Omnes Sancti et Sanctæ Coreæ, orate pro nobis.

Now Blogging Afresh at Ad Orientem 西儒 - The Western Confucian

Monday, May 31, 2004

A Brief Movie Review

Yesterday, I watched Oldboy (2003), winner of the Grand Prize of the Jury at the recent Cannes Film Festival. Like Pulp Fiction (1994), Fight Club (1999), and Memento (2000), it belongs to the you-can't-figure-it-out-till-the-end gangster genre of film, in which the way the story is told is more important than the story itself. And like those other films it was filled with disturbing and disgusting violence.

The movie was infinitely more violent that the most difficult scenes from The Passion of the Christ (2004), and unlike that film the violence was gratuitous, serving no real function other than to disgust the viewer. Furthermore, Oldboy deals with one of civilization's most basic taboos, but in the end has very little to say about it.

Yes, the film was stylish. Yes, the sets were nice and the camera work innovative. Yes, it was good to see a new side of Yu Ji-tae, to be introduced to pretty Kang Hye-jeong and see some more good work from Choi Min-sik. Overall, however, the film did very little for me.

While it captured the heart (if he can be said to have one) of Quentin Tarantino and the other jurists at Cannes, I will forget most of it in a few months, only to be left with a vague sense of the film's creepiness. That's quite a different impression from the last film I saw, made some sixty years before, The Song of Bernadette (1943), a truly unforgettable film about the life of Saint Bernadette of Lourdes. Owning the DVD, I've already gone back and watched several of the key scenes again.

They might not have had method acting, tricky camera work, or stylish sets back in the 1940s, but they knew how to make a film about universal truths. The tagline of the movie says it all: "For those who believe in God, no explanation is necessary; for those who do not believe in God, no explanation is possible."
Korean Poets

Here's is more information on the poet described in the post below: Sang Ku

Here is another one of his poems in English translation, followed by the original Korean:

    Rehearsal for a death-bed scene

    Lying under a white sheet,
    I'm carried off in an ambulance.

    The evening sky hangs upside-down beneath my feet,
    forming a terrible quagmire of death.

    I picture my corpse like this, rigid, stretched out
    my skeleton, decomposed, reduced to bones.

    Behind me, a lifetime lies smothered in error,
    I have not even born buds of sweat and tears,
    let alone the love that can blossom in Eternity.

    No point in getting flustered now ......

    "Father, into your hands
    I commend my spirit."

    Instinctively repeating the last words of him
    whom I have only aped, not truly served,
    I sever the link with all concepts.

    And my breath becomes rasping.

    임종 예습

    흰 홑이불에 덮혀
    앰뷸런스에 실려간다.
    밤하늘이 거꾸로 발 밑에 드리우며
    죽음의 아슬한 수렁을 짓는다.

    이 채로 굳어 뻗어진 내 송장과
    사그라져 앙상한 내 해골이 떠오른다.

    돌이켜보아야 착오 투성이 한평생
    영원의 동산에다 꽃 피울 사랑 커녕
    땀과 눈물의 새싹도 못지녔다.

    이제 허둥댔자 부질없는 노릇이지 ......

    "아버지 저의 영혼을
    당신 손에 맡기나이다."

    시늉만 했지 옳게 섬기지는 못한
    그 분의 최후 말씀을 부지중 외우면서
    나는 모든 상념에서 벗어난다.

    또 숨이 차온다.

The same site has information on another Korean Catholic Poet, Sister Claudia Haein Lee.

A while ago, Pavle Jurodivyj of ξενιτεια, had a posting about a very different type of poet of Korean descent in Ishle Yi Park Named Poet Laureate of Queens, New York City. The Ishle Yi Park Homepage has links to her poems, including this one:
    To Nintendo

    Before you, life was unbearable –
    a flat screen and ping pong ball.
    But oh, you sleek grey box,
    you already wrapped present!

    We sat in front of you, awed
    as if you were the first red sunrise.

    We burned a horseshoe
    of permanent round circles into the rug
    with our asses - a communion
    of Afghani, Puerto Rican, Korean kids

    trying to unpeel the secrets of a mustached
    plumber who swallowed mushrooms,
    zapped dumb-eyed turtles, warped
    to other zones through green maintenance pipes.

    We slept to your lullabies, the digitized
    soundtrack of our childhood.

