Saturday, December 24, 2011

Anti-FTA Protesters Seek to Ban Santa From South Korea

Protesters were gathering Saturday to hold a Christmas Eve candlelight vigil to protest against what they feared would be "a massive influx of goods" by the foreign entity known as 'Santa Claus'.

Under the FTA – or Free Trade Agreement – which South Korea signed up to this year with what's left of the European Union, Santa Claus is now allowed to import goods into Korean unimpeded for the first time, even if he declares their value as being over the customs limit of $125 and only vaguely describes the items as 'gifts' and the intended recipients as being 'children'.

Previously, South Korea's own domestically originated Santa – who is known as 'Mr. Ho' - fulfilled the role of distributing such items to children, but there were fears that there would be no presents in Korea this year after the government enacted legislation recently banning repeat sex offenders from working with children.

The anti-FTA protesters say that in addition to breaching Korea's anti-dumping legislation – unlike Korea's Santa Ho, 'Santa Claus' is believed to distribute toys to children at below cost price or even for free – there is also evidence that the foreign Santa is evading customs procedures by bypassing ports and failing to pay import duties. In addition, they say that Santa Claus' visa status should be investigated, as he may have no right to work in Korea.

Many among the protesters are fearful of the impact Santa Claus may have on their own lives. 38 year-old Kim, who says he often goes around giving children he doesn't know presents, says he fears that Santa's foreign activities may cause him to lose his job.

But Korea's large corporations, or 'chaebol' as they are known, oppose legislating against Santa Claus' operation. They are thought to be particularly interested in the possibility of replacing Korean workers with elves, who according to reports work longer hours for less money and holiday time than even the slave laborers they currently employ in the Kaesong Industrial Complex in North Korea. "Elves are the future... or robots" said a spokesman for Korea's largest corporation – Seongsan – who said he didn't have a name for legal reasons.

The anti-FTA protestors say the government should do more to ensure Santa Claus complies with local market regulations. Following the signing of FTA agreements with the EU and US, Korea has been under pressure to remove some rules which have been called artificial barriers to entry for foreign manufacturers into the Korean market, with toy buggies cited among numerous other examples. Local safety laws mandate that foreign buggies are properly crash tested – while toy buggies manufactured in Korea have obviously been made with the safety of Korean children foremost in the manufacturers' minds - foreign buggies must prove they adhere to local safety standards, which means they must be crash tested with a Korean child inside to ensure compliance with regulatory requirements. But many foreign manufacturers have been reluctant to participate in live crash and drop testing "Which is their choice" said a spokesman for the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Trade.

With Santa Claus deliberately evading Korea's ports, effectively smuggling goods like unsafe foreign buggies and other deadly toys into Korea, the candlelight protesters say the government must ban Santa Claus' entry into Korea tonight or arrest him if he tries to step foot on Korean territory.

Related Links
FTA gives big boost to Korea-EU trade
Koreans pay $35 for $6-bottle of Montes Alpha red
Thousands of Koreans stage street protest against free trade deal with U.S.
When protest is a joke
Pay raise at Kaesong park
Vitality at Kaesong Complex
27 sex offenders worked with adolescents: police

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

Friday, December 23, 2011

North Korea Requests More Wailers Before Resuming Six-Party Talks

Famous painting 'Korean Woman Misses
Subway Train'
Five days after the official death of its leader, King Jong-il, North Korea has requested emergency supplies of wailers from the South after stocks of people able to scream and weep uncontrollably for the cameras ran dangerously low. Experts in the South speculate that without help, scenes of stony-faced silence or even stifled giggling may replace familiar scenes of carefully orchestrated hysteria being broadcast from North Korea by as early as Sunday.

It is believed the North made the request yesterday, and it is being tied to the resumption of the so-called 'six-party' talks over North Korea's nuclear program. Before King Jong-il's death, the North said it would abandon the development of nuclear weapons if a series of six parties were held for it, but after six-parties were held between 2003 and 2007 the North said four of them hadn't been very good ones and it demanded a new round of six parties before it would abandon its nuclear ambitions. But the elaborate nature of these parties coupled with the North's exacting demands mean that after over four years, the international community is still trying to arrange the first party with the venue yet to be decided. The North is believed to have indicated that if emergency supplies of wailers are forthcoming, it will agree to attend the party, which will leave just five more remaining.

