Saturday, May 30, 2009

Take the money and run

Okay, so this is a little far fetched for our class, but there is a small reference to Korea. Basically, police are looking for a New Zealand couple who disappeared after a bank mistakenly put $10 million dollars into their account.
The couple, said to be from Korea, applied to the Westpac Bank for a 10,000-New Zealand-dollar overdraft for the auto service station they ran in Rotorua. The bank reportedly paid 10 million dollars in error.

I'm sure they sat around the table pondering to return the cash or run with it...and so they ran. Authorities aren't certain yet if they ran to South Korea, Hong Kong, or China.

Here is the link

There is a lot of discussion on this, particularly about the morals behind it. I was surprised to read that many people commended the bonnie and clyde type maneuver, saying that banks take in billions of dollars a year in charges and they are the ones that made the mistake. The "natural man" in my would definitely have been tempted to follow their actions...but after quick consideration, I realized I would never had even made a step towards the door. I was talking with my wife about it, and we decided that not only is it wrong, but it would be tough living in hiding the rest of your life, always being a bit jumpy when the phone rings or the door knocks. We'll see what the future holds for this audacious and swindling couple.

Thursday, May 28, 2009


Just in case your wondering what 'kagm' means,no, it is not a korean word, it's an acronym that means Koreans are good merchants. The other one i'll tell you l ater. Maybe I should say awesome merchants. Then it would be Kaam. Anyway, being that we were talking about the Korean economy and things like that, I remeber where I grew up (the best city in the world) [El Paso], there used to be a big chinese population in the city, there used to be a chinatown but they have moved on to San Francisco or Mexico. My bishop in Juarez, Mexico was of Chinese origin. He only spoke Spanish and English, not Chinese:(. That's ok though, he was still a good man. Now there are a lot of Koreans in El Paso and a lot of them have businesses in downtown El Paso which is right on the border with Mexico. I remember I had some students who also agreed that Koreans are awesome merchants, so it's not just my imagination. What is neat is that most of them are trilingual: Spanish, English, Korean. You would have to be to work in that part of town. An example of a good (but tricky) merchant was when I lived in Korea. STORY TIME (get comfortable) as far back as I can remember, when I used to live in Korea, I spent 7 months alone then I brought my wife and son over to spend the remainder of my time with me. I lived in area 1 ,the area closest to the DMZ, and many of my superiors said that it would be impossible to bring my family over (this is an example of how God heard us and answered our prayers despite what big wigs said) but that's a story for another day. So my family came over but before that I went right off post to look for an apartment and I took a Korean friend with me to help me. I had asked soldiers who had married koreans and phillipinos for advice and it pretty much summed up to one thing: Don't trust Mister Kim!" So poor Mr. Kim was already notorious. I walked around and took down some addresses and later returned with my Korean friend. Lo and behold some of the addresses belonged to Mr. Kim, but I decided to go check him out, after all, you can't trust everything you hear from soldiers. We went down an alley and behind a big building was a black door that you could see your reflection on. We went in and it was just like the movies. It was pretty dark, cool, and a big desk in the center of the room. Behind that bik desk was a big chair. In that chair was a big Rottweiler. Not really, but in that chair was the man, the myth...Mr.Kim. He looked pretty hype, maybe the kind of mand who is into the B-Boys or rap. He was in his 60's, had a dark silk shirt (it may have been polyester) dark pilot shades that reflected images like his door and a Kangol hat. "This guy is a stud with the ladies' I thought and my friend started wheeling and dealing with him explaining my situation. He knew army policies, and was asking me through my friend several questions. He knew more than me about how the army overseas pay works and everything. "Hmm" I thought, "I can't pull the wool over this guys eyes," besides the fact that he was wearing sweet pilot shades and I didn't want to ruin those, I didn't want to rent from him. It was a gut feeling. Or maybe it was the cold noodles I had for lunch. I don't like cold noodles. I thought he would pull out a tommy gun and riddle me with bullets and make an escape in a private helicopter. But that didn't happen. My friend and I just walked out and I could feel his cold stare drilling a hole in my back. I should have gone in front of my friend so he wouldn't stare at me. But my friend was short so even if I was in front Mr. Kim would still be able to stare me down. It was too late though. So I went out looking for more apartments, pretty much groping in the dark. (I think that would be an awesome name for a rock band "groping in the dark") To make a long story short there was a nice lady, Mrs. Lee and I rented from her and my family came and we lived happily ever after. But really, Mr. Kim and my other Korean landlords knew policy, regulations, rules, everything much better than the soldiers did! That is how one can be a good con artist, knowledge is power. So my point is that Koreans have a knack for business, most of my Korean friends are majoring in Business Management, shocker huh? That could partly explain why a rubbled Korea could rise so quickly and be so prosperous when other countries are still lagging. One man in Korea also told me that Koreans since the Korean war have had to double time (work super hard) to catch up with the rest of the prospering countries, and ALL of my friends are always busy. They love to be busy and have that ingrained in their minds. Ok well enough story time, maybe more later!!! raul :)

(PS Don't trust old men who wear Silk shirts, dark pilot shades and kangol hats) ((PSS my personal rule of thumb for life))

Armistice Loophole...?

