Tuesday, May 31, 2011

US Intelligence Director Makes Top Secret Visit to South Korea

Have you seen this man? Call 113
The U.S. Director of National Intelligence, 70 year-old James Clapper, is secretly visiting South Korea this week to talk about changing security conditions in Northeast Asia. After arriving in Seoul last week secretly on Delta flight 7856, Mr. Clapper ate a traditional Korean breakfast of rice and fish in the restaurant of the Lotte Hotel where he is staying in suite no. 1941, while agents from Korea's National Intelligence Service broke into his room to hack his laptop.

After breakfast, Mr. Clapper secretly met with Korean security officials including NIS chief Won Sei-hoon, Foreign Minister Kim Sung-hwan and Defense Minister Kim Kwan-jin at a secret NIS facility beneath the Seoul International Financial Center.

Later, Mr. Clapper went to the U.S. Embassy, where it is not known what he did, before being driven to The Blue House in an unmarked diplomatic vehicle to secretly meet with President Lee Myung-bak, 69, who opened discussions with an inquiry as to what the National Intelligence Director had eaten for breakfast, although this was merely a pleasantry as the waiter at his hotel is an NIS operative. Mr. Clapper then complimented the President on his hair, before sitting down to discuss North Korea's altering security and economic ties with Beijing, and the U.S. position on resuming humanitarian and economic aid to the reclusive country.

Mr. Clapper repeated the official U.S. position that North Korea must renounce its nuclear program before food aid can be sent, but said that secretly 500 tons of emergency humanitarian food aid was being offered via back-channels in Beijing if Pyongyang would agree to resume six-party talks.

As traditional Korean tea was served, Mr. Clapper then moved on to discussing ways of strengthening communication with the NIS, which has been embroiled in various scandals in recent months. He asked the NIS to stop breaking into the hotel rooms foreign diplomats were staying in, as this damages international relations, making the control of foreign policy in Washington more difficult. He also suggested that in order to share sensitive intelligence with South Korea, Washington needed more assurance that the NIS would build a database to store its intelligence reports, rather than filing them with the Korean media. The President assured Mr. Clapper that the Korean government takes security matters very seriously and measures had been put in place to stop top secret information appearing daily in Seoul newspapers.

The meeting ended after 28 minutes and Mr. Clapper returned to his embassy, where it is not known what he did or said.

The Blue House refused to confirm Mr. Clapper's visit to Korea for security reasons.

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Sunday, May 29, 2011

Happy Call Service for Foreigners Launches

For a number of years Koreans have been on hand at Government call centers for foreigners who are having difficulty communicating with Koreans and the Government. With their friendly greeting, "여보세요? 도와 드릴까요?" many foreign problems have been dealt with quickly and efficiently. But now - in a bid to help ensure foreigners integrate further - the Government will start phoning foreign residents at random times twice a week, rather than waiting for them to call the Government.

A trial of the new "Happy Call Service for Foreigners" began two months ago although due to a press release error it was branded a great success a day earlier. "Many foreigners don't receive proper information about their life" explained a Government spokesman, "but we hope to be able to tell them how to live it in Korea."

As part of the new proactive assistance policy, the service is now operating in five additional languages, English, Chinese, Japanese, Vietnamese and Mongolian, although for efficiency most of the Vietnamese calls are made separately by the police.

"I was like, dude, that's so cool the Government cares about me man." said Zack, a British recipient of the calls. "They're like, 'What are you doing?', and I'm like 'Just hanging with my buddies', and they're like 'Don't you have a class to teach in the morning?' and I'm like 'whoa, yeah thanks man, like totally slipped my mind.'"

Some recipients in the trial have said their Government contacts, who prefer the term 'handlers', have almost become friends, even if they don't give their names. "Once I switched off Arirang and the phone immediately started ringing." explained another recipient. "Of course, my handler asked me why I'd switched off Arirang - I explained it was because I was going to bed early and they said that was OK. It's nice to know the Government cares."

Later this year, the Government hopes to introduce a mobile phone element to the service, complimenting the Happy Call Service with a "Happy Tracking Service" so that foreigners get the most out of their time in Korea. "Sedition sometimes comes in small packages, such as turning up late for work... sabotaging efficiency." said a Government spokesman, "This will allow us to ensure foreigners don't make this mistake."

Any foreigner not being called more than once a week by the Government should check in with the call center by dialing '120' from their phones or visiting the website at 120.seoul.go.kr, ignoring any false spyware installation messages.

