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Queer Links from the Week

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Just two links for my readers this week. The article on the doctor in Busan is fantastic though!


Reddit: New Official Definition of "LOVE" in Korea excludes homosexuality, due to 'pressure from Christians' (I will translate this article in entirety later this week)
South Florida Gay News: South Korea Sex Change Doc: I Correct 'God's Mistakes'

Bomun Lake

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Bomun Blossom-6

One of the best places to see cherry blossoms in the area is the Bomun Lake area in Gyeongju, South Korea. However, it is also the busiest and most crowded outside of the Jinhae Cherry Blossom Festival. At any rate, I thought that if I went out while the festival was on, it would take the pressure off of Bomun. I was wrong.

Bomun Blossom-8

Bomun was packed with cars and people for as far as the eye could see. However, I decided to push through and see what all the excitement was about. I would say that it was well worth the battle. I had to park about a 15 minute walk away from the main area of Bomun Lake but it did give me time to scout some locations.

Bomun Blossom-10

I have started scouting and making decisions about the timing of my shots as I walk into a location. This was something that I tested out when I was out a Gaya land. I picked my shots as I walked in and then worked my way out. This does not always work if you are shooting for blue hour but if you have the time, I feel that it will greatly improve your photography and the overall theme of the shoot.

Bomun Blossom-3

Once I got to the main area starting from the Hilton Hotel and then going along the path towards the other hotels, all I could hear were the sounds of people counting down for selfies. It was an interesting soundtrack and a great way to practice your numbers in Korean. It was great to see so many people enjoying something so simple as cherry blossoms. However, the number of photo-poachers were extremely high. These are not the typical ones that wait and take the same shot as you. I actually don’t mind those people because everyone usually ends up with a different take on the shot. Nope these are the people who see you setting up for a shot  and jump in the frame to get a shot of themselves sitting in front of whatever it is that you are shooting as it must be good if you are using a camera and a tripod.

Bomun Blossom-7

The best trick to getting rid of people in your shots is to use a long exposure or an ND filter to increase your shutter time.

Bomun Blossom-11

I started dreading the drive home as I was walking out. I suddenly remembered a shot from the legendary photographer Roy Cruz and thought that I would give it a go. I was pleased with the result but desperately needed to get on the road and get some coffee. Thanks to a jerk trying to drive around me )as I was trying to cut into a seeming never ending stream of traffic)  and then getting stuck, I managed to hit the road easily and by the time I was passing the Gyeongju love museum, it was smooth driving and even got a coffee at the Holly’s Hannock coffee shop. Suffice to say it all worked out in the end.

Bomun Blossom-4

 

 

 


Tired

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Remember how this was supposed to be a chilled weekend?... it wasn't, AT ALL.

On friday my new Mexican friend (whom I met at that odd Spanish speakers work on tuesday) invited me to a club, before that she asked ne if I had any Gay friends and I obviously said Yes, it was a random question that I understood a bit later; when she told me she was Gay (lol) and then I found out the club we were meeting at was a Only Girls club...

Honestly I was BLOWN AWAY when we got inside, I couldn't believe all of them were girl and made me think I've been confusing boys with girls ALL this time, OMG, there were pretty looking "guys" and others were "I totally look like a guy not like a girl" girls... All night I was tempted to talk to those "guys" but I'm too shy... we ended up hanging out with what turns out to be one of the "most popular gay girl" in Korea, she is very well known (whatever that means) and if you hang out with her group it meabs something, what that something means? i have no freaking idea but the girls were nice, they invited us drinks and we had a great time... and it go me thinking, do they think I'm gay? But I didn't bother asking them.

I remember years ago at a gay club (mixed, this was my 1st time at a just girls club) I was with some friends and a friend of a friend tokd me I didn't look Gay, I guess I have that "I'm straight" look... but I don't know how that works out...

We ended up leaving the club after 5am, I had to bring my friend home with me because she was way too wasted and didn't know her address... it was quite an interesting cab ride and finally at 6:30am I made it home, but woke up at 9:30 because we were meeting friends at Yeouido.

I'm glad I can now take alcohol like an adult and control what's going on, I wasn't really hung over but I was tired and sleepy and took 2 aspirins just in case lol, after a shower and breakfast we caught the 261 bus to Yeouido where we were supposed to film 2 videos for our Youtube channel.

Little did we know the weather was going to get crazy, it was sunny but got cloudy on the way there and after we got off the bus it got crazy windy and cold with some random light rain, we only got some shots of the cherry blossoms and we got upset because we were cold, hungry and got nothing to do... we walked and after some... discussion we found a cool Dancing crew at the Park, I remember them from Myeongdong so we stayed the whole act, when they finished, another guy came and installed his suitcase, it was like a Magician without being one... I don't know how to explain it...perhaps the word I'm looking for is Entretainer but you'll see when we Vlog about it.

We were supposed to meet other friends at 4 but amobgs so many people there we ended yp missing them and so we decided to go back to our hood, get dinner and go to a Noraebang to release some stress by singing.