In this article that I just read concerning raised alert levels in South Korea it mentioned that the waters off of Korea's west coast are not covered under the armistice's cease fire agreement. Why in the world would that be the case? You'd think that the ceasefire would apply to all Korean territory including its coastal waters extending out at least until international waters begin (somewhere between 50 and 200 miles I believe). Is there some specific reason that these waters were not included?

Wednesday, May 27, 2009

Commercial Profit?

I heard a blurb on the radio yesterday labeling North Korea's reason for detonating a nuclear device was to prove to potential buyers that it did indeed have nuclear production capability. Personally, I think that that's a load of hogwash, but it is a possibility. The disturbing question is: who would they be selling nuclear devices to?

Who Would It Be?

In contemplating the events regarding North Korea's nuclear explosion and further missile tests, I began wondering who would be their first target? South Korea? Japan? A US air base? Russia? China? While North Korea obviously does not like South Korea it would be potential suicide to fire a nuclear weapon so close as any minute shift in the weather pattern could bring a huge cloud of nuclear fallout back onto itself, not to mention the destruction of viable economic profit generating infrastructures. This argument also rules out any strikes on US air bases in South Korea. Japan seems likes a likely target due to the deep-seated animosities that already exist between the two countries, and it is more isolated than either China or Russia. Militarily, it seems like Japan would be an easier target as well, given the huge size of Chinese and Russian armed forces. Interesting question...what do you think?

On a totally unrelated subject. I know that Korean's eat dog, and that we have discussed it previously in class. I was just wondering where they get the dogs for consumption. Do they go buy them from a specific vendor? Are there dog farms in Korea? Just a random thought?

Now even the Bear is rumbling...

Click here for the link

Now Russia has begun to take precautions against a possible war--of the nuclear kind--taking place on the Korean peninsula. Up until now, as I understand it, Russia has been a member in the international talks concerning North Korea's nuclear capabilities, but aside from that has been a silent spectator of the happenings. Until now. Officials say that "security measures" are being taken--I am not sure what that means exactly, but it is something Russia has not done--or mentioned doing before--in the past. The officials say, "We assume that a dangerous brinkmanship, a war of nerves, is under way, but it will not grow into a hot war,"and that "[r]estraint is needed." That is the sort of rhetoric I would use if I had to explain why I, all of a sudden, decided to make preparations against the effects of nuclear war, but did not want to start a panic. I do, however, sincerely hope that it will "not grow into a hot war."

S. Korea: Electronic Vanguard

I had no idea that Korea was making so many advances in the field of consumer mobile devices. I always seem to forget that "South Korea, because of its high-speed wireless networks and top technology companies like Samsung and LG, is the test case for the mobile future."
Here is the article
The most significant part is how they are the ones testing out new technology like cellphone credit cards and other such consolidations stored to their SIM cards. This is an amazing step and will quick be followed by the U.S. In 2005, South Korean began enjoying T.V. streams to their cell phones, whereas most of us barely enjoy it on our advanced iphones.

I always seem to forget to appreciate how advanced S. Korea is and the groundbreaking lifestyles they initiate and that we tend to follow.

Tuesday, May 26, 2009

That Park Chan-Wook is so hot right now

In an effort to divert attention away from N. Korea's nuclear explosion, I want to note the steam coming off of S. Korean film director Park Chan-Wook after his recent jury prize from the Cannes Film Festival. His movie "Thirst" earned him his second jury award from the prestigious film festival that takes place in the Southern French town every year. "Thirst" apparently is about Vampire love which actually sounds eerily similar to "Twilight". (I hope it is much cooler) His first award came from "Oldboy" that did so well there is talk of an American remake coming soon. It seems like Asian cultural exports usually come from China or Japan so my hats off to Park and the Koreans who are in it for the art, not the money. Cannes is a massive festival so this is quite an accomplishment for Park. South Korean culture looks like it is as hip and trendy as the West. I wonder who produces cooler hipsters, us or them?

Update on Mr. Roh's suicide

Here is another article from the New York Times talking about what has been happening in South Korea following Mr. Roh's suicide. Many people have been mourning his death. The article talked about how some koreans believe that the investigation into the corruption scandal involving Mr. Roh was brought about by the current president in an attempt to bolster his own presidency. If that was his plan, it now seems to be backfiring. This article also talks about how the push to investigate former presidents is a leftover from Korea's authoritarian past. I thought it was interesting because we have been studying this time period in class.

Monday, May 25, 2009

Just wanted to let you all know, in Korea, the Army has a newspaper called Stars and Stripes. So you can click there or google You can then enter Korea in the search bar and see if there is anything interesting army newspaper. I thought there were a few interesting things like a S.Korean man selling U.S. weapons. See ya!

This Can't Be Good for Business . . .

This article reports that the Yen fell against the Euro and the U.S. dollar on May 25. I guess the Yen was doing pretty well till North Korea launched three missles and conducted its nuclear testing. I just found it interesting how North Korea's actions can affect the money markets and those looking to invest in South Korean markets.

Definitely Disturbing...