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Friday, May 27, 2011

Seoul Court Values North Koreans at 1.59 Million Won Each

A defector whose North Korean relatives were executed when the South Korean government revealed his identity for public relations purposes, has been awarded 35 million won for his 22 lost family members by a Seoul court. The ruling values North Koreans at approximately 1.59 million each, or $1,469.

The 41 year-old defector, who asked to be identified in the media under the pseudonym 'Kim Jung-yun' for security reasons, said he was disappointed by the ruling and planned to appeal in the United States, where he has now won asylum. He declined to elaborate on why he decided to settle in the United States rather than South Korea.

South Korea is home to more than 21,000 North Koreans who fled poverty, hunger and political oppression for the freedom to be discriminated against in the South where minimum-wage work often leaves them hungry and in poverty. Generally, defectors are normally regarded as fifth-class citizens behind South Koreans, white foreigners, South Koreans who have been overseas too long, and Korean Americans, though they are still placed slightly ahead of migrant workers. As such, legal experts have said the financial compensation ruling in the Kim Jung-yun case was relatively generous as many North Koreans living in the South are valued at a much lower amount by people here.

According to 59 year-old Kim, a professor of economics at Seoul International University, the case has significant potential implications for the cost of unification. “For the first time the government can now put a financial value on the human cost of a war with North Korea which kills all its people. 24 million people, at a market value of $1,469 each, gives us a total potential cost of just over $35bn." he explained. "But that's the worst-case scenario – in reality many North Koreans don't have relatives in the South and so the number of compensation claims are likely to be much lower."

After the ruling the Unification Ministry announced plans to create a law requiring defectors to receive government approval before sending money North to relatives they left behind. The plan has been widely interpreted as an attempt to stop financial transfers to the North, which only serve to enhance the net value of the North Korean recipient, potentially leading to larger compensation claim if the South Korean government later leaks their identity and gets them executed.

Defectors have said they don't want to give information to the South Korean authorities under the new law in case it jeopardizes the safety of their families, but officially the government insists such fears are unfounded, "We take the privacy and security of defectors and their families very seriously." a spokesman said.

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Thursday, May 26, 2011

Jindo Dogs Not Suitable for Police Work

The Los Angeles Police Department has failed to train two Korean Jindo dogs, a breed designated as South Korea's 53rd National Treasure and one of the most abandoned types of pet in Seoul, according to the National Veterinary Research and Quarantine Service. The dogs "didn't like have enough like focus, drive or consistency needed" according to an LA newspaper.

The dogs, named Daehan and Mingook, which translate as 'Korea' and 'Republic of', were given by the Korean government's Jindo Dog Promotion and Innovation Agency to the LAPD last October as candidates to work alongside often-used police dog breeds such as bloodhounds, Dutch Shephards and Belgian Malinois. As a designated national treasure, it is normally illegal to export Jindo dogs outside Korea, but the government decided to break the law on this occasion.

During the first four years of their lives, 'Korea' and 'Republic of' were intensively trained from 7am each morning, with classes typically not ending until late evening, and the dogs were expected to continue training in their own time. But once their apparently successful training period was over, they didn't perform consistently when taken out in the field to work in a real-world environment.

While the male dog Mingook, who underwent some of his training with the Korean military, did attempt to perform the tasks given to him by the LAPD, the bitch Daehan often refused to work and was more interested in curling up and watching TV all day, although it is thought this might be because she had already had puppies. Senior Korean generals say the military has also tested female dogs for field work, but stopped after running into similar problems. It is not clear why the government gave the dogs to the LAPD knowing they were likely to fail, but some sources suggested it was in exchange for the native-English teachers given to Korea by the Americans.

The government still hopes to see the Jindo breed qualify as police dogs in future, but admits "it may require more training". However, while the government was keen to turn the non-exportable dogs into Korea's equivalent of China's giant pandas, to be gifted on occasion as international favors, many experts doubted that a successful result in LA would have led to further success in other cities, since Jindo dogs don't like water and often refuse to go out in the rain, even with an umbrella.

According to The Ministry of Culture, the failure of the dogs in LA is likely to see them downgraded from Korea's 53rd National Treasure to 54th during the next annual review.

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Wednesday, May 25, 2011

Medical Tourism Project Fails to Take Off

Tourism ads "may need rethink"
In recent years Government Ministers of various parties have undertaken a succession of national projects aimed at reinventing Korea's traditional industries which are being replaced by cheaper Chinese copies. One of the latest big ideas was medical tourism, dubbed 'Ubiquitous HealthHub 2012'. But ticket sales have been slow.

