Thursday, September 28, 2006
Tuesday, September 19, 2006
Prime Minister Thaksin declares state of emergency as tanks surround Government House. (Reuters) from Washingtonpost.com
I woke up this morning ready to ignore the news and hop on my exercise bike, but then I saw the headlines that Thailand's Prime Minister, Thaksin Shinawatra, has been ousted in a military coup. It turns out that he was in New York to address the UN (irony of ironies) and had been running about extolling the achievements of his administration. In Thai Military Launches Coup at the Washingtonpost.com they have a pretty good article walking through what’s happened so far.
The Thai armed forces launched a coup against Prime Minister Thaksin Shinawatra today while he was attending the U.N. General Assembly meeting in New York.This is also interesting to me because I think Thailand is a beautiful nation. Like all places, it has problems though. I have been following the tussle between Thaksin and his opposition for months. I also have two friends in Bangkok right now. One is working at the UN and the other is an editor for one of the Thai newspapers. Also, the former vicar of my church just relocated to Thailand. When I heard I wanted to make sure it wasn't a violent coup. Good for all concerned that, thus far, it's been peaceful.
Announcements on Thai television said a "Council of Administrative Reform" had seized power, dismissed the government and revoked the country's constitution without any resistance, according to reports from Bangkok, the Thai capital.
The coup was led by the Army commander in chief, General Sondhi Boonyaratglin, and came after weeks of rumors of possible military intervention as tensions rose between Thaksin and the armed forces.
Coup leaders quickly declared their allegiance to Thailand's long-time king, Bhumibol Adulyadej and promised to reinstate a democratic government as soon as possible. A military spokesman said Sondhi will become acting prime minister.
"The armed forces commander and the national police commander have successfully taken over Bangkok and the surrounding area in order to maintain peace and order. There has been no struggle," a Thai military announcement said, according to the Associated Press. "We ask for the cooperation of the public and ask your pardon for the inconvenience."
The thing is I was concerned when Thaksin started having troubles months ago. There were calls for him to step down, but instead he held on to power and called another election. It was boycotted by the opposition and a Thai court declared that election null and void. There were plans to have another election sometime this fall.
The Thai capital was so far free of the bloodshed that swept the military from power in 1992 when dozens of pro-democracy protesters were killed and hundreds injured after the armed forces staged a coup a year earlier. Since becoming a constitutional democracy in 1932 Thailand has now faced 18 coups or coup attempts.I'm certainly no expert on Thai politics, so let me say that right now. However, as you can see, this has been brewing for awhile.
Thailand has been edging toward a confrontation for several months since street demonstrations led by Bangkok voters called for Thaksin to step down over allegations of corruption and abuse of power.
Thaksin is a twice-elected billionaire telecommunications tycoon whose family had earned almost $1.9 billion in tax free income from the sale of shares in the family's telecom business to Singapore-based Tamasek Fund.
Thaksin had called general elections in April, seeking a vote of confidence. But opposition parties boycotted the vote and Thai courts later nullified the election. Fresh elections led by a newly appointed election commission were due to take place this fall.
Kraisak Choonhavan, a Thai senator, said the coup had appeared inevitable given the political tensions of recent months. "The key to understanding this event is probably Mr. Thaksin [had wanted] to take out the existing military hierarchy off altogether and put his men in and have total control over Thailand," Kraisak said.
Also, people freak out when they hear the term "coup." That's definitely the case with folks from the West. However, in Korea the most productive and powerful leader Park Chung-hee took power in a bloodless military coup against the Second Republic of Korea.* Park's was later elected into power, but his economic polices, and heavy handed government turned South Korea around from a country that was impoverished to a country with industries and an export economy to be reckoned with.
Of course, Park is not the only factor behind South Korea's development, but his strong leadership did make a huge difference. The turn of the South Korean economy is frequently referred to as a "miracle" because South Korea, and a couple of other northeast Asian countries, have done in 30 years what it took other countries hundreds to achieve. Also, many other countries have failed in their attempts to develop. In terms of democracy, even though the Korean War cease-fire was signed in 1953, South Korea has only been a democracy since, depending on who is talking, the late 1980s/early 1990s.
Now I know there are huge differences between Thailand and South Korea. I also know there are many issues surrounding having democracies and development, but the fact that they had a coup doesn't worry me as it's been coming for months.
Clearly, there is legitimate concern as there are so many situations where a coup leads to no progress or a reversal of progress, no democracy or a reversal of democracy, and no benefits for the citizens of the country the military claims it wants to serve.
