Recent Blog Posts
December 1 - 6, 2017
Schedcation 7.0 was in Siem Reap, Cambodia. I arrived a day or two after the rest of our team because I had tickets to see Bill Murray in Portland (amazing, btw). Siem Reap was a city I enjoyed from short trips before, but really grew to appreciate more each day of this trip. It’s affordable, has lots of good food, and the people are kind.
We rented out the entire hotel at Angkor Orchid for our stay. We had the freedom to have meet ups at the long dining table, in hotel rooms with the a/c blasting, and even in the swimming pool. The location was within walking distance of tons of restaurants or a $1-per-person tuk tuk ride if we were feeling lazy and/or the sun was uncomfortably hot.
Especially with the ease of using US dollars, I could spend a lot of time in this city, exploring new restaurants and cafes every day. I came back December 12 - 14 to work and play with T + K at Hillocks Hotel & Spa – fill that place with all my friends and that’s my dream for retirement.
When in Siem Reap, of course visit the temples, but also try:
- Renting an e-bike. We rented one for $10/person a day at Green e-bike – just remember to bring your passport! Wear a face mask and ride out to the rice paddies; you’ll feel like you’re in a totally new place.
- Ask a tuk tuk to take you out to Kampong Pluk (long wooden stilt houses, mangroves, floating forest, and floating village) on the large river/lake, Tonle Sap. The sunset at the end is gorgeous! You’ll read a lot of mixed reviews online, but honestly, sometimes I just like a change of pace. You’ll negotiate a price with the tuk tuk beforehand but be prepared to pay for the boat ($20/person) and paddle boat ($5/person) yourself.
And, yeah, I paid $5 for my paddle boat driver’s snacks; they still called me cheap. It’s a scam but not worth getting angry over.
As the Koreas begin high level diplomatic talks, host Andre Goulet is joined by photojournalist Jules Tomi for a wide-ranging conversation on the upcoming Pyeongchang Olympic Games and the confluence of factors, including chaotic American political leadership, that may be leading to an easing of tensions on the peninsula.
Plus: critiquing voyeuristic journalism, apocalyptic diplomacy by Twitter and debating the perilous potential of possible reunification. This conversation was recorded on January 4th.
Music on this episode is Kim Gwan-suk's ‘Buchiji Anheun Pyunji #1 (Geudae Jal-gala)'
Photo credit: Spencer Cameron w/ Getty Images
Support The Korea File podcast at patreon.com/thekoreafile
| The Korea File|
In the bitter winter of 1952, Canadian soldiers stationed near the frozen Imjin River did what Canadians do whenever they have lots of ice and a little free time.
They played hockey, eh.
Soldiers from the the Princess Patricia’s Canadian Light Infantry, and the Royal 22nd Regiment (the Vandoos) fought side by side on the front, but during breaks from the fighting, faced off against each other in friendly hockey games, to put the war behind them for a while by enjoying the great Canadian pasttime.
On Friday, January 19th, the Canadian Embassy and the City of Paju, in cooperation with the Pyeongchang Organizing Committee for the 2018 Olympic Games, are hosting a commemorative hockey game near the site of the original games.
Team Canada, composed of active members of the PPCLI, the Vandoos, and Korea’s Canadian residents will face off against Team Corea, a mix of players from Korea University and Yonsei University.
The game and related events will run from noon to 4:30 on January 19th at Yulgok Wetland Park, Paju. See the Canadian Embassy website for more information.
Blu Cucina: A Meal That Took Me Back Home
When I moved to Seoul this past November I made it a weekly goal to have lunch dates with close and distant family members alike. Since I’m from the States, it’s a great opportunity to get to spend time with family I so rarely see. Every week we choose a popular restaurant about which we’ve read a review. After about a month and a half, one of my Aunties told me we were going to try a place that ended up being my most memorable foodie experience in Seoul: Blu Cucina.
Just on the outskirts of Hongdae, nestled in an underground alley, a 15-seater Italian restaurant called Blu Cucina is hidden. Picture this: beautiful royal blue tiles, a view of the chef at work, and a long dark wooden table in the middle of the restaurant. Since there are images below, just imagine foodies laughing over a glass of wine and sharing family-style, home-cooked Italian dishes.
Now, imagine home. Not just what your home looks like, but the feeling of home. The feeling of comfort and the feeling you get when you’re waiting at the kitchen counter watching your mom, dad, or grandma making a meal to share. This feeling of home and comfort is the exact same feeling I had while at Blu Cucina.