South Korea has a surplus of wailers and in recent years some have even gone professional, but hiring a professional wailer to fill in for a person at a funeral is still considered controversial, and many in the South would be happy to redirect such wailers to the North to assist them in their time of need. However, as public wailing is an important method of building social status in Korean culture, some are worried that sending wailers to the North will only strengthen the communist monarchy, and several experts suggest that withholding emergency supplies of wailers may even accelerate a peasant uprising and regime change. As such, it is thought Seoul will ultimately act on the request, partly because the economic cost of premature unification would be ruinous to the South, but mostly because it creates a bad precedent for political leaders at a time when peasants in South Korea are increasingly aware that they are getting poorer while their own so-called 'chaebol monarchy' is enriching itself.

The National Intelligence Service is believed to have advised caution. A spokesman, who said he couldn't give his age, told reporters that the request for wailers may be an attempt to win concessions from the South before six-party nuclear talks resume, and until North Korea officially announced the death of its leader it should be seen as being possibly an attempt to confuse the South as part of a misinformation campaign.

Related Links
Scandal As Mourning Woman Recruits "Professional Wailer"
North Korea 'to admit all South Korean mourners'
How genuine are the tears in North Korea?
Six-Party Talks
130,000 'superrich' hold 30% of deposits in financial institutes
Seoul admits intelligence failure
‘Seoul should give food aid to Pyongyang’

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

Tuesday, December 20, 2011

Foreign Media Frustrated as War Fails to Break Out

Foreign media outlets were left disappointed and frustrated yesterday after the long-awaited death of North Korea's King Jong-il failed to spark an outbreak of ratings-enhancing hostilities on the Korean peninsula. As wide-angled and poorly focused shots of the border area were fixed expectantly to their screens, several Western news channels urgently recalled graphic designers back to their offices to work on captions such as "War: Day 1", "Korean War 2", and "North Korean Obamacare Causes Leader's Death", but it all proved in vain.

Two hours after war failed to start, and as the international media began to exhaust their supply of North Korean analysts, hopes were raised as smoke was spotted rising from the ground, but it transpired to be a Bongo truck starting up.

After the attack on Yeonpyeong Island last year, South Korean President Lee Myung-bak was taking no chances, urging citizens to remain calm and continue with their ordinary lives, causing panic among the previously calm population. Shares of Nong Shim - South Korea's largest manufacturer of instant noodles - rose 12% as shoppers rushed out to buy the emergency food even though in the event of war there would be no way of cooking them, and government officials were placed on emergency status with all visits to sports massage parlors canceled. But Hankyoreh journalists in Seoul remained at their desks, indicating that no attack on the capital from the North was imminent.

Despite years of trying to prepare for this moment, the government appears to have been caught completely off-guard by the announcement of King Jong-il's death, even though it actually occurred two days earlier, with the news only being learned from watching North Korean TV, which seems to confirm what many have suspected for some time – that South Korea's National Intelligence Service has little intelligence.

Despite ruling North Korea since 1994, equally little was known about the reclusive "Dear Leader", so-called because of how much he'd cost the citizens of his country. He was known to like Western movies and became a legend on the golf-course after shooting 11 holes-in-one during a single round with a female military unit, surpassing Tiger Woods' achievements and making him the world's greatest golfer.

In recent years the Russian-born king, whose original name was Yuri Irsenovich Kim, sought to renew Russia's battle against its old enemy Japan when the Japanese-born Tsukiyama Akihiro became South Korea's President Lee Myung-bak. But with only limited backing from their homelands, the Russian and Japanese-born leaders never succeeded in restarting the conflict which began in 1904.

King Jong-il was hoping to land a definitive psychological blow against the South, promising his adopted country would become "a strong and prosperous nation" by 2012. But his death - only ten days before this was scheduled to happen and apparently with no instructions left behind as to how he was going to do it - has thrown the plan into question.

