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Korea’s Healthily Bland Presidential Race

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This is a re-post of my pre-election prediction piece for the Lowy Institute a few weeks ago.

It’s dated now of course, so you should probably read something else. But, I think I broadly got things right: Korea is a stalemated society. Neither right, left, nor center has a majority. So even though Moon won, he won’t govern far too the left. He does not have the political space to do it. He will be a social democrat, not a socialist.

The left won, but its combined total, 47%, is the same as Moon’s 2012 total. So the left missed a huge chance to cross 50%. Choi-gate was a once-in-a-lifetime chance for the left to prove it could win a national majority, which it has never done, and it failed. This is practically a smoking gun that the left cannot win a majority here, that South Korea is a center-right society.

The right ducked a huge bullet by coming in second. Had Ahn beaten the Liberty Korea party, LK might have faded into a largish third party as the People’s Party assumed the role of the head of the opposition. For much of the race, polling suggested this. Hong got very lucky, given the SK right is now a national embarrassment. They stuck with Park way too long into Choi-gate, and then Hong, in wild desperation, started calling himself the ‘Donald Trump of Korea,’ whatever the hell that means. Ech. The SK right’s time in the wilderness is well-deserved.

The center flopped. Ahn has been saying for 7 years that he could be president, and when he finally got the chance, he imploded. His debate performances proved how soft his support was. When he flamed out on TV, his voters fled. The question now is whether Ahn has a future at all in SK politics after such a dismal showing after all the hype. The answer is probably no.

The full essay follows the break:



After months of turmoil and confusion, South Korea will finally have a proper president next week. The South Korean presidential election will occur on May 9, and the legal inauguration will happen next day. At last, a legitimate leader can begin tackling the many issues of “South Korea’s dangerous drift.”

The impeachment of former President Park Geun-Hye means South Korea now only has an ‘acting president.’ The ‘Choi-gate’ scandal which brought her down has rolled on since October, paralyzing the government for months and necessitating this special election. Hence the rushed next-day inauguration, even if there is some later public ceremony: South Korea needs a fully empowered president as soon as possible.

Thankfully, the presidential campaign has been reassuringly bland and normal. There has been no last-minute constitutional tinkering, nor efforts by Park dead-enders to sabotage this in the name of the ‘real president.’ Park’s own party has accepted her impeachment and is running a candidate. As I argued last month in The Interpreter, for all the ‘crisis’ talk about South Korea’s recent troubles, it has weathered Choi-gate about as well as any democracy could reasonably expect. This election has should produce a properly legitimated president, and things should revert to normal in short order.

With a week to go in the campaign, the specific challenges to each major partisan current – right, left, and center – are increasingly clear:

The Right

The Korean right has all but collapsed. The Park-era conservative party desperately re-named itself and then factionalized over Park’s legacy. The two conservative candidacies refuse to merge, and their combined polling is around 20%. This is a partisan wipe-out worse than the post-Watergate routs of the Republicans in the US in 1974 and 1976.

This is not surprisingly. Park has badly discredited Korea’s traditional conservatives. Conservative voters have flirted with the centrist candidate, Ahn Chul-Soo, to block a liberal victory. But he imploded after several poor debate performances. Conservative voters now seem to be drifting all over the place. Some back to the right; some cleaving to Ahn; others staying at home. The liberal candidate and likely victor, Moon Jae-In, has even made a play for these dissatisfied conservatives by publicly denouncing homosexuality (which in turn has helped push up the far-left’s numbers as leftist voters have bolted).

All in all, a disaster for the right, which has led to a desperation move: the primary right-wing candidate is now calling himself the ‘Donald Trump of Korea.’ This suggests, along with Marine LePen’s advance into the French presidential election’s second round, that Trump is a possible model for new political entrepreneurs in democracies. Is this the route by which the post-Park South Korean right will reconstruct itself? Traditionally the right’s planks have been anti-communism and business friendliness. In practice, this has often meant mccarthyism and corruption. It is hard to imagine that a trumpified right is an improvement.

The Left


Moon, the overwhelming favorite now, will be a minoritarian president with a final total around 40%. This will likely constrain him from governing too far to the left on North Korea and Japan, which is probably the greatest anxiety of foreign observers of the election. Moon has prevaricated on the Terminal High Altitude Area Defense (THAAD) missile defense debate. He has hinted that he may re-open the Kaesong Industrial Complex. He was also a major architect of the Sunshine Policy under South Korea’s last liberal president. And he has criticized the ‘comfort women’ deal between Park and Japanese Prime Minister Abe Shinzo, as well as an intelligence sharing deal with Japan.

Moon’s instincts may be to push all these issues hard, but he will meet a wall of resistance, which his liberal predecessors did not. In 1998, when the Sunshine Policy was untested, it was worth a try. Today, given North Korea’s continual recalcitrance and norm-breaking – nuclearization, missilization, criminality, blatant provocations such as the sinking of the Southern warship Cheonan in 2010 or the use of VX, a weapon of mass destruction, in an airport, and so on – Moon will have to explain why North Korea is not the frightening global menace many now see it as. Why is Kaesong, which came to be widely understood as subsidizing dictatorship, suddenly no longer that? Why, if North Korea is building missiles, should South Korea not have missile defense?