    Outside, a world of mothers chastising
    in accents thick as static. Blocks of white boys
    bored and violent, ready to snap gum,
    spit, snap us in half with splintered

    Louisville Sluggers. Inside – Zelda
    and goblins and magic wing-ed fairies.
    Enemies you could throw a pot at,
    stab twice, and they’d implode and disappear.

    10 years later, we’re split
    and scattered, half college drop-outs,
    Soju drunk, stumbling,
    and I recall how we once fought

    to keep alive, counting our hearts,
    freezing time to gulp Coke, taking turns
    to save each other, anything, anything!
    To beat them at their game.

    Back then, we never gave up,
    never walked away –

    if the light wouldn’t bling on,
    we’d check the plug, blow into the cartridge,
    clean out the dust, bang that sucker on any flat surface –

    give a small push, close the door, and pray.

I have to confess, I've never really had much of an ear or eye for poetry, but I can say that Mr. Ku's poem causes me to think and reflect, while Miss Yi Park's poem fails to produce the snide chuckle it intends.
Late Catholic Poet and North Korean Defector Ku Sang

See Remembering Ku Sang, a Poet Who Found Eternity in the Ordinary and Poet shares gift of wisdom

Here's an example of the poet petitioning the Blessed Virgin Mary:
    As you kept on at your son
    at the marriage in Cana
    until he changed the water into wine,
    I beg you,
    keep on at your son, our Lord,
    like any human mother,
    to straighten out our life in this world.

Here's another of his poems:
    Mysterious Wealth

    Feeling today like the Prodigal Son
    just arrived back in his father's arms,
    I observe the world and all it contains.

    June's milky sky
    glimpsed through a window,
    the sunlight dancing over fresh leaves,
    clusters of sparrows that scatter, chirping,
    full-blown petunias in pots on verandas
    all strike me as infinitely new,
    astonishing and miraculous.

    My grandson, too,
    rushing round the living-room
    and chattering away for all he's worth,
    my wife, with her glasses on,
    embroidering a pillow-case,
    and the neighbors,
    each with their particularities,
    coming and going in the lane below,
    all are extremely lovable,
    most trustworthy,

    Oh, mysterious, immeasurable wealth!
    Not to be compared with storeroom riches!
    Truly, all that belongs to
    My Father in Heaven,
    all, all is mine!

Ku Sang, resquiat in pace.

Sunday, May 30, 2004

Saturday, May 29, 2004

Earthquake Update

Perhaps this is the cause of the earthquake we felt about two hours ago: Moderate quake hits northeast Japan, shakes Tokyo. I'm no seismologist, however, but the distance and time don't seem to match up for a layman like myself.

We just felt an earthquake in Pohang from my 8th Floor apartment! More details when they come in...

Saints Agatha, Emidius, Francis Borgia, and Gregory Thaumaturgas, Patrons against Earthquakes, orate pro nobis.
Korean Bishop Consistent on Life Issues

The Most Rev. Peter Lee Ki-heon, President of the CBCK Committee for Family Pastoral Ministry, quoted in Message for the Day of Life Emphasizes the Right to Life:
    "[The faithful must take the lead in building the Culture of Life] "by resisting the challenges to God's precious gift of life, such as abortion, suicide, euthanasia, domestic violence, cloning, genetic manipulation, war, terrorism and environmental pollution."

President Roh's View of Conservatism

President Roh, as quoted in Concern with President`s Thoughts and Words:
    "[Conservatism is] the strongest doing as he pleases, the winner reaping everything, and applying without exception the rule of the 'survival of the fittest.' [Conservatism means] not to change things if it can be avoided [and that] whether you apply a more rational conservatism, a more friendly conservatism or any other kind of conservatism, the 'conservatism' in conservatism will never change."

Long Overdue

Re: Negotiations Imminent On Pullout of 12,000 U.S. Soldiers In Korea

Pat Buchnana predicted this, and showed why it was (and is) a good idea, way back on January 7, 2003, in The Coming U.S. Retreat from Asia.

Friday, May 28, 2004

Marian Shrines of China

Both Musings of an orthodox Korean Catholic... and Catholic and Enjoying It! had links to this interesting article: China’s Marian shrines.
New Papal Nuncio for Korea: His Excellency Archbishop Emil Paul Tscherrig

From today's Union of Catholic Asian News: New Apostolic Nuncio Well-Versed With Korean Culture, People

Thursday, May 27, 2004

Islam in Korea

Re: South Korea: Islam is this country's fastest growing religion. (Thanks to weblog@orankay for the link.)