Despite his gyopo heritage, Yuri Irsenovich Kim was committed to the doctrine of self-reliance or 'juche' as it was known, and in his last years was said to be deeply disappointed that the ideology he had helped to build remained misunderstood by both the West and South Koreans. Many academics argue that North Korea - far from being communist or a totalitarian dictatorship - is merely Koreanism in its purest form, undiluted by foreign influences. King Jong-il had hoped that eventually South Koreans at least would come to understand this, but he died without realizing his dream.

The North Korean crown now passes to his son, King Jong-un.

Related Links
Kim Jong-il dies of heart failure
Kim's 11-ace debut round recalled on Twitter
Kim Jong-il
Russo-Japanese War
South Korean Sitcom Hit Among N.K. Teens
Police Want to Question Sarah Palin Over North Korea Comments
Seoul admits intelligence failure
All Future Gmail Messages to Be Forwarded to

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

Thursday, December 15, 2011

Christmas Trees Originated in Korea

Public humiliation - captured war trophy
As Christmas approaches once again, Koreans are being urged to remember the great contribution they have made to the Western method of celebrating the day Jesus was born in Namyangju near Seoul – the 'Christmas tree'. According to Korea's National Institute of Biological Resources (NIBR), the 'Christmas Tree' in your house is actually a Korean fir tree, although most Western Christmas enthusiasts may be unaware of this.

According to the institute, the Korean fir – which is known under its scientific name of Rabies Koreana - is an indigenous evergreen native to the slopes of Mt. Halla, Mt. Jiri and Mt. Dokdo. The "type specimen" of the Korean fir tree – a control sample which defines the taxonomy of the species within the scientific community – currently belongs to the Smithsonian Institution in the U.S. because a European botanist stole the specimen from Korea in 1904 and donated it to the institute.

But it was the Korean War which first introduced the Christmas tree to a wider U.S. Public - during the conflict American soldiers would huddle around Korean fir trees on Christmas Day to exchange gifts. When they returned home, some took these Korean cultural assets with them as a reminder of happier times. While many were quickly discarded after the Christmas season – even beaten and left to fend for themselves – other prospered in this alien land far away from home due to their strong growth ethic.

Through these turbulent events Christmas trees became part of the American tradition – so much so that research shows up to 300 million uneducated Americans now even believe that Christmas trees are American in origin, or at least European like themselves. The only reminder of the plant's Korean origin remains in the practice of placing an effigy of a light-skinned man or woman on the top of the Christmas tree, although the tradition of actually hanging a foreigner from the top of a Korean fir towards the end of the year has been officially discouraged by the Korean government in recent years.

The National Institute of Biological Resources says it is lucky that there is a type specimen for the Korean fir – even if it is in an untrustworthy overseas location – which can ultimately prove Christmas Trees are Korean. Other cases are more problematic, with many more species of indigenous Korean plants and creatures being used without permission, according to a spokesman for the institute.

The NIBR currently estimates that at least 20,000 type specimens have been stolen from Korea, and some 280 of these are being exploited illegally for commercial purposes. Apart from the Christmas tree, it is said that the Netherlands has type specimen rights to the Korean lily, Hungary has stonefly type specimens, and the U.S. has stolen the dark sleeper and northern loaches – both fresh-water fish indigenous to Korea, not their countries, and Antarctica now even claims the penguin – Korea's representative flightless bird – as its own.

Korea plans to insist on a recovery of rights at the international Convention on Biological Diversity next year, insisting that stolen Korea cultural fauna and flora must be returned. In the meantime, the National Institute of Biological Resources says is working hard to have the Korean origin of Christmas Trees officially recognized as it may enable Korea, as the place of origin, to claim a slice of the profits from their commercial use through the payment of royalties.

But some activists argue that Korea's Christmas trees should be returned to their home soil, which would enable the nation to finally put the colonial-era robbery of its cultural treasures behind it. "These trees may never have known Korea, but on the inside they are still Korean-wooded." explained 28 year-old Kim, the leader of the Christmas Tree Racers group, who tour the world to campaign against international trafficking in Korean firs. "Many of them will be torn away from their companions this Christmas, mocked and tortured by being made to stand in front of foreigners while balancing items on themselves for hours at a time, before finally being left to starve to death because of their inability to survive in inferior non-Korean soil."