Regarding Japan, Moon will likely be tougher on ‘history’ issues than Park. But here too, he will face a lot of resistance if he tries to undo the progress of the last few years. The easiest thing to do politically is attack Park’s Japan deals as conservative perfidy but leave them in place. Otherwise, his presidency will be hijacked by a return, yet again, of the Japan-Korea dispute. That was so bad a few years ago that it required direct intervention by the US president to tamp down. Moon can throw the leftist-nationalist NGOs the concession of not moving the comfort women statues in front the Japanese Seoul embassy or Busan consulate. But he likely has many other plans – chaebol reform, intelligence reform, air quality improvement, social services, North Korea – he would rather pursue than re-open the permanently stalemated stand-off with Japan.

The Center

Ahn Chul-Soo will probably lose, and he was always an unlikely candidate. A quirky celebrity businessman seeking office along the lines of Arnold Schwarzenegger’s run for the Californian governorship, Ahn briefly closed the gap with Moon as conservative voters abandoned the conservative parties. But he did not deeply appeal to them, because he markets himself as a modernizing reformer. Once he stumbled in the debates, they left him, and the gap with Moon re-opened.

If Ahn goes down in defeat, the big follow-on question is whether his centrist People’s Party will survive. It has always been, more or less, a vehicle for Ahn to run for the presidency, with only scant evidence of institution-building toward a genuine or durable party.


South Korea now has a far-left, center-left, centrist, and two center-right parties. Yet its electoral law is (mostly) first-past-the-post. Duverger’s Law tells us that this strongly incentives bipartism, unlike the multipartism South Korea has now. After next Tuesday, the two conservative parties will likely re-merge, as is already happening, and the People’s Party, with its not-so-charismatic-after-all leader in defeat, will likely dissipate over time. This would return South to a 2.5 party system (big-tent right, big-tent left, & small far-left parties). This would be yet more blandness in Korean politics – multipartism is always more exciting and interesting – but after months of confusion, some political boringness would likely be a good thing.

Filed under: Domestic Politics, Elections, Korea (South), Lowy Institute

Robert E Kelly
Assistant Professor
Department of Political Science & Diplomacy
Pusan National University




Does anybody else remember a time, long long ago, when you...

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Does anybody else remember a time, long long ago, when you could just enjoy things?

You could watch a movie and just appreciate it instead of over analyzing every single scene to make sure there’s nothing remotely offensive about it.

You could have a favorite character and just like them and appreciate how great they were written and portrayed, without being told you’re terrible because they’re a villain. Even though they’re FICTIONAL and most likely were deliberately written to be likable. (Even if they were written as an evil character, I still think you have a right to like them, but maybe that’s just me)

You could love and be a fan of the actors without having to go full on FBI agent, looking into their backgrounds to make sure they are 100% perfect and had never made a mistake ever.

You could post about said actor without some busybody little fandom cop, slithering into your inbox to tell you(all too happily) that your fave is “problematic” (god, I fucking hate that word), and you’re disgusting if you still like them.

I’m in my 30’s so I remember those good ole days and it’s kind of sad to know, that most of you will never truly know how great that was. That’s a time long since forgotten. Bummer.

Yes, I remember that.

You know what I also remember?

How one of my friends was always awkwardly quiet after the rest of his friends group laughed at a ‘no homo’ set up joke. How he never laughed along when someone used ‘gay’ to describe something. I remember telling people who didn’t laugh that “it’s a joke, what’s wrong with you?”

I also remember, almost a decade after, crying happily as he married the love of his life who happened to be a man.

I remember laughing at a racist joke in a movie with my cousins, and her one black friend, her best friend, up and leaving because of it. I remember nodding along as she said “ugh, she can never take a joke”.

I remember asking my cousin about her years later and learning they never spoke after that. Ten years of friendship lost that night.

I remember sitting in a room filled with guy friends, making sexist jokes and being told I was so cool for not being as uptight as “other girls”. I remember that slowly losing its shine, and wondering why I felt more and more uncomfortable hearing that.

And then I remember who I was back then, and how I am so glad I am no longer that person.

I remember the first time I apologized to my gay friends for the jokes I used to make. I remember the first time I didn’t try to defend how I “didn’t mean to be racist”. I remember the first time I asked a guy just what is wrong with “other girls”, and how I lost some friends that day who I realized were never really my friends.

You know what changed? I changed. Through listening and understanding and admitting my privileges and faults, I changed. Now even if I try, I can’t just enjoy something that jokes at the expense of others. I cant watch someone who is unapologetically problematic in media.

I can’t enjoy these things because I realize now that their very existence hurts. That the very existence of this type of media perpetuates behaviors and ideologies that can lead to people being abused, harassed, and murdered.