While that may sound staggering or alarming, depending on your point of view, the numbers are so small that the article doesn't mention them. (As a point of comparison, recently Wicca was cited as the fastest growing religion in the United States.) As far as I know, 35,000 Koreans practice Islam, which was introduced to the nation by Turkish troops during the Korean War.

What is really amazing is the growth of Chrsitianity, particularly Catholicism, in Korea, which has the world's highest per capita adult baptism rate. Korea also has the highest number of saints per capita Catholic, if I'm not mistaken. The 1000 (one thousand) adult believers from Pohang (pop. 500,000) who will be confirmed with me by the Archbishop of Daegu in a stadium on June 6th testify to the growth and depth of the Catholic Faith in Korea.

That said, I'd rather see Koreans convert to Islam than remain in the darkness of non-belief (무교 - 無敎). At least then they'd become spiritual children of Abraham (Ibrahim) and be honoring the Creator.
"Cash for Summit" Pardons

From S Korea pardons cash convicts:
    "SOUTH Korea today pardoned six people, including an ex-spy agency chief, convicted over illegally paying 500 million dollars to North Korea in 2000, the justice ministry said."

I'm surprised this story received such little attention from the English-language Korean press. The exemption is Presidential Pardons Given on Buddha's Birthday from the Chosun Ilbo.
A Positive Assessment of South Korean Democracy

South Korea Comes of Age

Wednesday, May 26, 2004

Straight Talk about Prostitution

From Sex and denial in South Korea:
    "What's more valuable, industry and economy-wise, than agriculture and fisheries combined in South Korea? Why, illegal prostitution, of course. The Ministry of Gender Equity estimates that the recession-proof and expanding "sex industry" generates more than US$22 billion in profits a year, from at least half a million women - and that's a very low-ball estimate."

Tuesday, May 25, 2004

Monarchist Musings

This article, Royal Family, doesn't seriously advovate the reinstatement of the Choseon Dynasty, but it is a start.

Monday, May 24, 2004

Korean War Vets on POWs

Gwangju: Korean War veterans recall working as guards at POW camp

(N.B.: The article has nothing to do with 1980.)
An Aid-worker's Eerie First-hand Account of the Ryongchon Explosion's Aftermath

Sights of Silence
DDR (Finally) Arrives in America!

Video Game Fans Dance Off Extra Pounds
The Church as Peace-maker

From today's Union of Catholic Asian News: Korean, Japanese Bishops Jointly Produce History Book.
The Times They Are A-Changing

Laughlin Likely to Head KAIST
Korean "Abolitionists"

From [Opinion] Abolitionists:
    "A recent buzzword is “abolition theory.” Abolitionists believe that something should be eliminated in the world in order to make a better society. They think that Seoul National University should be abolished in order to eliminate the superiority of an academic clique, and that some press should disappear so that five grains and all sorts of flowers of public opinion may be fully ripened. They did not say this in public, but there will be lots of things to be abolished. Here are some controversy tips for them."

Saturday, May 22, 2004

Interview with a Peacenik Theologian

American Imperialism One Big Vicious Circle
Korea and the Nobel Prize for Literature

Re: [Arrowhead] At the Royal Asiatic Society

I know very little about science, so am not qualified to speak as to whether Nobel Prize recipients in the sciences are qualified or not. I imagine they are. However, the prizes for literature (and peace) are often politically motivated, which I think debases them greatly. Thus, Korea (and China) shouldn't overly worry about not receiving recognition from Stockholm.

That said, he writer of the above peace, Choi Yearn-hong, poet and professor at University of Seoul offers some good suggestions for Korean writers. Among them:
    "[M]ore Korean poets and writers should travel around the globe to search for common ground among different ethnic backgrounds, languages, and customs. The greatness of literature is its transcendence, readability and ability to touch the human heart. Some Korean poets and writers act like frogs in a small pond; they have difficulty going beyond their own lily pads."
"The Anti-Buddha"

While don't agree with everything this article says, it makes some interesing points and has a great title: Personal Voices: Is Bush the Anti-Buddha? It makes the only convincing argument I've read thus far of the otherwise ridiculous "Bush is Hitler" argument:
    "Thai Buddhist professor Sulak Sivaraksa likens Bush to Hitler and Stalin, arguing that his declaration of an 'Axis of Evil,' Hitler's 'Final Solution,' and Stalin's pogrom of peasants were actually similar attempts 'to perfect the world by destroying its [perceived] impurities.'"

