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Kim Ki Jong, likely a Nutball Lone Wolf ‘Terrorist’-wannabe, will have Zero Impact on US-Korea Relations

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So it’s been a week since the US ambassador to Korea got attacked, and the consensus here is pretty much that he is a lonely nutball who drank too much Nork kool-aid. The South Korean police are investigating to see if he is connected to North Korea in any meaningful way. Apparently he went there a few times, but I find it highly unlikely that actually acted on orders or training he got in Pyongyang. The NK regime is not that suicidal, as an open attack on the US ambassador might well precipitate a US counter-strike.

I think it is pretty important to note that while lots of Koreans on the left are uncomfortable with the US presence and have even protested it (such as the candlelight vigils back in 2008), the mainstream Korean left does not call for anti-American violence or physical harm of Americans. The SK left may be too pro-Pyongyang – which is a big reason it keep losing elections; it really needs a Tony Blair/Bill Clinton-style centrist reformation – but its definitely not violent or revolutionary.

So forget about Kim – he’s likely more a loon than a revolutionary. Little will change.

The piece after the jump was originally written for the Lowy Interpreter here.


Around 7:40 am (KST), the US ambassador to South Korea, Mark Lippert, was attacked at a breakfast on Korean unification. His attacker, Kim Ki Jong, slashed Lippert’s face and wrist. Lippert was taken to a hospital for surgery. Kim is a member of two nationalist groups – one regarding national unification, the other concerning Dokdo. The attack, Kim said, was a protest against the current South Korean-US military exercise, Key Resolve. Not surprisingly, the attack has dominated the South Korea news all day. A few quick points are in order:

1. Kim does not represent anything like majority opinion in South Korea on the alliance with the United States.

Anti-Americanism in Korea is an issue, but not a large one. It tends to come in waves and is often the result of elite political manipulation. The largest recent outburst was in 2007-08 over US beef imports. A rumor spread in South Korea that US beef was contaminated by mad cow disease, and this catalyzed a groundswell of candlelight vigils in the streets against a US-Korean free-trade deal at the time. But it was also widely noted that Korean left-wing parties emphasized the American connection to help their political opposition to both a conservative president they dislike (Lee Myung-Bak) and trade deal their voters opposed. Similarly, when Roh Moo-Hyun ran for president (2002), he explicitly ran against the US, but that helped him get elected. He did actually not move to expel US Forces Korea. Since Roh, Korea has elected two pro-American conservatives in a row. In fact, part of Kim’s anger may be how unresponsive the Korean political system actually is to popular anti-Americanism.

2. South Korean left-wing parties do not endorse direct action against US personnel in the Korea.

Koreans of all parties are very nationalistic, but the South Korean right, which one would assume to be more so, is actually not. The South Korean right supports a tough line against the North and American tie, which means it is often labelled ‘internationalist.’ It is the left that is more traditionally nationalistic: sympathetic to unconditional unification and blaming the Americans (and Japanese) for national division. These topsy-turvy political categories generate a lot of political confusion, but it is important to note that Korea’s democratic left does not endorse violent action against the Americans. Recently, a radical, left-wing, pro-Northern party was broken up by the government in part over the issue of violence against the ‘occupation.’

3. North Korea almost certainly had nothing to do with it.

North Korea would be very foolish to attack such a high-profile American target. North Korea, for all its bellicose rhetoric, does not want war. They would lose. But more importantly for the Pyongyang gangster elite that runs the country, they would lose all their illicit privileges. Not only that, they would likely be hunted down by angry North Koreans, as happened to Gaddafi and Ceaușescu, or be pulled before post-unification courts. And South Korea has still has the death penalty, likely for this very contingency.

The South Korean-US alliance has whether ups-and-downs for decades. If Kim is the lone wolf he seems to be, the only real fall-out will likely be greater security on US officials in Korea. That will make it harder for regular South Koreans to meet them – and that is a shame.