And you know what? That’s a good thing. Because the more people who refuse to ingest this type of media, the less audience it has, and the stronger the message becomes that these things - racism, homophobia, sexism, transphobia, etc. - are not things to be waved off. You’re not edgy or cool for ignoring them. You’re not “uptight” by being upset by them. These are real things with very real social impact.

The reality is, there was never a time when everyone could just enjoy things. To be able to say you had that time is to admit the privilege you had at not having to think about problematic behavior because it didn’t negatively affect your life.

I don’t remember a time where I could “just enjoy things”. What I remember is a time where I was able to enjoy something by throwing everyone who could be hurt by or suffer from it under the bus.

I remember those times in MY life. And I am so fucking grateful they are in the past.

YES. Thank you for spelling this out.

Perfect response to folks that tell me to “stop being so sensitive.”


Hi, I'm Stacy. I'm from Portland, Oregon, USA, and am currently living in Busan, South Korea. Check me out on: Tumblr, Twitter, Instagram, Lastfm, and Flickr.


Seoulcialite Staycations: Vantage Value Hotel Worldwide High End Suwon

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I’m always amazed by how small Seoul can feel for such a massive city.  While Co-Pilot lives on a military base in Korea, his cousin and her boyfriend live live and teach in Suwon!  Suwon is technically part of the Seoul subway system.  Since they’re leaving to go back to the States soon, we wanted to head down to see them.  Staying at the Vantage Value Hotel Worldwide High End Suwon was an amazing surprise and a real treat!  While we were invited guests of the hotel, views and opinions are my own.  I didn’t expect much as the name”value” typically equates to “budget”, but we were very happily surprised.

Free Breakfast Buffet Where to stay in Suwon, South Korea - Our stay at the Vantage Value Hotel Worldwide High End Suwon Free Breakfast Buffet Where to stay in Suwon, South Korea - Our stay at the Vantage Value Hotel Worldwide High End Suwon

Free Breakfast Buffet Where to stay in Suwon, South Korea - Our stay at the Vantage Value Hotel Worldwide High End Suwon

We arrived at Vantage Value Hotel Worldwide High End Suwon just before check-in time at 2 PM.  Underground parking was right around the back and was very easy to get into.  Our license plate was scanned upon entry and exit determining the amount we owed ($0 as guests at the hotel).  Check-in was as easy as it could be with a quick ID check and signature before we headed up to our corner room on the 17th floor!

Vantage Value Hotel Worldwide High End Suwon

We had a corner room for the night and the view day to night was fantastic.  The Jr. Suite was quite a long room with plenty of space for both Co-P and I to get some work done.  I had a few deadlines coming up and he’s working on his MBA.  Being able to work comfortably (and independently) was a huge bonus.

Vantage Value Hotel Worldwide High End Suwon Value Highend hotel located in Center of Suwon city and good transportation. For Everland (amusement park),Korean Folk Village, and Suwon Hwaseong Fortress are easily accessible by subway and bus. Specially,Suwon Hwaseong Fortress be listed as World Heritage by the UNESCO. Also, Hotel guest can buy Suwon Hwaseong Fortress ticket at our hotel, therefore guest eliminates the need to stand in line at the Fortress. Vantage Value Hotel Worldwide High End Suwon Vantage Value Hotel Worldwide High End Suwon Vantage Value Hotel Worldwide High End Suwon Vantage Value Hotel Worldwide High End Suwon

Having so much storage space was really convenient as we did dress up a little for dinner.  The closets were well out of the way, and we even had a mini fridge with complimentary bottled water.  We had brought some snacks for our Sunday trip and wanted to do a lot of walking.  The fridge and the water were really handy when we wanted to get up and go!  The bathroom had a great soaker tub as well as 2 shower heads.  I love the feeling of the rain shower head, but when washing my hair I need the water pressure of a regular one.  Our suite had both!  We also had a fancy Japanese toilet.  Have you ever used any of the special features?  We were too scared!

Vantage Value Hotel Worldwide High End Suwon Vantage Value Hotel Worldwide High End Suwon Vantage Value Hotel Worldwide High End Suwon Vantage Value Hotel Worldwide High End Suwon

The bed was supportive – normally I’d say firm, but comfortable.  I woke up with my back feeling better than ever.  While I would have liked the flatscreen to be in the corner so we could have enjoyed TV from the bed or the cozy chairs, I did enjoy waking up and watching National Geographic in English under the covers!

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Co-Pilot has a big obsession with hotel breakfasts.  The buffet breakfast included at the Vantage Value Hotel Worldwide High End Suwon did not disappoint!  There were plenty of Korean options like rice, fried eggs, kimchi, side dishes, and mandu (dumplings).  There were also the continental breakfast menu items one would come to expect from a Western Hotel experience.  They had a great salad bar and tons of fruit.  Coffee was hot and tea was available.  They even had a cereal bar!  I always love a good made-to-order omelette, and they didn’t skimp out on any toppings!  While we didn’t overindulge, we were certainly full for the rest of the day.

