Wednesday, October 31, 2007

Whaaa? Koreans repel attack off Somalia

Update 1 (Nov 1 @ 3:34pm)

The Korean papers have now picked up on this story, so I've linked a couple of articles below.

Here is a photo from the Chosun Ilbo's website:

In this photo released by the U.S. Navy, a Navy team climbs aboard a North Korean-flagged vessel to help crewmembers wounded in a battle with pirates off the coast of Somalia on Tuesday. With permission from the North Koreans, the U.S. Navy boarded the ship with a small team of medics, security personnel and an interpreter. /AP

I've been working on other stuff. This is mostly, because of the two other blogs I've got going: Missing Minorities and, my newest, Celebrities Doing Good. For the time being, I plan to keep this one going too.

Anyway, I was scanning the news stories and saw this headline: Gunmen killed as Koreans repel attack off Somalia.

I know that there are pirates out in the waters and my first question was whether it was a North Korean or South Korea ship.

It was a North Korean ship. Guess which country helped? The US.

We'll see if this can help heal the trust rift between the US and North Korea. I mean a lot needs to be done on both sides because both sides have intentionally tweeked the other.

Gunmen killed as Koreans repel attack off Somalia

NAIROBI (Reuters) - Two gunmen died and three crew members were badly wounded in gun battles as North Korean seafarers fought off attackers who raided their cargo ship off Somalia, a maritime official said on Wednesday.

"Six gunmen were also seriously injured in Tuesday's heavy fighting," said Andrew Mwangura, head of the Mombasa-based East African Seafarers' Assistance Programme.

The U.S. Navy said a destroyer, the USS James Williams, arrived on the scene later and took the wounded on board.

Five gunmen were also captured, it said, and were being held in custody on the cargo ship, the Dia Hong Dan. The destroyer was in the area and monitoring the situation, it added.

"It is escorting the cargo ship now," Mwangura told Reuters. "They could be heading for Djibouti, Mombasa or Mogadishu. We will have to see if the attackers face a court of law."

The attempted raid on the Dia Hong Dan, which was carrying sugar and 22 sailors, appeared to have been part of a business dispute and not another case of piracy, Mwangura said.

North Korea's government did not immediately comment.

But South Korean news agency Yonhap reported that South Korean government officials thought the incident might help in the ongoing process to rid the North of nuclear weapons by showing the U.S. was willing to help North Koreans in danger.


"The incident will have a positive impact as a result of the efforts by both the U.S. and North Korea to normalize their diplomatic ties," Yonhap quoted a Foreign Ministry official, who asked to remain anonymous, as saying.

Christopher Hill, chief U.S. envoy to negotiations on the North's nuclear program, was in Beijing on Wednesday for talks with his North Korean counterpart, Kim Kye-gwan.

Hill told reporters he and Kye-gwan had discussed the incident involving the cargo ship, but gave no other details.

Highlighting the growing risk to shipping off Somalia, the attack on the North Korean vessel followed the hijacking by pirates of a Japanese chemical tanker in the area on Sunday.

The U.S. Navy said coalition naval forces opened fire on the pirates on Tuesday, sinking the speedboats they had used to board the tanker, the Golden Nori.

Attackers are still thought to be on board the Japanese ship, which was flying a Panamanian flag and carrying benzene.

"Her 23 multinational Asian crew members are said to be cool and calm," Mwangura said, citing radio contacts with the vessel.

Suspected Somali pirates are also thought to be holding four other boats: a Comoros-registered cargo ship, a Taiwanese ship and two fishing vessels from Tanzania.

Without central government since 1991, Somalia's waters are among the world's most dangerous, threatening trade and aid supplies, despite calls for international action to police them.

(Additional reporting by Jon Herskovitz in Seoul, Stefano Ambrogi in London and Lindsay Beck in Beijing)

More links:
AFP: US navy help for NKorea ship unprecedented: officials
Chosun Ilbo: U.S. Navy Helps N.Korean Ship Fend Off Pirates
JoongAng Daily: U.S. aids hijacked North Koreans


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Sunday, October 28, 2007

Much More Than Good Timing

I've always been one to tell people to pay attention to their sixth sense. Saturday night was another night of no sleep. So there I was early Sunday morning up and hungry for some food. I decided that I would get up, run out and grab a bite to eat and then come home to finally sleep. However, when early morning comes around I shift into awake mode because I usually I'm an early riser. I made myself do a brisk morning walk to the restaurant, picked up my order and in the back of my mind the whole time was the thought that I should get myself to church. That thought was nagging me the whole time and, sure enough, I had more than enough time once I got my food to hail a taxi to speed me to church.

I was attending regularly up until my last semester and stopped because between work, classes, reading, studying, researching my thesis online and writing it, I literally had no time. I worked during the week. I studied in the evening in my office and, on the weekends, I'd get up, grab breakfast and head straight to the library of Sogang University to to research, read and study.

My family is, predictably, of Southern Baptist faith as my whole family comes from rural Georgia. Now you can love me or hate me for what I'm going to say, but I never jibed much with that tradition. I found it to be overly simplistic in its view of the world and even as a preschooler I was asking questions that would send my aunts into a panic. That led to me being a very vocal atheist by the time I reached high school. My mom, cut from a more tolerant cloth, would indulge my debates with her but would always fall back on her faith. You can't really debate faith. You either have it or you don't. I didn't and she did. Simple enough and we both left our debates with a mutual respect of the other which is something I rarely see these days when it comes to religious discussions and debate.

Anyway, I took that perspective with me to university. However, it had softened to agnosticism because if it was unreasonable for more reverent believers to tell me I was going to hell, it was also unreasonable of me to insist there was no hell for them to go to. Because, honestly, a lot of "Christians" seem to not headed straight to the Pearly Gates but instead in the opposite direction.

What it boils down to was I realized I just didn't know. When I was an undergrad in UCLA's Department of Philosophy, Marilyn McCord Adams was there. Reverend Professor Marilyn McCord Adams is a major heavyweight in religious philosophy. That I could appreciate even if I was still trying to figure out where I stood. I knew it was a great thing to have someone with her achievements and depth of knowledge in my department. I'd pop into her office and peppered her with the same questions I'd ask my mom. She too answered me with a quiet and dignified confidence but also with the weight of her studies behind her.

Unfortunately, my parents passed away. It didn't help when I got simplistic explainations from my family. I know they were trying to console me. However, a less than sophisticated read on life's mysteries wasn't something I had the patience to sit through when I'd just lost both parents. It didn't help that I'd honed my skills under some great philosophical thinkers. After a few deft cuts of the verbal sword through their arguments, I said as much and it stopped. I emailed Rev. Prof. Adams about five years ago on my loss, and she replied with a depth of analysis and good advice that most people lack. That directed me in positive direction.

I eventually softened my stance on religion as time went by. I had too many close calls and too many fortuitous moments that "chance" seemed to be a less than accurate or honest way to describe the timing. However, I had a big problem with the high level of intolerance flowing from a lot of the churches out there and felt that I could only go to a with more progressive than not views on the issues of women and homosexuality. That narrows it down to very few denominations. You're welcome to express your views on the topic in the comments, but I stand firm on not patronizing a church that ostracizes an entire community of people. So, in keeping with my views, I started going to the English service at the Anglican-Episcopal Seoul Cathedral. As I said, eventually school demands became so great that I had to stop going or risk flunking out of my last semester.

I went back yesterday and the guest was none other than the former presiding Bishop of the Episcopal Church in the USA, Right Reverend Frank T. Griswold. He's famous for supporting the election ofRight Reverend V. Gene Robinson as the Bishop of New Hampshire. The controversy is the fact that Robinson is openly gay.