Filed under: Alliances, Korea (North), Korea (South), Terrorism, United States

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


The Third Culture Kid

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Today I understood the concept of Third Culture Kids. At a seminar with Libby Stephens,  I was introduced today to the new breed of kids with a passport from one country, living in another, living with parents of yet another culture. What a mouthful! Imagine the culture confusion and language crisis in that set up!

These kids might be the "cool" kids with multiple passports, who have visited a lot of countries in the world, understand and speak different languages. But they are also the kids who constantly have to make new friends, adapt to different cultures, traditions and languages, missing their favorite grandma.

It is a tough life these kids have to adapt to and my kids had a bite of this fruit. Missing our home, (Bangalore still being referenced as home) crying for days after hearing the news of the death of our cat, missing the good Sagars, the touch of the familiar furniture even; Even more tough was adjusting to to the sub zero temperatures, yellow dust, slippery snow and heavy jackets. It was tough for them.

It was so good to see so many people on the same boat, coping up with the same problems coming together to bond and so good to listen to the world renowned speaker give us hope that all will be well.

I for Interesting Information about the Third culture kids for abc Wednesday

Neurin Maeul (느린마을) Homeplus & Lotte Mart Locations

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We get asked all the time, ‘Where can I get Neurin Maeul (느린마을)?  Why isn’t it at my supermarket?’.

Neurin Maeul bottles


Well finally we have some concrete information about the locations Neurin Maeul is distributed.  The two major supermarket chains that stock Neurin Maeul are Homeplus and Lotte Mart.  If you have either of these supermarkets in your area, there is a good chance you will see it on the shelves.  However just to be sure, we have a list from Baesangmyeon Brewery which shows a list of locations for each.  The list is in Korean, we will be translating it in English, but for the meantime thought we would get it out there as soon as possible!


Homeplus Locations

Homeplus Neurin Maeul list

Lotte Mart Locations

Lotte Neurin Maeul List

It tends to run off the shelves quite quickly, so be sure to keep an eye on when it is in stock and snap it up when you can.

If you have any other locations that stock Neurin Maeul, please let us know so we can compile a database for other eager fans.  Either comment below, reach us on facebook, or send an email to to get in touch :)

Makgeolli Mamas & Papas

Registration for March 21st Meeting Open!!

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Well we have come across some pretty interesting things in our time here at MMPK, but we have just discovered something that is set to change our lives.  We have tracked down a makgeolli bar that serves….lamb chops!! Not only lamb chops…but mint jelly too!!lamb makIt has an interesting selection of makgeolli creations, including frozen makgeolli and whiskey makgeolli cocktails.  What really has us curious however, is they apparently can serve makgeolli warm for winter.  We assume they are talking about their ‘clear dong dong ju’, but it definitely compels us to go check it out!mak slushie machinesThe location is in Hyewha, so if you would like to join us send an email to mmpkorea@gmail.comto sign up :)

Teaching English in Korea – General Q & A

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Jinju Lantern Festival Hazel and Casey in traditional Korean dress for Chuseok. Teehee. Group shot in a traditional Hanok village! Me and my co-teacher!

Why did you choose to teach in Korea?

I was attracted to Korea because of the great benefits afforded to English teachers, the rich culture, interesting food, and (relatively) easy-to-learn language. The country is also 70% mountainous, so the landscape is beautiful and hiking is very popular. Additionally, Korea is just a short plane ride away from other exotic destinations in Asia like Thailand, Cambodia, the Philippines and more!

Did you come to Korea having taught before?

Heck no! But it certainly would’ve helped. I did get a TEFL Certificate online through International TEFL Academy, as it’s one of the applicaiton prerequisites. Getting certified gave me more confidence with lesson planning and helped me anticipate the challenges ahead of me. It does make the job more difficult, but it’s totally possible to come here with no teaching experience.

What levels are you teaching and where?

I’m teaching middle and high school English in Ulsan, South Korea, located in the southeast corner of the country. I work in a public school but there’s a whole different world of private school teaching possibilities.

Is there life outside of Seoul?