Luckily the same 261 bus stop was right next to the park and we got to Hoegi ststion around 7pm, we had a nice Tonkatsu dinner followed by a cheap waffle (that's the good thing about living next to Universities!) And headed to the fancy Noraebang where we rocked all our songs... you can click the following link for our Noraebang Vlog: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=bLKgfCmsFFU&feature=youtube_gdata_player

On our way home my sister said sonething in Spanish to someone (dont know what or who) and I told her "one of these days someone will reply in Spanish and you'll not know what to say", we went to buy bread and as soon as we got in EVERYONE in Seoul decided to go it so my sis complained in Spanish...turns out the owner spoke spanish LOL... it was sooo funy, I love how many spanish speakers we have found in Seoul....

We finally got home around 9-10pm and had to decline another friend's offer to go out, I was dead tired and we needed to get up early the next day to go to 2NE1's Inkigayo pre-recording, that turned out well, since the day was sunny we ended up going to Yeouido park again but got off at the wrong stop so we got off at Mapo station, we had to cross the Han river through the Mapo bridge also known as Bridge of Life, it's called like that because there's a lot of people that decides to jump off of that bridge, mostly young people... I will talk more about it later as I would like to properly get you information about it, somehow I found that 30 minute walj peaceful and relaxing...

We came home around 6 and I'm finally chillin' at 11pm...

Tomorrow we need to do the recording we didn't do on saturday at 8am and then I have a Korean language exchange with baby bro^^

We also received an awesome call but that's for later...

It was a crazy-fun-exciting weekend...

How was yoyr weekend?

-Gisela V.
Ps. I wanna thank Melanie for her comments and for taking time to email me, I always get very excited when a reader contact me as is very unusual...

Is there anyone else out there??


The Julie/Julia/Gisela Project
Food & Culture
TheJulieJuliaGiselaProject.blogspot.com

 
 
The Julie Julia Gisela Project

 

 


The Song and the Fury

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The Rooting Songs of Korean Baseball by Ralph Karst

South Korea Baseball Frenzy   HSN103

It’s springtime here in South Korea, and that means cherry blossoms, people taking pictures of cherry blossoms, cherry blossom festivals, and traffic jams of people trying to get to cherry blossom festivals. And oh yeah—baseball! The 2014 Korean Baseball Organization season is underway, with nine teams smacking leather, swinging lumber, bringing the high heat, and eating sundae-guk-bap in the dugout. I’ve been a KBO fan in general and a Lotte Giants fan specifically for a while now. It remains one of best spring / summer entertainment bargains around, beside sitting outside a Family Mart, drinking beer, and girl people-watching.  Ten bucks or less will get you into the ballpark for three hours of generally pretty good and sometimes charmingly inept play.

Besides the actual competition, you get a full-on “cultural experience.” Cheerleaders! Dried squid! Polite discussions with umpires! And singing, God, the singing! Korean ball games can sometimes resemble giant outdoor norae-bangs, with fans singing, almost non-stop, their team’s multiple fights songs. Lotte Giants’ “Busan Galmaegi” is definitely the best of the bunch. It’s an old Busan song (galmaegi = seagull), a slow ballad with typically tragic lyrics and a melody that builds upwards and then beautifully cascades down. It’s spine-tingling when 30,000 are belting it out, usually after a big home run.

In addition to team fight songs, each hitter has a specific 응원가 (“eung-won-ga”), or rooting song, usually chosen by the hitter himself. The lyrics of the original song are altered to include the player’s name, with 안타! (“an-ta!” roughly, “get a hit!”) at the end. The crowd will sing it every time the batter comes up, and sometimes continue for the whole at-bat. I’m of two minds about this. Yes, it’s fun and unique, and creates a carnival-type atmosphere, similar to European or South American football matches. It’s very different from the mellowness that pervades ball games in the U.S. At MLB games, fans generally burst into song only in the 7th inning stretch, for “Take Me Out to the Ballgame” (“Sweet Caroline” if you’re a Red Sox fan asshole). The drawback to the constant singing is that it robs some of the drama from big moments. There’s no sense of situation—fans are singing the same damn songs and chants no matter if it’s a tie game in the 9th inning, or a 8-0 blowout. Also, these days most teams will, um, augment the singing with ear-splitting loud music over the slick sound system. This is different from Japan, where the fans still sing, but are accompanied by at most a few drummers and bugle players sitting together in the outfield. Well, if you’re looking for a purist experience, the KBO ain’t the place to look. But whatever the drawbacks, a KBO game is a terrific place to spend a sultry summer afternoon or evening, eat some squid, get a nice beer-buzz on, ogle perv on enjoy the cheerleaders, sing a few (or a lot of) songs, and watch some Korean dudes try to knock the ball outta the yahd. korean-cheerleader-1

So—here is my totally biased list of the best and worst eung-won-ga in the KBO for 2014. (With links to the songs provided, if I could find them.)