But as Thailand is a country that has had a few of these, what will worry me most is not the rise of a military dictatorship but how this will progress. Will things proceed as promised or will things spiral out of control? Considering Thailand's record, things will probably settle down and the military will reinstitute democracy. However, only time will tell.
*Thanks to a comment from ur2big2, who didn't want his comment posted for a correction to my post. Park Chung-hee's coup was against the Second Republic of Korea as Rhee Syung-man stepped down nine months before that coup, so I stand corrected. Gotta give credit when I make an error of just looking at a timeline and not digging deeper. Sphere: Related Content
Sunday, September 17, 2006
I'm ridiculously busy these days, so I'm posting less frequently due the fact that I've chosen to be both a student and an instructor. I'll be kicking or killing myself very soon. When I get the urge to write something on this blog I see it as a blessing even if it's not centered on Korea or an international issue.
Clearly, something has inspired me. There is an interesting and funny post from John Mayer's blog that just went up (it was 2:45am here and I was fast asleep.) It's about a kids TV show called The Doodlebops. I'll quote it in full here as he's a pretty good writer too, and I appreciate good writing:
I just got into my hotel room and started flipping through the channels when I became transfixed by this television show. It's about a young power trio struggling to make it in the crazy world of show business. I really related to that right off that bat, but what took a bit longer to sink in was that these guys (and girl!) actually have some pretty cool songs, if you're 4. And no, that's not a put-down. The song "Hold Your Horses" has a better melodic structure than most tunes on the radio these days, and "Get On The Bus", a thinly-veiled homage to racial segregation in the '50s, is a tune that, while seemingly condoning taking rides with strangers, is really more about just getting on a bus and then going somewhere.The post was funny to me and worth writing about because I thought I was the only one who felt like breeding when I see things for children that engage me. However, that feeling creeps me out as it's motivated by a thing, a song, a program or a pair of cute shoes and not a cute kid or tender moment (yes, of course, I have those too.) However, being motivated to have maternal feelings due to a thing shows me that I've been successfully programmed as a consumer. Not that I mind being a consumer, as I tend to generally favor the capitalist system, but that's another post.
The episode I saw, entitled "Hold Your Horses", is a refereshingly honest portrayal of band dynamics. Moe, the drummer, is less than subtle in letting it be known that he is upset that his solo was cut off at the pass by Dee Dee's guitar run. The conversation ends there, but expect to see raw feelings resurface again in a future episode revolving around the tumultuous task of splitting songwriting credits for "Horses".
I hope when I have kids some day that the Doodlebops are still around, even though history has shown that trios don't stay together for long. I wouldn't mind my kid's first exposure to music having some harmonic and rhythmic substance. Someone behind this show knows a lot about music, and very little about how to keep kids from having nightmares later in life.
The Doodlebops make me want to be a daddy. Right now.
(Attention journalists: I will not be answering any questions about this blog, so google harder.)
Another problem is, since I'm an only child, I see myself pushing my kid out of the way to keep whatever it is all to myself.
Forgive me, that was a joke that was too tempting not to resist as I am an only child whose parents doted upon me. I frequently get the "you weren't spoiled rotten, were you?" inquiry. I think my parents raised me well, for the most part, I hope.
Actually, I'm sure I'd be an affectionate, doting and nuturing mom like my mom was. I do have to say I think kids that grow up with great parents have a great start on life. I'm glad I was lucky enough to have that as I know many people who didn't. (That was my not so veiled homage to my dearly departed mother, of which, I'm sure there will be more.)
Okay, time for me to start my day. Sphere: Related Content
Wednesday, September 13, 2006
겨울연가, Gyeoul yeonga: Bae Yong-yoon (right) and Choi Ji-woo (left) in an advertisement for the TV series.
I've mentioned the Korean Wave or 한류 before when I wrote about Jeong-hyun Lim, Youtube's neoclassical guitar sensation.
I think the Korean Wave is absolutely one of the greatest things South Korea has going. The United States is a great example of the reach and impact of exporting culture. We've fine-tuned our ability to export our pop culture worldwide. Now the South Koreans have the chance to do the same thing.
I love seeing Japanese tourists running around Seoul with the same enthusiasm that I've seen them running around with at UCLA, my alma mater. As annoying as they were taking pictures of anything and everything we knew they were providing the school and the city of L.A. with revenue. The same is happening now in Korea.
In Japanese Women Catch the 'Korean Wave' they say that a lot of Japanese women now believe that Korean men are the ideal partner and are seeking out Korean husbands.