Honestly, it was great just to have a service delivered by someone who had my accent for a change. Later had lunch with Bishop Griswold. I got to speak to him on topics ranging from Rev. Prof. Adams, gays in the church and my own personal history.

Here is a quote from him in the NY Times:

To Bishop Griswold, the uniqueness of the Anglican Communion rests in great part in its willingness to accommodate divergent views. But people are so upset over this issue because it is about sexuality, he said.

"Sexuality is a free-ranging force that can overwhelm reason and is therefore dangerous," he said. "Some people feel that if sexuality isn't carefully circumscribed, it will subvert all sorts of things."

Bishop Griswold, who says he has read the Bible twice a day for years, said the passages about homosexuality referred to certain behaviors, not to what he called "patterns of affection."

He recounted that his understanding of homosexuality was affected in the 1960's by a couple in his Pennsylvania parish. One man had multiple sclerosis, and his companion's selflessness in caring for him convinced Bishop Griswold that such love did not contradict biblical teachings.

"In the Gospels, Jesus says, 'I have many more things to say to you but you cannot bear them now,' which suggests to me that God's truth is always unfolding," he said. "If we can accept that there are new truths that science brings us, or new discoveries in medicine, why is it when it comes to sexuality, there is no new truth?"

Bishop Griswold added: "A number of those most upset about our seemingly ignoring Scripture, though they are solidly heterosexual, have enjoyed the mercy of the church in the case of their own divorce and remarriage, which is something Jesus commented on."
You can agree or disagree with that. Honestly, this will be the first blog where if I get comments that disagree I won't bother to reply. Don't get me wrong because rude or insulting comments won't get published, period. But disagree all you want because I know that many do. As we all know, people have had religious debates for centuries. I'm not going to spend a century debating this. My view on it is clear. I'm sure I'll always have religious and spiritual views that alter with time and experience. As my last vicar, Rev. Webb, wrote to me:
It is indeed good to hear that you aren't grounded in theological or spiritual certainty - such people scare me!
Needless to say, I'm very happy to that I went to church yesterday. I had no idea he'd be there. That's much more than mere good timing, I'm sure.

If you're not familar with the current schism and debate going on in the Anglican-Episcopal church here are some links that discuss what's going on.

NY Times: Episcopal Head Defends Choice Of Gay Bishop
CBS News: New Gay Episcopal Bishop Furor
Times Online: Worldwide Anglican church facing split over gay bishop
David A. Tait, Ph.D., Rogers State University (an Adobe Acrobat document): The Illusion of Inclusion: Why the homosexuality crisis in the Episcopal Church is not just about sex.

Just 'cause, I'm posting a link to a post from the "A Religious Liberal Blog" because he agrees with me ;)

Also, here is a nice piece written in the Yale Alumni Magazine about Rev. Prof. Adams before she moved on to Oxford: The Queen's Professor


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Saturday, October 27, 2007

She Was Fined For What?!!!

Korea must really evolve when it comes to how women are treated.

A principal dancer for the Korean National Ballet, 김주원 (Kim Joo-won), has been docked one month's pay for a topless photo that was featured in this month's Vogue Korea.

Here is a quote from the article I read explaining the reasoning behind this decision:

"As a member of the Korea National Ballet, Kim is obligated to get prior approval for any actions she may take outside, and thus her independent act deserves disciplinary action," the ballet company said.

"However, we have decided on just a one month salary reduction since this was the first time she has caused any kind of controversy. She had been a model member of the company until now, making great contributions to the company and to the development of Korea's ballet, even receiving the prestigious Benois de la Danse award last year," the KNB added.
Photo Sharing and Video Hosting at PhotobucketHow ridiculous! The steam rising off of that load bullshit is thick.

I haven't seen the photos but now I'm going to run out and find the issue now. At least Vogue Korea will get positive press out of this. It's not like Ms. Kim was butt naked in a raunchy spread eagle pose in Wanker-Korea magazine.

Vogue Korea is a high fashion magazine and the nude body has been featured in other forms of art such as sculptures, illustrations and paintings for centuries. The idea of nude photography in this context is far from raunchy or shameful. The long lines and modest curves of a ballerina's body is not what you see in nude magazines.

What's to discipline? It seems the only reason for the discipline is someone didn't sign off of the concept before it was published. She's been in Vogue Korea before (see below). What's funny is I've framed this as a women's issue, but the artistic director of the Korean National Ballet,박인자 (Pak In-ja), is also a woman. You'd think they'd support her and not fine her.

Kim Joo-won: Vogue Korea 2005

Clearly, artists and entertainers in Korea need to strike such sweeping control clauses out of their contracts. Better yet, they need to expressly stipulate that they don't have to seek approval for images not directly connected to their work with a theater or ballet company, TV show, movie, etc. I know that's purely in theory because this society is all for micro-managing from top to bottom. However, it's got to change if Korea wants a shot at true globalization and maybe it can start with the artists...maybe.

It was because of unreasonably tight control like this that foreign participants in a talk show were canned when their fame got them commercial deals and appearances on other shows: Working Hard in Korea. That decision was just as silly to me as this one involving 김주원. In most cases, in the West, magazine photo spreads, commercials and cameo appearances are seen as a good thing because of the publicity. Sure, you don't want your entertainers who most definitely represent your group or show flashing crotch shots or dancing naked on tables, but that could also be worked out in the contract without limiting them to the point where they virtually have no choice in doing other projects. But getting fired for doing a cameo appearance on another TV show or getting your pay docked for doing a photo shoot for Vogue where you're topless shouldn't be happening.

However, I just remembered something similar happened to a children's show host in the US over a year ago: Make Satirical Video, Get Fired Years Later? Melanie Martinez Fired by PBS.

Here, however, there is so much micro-managing and control that employees don't have very much say and almost no options but to leave when something like this happens.

Here is 김주원 in action:

Update 1: April 20, 2008 @ 6:22am

Since it's the weekend of the extended insulin reaction for me. Instead of getting up to hike up the local mountain again, I decided to check the traffic to my blog. That lead me to this page: Korean Ballerina Posing Nude? (발레리나 김주원 누드)

These are the pics. These are clearly fashion photography/art pics. What's so shocking? Anyway, months after the fact I'm still getting hits. This is more about the porn seekers looking for a cheap thrill than anything else now. Keep movin' pervs. There isn't much to see here.


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10 Unique Korean Customs & Practices and Mad TV's 'Average Asian' Skits

I'm still a little irked at The Korea Times. However, this is an interesting article.

Their 50th anniversary is coming up, so they have a series of special articles.

This one is titled 10 Unique Korean Customs & Practices. It points out some things that I've grown so used to that I wouldn't even consider writing about them. However, if you're not familiar with Korean culture, this can help distinguish it from the other NE Asian cultures. So click over and learn something about Korea.

Also, I was watching Mad TV today on the TVU Player on my computer. I love the 'Average Asian' skits. I get it because blacks are stereotyped in the worst way possible. Asians are stereotyped too but, at least, their stereotypes are more positive overall. However, the frustration I can totally relate to.

So here are a few that have been posted on YouTube.


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Thursday, October 25, 2007

My New Celly

Okay, y'all know I have Graves' Disease. My medication got tweeked about a week ago, but it takes a two or three weeks for it to level out. What that means is I've got insomnia right now, and I won't be sleeping 'cause I just can't.

So what do you do when your your thyroid is pumping enough hormones into you to power a kindergarten class? You blog!

After work I headed to one of my favorite parts of Seoul: Myeongdong.

I went there for dinner. One of my favorite Korean dishes is 갈국수 (kal kuk su), Korean noodles. There is this great restaurant in the area named: 명동교자 (Myeongdong Kyo Ja). They serve great 갈국수 along with incredibly fresh 김치 (kimchee). I won't get into the various of kimchee because I just don't know enough to explain it all, but the kind served at any restaurant that specializes in 갈국수 is the tastiest to me.