So to give credit where credit is due, I'd like to acknowledge Daniel's round-the-clock vigil in finding Korea-related news. I just wanted to add a little tidbit. The article that I read this morning said that the explosion was between 10 & 20 kilotons or approximately the same size as the bombs that were used by the US on Nagasaki and Hiroshima during World War II. The article also mentioned that North Korea fired three surface-to-air missiles as well. I think its obvious that North Korea has tons of stuff hidden underground and hope that the UN forces them to let inspectors in for a further examination.

No kidding...

I guess North Korea was not kidding when it threatened to again start up its nuclear weapon's test. While this is not the best of news, I have read that the scientists in North Korea lack the miniaturization technology required to outfit the ballistic missiles they currently have with the weapons-grade material. I hope it stays that way as long as possible. I wonder how the West will respond in the coming days and weeks. Currently, the test has been condemned by the U.S., G.B., and Japan (at least, those were the countries that I had read of.)

Click here for one link

No kidding...

Saturday, May 23, 2009

Former South Korean President's suicide

This article talks about the suicide of Roh Moo-hyun. Apparently he was well-known for being an upstanding politician when he was president from 2003 to 2008 but he committed suicide because he was involved in a corruption scandal. I thought it was interesting that the article brought up the importance of family in Korean society and that even if Roh was not directly involved in the scandal that he still partly responsible for it because his family was involved. This is even a modern day example where family can also be punished when they may not have been involved in the incident.

Wednesday, May 20, 2009

Disturbing News...

I found this article on The Korea Times web page. It talks about the pending trial of two female US journalists arrested for "illegal trespassing" and "hostile acts" while filming North Korean border residents. This is very disturbing to say the least, but at least the North Koreans say they will probably handle sentencing similar to that of recent US journalist tried in Iran.

North Korea Documentary...

I found this documentary made about 2 years ago that discusses North Korea's plans for nuclear proliferation and retaliation under the rule of Kim Jong-Il. Its about 45 minutes long, but very interesting. Make sure you take it with a grain of salt though as it is mildly propagandistic.

Tuesday, May 19, 2009

A fair summation...

Click here

I found this Time online article to be a fair summation of North Korea's relationship with the outside. I agree with the unspecified diplomats, that Kim Jong-il is not crazy enough to start a war, regardless of the fact that North Korea has, according to hearsay, somewhere between one and two million men in its military. (On a tangent, I had heard once that, according to an offhanded remark of a military official, if North Korea attempted an invasion of South Korea, it would be a "two day battle": one day for the North to push southwards, and the following day for the U.S. to reintroduce the North to the Stone Age--it is true that we Americans can occasionally be a little heavy on the bravado , but I do not think the comment is far off.) Anyway, a U.S. senior diplomat was quoted saying, "Kim wants to be a porcupine, someone you don't touch, and he has basically succeeded,"--this statement supports what I and others on the blog thought: that Kim Jong-il is simply making sure he is not forgotten by being frustratingly inflexible diplomatically.

On a side note, after seeing the picture of Kim Jong-il out for a walk with his security atop the article, I had to ask the question: What is up with his hair? Is he out of sync with style, or is it too Western/American to tame that bad bed-head with a comb? I suppose, though, that if I were one of his aides, I would be sure to tell the "Dear Leader" he looks stunning--I'm sure there are those who have died for less than suggesting a haircut...

Deteriorating Relations between North and South

I thought this article was really interesting. My favorite part was when it talked about how workers in North Korea got an idea of how affluent South Korea was by the food they got for lunch when working in a South Korean factory located in North Korea.
This other article reports on the same topic, but it seems more positive that Choe, who encouraged better relations between North and South, was executed for sure.

Korean culture spreads like wildfire

I came across an article on the global newsblog detailing the thriving Korean community in Osaka, Japan known simply as Koreatown. What was once a neglected neighborhood is now a thriving community of shops, restaurants, and Korean culture. The Japanese are particularly interested in Korean culture claiming there are few differences between the two countries. I don't know how many Koreans would feel about that assertion, I am sure they could find many differences. It does not seem like Korean culture is universally in Japan but the fact that it has made some inroads after a dark history between the two nations is quite remarkable. Japan conquered Korea instilling a feeling of superiority in many the hearts of many Japanese. An interest in Korean culture in Japan is a testament to the openness of modern Japan. This article reminded me of the time I stayed in the Koreatown of New York about 8 years ago. I always knew about Chinatown but had never heard of Koreatown. It was a one street neighborhood with no distinguishing characteristics except for the signs in Korean. It was a gloomy, run-down neighborhood. The location was great though; on 33rd street right across the street from Madison Square Garden and Penn Station. An enclave of Korean culture halfway around the world was pretty impressive though.