The argument Sulak Sivaraksa makes is tenable from a Christian and paleo-conservative understanding of Man.

Thank You, Lord

And thank all of you for your prayers. Joy's tests came back negative for anything more serious than anemia, which is very treatable and common.

Friday, May 21, 2004

Prayer Request

Our eleven-month-old daughter, Joy Anastasia, was diagnosed with iron deficiency anemia today. Blood work is being done to rule out anything more serious. Please keep her in your prayers. We'll know the results on Saturday.
Now We're Talking

From Campaigners Strategize on Toppling North Korean Regime:
    "Unless South Korea stops its policy of 'legitimizing' and 'subsidizing' its repressive northern neighbor, it may find itself alone when it has to cope with the inevitable implosion of Kim Jong-il's regime, human rights activists have warned.

    "Christian and conservative campaigners from the U.S., South Korea and several other countries this week held an international conference in Seoul, seeking ways to help North Korean refugees, draw attention to rights abuses by Pyongyang -- and help speed up its collaps"

(Thank you Jason of chosunhoon's Xanga site for bringing the above article to my attention.)
The Positive Side of Globalization

From [VIEWPOINT]Global soccer and physics:
    "The Korea Advanced Institute of Science and Technology, which closed the application period to fill the job of its president last Saturday, is giving a fresh shock to domestic universities.

    "An American professor at Stanford University, Robert B. Laughlin, 54, has applied for the position at KAIST. He is a renowned scholar of quantum physics and a Nobel prize laureate in physics."

Thursday, May 20, 2004

Lest We Forget: the Canadian Fallen

The Forgotten War
Happy Vesak!

From today's Union of Catholic Asian News: KOREA Buddhists Appreciate Christian Leaders' Vesak Messages
"Half-hearted Allies"

From Seoul may send Iraq troops, GIs from DMZ to go:
    "In times of battle, half-hearted allies can be worse than non-allies. If South Korea, after much indecision and hand wringing, decides to "honor" its promise in a strictly perfunctory manner, as seems likely, the result will be greater headaches for the US command in Iraq than no participation at all. If South Korea commits combat troops but decides that they will maintain only a small, isolated pocket of sparsely populated land in the far north, the net effect of their contribution of 3,000, would be the freeing of only 300 US combat troops for other areas - a grossly inefficient exercise."
Growing Awareness of the DPRK

North Korea 101: The new college activism.
One Consequence of the Declining Birthrate

Re: Seoul asks for Thai labourers

Like Japan and Europe, South Korea is begining to feel the need for laborers as its population grows older and more affluent. At the same time, there is worry about the high unemployment rate.

Wednesday, May 19, 2004

On-Going Review of Pentecost in Asia: A New Way of Being Church by Thomas C. Fox

In the post below, I mentioned recieving the above book, my first impressions, and my desire to write a review of it. I have decided to include some of thoughts on the book as I read it.

I learned one encouraging bit of information from the book:
    "Today the Korean Catholic Chruch is experiencing the highest annual adult baptism rate in the world." (pg. 23)

That is something to be proud of.

As to the author's main thesis, Fox says this in his introduction:
    "The Asian vision places high value on harmony. It is the state of life God intended." (pg. xii)

The above is true of Man before the Fall, but not after. Christianity recognizes that that pre-Fall harmony cannot exist, that Christ alone can establish it in His Parousia. Any human attempts to reconstruct that pre-Fall harmony (Communism, Nazism, Utopianism) are doomed to collapse (Thank God!) just as the Towel of Babel did.

[On a slight tangnet, the issue of the Fall came up in the National Catholic Reporter, the paper for which Fox writes, in an article by Edward Chia entitled The Resurrection and the Incarnation: Easter and Asian Theology:
    "In theologizing from Easter, one would need to speak to issues of redemption and salvation, theological themes that are irrelevant to Asians, especially since persons of other religions have their own versions of what constitute religious ends. Why do we need salvation if we don't believe in a "fall" in the first place?"

To me, the problem is not how to preach the Redepmtion without the Fall, but how to convince Asians of the Fall so as to preach Redemption.]