Here is a shot of my bowl of 갈국수 with 김치. What's great is they walk around to refill your 김치 because it's THAT tasty.

After dinner the plan was to head to The Coffee Bean and Tea Leaf and study Korean. I eventually made it, but not before I spent an hour buying a new cell phone. That's funny as my intent was just to pay my bill. However, I also had to change some of my account details and they let me know that I had 100,000 won worth of credit towards a new phone. Plus, as I blogged before, it was time to trade in my phone, so I did it.

I'm pretty loyal to the Cyon brand because the first Cyon phone I had I dropped continuously. That was pre Graves' Disease diagnosis, and I'd never been so clumsy. My Cyon phone NEVER stopped working even though the body did get a few scratches and some bad cracks. The phone I got after that was a Cyon and the new one is too. The model is the LG LB-2800.

Here are some of the features:

  • TV
  • music
  • BankOn Service card slot - you can bank from you phone
  • pretty high speed Internet
  • a high resolution camera and video recorder
  • Korean-English/English-Korean dictionary
  • currency converter
  • dual clock (I've got both Seoul and L.A. time showing)
  • Seoul subway map
  • SMS text messaging and
  • tons of other stuff I'll probably never use

It's just a damn cute phone! They gave me a cute clear cover, but I ran out and bought a blinged out cover after I had my coffee and biscotti.

Here it is with the TV tuned to a cooking show.


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Scorpions at the DMZ!!!

Sorry, about the title, but I couldn't resist.

There is been a buzz amongst the "inclined to wear a mullet" heshers in the ESL crowd over the Scorpions' upcoming show tonight.

I'll pass. That crowd traumatizes me enough just in passing.

However, here are the Scorpions in Korea at the DMZ.

Korea most definitely is a great place for some funny and odd photo ops.

This is one part of the 80s retro trend I'll resist. However, for all of you going to the show, have a good time.

In honor of those who watch over the DMZ, I've been inspired to change my profile pic to a shot of me standing on the North Korea side of the line at Panmunjeom in the Joint Security Area (JSA). I was terrified; that's a fake smile.

(I changed my profile pic...I don't like looking at myself terrified all the time, so here is a link to it.)


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Wednesday, October 24, 2007

Southern California Is On Fire - Some Links

Sunday Morning, October 21, in Malibu, California

Okay, the region where I grew up is alight due to Santa Ana winds gone wild, dry conditions and overgrown brush.

Flames flare up regularly around this time of year and there have been some in the past that have been pretty bad. This, however, is a disaster and has been for the last couple of days. I've been watching in the hopes that it would eventually die down. Instead, it's getting bigger, more acres are burning and more people are being evacuated.

What's funny is some are trying to politicize it, and Jon Swift has weighed in on that with his usual wit. The area where I grew up is flame icon free and will stay that way because there are no surrounding hills or brush areas. It's the areas adjacent to the hills, the green areas on the map, are the ones at risk.

The reports are good at this point. People are banding together and are helping each other out. That's great to hear.

One concern are animals caught in this. It's not like they can hop in the car and flee, so I hope people are responsible regarding the animals in their care. The current reports say the weather is cooperating, so hopefully, the worst of it all has peaked.

So with that said, here are some articles and resources to get more information on what's going on. Folks listening to scanners who work as a group to keep updated info on emergencies. They're covering this pretty well. Emergency wildfire contact information

LA Times: Blog - Southern California Wildfires

LA Times: Road closures and evacuations

San Diego Tribune: Main webpage - some good news links

Wildfires 2007 - "Breaking news of the San Diego County wildfires from SignOnSanDiego and The San Diego Union-Tribune". It gives you short updates on what's going on and who is doing what to help.

Craig's List LA - FireForum: Honestly, I don't know how helpful this is 'cause it's CraigsList and some of those folks are downright nutty. But there seem to be some threads that aren't a complete waste of time.

Okay, bedtime for me. I didn't sleep well last night, so, if necessary, I'll update this with more links later on.


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Chosun Ilbo: Korea Tumbles Six Spots in Globalization Index

I've been opining to excess on this topic lately. So just click on the "international hub?" tag if you want to read more of what I think. This time I'll just repost an article I read today at the Chosun Ilbo.

Foreign Policy has released it's 2007 globalization report. Again, Singapore takes the top spot while South Korea slips a few notches. What a surprise...not.

The report: Foreign Policy: The Globalization Index 2007

The news article: Korea Tumbles Six Spots in Globalization Index

Singapore was rated the most globalized country in the world for the third consecutive year, according to the 2007 Globalization Index. Hong Kong placed second in the index, the seventh annual collaboration between Foreign Policy magazine and A.T. Kearney, a consulting firm. The Netherlands ranked third, followed by Switzerland, Ireland and Denmark. Korea dropped six spots to 35th.

The index is based on data from 72 nations that account for 97 percent of the world GDP and 88 percent of the total population. The index measured 12 variables across four categories: economic integration, technological connectivity, political engagement, and personal contact.

Economic integration includes data on trade and foreign direct investment inflows and outflows. Technological connectivity counts the number of Internet users, Internet hosts, and secure servers for encrypted transactions.

Political engagement includes each country's contributions and memberships in international organizations. Personal contact tracks international travel and tourism, international telephone traffic, and cross-border remittances and personal transfers.

The 2007 rankings are based on 2005 data, the latest available.

The nations at the top of list are mostly small. Of the top 10 nations, eight have less than 84,000 of land and seven have populations of less than eight million.

Experts attribute the successful globalization of smaller nations to the fact that nations with small domestic markets and few natural resources have few choices but to search for breakthroughs in trade and market openings.

The U.S. dropped three spots to seventh place. India and China ranked 66th and 71st. China, which was ranked low because of its small level of international participation, dropped 15 spots since it changed its policy direction from export-driven growth to domestic demand-oriented growth.

India also ranked low because it lags behind other countries in technological connectivity, with only five percent of its population using the Internet.

There are also some other articles related to the topic on the sidebar at the Chosun Ilbo:

UN Concern at 'Ethnocentric' Korea
Foreigners Have a Hard Time in Korea -- Report
What Koreans Really Think About Ethnic Homogeneity
It's About Time Korea Became Colorblind
Korea Expecting 100 Millionth Foreign Visitor
Korea is Still in the Dark on Globalization

An Alternative link to the Globalization Index


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Tuesday, October 23, 2007

International Herald Tribune: Women Nobel Peace laureates demand Suu Kyi's release

The Nobel Women's Intiative has demanded the release of Aung Sang Suu Kyi.

Who they are:

The Nobel Women's Initiative was established in 2006 by sister Nobel Peace Laureates Jody Williams, Shirin Ebadi, Wangari Maathai, Rigoberta Menchú Tum, Betty Williams and Mairead Corrigan Maguire. We six women - representing North and South America, Europe, the Middle East and Africa - have decided to bring together our extraordinary experiences in a united effort for peace with justice and equality.

Here is the article:
Women Nobel Peace laureates demand Suu Kyi's release

Women Nobel Peace Prize laureates urged the United Nations on Wednesday to take decisive action to secure the release of Myanmar pro-democracy leader Aung San Suu Kyi.

Suu Kyi's fellow female peace prize winners expressed "grave disappointment" that Myanmar's junta has ignored the U.N. call for her release, in a letter published in The Guardian newspaper timed to mark her 12th year of detention.

"The Burmese regime must not be allowed to continue in its perpetration of gross violations of human rights," the letter said. "The detention of Aung San Suu Kyi is the most visible manifestation of the regime's brutality but it is only the tip of the iceberg."