Green Salad with Fresh Vegetables and Thinly Sliced Beef
The simplicity of this Blu Cucina salad is just as good as it sounds. This tossed green salad consisted of mixed greens, Belgian endive, tomatoes, red onion, thinly sliced cuts of beef, and freshly grated parmigiano to top it off. This simple and refreshing salad is just what you need to whet your appetite for the next two dishes.
White Cream Sauce Pasta with Mushrooms and Short Rib
Since I lived in Italy once upon a time, everyone always assumes I’m totally nit picky about pasta. Completely false. Although I always appreciate homemade noods (send noods!), I don’t mind being served store-bought. What really matters to me in a pasta dish is the flavor and sauce to noodle ratio (hint: there can never be too much sauce or pasta). That’s exactly what I got at Blu Cucina. Expect boxed pasta, but a great sauce to nood ratio. Presentation was on point, and the cream sauce didn’t make me feel like I was eating an entire stick of butter. The peppery short rib was melt in your mouth and offset the saltiness of the sauce. Although the squid ink risotto is also a fan favorite, I highly recommend this dish.
Gambas Al Ajillo Shrimp with Garlic
You may be confused by the name of this dish, I for one was a little confused myself. Originally a Spanish dish, I wasn’t exactly sure why it was on the menu, but it ended up being my favorite dish at Blu Cucina. It came out in sizzling cast-iron pan of grilled shrimp in olive oil with chili powder, roasted tomatoes, and Lots and LOTS of garlic. Of course, a toasted baguette was served on the side for lots of dipping. Seoulcialite says: Make sure to dip the bread in the sauce AND smash the garlic buds on top. You won’t regret it!
Blu Cucina – Last Looks
Sometimes I get lost in the foodie hub of Seoul trying to experience the highest rated restaurants. Eating at Blu Cucina is the best meal I’ve had because I shared this food experience with my two aunties. This place reminded me of home cooking and of a place I once called home; Italy. In other publications I’ve written about that feeling of comfort and the feeling of home. That’s how I felt when I was so homesick and got to enjoy this meal. Blu Cucina isn’t the highest profile restaurant I’ve visited, but it evoked a special memory when asked about my favorite meal in Seoul. At the end of the day, the best meal is just one shared with the people I love.
Hours & Getting to Blu Cucina Restaurant
|57-41, Mangwon-dong, Mapo-gu, Seoul (Line 6: Mangwon Station Exit 2)|
|HOURS OF OPERATION||MON-SAT: 11:30 – 22:30 (BREAK: 15:00-17:00)
|블루쿠치나||서울시 마포구 월드컵로19길 18 서울시 마포구 망원동 57-41 예약및대관문의:02-6015-5741 월~토 Open: 11시30분 Close: 22시30분 일요일 휴무/3시~5시break time(토요일,공휴일제외) (재료소진시 조기마감)|
Asya Lee (Asya in Asia) has a Bachelor of Arts in Communications from Washington State University. Family and food are most important to Asya, and she’s making the most of her time in Seoul exploring all of its culinary delights. A fellow West-Coast Seoulcialite (ie. sorority gal), she enjoys hiking, discovering new restaurants, Seoul’s plethora of cafes, a good bottle of cab sauv, and solo travel. The newest member of The Toronto Seoulcialite team, Asya will be in and around the peninsula through Spring 2018!
The post Seoul Food: Blu Cucina (Asya in Asia – A Meal That Took Me Back Home) appeared first on The Toronto Seoulcialite.
We all do it. Social Media makes it easier than ever to look up how our loved ones past and present are doing. Are they living their best lives? How happy are they? It seems when I’ve finally met someone new, the ghosts of lost loves past have their interests piqued. When I started dating my most recent ex, it breathed life into a few poltergeists. The man I’ll probably always consider to be the first great love of my life reached out. He said everything that I had needed and so desperately craved hearing, albeit all a little too late. I was honest about our communication with my new partner, and he was honest (well…to a point) about his. When I was living with the Adonis, he would call his ex while I was at work. What did I care if they spoke? They dated for 7 years – she was a huge part of his life and he was important to her. She was also roughly 9,000 km away. How much harm could she really do from that great a distance? I think I’d be more worried if he wasn’t interested in her well-being and didn’t want to maintain mutual respect.