63-year-old Professor Kim, the head of the newly renamed Seoul International Hospital, explained that the large amounts of blood spillage which can occur in some of the more major procedures may be putting off the tourists. "Medical staff are used to it of course, but it may be more than some overseas visitors are expecting, and certainly popcorn sales have been disappointing." he said.

It is not clear where this leaves the Government's plans, which incorporated elements of the previously disappointing 'FoodHub' project. Some insiders have suggested that having lunch at Korean Beef Restaurants after tourists have viewed the medical procedures, rather than beforehand, may be better. However, this could be difficult - Korean surgeons are resistant to the idea of operating in the morning as most of them are too hung over before lunch to work effectively. It would also be difficult to eat later in the day since the evening 'WhoreHub' element of the tourism plan remains popular. Some industry experts have urged Tourism Korea and the Ministry of Health to rethink the 'Ubiquitous HealthHub 2012' advertising campaign, which despite being a big hit with Koreans, was described as 'a little dark' by some foreigners.

Politicians have suggested that foreign tourists could be invited to undergo medical procedures themselves while in Korea - Korean hospitals are the most advanced in the world and often diagnose conditions which hospitals outside Korea cannot find. Plus, studies show that tourists often pick up injuries on the bus from Incheon International Airport into Seoul which could be treated surgically.

A few politicians have gone so far as to propose that foreigners with pre-existing medical conditions intentionally travel to Korea for treatment which they are unable to obtain back home. But Professor Kim dismisses this idea as completely unrealistic: "In properly diagnosing conditions and taking the patient's individual medical history into consideration, it's extremely important that there is no language barrier between patient and doctor, otherwise serious mistakes could be made. The idea that foreigners might arrive in Korea from various non-Korean speaking countries around the world seeking treatment, leaving us to operate on a 'best guess' basis, is frankly ridiculous."

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Tuesday, May 24, 2011

South Korean Sitcom Hit Among N.K. Teens

"Not Japanese"
South Korean sitcom "The Blue House" - also known by its local title of Cheong Wa Dae - has seen explosive popularity among North Korean teenagers and young women, Radio Free Korea reported.

According to a source from Yanggang province, the sitcom has become very popular with copied DVDs selling like hotcakes. The average high school student owns one or two copies of the popular sitcom, the source said.

"The Blue House" first aired in South Korea in 1987 and drew huge popularity for its unique characters, frequent cast changes, and sexual content. The show centers around fictional governments which embark on a successive series of massive projects which have no purpose but were promised as part of their election campaigns.

The success of the long-running show has been put down to the way in which it constantly renews itself every few years. Typically a new government is shown coming to power and the humor concentrates on the apparent wide-eyed naivety of the main characters. Later as they realize they cannot deliver on their promises, the show takes a darker and more satirical turn, before moving into farce and open corruption as the next election approaches. Often this gives the producers a chance to change the cast and begin the whole cycle again. While it may sound entirely formulaic and unfulfilling in the sense that there is never a satisfactory conclusion, South Korean audiences have yet to get bored of the format.

Current star of the show, Japanese-born actor Tsukiyama Akihiro, who plays South Korean President "Lee Myung-bak", 69, is said to be particularly popular among North Korean high school girls. "He's so sexy – look as his hair!" said one girl who refused to give her name for fear of reprisals from the authorities and local hair salons. But it is thought North Korean officials are unlikely to ban the DVDs since they often show the lighter side of democracy.

The current season of The Blue House is titled "Four Rivers and Seventeen Funerals", and tells the story of how 69 year-old "President Lee" tries to create jobs for party supporters in the construction sector under cover of a river restoration project that nobody really wanted, while simultaneously trying to hide the fact that he was born in Japan from party colleagues wanting to pass asset-seizing legislation against the descendants of Japanese collaborators. Critics have called the season the show's "best yet", and for the first time in its history writers have introduced a plot device that would allow Lee Myung-bak/Tsukiyama Akihiro to stay on beyond the five-year term limit the show has previously established.

The Blue House airs at 8.55pm weeknights on South Korea's MBC network.

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Monday, May 23, 2011

Korean Rapture Believers Perplexed After Prediction Fails

Gangnam and Korean Heaven
Evangelical followers of the semi-legendary founding king of Korea, Dangun, whose diaries predicted that Saturday would be Judgment Day, are trying to make sense of the failed prediction. Some believers expressed bewilderment or said it was a test of their faith after the day passed without event.