U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon had asked junta leader Senior Gen. Than Shwe on Jan. 8 to release Suu Kyi.

The Burmese opposition leader was awarded the Nobel Peace prize in 1991. She is one of only seven living women to have won — and the only imprisoned Nobel laureate.

The letter released on Wednesday, which is also the 62nd anniversary of the United Nations, was signed by the other six female Nobel Peace laureates: Jody Williams, Shirin Ebadi, Wangari Maathai, Rigoberta Menchu Tum, Betty Williams and Mairead Corrigan Maguire.

The laureates vowed to work together to ensure Myanmar stays high on the international agenda. The military government sent troops to quash peaceful protests, initially led by students and then by Buddhist monks, last month.

"Since Burmese monks courageously took to the streets in September to call for democracy, the Burmese regime has enforced a vicious crackdown on peaceful demonstrators and democratic opposition leaders," the letter said. "Amidst mounting reports of torture and ill treatment, we fear for the safety of the brave people of Burma."

The junta took power in 1988 after crushing the democracy movement led by Suu Kyi. In 1990, it refused to hand over power when Suu Kyi's party won a landslide election victory. She has been in prison or under house arrest for 12 of the last 18 years.

On the web: Nobel Women's Initiative


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OECD: Korea Classified As A "Danger Country" For Women

Amnesty International members at Ewha Womans University's front gate

Update 1 (Oct. 27, 2007 @ 3:53pm)

Robert over at The Marmot's Hole posted about the subject a couple of days ago: Violent Crime Against Women in the News

His focus is different as are the focus of his commentors.

A lot neglect to note that the article does talk about Korean on Korean crime, the police officer and the men who rent taxis mentioned in the article ARE Korean. Instead, they focus more on how the media here reports foreigner on Korean crime, an alleged high number of reports by foreigners of Muslim heritage and where to find prostitutes...go figure. Whatever your views on prostitution, it's a crime!


This is an interesting article. It talks about how there is a rise in violent crime against women in Korea. One reason they point to is the increase of women workers which means more women out and about alone. I wouldn't be surprised because this is a country where if you hear a man beating his wife, you're told to ignore it.

However, that leads to another point the article doesn't touch on at all. What about the crimes that aren't reported at all? A female Korean friend of mine suffered through an attempted rape. No, she didn't report it. I told her she should, but it's really difficult to get a victim to stand up for herself in a society where some guys still think it's okay to slap a woman around on the street. Also, it can be quite difficult to get female victims to press charges in the States. Well, a few days later she called me in a panic when the guy contacted her again and told her he was waiting for her at the entrance of her apartment. I knew she wasn't going to call the police, so I called her boyfriend. That's about as close as she was going to get to protection.


I've never been in the situation where I've witnessed a violent crime against a woman, but it's a scenario I've heard about from other foreigners. Foreigners in particular are told to stay out of it when they see it (or hear it). In fact, this is one common justification foreign men will give as to why they're better dating prospects for Korean women. I think that's still up for debate, but I do think that a Korean woman is probably less likely to get slapped around by her foreign boyfriend or husband. There is no guarantee by a long shot, but I think the probability is lower due to how our societies view and deal with violence against women. Western countries, particularly the States, still have some ways to go too.

Now the Korean press likes to paint foreign men as these horrible men who prey on Korean women (and some are horrible and they are players, if not worse). However, most of these guys are okay. What the hell do you expect when you import mostly single male foreign teachers? Who are they supposed to date? Anyway, I can most definitely see why a few Korean women I know have more than a passing fancy for foreign men and why they're seen as the holy grail by some Korean women (don't shoot the messenger). I think there are a few reasons. But the one related to this topic is the general perception that they're treated better. Sad for the Korean men who are gentlemen because I know quite a few of them too. Unfortunately, for them the view is Korean men are misogynistic to a fault.

Well, read on...

Rash of Violent Crimes Leaves Korean Women Frightened
Many Korea women are anxious these days after a series of murders, rapes and other crimes targeting women made headlines recently.

Last August, two female office workers were abducted and murdered by illegal taxi drivers near Hongik University in Seoul, and in September a police officer raped two women in a subway parking lot late at night, stealing some W19 million (US$1=W917) in cash and valuables.

Earlier this month, a man in his 30s was arrested for raping nine women who were returning home at night in Seongbuk district in northern Seoul. Women now are increasingly afraid to catch a cab at night or even to go out.

With the surging growth of women in the Korean work force, economic participation by females has reached 54.8 percent. However public security measures to protect women at night remain neglected. According to the National Police Agency, more than a third of all violent crimes including murder, robbery, and rape occur between midnight and four a.m.

Korea is classified a "danger country" in terms of women's public safety by the 30-member OECD. According to the OECD's Social and Welfare Statistics for 2007, the homicide rate for Korean women is 1.7 per every 100,000 people, the third highest after the U.S. (2.7) and Iceland (2.2).

Experts say it's urgent that safety be ensured in cabs, the most frequently used means of transportation for working women at night. Most cabs including private and company-run ones are considered safe but measures must be taken against illegal contract cabs that are often used in crimes.

Contract cabs refer to licensed cabs that can be rented from an owner or a company for around W100,000 a day. They allow criminals to act as cab divers as long as they can pay. An estimated 5,000 contract cabs cruise the streets of Seoul.

"While more than 80 percent of people in Korea catch cabs on the street, most people in other countries have to call," said Park Yong-hun from the Coalition for Transportation Culture of Korea. "We should pursue a system for women-only call cabs."

Many also point out the need to step up public safety measures in secluded places like parking lots and alleys by setting up watch posts and CCTV cameras. "Women returning home late at night are the easiest targets for criminals, since they look for vulnerable victims in places where they can most easily commit crimes," said researcher Hwang Gi-tae of the Korea Institute of Criminal Justice Policy.

OECD: Social and Welfare Issues


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Saturday, October 20, 2007

Now THAT'S Innovation: Water-Power

Photo Sharing and Video Hosting at Photobucket

In one of my recent posts I wrote about the LG Voyager and called for more innovation. I got it!

Get Ready for Water-Powered Cell Phones
In 2010 your mobile phone may be powered by water. Samsung Electro-Mechanics announced Thursday that it has developed a micro-fuel cell and hydrogen generator that runs on H20.

"When the handset is turned on, metal and water in the phone react to produce hydrogen gas," explained Oh Yong-soo, vice president of Samsung Electro-Mechanics' research center. "The gas is then supplied to the fuel cell where it reacts with oxygen in the air to generate power." Other fuel cells need methanol to produce hydrogen, while Samsung's needs only water.

Since the micro-fuel cell can generate up to three watts of electricity, it could be used in mobile devices, the company said. The new fuel cell could power a handset for 10 hours, twice as long as rechargeable batteries.

Oh said water-powered handsets are expected to hit the market by 2010. "If the user uses the phone for four hours a day on average, they would have to change the hydrogen cartridge about every five days," Oh said. "Later handsets will be developed that don't need the hydrogen cartridges to be changed, and would only need to be filled with water."

Samsung Electro-Mechanics unveiled the new technology at the 2007 Korea Electronics Show at the Korea International Exhibition Center in Ilsan, Gyeonggi Province.

Now one issue is do you really want to walk around with a tiny version of the Hindenberg in your purse or pants?: Inventors Create Water-Powered Cell Phones

In all fairness, I did find this article about a water-powered cell phone that was written in 2006: Japanese Develop Water-Powered Cell Phones. So, who came first? Honestly, I don't think that it matters.

However, in finding info on the water-powered phones I found this 2005 article: Urine-Powered Batteries Developed for Cell Phones. BTW, you don't get around the gas issue. It seems all of these power souces might explode under the wrong circumstances, but conventional batteries explode too. This is a great point about urine-powered batteries:
If it works, it would be great for hikers and 3rd world countries where plugging in isn't very easy but, um, relieving oneself is.