Fitness Center Gym Vantage Value Hotel Worldwide High End Suwon Fitness Center Gym Vantage Value Hotel Worldwide High End Suwon Where to stay in Suwon, South Korea Fitness Center Gym Vantage Value Hotel Worldwide High End Suwon Fitness Center Gym Vantage Value Hotel Worldwide High End Suwon

We checked out the gym and the terrace on Saturday and loved the amenities.  The fitness center at Vantage Value Hotel Worldwide High End Suwon was a small, but mighty, gym.  They had well-maintained cardio equipment (treadmills, ellipticals, and bikes), free-weights, and even a lat pull-down.  Some cardio equipment even had TV’s with headphone jacks.  You could definitely earn your breakfast calories with a workout here!

Vantage Value Hotel Worldwide High End Suwon Vantage Value Hotel Worldwide High End Suwon Value Highend Hotel Suwon Vantage Value Hotel Worldwide High End Suwon

We found that the location of Vantage Value Hotel Worldwide High End Suwon was really central.  The convenience of being about a $5 taxi ride from Suwon Station, the downtown area (“Soju Street”), the Arts Centre, World Cup Stadium, and UNESCO World Heritage site, Hwaseong Fortress, couldn’t be beat.  The hotel is close to Everland Amusement Park and the Korean Folk Village.  These are also easily accessible by subway and by bus.

Hwaseong Fortress Vantage Value Hotel Worldwide High End Suwon

On Sunday we visited Suwon’s famous Hwaseong Fortress. Vantage Value Hotel Worldwide High End Suwon guests can actually buy tickets to the fortress at the hotel,  eliminating the need to stand in line on site.

Suwon Tourist Attractions Hwaseong Fortress Suwon, South Korea Suwon Tourist Attractions Hwaseong Fortress Suwon, South Korea Suwon Tourist Attractions Hwaseong Fortress Suwon, South Korea Suwon Tourist Attractions Hwaseong Fortress Suwon, South Korea Suwon Tourist Attractions Hwaseong Fortress Suwon, South Korea Suwon Tourist Attractions Hwaseong Fortress Suwon, South Korea Suwon Tourist Attractions Hwaseong Fortress Suwon, South Korea Suwon Tourist Attractions Hwaseong Fortress Suwon, South Korea Suwon Tourist Attractions Hwaseong Fortress Suwon, South Korea

Hwaseong Fortress was constructed from 1794 to 1796 in the latter part of the Joseon Dynasty.  The grounds make for a nice picnic or afternoon stroll.  As with most Korean walled cities, there are 4 main gates Janganmun (north), Paldalmun (south), Changnyongmun (east), and Hwaseomun (west).  While we were there, there wasn’t much to do although cultural performances are said to take place around the grounds.  I think it would be a great place to go for a run or bike ride as the fortress wall stretches for nearly 6 km.  It was built out of bricks and has strategically placed holes through which guns, arrows, or spears could fit in case of an attack.  Archery is actually taught at Hwaseong Fortress.  There don’t seem to be many safety precautions, so make sure to keep an eye out for bows and arrows!

Have you stayed at any of the Hotels in the Vantage family or even the Vantage Value Hotel Worldwide High End Suwon?  What are you favourite things to see and do in Suwon?  

Let us know in the comments!


The post Seoulcialite Staycations: Vantage Value Hotel Worldwide High End Suwon appeared first on The Toronto Seoulcialite.

The Toronto Socialite
That Girl Cartier


How to Type in Korean - Learn the Korean Keyboard

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Did you know that you can type in Korean using any old regular keyboard? Oh... you did? Well, of course you knew that!

In this new video I show you how to set up a Korean keyboard, and more importantly how to type in Korean. I'll show you the order to enter the keys, how to find them on the keyboard, as well as a few more tricks I use when typing.

Check out the video here~!

The post How to Type in Korean - Learn the Korean Keyboard appeared first on Learn Korean with GO! Billy Korean.

 Learn Korean with GO! Billy Korean





White Koreans: The Drink ‘The Dude’ Would Have Drank If He Lived Here

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You’re in Korea. You love White Russians. But, damn, 33,000 won for a small bottle of Absolut at GS25? Get the GTFO out of here, good shopkeeper.

Fortunately, there’s another liquor that might get you sicker quicker, but at least it’s cheaper.

Soju in korean restaurant
Photo hijacked from Wikimedia Commons.

Your average green-tinted bottle of soju costs about 1,500 won, give or take a Korean penny, which comes out to about $1.50, give or take an American dime. With an alcohol content between 14 (for those weak-ass flavored sojus that were pretty popular about two years ago but seem to have died down) to the punchy 21 percent your finest haraboji were shotgunning when they were young whippersnappers (and probably still drink today). They’re alcoholic enough to get you where you want to go (if where you want to go is on the floor in front of some dirty public toilet) without being strong enough to feel like you’re breathing in fire after having a shot. In short, soju is a perfect enabler for alcoholism.