The Diaries, which were recently rediscovered in the attic of a pub in the English town of Shipley near Bradford after going missing for 2,000 years, have now been collated into the Holy Book of Dangun and appear to predict that the founder of the Korean religion would return to Earth on the 21st May 2011. True pure-blooded Koreans would then be swept up, or "raptured", to Korean Heaven, where there are no migrant workers, the Korean soccer team always wins the World Cup as promised, and Dokdo really is Korean territory, after all.

According to a researcher at the University of Leeds who deciphered the ancient texts, which were written in a mixture of primitive Chinese characters and Gojoseon symbols whose meaning has been lost, the Korean Rapture was scheduled to begin at 6pm Korean time with a giant earthquake in Busan at a location now occupied by the Gori-1 nuclear reactor. The Korean Wave of destruction was then to have swept the world as each time-zone reached early evening. By October 21st, the Book of Dangun appeared to indicate all non-pure-blooded Koreans - and certainly all foreigners - would be dead.

It has long been believed that the second-coming of Dangun would occur in the Gangnam district of Seoul, which is where the first Koreans would ascend to Korean Heaven, followed by lesser Koreans from the remaining districts in Seoul, other Korean cities, and finally and most controversially unless Dangun could be dissuaded, overseas Koreans known as 'gyopos'.

As the date of the Korean Rapture approached, many Koreans had been preparing for it by staring at photos of Dokdo, but pure-blooded Koreans were perplexed when Saturday passed without incident. "I do not understand why... I do not understand why nothing has happened." said 40 year-old Kim who says he moved to Gangnam last year specifically to demonstrate his faith, and experience Rapture and the ascent to Korean Heaven before those less worthy than him.

Disbelieving native-English teachers, who would not be welcome in Korean Heaven, gathered in the Itaewon district of the capital at 6pm, and greeted the passing of the deadline by playing loud disco music and releasing helium-filled Korean sex dolls into the heavens. Police say they are looking into how old the dolls were and whether any of the teachers had sex with them first.

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Sunday, May 22, 2011

Joy as Twelve-Year Foreign Resident Speaks First Korean Word

32-year-old Seoul-resident Kim is said to be "overjoyed" today that John, who came to Korea in 1999 and married her in 2004, has finally spoken his first Korean word. "When I heard him say 'bab'" (which means 'rice' in Korean but is also used as a general word for 'food') "my heart jumped. I quickly grabbed my smartphone to record the moment - hoping he would say it again, but even though I put some rice on a spoon and held it away from him repeating 'bab, bab' silently with my mouth, he just held out his arms and moved them a little, but didn't try to say anything else." Kim is still hopeful that John is finally starting to recognize the sounds he hears around him though. "Our eighteen month year-old daughter is beginning to speak and I'm hoping he might start copying her" she says.

However, 58 year-old Professor Kim, an expert in linguistics from Seoul International University, who we referred the story to for comment, advised caution in an email message: "Research shows that English-speaking foreigners who came here before Internet usage became really widespread in the mid-1990s felt a long way from home and tended to assimilate more quickly, because they had to. However, studies show that since then people have increasingly lived their lives online, making the world seem a smaller place and people more small-minded. Now it's possible for a foreigner such as John to move to Korea but still feel as though they're living back home, albeit perhaps in one of those rough neighborhoods where mostly immigrants live."

Curiously, research shows the inability of foreigners from the Internet-generation, or Generation-I as it's known in Korea, to learn Korean partly because they are too busy posting online about their inability to learn Korean, is a phenomenon which largely appears limited to native English speakers; statistics show that immigrants to Korea from other Asian countries tend to learn the language quite quickly. But Professor Kim says he can explain this - "The Internet in those countries is rubbish." he concluded.

Wednesday, May 18, 2011

Judges Can't Let Ex-Judges Win Court Cases

Pay for the scales or face the sword
In a landmark decision which is already being designated 'Tangible Cultural Property No. 11059,' retired judges who have been hired as lawyers will be banned from handling criminal and civil cases filed with their former courts.

Under the decades-old practice of "jeongwan yeu", which approximately translates as "it's not what you did, it's who you know", retired judges representing clients have normally received favorable judgments for them from their former colleagues, which is described as a "tacit arrangement in the country's legal system" by legal experts. "What this means," said 61 year-old Professor Kim from Korea International University, "is that it's kind of legal but people don't talk about it much."

The ban on the deeply-rooted practice has provoked a strong backlash in legal circles, with many sitting judges openly questioning how to decide on a defendant's guilt if a history of drinking with their lawyer can not be taken into account. It also throws the system of legal recruitment into chaos, with law firms suggesting there may no longer be any purpose in employing former judges on high salaries with extensive benefit packages if it isn't going to guarantee the right verdict. The trickle-down result of not being able to buy justice may make legal representation cheaper and 'fairer' for the less well off, sparking fear among wealthy individuals and companies throughout the country.