I also found an article talking about urine-powered medical devices for diabetes. I'm diabetic. I'd be willing to switch and leave batteries behind.

Keep innovating - I really do need to divide this blog into categories because I love blogging gadget stories.


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Friday, October 19, 2007

An Argument For Environmental Action...

I got this YouTube video today via FaceBook.

I think he's got a good approach to the "should we act or shouldn't we act" question regarding global warming.

He's gotten a couple of bitter video rebuttals, but neither appeals to me as much as his logic does.

Check it out.


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Thursday, October 18, 2007

Holes in Korean Education

This is an interesting topic. I've been watching CNN's Eye on South Korea reports this week. It's the last day and they've topped it off talking by talking about MegaStudy.

I was having dinner with another foreign friend last night who is studying here. And, believe me, foreigners have a ton of opinions on Koreans and their education system. I've got a few choice views on it myself.

However, I did point out that in spite of the fact that Koreans are still very much plugged into route learning, the fact that their leaders had the good sense to invest into creating a broad education system contributes to the successful export economy we see today. There was a lot they could have done with the funds they didn't have to put to national defense and there could have been massive corrpution beyond the cronyism that was seen during the industrial development years because there was a lot of aid coming to Korea. All in all, there wasn't and that money went to creating a society ready to learn and work to a better future. Now they've got it.

There are tons of various types of colleges and universities which train their population to move into the job market. The fact is all of my Korean classmates who wanted to work or to move on to further studies have. Small cities like Yeosu, where I started my adventures in Korea years ago, usually have 4 to 5 nearby colleges and universities. Another town I lived in had nothing more than a train station, a bus station a few blocks down the road, a few shops in between and a lot of gawking Koreans had at least 5 to 6 colleges and universities within a 30 to 45 minute radius. This has been crucial to Korean's amazing development because it's a reality that the child of working class people can get education. I've seen it and that's the background of the majority of the students I've had since I've been here.

Now these institutions are not creating scholars. What they're doing, however, is training people to become skilled workers to do the job. That's crucial for a country that lacks natural resources. You have to create your edge with your other resources. So for all the criticism that's directed in the general direction of the Korean education system it's managed to get the job done.

With that shout out, however, here comes the critique. When it comes to globalizing Koreans still have quite a ways to go. The economy is shifting from a manufacturing base to a service and research base. No education system is perfect; the US education system certainly isn't in the primary and secondary school levels, but somehow is at the top of the game when it comes to universities.

I was regaled with a story that one of my former professors had no clue where Jamaica was and thought it was somewhere in Africa. The class had to do reports on leadership in their respective countries, but the professor had no concept of the Caribbean region. Even after being corrected she continued to clump the African students with the ones from the Caribbean.

Now Koreans bristle when they're mistaken for Japanese or Chinese, so you'd think there would be the same level of sensitivity when they make the same error. However, I've found that empathy is a hard thing to find in Koreans when it comes to this issue. You'd also think that a "scholar" would have a general idea of the world's geography. Meaning you don't have to know exactly where a country is but it would be nice to think most "educated" people know the difference between the regions where Ghana and Guyana are located. If you know the positions this woman has had in the past and her specialty, the depth of her error becomes even more glaring.

That's one huge hole in the Korean system which leads to blundering errors like the one my former professor made. It's a shame because I guess even in the mind of a Korean who holds a Ph.D. from an American university and whose CV lists some interesting work, all black people except black Americans all must still live in Sub-Saharan Africa. And there is nothing wrong with living in Sub-Saharan Africa, so don't mistake my point. However, in modern times boats sail and planes fly and, believe it or not, they let black people on them from time to time.

The black disapora like the Korean one is all over the world. To not know the difference between Sub-Saharan Africa and the Caribbean is more that just humiliating for her (the story is spreading fast), but it's a clear commentary on how far the Korean education system still has to go to prepare its citizens to shift from making products shipped to foreign lands to actually dealing with foreigners face-to-face.

Maybe the folks at MegaStudy can offer a freebie class to its Korean subscribers to cover world geography and world culture. While they're at it, maybe they can create an English version for the students in the US too. I know I still have cousins who ask me how my life is in Japan, go figure.


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Mercy Links, vol. 3

It's been quite a few months since I've done Mercy Links.

  • The Life of Riley: Olive Riley is a blogger who will be 108 years old on October 20th. I heard about her through an Associated Press video on her recent birthday party. My, my...I can't express how cool it is that our birthdays are in the same month! Happy Birthday Olive!
  • Black Travels: Honestly, I've not clicked around this site much as I've got my travel needs covered. However, the concept is good and they've got a blog which I do have linked in my sidebar. It's not very active right now, but I hope it will be.
  • Blog Herald: The Blog Herald was founded by Duncan Riley in March 2003 as a premium source of blog and blogging related news for bloggers. It was the first blog dedicated exclusively to the news of the blogosphere and remains the longest (and largest) standing resource of its kind. (link here.)
  • Overlawyered - Chronicling the high cost of our legal system: This site has been around since 1999. It covers the inconsitences and high costs of the overly litigious US legal system.
  • The New America Foundation: Powerful forces -- from rapid technological change to massive demographic shifts, from economic globalization to the rise of new global powers -- are remaking America. Now, more than ever, our nation needs a robust public debate that does justice to the complex challenges and opportunities of this unfolding era. Instead, there is a dearth of new thinking on both sides of the political divide, and a lack of investment in developing the creative young minds most capable of crafting new public policy solutions.
  • Less Than Four - The Online Community for Amputees: Created by Josh Sundquist, Less Than Four is the premier online community for amputees around the world. People with limb differences gather here to ask questions, find answers and connect with one another.

Here are my first two: Mercy Links and Mercy Links, vol. 2


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Wednesday, October 17, 2007

Even Koreans See Singapore As The Place To Be

Another in my "international hub?" theme.

If its upper income citizens are setting up businesses and establishing residency in Singapore for its high level of development, tax breaks and educational programs, what does Korea offer to expatriates in terms of the same?

I mean, if it's that great (and it is) then you'd expect foreign businesses choosing from Asian nations to set up shop in Singapore. That's supported by the data as Korea fell in the rankings this year in terms of ideal places to do business. Pretty ads and sweeping statements mean nothing without action to truly make Korea a good place for foreign investment and foreign living.

Beyond that, I'll let the article speak for itself.

Tax Breaks, Schools Attract S.Koreans to Singapore

An increasing number of high-income South Koreans are obtaining permanent residency in Singapore to give their children better educational opportunities, take advantage of tax breaks and enjoy post-retirement living. In the past, Koreans who wanted to move overseas looked mostly to the U.S., Canada and Australia, but now it's Singapore in the spotlight.

According to the Bank of Korea, not a single South Korean bought a house in Singapore in 2005, but in 2006 eight did and in the first half of 2007 23 Koreans bought houses in the Southeast Asian city-state, showing a sharp upward trend.

Investment by South Koreans in Singapore has also grown, from S$3.3 million (S$1=US$0.68) last year to S$14.30 million during the first half of this year. The number of Koreans residing in Singapore has swollen to about 13,000, nearly twice as many as three years ago.

To obtain permanent residency in Singapore you can establish a business with an investment of more than S$1 million, or invest more than S$1.5 million in a local venture capital firm, enterprise or foundation. If you invest more than S$2 million, you will be permitted to buy residential property with up to 50 percent of your investment.

The main reason Koreans are interested in Singapore is that it offers better educational opportunities and tax benefits. It's also possible to make successful investments in real estate, since housing prices have risen in the wake of recent development plans for the Sentosa and Marina Bay areas of the country. As Singapore is relatively close to South Korea, it's also easy to travel between the two countries.