Everything Relative

This is a post about having to put everything into perspective.
It is an older story, but I remember reading it when it first came out in the Washington Post. It is the story of a young man, 26 years old by the name of Shin Dong-hyuk who lives in Seoul and who had escaped from a North Korean prison camp (there are about 200,000 people that live in these North Korean camps). He had actually been born there in the prison camp. Some of the details are quite horrendous.
"Shin is 26 and lives in a small rented room in Seoul. He is a thin, short, shy man, with quick, wary eyes, a baby face, and sinewy arms bowed from childhood labor. There are burn scars on his back and left arm from where he was tortured by fire at age 14, when he was unable to explain why his soon-to-be-hanged mother had tried to escape. The middle finger of his right hand is cut off at the first knuckle, punishment for accidentally dropping a sewing machine in the garment factory at his camp."
These are intense stories, and bring an amazing perspective to my life. If you've ever read Gulag Archipelago, you'll instantly have flashbacks of Solzhenitsyn's horrific tales as you read about Shin's life. But this is amazing because we're no longer talking about Stalin's gulag...we're talking about today, going on right now.
Camp #14 is located in Kaechon, about 55 miles north of Pyongyang(so it isn't in the middle of nowhere). It begins with the story of his birth in camp #14 to parents whose union was arranged by prison guards as a reward to the father for excellent work as a mechanic. Shin lived with his mother until he was 12 when he was taken away to work with other children. He describes the common savagery of the camp, the rape of his cousin by prison guards, and the beating to death of a young girl found with 5 grains of unauthorized wheat in her pocket.
All of this is extraordinary and unless my studies will prove otherwise, I have no reason to believe it has gotten better in the few years since Mr. Shin escaped from prison. In 1996 he was forced to watch the execution of his mother who was hanged on the same day his only brother was shot to death. Before that, his torturers told him for the first time why he and his family were in the camp: two of his fathers brothers had collaborated with South Korea during the Korean War and then fled to the south. His father was guilty because he was the brother of traitors; Shin was guilty because he was his fathers son.

If there is one thing about the U.S., it is that we don't have our father's or brother's or associates' failings held upon us - we are able to make our own lives. And even in a time of economic downturn and exhaustion, its kind of useful to me to remember some of the unspeakable savagery that still exists in this world and that still exists as an inevitable product of communism, which we have done so much to defeat and turn back and need to continue to do so. My wife has been having serious difficulty recovering from a recent surgery, and in a small bout of sadness on my part it helped me to remember what others have had to go through in other parts of the world - people they have seen suffer and experiences they had to endure.
Here is a link to the full article on Shin Dong-hyuk

South Korea B-Boys

This article is about the R16 Urban Arts Festival & World B-Boy Championship in South Korea. South Korea has some of the best break dancers/B-Boys in the World. The competition is located in Seoul and the Korean government donated $2 million to the competition. B-boy dancers come from all over the world to compete in R16. South Korea’s the Gamblers were announced the champions in 2008. They donated their winnings to the victims of the earthquake in China and Myanmar.

Another interesting point noted by this article is the required military service for young men in South Korea:

Because South Korea is still a country at war, looming over every young man's life is mandatory military service. For working-class b-boys, it acts as a passage into a bleak future. "If they're not in college, they have to do some kind of menial job," according to Shin. Many say that the prospect of military service is the main factor that has accelerated the Korean breaking scene's development. "You see that hunger and that drive," says Korean-American filmmaker Benson Lee, whose 2007 hit documentary "Planet B-Boy" featured a DMZ scene with members of Gamblers and Rivers as battling soldiers.

They know that the freedom of b-boying can't last. "The service will come up when you're 21, 22. But they can always extend that using some excuse," Chon says. "A lot of the b-boys -- now they're like 26, 27, they haven't gone. They have to go soon. They keep putting it off because the culture is kind of peaking now."

He estimates that four out of five b-boys currently competing in South Korea have postponed their service or have illegally evaded their conscription. Chon and Shin say they know many b-boys who have mutilated themselves to dodge the army. Kim "Bang Rock" Hyun-jin of the Rivers crew says through a translator, "Everyone tries to avoid the service." Then he switches to English for emphasis. "It's like going to hell."

If you like break-dancing, you can check out videos and photos from R16 here.

Cool Pictures of North Korea

So, I decided to google “Why don’t Koreans smile in photographs?” This is interesting to me because our main manufacturer from Korea, Mr. Kim, always wants to take a picture with us when he visits my family. He usually brings his family, too. When we take the picture my family and I are always smiling and he and his family never are smiling. So, I was just curious as to why they don’t smile – if it’s a cultural thing or something, or maybe just that this Mr. Kim and his family don’t smile in photographs. For those who know this answer, let me know.
Anyway, I came across this article with cool pictures of North Korea. I learned that there are propaganda villages in North Korea near the DMZ. They are fake villages that look very pleasing to live in, but no one actually lives there of course, because that’s not really North Korea, but it paints a nice picture for those trying to get a glimpse of North Korea. According to Wikipedia, the town is covered with loudspeakers that used to blare North Korean propaganda. I didn’t know that.
I also thought picture 11 was interesting. It is of a road. The caption reads: Eric Lafforgue: "The highways in North Korea are huge and carless. Planes could land there. You can even see kids playing in the middle of the road. Security is a major problem because children and old people are not used to seeing cars, so they cross over the roads at any time, without watching out for oncoming traffic. The only cars you can see sometimes on highways are military ones, and most of them are stopped by the side of road, broken down. Or you can also see brand new Mercedes cars belonging to the North Korean officials passing by at very high speeds." (© Eric Lafforgue) #
Anyway, I am glad I don’t live in North Korea.