THE BEST

10.   Jeong Hyeon-suk (HANWHA):  “Ai Se Eu Te Pego”

I had no idea what this song was, but the sound clip on youtube is awesome—a rollicking, accordion-filled Cajun/polka jam. I employed the razor-sharp research skills of my former student Hyoung-june Kwon, now a freshman at Stanford. He found out it’s based on a song called “Ai Se Eu Te Pego by Brazilian pop singer Michel Telo. Jeong should have a live accordion player squeezing this tune out every time he bats. Maybe he can get Crying Nut’s accordion player Kim In-su.

crying nut2

9.   Shin Jong-gil (KIA):  “Pretty Woman”

A total classic, either the original Roy Orbison version or the early Van Halen cover. Wait—what do I see?  Four smoking-hot Korean baseball cheerleaders . . . they’re walking back to me. Mercy.

8.   Chu Seung-woo (Hanwha):  “Somewhere Over the Rainbow” (punk cover)

Several bands have given “Somewhere Over the Rainbow” the punk treatment over the years: most notably The Ramones (yeah!) and Blink-182 (*cough*). Chu Seung-woo may have derived his inspiration from the great 2003 Korean indie sci-fi mind-fuck film “Save the Green Planet,” which featured a punk “SOTR” in the opening credits, played by the American punk-cover band “Me First and the Gimme Gimmes.” Or maybe Chu was just a Blink-182 fan, but I’d like to believe the former.  And, yes:  “Me First and the Gimme Gimmes” is the greatest band name of all time.

7.   Park Byeong-ho (NEXEN):  “When the Saints Go Marching In”

Can’t go wrong with “When the Saints Go Marching In,” an old gospel hymn that Louis Armstrong turned into one of the foundational jazz tunes of the 20th century. March on, Park Byeong-ho, march on.

6.   Jang Gi-young (NEXEN):  “American Idiot”

Would be better if one of the Americans playing in Korea used this song. Or even better—Korean fans singing the actual Green Day song whenever an American pitches or bats for the opposing team.  One negative of the stadium singing tradition in Korea is that everything is kept polite and positive. Nobody ever sings anything that rips on the opponent with style and wit, or just plain nastiness. This is a staple of European football, like when Wayne Rooney was going through a painful separation from his wife Coleen and son Kai, a game at Everton featured the fans singing Bob Marley’s “No Woman No Cry” with the words “No Woman, No Kai!” Korea baseball needs more hilarious loutishness like that. Which leads me to . . .

5.   No Jung ho (NC):  “One Two Fuck You”

I really don’t know this song, or how the fans actually sing it. I just saw the title listed on the NC Dinos’ website. That was enough for me.

4.  Kang Min-ho  (LOTTE):  “넌내게반했어”(Neon Nae-gae Banhae-seo) / “River of Babylon” Lotte’s star catcher gets two separate rooting songs. When he comes up, it’s the Korean indie rock anthem by No Brain. Yes, you heard that right—indie rock!  In Korea! It does exist! Too bad Kang undermines his indie authenticity by doing soju ads with K-pop sex kitten Lee Hyo-ri. Oh well. I’ll bet even Ian Mackaye would do Coors Lite ads if it meant he got to pal around with Lee Hyo-ri for a few days. Anyway – in the middle of the at-bat, the fans switch to the lovely, lilting hymnal “River of Babylon.”

kanghyo

3.  Lim Hoon (SK):  “Ode to Joy” from Beethoven’s 9th  symphony

O my brothers, it was as if some great bird had flown into the stadium. And I felt all the malenky little hairs on my plott standing endwise, and the shivers crawling up like slow, malenky lizards, and then down again. Because I knew what they sang. It was a bit from the Glorious Ninth by Ludwig Van. And he even wears No. 9!  Whenever Lim comes up, he gets to hear a centuries-old choral tribute to joy, love, celebration, forgiveness, and brotherhood. So he’s got that going for him. Which is nice. It’s a shame fans can’t sing the original words of Friedrich Schiller’s 1785 poem, which Beethoven adopted for the final movement of his final symphony. Here’s one of the verses:

Joy is bubbling in the glasses

Through the grapes’ golden blood.

Cannibals drink gentleness,

And despair drinks courage—

Brothers, fly from your seats,

When the full rummer is going around.

Let the foam gush up to heaven—

This glass to the good spirit.

Not much to do with baseball, but a hell of a lot to do with getting drunk—which actually does have a lot to do with attending a baseball game, when you think about it. One of the greatest thing about attending a ball game in South Korea? Bring in as much beer as you want! Seriously!  Bring in a goddamn COOLER full of beer! No problem! And if you don’t bring your own, beer in the stadium is basically the same price as at a convenience store. Every time Lim comes up, it should be a stadium-wide one shot! one shot! one shot!