Individual South Koreans are looking for foreign countries where they can enjoy tax advantages and educational opportunities, just as businesses are leaving for foreign nations in search of lighter tax burdens and softer investment regulations.

Koreans can still maintain their South Korean citizenship if they obtain only permanent residency in Singapore. Singapore also offers public security, a stable political and economic situation, less racial discrimination than in Europe or the U.S., and a better educational environment where students can learn both English and Chinese.

The immigration trend is further encouraged by the Singaporean government's plan to expand the number of permanent residents it allows in a bid to increase its total population from 4.5 million now to 6.5 million by 2050.

Kim Hoon, 38, is a Korean who obtained permanent residency in Singapore in 2005. "The Singaporean government gives permanent residency to any foreigners who contribute even a little to the Singaporean economy," he said. "Permanent residency is renewed every five years, but you'll have no problem maintaining your status if you have no problems with your work and you pay your taxes."

A growing number of South Koreans are establishing their own businesses or making investments in Singapore to take advantage of tax breaks. One South Korean plastic surgeon plans to establish a joint venture clinic in Singapore next year. "To succeed in Asia, you should advance into Singapore, a medical hub," he said. "And you can win recognition there for the outstanding technology of South Korean surgeons."

The president of a local consulting firm said, "Many South Koreans obtain permanent residency by first establishing corporate bodies in Singapore and then gauge the situation for about a year and a half."


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Monday, October 15, 2007

B-Boys In Korea? Damn Right!

Update 1 (Oct. 21, 2007 @ 10:08am)

A week after the event and KBS N Sports is showing the competition on TV here. Here is the webpage for that. It's all in Korean though: Only KBS N >UK B-BOY 챔피언십.

But I watched it and the T.I.P. Crew took it, hands down. No one had their moves.

It's funny when people don't realize the depth of the spread of black American culture.

I'm a fairly active member on a black forum where let someone see a person of another race doing something "black" and the thread will blow up with both shock, awe and, unfortunately, lots of attitude. I think that's really sad, honestly.

I remember when I moved to Korea years ago. I was in Busan for the first time just walking around, getting lost and exploring. I found my way to the top of Busan Tower and there I saw a bunch of kids break dancing in the promenade. I wasn't surprised at all. I joined the crowd, I watched and enjoyed a good dance show.

I wasn't suprised probably because in both L.A. and San Francisco you see all sorts of people doing "black" things or in "black" clubs ranging from jazz to hip-hop. In fact, the guy who turned me on to a jazz club was a man who was British but ethnically Japanese and, like me, was adopted. The relationship didn't get very far but I got turned on to a great club and got hooked on Ledisi, the artist I saw that night. In fact, I started attending her shows at various clubs all around the city and dragging my friends with me even on school nights.

The point is aspects of black American culture have spread far and wide way past inspiring white American kids to start playing blues and to embrace rock n' roll.

This leads me to good news! The Korean b-boy team, T.I.P. Crew (Teamwork Is Perfect Crew), won at the UK B-boy Championship in the London this past Sunday. Here is a clip of the performance that got them to the UK.

Check out this link for the different national crews.

So here is a big congratulations to the T.I.P. Crew!


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Foreign Miscreants: International Pedophile Search

Update 2 (October 19, 2007 @ 3:01pm)

They found the dirty bastard, oh wait, suspect:

Thai police arrest Canadian pedophilia suspect

BANGKOK, Thailand (CNN) -- A teacher from Canada suspected of sexually abusing young boys in photographs posted on the Internet has been arrested in Thailand, Thai police said.

Christopher Paul Neil was taken into custody early Friday in Nakhon Ratchafima, a town about 130 miles (210 km) northeast of Bangkok, where he was allegedly attempting to contact underage boys, Maj. Gen. Wimon Pao-in said.

Thai police were moving Neil to Bangkok on Friday, police said.

Neil had been working as an English teacher in South Korea and flew from Seoul to Bangkok last Thursday, said Interpol, the international police agency that issued a worldwide appeal for information in the case last week.

The alert was issued after 200 photographs were posted on the Internet, showing a man sexually abusing 12 different young males.

The photos, which authorities believe were taken in Vietnam and Cambodia in 2002 or 2003, had been digitally altered to disguise the man's face. But German investigators were able to reverse the process and restore the images, and his picture was then distributed worldwide.

The suspect was identified within three days after the photographs were released, based on tips from five sources on three continents, according to Interpol.

Update 1 (October 16, 4:04pm):

The basics-
His name: Christopher Paul Neil
Age: 32
Citizenship: Canadian Thai police name pedophile suspect
The Guardian Unlimited: Thai police name suspected web paedophile

I knew it would eventually be a headline. I've written before about how lax schools are in Korea when screening potential foreign employees. I was shocked when I applied and gave out the usual stack of references and documents required to get work back home. Eventually, I realized that no one had bothered to follow-up and check on my references.

Now I know my stuff is in order, but what if it wasn't? Once I realized that the people I work with got in with the same ease I've made it a policy to be leery of foreigners I meet here. For example, at my second job there was a man who was seriously maladjusted. He'd be in a "mood" and wouldn't talk to anyone until he snapped out of it. He'd be unresponsive to questions and would slam things around on his desk. It was very weird. He managed to get into trouble with the locals for waving a middle finger at the wrong person and that came back on him. He also was married to a Korean woman. Talk about bottom feeding for a passport...gah.

The poor woman probably never realized what she was getting into because a lot of Koreans I've met truly go on the most superficial of judgments to make friends or to even start relationships. I've got other anecdotal stories like that. It's the reason I can count the number of foreigners here that I consider true friends over mere acquaintance on my fingers. Now I'm not saying all foreigners here are crazy. Some might be normal and adventurous people who want to live overseas and travel. However, I've also encountered a huge amount of maladjusted and downright crazy people most of whom I doubt could get hired much less hold down a gainful job in the States (or wherever they're from).

Many times it's occured to me that it's simply dangerous to hire people you don't know from Adam with no background or criminal record checks to teach children. I'd NEVER let my child attend a "school" where teachers didn't have a background check. Now a friend did point out that some people have managed never to get in trouble and there would be no criminal records to get. However, they don't even do reference checks here and that they can do. Like back home some people slip through the cracks, but the current situation here is more like a chasm.

This leads me to this disturbing story. I was watching CNN this morning when they aired a story about a pedophile who posted pictures of himself on the Internet molesting boys. He scrambled his face but they were able to reverse the process and they released his picture. It ends up that this guy has been identified due to tips and was supposedly teaching kids in Korea at the time they were narrowing in on him: Interpol Says Suspected Pedophile Identified, Sought in Thailand. Currently, it's believed he's fled to Thailand.

Here is the Interpol media release on this case. Click on the links in the story for pictures (I just don't have the stomach to post his face on my blog) and, if you know who this guy is, contact the authorities.

Here are some other articles:

The Register: International manhunt tracks pedophile suspect to Thailand
New York Times: Trail to Suspected Pedophile Reignited Online
BBC News: Online abuser 'English teacher'


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Koreans Can't Afford To "Think Poor"

Update 1 (Oct. 18, 2007 @ 9:26am)

Here is the Blog Action Day blog for more info.

Good show my fellow bloggers!

I was happy to hear about Blog Action Day because it’s one way to show that Web 2.0 isn’t a complete waste of time and energy, and that it’s not going to be the downfall of humanity or Western culture as some are arguing these days.

The concept of having thousands upon thousands of bloggers talking about the environment is a great idea. It doesn’t matter what you write about or what you think. It's not a liberal blog action day or a conservative blog action day. You can be on the progressive or not-so-progressive side. You can be on the informed or not-so-informed side. You can be on the involved or not-so-involved side. That's great because maybe it will be a step towards people understanding that you can have varying views and still have a civil discussion.