It is thought that over the last 50 years, a large number of well-connected or wealthy criminals have been able to escape justice under the "jeongwan yeu" system. Conversely, many innocent people have been handed guilty verdicts for failing to employ judges-turned-lawyers. While innocent people were routinely sent to jail under the military government, there has always been a sense among certain sections of Korean society that they probably deserved it anyway, but this was not supposed to happen after the imposition of democracy in 1987. However, despite the new ban on judges using personal relationships as a basis for making decisions, the government has said it will not review previously corrupted judgments as they were technically legal at the time, giving them no basis to reopen cases. Criminals who were found innocent -despite the evidence against them - because they were defended by a former judge, have been asked to behave better in future.

Fearing the loss of highly lucrative retirement income, some judges have attempted to avoid the ban - which comes into effect today - by immediately handing in their resignations in the belief that if they are not judges when the new law comes into existence they won't be covered by it. But the government has said the attempted resignations seem to be based on a misunderstanding of contract law, which requires judges to serve out notice periods to guarantee the continuity of ongoing trials, rather than immediately quitting. After many years of working as judges, a spokesman for the group who attempted to resign admit that they are not entirely clear on the legality of their position, but they will seek legal representation.

Some former judges say they are now unlikely to be able to make a living after retirement, threatening extreme economic hardship and possibly poverty. "The law means all judges will be jobless for a year after retirement, depending on their pensions only", said a judge working outside Seoul. One outgoing Supreme Court judge complained that his economic condition was 'not good' and he has 'an 85 year-old mother to support'. According to government data disclosed two months ago, the the Supreme Court judge's wealth amounted to 1.32 billion won ($1.2 million), lower than the average wealth for 142 high-ranking judges, which is 2.03 billion won ($1.8 million).

Former prosecutors are also covered by the new law, causing further controversy. A judge from the Seoul High Court said "No judge rules in favor of lawyers who were former prosecutors", but it is now believed cases involving former prosecutors will instead also have to be judged purely on their merits.

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Saturday, May 14, 2011

Foreigners Accused of Property Speculation

Tesco colors
Evil foreign supermarket company Tesco - which hides under the name Homeplus in Korea to disguise its British neo-colonial intentions, and uses colors from the North Korean flag for its logo, has been discovered to be behind a ruthless plot to buy property and benefit from the gains on the investment if the market valuation of their buildings rises. The move directly flouts South Korea's goal of eventual reunification with North, which has seen the government attempt to move away from capitalism towards a more centrally planned economy, a move which Pyongyang welcomed in March. Innocent Koreans, who never engage in property speculation or other decadent capitalistic practices, are thought to be outraged by the move.

In addition to the imposition of freezes on utility prices, and the public humiliation of oil company executives who were accused of consistently raising prices despite the fact their product didn’t seem to get vehicles any further, the government has recently sought to address the issue of the foreign-inspired 'super-supermarkets' - or SSMs - which are generally regarded as better than the smaller traditional Korean supermarkets, which aren't as super.

Earlier this month, the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Trade (MOFAT) claimed that small supermarkets and shops, which are now officially referred to as wholesome sounding 'mom-and-pop' stores rather than their previous government designation of 'tax-avoiding minimum-wage retailers', are part of Korea's unique culture and they need to be be recognized as World Heritage Sites. However, UNESCO has been reluctant to discuss the issue with MOFAT, even though their boss is a Korean and they are disrespecting him as well as all Koreans everywhere by ignoring the issue. Privately however, the government is believed to be fearful that a move away from subsistence retailing in favor of larger stores could put millions of otherwise unemployable elderly people out of business - leaving them poverty stricken, given the government's lack of economic support for the age-group in this deeply Confucian society.

According to a senior government official at the Ministry of Factual Economy, the evil foreign Tesco Homeplus scheme "has employed the method of buying an entire building where its super supermarket store would locate its business." When Tesco's super-supermarket moves in, the large number of customers it attracts tends to increase the desirability of the building to other businesses, and its valuation rises, a move slammed by government officials as "naked capitalism" and "dark market forces".

By contrast, local rival Local Rotte Mart has only opened stores in vacant premises – rather than entire buildings - where other small supermarkets had moved away due to poor business conditions. But foreign Tesco Homeplus is even buying failed restaurants and stationery stores and replacing them with something people want, threatening to roll-back government attempts to control the economy and stifle freedom of choice - a clear threat to national unity. "Subsequently," according to the Ministry of Factual Economy official, "folks thought of it as an invader and this generated a bad image." The military has been placed on a high state of alert.

