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[LINK] “South Korea Planning to Pull Firms From North Factory Park”

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Bloomberg’s Sam Kim notes the continued breakdown of inter-Korean relations, as South Korea pulls out of the Kaesong industrial park in the north. A more recent news report suggested the North nationalized the holdings of the South there.

South Korea is pulling out of an industrial complex jointly run with North Korea, taking aim at their last remaining symbol of economic cooperation to punish Kim Jong Un for a recent nuclear test and rocket launch.

“An extraordinary measure is needed to force North Korea to give up its nuclear arms,” South Korean Unification Minister Hong Yong Pyo told reporters Wednesday. The government did not want companies and funds for the Gaeseong factory park used for North Korea’s nuclear and missile development, Hong said.

The withdrawal, which takes effect immediately, will impact more than 120 South Korean companies employing about 54,000 North Korean workers at the complex that sits just north of the heavily armed border.

South Korea is seeking to dry up North Korea’s coffers at a time China, while condemning Kim’s actions, has been reluctant to support tougher sanctions — including on energy imports — that could destabilize an ally. South Korea is also considering opening its soil to a U.S. ballistic missile defense system opposed by China.

Gaeseong has long been viewed as a source of hard currency for the isolated government in Pyongyang, which had no immediate response to the decision. North Korea has received 616 billion won ($514 million) in cash since the complex began in the early 2000’s, including 132 billion won last year alone, Hong said. South Korea’s government and private citizens have invested more than 1 trillion won, he said.

Written by Randy McDonald

February 11, 2016 at 2:45 pm

[BLOG] Some Tuesday links

  • Centauri Dreams looks at the latest findings from repurposed Kepler.
  • The Dragon’s Gaze examines the stars of the apparently most habitable exoplanets found by Kepler and speculates as to the impact of stellar cosmic rays on the habitability of worlds in red dwarf systems.
  • The Dragon’s Tales examines the differences between carbon emissions from different Indonesian fires.
  • Lawyers, Guns and Money notes how black pain has been ignored at least as far back as the end of slavery, when black families tried to reunite.
  • Marginal Revolution notes North Korean incomprehension of American motives.
  • The Power and the Money’s Noel Maurer applauds the Mexican soda tax.
  • Towleroad notes crime in the United Kingdom visited on users of Grindr.
  • Window on Eurasia suggests that the good bits of the 1990s are underestimated by many Russians and warns that Kadyrov’s appropriation of North Caucasian traditions risks encouraging Islamism.

[LINK] “North Korea’s bomb test imperils already strained relations with China”

MacLean’s carries an Associated Press article noting China’s displeasure with North Korea’s newest nuclear test. Angering North Korea’s only ally cannot possibly be a good strategy, I’d think.

China sees North Korea’s claim to have conducted its first hydrogen bomb test as yet another act of defiance, and will likely retaliate by joining tougher United Nations sanctions and could possibly even impose its own trade restrictions.

Wednesday’s test was staged close enough to the border to send palpable tremors into northeastern China, prompting schools to be evacuated. The political reverberations in Beijing will likely be just as dramatic, boding ill for a relationship already under strain.

“Relations will become colder than ever,” said Lu Chao, director of the Border Studies Institute at the Liaoning Academy of Social Sciences in the northeastern province that borders North Korea.

North Korea acted “wilfully in disregard of the opposition of the international community, including China, and caused a real threat to the lives of the Chinese people living along the border,” Lu said.

China’s Foreign Ministry said it would summon Pyongyang’s ambassador to Beijing to lodge a formal protest, and said environmental officials were monitoring air quality near the border though they had found nothing abnormal so far.

Written by Randy McDonald

January 7, 2016 at 10:24 pm

[URBAN NOTE] Pico Iyer on the emptiness of Pyongyang and Las Vegas

At the New York Review of Books website, Pico Iyer has a provocative essay comparing the North Korean capital of Pyongyang with the American city of Las Vegas.

