Thursday, March 31, 2011

Korean Moon Landings Faked, Claims Fringe Group

In early November 1972 Korea ground to a halt as South Korean astronauts, dubbed 'Seoulnauts', stepped out of their capsule and took their first steps on the lunar surface. It was a moment of deep national pride for all pure-blooded Koreans, and a welcome distraction from the declaration of martial law which had led to the turbulent founding of the Fourth Republic days earlier. Now a Naver-based group has explosively claimed that the Korean moon landings were faked.

The leader of the group, 21-year-old Kim – unemployed - lives with his parents in a poor and largely uneducated village on the very edge of Seoul, although many people consider it to actually lie outside the city limits. With only a 10 megabit Internet connection, which Kim himself admits may slow down his research and render it incomplete, he has nevertheless built an outlandish case based on the unproven idea that the entire project was concocted by the Military Government. He claims that not only were there no landings, but no rockets, and incredibly, no real space program, though paradoxically he admits that the astronauts "really existed" - he suggests they were merely fighter pilots who hoped to go into space "one day".

Kim has used his aging PC, slow Internet connection and possibly pirated copy of Photoshop to supposedly measure the height of the Seoulnauts in TV pictures beamed back live from the Moon to an expectant Korean audience using Seongsan's then newly invented zero-gravity video cameras. "The astronauts are too tall", he concludes. He also claims that the South Korean flag, which is clearly seen three times during the broadcast but which then becomes blurred due to the well known phenomenon of lunar dust on the camera lens, was edited in afterwards, despite this being technically impossible on a live broadcast in 1972. Kim has an increasingly implausible answer to this problem "The broadcast was pre-recorded" he states, contrary to the fact that 20 million Koreans watched the broadcast live.

Kim's online group now has almost 1,000 members, and while that is a tiny number compared to the 20 million who actually witnessed the landings live for themselves, educational experts have pointed to it as an indictment of the Korean educational system. "Clearly, we need to ensure that the fact of the Korean Moon Landings are properly taught in schools." said a senior Ministry of Education spokesman.

Meanwhile, 62-year-old Professor Kim scorned the fringe group's claims, stating that moon rocks which were brought back by Korean astronauts and which now are displayed within the Seoul National Museum clearly prove that the landings took place. "If they were faked" asks the Professor obviously, "why do we have these moon rocks in a Korean Museum? Do you think the Americans just gave them to us?"

The Ministry of Public Manipulation and Insecurity is currently investigating the group. A senior source within the Ministry told us that while he wasn't sure if any laws had been broken due to South Korea's extremely liberal rules protecting free speech, the claim was clearly destabilizing Korean society and as such may be considered a threat to public stability, which would be prosecutable under the National Insecurity Law. "There's certainly a possibility of North Korean involvement here." he added.

After South Korea's so-called 'Seoulnauts' first landed in 1972, North Korea claimed to have landed on the moon a year before South Korean astronauts reached the orbiting satellite, but had withheld the news for 'security reasons'. However, South Korean astronauts found no sign of previous Korean visitations during their stay, and extensive and unsuccessful telescopic surveys for carelessly discarded rubbish on the lunar surface beyond the South Korean landing site tend to support the accusation that the North's claims are baseless.

A second landing took place in 1973, and although geomagnetic storms prevented pictures from reaching Earth, the story was extensively reported on by South Korea's press. A proposed third landing in 1974 was abandoned when the Government announced plans to colonize Mars instead.

Related Links
Mars Colony "May Be Lost" Admits Govt. Minister

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Wednesday, March 30, 2011

Some Drunk Drivers to be Banned from Driving Buses

With the number of bus crashes in Korea rising to a record high, the government has announced that it will try to ban people with three or more drunk driving convictions from working as professional bus or taxi drivers. Transport Minister, 51 year-old Kim, said that "everyone gets caught once, but I think when you've been caught twice it should really be a wake-up call that if you're caught again you won't be entrusted to drive passenger vehicles any more." The Minister was keen to point out however, that not all bus crashes in Korea are due to alcohol, as some are due to technical failure, gravity, and falling asleep at the wheel.

