Saturday, February 29, 2020

Corona-19 virus hits South Korea hard

S.Korea suddenly turned into "Land of Morning Virus'. Since the first Corona 19 case on Jan 20, it took nearly a month to reach 51 cases until Feb 18. The cases then doubled in one day to 104, with the first death on Feb 19, and have been increasing exponentially with 3,150 cases and 17 fatalities as of Feb 29. Nearly 85% of the cases centered around Daegu, 323km(201mi) Southeast of Seoul, that have 5.4 million people with high concentration of large auto suppliers. No auto suppliers have been shutdown yet because of the virus, but Hyundai had to stop its No.2 plant in Ulsan that produce Santafe, Pallisade and Genesis G80 SUV because of one paint shop employee with virus. Over 71 countries have placed either total ban or some control of Koreans entering their countries. President Moon Jae-in is under fire for his premature Feb 13 "Corona will soon end" comment, and he and his wife's loud laughter in a lunch with Parasite team on Feb 21 despite the news of virus hike. Imagine George and Laura Bush were all in smiles at a gala dinner on Sep 11, 2001.

The WHO called the virus Corona, hopefully not to anger Mexican boozers, and medically termed it COVID-19. Had the WHO known S.Korea would become such a hotbed for the virus, it would have used 18, instead of 19. Use caution with 18 as its Korean pronunciation, "Shippal", sounds exactly the same as a Korean bad word with the intensity between "f**k' and "s**t ". No joke as a frustrated Korean newspaper actually put it Corona 18, whether by mistake or on purpose. 

Thursday, August 1, 2019

LTW: Korea a Punching Bag?

Bad week for South Korea. Russian A-50 AWACS plane broke into S.Korean airspace in East Sea (Sea of Japan) on July 23 during joint Russia-China military exercise, testing the tattered S Korea-U.S.-Japan triangle alliance after recent sentimental trade war between S.Korea and Japan. Total of 18 South Korean F-15 fighters had to scramble, firing 360 warning shots to force the Russian plane out. It was the first time Korean airspace was violated since the end of Korean War in 1953. When asked for apology, Russia snapped that it was Korean pilots who went crazy enough to fire shots. Angered by South Korea's recent deployment of F-35 stealth fighters, N.Korea's Kim Jong-un fired two short range ballistic missiles again on July 25, which Donald Trump said was O.K. Adding insult to injury, Italy's Juventus manager put Cristiano Ronaldo on the bench throughout the match against K-League All Star team on July 26, thumbing his nose at 65,000 packed spectators and millions glued to TV at the expectation the super star would play minimum 45 minutes. 

S.Korean neighbors are poking fun at South Korea. China is still making economic retaliation for allowing THADD missiles in a U.S. base in S.Korea. Japan is slapping on S. Korea with export restriction on key materials used for semi conductors. Russia is making a dangerous entry to Korean territory. A cartoon in French newspaper Le Monde below describes the current situation very well with Japanese, Chinese and Russian anglers trying to catch a fish called Coree (Korea). The funny thing is this cartoon was published over 110 years ago around 1904. Japanese angler eventually caught the Coree in 1910, and put it on sashimi plate for dinner. History better not repeat. 

Tuesday, July 16, 2019

LTW: South Korea - Japan Conflct & The Kot Keun Theory

South Korea and Japan are into diplomatic/economic war never seen since liberation in 1945. Japan announced export restrictions to S.Korea on key materials like hydrogen fluoride used in semiconductors effective July 4, saying "trust" between the two nations was broken after the Korean Supreme court's decision to order Japanese companies like Nippon Steel to compensate Korean workers forced to provide labor during Japanese colonial rule. Japanese government has been arguing that the Korean Supreme Court decision is against the 1965 diplomacy normalization agreement in which Japan provide $500 million, then 25% of Japanese foreign currency reserve, as a overall compensation for the Japanese rule of Korea in return for no further demand whatsoever. Japan also got irked by President Moon Jaein government's unilateral scrap of the irrevocable 2015 comfort women deal ex-president Park Geunhye had made to form a foundation with 10 billion Won ($8.9M) from Japanese government. With South Korea depending on semiconductors for nearly 20% of Korea's export and Japan having virtual global monopoly of high tech hydrogen fluoride, Korea dispatched two trade officials to Tokyo on July 12 for negotiation, only facing cold shoulders evidenced by no handshake at a warehouse like meeting room with hosts offering not even a glass of water. South Korea turned to the U.S. for mediation, but U.S. Ambassador to Korea Harry Harris backed away, commenting "Current issues are to be settled between two mature nations." Korean president Moon warned Japan not to go toward a dead end while Japanese PM Shinzo Abe hinted hydrogen fluoride might be only an appetizer. Things look real bad. 

N.Korea's Kim Jongun must be all smiles at the frosty South Korea -Japan relationship. His grandpa Kim Ilsung, the founder of N.Korea, had preached 'Kot Keun' theory. Kot means traditional Korean hat, and Keun is string that ties together under neck to hold Kot. In Kot Keun theory, South Korea is Kot which holds in place because of strongly tied two Keuns, one is S.Korea-U.S relationship and the other is S.Korea-Japan. If either Keun is cut off, Kot South Korea will be blown away. While Kot Keun theory was actually practiced in S.Korea with massive street demonstration against the U.S. and Japan in the past, my wife has no interest in this theory. Louis Vuitton has no plan to produce Kot. 