When the government passed the 'Super Supermarket' law in November last year, it was designed to prevent new any new SSMs from opening, by preventing SSMs which were majority owned by a large brand from operating within 500 meters of any neighborhood with small shops, effectively excluding them from every town and city in Korea. But the disrespectful foreign-owned Tesco Homeplus has exploited an apparent legal loophole in the 'majority ownership' definition under the law, sidestepping the regulations by opening stores where it holds a minority stake instead.

The government is now considering whether to prosecute the company for illegally operating legally, but according to government legal advisers it may be difficult, as it appears the recently agreed Free Trade Agreement with the European Union surprisingly allows British companies to do business in South Korea, even though the Korean people were assured it was a one-way trade agreement that would only benefit Korean companies. Government sources say that accusing Tesco of capitalism is probably their best way of preventing the company's blatant attack on Korea's culture and government.

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Thursday, May 12, 2011

Customer "Slightly Disappointed" With New TV, Seongsan Sues

A Korean shopper who bought the latest Seongsan LED TV online, then returned to give it a four-star review saying they were "slightly disappointed" with the design of the remote control, is being sued by the company.

Korea has strict rules protecting large businesses from their customers, and Seongsan says it was "emotionally distressed by the woman's outburst", which they considered "slanderous". Legal experts said the woman was foolish to attack the company. 56 year-old law professor Kim, from Seoul International University, pointed out that while Korean businesses are legally entitled to fail to live up to their responsibilities, it wasn't a two way street, and it was the customer's responsibility to enjoy the product. The professor, who sometimes advises the company on corporate law, added "If she wasn't going to enjoy it, why did she buy it?"

Some netizens have urged the woman to return to her review and amend it to five stars in the hope that Seongsan might drop its legal case, while others have urged her to amend it because "speaking ill of Korean products is very unpatriotic". However, recent attempts by Korea's largest companies to get the National Insecurity Law amended with the 'Retrospectively Unpatriotic Purchases Bill' have failed, as lawmakers are concerned that it may lead to legal precedents within Korea's troubled space program, which largely uses Russian technology.

The woman has said she's very sorry for any offense caused, but is unable to amend her review as her Internet access has been canceled due to network abuse, which she denies. Little-read left-wing newspaper, The Hankyoreh, which has regularly run articles attacking Seongsan ever since the massive chaebol withdrew advertising from the newspaper two years ago, predictably said it is taking up the woman's futile cause.

Citing "the deep hurt caused by this alleged Korean shopper", Seongsan refused to comment for this article, but said it "might sue" The Dokdo Times if we ran the story.

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Monday, May 9, 2011

Majority of South Koreans Want Atomic Bomb

Design could be a deciding factor
A survey published last week revealed that soaring external threats and a fear of falling behind their neighbors has led to a majority of South Koreans wanting an atomic bomb.

While many apartments are protected by steel doors and numeric or biometric security, some survey participants said that having their own atomic bomb was the ultimate guarantee of protecting their property, while others admitted that it was the perception that the people in neighboring apartments either already had a bomb, or were thinking about buying one, that motivated them. "I'm concerned that my prestige will be lessened if all my neighbors have bombs and I don't" said 37 year-old Kim.

Some market watchers say that atomic bombs are likely to be this summer's must-have items at upmarket Seoul department stores, as wealthy families vie with each other to enhance their social status. With many of South Korea's aging nuclear reactors suffering multiple failures in recent years, there are also fears that it will only be a matter of time before they kill thousands and have to be shut down, creating a limited supply of enriched uranium for Korean families to consume, helping to boost early demand.

Korea's two biggest consumer chaebol - FQ and Seongsan - are already locked in a bitter competition to launch the weapon with the most features. FQ have said that theirs will be Internet connected, while Seongsan have said they are working on a portable bomb, and that it will be sold with one-year's free supply of Seongsan Health iodine tablets. Design is expected to be an important factor, with both promising stylish curves for their products. But the recent food-safety concerns following the Fukushima Nuclear Disaster have led to both companies advising families to keep their bombs away from their fridges, although some reports on the Internet have suggested that placing one next to a kimchi pot appears to help the fermentation process.

The consumer demand has presented unexpected problems for the country's other conglomerates however, which were hoping to use Korea's first generation of atomic bombs for rapid earth-moving as part construction projects to create new areas for housing. According to the left-wing Hankyoreh newspaper, the government was also planning to complete the Four Rivers canal project in record time by exploding several bombs to clear obstacles such as mountains out of the way.