Absolutely! Many people have their hearts so set on living in Seoul or Busan, the country’s two biggest cities. And yes, they offer the widest and most diverse array of activities and social opportunities. But there’s so much more to Korea, and the country has loads of other cities with 1 million+ people. Also, think of it this way, Seoul and Busan are more international/cosmopolitan cities. So if you get placed in a city that’s not one of those two, you could argue you’ll be getting a more authentic Korean experience.

What’s the difference between public and private school jobs?

The positions pay about the same (private school teachers sometimes make $100-$300 more a month) but the hours are different (9-5 for public  vs 2-10 for private). Also, most public school jobs these days are with elementary age kids. Private schools offer more of a mix. It was randomly decided that I was placed with older students.  Also, private school teachers spend their whole school day teaching, so their total teaching hours are close to 40 each week. Public school teachers on average teach around 20 or 22 hours/week (22 is the limit).

What’re the application processes like? How long does it take to get a job?

If you’re looking to do something in the immediate future, private academies or “hagwons” might be your best option. The public school application process is very lengthy with a lot of hoops to jump through, usually starting in early February  for a fall start date, and August for a late winter start date.  As for private academies, it’s easy to find and accept private school jobs in 2 months or less. To see what sort of opportunities are out there currently, visit Dave’s ESL Cafe.

What are the minimum requirements to teach with EPIK?

The only requirements are that you have a bachelors degree (doesn’t have to be in English, though that does help) and either an official teaching license OR a TEFL certification (Teaching English as a Foreign Language). Other certificates like TESOL are the same thing. I got my TEFL certificate through International TEFL Academy’s online program. It was 10 weeks long and cost $1000.

How long is your contract for?

My contract is for 1 year, which is standard across all teaching gigs here.

Paper Fan Crafts Yeongnam Alps What a view! Busan Christmas Tree Festival Noms

What benefits will I receive?

EPIK offers public school teachers paid airfare to and from Korea, paid housing, 50% of your healthcare coverage (the other 50% is automatically deducted from your paycheck), a severance bonus equivalent to one months pay upon completion of contract, a competitive salary (about $2000/month), and good vacation time (18 paid days off plus national holidays).

Private schools also pay for airfare and housing, 50% healthcare and a severance bonus (probably, I don’t know for sure about the last two).

How much money can I save while teaching in Korea?

The cost of living and my monthly bills here are so low too that I can save between $1000-$1500 every month for travel or future savings, so that’s great. I eat out once or twice a week, and enjoy a drink or two with friends on Friday nights. My most expensive bill is for my iPhone, which comes to around $100 / month.  My gas heating bill hit its high at $70 / month in January and February. But since spring is on the rise now, that is sure to go down to virtually $0. Cable, internet and electric bills vary according to your building. In my case, I only pay electric and gas.

How would you rate your experience overall?

So far, in general, I’d give it an 8/10! There are a lot of things that I like about Korea and living abroad. I’ve gotten to travel a ridiculous amount. I make really great money and enjoy awesome benefits (benefits that most other countries don’t give English teachers). I have a great network/group of expat friends. My school treats me very well and it’s been a very interesting cultural experience. However, I miss my family and friends like crazy. I miss home almost every day. There are days when the language barrier, the weird food, other social norms and the stresses of being a new teacher feel like way too much.

The people are very friendly(!) but don’t speak much English. The food is good, but often very fish-based. And the language, while still difficult, is easier to learn than any of the other Asian languages (the Korean alphabet is phonetic so theoretically you can learn to read in a day, you just won’t know what you’re saying haha).  Overall the good has outweighed the bad, but I think come August 2015 I’ll be happy to head back to the States.

So, it’s worth it?

Definitely! Teaching English is a fun and exciting way to see the world and gain some international work experience. During my first six months abroad I’ve been all over Korea, as well as taken trips to Cambodia and Thailand. Especially since I didn’t come from a teaching background, it has been full of challenges and I’ve just had to do the best I can. Still, I’m glad I’m here and I wouldn’t change anything about my decisions or experiences.

 If you have other questions for me about teaching, living or traveling in Korea, please leave them in the comments section and I promise to answer them!