Except for the fact that it kind of tastes like shit. So, let’s take care of that by adding some coffee liqueur and milk!

Using regular milk instead of cream. #healthychoices

But, since I’m so fancy, I opted for the Andong Soju they had at my local mart. It’s not 1,500 won. But, at 8,000 won, it was still far cheaper than Absolut (even if the bottle is small, shut up). And look at that ABV. There also was a 21% version for 5,000 won. But, this is probably the closest thing you’re going to get to vodka without, you know, vodka.

I took a sip of the stuff before mixing it, which could have been a mistake (but, it wasn’t!). Soju might be lazily (by me) described as kind of a watered-down vodka, but it’s really not. And 40% ABV soju is even less like watered-down vodka than the adjosshi backwash we knock back when we’re trying to stretch our hagwon paychecks through to the end of the month. Was this experiment going to work? Could I call it a “fusion recipe” and get away with it?

Let’s make a drink!


INGREDIENTS and AMOUNTS per serving:

*Fill a glass with ice. I think an old fashioned glass would be the preferred choice, but I’m already too fancy. Use what you have on hand.

*1 shot soju (don’t get one of those nasty, artificially-flavored ones. Step up your game and open that wallet just a little wider and pick up something halfway decent like the above libation)

*1 shot coffee liqueur (I bought Kahlua, which seems really expensive here in Korea at about 16,000 won for a 375ml bottle at Home plus. I have no idea how much it costs in the U.S. Everyone knows it, everyone who likes coffee liqueur seems to enjoy it. It’s like getting crappy coffee from Dunkin’ Donuts or a great, hand-stimulated drip from some independent place. It all will taste the same when it’s mixed with sugar and milk)

*Finish with milk (didn’t The Dude powdered Coffeemate? That’s disgusting! To each their own. I think really fancy White Russian drinkers would use cream, but I only had milk when I thought of this half-assed recipe)

Posted only as an excuse to show off my Icelandic Phallological Museum shot glass.

So, how was it? How did it compare to the White Russians we made too many of last year when my girlfriend and I were taking advantage of our Costco membership by buying massive 1.75-liter bottles of Kirkland vodka?

Even Dunkin’ Donuts coffee doesn’t taste like Dunkin’ Donuts coffee (read: terrible) when it’s full of sugar and milk. And, this coffee-esque flavored drink was. Not terrible. And, it didn’t taste like soju. It tasted like coffee liqueur and milk. It pretty much tasted like what we were making last year with that Kirkland vodka. Hell, maybe even “The Dude” would approve.

Insert post-ironic Big Lebowski quote here. Something about rugs, abiding or telling Donny to shut up.

If that’s something that sounds tasty to you, I recommend you give this humble recipe a try. And, if you do decide to go cheap and get a green bottle, let me know how it turns out. I assume it, too, will taste like coffee liqueur and milk.



JPDdoesROK is a former news editor/writer in New Jersey, USA, who served a one-year tour of duty in Dadaepo/Jangnim, Saha-gu, Busan from February 2013 to February 2014. He is now a teacher in Gimhae.

Krabi, Thailand

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May 6 - 11, 2017

I flew from Tawau to Kuala Lumpur ($36 on AirAsia), KL to Bangkok ($32.35 on AirAsia), and then took an overnight bus to Krabi for 600 Thai Baht. I really like Thailand and it really is a land of smiles if you don’t violate any of the cultural norms

No particular reason to visit Krabi, but Bangkok is overwhelming and any beach was welcomed (e.g. Phuket, Koh Phangan, Koh Samui, Koh Samet). You’ll take two buses to get to the Krabi bus terminal and then pay ฿100 a person to share a ride to Ao Nang Beach. We stayed at Zabava Guesthouse (฿900/night for a Superior Double Room), a block from the beach. 


Don’t eat directly near the beach – walk or take a taxi further out. Ao Nang Boat Noodle and Ton Ma Yom are must-haves for food. Reggae Roots Rock Bar is fun for a drink and Café 8.98 is excellent for coffee + baked goods.


We booked a Phi Phi Islands tour with Nang An Travel & Tour (฿800 a person, which included the National Park entry fee). We left our hotel at 8:30am, took a van to a restaurant by the beach, waited with a large group of tourists for 2 hours, got on another van, and then got on a speed boat. We saw Lohsamah Bay, Pileh Bay, Viking Cave, and Monkey Bay from the boat. We were able to spend some time on Maya Bay (famous from “The Beach”), eat lunch on Phi Phi Don Island and visit Bamboo Island, and then snorkel near Phi Phi Don. On the ride back to Ao Nang, we saw Poda Island, Chicken Island, and James Bond Island. We were dropped off near our hotel at 4:30pm.

One morning we decided to take a long-tail boat to the next beach over (Tonsai) for ฿100 a person. The boats are powered by a simple engine on the end of a long stick. I bet it was pretty comical to watch me wade in the ocean with my backpack to get in and off the boat.