Monday, May 27, 2019

LTW: Palme d'Or in the 72nd Cannes goes to Korean movie maker

History was made in Korean film industry as Joonho Bong won top Palme d'Or  in the Cannes Film Festival on May 26 for his latest film 'Parasite.' It was the first time a Korean movie director won this award, more meaningful as it is 100th year since movie first came to Korea, then Japanese colony, in 1919.  The Grand Prix, the 2nd  prize, went to Mati Diop for  her debut film "Atlantics," who became the fist black female to receive a prize.  Bong's first film was released  in 2000, and the Parasite  which explores working class struggles, was his 9th movie.  South Korean Moon Jae-in sent a congratulatory letter to Bong, commenting he was anxious to watch Parasite.

President Moon tends to get much into movies. One of his top policies is to move away from nuclear power dependency for solar and wind energy. Moon deactivated a few nuke power plants earlier than planned, and scrapped plans to build more. Moon's expensive  No Nuclear  policy was formed after he watched Pandora which was about Chernobyl type nuclear disaster movie.   Better buy Pfizer or Roche stocks now as Moon might force every Korean to take antiparasitic pills everyday after watching the Palme d'Or movie.


Friday, March 1, 2019

LTW: Friendly handshakes turn into slap in the face in Hanoi

It's been a while. With Donald Trump under Mike Cohen's  deep stab in the back and Kim Jong-un's desperate need for sanctions off, both Trump and Kim had good reasons to land a deal,whether small or big, at their 2nd encounter in Vietnam, on Feb 28.  It didn't  go well as Trump literally walked away from lunch table because Kim demanded all sanctions be lifted while Trump insisted more than the dismantlement of Yongbyon nuclear complex. "Basically they wanted the sanctions lifted, in their entirety, and we couldn't do that. They were willing to denuke a large portion of the areas that we wanted, but we couldn't give up sanctions for that. So we continue, but we had to walk away from that particular suggestion," said Trump. Kim now has to take another 66 hours train ride back to Pyongyang with empty hands to his North Koreans.While  South Korean government expressed regrets over the summit result, many cheer Trump's decision as they also think no deal better than bad deal.

Adding injury to insult, poor Kim Jong-un is facing another headache. A secret dissident group called Cheollima Civil Defense declared the birth of provisional North Korean government in exile called Free Joseon on March 1 via the group's website to topple Kim's regime. 
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  Joseon was the dynasty before Korea got merged by Japan in 1910, and March 1 is meaningful because of the 100th anniversary of Independence Movement in 1919.  Currently safe guarding Kim Han-sol , the only son of Kim Jong-nam poisoned to death in Malaysia in Feb, 2017 by agents sent by his half brother Kim Jong-un, CCD runs its organization from unknown location.  Blood is important in North Korea leadership. The great-grandson of North Korea founder Kim Il-sung, and the grandson of Kim Jongil, Kim Han-sol is thus considered the biggest threat to his uncle Kim Jong-un. ABC to send Steve Harvey  to Pyongyang shortly for his Family Feud Part 2 show.


Monday, November 5, 2018

LTW: Military dodgers now O.K. if conscientious

S.Korean Supreme Court ruled moral scruples and religious beliefs are valid reasons to refuse compulsory military service in a verdict on a Johovah's Witness defendant charged for refusing to join the military. S.Korean law required all able bodied men between 18 and 35 to serve two years in the military, or face maximum 3 years in prison. More than 19,000 conscientious objectors have been criminally punished since 1950, and majority of them were Johovah's Witness who cite Isaiah 1:4 that says, "Nation will not take up sword against nation, nor will they train for war anymore." Conservatives criticized the verdict, saying it will bring sense of loss to Korean men who fought in the military to defend the nation from Kim dynasty in the north.

Korean men join military only because it is their sacred duty, evidenced by 3,000 Korean Won ($5) a month pay, no typo, when I joined the army in 1982. My father served in the Air Force in the 50's. My brother was stationed near DMZ for 30 months. Though they don't have to because of their Canadian citizenship, my first son volunteered the army to be sent to South Sudan to fight off insurgents and so did my 2nd son to serve in the Air Force. The term "conscientious objectors" better change to different words my proud family suddenly turned into "unconscientious" SOBs with the Supreme Court decision on Nov 1.

Friday, October 26, 2018

LTW: Chicken franchise under fire over violence against employees

Korea's No.1 chicken franchise Kyochon became a target of public anger after CCTV footage of a senior executive attempting to smash employees was released on Oct 25. In the footage recorded at a Kyochon restaurant in Daegu in Mar, 2015, the executive is seen poised to punch an employee in the face, raising his fist in a threatening gesture, but was stopped by other employee. He was also seen lifting his hands against other employees who were trying to calm him down as he irately threw over food ingredients.

More criticism arose as the executive was a relative of Kyochon's founder & CEO who let go his relative right after the incident, but  reinstated him one year later.  As the public outrage escalates, the CEO fired his relative again a day after video release, not to face the same fate as Korean Air which had been through  6 months  of all sorts of gruelling prosecutor investigations when it was reported the chairman's daughter threw water to her staffs and suppliers in a meeting in March this year.

I was also angry at Kyochon, but read the news article closely to learn why the executive lost his temper. As shown in red below, he was upset because the "employees were not paying attention to food quality." I suspect the release of the video was for either Kyochon's deliberate ploy to promote its quality reputation or the executive's secret resume to Colonel Sanders for KFC's head of quality position.