The unexpected announcement caused surprise and confusion among Korea's many drunk drivers, who now face the unprecedented step of having their right to be entrusted with the lives of others curtailed in some cases. Kim, a 54 year-old bus driver in Korea's second-class city of Busan, says he has eight drunk-driving convictions, but only two of those were from when he was actually driving his passenger vehicle. "The rest were from when I was driving my car – I think it was my car anyway – but why should what I do in my own time cause me to lose my job? What I do in my own time is my own business." he told us. Kim says although four people have died on his bus in the last two years, in each case it was found to be due to brake failure.

Kim wants to know if the government plan now means he is classed as having two drunk driving convictions and is therefore safe to continue to drive passengers, or whether they will count all eight, which may mean an immediate ban because he doesn't know any good judges.

The move to stop drunk drivers with an excessive number of convictions from driving passenger vehicles comes six months after it was revealed that the number of firefighters with drunk-driving convictions had continuously increased since 2005. In those cases, the government was keen to stress that all the firefighters were off-duty when they were caught, although some say this is because police are not in the habit of stopping fire trucks for breathalyzer checks. The firefighters union pointed out that of their 36,014 members, only 807 had been found guilty in DUI cases in recent years which was only 2.2%.

If the scheme to stop drunk-drivers with three or more convictions from driving passenger vehicles is a success, the government says it is likely to look into extending the measures to airline pilots.

Related Links
Repeat Drunk Drivers to Be Banned from Driving for a Living
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More firefighters get drunk-driving bans
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South Korea airport bus crash near Seoul kills 12
Six killed as bus plunges off road in S. Korea
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2 tourists killed, dozens injured in bus accident
Downtown bus crash kills 1, injures 28
Bus explosion unnerves citizens
Free buses for foreigners

Disclaimer: Please note the links above are generated automatically by our software and may not always be directly related to the news article.

Tuesday, March 29, 2011

Betrayal! Infamy! Japan Betrays Korea Over Dokdo


In what one government minister described as "their biggest surprise attack since Pearl Harbor", the Japanese Government has shockingly and ruthlessly betrayed Korea by notifying the Korean government it would describe the islands of Dokdo as their territory in middle school textbooks scheduled for use next year. Under a simple one-word headline of "Betrayal!", in a 600-point font that actually required a special 'A0' edition of the paper to be printed, The Korea Times asked how Japan could brutally stab Korea in the back so soon after Koreans raised a record of $19.1 million for humanitarian relief following the tsunami which devastated the Sendai region.

People out on the streets of Seoul, many of whom were showing visible signs of injury from the Japanese attack, were equally outraged. "I thought our giving money to Japan was proof that we were better than them and they would admit it. I'm shocked that they still can't see that Korea is right and that the rest of the world is wrong." said 31 year-old Kim as he limped towards his office.

Online forums have been even more condemning of the Japanese betrayal. "We have been showing support for those affected by the recent earthquake and now they want to argue that Dokdo is theirs? That doesn’t make any sense. It's completely contrary to K-Logic." wrote one poster. "Since Japan is sinking, they need a place like Dokdo to relocate. We should stop gathering money for them," wrote another, "...if I had known they would act like this, I wouldn't have donated any money." Some posters are talking about going to Japan and taking their money back from the Japanese refugees "or their food and water, if they've already spent the money." One online poster seemed to sum up the national mood "so far the Korean Wave of soap operas has been what we sent to Japan, but soon I hope they feel our Korean Wave of Hatred."

Before the betrayal, there had been hope that South Korea might be about to forge a new relationship with it's neighbor to the east, which was seen as important given its rocky relations with North Korea and China to the west. But now it seems that South Korea is destined to remain on bad terms with all its neighbors as usual, and several other neighbors further down the street like Taiwan, France, Indonesia, The Philippines, the United States, and other members of the so-called "United Nations".