I stayed at Tonsai Bay Resort ($25.49/night), which is right on Tonsai Beach. It’s a shame that the resort has likely wrecked some of the easygoing vibes and rainforest/beach landscape – but (selfishly) it’s really awesome having a clean place with good wifi right on the beach. Wifi is available 24 hours but there’s no electricity in the rooms from 9:30 AM to 5:00 PM, from May 1, 2017 to October 31, 2017. 

The best place to eat nearby is Mama’s Chicken. Get the som tom (papaya salad), pineapple fried rice, and BBQ chicken! Then, walk down to Sunset Pirate Bar for a beer + jam on guitar or drums.

If you’re into rock climbing, I’ve been told this one of the best places in the world for it. Better to bring your own gear than rent ill-fitting over-worn climbing shoes here. Deep water soloing (DWS) seems quite popular.

You can travel from Tonsai to Railay three different ways: [1] long-tail boat (but you’ll have to wait for 7 others to fill the boat as it only leaves when it’s full), [2] during high tide walk a small, rocky trail, and [3] during low tide walk along the beach and get only a little wet. 


Taking the long-tail boat from Tonsai to Ao Nang involved waiting for an hour because no one else was showing up to fill the boat, and the boat driver asking for ฿200 a person (double the original price) to complete the transaction. Yeah, whatever, dude, just get me out of here! I felt so helpless being stranded there with no other way to get to mainland Thailand.

Instead of taking the overnight bus back to Bangkok, we flew ($56/person on AirAsia). Any tour agent will sell you a van ride to Krabi Airport for ฿150 a person. Easy peasy, relaxing trip.

My New York Times Op-Ed: A North Korea “Agenda for SK’s New Leader”

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This is a local re-post of an op-ed I wrote last week for The New York Times.

Basically it is four suggestions to President Moon on dealing with North Korea. They are (mildly) hawkish arguments of the sort I routinely make here, including all my favorite hobby horses – talks are a shell game, move the capital, spend more on defense, bang away at China to cut off North Korea, and start treating Japan like a liberal democratic ally instead of a potential imperialist. Naturally a dovish liberal like Moon will adopt all these. Hooray! I anticipate a Blue House call any day now…

Regular readers have seen all this before, but it’s still pretty cool to get into The New York Times though. I figure this will be the most read thing I ever write, so I rolled out arguments I know well rather than something really new. The full essay follows the jump.



South Koreans elected Moon Jae-in as their new president on Tuesday against a backdrop of heightened United States-North Korean tensions. Yet North Korea did not dominate the campaign. South Korean voters were focused on the economy, corruption and other domestic issues like air quality. Before the voting, only 23 percent of voters said that international security was the most important issue to them.

Mr. Moon, a center-left human rights lawyer who will take office as soon as this week following the ouster of former President Park Geun-hye in a corruption scandal, is a dove inclined to start negotiations with the North Korean leader, Kim Jong-un. His candidacy was most likely bolstered by President Trump’s tough talk against the North Korean regime, which is widely seen here as dangerous bluster.

South Korean equanimity toward the North’s threats surprises Westerners, but the South Koreans have lived for decades with Pyongyang’s provocations and, more recently, the nuclear program. Young South Koreans increasingly consider the North Korean menace a fact of life. South Korea’s vulnerability to a devastating attack from the North — Seoul’s northernmost suburbs begin just 20 miles from the demilitarized zone — adds to the sense here that the South should do everything it can to avoid war.

An overture from the incoming Moon administration to start talks with Pyongyang should be made with caution. Engagement with North Korea has a mixed, if not poor, record, and new talks would be more effective if started from a position of strength. It is vital that Mr. Moon pursue policies to decrease his country’s vulnerability to attack, while dangling the possibility of talks. Beijing and Washington are key to any deal with North Korea, but Seoul can do a lot on its own.

South Korea spends only 2.6 percent of its gross domestic product on defense. To strengthen Seoul’s negotiating position, Mr. Moon could indicate he will spend more on military preparedness. Civil defense (preparation of the civilian population for North Korean urban strikes), improved pay for conscripts, more intelligence, homegrown missile defense and stronger cyberdefense would help make up for Seoul’s military vulnerabilities.

South Korea and Japan could work together much more to show a united front. Such coordination is undercut by persistent tension over the history of Japanese colonialism in Korea. South Korea’s historical concerns with Japan have legitimate roots, but there is too much exaggeration — such as routine suggestions in the media that Japan is remilitarizing with designs on Asia — and not enough recognition that modern Japan is a liberal democracy and a potential ally against the North.

Seoul and Tokyo should agree to avoid separate deals with the North and reject Pyongyang’s efforts to play them against each other. Mr. Moon and his left-wing base are hostile to a recently signed South Korea-Japan intelligence-sharing pact, but he should consider that South Korea benefits from it more than Japan. Military cooperation in adjoining air and sea spaces would be ideal.