Related Links
Majority of South Koreans Want Atomic Bomb
Violent crimes on upward curve
30-somethings leading consumption patterns in Korea
Samsung looks to enlist former top BMW designer
Korea may close old reactors
Stop reckless development of 4 rivers areas
Operation Plowshare

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

Wednesday, May 4, 2011

Police Storm Google Korea's Hideout

How police raided Google's hideout
Police yesterday raided the local headquarters of the foreign search engine, Google, over allegations that the company collected location data of smartphone users without consent, just like the Korean government. Copying the government's data collection policies is illegal under Korean law.

An elite unit from the Seoul Metropolitan Police Agency's cyber crime unit stormed the anonymous-looking yet heavily fortified building in the affluent Yeoksam-dong area of the garrison district of Gangnam, where intelligence had suggested that Google may be hiding. Several people were said to have been hurt in the raid, including a Korean woman who Google employees tried to use as a human shield. It is believed President Lee Myung-bak watched the raid live from his bunker in the Blue House.

It was not the first attempt to kill Google in Korea. Last August, police trying to secure evidence that the evil company's 'Street View' mapping service gathered private information, stormed a building which it thought Google was occupying using mapping data from a Korean rival to Google, but unfortunately they had the wrong address. But this time, Google was caught by surprise, and police managed to confiscate hard disks and other computer components which it is hoped will bring down the shadowy Google network. In accordance with foreign tradition, Google's disks are likely to be buried at sea within 24 hours.

In recent years, Korea's plan to dominate the global Internet floundered when it was discovered that the online communications network actually extended beyond Korea. Versions of popular portals such as Naver and Daum were hastily launched in the newly discovered foreign markets, but despite the Korean Wave users in those countries strangely proved to be unwilling to learn Korean just to use these superior search engines, which work on Microsoft Windows with IE6 over a recommended minimum 50 megabit connection.

By comparison, Google's search engine requires very little in the way of hardware resources due to its inferiority, and worse, it can run on a variety of different operating systems rather than only one, because it is not pure-blooded. Yet inexplicably, Korean Internet users have been slowly moving over to Google - the company now has a 1-2% share in the Internet search market in Korea, the kind of popularity "which obviously can't be the result of free choice" according to one of its rivals. It is believed that Google is using its Android mobile phone platform to force innocent Koreans to convert to their search engine.

The growth of Google has created concerns at the highest levels of government that one day the majority of Koreans might entrust their data to non-Korean companies - and these companies might not be as willing to hand it over to the government every time someone says something bad about the President's hair, which of course, always looks very nice.

Police also stopped by for coffee at the law abiding Korean rival to Google, Daum, which runs a similar location-related mobile advertising network and which has been wrongly accused of collecting users' data without their consent, although according to the Ministry of Journalism this hardly seems worth mentioning and the media shouldn't really mention it.

Related Links
Police Raid Google Office over Alleged Illegal Info Gathering
Police raid Google Korea on suspicion of illicit data collection
Police raid Google Korea (plus another Korean company)
NHN, Daum accuse Google of antitrust
S. Korea’s press freedom ranking falls

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

Tuesday, May 3, 2011

First Seoul International Bankruptcy Festival a Great Success

The first Seoul International Bankruptcy Festival, held over the weekend, has been hailed as a great success by organizers.

The event was planned in response to the growing number of cities and districts in Korea who have run up huge debts and appear to have little chance of ever paying them off.

Many local governments sent large delegations to the Bankruptcy Festival. "Our budgetary situation is extremely difficult, so it's obviously important that we gather as much information from this event as possible", said 51-year-old Mayor Kim of Daegu, explaining his decision to travel to Seoul along with most government staff from the region. "Even some our of youngest female secretaries attended, since it was important that every public employee from the top to the bottom understood the importance of developing a culture of austerity and fiscal prudence." he added. In Namwon, people reported government offices shut down for four days and recorded phone messages explained that all staff were away on a business trip.

Luxury hotels in Seoul have been fully booked for weeks with reports that some public employees attending the Bankruptcy Festival have even had to stay in only four-star establishments, with expenses payments making up the shortfall.