The rocky Dokdo outcrops, whose rapidly eroding 0.18 square kilometers is home to over 7,300 Koreans and absolutely no Japanese, has officially been South Korean territory since it was formally invaded in 1954. But everybody in Korea knows that Koreans have occupied the rocks since they were formed 4.5 million years ago, even though this truth is untruthfully denied by the Japanese – who incorrectly call Dokdo "Takeshima", and everybody else in the world – who incorrectly call them the "Liancourt Rocks" just because an obscure intergovernmental body which goes by the name of the "United Nations" officially designates them as 'disputed' territory. This is clearly wrong because there is clearly no dispute in Korea. Korea has consistently declined Japan's offer to take the matter to the International Court of Justice, saying it is very busy - not because it wouldn't win because obviously it would.

The Government is said to be very angry over the Japanese betrayal, especially the way in which Tokyo is brainwashing its children with historical distortions under the cover of an education system which is clearly little more than a cover for political indoctrination. In South Korea, children are taught the truth about Korea's rightful ownership of Dokdo. The Education Minister, 52 year-old Kim, said that education should never be politicized, "It's important that educational textbooks always present both sides of a debate – in this case the fact that Dokdo is Korean territory and the fact that the Japanese are wrong and betrayers of the Korean people." he said as he toured an elementary school in Seoul yesterday. "The evil Japanese should be ashamed of themselves for trying to brainwash their children!" chanted a class of 6 year-olds who had been gathered in front of journalists during the tour.

Related Links
Japan betrays Korea by claiming Dokdo as its territory
Red Cross collects record amount of donations for Japan
S.Korea to Respond Resolutely to Japanese Textbook Distortions
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Wikipedia: Liancourt Rocks Liancourt Rocks/Takeshima/Dokdo
Why Won't the Koreans Take Up Japan's Offer to Bring the Dokdo Issue before the ICJ?
Anti-Korean Wave Sweeps Taiwan
Seoul pushes France for return of stolen artifacts
NIS Agents in Break-In 'Were Industrial Espionage Experts'
Southeast Asians feel discriminated against in Korea
Wikipedia: Anti-American sentiment in Korea

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Monday, March 28, 2011

One Year On – Hankyoreh Still In Denial Over Cheonan

Hankyoreh's version of the attack
Memorials were held Saturday marking the first anniversary of the sinking of the South Korean warship, Cheonan.

Making the anniversary in its own way, the left-wing Hankyoreh newspaper once again took the opportunity to deny any involvement in the sinking, despite being unable to provide alibis or information regarding the precise whereabouts of all of its staff at the time of the attack. The newspaper has also continually denied it had any knowledge beforehand that the attack would take place, but despite numerous calls to do so it has been unwilling to provide proof, fueling enduring doubts over its unyielding posture. Some have said that the newspaper is in possession of additional information which it has not printed, but it has not revealed it.

Lee, a Korean postgraduate in Political Science at Faber College in the United States, who is planning on researching the Cheonan incident next year, says that the fact that nobody has disproved complicity by Hankyoreh staff logically demands that their involvement be considered. The Hankyoreh dismissed the initial findings of the scientist, while again declining the opportunity to reveal the truth of what they knew.

Lee has lent academic weight to a debate which The Hankyoreh appears unwilling, or unable, to counter. But instead of providing the simple proof many have requested, the newspaper has instead spent considerable time trying to blame others for the attack. During the past year, a variety of alternative theories have been put forward for the sinking, including an accident, a collision with an American submarine, a giant squid attack, and aliens, which all run contrary to the findings of an international investigative group of scientists comprised of 49 South Koreans and 24 foreign experts from the U.S., Sweden, Australia, and Britain. But The Hankyoreh mocked this conclusive evidence with its repeated use of quotes around the words "conclusive evidence", while again providing no conclusive evidence of its own.

Left-wing groups, who accused the government of attempting to politicize the sinking, say they are worried that if involvement in the attack by The Hankyoreh were proven it would unite conservative groups and bolster government support in elections.