To further improve South Korea’s position, Seoul and Washington need to persuade Beijing to reduce trade with North Korea. Pyongyang is dependent on China for resources and access to the world economy. Cutting off North Korea would slow the nuclear and missile programs, and a reduction in luxury imports would put pressure on the regime elite.

Beijing is already obligated to enforce the existing sanctions against Pyongyang but does so haphazardly because it fears a North Korean implosion. Mr. Moon should work with Beijing to reassure its anxieties over a post-North Korean order, including the possibility of United States forces on the Chinese border, which prompted Chinese intervention in the original Korean conflict in 1950.

Given Seoul’s vulnerability to attack, Mr. Moon should also do much more to encourage the decentralization of the country away from the Seoul area. Fifty percent of South Korea’s population lives in the Seoul-Gyeonggi-Incheon corridor — 26 million people in a space roughly the size of Connecticut, directly abutting the border. The South Korean presidential residence is only some 23 miles from the demilitarized zone. It is long overdue for the government to start halting Seoul’s uncontrolled growth.

Previous efforts to move the capital have failed. President Roh Moo-hyun tried unsuccessfully to move it 75 miles south to Sejong City — though some government ministries and administrative departments have relocated there since 2004, showing decentralization is possible. There are also tax and regulatory incentives in place for South Korea’s conglomerates, like Samsung and Hyundai, to relocate out of Seoul, but many remain centered in, or directly adjacent to, the city.

The South Korean government already intervenes heavily in the economy. Why not do so to encourage more dispersed settlement?

South Koreans have seen it all from the boy who cried wolf to the North and know what to expect from a third iteration of the Kim dynasty. What no one knows is what Mr. Trump will tweet next. South Koreans don’t know whether Mr. Trump realizes just how vulnerable their country is to attack. But despite their differences, Mr. Trump and Mr. Moon now have a chance to build on their countries’ decades-long alliance.

Filed under: Diplomacy, Foreign Policy, Korea (North), Korea (South), Media, Moon Jae-In, North Korea & the Left, Nuclear Weapons

Seoulcialites: Dr. Tony Garrett, Kiwi Chamber

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What originally brought you to Korea and what do you do here? 

I arrived in Korea 10 years ago, after taking up an academic position at Korea University Business School.  I did not know much about Korea, but I did know the schools here have a great academic reputation, and KUBS is one of the leading ones.  I have lived in other parts of Asia before, Japan, Thailand and Singapore, so when I saw an opportunity to take up a contract position at KUBS – I thought why not!  After two years I applied for a tenure track position – and that has led me to my current position as Associate Professor of Marketing.

KUBS is a fantastic school within KU.  They are truly global, with a number of international faculty, a large number of international students, exchange and regular.  Around 65-70% of the program is taught in English.  I am regarded as regular tenure track faculty – which is means that I am, for all intents and purposes, integrated! 

What’s your favorite thing about living in Korea?

 This is not an easy question to answer.  There are many things.  Generally, I love the people.  The people make a place and I have made a great group of friends, both Korean and foreign.  I am also lucky to work with a great group of colleagues.

The thing that I love about Koreans particularly is they want to be the best!  I think, like many other foreigners I know, sometimes that the way they go about it is not the way we would do it, however I cannot but admire overall tenacity of some of the people I know.  This is especially the case among the people I am around every day – my students.  They have worked so hard when compared to many of their counterparts in other parts of the world.  They are energetic and enthusiastic.  This leads to a very dynamic community.

Of course I also love the food, the culture, and history!

What’s your favorite thing about Seoul?

My favorite thing about Seoul, is living in a large cosmopolitan city with many things to do – but with the convenience of a village.  I love the fact that I can easily go to a world class show, a music performance, a gallery etc., and have all the amenities of a world class city.  I also love that within meters of my apartment building there are small eateries supplying a whole range of delicious local and international foods.  I can just pop out to eat or get something without getting into a car.  If I don’t want to do that – ask for delivery!

Do you have a favorite memory of your time here?

My favorite memory shows the full measure of Korean people’s hospitality.   I remember not long after having arrived in Korea, I was eating alone near my University.  I decided to go to a local restaurant and order.  A group of locals were sitting nearby and got to chatting with me.  They asked me who I was with, and if I would like to join them.  Our communication was limited.  My Korean was non-existent and their English was marginal, but we managed to communicate.  The evening went from eating, to a bar, and then to a norae-bang.  It was the first of many great nights to follow – they remain my friends.  Although one could say that this not all that special, it was to me, as these people  friends did not need to go out of their way for a lonely middle-aged waygookin (foreigner).  They did, with no expectations for anything in return.  This is a great memory.

New Zealand Wine Festival 2016 c/o Korea Herald
NZ Wine Festival 2016 c/o Korea Herald

Tell us about The Kiwi Chamber and your role as chairman. 

