culture of War. Here is the original link to my review, but it’s off in some far corner of the internet, so I thought I’d repost it here.


FREE! Bradley Manning

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Seoul, South Korea

www.nanum.com



If You Don’t Have Anything Good to Say about My Country, Just…

A couple of weeks ago, I was hurt, guilty, furious. I was hurt because of the offensive things said about my country over dinner with other 외국인 (foreigners); guilty because I just sat there speechless, pretending that I wasn’t listening, and I didn’t even try to refute their crude remarks. I was furious because of their insensitivity and my silence. I don’t know why I didn’t say anything to defend my country and my fellow Filipinos, when in fact, I always speak my mind. Maybe I kept mum because, I didn’t want to cause a hullabaloo. Once I start talking, there’s no stopping me until everybody listens and understands my point. In college, I was a debate queen, and until now, on several occasions, I don’t mind debating with someone who thinks he knows EVERYTHING about where I come from… well, except that day. Maybe another reason for my silence is that some of what they were saying is true.

“The Philippines is incredible! People here are so wonderful. They don’t realize that. There’s this kind of warmth I see everywhere! I notice it in the street vendor who can’t give you anything but a warm smile and a lot of love.” ~~~ Vin Diesel

 

“The Philippines is incredible! People here are so wonderful. They don’t realize that. There’s this kind of warmth I see everywhere! I notice it in the street vendor who can’t give you anything but a warm smile and a lot of love.” ~~~ Vin Diesel

 

 

 

 

Yes, the Philippines is not a rich country, but to say that the country is “so poor that people beg for money everywhere” is a mere exaggeration. One of the tactless foreigners said that even taxi drivers beg for money. It’s called asking for a tip, not begging. In the Philippines, it is common courtesy to give a tip to show appreciation for good service. We Filipinos usually tip taxi drivers. Foreigners do that, too. The kind ones even tip tricycle drivers. An American friend who visited the Philippines for the first time gave a tricycle driver 400 php for a tip. That’s almost 10 USD! The fare cost only 100 php (2.37 USD). The driver was giving her back 400 php for the 500 bill that she gave, but my friend told him to keep the change. I told her it was too much. She smiled and said that she doesn’t mind giving big tips to those who deserve it. That day, no tricycle driver wanted to drive us to where we were headed, because it was raining cats and dogs and the road going to our destination was flooded, but one tricycle driver took pity on us, cold and dripping wet from the rain.

You don’t have to give a big tip to a taxi or tricycle driver (20 to 50 php is enough), but at least have the courtesy and the heart to give a tip to someone who was of service to you, someone whose job is (probably) more taxing than yours.

Most foreigners who visit my country don’t need to be told that giving a tip is not the same as giving alms, because they take time to learn some Filipino customs before going to the Philippines, and isn’t tipping also a custom in the US?

In South Korea, tipping is not customary and is considered demeaning at times; however, my husband, who is Korean, and most of the Koreans I know don’t mind giving a tip when they go to the Philippines, and I’ve never heard them complain about it.

The foreigners went on and on about how poverty-stricken the Philippines is. They also talked aboutVietnam, being worse. I started wondering why the heck they go to other countries if they only criticize. When people travel, what is their main purpose? Isn’t it to discover, learn about other countries’ culture? to enjoy, to relax, to have wonderful memories to share with friends back home? I’m pretty sure that what these foreigners experienced in my country (or in Vietnam) wasn’t all that bad, but they made it sound as if they have been to the most abominable place in this world. Anywhere you go, even in the richest countries, there will always be poor people, people who beg for food or for a penny, people with no homes, people who need help. Should you criticize them? One of the foreigners was telling the others about “dirty street kids” following and annoying her because she is “a foreigner”. She is not being followed, because the kids think she is a celebrity; she is being followed, because the kids are hoping that she would give them coins that can buy them lunch or dinner, maybe their first meal of the day.

For almost 10 minutes of disparaging conversation about the Philippines (and Vietnam), they didn’t even consider how I and my fellow Filipina companion would feel… or maybe, they forgot that there were Filipinos present during that time. Even if there weren’t Filipinos (or Vietnamese) present, should they have talked like that about other countries in front of other foreigners?

When I started writing this post, I thought of naming all the good things about the Philippines that I can think of and have observed living there for 29 years… but I’m not going to do that. Instead, I invite you to visit the Philippines, travel around the country, get to know its people, discover its culture and if you want, you can even learn the national language. I’m sure that if you do all these things and free your mind from prejudice, you will have wonderful things to say about the Philippines. Who knows, you may even fall in love with my country, like the other foreigners who have stayed there or who keep coming back?

 


My Joint ‘Newsweek Korea/Japan’ Story: Do US Alliances Create Moral Hazard in Asian Conflicts?


Korea’s Regional Foreign Policy: Being an Encircled Middle Power Sucks

Newsweek 3rd coverNewsweek Japan asked me to contribute an essay on Korean foreign policy for a special issue on current Northeast Asian tension. I also wrote the introductory essay for this special issue. There is one essay each on Japan, China, and Korea; mine is the Korean one. So this is a nice laymen’s review without too much fatiguing jargon.


Foreigner’s Free Driver’s License Classes

 


PHOTO_0024Good news to those who have never driven before or would like to drive in Korea! ^^


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