Just kidding! ... Or am I? The one time it snowed in Ulsan in 2014. Ulsan at sunset Angkor Tom


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Now and Then: Bongeunsa Temple

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Bongeunsa Temple at the turn of the 20th century.

Hello Again Everyone!!

Bongeunsa Temple was first founed in 794 A.D. by Yeonhui. Yeonhui was the highest ranking monk in the Silla Kingdom, and Bongeunsa Temple was originally known as Gyeonseongsa Temple. After the collapse of the Silla and Goryeo Kingdoms, Buddhism during the Joseon Dynasty (1392-1910) was highly suppressed by Confucian leaders. However, by 1498, and under the patronage of Queen Jeonghyeon (1462-1530), the temple was reconstructed. It was also at this time that the temple was renamed to its present name: Bongeunsa Temple.

With continued support from the royal court, this time from Queen Munjeong (1502-65), Buddhism continued to thrive during the mid-16th century. It was at this time, from 1551 until 1936, that the temple acted as the headquarters for Seon (Zen) Buddhism in Korea. And from 1552-64, the temple was used as the centre for the Buddhist National Exam. It was also during this time, during King Myeongjong’s reign (r. 1545-67), who was the son of Queen Munjeong, that the temple was relocated to its current location. Formerly, the temple was located a kilometre southwest of its current Gangnam home.

In 1902, Bongeunsa Temple was named one of Korea’s 14 major temples; and then, in 1939, the temple was almost completely destroyed by fire. The remaining parts of the temple that weren’t already destroyed at this time were destroyed during the Korean War (1950-53). Ever since then, Bongeunsa Temple has undergone numerous renovations, reconstructions, and growth. It was only after Japanese Colonial rule that Bongeunsa Temple became subordinate to Jogyesa Temple and the Jogye-jong Order, which just so happens to be the largest Buddhist sect in Korea.

More recently, Bongeunsa Temple is in dispute with the Seoul municipal government over potentially relocating it from its posh Gangnam neighbourhood. Bongeunsa Temple is home to one treasure, Treasure #321, which is a Bronze Incense Burner with Silver-inlaid Design.

Bongeunsa Iljumun1950

The Iljumun Gate at Bongeunsa Temple in 1950.


A look into Bongeunsa Temple’s past.


Bongeunsa Temple a little more recently.


Bongeunsa Temple and its Gangnam neighbourhood.


And the modern 23 metre tall statue of Mireuk-bul (The Future Buddha).

The post Now and Then: Bongeunsa Temple appeared first on Dale's Korean Temple Adventures.

Rebranding Freddie: From Korean Adoptee to Swedish Design Star

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A casual glance at 32-year-old Swedish branding-design mastermind Fredrik (Freddie) ֖st and one would hardly label him a Swede. His smallish frame, long black hair, and Asian eyes place him from this part of the world.

Born somewhere in South Korea, sometime in July 1981 to unknown parents, his entrance into the world contrasts the style and flair of the man now. Not long after birth, he was found wrapped up and abandoned in a police station; a discarded infant, barely a few days full of breath. He was sent to an orphanage to await his fate as an international adoptee. A few months later, he was sent to Sweden, as two new parents awaited anxiously.

His life was typical to that of any other Swede; kindergarten, grade school, secondary school and an eventual stint in the army the culmination of which lead to studying at the centuries-old Cumbria Institute of Arts in the UK and becoming a designer. Freddie would later go on to co-found Snask, an internationally renowned design, branding, and film agency based in Stockholm, where he now serves as creative director. When asked to translate the company name, Freddie quips, “€œFilth, gossip, and candy.”


After founding Snask in 2007, Freddie and his co-founder Magnus Berg, have focused on rejuvenating businesses, organisations, events and their brands with imaginative logos, films, and advertisements.

A 2011 feature in Computer Arts Magazine described Snask as a “funky young company” €œthat believes it’€™s always better to get strong, passionate reactions and make a few enemies than to fade into the background, while referring to ֖st and Berg as larger than life.