Thin and gorgeous in a slinky black dress, Mikimoto pearls and a low-slung diamond Tiffany pendant, 26-year-old Kazumi Yoshimura already has looks, cash and accessories. There's only one more thing this single Japanese woman says she needs to find eternal bliss -- a Korean man.I'm incredibly interested in this perspective on Korean men. Maybe it's because I grew up in L.A., but I know that what is shown on the big screen and on TV isn't necessarily reality. In fact, more often than not it's the complete opposite of reality. However, based on these characters Asian women have now pegged Korean men as their ideal suitors.
She may just have to take a number and get in line. In recent years, the wild success of male celebrities from South Korea -- sensitive men but totally ripped -- has redefined what Asian women want, from Bangkok to Beijing, from Taipei to Tokyo. Gone are the martial arts movie heroes and the stereotypical macho men of mainstream Asian television. Today, South Korea's trend-setting screen stars and singers dictate everything from what hair gels people use in Vietnam to what jeans are bought in China.
Yet for thousands of smitten Japanese women like Yoshimura, collecting the odd poster or DVD is no longer enough. They've set their sights far higher -- settling for nothing less than a real Seoulmate.
I would say that some are as I've had a crush or two since I've been here, but well, as for the majority most seem to prefer smoking and soju to sonatas and long walks in the park. However, I do agree that a good number of young Korean men are tall, good-looking and are in great, head-turning shape.
Entertainment industry leaders in Seoul credit the phenomenon to good marketing coupled with an uncanny response throughout Asia to the expressive nature of the South Koreans -- long dubbed the Italians of Asia. A hearty diet and two years of forced military duty, industry leaders and fans insist, have also made young South Korean men among the buffest in Asia. Most important, however, has been the South Korean entertainment industry's perfection of the strong, silent type on screen -- typically rich, kind men with coincidentally striking looks and a tendency to shower women with unconditional love.I think Kim Ok-hyun is right, but I wish all these Japanese ladies the best of luck in their search. Sphere: Related Content
"It's a type of character that doesn't exist much in Asian movies and television, and now it's what Asian women think Korean men are like," said Kim Ok Hyun, director of Star M, a major star management company in Seoul.
"But to tell you the truth," she said. "I still haven't met a real one who fits that description."
Monday, September 11, 2006
Sphere: Related Content
Like Pearl Harbor for the WWII generation and the day John F. Kennedy was assinated for my parents, September 11, 2001 will be a "this is where I was" day for my generation. I was living in South Korea at the time. Five years later during the evening and at about the same time I heard about the first plane hitting the World Trade Center, I'm still living in South Korea.
The thing is 9/11 touched all Americans. It touched people all over the world. The lady who sold me my diabetic supplies at the time came out to give me a big hug the day I came in after 9/11. Of course, those who were at the sites and, unfortunately, those who either lost their lives or lost loved ones feel it in a way that I can never imagine. God willing, this is something that I'll talk about with my children and my grandchildren. However, no matter where we were whether it was Ground Zero or halfway across the world, I'm certain that 9/11 is an event that has impacted us in a myriad of ways and put its mark on a generation. Upon reflection, although I've always been interested in international issues, I think 9/11 might be one big reason I'm pursuing international studies and diplomacy and security now. I'm sure many life paths were changed due to 9/11 events.
For me, it was the start of my second year living and working in Korea. I'd recently bought a car. I was enjoying my adventure of living in a foreign country. I'd just moved to Daegu for a new job at another university. It was late in the evening and, as was my habit when I was in California, I was taking a late night drive. I was excited because I was learning the layout of the new city I was in, enjoying my freedom by exploring and enjoying the radio show that was on. Daegu has US military bases, so they have English radio and TV. I was listening a morning radio show that was being broadcasted in from the States on AFN, and that's when I heard it.
I was in the middle of the city somewhere and they said a plane flew into the World Trade Center. Like everyone, I was thinking "what a terrible accident!" Then they came back on a few minutes later and said another plane hit the other tower. Again, like everyone, I realized then that someone had launched an attack against my country. I turned my car around, made it to the expressway and got myself home.
I'd just moved from a small city named Yeosu in the Jeollanamdo province, and my apartment was still sparsely furnished. I hadn't even bought a TV yet, so I went straight to the local internet cafe and plugged into the net. That cafe had a big screen TV, so I watched 9/11 unfold that way. Needless to say, I was dumbfounded when the towers fell, and I stayed up all night, cancelled my classes the next day and went to Wal-Mart and bought a brand new TV the next day.