2.   Choi Hee-seop  (KIA):  “Smoke on the Water”

Groan if you must, but trust me, this one works really well. Those three massive power chords mesh perfectly with any Korean’s three-syllable name. Plus, fans do this kind of cool spin-motion with one arm over their heads, imitating an umpire’s home run signal. I know the main riff is the ultimate beginning guitar player’s cliché. But the whole song, beginning to end? Still fuckin’ rocks. Also—bonus points to Choi Hee-seop for changing to this song from his previous choice, “YMCA.”

1.  Jeong Su-bin  (DOOSAN):  “Surfin’ USA”

The perfect summer song from the perfect summer band for the perfect summer sport.  You win, Mr. Jeong.

THE WORST

10.   Jo Yoon-joon (LG):  “Just the Way You Are”

This is the Bruno Mars song, not the Billy Joel song. It’s so saccharine that it makes Billy Joel’s classic soft-rock cheese-bomb seem as vicious as “Under My Thumb.” That’s an accomplishment.

9.   Lee Sang-hoon (Samsung):  “Let it Go”

Really daring choice, Mr. Lee. The hit song from the movie from a few months ago that has  made a BILLION DOLLARS world-wide. A song that can still be heard every day in Korea, blasting out of convenience stores, cell phone shops, and coffee shops. There is no hiding place.

8.   Lee Dae-soo (Hanwha) / Lee Jeong-sik (Samsung):  “Karma Chameleon”

I have always liked this song. Actually, I think Culture Club’s “Do You Really Want to Hurt Me?” and “Karma Chameleon”are two of the greatest pop songs of the 1980s. But really, can you psych yourself up for a big at-bat thinking of Boy George? Maybe it could work if you were a virulent homophobe, and the song put you in the mood for some ultra-violent gay-bashing, which you could then channel into swinging the bat. Let’s hope this isn’t the intention of either Mr. Lee.  (I doubt it–the Boy George look is pretty de rigueur for male K-pop idols these days.)

karma kpopguy

7.   You Han-joon (NEXEN):  “Bingo was his Name-o”

You remember this song from when you were a kid? “There was a farmer, had a dog—and his name was BINGO!” Then you’d sing out the letters:  “B-I-N-G-O!  B-I-N-G-O! B-I-N-G-O!  And BINGO was his name-o!” Then you’d repeat it, except when you got to the letters, you’d clap instead of saying the “B.” The next time you’d clap on the “B” and the “I”.  And so on, until you clap ALL the letters. Whoa! Even as a 5 year old, I thought it was corny and stupid. And corny and stupid it remains.

6.   Heo Do Hwan (NEXEN):  “Fly Me to the Moon”

A fine old jazz / pop standard, but if you like to go to jazz clubs in Korea, as I do, you will hear a LOT of shitty-to-mediocre versions of “Fly Me to the Moon.”  So hearing this song always makes me think of sitting in Apgujeong’s swanky jazz club Once in a Blue Moon with a hot date, paying 20,000 won covers, buying several rounds of 15,000 won cocktails, listening to crap jazz (that nobody else in the club is listening to, judging by the din of conversation), and not getting any play at the end of the night.  I hope you strike out, Heo Do-hwan, just like I did.

bluemoon

5.   Jeong Joon-woo (LOTTE):  “Happy Together”

Some of you will disagree. How can I possibly hate on The Turtles’ beloved 1967 sing-along?  “I can’t see me lovin’ nobody but you, for all my liiiiiiife!” Not really a bad song at all.  But this one’s personal. The song brings up memories of having to watch endless Public Television fund drives while growing up. My father ONLY watched America’s PBS, and if he was watching, we couldn’t change channels, even during the pledge breaks. Anyway, during the fund drives, PBS would always trot out the hoary old 60′s acts to get the aging boomers to whip out their American Express Cards to cover another year of Great Performances, the McNeil/Lehrer Report, and Masterpiece Theater. Cue:  Peter, Paul and Mary! Cue:  The Woodstock movie!  (At least that one had The Who and Jimi Hendrix.) Cue:  The Turtles.  Jesus!  Balding relics playing before the wine-and-brie set, the audience sitting dinner-theater style! When they finally get to“Happy Together”—which surely must be a tie with Don McLean’s “American Pie” for the song whose original performers are most sick of playing—and they sing the part where they substitute “ba ba ba” for the words of the chorus, the lead singer yells to the audience, “Let me hear you sing the ‘ba ba’s!” And he stops singing so he can hear the crowd sing, and, like, hardly anybody does. I still have nightmares.

turtles2

4.   Jeong Seong-hoon (LG):  “It’s a Small World”

Yes, indeed it IS a small world! Just think: far-off East Asian countries like Japan and Korea can embrace the quintessential American game of baseball and enjoy the sport’s pastoral rhythms and individual / group interplay and . . . fuck it, NO.  This is an awful, awful, awful song.

3.   Cho In-seong (LG):  Dancing Queen

Would you like to be called a “queen” every time you come up to bat? I didn’t think so.