Friday, May 15, 2009

South Korea Temple Promise

I remember when I was in Korea, in our little branch (it was more like a twig) they passed out a sheet of paper called Seoul Temple Promise. It was a promise made by President Hinckley that if the Members would be faithful and go to the Temple, South Korea would be spared from an invasion from the North. I have since moved from Korea (obviously) quite a bit and that sheet is somewhere in the boxes in my storage area and I couldn't find it so I tried googling it and voila. Just google South Korea Temple Promise and click on Blubbering Chronicles: Seoul Temple Promise. It is the same one they gave us a few years ago. Maybe those of you who went to Korea know more about this, if so please enlighten me, thanks!--raul

Thursday, May 14, 2009


Just so you know about the Museum link, it is 2nd ID (2nd Infantry Museum) not @ ID. I accidentaly held the shift button and pushed '2'. thanks, good night! :)

Wednesday, May 13, 2009

U.S. journalists on trial in N. Korea

Source: Reuters
Looks like the two journalists, Euna Lee and Laura Ling, will be put on trial on June 4th. A lot of people are saying that N. Korea will be using the two as bargaining chips to try to win concessions out of our government and President Obama regarding nuclear disarmament talks. Iran tested the water of our new administration and it looks like N. Korea will do the same. I'm not sure exactly what to think of it, but I'm inclined to feel that this all comes back to N. Korea dropping out of the nuclear talks and claiming to restart its plutonium-bomb making plants. I'm sure it is all interrelated and I'd agree with our defense secretary that "North Korea has effectively isolated itself internationally, even greater than was the case before, by some of this rhetoric."

As a side note, I find it thoroughly satisfying to read about a country that we get to study every other day. Although N. Korea's international relations are a bit strained and convoluted, it is a good experience to study the history and then go home and read about how such-and-such country is reacting or involved with world affairs. Solely from a students perspective, I am grateful for it.

History Matters in Business

I was very fascinated with the end discussion we had today in class about how many Koreans dislike the Japanese. This is a very interesting subject for me because I sell hair scissors and my family and I do business with Koreans and Japanese. One of our main manufacturers, Mr. Kim, has a factory in South Korea and is Korean. He uses Japanese steel to make his scissors because Japanese steel produces better quality hair scissors. So he obviously works with Japanese companies, but I don’t know how much he dislikes Japan.

Anyway, I did a little article searching to see how business relations are with Japan and Korea. I came upon this article, which I found very interesting. I learned that South Korea, in 1999, was just barely lifting its ban on Japanese pop culture. And why does this ban exist? Because of Japan’s suppression of Korean culture from 1910 to 1945! I have come to realize that history is important to know when conducting business.


Through listening in class, reading the stories on blackboard, and reading the textbook, have you gotten or felt a sensation of anger despair towards the Japanese actions? I have but I don't want to be narrow minded and say that all Japanese are evil while the Koreans are helpless victims. I also liked in the story of Lost names how the Japanese teacher felt bad for the renaming of the Koreans, i'm sure there were many Japanese who were sympathetic towards the Koreans and we know there were especially in Japan. But just to shove it to the bad Japanese (as opposed to the good ones) there is an almost-5 minute fighting scene (just a movie of course) of Jet Li where he tears up a bunch of Japanese guys and their master. It is pretty sweet. And yes it takes place in the time period we are studying, so it fits well (at least it does in my imagination, and if it doesn't fit well it is still a pretty good fight scene). I got to it when on google type in "Jet Li fists of legend dojo fight". Then click on the box which is from youtube (I couldn't watch it on the BYU computers, I went to the Provo Public Library). So when you feel mad at what the Japanese did, relief is just a few clicks away!!--raul :) let me know what you think

Revisiting Class...

I have been thinking about whether South Korea could even conceivably level punitive measures against former "collaborators" and have come to the conclusion that it would not be a viable option mostly for the effect it would have on the economic security of the country. Dr. Larsen mentioned that Samsung had been founded by a supposed "collaborator", and that got me thinking about how many other huge economic entities within South Korea also got their start during Japanese colonial rule gleaning benefits from its modernizing influence. It would seem plausible that if all of these companies were penalized that South Korea's economy would suffer greatly. What do you think?

Chonji and the ultra competitive Korean education

This article from the Los Angeles Times, which seems to cover Korean activity extensively, talks of the highly competitive world of education in South Korea, For a few years now parents have attempted to bribe their children's teachers with cash, chonji, to give their children an advantage over others in the class. If most parents practice this bribery ironically, it brings all of the children back to the same level. The government has vowed to crack down on this practice in 2009. Frequently investigators stop teachers to look for signs that they have been bribed. This article coincided with an article I read a year or two ago, before I knew anything about Korea, that spoke of most South Korean high school students obsession with attending an American Ivy league University. The description of what some of these kids went through, either self-imposed discipline or a highly involved parent opened my eyes to the competitive nature of S. Koreans. They really have arrived on the world scene and are competing for top schools and jobs. Their work ethic is amazing and compels me to wonder if it is derived from their ancient culture or their desire to be relevant in the world community, I lean toward the former. I hope my kids work hard in high school because they are going to face stiff competition from a number of brilliant, hardworking S Koreans.,0,6388192.story

An offended North Korea

Granted, staying up to the wee hours of the night means I will assuredly be beat in the morning, but at least I catch a story or two when it's fresh, such as this little article.