Waiting for the Other Shoe to Drop
In a new relationship, it’s tempting to look back on your partner’s old ones. Are you part of a trend or are you different, special – an outlier? Are you far enough outside the particular set of previous patterns and failures to stand the test of time? A jealous, pissed off, or threatened woman does better research than the FBI, CIA and Secret Service combined. When in a budding relationship I was contacted by my (then new) boyfriend’s ex stating that he had cheated on the previous two. She told me I was becoming a symptom of a much bigger problem. I, of course, dismissed it at the time. He told me just enough to make it seem like we had an open and honest relationship. I was completely transparent. When his pattern reemerged several months later, you had better bet I quickly learned about RSS feeds, source, input, and the ease of info gathering online. I did it because I sensed a problem. I had an underlying insecurity about the state of our relationship. I was waiting for the other shoe to drop, and unfortunately got more than I bargained for.
Poking Holes in More Than Just the Story
What about the longstanding current girlfriend, fiance, or even wife, though? I mean, she’s already won. What use is it to look back on something which ended so very long ago? On one hand, I can see that she means no harm. She’s just curious about our history together. How far down the line is it normal or healthy to creep? Why does my ex boyfriend’s current love want to know about my daily activities now when he and I ceased all contact 7 months ago? I’m sure there’s a small part where the “winner” can take perverse pleasure in popping up and rubbing it in your face that she’s enjoying your old memories. Is there trouble in paradise or does she just want to lord her “success” over me without ever having to exchange words?
When you’ve finally met someone new and are enjoying learning all about him, she’s there to drudge up the past. At least when a man’s 6th sense kicks in, you might get closure. When woman’s sick sense starts tingling, everyone just ends up shaken. It’s better on both sides to leave well enough alone.
To my exes’ new girlfriends and wives: ladies, if you’re really that curious about me, reach out! I’d rather be cool with your creeping than completely unnerved. If that’s not your jam, please have the decency to use a fake account. You don’t need him to block me. You don’t need to control with whom he communicates. The women before me prepared him to love you. If your relationship is strong, it’s due in part to the fact that I made him ready to love you and that you’re a better fit together than we ever could have been. The hell he and I went through together doesn’t negate the joy you have now. It’s not in spite of it, it’s because of it. We worked through issues together that have made him a more considerate boyfriend or husband for you. They will hopefully have helped make me a better partner in my next relationship, too.
To my readers: If your man is communicative, caring, and observant, chances are there’s a mother, sister, or ex-girlfriend who helped him along the way. There’s not a single ex-boyfriend of mine with whom I’d want to get back together, but I have a genuine interest in their well-being. Don’t try to police your significant other’s communication. If he’s friendly with his ex and a better man with you than he was with her, you might even want to buy her a bottle of wine.
The post Exes & Oh No’s: An Expat’s Guide to Ladies’ Sick Sense appeared first on That Girl Cartier.
Homeboy Seoul Pop-Up
Homeboy Seoul Menu
The menu was the perfect size for a pop-up. We were able to order everything from the menu plus a cocktail each. The total for 3 people was KRW 66,000 (cash only) and we were bursting by the time we finished up our last bites. Talk about wicked value!
Dan Dan Noodles (Homeboy Seoul – KRW 9,000)
Sichuan Chili Oil, Doubanjiang, Ground Pork, Garlic, Stem, Spinach, and Cilantro dazzled the Dan Dan out of me. The portion size looks deceptively small. Each of us took a healthy portion to start as the other dishes were arriving, and then again at the end of the meal. The noodles tasted homemade as I had had in Taipei. The ground pork was spicy and peppery. The sauce had a healthy amount of heat on first bite, but the creamy (and addictive) sauce balanced it out. Looking back, this is probably my favourite bite of the night. If it appears on a regular menu in Seoul it’s a fair bet I’ll eat it 75 % of my remaining frigid nights in Seoul.
Five Spice Braised Pork Roujiamo (Homeboy Seoul – KRW 8,000)
In close second was the pork roujiamo. Roujiamo or “肉夹馍” originated in the Shaanxi province of China. The literal meaning is “meat burger” or “meat sandwich”, and nowadays you’ll find it served up all over China…and hopefully soon Seoul. This sandwich was a lot less spicy than the noodles, giving us a little break we didn’t know we’d need. The pork was tender, juicy, and just fatty enough. The braised pork butt was served up on Chinese flat bread adorned with sticky soy sauce, chili oil, cucumber, and cilantro. After the heat of the noodles it was the sweet, salty, and refreshing bite I craved.