The blanket denial of involvement in the incident by the newspaper and its staff, despite the lack of precise alibis in a number of cases, is clearly untrue insofar as they have written a series of articles about it, and therefore clearly are involved. As such, their claims of non-involvement are disingenuous at best, rightly raising doubts in people's minds as to the veracity of their other denials.

Related Links
Cheonan 1 year later: enduring doubts and unyielding posture
Defying findings, liberals demand truth on Cheonan
Having no doubt over ship’s sinking
Right and left stake out Cheonan battle lines

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Sunday, March 27, 2011

Panic in Korea as Bananas Found to be Radioactive

100 Banana Equivalent Doses
The political fallout from the stricken Fukushima Daiichi nuclear facility in Japan continues to spread in Korea, with the government issuing an emergency decree to ban the sale of bananas after journalists found them to be radioactive.

In recent days the media has fueled increasing panic with stories of radioactive rain, seawater and food, causing many Koreans to rush out and buy Geiger counters and iodine tablets.

However, the Korea Institute of Nuclear Safety and Export Reactor Sales announced that the highly radioactive substance, cesium-137, which had been detected in rainwater, was nothing to be concerned about since it didn’t emanate from Japan, but rather instead from Chinese nuclear plants, which is perfectly normal. The naturally occurring phenomenon is particularly noticeable during Korea's "Yellow Dust" season when more concentrated amounts of radioactive particles, carried by the dust, are blown over the Korean Peninsula. Last year, the concentration of cesium-137 in the yellow dust reached up to 252 becquerels (Bq) per cubic meter. Anxious to avoid another incident with China so soon after the attack on Yeonpyeong Island, the government was keen to stress that this was probably still perfectly safe for anyone not planning to have children.

Speaking in his biweekly radio address from his bunker in Seoul on Tuesday, two days before the government banned food imports from several regions of Japan despite safe results from testing, the President urged South Koreans to lay their jitters over the nuclear issue to rest, and not allow themselves to be swayed by groundless rumors or unscientific presumptions.

But even though testing showed no radiation or only trace radiation for a variety of products, retailers rushed to halt the sale of all Japanese food after shoppers started bringing their Geiger counters into stores with them. People were said to be shocked by how quickly the contamination had spread, with products such as bananas registering positive for radioactivity despite not even originating from Japan.

Scientists said that nobody was going to get sick from eating the radioactive bananas, with some even claiming that bananas are actually naturally radioactive – so much so that there is supposedly a measure within the scientific community called the "Banana Equivalent Dose", which is used to compare the radioactivity in other foods to that of a typical banana.

The National Union of Journalists, representing members who had written headlines such as "Bananas Glow Yellow From Radiation", dismissed the scientists’ claims of banana safety. "The problem with these so-called scientists is that they spend their lives sitting around thinking, but we are the people actually writing about these subjects every day" a spokesman for the journalists said. "The scientists, once again, seem to be exhibiting the kind of confused thinking synonymous with those unable to process K-Logic".

Hospitals have been inundated with people who say they have eaten bananas recently, and one major department store group, which had already removed bananas from its shelves before the government ban, threatened to sue customers who previously bought the fruit, saying that if they get sick it will damage the company's reputation.

The government is said to be dithering on whether to ban a number of other foods which have been found to be more radioactive than the bananas. Rumors swept Internet forums this week that Brazil nuts had been found to contain up to 444 becquerels (Bq) of radium per kilogram, producing as much as four Banana Equivalent Doses of radiation, and yesterday the government appeared to confirm the findings when it said it was considering a temporary ban on the import of all products from the South American country.

During other testing, a number of items made by Korea's electronics chaebol were also found to be slightly radioactive this week, although due to advertising commitments this was not reported on by the mainstream media in Seoul. The government said it will consider launching a five-year research project into the issue rather than banning the products.