North Korea, apparently offended by the U.N.'s censure of its rocket launch test--which was not related in any way to research for a viable, nuclear warhead-carrying rocket (*wink wink*)--has threatened to bring its Yongbyon nuclear research facility back into operation unless the U.N. issues an apology and nixes its plans for tighter restrictions on North Korea. Already there is seen to be action about the plant...

My guess is that it's more of a ruse than anything else--just some saber rattling so that we do not forget that North Korea is a country "not to be reckoned with." While I do not think it out of the question for the North Koreans to follow through with their threat, I have a feeling they are merely continuing to pine for attention. I doubt that this event even made the midsection of the newspapers in South Korea. The earth-shaking news of North Korea's missile test occurred during the middle of my mission, and had I not have looked up at the television screen in the bank (in search of new vocab words to learn) as I waited for my companion, I would never have known that it even happened! Meanwhile, back at home, my parents and relatives were worried sick. Not once as I proselyted and chatted it up with Koreans--or tried to--did I ever hear about the tests. Not once! Life continued on in South Korea as if North Korea did not even exist, let alone be testing continental balistic missiles! South Koreans have come to understand that North Korea cannot stand to be forgotten and is constantly trying to nab attention. As I said, though, I would not put it past the North Koreans to follow through with their threat, and should more perilous times come, I will still not be too surprised.

So news from the DPRK does exist on the internet!

So, imagine my surprise when I stumbled upon a link to the the Korean Central News Agency of the DPRK (Democratic People's Republic of Korea)! After a brief overview I found that the articles posted are not especially challenging to read, though their grammar is far better than what I expected. I was so used to only hearing news concerning North Korea when something missile-related happened that I was a little amazed that there were North Koreans going about the world on diplomatic missions (though most posted articles deal with either gifts being giving to the previous (deceased) President, Kim Il-sung, or the current one, Kim Jong-il.) Also, this is just a shot in the dark, but I doubt one will ever find an article critical of the government, or perhaps one that might put it in a poor light. Just a guess.

Tuesday, May 12, 2009

First Korean to Earn a Scholarship in Division 1 Mens College Basketball

As a rabid University of Maryland basketball fan, I am proud to call Jin Soo Kim from Seoul, S. Korea one of our own. Kim can be called a pioneer of sorts among Korean basketball players as he is the first to receive a scholarship from a Division 1 team; one of the best I might add. He came over here from Seoul in 2004 for his sophomore year in high school not speaking a word of English. After playing a year in New Jersey he transferred to a regional power in Connecticut that had many other Division 1 prospects. His time there along with his breakout performance with the S Korean team at the u-19 Fiba world championship gave him the exposure he needed to receive several Division 1 scholarship offers. In his wisdom he chose the University of Maryland and its storied basketball program. I can't help but applaud the S. Korean education system for the decision making skills they instill in their pupils. Kim is skinny and needs to add a lot of weight before he can make an impact at Maryland. He is tall and a good shooter which makes him a matchup nightmare for whoever is guarding him. By the end of his first game at Maryland he had already become a fan favorite. Being the first Korean to receive a D 1 scholarship is quite an accomplishment.


I just wanted to let you all know of a good documentary about N. Korea. It is National Geographic-Inside North Korea. It is with Lisa Ling (those of you who wathced channel one will know who she is, if you just graduated high school recently maybe you won't know) but she goes undercover with a group of Nepali Citizens who provide surgery to Koreans with cataracts being that Kim Jong Il's enlightened rule can't provide that for his people. I just read that she was again trying to do another documentary in North Korea but got caught :(. Well hopefully she'll be freed so she can make some more cool documentaries. --raul
(I checked it out at the Provo Public Library but maybe they have it here in BYU, and for extra motivation to watch it, you can see Kim Jong Il's impersonation of John Wayne on a poster, who will he be next? Rooster Cogburn? Only if you watch John Wayne will you understan that)

Friday, May 8, 2009

Let's Go to the Museum!

If you are ever in Korea and in uijongbu, there is an Army Base called Camp Red Cloud. You will probably need a soldier to sign for you so you can enter (it shouldn't be too hard, at church there are soldiers who are members who can sign and escort you in) and walk around the camp. There is a small but beautiful museum called the 2nd Infantry Museum. This was the main Infantry unit in the Korean war. Its history starts in WW1 but they end up going to Korea. It really is a beautiful museum and you can see the selfless sacrifice of many people who thought of others before themselves. You can go to or google @ID museum virtual tour. The former was giving me a hard time. click on the korea part. Ok well hope you all like it, see ya! Raul