As today approached I’d spent a fair amount of time right here: Photo Sharing and Video Hosting at Photobucket. Stuck and completely unsure of what approach to take.

I'm still not quite sure, but let's see where I end up.

As I’ve written before, in California it’s so easy to be someone who conserves. It’s easy. It’s encouraged. In Korea it’s not.

The frequent catchphrase and easy excuse is it’s a "developing country". This is said as if the concept of the environment is somehow alien or incompatible to economic development or, even worse, that Koreans are too dense or too backwards at this point in time to get it due to their level of economic development. The problem is thinking like that is going to put the commerce and development out of reach for the whole world. How many developing nations will lean on this excuse? How many incidents like the 1991 Doosan Chemical spill will have to happen in developing countries until that's no longer an excuse? How long does Seoul have to be known as having "some of the worst air pollution among developing cities"?

Traffic today around 3pm near Namdaemum Market in Seoul

That sort of reasoning is completely untrue. Of course, developing nations are special cases, but Koreans like any other nation can "get" the importance of repairing and preserving the environment and conservation. The fact is Korea is entering a completely new phase of development which is focused less on heavy industry and more on services and research and technology.

I did find a interesting webpage on the Pacific Rim Consortium on Energy, Combustion, and the Environment (PARCON) website that says that after the first oil crisis where Koreans were encouraged to “think poor” and use energy accordingly.

I started to write suggestions on how to conserve in Korea, but then I realized that I don’t want to do that. It’s real easy to get stuck on the minutia, hoist yourself up on a green soapbox, and, basically, isolate everyone around you to the point where they’re saying, “you know what? Fuck the environment!” Around a few high and mighty, environmentalists, vegans and certain hyper-aggressive members of the Green Party I’ve had the displeasure of dealing with, I've been close to feeling that way.

It’s pretty clear that human activity has made it essential that we think about our daily activities and how those activities impact our planet. It’s not about development or a lack of it. It’s about educating the population that being mindful of their daily activities can help heal the environment. In South Korea, "thinking poor" isn't the way to go anymore. With an economy that is firmly seated in the top 15 in the world, South Korea is now very far from being poor.

One tip: take mass transit. It's pretty darn good here in Korea.

The IPCC's report is linked here along with other info: Where the Hell Am I?: On A Warming Planet.

My previous posts on the environment.


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Thursday, October 11, 2007

October 15, 2007 - Blog Action Day

Interesting idea.


What would happen if every blog published posts discussing the same issue, on the same day?

One issue. One day. Thousands of voices.

I'm down. If you are, click over to the site and register. Also, spread the word to other bloggers.

Blog Action Day

On October 15th, bloggers around the web will unite to put a single important issue on everyone’s mind. In 2007 the issue is the environment. Every blogger will post about the environment in their own way and relating to their own topic. Our aim is to get everyone talking towards a better future.

We’re looking for bloggers of all nationalities and backgrounds, writing about all topics to join in. Here’s what you have to do:

Publish on October 15th
Publish a post on their blog which relates to an issue of their own choice pertaining to the environment.

For example: A blog about money might write about how to save around the home by using environmentally friendly ideas. Similarly a blog about politics might examine what weight environmental policy holds in the political arena.

Posts do not need to have any specific agenda, they simply need to relate to the larger issue in whatever way suits the blogger and readership. Our aim is not to promote one particular viewpoint, only to push the issue on the table for discussion. So write in whatever way suits your readers and your blog, just relate it back to the environment and make sure it goes up on October 15th.

Other things you can do
You can also participate in Blog Action Day by posting a banner on your site ( or by donating your day’s blog earnings to an environmental charity of your choice.

Register your blog
We are keeping track of all the blogs that have committed to participating on and it would be very helpful for you to register your blog at

At this time the form is only available in English, but the form fields are as follows:

1 - Blog Title

2 - Blog URL

3 - Approximate RSS Subscriber Number
(This will not be published. It is used to generate an approximate ‘reach’ for Blog Action Day. Simply enter an average, recent feed count from Feedburner or similar service. If you don’t know the audience size, just enter ‘0′. )

4 - Your Email
( You will ONLY receive two emails. The first will be two days prior to Blog Action Day 2007. And a second in August 2008 about next year’s day.)

5 - The final field is to test whether you are a human or spam robot. Simply type in the number written there

Thank you for participating in Blog Action Day 2007! In future years we hope to have the entire site translated in many languages :-)


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Wednesday, October 10, 2007

Olympic Boycott Over Burma?

My first post on the crackdown in Myanmar has rolled off the front page and this is big enough that it deserves its own post.

I got this in an email from the people over at Pressure the Chinese government to compel the Burmese generals to stop killing and oppressing the Burmese people? In this blog they call for a boycott of the 2008 Olympics in Beijing.

Here is the blog in full:

Some may say politics and sports should be kept separate. Does anybody believe the Chinese leaders are that (i think that's meant to be "that are" - ExJane) interested in Marathons, 100 m? It’s about politics, and about Chinese prestige. Any political or sports leader suggesting the opposite is either ignorant, or worse.

Chinese support to ‘political stability’ in Burma, means support to the Burmese military. It means providing arms to the Burmese generals?

Against what enemy? Thailand? Laos? China itself? (Burma has no external enemies. The Chinese arms allow for Chinese exploitation of Burma’s natural resources. It benefits greedy Burmese generals and Chinese business while enslaving the Burmese people.

The Chinese government will hardly listen to UN Security Council talk. They veto instead. But they don’t want to lose face. They don’t want to risk the Olympic Games. That is their weakness. So why not use this weakness, to help the Burmese! Persuade sportsmen, Olympians, their leaders, to speak out, to threaten to boycott the games unless China stops sending arms to the generals and uses its influence in Burma, to force the generals to stop killing people, to move to democracy and an economic growth that benefits all the people, not just the generals and their children.

Today the diverse Burmese opposition actually may have a chance to cooperate, the monks and students and the minority peoples, the Shan and Karen, who have for decades fought for their rights and therefore have been persecuted and murdered by the Burmese military. They could join forces if they were able to communicate, via mobiles, Internet. ICT may again prove to be one of the poor and unfree men’s best help. Let’s hope it will.

But the rest of the world should also go on to use the power of ICT, talk to, email, tell politicians, sportsmen, Olympians, their leaders. Tell them to threaten the success of the upcoming Olympic games in China.
I've posted it on a couple of groups on Facebook following the events in Burma and I'll just paste here what I wrote there.

From blog. A call to press countries to boycott the 2008 Olympics. It's worked in the past, why not this time? At least it will send a very STRONG and economically devastating message. China is prepping like gangbusters right now. They building tons of new buildings, expanding the infrastructure, meddling with the rainfall, etc. If the world says they're not coming to the party that would be huge.

Sports diplomacy has happened in the past and it's effective. It can be used in both a positive since by bringing atheletes and nations together but also in a negative sense which people are pushing for now. Clearly, a boycott is in the negative, but when the stakes are high it can work. Plus, let's not forget the Darfur region of Sudan. That's a thorny issue too. However, maybe the combination of Darfur and Burma can get the momentum going on this idea. It usually takes more than merely boycotting Olympic games, but combined with other efforts, sports diplomacy can be very effective.

For those who don't remember or don't know, I've found a couple of links on sports diplomacy. I'd never really thought of it, but my classmate wrote her master's thesis on sports diplomacy last term. She talked about some of the ideas she had and I gave her some research suggestions. To see people calling for it in this situation is great, because it could definitely make an impact.