Despite the influx of public employees, Seoul City Council admitted that it would not run a profit on the event since most of the related expenditure would take place in the private sector - which suffers from an endemic and highly successful culture of tax-avoidance. Under proposals originally submitted by contractors, the event should have been profitable, but even though Council employees were careful to choose contractors who could be trusted due to family connections, budgets spiraled out of control as the Bankruptcy Festival drew near. "But we learned something important about financial crises ourselves, and since that was the purpose of the Festival this was extremely fortuitous, if unexpected", said a spokesman, before promising to hold the Festival again next year.

Attendees also say much has been learned from the event. 56-year-old Mayor Kim of Gwangju said that an exhibit explaining the merits of combining business trips caused his delegation to use part of the weekend to visit various locations in Seoul to look for a location to hold next year's Gwangju Festival, which might attract more visitors if held outside the city, privately acknowledged as being 'not very interesting' by its political leadership.

The mayor of Busan, who asked not to be named, told us that the taking the trip with a large number of his junior female staff had even given him some ideas on how to tackle the depopulation problem which is damaging the economy of his city. The mayor also wants to pass on what he learned at the Bankruptcy Festival, with a proposal to build a 112 billion won Bankruptcy Exhibition Center, with the later possibility of holding rival Bankruptcy Festivals in Korea's second-class city.

Related Links
Which local gov’t will be next to fall?
Seoul City in bad shape financially
Cutbacks set nationwide
How local gov’ts blow their budgets
Public sector`s runaway spending
Crackdown on casino splurges by gov’t officials

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

Sunday, May 1, 2011

Foreigner Meetings Point to Massive Conspiracy

"I saw two foreigners talking intently together in the subway station", recounts Kim, a 21 year-old politics student, "then, out of nowhere, they were suddenly joined by a third." Kim believed the meeting looked conspiratorial, but the language they were using didn't appear to be English. "It was something close to it, but it was nothing like the English we learned in school. I think it may have been code."

All over Korea, similar reports are being made in hushed tones, of foreigners spotted meeting together suspiciously in subways, cafes and bars, and even on the Internet using websites that are protected by secret passwords - which Koreans aren't told. "Are they plotting against us?" is a question increasingly in citizens' minds, who are unnerved by what they have seen. Publicly, the government has brushed off the idea that a massive conspiracy may be building right under people's noses, but privately senior officials are said to be alarmed by clear growing evidence that something may be happening.

41 year-old 'Lee', who runs a Seoul recruitment company, said it was the growing number of anecdotal stories of these meetings he saw on the Internet, which prompted him to create a special web forum on Naver - where Korea's peace-loving citizens could share stories and try to make sense of what the foreigners were planning by tracking their movements. "When these visitors arrived in Korea, they promised better lives for people through the teaching of English, but last year Korea's TOEFL ranking dropped to 80th, from 71st in 2009. The more visitors arrive as part of this secret invasion, the worse things seem to become for Koreans. This must be part of their plan."

'Lee' also believes that the foreign visitors are quietly converting people, with reports in the online group that some Koreans who have spent time with the visitors appear to have been changed by the experience. He even claims there have been a string of disappearances at the hands of the foreigners - "We fear that a significant number of Korean women have been taken by them."

In further evidence that they may now be actively working towards the downfall of the country, some of the visitors even refer to themselves as 'expatriates', although 'Lee' says he doubts they were ever patriotic towards Korea. Members of his group have also reacted with alarm to the realization that many of the visitors do not appear to really like Korean food. "If they're not eating the food here, then what are they eating?" asked one alarmed poster.

Government sources privately agree that the TOEFL statistics show the enormous benefits promised by the visitors have failed to materialize. Yet, over the same period the number of them staying in Korea has grown exponentially, raising questions over their true purpose here. While publicly welcoming the visitors, attempts have been made to control them by issuing Alien Registration Cards with identity numbers which effectively prevent access to a number of domestic websites and services. Meanwhile, the Ministry of Public Manipulation and Insecurity has started trying to track what foreigners are saying on the Internet, but it is being hampered by the fact that all its eavesdropping software was written for use with Korean Microsoft Windows, while the visitors appear to be largely using their own technology, which may be called either 'Apple' or 'Android', although the Ministry isn't sure which. It remains hopeful, however, that it will eventually manage to crack this more advanced alien technology.

With more and more sightings of foreigners apparently conspiring in public places, the Ministry is secretly trying to investigate the meetings themselves, but it is having difficulty breaking the language code - and its use of older government agents, while thought to be less conspicuous, has not been successful. "I tried to get right up to them while they were talking at a subway station, but then they looked at me suspiciously" one elderly agent told us.

Related Links
Koreans' TOEFL ranking drops
Korea activists target foreign English teachers
Korean ISPs Unhappy with Foreigner Tracking Database

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