Juicy Cayenne Fried Chicken Roujiamo (Homeboy Seoul – KRW 8,000)
Holy mountain of fried chicken! This massive piece of fried chicken didn’t even look like it belonged on top of that comparatively meek Chinese flat bread. I couldn’t place all of the flavours described in the menu as the sauce was a symphony of ingredients. Lemongrass Pickle, Peanut Sauce, Mojo Sauce, Cilantro, and Apple Mint smothered this fried chicken sandwich. As a sauce boss, I was in heaven. Even with my favourites like peanut sauce, cilantro, and apple mint, there was something about the pork I can’t get out of my head or tastebuds. If they end up on a menu once Homeboy Seoul opens up, make sure to try them both. The pork was an unknown craving, but the fried chicken hit the spot, too.
Savory Ukoy Fries (Homeboy Seoul – KRW 9,000)
Truly, where else can you get proper sweet potato fries in Korea? Sweet Potato Fries, Dried Shrimp, and Cilantro were served up with a Carrot Ginger Dip. I (thankfully for my tastes) didn’t sense a whole lot of shrimp. The sweet potato fries were lightly crunchy on the outside with a totally smooth centre. If you’ve been craving yam, petition Homeboy Seoul to open a permanent spot.
Chongqing Wings (Homeboy Seoul – KRW 11,000)
Wings tend to be a fairly basic offering in Seoul with everyone trying to measure up to a certain RBS fave, Mix & Malt, Seoul. These wings were totally different, as they were tossed in plenty of Chongqing Spice Mix, Fried Chili (watch out – they’re big chunks of spicy stuff), and cilantro. Lime came on the side to add a little moisture to the dry rub. While these were hardly mediocre, in comparison to the other menu items they seemed to be very spicy and kinda of basic. On their own, I’m sure they’d taste perfectly crisp and moist. If I hadn’t had a chance to try other dishes I found far superior, I’d be pretty thrilled with them. I can’t wait to try out KiKi Chanting’s chicken to see how it all compares.
Homeboy Seoul Signature Cocktails
If the cocktail name doesn’t bring back memories of Jason Mraz, I won’t worry. This cocktail, priced at KRW 7,000, was made of ginger-infused Hwayo 25, Honey Syrup, Lemon Juice, and Pear Soda, and was garnished with Cinnamon Pear Chips (essentially making it a fruit salad, of course). A light and refreshing cocktail, it was the perfect pairing for the rich food served up with a kick of heat. I’d imagine the Real Housewives of Shanghai downing these while consuming plebeian food ironically on the Bund. Would certainly order again!
This cocktail was a little bit more “knock your front teeth out” than The Remedy. Made of Hwayo X.P, Sweet Potato Orgeat, and Grilled Chestnut Bitters, and priced at KRW 7,000, this cocktail tasted more like a Manhattan than a jolly little tipple with soju as the main ingredient. I wasn’t sure soju could be elevated quite in this way. Looks like Homeboy proved me wrong.
Getting to Motor City
Craving a Detroit-style pizza in Seoul? En route to the next pop-up by the culinary creatives from the Manimal Team? Head over to Motor City in Itaewon!
The post Seoul Food: Homeboy – Pop-Up by Manimal & KiKi Chanting appeared first on The Toronto Seoulcialite.
One of the hardest things to achieve when creating a cinemagraph is the fabled “perfect loop” which is created when you cannot define the start or end point of the movement in the cinemagraph. It is a complicated process in some cases as creating the perfect loop depends on a number of factors. Fortunately, using software like Flixel’s cinemagraph pro helps reduce some complexity quite a bit. That being said, we do have to go over a few things to get you off on the right foot.
Find the Right Movement or Subject
Getting the perfect loop is based largely on a repeated movement where the in and out points are similar, if not exactly the same. Looking for this kind of movement helps you get started on the right track. Any sort of back-and-forth movement is perfect for this. Movements that have no distinct directionality are good as well. I would like to emphasise that finding the similar in and out points is optimal.
Distinct colours, movements and subjects can throw off the perfect loop as it triggers your mind to pick up on that and focus in on it. Think of how your brain is able to pick out a person wearing a bright red outfit in a crowd of people. These triggers expose the loop and are distracting elements. The less distracting elements that you have in the loop the easier it is the make the mind believe that it is seeing a continuous “perfect loop” and not just a looped video.