Related Links
Yellow dust from China contains radioactive substance: institute
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Banana equivalent dose
S. Korea bans food imports from contaminated Japanese regions
Korean retailers to halt imports of Japanese food
Why is the dust wiped from my TV radioactive?
South Korea to bolster support for exports of nuclear plants
Fukushima 1 Nuclear Accidents

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Saturday, March 26, 2011

Teachers Rush to Abuse Children Before April Deadline

Teachers convicted of sexually or physically assaulting students will be permanently banned from teaching from April, the Ministry of Education said last week. Previously, while the teachers were sometimes fired by their schools, if they voluntarily quit they could later return to the teaching profession. Those who received jail sentences for serious cases of sexually or physically abusing children were only allowed to return to teaching after five years.

The previous rules have placed a considerable burden on Korea's penal system, with many teachers serving sentences of more than five years absconding after exercising their legal right to return to their jobs on day-release from prison.

Kim, a 42 year old physical education instructor at a school in Seoul, said he was saddened by the move. "I'm not interested in sexually abusing children but I do like hitting them with chairs" he told us. Kim complained that the new law ignores his mental well-being; twenty years ago his court-appointed anger-management therapist recommended that a career in teaching would provide the most supportive environment for his random bouts of severe rage and desire to bully those weaker than himself, and he would also benefit from the camaraderie of like-minded people. However, Kim said that he welcomed the delayed imposition of the new law, which at least gave him a few days "to settle some scores" with his students.

Another teacher, who wished to remain anonymous due to society's 'misunderstanding' of his hobby of molesting children, said he intended to use the remainder of March to get his hands on a couple of girls, "After that I should be good for a couple of weeks" he said, "but then I don't know what I'll do."

KASA - the Korean Association of Sex Attackers - which represents a large number of pedophiles in South Korea and which has fought numerous legal cases on their behalf for greater legal recognition for the activity, said the new law was probably open to legal challenge since it conflicted with the right for adults to have sex with children over the age of 13. "If a teacher has sex with a 13 year old girl – can they be prevented from remaining a teacher, if a politician who did the same thing would be allowed to keep their job?" KASA is recommending that its members stop engaging in sexual activities with children who are 12 or younger until the legal situation can be clarified. The politician concerned has declined to comment.

The little-discussed right to physically and sexually assault children is so ingrained in society that the new law actually required a Constitutional amendment, even though officially the only pedophiles in Korea are foreign English teachers. But now the amendment has been passed a Ministry official said that from April convicted pedophile teachers will not be able to teach at schools again, even if they say they're sorry or provide receipts for alcohol purchases.

Korea’s hagwon industry has said it welcomes the new law as it is expected to provide them with an influx of new recruits at their private education facilities, which are not covered by the new law, and which are where most foreigners teach.

Related Links
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"Being Drunk" May No Longer Be Valid Reason for Sex Attacks

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Friday, March 25, 2011

Police Issue Arrest Warrants for 40,000 Korea Times Readers

Warning: This article contains a word designated as illegal under Section 5 of the Korean National Insecurity Law and it may not be read by Korean citizens. This article appears here for the benefit of our foreign readers only.

A former student accused of carrying pro-North Korea materials in her bag appeared at the Supreme Court yesterday.

The possession of publications praising the North's communist regime is illegal. Kim, now 33, was indicted on charges of carrying a printout containing the word "comradeship", which is illegal under Section 5 of South Korea's National Insecurity Law.

However, in an apparent mishap, the Korea Times printed a report on the case including the banned word, causing an estimated two million more Koreans to be in possession of it.

The National Police Agency say that while some people may not have read the word, it is impossible to know who has or hasn't, so further investigation is required. By cross-referencing a list of newspaper purchasers against lists of individuals who have previously engaged in politically questionable activities, such as attending non-conservative universities, traveling overseas or complaining about chaebol-produced products, an initial group of 40,000 Korea Times readers will be arrested and held for questioning.

Police sources say a further 50,000 people without pre-existing political question-marks on their national insecurity files may have been accidentally exposed to the word "without intent" to overthrow the government, and that the courts are likely to look on these cases more sympathetically, with re-education rather than custodial sentences.