Any of us could, of course, list the differences between the two cities of mirages. The one is a shameless efflorescence of capitalism that is, for its enemies, a glittering symbol of the decadence and emptiness of the West; the other the world’s last by-the-book, state-controlled monument to Stalinist brutality, whose forty-story blocks are consciously designed to cow citizens and remind them that it’s a privilege never to leave their hometowns without permission or to be executed simply for glimpsing a foreign newspaper.

The one is a sort of adolescent’s Girls Gone Wild vision of freedom run amok, in which visitors are encouraged to believe that you can do and be anything you like, for a night; the other is a terrifying model of order and regimentation in which even the woman who chatted me up on a showpiece subway train might well have been a prop set there by the government. While drunken frat boys get themselves photographed next to bikini-clad showgirls dressed as flamingoes on Las Vegas Boulevard, in Pyongyang every visitor—on every visit—is obliged to get up in jacket and tie, pass through a dust-cleaning machine, and bow before the embalmed figures of the nation’s two departed leaders. When Hunter Thompson wrote, “For the loser, Vegas is the meanest town on earth,” he hadn’t been to Pyongyang, where even the sometime-winners are abruptly sent before the firing squads.

Yet both cities are products of a mid-twentieth-century spirit that saw what power and profit could be found in constructing mass fantasies ab nihilo—in the deserts of the West, out of the rubble of the Korean War. And both serve even now as billboards of a kind, “theoretical and practical weapons of the system,” as Kim Jong Il had it in a 180-page treatise on architecture, with buildings designed less to be lived in than to be marveled at by friends and enemies alike. Pyongyang is at once a playground for the local elite and a perpetual reminder to the 90 percent of North Koreans who are not permitted to visit of what awaits them if their talent or patriotism—or beauty—are strong enough. But both cities are haunted by a kind of lottery consciousness, which declares that power and glamour can be yours only if divine whim (or a throw of a dice) so decrees.

Written by Randy McDonald

August 18, 2015 at 9:08 pm

[LINK] “North Korean Defector Opens Up About Long-Held Secret: His Homosexuality”

Choe Sang-Hun’s article in The New York Times describes, through the experiences of a defector, what it is like to be non-heterosexual in North Korea. Homophobia there is apparently so intense that homosexuality is not even considered an option. That Jang suffered this is terrible enough, but what’s worse is that other people are still suffering this. (Others, I don’t doubt, have died of this.)

When the North Korean defector Jang Yeong-jin arrived in South Korea in 1997, officials debriefed him for five months but still hesitated to release him. They had one crucial question unanswered: Why did Mr. Jang decide to risk crossing the heavily armed border between the two Koreas?

“I was too embarrassed to confess that I came here because I felt no sexual attraction to my wife,” Mr. Jang said. “I couldn’t explain what it was that bothered me so much, made my life so miserable in North Korea, because I didn’t know until after I arrived here that I was a gay, or even what homosexuality was.”

Mr. Jang, 55, is the only known openly gay defector from North Korea living in the South. His sexual orientation was briefly exposed in 2004, when he lost all his savings to a swindler and contacted gay rights activists for help. He had since avoided publicity in South Korea, where homosexuality largely remains taboo.

Then in late April, Mr. Jang published an autobiographical novel, “A Mark of Red Honor.” In the book and during a recent interview, he described his experiences as a gay man growing up in the totalitarian North, where the government maintains that homosexuality does not exist because people there live with a “sound mentality and good morals.”

[. . .]

“In North Korea, no ordinary people conceptually understand what homosexuality is,” said Joo Sung-ha, who attended the elite Kim Il-sung University in Pyongyang, the North Korean capital, in the 1990s and now works as a reporter for the mass-circulation South Korean daily Dong-A Ilbo. “In my university, only half the students may have heard of the word. Even then, it was always treated as some strange, vague mental illness afflicting subhumans, only found in the depraved West.”