When in Doubt…. Bounce!
If your subject has a non-directional movement like the piece of octopus in the cinemagraph above then using the bounce setting in cinemagraph pro is optimal. The reason being is there isn’t a noticeable fade as the clip is just playing to the end and bouncing back. This works great for subjects that are blowing in the wind or bobbing back and forth. It does not work so great for subjects that have a noticeable directionality to their movement. So if you are pouring something out and it suddenly starts going backwards, the effect is lost.
Cross Fading is an Art!
Now, if you have something that has a distinct pattern and direction, you have to use the crossfade setting. This is where it gets a little tricky. The reason being is that you are essentially blending the end of the initial clip to start of the following clip. So if the start and end points are completely different there will be a noticeable “ghost” on the loop as fades in. To lessen this ghosting, try adjust the in and out points so that they are as similar as possible.
Start with your clip length and trim it so you have a rough starting point. Above the slider at the bottom, use the in and out arrows to fine tune the trim. In a perfect world, this should be the end of it. However, often you will need to adjust the length of the fade to make the transition as invisible as possible. Finally if you are still having issues, try adjusting the speed of the clip. If the footage is a little slow, it gives our eyes times to catch up to the transition. However, if it is gone in a blink most people may just miss it.
On the Hunt
The last tip could also fit into the first tip. If you simply can’t get the perfect loop to occur, try moving the entire clip to find a better transition point. Having a little more footage to work with is often a bonus here. However, in some more difficult situations, longer clips are not necessarily better. Also note that I said clips not footage. Meaning the actual footage may be long but the clip length in cinemagraph pro maybe adjusted. I have used ultra short clips in some cases because there was only one tiny moment where everything lined up properly. Don’t be afraid to experiment with the clip length!
I hope that these tips helped you in your quest to find the “perfect loop” and make some magical cinemagraphs. Keep an eye on CinePix’s new youtube channel for an upcoming tutorial on this.
I have to be honest with you. This isn't for most teachers. Most of you won't make close to this teaching in Taiwan. It's going to take a lot of work and long hours to make this much. But it's possible.
So how can you make $NT100,000 a month teaching English in Taiwan?
$NT600 ($20USD) an hour x 8 "teaching" hours a day x 6 days a week = 28,800 x 4 weeks = $NT115,500
The math is simple, but configuring your work life out to make that much is not. Most teachers are going to be in a buxiban working full time making a salary of $NT50-60,000 a month working 25-40 hours a week.
If you are a licensed teacher then you might make $NT60-70,000 working a good 40 hours a week in a public school.
$NT600 an hour is a standard pay in Taiwan. I started on that in my first school and then had a few part time jobs making $NT650-$750 (but only for a few hours). That was in my first year.
In my second year I made $NT650 an hour. So if you get some experience you can probably get more an hour somewhere, but not everywhere. Some schools just have a set pay rate regardless of experience.
1. Get a "part time job" that gives you an ARC
An ARC (alien registration certificate) legally allows you to teach in Taiwan. Finding a part time job that gives you one of these is not that hard to do in Taiwan. And you want a "part time" job cause you want to be paid by the hour unless for some strange reason you are not paid more.
I had 2 jobs in Taiwan (one in Taichung and the other in Tainan) that gave me one of these for teaching 12-14 in one and about 18 hours a week in another. I also always saw jobs like these on Tealit.com.
The hours need to be stable, in a row and not at an odd time of the day so you can find work that fits that schedule. Now lets assume that you can find a job that gives you a 3 or 4 hours a day 5 days a week.
4 hours a day would be about 80 hours a month and $NT48,000 a month.
You are kinda bound to this school so do your best to keep good relations here.
It's quite likely that you could find a job like this.
2. Find another part time job
Try to find another part time job in the area that will double the hours that you got in you first school.
Option 1: Get a morning job in a kindergarten
You can find morning work teaching in a kindergarten which is said to be illegal, however people do it and the officials don't seem to make a big deal about it. I did it at times and I new lots of other people who did as well.
These can actually be a bit higher paying jobs. You might be able to get $NT650 an hour or more.
Option 2: Get a morning job teaching adults
These can be lower paying like around $NT550 an hour, but they are easier for some people.