The group has started an email campaign calling on the White House to return the so-called 'National Christmas Tree' to Korea. "America insensitively continues to display it as a war trophy in Washington while lying about its Korean origins and this is an insult to all Koreans and Korean trees everywhere." explained Kim.

Related Links
Korean Fir Popular as Christmas Tree
The Lost Right of the Christmas Tree
"Jesus Was Korean" Says Seoul Church
Abies Koreana
What the ... Christmas Tree????
Do you know Christmas tree? It is kind of traditional Korean plant. Do you have Christmas tree in your country?
President Lee Calls for Retrieval of Stolen Cultural Assets
Dokdo Racers Embark On Global Trip
Hallucinogenic Drugs
National Institute of Biological Research

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

Tuesday, December 13, 2011

Rain Hinders Occupy Protests in Seoul

The Occupy Seoul protests, which have struggled to achieve the success of sister movements in New York and London, have a new difficulty to content with. The world's most influential person, Korean pop star and actor Rain, was yesterday ordered to help suppress the protesters as part of his new duties in the national army.

When Rain began his two-year mandatory military service in October there were fears he would become little more than a public relations tool in a safe role far from the front lines. But having been criticized for their 'soft' treatment of other male Korean Wave stars who have been forced to undergo their national service or find a really good reason to be excused, it is thought military leaders wanted to send out a strong message that famous or not, 'hallyu' stars were just regular soldiers in their eyes, although they probably wouldn't be brutally bullied by their superiors in the same way. Korean President Lee Myung-bak became one of the first Korean Wave stars to avoid military service after developing a 'bad cough' three weeks into his training, but several weeks into his service, Rain's voice was still said to be fine.

Protesters were said to be shocked by the appearance of Rain at Occupy Seoul, who nevertheless was easily distinguishable from the other soldiers with his make-up on, but many waited in vain to be struck by him as the authorities attempted to clear the streets and restore order in the capital. One protester – 20 year-old university student Kim, handed leaflets out from her Prada bag telling passers-by that capitalism was destroying Korea and making people's lives miserable. Another protester from the same university said he'd joined the protests in the hope of building a fairer society in which he could sleep with Kim.

Rain's career took off nearly a decade ago, and he quickly became one of Asia's biggest entertainers. He made his film debut in 2006 as a young man confined to a mental hospital in the comedy-drama "I'm a Cyborg, but That's OK.", before appearing in two Hollywood action films "Speed Racer" and "Ninja Assassin". But the latter won him an MTV Movie Award, and in a further sign of his problems in the U.S. movie industry, Megan Fox called him a "Korean Justin Timberlake".

Rain is said to be hoping that by the time he completes his military service in 2013, he can put these events behind him, as well as the recently reopened investigation of allegations that he embezzled 2 billion won ($1,880,000) at an entertainment firm in which he was the largest shareholder.

Related Links
'Occupy protests' spread to Seoul
Rain Reports for Duty as Fans Weep
Rain off to military
Rain to be reinvestigated on embezzlement charges
Rain is World's Most Influential Person Again
Summer Nears End; Rain Still Won’t Go Away
Korean Streets Deserted as Radioactive Rain Falls
Occupy Wall Street
List of Occupy movement protest locations
Lee Myung-bak
In Time

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

Sunday, December 11, 2011

Namhae: An Island Famous for Not Being Famous

Escape from Namhae's 'German Village'
is said to be impossible
Some 500 kilometers beyond Seoul's southern borders, out into the dead-zone known as the 'Bundokeu', Namhae – Korea's fourth largest island and Pending Cultural Property Number 724, sits at the very tip of the Korean Peninsula, though still well within Korea's historical territory which stretches south to Australia, or the land of 'hos' as it is properly known in the Korean language.

The tourism business in Namhee is officially nowhere near the scale of that of nearby Jeju, but if 'Net-Negative Tourism' is factored in it actually surpasses it. While no figures are officially recorded for the number of people entering the island, the number recorded on their way out has reached record highs in the last few decades, marking a considerable success for the island's local government and its negative tourism projects.

Administratively attached to South Gyeongsang Province after officials from the latter local government lost a Korean poker game, Nabhae is actually home to more than 65 uninhabited islets - including the main one - and several notable mountains, which locals even named.