The Kiwi Chamber, aka New Zealand Chamber of Commerce in Korea was founded 2008 with the central mission to facilitate business opportunities for New Zealand and Korean companies and individuals by creating support networks that enable them to promote, protect and advance their respective commercial interests in each other’s countries.  Post the ratification of the FTA between NZ and Korea, our role has changed to really promoting the opportunities that NZ and Korea provide each country.

My role of Chair is work closely with the Board, Advisors and our Executive Director to facilitate the activities of the Chamber.  I can honestly say that I am very lucky to have a very capable and active Board.  This makes my life much easier.  My key responsibility is to make sure NZ and NZ business in Korea is kept top of mind in all avenues.

What does the chamber offer its members and how does it stand out in Korea?

The Chamber runs a range of events and activities each year. Events such as the annual wine festivals, breakfast forums (Inspire with Innovation Series), workshops and other networking opportunities (Huis) are organized to meet our objectives.  The Chamber also works with other organizations on community outreach activities such as Songjukwon Orphanage, a female orphanage (with the ANZ and with the kind assistance of the NZ Embassy and the Grand Hyatt).

Many of the objectives of our chamber match those of others.  We work closely with the Australian and other Commonwealth Chambers on a number of events and activities.  I like to think that the Kiwi Chamber channels the personality of New Zealand in its activities.  We are relaxed and not too hierarchical – we take things seriously, but try not to take ourselves too seriously. 

Tell us about The Kiwi Chamber New Zealand Wine Festival. Why is it special and what makes it different this year? 

We are holding the New Zealand Wine Festival events on Saturday, May 20 from 4:00 to 8:00 p.m. at the beautiful Waterfall Garden of the Grand Hyatt Seoul and on Saturday, June 3 from 6:30pm to 10:30pm in the Grand Ballroom at the Park Hyatt Busan. This year’s festivals, the ninth in Seoul and the fifth in Busan will offer wine-lovers an array of premium red and white wines from around 25 vineyards.   More and more wines are being featured at this event, as the wine industry is one which has taken advantage of the benefits of the FTA.  NZ is now the 10 largest exporter of wine to Korea and we have seen 31% growth.  This means that the wine connoisseur can now more easily find NZ wine.  What great events to discover our wine!

This year’s theme is “Wine from the Other Side.” The theme encourages wine cognoscente to take a journey across the equator from the hustle and bustle of Korean big city life to the other side of the world where the air is clean, the water is pure and the wine is exceptional.

We want keep the traditional New Zealand style at both events.  The two hotels will offer a first-class New Zealand-themed culinary experience coupled with the finest service, including a superb outdoor BBQ-style buffet in Seoul and exquisite tapas buffet in Busan.

We will also feature lucky draws with many outstanding prizes, including one economy return ticket to New Zealand for each event from sponsor Singapore Airlines.

You can get more information about the events from!



The post Seoulcialites: Dr. Tony Garrett, Kiwi Chamber appeared first on The Toronto Seoulcialite.

April 27 - May 4, 2017I’ve been told that Sipadan (off the east...

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April 27 - May 4, 2017

I’ve been told that Sipadan (off the east coast of Malaysian Borneo in Sabah) has some of the best scuba diving in the world, so I wanted to make a trip out there. Also, I had an Open Water certification, but wanted to move towards Advanced. You can’t stay on Sipadan Island but resorts will take you there and a friend recommended the diving resort, Scuba Junkie, so we went there. They have reasonable rates for diving.

It’s quite a trip to get out there. I flew from Lombok to Kuala Lumpur ($41.34 on AirAsia), spent the night in KL ($24.23 at Hotel Soleil), and then flew to Tawau ($36 on AirAsia). Then, there’s a long van + boat ride, but Scuba Junkie will take care of you from Tawau Airport to Mabul Beach Resort (15km way from Sipadan). I really don’t recommend staying in Semporna – but you will need to get cash there or before arriving as there are no banks or ATMs on Mabul Island.

Right when you arrive to Mabul Island, you can walk the long jetty that runs to the shore + resort. The local Bajau people live on one side of the jetty which can be a stark contrast the luxury you’ll have of the resort of catered meals and beautiful dives - but I highly recommend walking around the island and buying snacks in town! It’s great to see children playing. 

All rooms include three daily meals plus afternoon snack, tea, coffee, and water. Rooms are simply decorated but clean and spacious, located just a few meters from the beach where you can swim, snorkel, dive, or simply sun bathe. Sometimes I felt a bit lost about where I was going and what was happening, but I learned that it was best to go with the flow and smile through the confusion.

The staff were all friendly and the dives were incredible. If you book accommodation so late that Scuba Junkie doesn’t have tickets for Sipadan (because they only allow so many on the island a day), walk around to the other dive resorts and pay cash for one of their tickets. We found a few resorts (e.g. Billabong, Uncle Chang, Borneo Divers) that had extra tickets for a premium price (848 Malaysian Ringgit a person for three dives with equipment). It’s the best diving I’ve ever experienced and you gotta do it if you’ve gone all that way!

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