All sorts of things went through my head watching the events unfold that night. I was assaulted with all sorts of feelings. Five years down the line those feelings are still there and, I think, they'll always be.
I had a much longer piece written out, but I decided to keep it short and simple. The feeling I want to focus on is hope. I hope that we can repair the reputation of the USA worldwide because I think that's a necessary component to winning this war. I believe that we can and will win this war on terror.
I hope that we're all taking this as seriously as we took the Long Telegram and the Cold War and because it's that serious if not more so.
A list of the victims from Pink is the New Blog. It's usually a gossip blog, but all gossip was suspended today in honor of those fallen on 9/11/2001.
9/11 Articles and Analysis:
Winning or Losing?
Nation Marks Fifth Anniversary of 9/11
Sept. 11's Ripple Effect
Carnival of the Blogging Chicks #13 Sept. 11
Friday, September 8, 2006
A total of 45 North Korean refugees climb a metal ladder outside the wall of the Canadian Embassy in Chaoyang, Beijing, China on Wednesday. Some of them are disguised as construction laborers. (photo and caption taken from the Digital Choson Ilbo.)
It looks like I'm not the only person whose feathers got ruffled by the report that Thailand arrested, fined and jailed North Koreans who were found in Bangkok.
In European Parliament Passes Resolution on N. Korean Refugees in Thailand the Korea Liberator reports that the EU has taken some action.
I went to the EU Parliment's website, and I'm not entirely sure what action was taken. If someone wants to go, read up on it and sort it out for me, here is the link: European Parliment - Agenda - latest version Thursday 7 September 2006 Strasbourg. (I already have tons of reading for school, so I just don't have time to sort through it all). Also, the full text is on the Korea Liberator site.
The hope is that one day the South Korean government will be spurred into taking a strong stand on the refugee issue.
Time will tell...
Thursday, September 7, 2006
I've joined the Blogging Chicks blogroll which I've added to my blog.
I was reading articles about blogging and gender. Unfortunately, it seems that women bloggers don't get linked to as frequently as men. Here is one from The Washington Monthly on the issue. Just run a search for "female bloggers" or "women bloggers" and you'll find tons of stuff. There are many theories as to why, but knowing that I decided to make sure that I'm active in female oriented blogrolls.
As you can see, I'm an equal opportunity linker, but I will go out of my way to link to other women.
Click on the graphic to go to the Blogging Chicks website.
For other female bloggers: Blogging Chicks will have a 9-11 Carnival, so go to the site to get more information on it.
Cheers and keep blogging ladies!
Wednesday, September 6, 2006
Protestors pack the square in front of Seoul City Hall on Saturday, urging the government to halt plans to take over wartime operational control of Korean troops and revise controversial private school laws. (photo and caption taken from the Digital Chosunilbo website).
In 200,000 Protest in Seoul Against Ruling Government GI Korea writes about the recent protest against the Roh Moo-hyun administration's policy on the US/ROK alliance. I wrote about it a few days ago in Older South Koreans Support the USA - ROK Alliance.
I'm just linking to this because I'm with the South Korean conservatives on this issue. I think just about anyone who looks at the politics in the region sides with them too.
I've had a few spirited moments in class where I've been pretty angry about what I've seen here considering that such a large number of foreigners from all over the world have sacrificed, lost their lives and had their blood shed on Korean soil.
GI Korea sums it up nicely:
I think it is starting to sink into many people in the country that Korea is not as important in the grand scheme of things to America as they once thought it was. I think it was a real shock to many that America would be willing to pack up and leave so readily and this massive protest is a response to that. Like I said before this will be a healthy debate within Korean society that is way over do and hopefully it doesn't get lost in a wave of slogans and accusations, but turns into a real debate between leaders in Korea about the future of the country and it's relationship with America.Sphere: Related Content
People are just silly. That's good because laughing is fun.
You see, John Mayer has a wicked sense of humor. On his short-lived show on VH1 aptly named "John Mayer Has a TV Show" there is a piece that shows him wandering around the parking lot dressed in a bear suit harassing his fans waiting to see his show. It's hilarious.
What's funny is The Chad didn't know about this. His producers then sent him to a John Mayer concert with a bear suit. It's pretty funny.