Kim escaped a prison sentence on a technicality, since the Supreme Court decided it couldn't prove that the materials hadn't been placed in her bag by someone else. However, this will not be an excuse available to Korea Times readers who clearly purchased the banned word.

Related Links
Unintentional holder of pro-NK materials acquitted of charges

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Tuesday, March 22, 2011

Lehman Administrators Hire Korean Housewife

Two and a half years after its collapse the administrators of Lehman Brothers - who are still trying to untangle the complex web of financial contracts the failed investment bank was involved in - have finally admitted defeat and employed Korean housewife, 32 year-old Kim, to help them.

Many in the global financial community have been shocked by the appointment, but not her American husband, 35 year-old Mark, who admits that any money he gives his wife also seems to completely disappear. Mark told us when they married he made the mistake of agreeing to hand over his monthly paycheck to Kim on the basis that "this is what Korean men do". He added "Since I don't really speak Korean, I thought it made sense for her to handle our financial affairs, especially as I was very busy with my job and she was a housewife."

Mark admits that when his marriage went through a rough patch last year, he started wondering where the money his wife insisted was spent on bills had gone. "I knew power bills were expensive in Korea, but one of my colleagues told me that there was no way we should be paying the $400 a month on electricity my wife claimed it cost". Increasingly suspicious of the vague claims of savings for the future he'd been told about he sought outside help. "I asked a buddy of mine, who works as a forensic accountant back in the States, to look through our bank accounts, and he told me he'd never seen anything like it."

It seems that eventually the entire company of accountants were drawn into investigating a complex network of up to thirty personal bank accounts and credit cards belonging to Kim, and several dozen other personal and business accounts belonging to Kim's close family members which money seems to have been transferred through multiple times. Mark says his friend eventually told him that they couldn't identify the ultimate destination, and Lehman's missing money might be easier to find than the money he'd handed over to his wife.

The story of the Korean housewife's money management system spread quickly around the American financial community, attracting the attention of Lehman Brothers' administrators, who conducted their own investigation into Kim's financial affairs and were so impressed with what they found that they immediately offered her a job. They are said to be hopeful that having constructed her own seemingly impenetrable financial web, she will be able to deconstruct the one Lehman created before its collapse.

Mark is glad that his wife now has a job, but laments the very small salary she is being paid for her efforts.

Friday, March 11, 2011

Korean ISPs Unhappy with Foreigner Tracking Database

Korea's three national Internet Service Providers (ISPs) are expressing increasing unhappiness at the 'Act on Promotion of Information & Communication Network Utilization and Information Protection' law which stipulates that all Internet activities by foreigners must be logged for their own protection.

Under the law, the Korea Internet & Security Agency (KISA) mandates that all web addresses visited by foreigners are recorded in a database by their ISPs, as well as text of emails and SNS (Social Networking Service) messages on foreign sites like Twitter and Facebook. As a necessary legal disclaimer, KISA regularly reminds Internet customers that "the personal information of users is open to anybody who wants to take advantage of it", without specifically mentioning that 'anybody' in this context is mainly KISA itself. On its website, KISA says its goal is to "endeavor to make our country be reborn to a strongest country on internet and a safe advanced internet country... to work with our enthusiasm to build a road for people, who use internet, to enter into a warm and comfortable digital world."

It was envisaged that the foreigner tracking system – which works as part of the system which automatically blocks North Korean and other unpatriotic websites in South Korea, would lead to greater social harmony and digital world warmth in Korea by ensuring any unfortunate issues and misunderstandings experienced by non-Koreans could be dealt with. Korea's fourth ISP - Dokdo Internet - has not adopted the system yet due to regional autonomy agreements.

The foreigner tracking database - which is officially known as FITS (Foreigner Internet Tracking System) - was hugely successful in its first few years. Alongside a secret data-sharing agreement with VANK it allowed for the easy identification of foreigners who wrote critical blogs about the otherwise harmonious (South) Korean nation. VANK – which officially is a non-governmental organization even though it sits on several government and state security committees - then used the information to politely explain to the illogical foreigners the errors of their arguments. Such has been the persuasiveness of VANK's approach that the offending foreigners have always stopped writing their blogs or even left Korea due to the shame of realizing their error.