North Korean Propoganda

Below is an article and the link for it that I found on a website that shares propoganda coming out of North Korea. I found on Wikipedia that the North Korean news is pretty tightly controlled and restricted. To me it seems pretty obvious that this piece is simply propoganda and only focuses on the positive or exaggerates the truth. It makes me wonder though what other kinds of propoganda I buy into in my own life. I thought it was interesting.
May 7. 2009 Juche 98
Spirit of Defending Leader with Life Is Core of Spiritual Strength
Pyongyang, May 7 (KCNA) -- Now the Korean people are striving hard to open the gate to a great, prosperous and powerful socialist nation with the indomitable spiritual strength, taking the ideological theory of Juche as the treasured sword.
So strong is the mental power of the Korean people because it has the spirit of defending the leader at the risk of life as the core.
The spirit is the fundamental source for making the DPRK's spirit of single-minded unity the eternal soul and life of the nation.
The tradition of single-hearted unity, the main stay of the Korean revolution which was provided in the flame of anti-Japanese armed struggle is being displayed to the full generation after generation. This great unity has turned into a perfect and eternal one that can be found nowhere else in the world.
During the "Arduous March" and forced march in particular, the entire people became the true Songun revolutionary comrades who displayed comradeship to a greater extent, sharing ideology and will on the road of defending the leader with their lives and the internal force of the Korean revolution was strengthened still more solidly.
The fundamental source of the spirit of defending the motherland which has been manifested in each sacred chronicle of the DPRK is also based on the sprit of defending the leader with life.
The Korean people, who had grasped the philosophical principle that the motherland is precisely the leader in the revolution, safeguarded the DPRK creditably with heroic struggle in the Fatherland Liberation War and, after the war, defended the socialist motherland firmly, frustrating the anti-DPRK maneuvers of the U.S. imperialists.
Upon receiving the report of the Supreme Command of the Korean People's Army (KPA) and the statement of the spokesman for the General Staff of the KPA, the entire people have turned out as one in the struggle for protecting socialism. This revolutionary stamina of the DPRK shows well the height of the spiritual world of the whole army and entire people armed with the spirit of defending the leader with their lives.
The spirit lets the revolutionary spirit of self-reliance be displayed to the full in the building of a rich and powerful nation.
In the postwar period, the heroic Korean people carried out with success the historical task of industrialization, which would have taken others hundreds of years, in a short span of time by rushing ahead at the speed of Chollima (a winged horse) under the banner of the self-reliance and converted the country into an invincible socialist power, independent, self-supporting and self-reliant in national defence, with uninterrupted leaps and innovations.
The modern industrial establishments and the solid foundation guaranteeing the epochal prospect for the development of agriculture which have been created in the Songun era are the precious fruition of the spirit of defending the leader with life displayed by the Korean people in the efforts to realize brilliantly General Secretary Kim Jong Il's plan of building the rich and powerful country.
The flame of a new revolutionary upsurge which was kindled in Kangson last year proved that the Korean people can build the great, prosperous and powerful socialist nation with their own strength and technology when they give full play to the spirit of defending the leader with their lives.
The Korean people will open the gate to the great, prosperous and powerful nation without fail in 2012 which greets the 100th birth anniversary of President Kim Il Sung and demonstrate the invincible stamina and might of Songun Korea to the whole world by giving fuller play to the spirit that they have acquired and cemented in the protracted revolution.

Wednesday, May 6, 2009

a glimpse into my mind

What's going on, well something interesting I didn't knowe before this class was about Mt. Baekdu. It always fascinates me, the similarities that are found in many cultures, I just want to focus on mountains. We all know now the importance of Mt. Baekdu to the Koreans and I wrote an email to the professor about the significance of mountains in ancient cultures. Just to get a glimpse in my wild imagination, I think that anciently most cultures had or new about the Gospel. we read about Nimrod (sumerians, babylonians) the Egyptians who came from Ham and tried imitating the priesthood (you can read that in the Pearl of Great Price) the Jaredites who were the first ones to come to the Americas (I like to think of them as the Olmecs, in the secular world) and I don't know about the Chinese but there are many similarities i'll just look at mountains. Mountains are sacred to many people (even in our Church) Temples have been a.k.a.'d The Mountain of the Lord, prophets have gone to commune with God in Mountains. Salt Lake City for example was built (the Temple) to be the center of the city where everything revolves around. So are mountains ancient holy places or temples are the same way. Mt. Kailash is known as the center of the world to many Hindus, Buddhists, Jains, Bon po followers, it was the first creation and civilization from their spread out. There is a good documentary of this. talks about it a little. In the Provo public library check out the documentary from Jason woods BBC I believe it's called the quest for shangrila. Sumerians erected ziggurats (artificial mountians) which were holy to them, Mt. Fuji, in Mexico Teotihuacan is also called 'the place where men become gods' where men gradually ascend little by little toward deity, in Borobudor a Buddhist Temple exists where one circumvents the Temple gradually to the top and it shows levels of higher holiness as one reaches the top. (hmmm...we are taught little by little and exaltation is attained gradually, as we travel through the three degrees of glory) an author from a book in church bookstores talks about how in the Salt lake Temple, on walks spirally towards the top resemling one's gradual journey to the top. Joong gook (China) is known as 'middle country' and civilization from there spreads out. There are many more examples of the holiness of mountains some other good references are Temple and Cosmos and Temples of the Ancient world. Heinsa Temple in Korea is also built in three segments the one in the middle being the highest and holiest, a stupa (Temples in India) is a circle on top of a square (the shapes a compass and square make) and lo and behold that same shape decorates our own Temples. Well ladies and gentlemen I think the Gospel was known to many people who later apostazized (we see that in the Mid East and Book of Mormon, and the Book of Mormon tells us of another gruop of people who had the Gospel adn we knoe there were others, Jesus tells the Nephites that there are other sheep that are not in that location. Also see Alma 29:8. Personally I think many cultures had the Gospel but apostasized, and bits and remnants are left. I will study this more, so I know that many Koreans see mountains as being sacred (Professor correct me if i'm wrong) but I was told that the Japanese cut many of the trees on the Mountains and rammed metal stakes into them to desecrate their 'holy shrines' . Ok well i'll get off my soapbox, see you all later, raul :) (you can also google axis mundi)