2.   Kim Dong-ju  (DOOSAN):  “Mary Had a Little Lamb”

What, was “Twinkle Twinkle Little Star” taken?

1.   Ryan Garko  (SAMSUNG):  “Footloose”

Actually, Garko, an American, isn’t in the KBO this year—he’s now coaching at Stanford.  But still—he wins loses. Footloose!!! And yes, they would substitute his name in there, so it goes, “Ko! Gar-ko! Na-na-na-na-Gar-ko!” The only way this would have been redeemable is if every time he hit a home run, he rounded the bases while imitating Kevin Bacon dancing through that abandoned grain mill, or wherever it was.  I don’t care if pitchers got so mad Garko got beaned in his next 80 at bats, it would have been worth it. Let them dance! Let them dance!    Thanks, Mr. Garko for adding a bit of inspired silliness to the already wacky world of Korean baseball.

garkobacon



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Are N Korean outbursts in the Yellow Sea ‘Communication’?

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Is this what’s going on in these regular Yellow Sea clashes?

Last week, I wrote an essay for Lowy on why these North Korean outbursts in the Yellow Sea take place so regular – most recently this week. Lowy editor Sam Roggeven suggested the above scene from 13 Days, a film about the Cuban Missile Crisis, as an example my argument. That’s a nice catch I hadn’t thought of. It would be awfully nice if we had better information from North Korea by which by to make these judgments. For my similar, earlier thinking on North Korea crisis behavior, see this on the 2013 spring war crisis.

Here’s that essay:

“Yesterday North Korea conducted artillery exercises in the Yellow Sea (West Sea). Approximately one hundred rounds feel across the border, prompting the South to counter-fire and scramble F-15s to the area. (Here is a useful write-up of the incident.) South Korean residents of local islands were evacuated. No casualties were reported, and the incident seems to have ended.

While unnerving, there is little reason to believe these sorts of incidents will spiral out of control. They are surprisingly regular, and South Koreans have tuned them out to a certain extent. (I live in South Korea and, while I used to respond with alarm, I have now slipped into the apathy I see around me.) I did not even know about it until a foreign journalist asked me if this would lead to a serious conflict. It will not, and the real ‘kremlinological’ question is what, if anything, North Korea is trying to signal with these shootings. I see three possibilities, although it should be admitted that we have little evidence from North Korean decision-making by which to verify the following speculations:

 

 

1. North Korean incidents are often tied to some event they dislike.

Missile tests, nuclear tests, Yellow Sea incidents, arrests of tourists, and so on often seem to occur as a response to a discrete event. Usually these are related to the Americans. So when President Obama meet with President Park last week, missiles were tested. When George Bush placed North Korea on the ‘axis of evil,’ the Northern nuclear program went into overdrive. When the South Korean navy outperformed its Northern counterpart in a 2009 Yellow Sea clash, the North struck back the following year by sinking a South Korean corvette, the Cheonan. More generally, when South Korea and the US conduct annual training exercises, the North almost always pulls some stunt in response to US ‘imperialism’ and so on.

This is a dangerous way to express geopolitical displeasure, but North Korea is so badly isolated that mini-aggressions like these may serve a curious purpose. North Korea lacks a serious diplomatic corps. It lacks formal diplomatic recognition with many important states, particularly its major proximate adversaries – South Korea, the US, and Japan. This may then be a way for the North to ‘talk’ with the outside world. And while this seems quite risky, in the context of the world’s most militarized state governed by a cornered, paranoid elite (see the next point), there is a (disturbing) logic to it.

2. The North Korean military is acting out to justify itself and its gargantuan budget.

The regularity of incidents in which the North Korean military plays a role suggests that the Korean People’s Army (KPA) may nudge such clashes along. It is widely speculated that both the state administration and the party find the military’s role in North Korea too large. South Korean and American intelligence reckon Northern defense spending to eat up a staggering 25-35% of GDP. Under Kim Jong-Il, the military’s status was upgraded in the constitution under the ‘military-first’ policy (son-gun). Many analysts think this was to prevent a coup. Kim Jong-Il, the successor to regime founder Kim Il-Sung, did not have his father’s party and military connections and deep loyalty. Son-gun was to buy off the brass and keep the Kim family in power. But the opportunity costs was high. The military’s predation on the economy has accelerated North Korea’s economic decline and sprawling corruption, and it hardly seems like a coincidence that the terrible famine of the late 1990s which killed perhaps 10% of the population also occurred at the high point of son-gun. In such a context, it would be not surprising if the KPA pushes through incidents and tests like this in order to stir up tension. Such tension justifies unaffordable defense outlays, particularly in a ‘new order’ period as yet another Kim successor (Jong-Un) is settling in.

3. Incidents keep up tension with outside world for regime justification.

A final structural cause for these out-lashings may be the regime’s ideological need for tension. North Korea is a barracks state. Always heavily militarized, son-gun put this into over-drive. North Korea is an army served by and dominant over a population rather than vice versa. All this regimentation requires some explanation. No other state is governed like this. Even cold war-era east bloc diplomats found North Korea bizarre and disturbing.