3. You probably still need another part time job
It's probably going to take 3 jobs to make this kind of money. So you are going to have to find another job that fits with what you have already.
Ideally you want to look for chunks of classes together and hours that are not spread out in the same school.
Lots of buxibans are looking for teachers to work Saturdays. In fact if you get hired by a buxiban chances are you might be working Saturday morning. I worked in one that was like that.
And I worked in another where I didn't have to work on Saturdays. But working Saturdays is common in Taiwan and in China. If you really want to make money in Taiwan then you are going to have to work 6 days a week which means you're probably going to work on Saturday.
Get some privates
If you can arrange some private lessons then you can charge more. I tried, but personally found teaching in a classroom with multiple students easier than one on one.
- Long day
- Difficult to find several jobs that fit together
- You will have no social life or time for other activities
- Your classes might suck
- Commuting time
- Is it sustainable?
- Prep time?
But wait are you a first time teacher?
If you are then you are probably in for a tough time. Some people can adapt fine, but others including myself have a difficult time. My first year was pretty difficult.
Teaching kids is not easy.
Teaching hours vs. work hours
Did you notice above how I mentioned 8 teaching hours? I didn't mean 8 work hours I meant 8 teaching hours.
Most of the time with a part time job you only get paid for the teaching hour, but they might still expect you to come in early and prepare. Both of the jobs that gave me the ARC were like that.
At $NT600 an hour it's going to take 48 "teaching" hours a week to make $NT115,500 a month.
That's a lot of teaching hours.
In my experience half of that is plenty. You are going to have to consider the drawbacks of this.
Considering the commute between jobs and a little prep you might be looking at 10-12 hour days.
Can you dig it?
If you work a fulltime job you might have 20-25 teaching hours with another 5-15 office hours or so. Office hours are especially common in the big chain schools.
But keep in mind if you work full time...
A full time teacher might only make $NT375 an hour
If you are working a full time job in Taiwan you're probably only going to be making $NT375-500 an hour.
Some fulltime jobs in Taiwan may range anywhere from 25-40 hours a week. So lets say you find a job working 40 hours a week for $NT60,000 a month. That's only $NT375 an hour.
So the point is to increase your hourly wage and you can do that by working part time.
- Freedom. You can quit the other jobs when you want and just keep the one that gives you the ARC.
Is this for you?
This is really only for a certain kind of person. I don't really recommend it, because in my experience working 15-20 hours a week was plenty. That was enough for me. I prefer a more easy going lifestyle.
For this to work, you have to be savvy, high energy and disciplined. Even then you probably won't be able to do this for too long.
But if you so choose now you know how to start.
Sorry for the long hiatus. The holidays were pretty busy and exhausting.
This is a local re-post of something I wrote The National Interest late last year. I like these end-of-the-year retrospectives and predictions. So here is a look back at all the craziness around North Korea in 2017.
The most obvious new element is an American president talking to the world’s most dangerous state like a petulant man-child. Honestly, Trump just made everything worse, and his rhetoric almost certainly convinced the Kimist elite that going for nukes was wise.
The other big thing I think is how the debate over responding to North Korea is increasingly cutting out the doves. North Korea with nuclear weapons is such a scary prospect that it is side-lining engagers and powering the hawks in the debate. Increasingly the debate is an intra-mural one among the hawks, between moderates (where I’d put myself), who are wary of strikes and at least open to talks even though we know the Norks will gimmick them, and ultras like Trump or Nikki Haley who genuinely seem to want to strike. The real question in the US debate now is whether the moderate hawks, with an assist from the doves, can restrain the ultras from attacking North Korea this year.
The full essay follows the jump…
This was an extraordinary year for North Korea. It finally achieved a regime dream going back decades: establishing direct nuclear deterrence with the United States. Despite months of tough rhetoric and war threats from US President Donald Trump, the North pushed on and became the first rogue state to acquire a functional nuclear intercontinental ballistic missile.
Negotiating with North Korea will become that much harder from now on. The resources devoted to these weapons are rumored to represent perhaps as much as 5% of GDP. For a state as small and poor as North Korea, they are an enormous sacrifice. Hence, Northern leader Kim Jong Un will almost certainly not trade them away, or the concessions he will demand will be tremendous. But some kind of negotiations with the North are almost inevitable now. North Korea with nuclear weapon and no outside supervision at all – no participation in the Non-Proliferation Treaty (NPT0 or International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) – is so frightening, that pressure for the US to talk to Pyongyang will grow dramatically. Secretary of State Rex Tillerson’s recent free-lancing on negotiations suggests this.