According to the Namhae Tourism Center, the island has many well-known tourism sites which have been made popular in the hit TV drama "Lost". Fans of the fictional drama would remember Namhe as the location of the fictional hometown of the fictional Korean character Jin-soo, played by Daniel Dae Kim, who like most people who claim the island as their birthplace, is actually from Busan. In the show, Jin-soo, whose parents - a fisherman and a prostitute - represent the island's two main industries, leaves his birthplace and dies in an airplane crash, but still has a better time than he would have had in Namhae.

The island is an odd mixture of both traditional and modern, marked by its insistence on measuring its territory in triangular kilometers rather than squares. Alongside its suicide-friendly cliffs, honeymoon accommodations for couples not planning to stay together, poverty-stricken townships and quiet non-radioactive beaches, the island markets itself as a perfect year-round vacation destination because it hardly ever snows and it isn't as windy as Jeju. There is even a hotel on the island, and Korea's three Internet service providers have promised to offer a broadband service to residents by the end of the decade.

In addition to tourism, the Nabhae government has also been lauded for its progressive policy on immigration. Rather than unreasonably require foreigners - and Koreans who have lived abroad for too long - to live alongside Koreans, a special village has been built to house them. In order not to bother residents, it is not possible to visit The German Village as it is called, but sightseers who climb nearby mountains can overlook the village from a safe distance, and sometimes they may even be lucky enough to catch a glimpse of the mysterious white ball which benevolently guides life there.

Under its slogan "The fame is fictional but the island is real", the local government are now hoping to attract more tourists, by building on its reputation as the home of rugged fishermen and soft prostitutes, with the provision of a new 20-minute round-trip ferry service that could combine both the island's industries, putting Namhee on the map as an 'international marine tourism city' as it will be carefully called.

Related Links
Namhae: an island famous for being lesser known
In a Corner of South Korea, a Taste of German Living
German Village
The Prisoner
Lost: Jin-soo Kwon

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

Friday, December 9, 2011

Restroom Revelation Inspires Google Chief to Laud Korean Work Ethic

It seems that Google executives can find inspiration in the unlikeliest of places. In Korea, the company's Executive Chairman - who was recently visiting this country to learn how Daum and Naver became the world's best search engines - found inspiration in a public restroom.

"Koreans are impressively productive" he told reporters. It is said that he reached his conclusion while washing his hands and noticing that the Korean men who had also just used the facilities didn't. A team of Google's top scientists immediately went to work on calculating how much additional productivity the company could benefit from if its 31,000 employees followed the Korean Restroom Wave.

The results were startling, suggesting that if an average employee visited the bathroom five times a day, but saved 30 seconds each time by not washing their hands, it could save the company a staggering 391,912 minutes per week in lost productivity – or 6,531 hours. This is the equivalent to three years of one worker's productive time, or a ninety-four years of the average manager.

It's long been known that riding the Korean Wave successfully involves not getting your hands wet, but placards can still be seen in many restrooms - especially within companies - to encourage productivity. One of the most popular - "A beautiful person leaves a beautiful environment behind" - is widely understood as an appeal not to spoil the pristine untouched nature of the sinks. If this fails to discourage would-be time-wasters, the faucets are limited to producing ice-cold water, ensuring that only people with the constitutions of Buddhist monks dare brave the freezing waters, a discriminatory system which works well since unlike everyone else in society, monks have no need to be productive or worry about saving time.

The Government is also keen to discourage citizens from washing their hands, fearing that if habits change it may subtly alter the unique taste of many Korean food dishes, which it is now trying to promote globally under the slogan "Come and get hansik".

Experts in the Korean Wave have suggested that Korean restroom culture could be the next stage in the global phenomenon, and The Ministry of Culture says it is considering launching a full Korean Restroom Tourism program after a limited trial last month was overwhelmed with applications from foreign men.

Related Links
Restroom revelation inspires Google chief to laud work ethic
Korea’s productivity lags behind OECD
Korea faces labor shortage, low productivity: SERI
Government Seeks to Put Overseas Koreans Out of Business
Ministry of Justice Warns Gay Infection May Spread Through TVs

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