But now the number of foreigners in Korea is increasing so rapidly the Internet Service Providers are having difficulty maintaining the database, a problem due in part to the decision to use Microsoft Access as a basis for FITS. With more foreigners posting more things on SNS sites the volume of data collected has been growing exponentially, and the system has slowed down so much that recently VANK said that information requests on foreigners can take several hours to be fulfilled.

The ISPs are asking for more government funding to upgrade the database to the latest version of Microsoft Access, possibly even by buying it rather than using a Chinese-sourced copy, which some say has been amended to send information back to Beijing. Without the money, they say that the database is likely to reach capacity by the end of the year.

Recently, a group of professors at Seoul International University have called for the monitoring of what foreigners are saying to be extended to the telephone system in order to ensure that none of them are potential terrorists. It was feared that some non-Koreans were feeling discriminated against due to online monitoring by the Government, because although FITS was originally designated as a state secret, the Ministry of Public Manipulation and Insecurity – which ultimately overseas the system – neglected to inform the ISPs not to employ foreign IT contractors in the building of it. While the development of FITS was covered by commercial confidentiality agreements, its existence eventually leaked out due to the inherently untrustworthy nature of foreign workers, causing some irrational unhappiness among the foreign community in Korea, even though the system was built for their benefit.

The Government has said it will look closely at any request to develop a new version of FITS. Ministers are said to be keen on the idea of monitoring foreigners' phone calls, photos and location-based data in one unified system. However, other governments with highly extensive security regimes like China generally use more scalable non-Microsoft products to store their data, and after years of enforced Microsoft exclusivity in Korea it is believed that domestic IT workers lack the skills to build a new foreigner tracking database based on non-Microsoft systems.

Related Links
Praise is meaningless if not allowed to criticize
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Beware: somebody is watching you
Inadvertent progress

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Wednesday, March 9, 2011

North Korea Welcomes Seoul's Move to Planned Economy

Buy gold
The North Korean news agency has released a statement welcoming the South Korean Cabinet decision to abandon capitalism in favor of the state control of prices which the North implemented almost 58 years ago at the end of the Korean War. The Korean Central News Agency said that "Capitalism is the most reactionary and unpopular society as it harshly exploits and oppresses the toiling masses, regarding them as breathing tools and means for material production."

While South Korea's corporations have long classed their employees as breathing tools for tax and holiday purposes, the Finance Ministry in Seoul countered that nobody is harshly exploited under the South's capitalist system – at least nobody worth speaking of. At a tense press conference a spokesman also angrily denied that under its newly announced 5 Year Plan the South Korean government is deliberately preventing companies from raising prices - as part of a strategy to stop runaway inflation as well as taking the first step towards economic and political unification with the North.

The Cabinet has publicly said it has merely 'stepped-up price monitoring' of 16 agricultural, livestock and fishery products including apples, garlic, beef and eggs, although those who read the 500-page statement also noted the inclusion of price monitoring on the euphemistically termed 'service' fees for bathhouses and saunas which many politicians are known to frequent. Politicians have already said they intend to increase the frequency of their bathhouse visits, although purely for 'price monitoring' purposes.

In addition, price freezes have been imposed on public utility prices, and the Ministry of Public Manipulation and Insecurity (MPMI) said it will lend 'administrative' support to the effort. Public utility companies are expected to comply with the order since several executives were hospitalized during earlier 'administrative' efforts to control prices by South Korea's homeland security ministry.

Meanwhile, the nation's antitrust agency – the Fair Trade Commission (FTC) – said it was launching its largest ever probe into 'price fixing' and 'inflation triggering'. Reacting to the news, an economist in Seoul too fearful to give his real name - and who instead will only be referred to as Kim, 43 years old - said that the FTC was supposed to "restrain the concentration of economic power and create a competitive market environment", not "micro-manage prices". Kim said that the FTC Korea's flourishing chaebol were testament to the woeful failure of its primary goal, and suggested it would be no more successful in its attempts to implement the price controls of a socialist planned economy.