Here then are a few of 2017’s North Korean ‘highlights’:
1. Pyongyang is hell-bent on acquiring these weapons.
Probably the most important lesson we learned this year is that North Korea is going to have these weapons no matter what the rest of the world says or does and is prepared to carry heavy costs for them. Since the collapse of the Six Party Talks, North Korea has been increasingly sanctioned and isolated. Previous South Korean President Park Geun Hye (now-impeached) sought to worsen that isolation by trimming away at the North’s diplomatic relationships, especially in the global South. China too has slowly stepped up sanctions and broadly concurs with the Americans on a denuclearized North. Despite all this, the North persisted. In the face of global rejection, it nonetheless tests bombs and missiles relentlessly under the leadership of this newest Kim (Jong Un).
That the North clawed its way into these weapons despite decades of hassle, global isolation, and sprawling multilateral efforts to prevent them should serve as a warning. Any rogue state with sufficient resources and ruthlessness can now likely acquire these weapons. If the North can do it against all odds, then many other troublesome states might well be considering this too.
2. Bluster will not stop them.
Trump’s harsh language on North Korea was arguably an experiment. No US president had ever talked to the North this way; perhaps it would intimidate the North Koreans? Trump talked as the North does. Pyongyang has threatened for years, for example, to turn Seoul into a ‘sea of fire.’ Trump turned such incendiary rhetoric back on the North, threatening to send an ‘armada,’ to ‘totally destroy North Korea,’ and use ‘fire and fury’ to do so.
Unsurprisingly though, the schoolyard taunting did not work. The North, predictably, refused to bend, rather matching Trump insult for insult. In the end, even Trump seemed to realize that his large threats were leading nowhere, given how risky the strike options are. After the most recent missile test on November 29, Trump restrained himself, saying only, ‘we’ll take care of it.’
3. Safety is a looming issue.
As North Korea nuclearizes outside the NPT-IAEA framework, questions about safety are growing. We have little technical information about the state of Northern reactors, their safety protocols, waste disposal practices, maintenance, and so on. A tunnel at North Korea’s primary testing facility collapsed this fall, and the North Koreans said nothing. A Japanese newspaper broke the story several months later, and South Korean scientists are now predicting that continued testing at Punggye-ri may actually bring down the mountain and release radioactivity in the manner of Chernobyl.
When talks do eventually resume, this will provide a curious form of leverage to the North. Its nuclear program is now well-established and growing; Kim has spoken of making North Korea ‘the world’s strongest nuclear power.’ Outsiders will be increasingly desperate to get into the North to inspect its facilities, at minimum to insure it is not proliferating or on the cusp of a meltdown. This problem will worsen significantly in coming years.
4. Hawks are dominating the debate over North Korea.
It is an irony that just as the North’s overt nuclearization is forcing talks back to prominence, hawks seem to be ascendant in the debate over responding to the North. Major western outlets like CNN, Fox, TNI, The Economist, The Atlantic, and the big American papers are dominated now by hawkish pundits on North Korea. Even the left in South Korea, which took the presidency earlier this year, has felt compelled by North Korea’s extreme intransigence, to sign up for Trump’s ‘maximum pressure’ approach. South Korean President Moon Jae-In, an earlier architect of outreach to North Korea and no hawk, has followed Trump’s lead on pressuring the North. China too inched further and further along the path of yet more pressure.
This shrinkage of the debate to a one between moderate and ultras among the hawks is cutting out dovish voices encouraging engagement. Now, the debate seems to be more about more sanctions and isolation (the moderates) or airstrikes (the ultras). North Korea’s adamant refusal to talk has encouraged this, and it raises the likelihood of eventually exasperation and a willingness to risk strikes.
These four 2017 trends are unlikely to change much next year. North Korea will not likely rein in its program, thereby increasing marginalizing doves in the debate over what to do. As the program grows apace, safety anxieties will worsen which may incidentally help push the US, South Korea, and Japan back toward talks. But if Trump did teach us anything this year, it is that the North Koreans will not get brow-beaten into giving up their program. It is here to stay.
Filed under: Engagement, Korea (North), Nuclear Weapons, Strategy, The National Interest, Trump, United States