Monday, September 4, 2006
While running around the Myeong-dong shopping district* armed with a new pair of pink and grey Nike athletic shoes, the new Keane "Under the Iron Sea" CD, (because with my new workout routine I've played their "Hopes and Fears" CD out), my new Economic Development textbook and other school supplies, I ran into the Metropolitician who was armed with his camera. Just in case you don't know who he is, he is another expat blogger in Seoul who takes some damn good pictures.
We're both Star Wars dorks and he turned me on to this website which is Darth Vader blogging about his Empire days. It's called The Darth Side. I've only read a bit of it, but so far it's really interesting. However, you've got to be into Star Wars to really care about reading it at length, so, if you are, check it out. I would advise reading it in chronological order.
Also, I'm following the Chad Vader series on Youtube and Episode 3 is out. Again, I think the first installment is the funniest so far, but I'm keeping the faith that maybe Episode 4 will have my laughing just as hard as the first episode did. This one generated a few chuckles. However, I think it's still worth watching just to keep following the story.
For those of you who've not seen Episodes 1 and 2. Just click on the links:
Chad Vader: Night Shift Manager (Episode 3)
Make funny Star Wars references and get linked to me! It's pretty much a done deal as I'm a certified Star Wars dork. John Mayer gets a plus point (because after that Jessica Simpson gossip he needs them): WHO SAYS I CAN'T PLAY SPORTS?
*Just click on the My BlogMap, on the right, to see how close I live to Myeong-dong. I've matured a lot because living that close to a major shopping area with two awesome department stores would have meant I would ALWAYS be shopping. Now I might run wild just once every few weeks. I can go, have coffee and leave without stopping and buying something! I'm telling yah, that's progress for me ;-)
Friday, September 1, 2006
Models pose for a photo to promote the first 2006 Seoul Sex Education Expo at the Millennium Seoul Hilton in Seoul on Tuesday. (Photo and caption taken from the Digital Chosun-Ilbo website).
This is funny to me because I'm from San Francisco where sex, sexuality and whatever might float your boat is fine. However, in Korea, as I've noted before, there is a vibrant underground sex industry here. However, hypocritical it may be, on the surface it is still very much sanitized a la Ozzie and Harriet or Pleasantville.
That turns me to the story at hand. Even for women, mention sex and you get our attention. Believe me, it came up a few times last night over fairly pleasant conversation with an Englishman and drinks. So I had to stop and read when I saw this headline: Sex expo lingerie models barred from South Korea
A South Korean sex trade show promised foreign women in steamy underwear, striptease acts and sex seminars but had to cancel the performances after losing its lingerie models to immigration laws, organisers said on Thursday.South Korean immigration essentially blocked the entry of the Sexpo models on a technicality. They were barred because they had tourist visas instead of performance visas. However, as I deal with immigration quite a bit, I completely understand their position. As a foreigner, I've seen rampant tourist visa abuse here, and I agree that you have to have things organized and in order. I know if I don't I risk a huge fine.
The 2006 Seoul Sex Education Expo, dubbed Sexpo, opened on Thursday, however, with plenty of sex toys, lotions and audiovisual material.
Plus, I like the Seoul immigration office. I always make an appointment. I literally blow in past all the people unaware that the immigration office makes appointments. I take care of business with a smile, a "please" and a "thank you" and blow right out usually in 30 minutes or less. You'd never get that level of civil service back home, so I'm biased. Plus, rules are definitely rules when you're talking about letting in bodacious and hot sex models in to perform at a convention in a society and culture where the sex industry isn't acknowledged in the mainstream. Hahahahahaha...
I, however, do feel for the male attendees who went with excited anticipation only to be let down.
Several male visitors were angry about seeing so many inflatable plastic women on display and no real ones.As the sex industry is underground here, I can imagine that partaking in it does leave you with that "I'm a dirty boy (or girl) feeling". For a change, Sexpo Seoul would have been a place where all of the dirty boys and girls could frolic about in the daylight or, more accurately, in the conventional hall. There would have been a San Francisco-eqse level of acceptance. I probably wouldn't have reached the level of the Exotic Erotic Ball or the craziness of the Folsom Street Fair, but it probably would have been a step in the right direction. Then again, I'm a Californian.
"I came here for a show and all I have is this leaflet about sex toys. What's going on here?" said one man in his mid-60s who asked not to be identified.
Well, hopefully, next year they'll come back and will manage to hire competent planners who can get the paperwork done correctly.
Korea’s First Sexpo Gets Underway in Seoul
Seoul Sexpo Gets Off to Limp Start
‘Sex expo' suddenly just an ‘expo' Sphere: Related Content