The previous ideological structure, Marxism, is long gone now. By the logic of communism’s collapse and Germany’s reunification – as the most obvious analogue of Korea’s national division – North Korea should no longer even exist. It is poorer, less healthy, less developed, ideologically defeated, and so on.

But unification would be hugely risky for Northern elites. While west Germany treated eastern elites with some magnanimity, that is not expected in the Korean case. Northern elites have been far harsher to their population than the east Berlin ever was. This is one reason South Korea retains the death penalty. The Kim elite will almost certainly face capital punishment when North Korea finally collapses.

So if communism is over and unification to risky, then a new ideology of tension is needed. The US defense commitment to South Korea fills in perfectly. The US is the imperialist dominating South Korea – the ‘Yankee Colony’ – and a regular diet of clashes and conflict needs to be readily served up. The regular cycle of provocation and alarms keeps North Korea in the permanent crisis state necessary to explain why, to a population aware that the Cold War is over and that South Korea is far more prosperous, that the privations and strictures will not end.

All these explanations look for wider regime explanations rather than tit-for-tat possibilities. The alternative, implicit in press narratives that these incidents may spiral into conflict, is that local KPA commanders enjoy a lot of local autonomy and actually regularly run the risk of sparking a major conflict. I find that highly unlikely, but of course we just do not know for sure.

Yesterday North Korea conducted artillery exercises in the Yellow Sea (West Sea). Approximately one hundred rounds feel across the border, prompting the South to counter-fire and scramble F-15s to the area. (Here is a useful write-up of the incident.) South Korean residents of local islands were evacuated. No casualties were reported, and the incident seems to have ended.

While unnerving, there is little reason to believe these sorts of incidents will spiral out of control. They are surprisingly regular, and South Koreans have tuned them out to a certain extent. (I live in South Korea and, while I used to respond with alarm, I have now slipped into the apathy I see around me.) I did not even know about it until a foreign journalist asked me if this would lead to a serious conflict. It will not, and the real ‘kremlinological’ question is what, if anything, North Korea is trying to signal with these shootings. I see three possibilities, although it should be admitted that we have little evidence from North Korean decision-making by which to verify the following speculations:

1. North Korean incidents are often tied to some event they dislike.

Missile tests, nuclear tests, Yellow Sea incidents, arrests of tourists, and so on often seem to occur as a response to a discrete event. Usually these are related to the Americans. So when President Obama meet with President Park last week, missiles were tested. When George Bush placed North Korea on the ‘axis of evil,’ the Northern nuclear program went into overdrive. When the South Korean navy outperformed its Northern counterpart in a 2009 Yellow Sea clash, the North struck back the following year by sinking a South Korean corvette, the Cheonan. More generally, when South Korea and the US conduct annual training exercises, the North almost always pulls some stunt in response to US ‘imperialism’ and so on.

This is a dangerous way to express geopolitical displeasure, but North Korea is so badly isolated that mini-aggressions like these may serve a curious purpose. North Korea lacks a serious diplomatic corps. It lacks formal diplomatic recognition with many important states, particularly its major proximate adversaries – South Korea, the US, and Japan. This may then be a way for the North to ‘talk’ with the outside world. And while this seems quite risky, in the context of the world’s most militarized state governed by a cornered, paranoid elite (see the next point), there is a (disturbing) logic to it.

2. The North Korean military is acting out to justify itself and its gargantuan budget.

The regularity of incidents in which the North Korean military plays a role suggests that the Korean People’s Army (KPA) may nudge such clashes along. It is widely speculated that both the state administration and the party find the military’s role in North Korea too large. South Korean and American intelligence reckon Northern defense spending to eat up a staggering 25-35% of GDP. Under Kim Jong-Il, the military’s status was upgraded in the constitution under the ‘military-first’ policy (son-gun). Many analysts think this was to prevent a coup. Kim Jong-Il, the successor to regime founder Kim Il-Sung, did not have his father’s party and military connections and deep loyalty. Son-gun was to buy off the brass and keep the Kim family in power. But the opportunity costs was high. The military’s predation on the economy has accelerated North Korea’s economic decline and sprawling corruption, and it hardly seems like a coincidence that the terrible famine of the late 1990s which killed perhaps 10% of the population also occurred at the high point of son-gun. In such a context, it would be not surprising if the KPA pushes through incidents and tests like this in order to stir up tension. Such tension justifies unaffordable defense outlays, particularly in a ‘new order’ period as yet another Kim successor (Jong-Un) is settling in.

3. Incidents keep up tension with outside world for regime justification.

A final structural cause for these out-lashings may be the regime’s ideological need for tension. North Korea is a barracks state. Always heavily militarized, son-gun put this into over-drive. North Korea is an army served by and dominant over a population rather than vice versa. All this regimentation requires some explanation. No other state is governed like this. Even cold war-era east bloc diplomats found North Korea bizarre and disturbing.