I caught up with Freddie, the orphan-done-well, over Skype early one morning. Over the course of our conversation, we discussed topics including his life, the possibility of returning to Korea and finding his birth mother.


Growing up an orphan was the norm in Freddie’s family: Image provided by Fredrik Ost.

Freddie remembers nothing of his 4,500 mile transition to the snowy lands of Scandinavia. Back then, he was a small Korean boy in a country full of tall blondes. His foster parents had no choice but to be straight with him about his past. In this new family however, being an orphan, as Freddie explains, was normal.

“My oldest sister is adopted from Sweden. My second sister is adopted from South Korea as well. And my third sister is biological. We also had a lot of foster children and exchange students as well, so no one looked the same.

Had he stayed in South Korea, he believes he might have died already. “I was at the orphanage for a while and then if I came out, I would have lived on the streets. In Korea, it’s a lot about having a family to support you. So, the chances must be so limited if you’re an orphan.”

Freddie feels no resentment towards the woman that left him alone on fate’s doorstep, instead he empathises with his biological mother’s actions. “€œI imagine it’€™s a poor young girl who got pregnant and couldn’t take care of her child, or was ruining her education or future in doing so. I don’€™t think that anyone wants to give away their child, but I understand.”

OFFF Lille – Main Titles from SNASK on Vimeo.

Snask Off

Owing to the success of Snask, Freddie and co-founder Berg have traveled much of Europe, North America, and China, lecturing on the importance of creativity. Yet so far, his travels have not led him back to South Korea where it all began.

The peninsula fascinates him though and one day, he would like to bring Snask to his birthplace in some capacity. “It would be strange of course”, Freddie muses on the possibility of return. “But I would also be like, ‘€˜Hey, everyone looks like me here. They’€™re my height, this is where I’m from; from the beginning.’€™ It would be a culture shock, but I would suck it in like a sponge.”

His biggest concern for South Korea is, unsurprisingly for an art major, a lack of creativity.”€œIn China, I got the impression there’€™s no creativity. They learn to do what they’re told, but when they’re supposed to come up with something on their own, they don’€™t have a clue what to do.”


The Snask Man: Image provided by  Fredrik Ost.

He wonders if South Korea is the same. I tell him that many Koreans might likely agree. “Shit. That’€™s gonna be really frustrating, but really interesting. I learned to, well everyone in the Western world and especially in Sweden, to say what I think all the time. In my profession, saying what you think is the single most important thing. It would be interesting to see the difference between me being brought up in Sweden and being brought up in Korea.”

One of  Freddie’€™s fascinations is the rebranding of nations. I ask him to suppose that North Korea wanted Snask to rebrand them.

“It’s an interesting question. Their government is so terrible today; they would need to change before we could look at their branding. Although, maybe if there was a lot of tourism, the people there would have the chance to see and talk to more people from abroad, and get knowledge of the world outside.”

What about the South? “€œThey should be a bit more cocky, you know? As a country, they should be like, ‘Hey we are super, super innovative.’€™ I would really like Snask to be, uhm, how do you say not a role model, because that’€™s so narcissistic … something they could choose to become. A lot of the things we make are about having self-confidence, being a provocateur, and questioning things. Don’t be afraid to show that you love someone, and if you think something is bad, say it!”




Before wrapping up our conversation, Freddie quickly asks, “Is Busan the same as Pusan? Because when I said I was orphaned in Seoul, I think I was wrong. In my passport they wrote Seoul, but I was from Pusan.”

I tell him it’s the same. To Freddy, it seems like returning to Busan and tracking down his birth mother is not a step he’s quite ready to take yet.

“€œFirstly, it€’s gonna be people I don’t know. If I’€™m going to get to know them, then I will take on another family in my life, which I am going to start to care about. Right now, I don’€™t want to do that. But maybe in the future I will make the decision. Maybe.

This article was originally written for Busan Haps, you can read it here

(Cover image provided by Fredrick Ö–st. Now go and check out Snask!)

The post Rebranding Freddie: From Korean Adoptee to Swedish Design Star appeared first on Monkeyboy Goes.




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