Here are some articles:

Washington Post - Countdown to Beijing by Victor Cha

CNN Cold War: Spotlight: Olympic Boycotts

If you run a search on Google for "olympic-boycott, china, burma" you get a page full of results and I've not read them all, so here is that search link: "olympic-boycott, china, burma".


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CNN: Eye on South Korea

CNN International has been running adverts for this for a couple of weeks. It's set to air next week and, as a demi tech geek, I'm sooooooooo very excited.

Eye on South Korea

Linked by high-speed broadband lines and blanketed by wireless signals capable of sending HDTV to tiny cell phones, South Korea is the world's most wired -- and wireless -- country.

CNN takes an in-depth look at how South Korea is leading the rest of the world into the future.
Basically, it will be a week where they feature South Korea and its technology. I know it will run on CNN International. I'm not sure about CNN in the States. Look for it is all I can say.

This will be great because you don't know how frustrating it is to have people thinking I'm living in some backwards wasteland. It's nothing close to that, and it hasn't been for awhile.

In fact, from that perspective, I hate traveling home because of the dearth of Internet access and other technology is so behind. The fact is Korea has invested more in its infrastructure and the US has an aging infrastructure that it hasn't invested in upgrading.

For more on that topic look up Stephen Flynn, PhD. I got turned on to his work earlier this year and have been lucky enough to briefly correspond with him. He's an expert on it. He's looking at it more from a security perspective, but he's got some great points.

Anyway, as a result, the US is being left in the dust. What's funny is in all of the time I've lived here I've never had to deal with a power outage. However, it's very common in my home state of California, and I'm not looking forward to coming back to that. What's funny is this comes as a shock to my friends and family when I go home. It seems that a lot of us, "us" being Americans, think that we're at the pinnacle when it comes to modern amenities.
However, I think that was the case maybe 30 to 40 years ago and now the US is being left behind. There is a certain level of clueless arrogance that many back home have primarily because people don't bother to travel very far and wide.

It's funny to see experience at times. I remember having a friend ask me if it was really true that South Korea has one of the most wired countries in the world. Well, yes, it's true. Just because the US hasn't figured out it's a good idea doesn't mean other countries haven't.

I remember another friend being more vexxed at getting a text message than being disturbed by a phone call. Her reply to me was "call me" whereas in Korea the reply probably would have been "okay, c u then." I thought that was weird because that's the benefit of an SMS. You send a message, update the person and all they do is glance at the phone rather than have to pick-up to have a conversation.

I remember another not even knowing that LG was a Korean brand. Of course, now I know and I wonder how much I knew before living here?

Having an infrastructure that's modern and being in a country that willingly adopts technology rather than poo-poo it will be things I'll really miss when I finally leave. It's going to be very hard adjusting once I get back. I've got over a year to prepare myself for the hard fall. I'm very spoiled now.


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Seoul Outdoes London in Consumer Prices

This is an interesting article which confirms what I've noticed living here: the prices are pretty steep for a lot of things.

A lot of reasons are beyond my expertise to comment on. However, what I've noticed with a lot of my Korean friends is they truly think that the more you spend on something, the better it is.

Now that's true, in a general sense. The pair of leather pumps I have on now are maybe mid-price range. (Mid-price range for me being around $70.00 USD). Now I can get pumps at a much cheaper and much more expensive price. The cheaper pumps will probably not last very long. The more expensive pumps will probably last me a bit longer. The ones I have on will probably last me a long time with proper care.

But there are some things that are wasteful habits.

For example, when people move to a new place in they frequently toss the furniture out to get new pieces. There really isn't a regard for recycling or keeping heirlooms. One reason I know is because everything here was essentially destroyed after the Korean War, so there aren't any heirlooms. What that means is furniture gets tossed. You'll see it on the side of the road near recenly vacated apartments or houses. These are usually not broken or well-worn pieces of furniture, but are perfectly good and intact pieces. I found a great second-hand furniture and appliance shop near my apartment and bought an armoire that was essentially new. But for a lot of Koreans I know, that would be unheard of.

To me, that's when it gets silly and that's one reason why retailers are able to charge such high amounts. The reason being a lot of Koreans don't seem to have sense of the value of many consumer items and there is a status to having the latest and most expensive thing to hit the market. Granted, there are a lot of people like this in the States too. But not to the same degree here. Here it's not just capitalism driving it but the culture of hierarchy and status.

Now, like I said, that's one reason in the big cycle of how economics, prices and inflation works. But if there isn't a demand for products at reasonable prices it's actually quite easy to over charge for things that would otherwise be cheaper.

Honestly, it's a good reason for me to not second guess my current plan which is to make this approach to my last year in Korea and move on. There is no value to living here when the cost of living starts exceeding the cost of living back home because there isn't that much more here that's enticing enough to remain.

Seoul Outdoes London in Consumer Prices

The U.K. is notorious for its high prices, especially public transport and eating out in London. The underground costs 4 pounds or some W7,500 in downtown London, and the basic bus fare is 2 pounds - that is three to seven times higher than in Seoul (W1,000 each). The price of a bowl of black bean paste noodle is as much as 5-5.90 pounds. Koreans living in the U.K. seem resigned to the fact. They say if they try to translate pounds into Korean won, they would end up starving to death. But when it comes to commodity prices, the story is different. Meat and vegetables are available at cheaper prices than in Seoul in the supermarkets, and premium brand goods are also much cheaper in London.

◆ Beef four times more expensive in Seoul

Hong Seong-nyeo lives in London and cooks beef once or twice a week. She shops in Tesco’s, where 600 g of best-quality steak costs no more than W15,000 for her family of four. The same amount at E-mart in Seoul costs some W56,000. The price of fresh bacon is a third of the price in Seoul. For W10,000, you can buy only 515 g of good-quality pork in a E-mart in Seoul, but in London it buys 1,620 g. And an organic egg costs W508 in a London Tesco but is W190 more expensive in a Seoul E-mart.

The price of milk is also below W1,000 for 1 liter in a London Tesco, but in a E-mart even the cheapest exceeds W1,200. A box of 600 g Kellogg’s Corn Flakes is W4,350 in Seoul but costs less in London although it comes with 150 g more per packet. Some vegetables like onions and cucumbers are more expensive in London, but comparing the bills of 15 items bought, Seoul was still more than twice as expensive as London -- W143,000 against W64,000. Even excluding beef and pork, London (W46,000) is cheaper than Seoul (W75,000).

◆ Hugo Boss men’s suit W500,000 more expensive in Seoul

At the Shinsegae Department Store in Gangnam, Seoul, Lancome’s eye cream costs W150,000 and Estee Lauder’s W75,000. But the same Lancome eye cream is available at 36 percent cheaper or W96,000 (51.50 pounds) in London’s biggest department store Selfridge’s. The Estee Lauder product is also W15,000 cheaper there. The same goes for men’s cosmetic products. It costs W43,000 to buy a 100 ml bottle of Biotherm lotion in Seoul, but in London a 200 ml bottle costs W7,000 less. And what about Korean girls’ favorite Louis Vuitton bags? The basic Speedy costs W670,000 in Seoul, W90,000 more expensive than in London. A Prada bag is also W300,000 more expensive in Seoul (W1.6 million) than in London (W1.3 million).

A men’s suit in a Hugo Boss store in downtown London was tagged at 600 pounds (W1.12 million), but the same suit was sold at W1.68 million in Seoul. The situation is not much different in outlet stores. In Bicester Village, an outlet mall in northwestern London, men’s polo T-shirts, whose original price is 55 pounds (W102,000), are sold for 19.99 pounds (W37,000). They cost W69,000 at an outlet in Yeoju, Korea. Burberry classic checked shirts for men are offered at one-third of the original price (120 pounds) in the London outlet, but three times as expensive at W208,000 in the Korean one.


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