The previous ideological structure, Marxism, is long gone now. By the logic of communism’s collapse and Germany’s reunification – as the most obvious analogue of Korea’s national division – North Korea should no longer even exist. It is poorer, less healthy, less developed, ideologically defeated, and so on.

But unification would be hugely risky for Northern elites. While west Germany treated eastern elites with some magnanimity, that is not expected in the Korean case. Northern elites have been far harsher to their population than the east Berlin ever was. This is one reason South Korea retains the death penalty. The Kim elite will almost certainly face capital punishment when North Korea finally collapses.

So if communism is over and unification to risky, then a new ideology of tension is needed. The US defense commitment to South Korea fills in perfectly. The US is the imperialist dominating South Korea – the ‘Yankee Colony’ – and a regular diet of clashes and conflict needs to be readily served up. The regular cycle of provocation and alarms keeps North Korea in the permanent crisis state necessary to explain why, to a population aware that the Cold War is over and that South Korea is far more prosperous, that the privations and strictures will not end.

All these explanations look for wider regime explanations rather than tit-for-tat possibilities. The alternative, implicit in press narratives that these incidents may spiral into conflict, is that local KPA commanders enjoy a lot of local autonomy and actually regularly run the risk of sparking a major conflict. I find that highly unlikely, but of course we just do not know for sure.


Filed under: International Relations Theory, Korea (North)

Robert E Kelly
Assistant Professor
Department of Political Science & Diplomacy
Pusan National University
robertkelly260@hotmail.com

 


Muwisa Temple – 무위사 (Gangjin, Jeollanam-do)

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The amazing and historic interior of the Geukrakbo-jeon main hall at Muwisa Temple. 

Hello Again Everyone!!

Muwisa Temple is located on the south side of Wolchulsan National Park near the city of Gangjin. The temple is first believed to have been established in 617 by the famed monk, Wonhyo-daesa. It was known at that time as Gwaneumsa Temple. It was later expanded in the early 10th century by the equally famed monk, Doseon. It was at this point that the temple changed its name to Muwigapsa Temple.

You make your way up to the rather open temple by way of the Iljumun Gate. The next gate to greet you is the Cheonwangmun Gate, which houses some pretty intense Heavenly Kings. Uniquely, this gate is painted simple brown and white colours. Finally, you’ll pass through a pavilion to gain access to temple courtyard.

Straight ahead lies the Geukrakbo-jeon hall that dates back to 1430. It’s reminiscent of the main hall at Buseoksa Temple in Gyeongsangbuk-do. This hall is National Treasure #13. Inside this main hall, and sitting on the main altar, are three Buddha statues. Sitting in the centre is an earthen made statue of Amita-bul (The Buddha of the Western Paradise). It’s believed that this statue dates back to the 15th century. It’s joined by Gwanseeum-bosal (The Bodhisattva of Compassion) and Jijang-bosal (The Bodhisattva of the Afterlife). These were not constructed at the same time as the central statue, as they are made of wood; however, they are similar in design. Behind the triad of statues, and on the reverse side of the central altar, is painted a famed white mural of Gwanseeum-bosal. This hall is packed with historic paintings. In fact, there used to be 29 historic murals inside this hall. Now, most of them reside inside the temple museum. There are, however, still two remaining murals up near the eaves of the hall. The first, and to the west, are a collection of Buddhas, Bodhisattvas, and Nahan. Below this painting is a modern day painting dedicated to Chilseong (The Seven Stars). On the east side is, perhaps, the more famous triad dedicated to Amita-bul. This fading mural is National Treasure #313, and it was painted in 1476. This hall is one of a kind for its historic beauty both architecturally, but artistically, as well.

To the right of the main hall is the Myeongbu-jeon hall. Just as you step into the hall, you’ll be surprised by two eye popping guardians. Trust me! A little further into this hall, and you’ll be greeted by a green-haired Jijang-bosal and the Ten Kings of the Underworld.

To the left of the main hall are a collection of halls, a pagoda and a stele. The three-story stone pagoda is believed to date back to 946 and is rather plain in design. It’s joined by a stele dedicated to Supreme Master Seongak, who lived from 864 to 917. He was key in the re-establishment of Muwisa Temple, and the stele is well kept with its tortoise base and life of the monk written on its body-stone.

Behind these two structures, and to the left, is a rather ordinary Nahan-jeon hall. Its plain exterior is matched by is rather sparsely populated interior. Behind this hall, and slightly to the right, are two smaller sized halls. The first one to the right is a hall with a larger sized stone image of the Buddha of unknown origins or date. To the left of this hall is the Sanshin-gak. Inside is a rather plain style contemporary painting of Sanshin (The Mountain Spirit).