Private companies and colleges have reacted with shock at the move to impose the communist-style price controls on their products. The CEO of one private company, 47 year-old Kim, said he thought "we were living in a capitalist country, not one where I have to sell my products at a loss just because the government lost control of the economy." But the Finance Minister, 52 year-old Kim, said that such criticisms were politically naive, since ultimately the cost of mistakes made by government are always borne by ordinary citizens.

Related Links
Korea to intensify price monitoring
Gov't to Freeze Public Utility Prices in 1st Half
FTC launches massive probe into price fixing
S. Korea launches 'all-out' war against inflation
KCNA - Capitalism Termed Unpopular Society (blocked in South Korea)

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Monday, March 7, 2011

Banking Pyramid Scheme Comes Crashing Down

Korean Banking System
The Financial Services Commission, which suspended the troubled Busan Savings Bank last week and then promised that no further suspensions were necessary, suspended four more savings banks today as Korea's Banking Pyramid Scheme started to come crashing down.

While the global recession has led to record low interest rates rates across the world, Korea's savings banks often maintained unsupportable rates interest rates of 8%, which savers were too greedy to question. The banks claimed the rates were sustainable because depositors' money was being taken and loaned to Korea's booming construction industry, which is committed to building twice the number of apartments needed in this country by 2015.

Before the apartment glut of 2015, construction companies planned to sell their properties to people as investments, but the scheme began to unravel when it was discovered all the potential buyers were instead putting their money in savings banks to obtain interest rates of 8%, leaving no-one to purchase their over-inflated bubble prices. Once the companies were left with no-one to sell to, they defaulted on their loans leaving the savings banks that funded them insolvent.

But the 62 year-old Chairman of the Association of Savings Bankers said that the failures demonstrated the robustness of Korea's financial system. "These people were going to lose their money anyway" he said "so the outcome is the same whether they lost it on a property or lost it in their bank because they didn't buy a property."

Controversially, 55 year-old Professor Kim from the Economics Department at Seoul International University has written that the notion of money being "lost" is in fact a myth, since money doesn't actually disappear unless the government burns it. Instead rather, this so-called "lost" money actually ends up somewhere else, adding to speculation that construction bosses are aware of the unsustainability of their business model, but run their companies as short-term cash machines before they inevitably fail. Professor Kim admits this relies on the stupidity of bank owners, "but the existence of this is not considered to be in the realm of academic research".

Related Links
Four more savings banks are suspended by FSC
Fears of run on savings banks looming
2 big savings banks suspended

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Friday, March 4, 2011

In Search of More Viewers, KBS Promises New Screaming Show

Many shows on KBS 1 feature a mix of light comedy and embarrassing behavior which the audience scream in reaction to. However, latest viewer research has revealed that contrary to previous belief, it is actually the really screaming which draws viewers to watch the shows, rather than the performers.

"It came as a surprise at first", admitted 48-year-old station program manager Kim, "but wanting to be part of a communally shared experience is something Korean people are deeply driven towards. Our research found that while our viewers think they are watching for the entertainment, it's actually the screaming from unseen audience members that really provides the interaction they need as they scream along at home."

Now Kim is pioneering a new show that dispenses with the performers and instead features an hour of continuous screaming. "It gives our viewers more of what they are subconsciously craving" he said. The show has already proven popular with some people confessing that they hadn't noticed the removal of the performers. However, rival channel MBC has struck back at KBS with the launch of a program shot entirely from the front of a roller coaster, which the channel claims features more authentic screams and 'genuine peril'. As 3D TV sales increase in Korea, 'Roller Coaster Hour' is expected to prove an even bigger hit, but we understand that KBS is already considering the launch of an entire channel featuring roller coasters and screaming from around the world to counter this.

Media watchers are skeptical of the KBS plan. Foreign screaming is believed to be inferior to the genuine screaming found in Korea.