Tuesday, May 5, 2009

N. Korea gives excuse for intense defense spending...

"It's essential for the North to 'continue to strengthen its self-defense power to cope with increasing US military threats,' said the commentary, carried by the country's official Korean Central News Agency."

Serious? I mean, really? Maybe someone can help me understand the logic here. I don't understand two things: (1), the U.S. has said they have no plans of attack whatsoever (though yes I know they aren't always a country of their word and they do have 20k+ troops in S. Korea), and (2) if Washington wanted to challenge them militarily, could N. Korea stand even a small chance? Maybe I'm wrong, but it just seems like a poor excuse to me and a possible cover for ulterior motives. Truth is at least respectable, even if the truth is saying that you believe a powerful military will garner global respect and fear that you don't deserve. But who knows, maybe they really believe the U.S. would launch and unwarranted attack and they could actually "cope" with a country who spends $700B in military spending (for better or worse).

By the way, ranting aside, here is a great link to a plugin for google earth. It shows all sorts of goodies in N. Korea, including road blocks, government buildings, agricultural layouts, etc. Just make sure you have a fast computer and have google earth installed. Click on the download button and open with google earth. I found it quite helpful. though more entertaining than anything. Link here.

Kudos to S. Korea

S. Korea sends 500,000 USD in aid to flu-hit Mexico
Click here for news article

Wonderful news! Always great to see aid given to the needy. Although the swine flu might be drastically exaggerated and labeled as a kind of hysteria, with the seasonal flu killing 250,000+ each year (36,000 in the U.S.), aid from S. Korea is a life-changing contribution and will save lives. It is unfortunate that I can't throw in a "Kudos to N. Korea" at the moment, though a sarcastic one under said title may be forthcoming.
Anyway, good work S. Korea, and lets hope for no interference by Somali pirates on this aid shipment; it is amazing, the forces for good and evil in this world.

Ways to promote Dokdo awareness

I was searching and found an article on the new york times website.  The link is below.  The article talks about how the Dokdo islands were put on dry cleaning bags to promote awareness about the dispute between Japan and Korea over the islands.  The bags promoted Korea's claim to the land.  The bags were made in South Korea but were bought and sold in New York.  I thought it was an interesting way to promote this dispute, especially considering how far away New York is from Korea and from this dispute.

Similarities between Japan and Korea...

Its interesting to me how some Korean historical events have similar occurrences on the Japanese side. For instance, Japan had their own anti-christian purges focusing more on the Jesuits I believe rather than Catholics, but the consequences were the same with Japanese follwers and their European priests not only forced underground, but, at least publicly, to recant their allegiance to the foreign religion or face humiliation or even death by crucifixion. A good historical novel on the subject is Silence by Shusako Endo. Definitely worth the read.

Additionally, Japan almost had its own General Sherman incident when Commodore Perry sailed up a river to the capitol of Japan to institute foreign relations with the U.S. The Japanese tried to force Perry to leave, but Perry ignored their requests and continued up the river and anchored there until the Japanese let them ashore. Luckily, none were killed.

Just thought both of the these instances, while not entirely comparable, were interestingly similar to say the least.


from the Chinese border can be seen here. A nice set of high-quality photos of an increasingly dismal subject. On the other hand, I like the little splashes of humanity that appear every now and again.

Monday, May 4, 2009


A few places I like to look for information, news, interesting stories etc. about Korea (and Asia and the world more generally) include:

The Nautilus Institute: A good collection of policy-wonk stuff on contemporary Korea, northeast Asia etc. Especially good on security and energy. If you want to receive a nice daily digest of Korea (and Asia)-related news, subscribe the the Institute's NAPSNet Daily Report.

Frog in a Well: Korea: History-oriented blog. Not as much participation as some but usually worth a look.

The Marmot's Hole: a blog written by a collection of largely expats living in Korea. Interesting stories and commentary on contemporary Korean culture, politics etc. etc. Warning: some of the postings veer off into the irreverent and inappropriate (especially from a family or BYU viewpoint). Still, on balance, a good place to keep one's finger on the pulse of contemporary news stories and issues.

The Useless Tree: Not specifically Korea-related but a thoughtful and fascinating exploration of how ancient Chinese philosophy and thought can speak to issues of today.

DPRK Studies: on again, off again blog devoted to North Korea.

NK News: Especially useful for its searchable database of Korean Central News Agency (KCNA) stories.

Happy hunting!