Written by Randy McDonald

June 5, 2015 at 10:53 pm

[BLOG] Some politics and economic links

  • 3 Quarks Daily had a roundup of reactions to the PEN/Charlie Hebdo controversy.
  • City of Brass notes the role of the Nation of Islam in keeping the peace in Baltimore.
  • Crooked Timber considers if the British Labour Party might gain by creating a separate Scottish Party, and wonders what British Euroskepticism means for Ireland.
  • The Dragon’s Tales notes the new importance of immigration from China and India for the United States, looks at China’s negotiating of a naval base with Djibouti, wonders if Russia while buy Chinese naval vessels, and notes the Ukrainian capture of two Russian soldiers.
  • A Fistful of Euros argues that Greece, for all of its faults, is facing doom in order to consolidate the Eurozone.
  • Geocurrents’ Martin Lewis examines the Latin American political spectrum.
  • Lawyers, Guns and Money wonders what a Korean war might look like, examines the risks faced by Indonesian migrants, and looks at the India-Bangladesh border.
  • The Map Room’s Jonathan Crowe shares an unduly controversial map of shrinking sea ice in the Canadian Arctic.
  • Marginal Revolution notes that immigration does not undermine institutions, wonders about the need for Scottish separatism, examines the myth of abandoned British austerity, wonders how to fix Ukraine, and suggests urbanization can boost economic growth.
  • Personal Reflections’ Jim Belshaw reflected on the Indonesian executions.
  • Registan predicts political crisis in Kyrgyzstan.
  • Towleroad notes</a that a European court has ordered the compensation of LGBT activists attacked in Georgia in 2012.
  • The Volokh Conspiracy considers Iranian attacks on a ship registered to the American protectorate of the Marshall Islands and Libyan attacks on a ship registered to New Zealand’s Cook Islanders.
  • Window on Eurasia argues that the European Union’s Eastern Partnership has failed, looks at Ukrainian hostility to Russians fighting in the Donbas, argues Russian cannot hold the Baltic States, looks at Russian Muslim demographic boosterism, notes the decline of Russian in southern Kazakhstan, looks at Armenia’s alignment of its Muslim institutions with Iran, notes the plight of Ukrainian refugees and returning Donbas fighters in Russia, and notes Russia’s loss of influence in Ukraine.
  • The Financial Times‘ The World notes Polish concern over the Night Wolves, a Russian motorocycle gang.
  • Yorkshire Ranter Alex Harrowell argues that British Labour should rebuild by opposing things and not working on the more difficult task of finding new policies.
  • </ul?

[LINK] “After 70 years apart, North and South Koreans speak increasingly different languages”

The Associated Press’ Hyung-Jin Kim describes, here at the Waterloo Record, a growing divergence in language between South and North Korea. One country is becoming increasingly globalized, while the other is not. The longer-run consequences of this for a shared Korean identity is obvious, although so far the differences as described seem to be matters of terminology, not deeper issues like grammar.

On one side of the line that has divided two societies for so long, the words arrive as fast as globalization can bring them — English-based lingo like “shampoo,” “juice” and “self-service.” To South Koreans, they are everyday language. To defectors from the insular North Korea, they mean absolutely nothing.

Turn the tables, and the opposite is true, too: People in Seoul furrow their brows at homegrown North Korean words like “salgyeolmul,” which literally means “skin water.” (That’s “skin lotion” in the South.)

Two countries, mortal enemies, tied together by history, by family — and by language, but only to a point. The Korean Peninsula’s seven-decade split has created a widening linguistic divide that produces misunderstandings, hurt feelings and sometimes even laughter. The gap has grown so wide, scholars say, that about a third of everyday words used in the two countries are different.

North and South Koreans are generally able to understand each other given that the majority of words and grammar are still the same. But the differences show how language can change when one half of the country becomes an international economic powerhouse and the other isolates itself, suspicious of outside influences.

America’s huge cultural influence through its military presence, business ties and Hollywood has flooded the South Korean vernacular with English loan words and “konglish,” which uses English words in non-standard ways, like “handle” for steering wheel, “hand phone” for cellphone and “manicure” for nail polish.

Written by Randy McDonald

March 18, 2015 at 10:25 pm


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