The final hall to visit at Muwisa Temple is the Cheonbul-jeon hall that lies between the Nahan-jeon and the Sanshin-gak. Up a small trail and over a small bridge, you’ll find this newly constructed hall. Well populated with a thousand bronze coloured images of the Buddha, and fronted by a triad centred by Seokgamoni-bul, is the beautiful interior to this hall.

HOW TO GET THERE: To get to Muwisa Temple, you’ll first need to get to the Gangjin Intercity Bus Terminal from wherever it is you live in Korea. From there, a bus leaves at 06:40, 08:35, 10:30, 15:00, 16:00, 17:20 to get to the temple.


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OVERALL RATING: 7.5/10. By far, the main highlight to this temple is the Geukrakbo-jeon main hall at Muwisa temple. The date of this hall, 1430, combined with the historic paintings that also date back to the 15th century are truly unsurpassed in Korea. Additionally, there are several other halls, gates, and a historic pagoda and stele to see at this beautifully situated temple in Jeollanam-do.

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 A look through the Iljumun Gate at the Cheonwangmun Gate.

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 A closer look at the plainly painted Cheonwangmun Gate.

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 A look at the side-wards glancing Heavenly King.

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 A look back at the Iljumun Gate as the sun rises in the early morning hours.

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 The pavilion you pass through to get to the temple courtyard.

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 The famed Geukrakbo-jeon main hall at Muwisa Temple.

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 The beautiful statues that adorn the main altar. In the centre is the 15th century statue of Amita-bul.

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 Behind the main altar is this famed painting of Gwanseeum-bosal.

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 A collection of Buddhas inside the historic painting.

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 The Amita-bul painting that dates back to 1476 and is a National Treasure.

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 To the right of the main hall lies the Myeongbu-jeon.

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 The frightening guardian that welcomes you to the Myeongbu-jeon.

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 The altar inside the Myeongbu-jeon.

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 To the left of the main hall is this collection of halls.

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 The face of the stele that bears the history of the Supreme Master Seongak.

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The rather plain interior of the Nahan-jeon.

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 The contemporary Confucian-style painting of Sanshin.

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 A large sized stone image of the Buddha.

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 The Cheonbul-jeon hall that lies outside the main courtyard at Muwisa Temple.

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 A look inside at the 1,000 Buddhas.

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 And finally, it was time to head to the next temple.


Learn Korean Ep. 53: Even

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This week we've got a brand new episode in the "Learn Korean" series.

There's also a free PDF version of this lesson, with extra information and examples, on the YouTube PDFs page (link at top).

Learn Korean Ep. 53: Even


-Billy

www.GoBillyKorean.com

 Learn Korean with GO! Billy Korean

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Representative Jasmine Lee Urges Lawmakers to Pass Bill To Protect Rights of Undocumented Children

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Representative Jasmine Lee, the first Filipina and naturalized Korean to become a ruling Saenuri Party lawmaker, is urging her fellow lawmakers to pass a bill that will safeguard the fundamental rights of undocumented foreign children in South Korea. The bill, which she plans to submit before June, will give unregistered foreign children the right to a public education and govenment health services. As of today, unregistered children are allowed to attend primary and secondary schools, but they cannot avail of national health insurance. Hwang Pil-gyu, a human rights lawyer, also suggested that the children be given exemption from compulsory deportation and be permitted to live with their family in Korea.

To read more, please click the article “Unregistered children need protection” from The Korea Times.


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Gwangali TeaHouse Okada

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 Spring is here and the cherry blossoms are in full bloom. The beach area is just starting to warm up. Down in the middle of Gwangali beach there is a new teahouse called Ogada or by its English name Korean Tea & Time. It is a great place to sit back and enjoy the seaview.

The tea house is centrally located right on the beachfront road.
Here's their phone number if you have trouble finding them though it should be rather easy.


I took these photos a few months ago, a week after they had first opened. They are much busier now and most likely will be very busy this summer. They have an awesome view of the beach and Gwangali and plenty of comfy seats.


Their teas are all distinctly Korean. They offer the traditional teas that can be found in most traditional teahouses around Busan and in Seoul.
However they also offer Korean tea blends : with nuts or cinnamon or other natural ingredients.
They do take-out as well as 'drink in'. Their website is www.ogada.co.kr
and there you can find their full menu. Most of it is in Korean however when you click the links you'll find that all their teas are written in English and in Korean making it very easy to select and order.





A great view and quite a menu. I'll post more details when I return there this weekend and check out another, though much smaller, teahouse in Gwangali. Until then stay steeped!
MWT.

About the Author

Matthew William Thivierge has abandoned his PhD studies in Shakespeare and is now currently almost half-way through becoming a tea-master (Japanese,Korean & Chinese tea ceremony). He is a part time Ninjologist with some Jagaek studies (Korean 'ninja') and on occasion views the carrying on of pirates from his balcony mounted telescope.

Blogs
About Tea Busan  *   Mr.T's Chanoyu てさん 茶の湯   *  East Sea Scrolls  *  East Orient Steampunk Society


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