Fox continues in his introduction:
    "The Asian vision has difficulties with Western dualistic thinking because it tends to separate rather than to join together. Traditional Catholic scholastic theology distinguishes and distinguishes again until all is divided neatly into "truth" and "error." Asians generally do not feel at home with this approach to thought. They prefer "both/and" ideas to "either/or" ones." (ibid.)

So far, so good, as generalizations, although it is clear where the author's bias lies. He continues into a more questionable line of reasoning:
    "Asian Catholics resist neat categories - and resist being defined in such categories. This Asian "fuzziness" confuses some Westerners who like neat boxes and sharp lines. This is not the Asian approach to life." (ibid.)

This is nothing but the popularized and positive form of Orientalism that has gripped the West since the sixties and even before.

There was no "fuzziness" or "both/and" thinking when Saint Andrew Kim Taegon, the 103 canonized Martyrs of Korea, or the estimated 10,000 others who chose to be beheaded rather than renounce the Faith. The same can be said of the Martyrs of Vietnam, the Martyrs of China, or the Nagasaki Martyrs, who...
    "...each had a piece of their left ear cut off, and then [were] paraded from city to city for weeks with a man shouting their crimes and encouraging their abuse... [and were later crucified]... (the Japanese style of crucifixion was to put iron clamps around the wrists, ankles and throat, a straddle piece was placed between the legs for weight support, and the person was pierced with a lance up through the left and right ribs toward the opposite shoulder)... They were each repeatedly offered freedom if they would renounce Christianity. They each declined."

Fox seems to think the kind of "fuzziness" he describes is a good thing and "Western duality" a bad thing. He advocates that Asians be allowed to develop an "Asian theology" without the burdon of dualistic thinking.

What he forgets, though, is that in accepting the Gospel, we don't put new wine into old wine skins. In effect, we need to shed the parts of our culture that do not conform with Christianity. This does not mean throwing everything away. Many good things from the past can and should be saved and incorporated into Christianity. This was true of the Greco-Roman civilization that Western Christianity was built upon. Many ideas from Paganism were thrown out, but the Roman ideal of the paterfamilias , for example, survived. Many positive elements from Confucianism are quite incorporable into Christian thinking.

It is not only Asia, however, that needs to renounce certain cultural and philisophical assumptions upon acceptance of the Gospel. We American Catholics should abandon certain ideas that are enshrined in our national character, such as radical individualism and the automatic questioning of authority qua authority, the very ideals that the National Catholic Reporter and Mr. Fox advocate.

A New Book

I just received a copy of Pentecost in Asia: A New Way of Being Church by Thomas C. Fox, which is published by Orbis Books, the publishing house of the Maryknoll. I hope to write a review of the book for Traditional Catholic Reflections & Reports.

I read a lot of books from Orbis Books a few years ago, when I was still a Protestant and a Leftist on many political (never social) issues. Many of their books focus on Liberation Theology, which I now know often comes close to heterodoxy.

I can say one thing for Liberation Theology; it was my first point of interest in the Catholic Church. I'm sure it has been also for many others. Hopefully, these folks will be lead into full communion with the Catholic Church and an orthodox understanding of her doctrines and dogmas (I love using those despised words).

The excesses of Liberation Thology need to exposed, however. While we all should be concerned with building a better society, we need to keep in mind that it is, in the end, an impossible task. The poor will always be with us. Grafting Marxist milleniarianism onto Christianity is a recipe for heterodoxy or even heresy.

Back to the book in question, from a quick survey of Pentecost in Asia, it appears to be more orthodox than I had thought it would be, which is a very good thing. It has no nihil obstat or imprimatur, but those things are not necessarily necessary for a book to be a valuable and edifying read.
From Assassin to Hero

From EDITORIAL]Honors to Kim Jae-kyu?:
    "The Democratization Rewarding Committee has begun deliberating on an application to honor Kim Jae-kyu, the former head of the Korean Central Intelligence Agency who shot and killed President Park Chung-hee during a private dinner on Oct. 26, 1979. If the semi-official panel concludes that Kim contributed to the promotion of democracy in the republic, his family will be given a government certificate to that effect plus some cash reward. "

Re: US 'tripwire' role in South Korea obsolete: Wolfowitz

My brother-in-law is in the ROK Army, stationed very near the DMZ. He said his unit's function in case of an invasion from the North is to hold its position for five minutes until the Americans arrive. I wonder what the current shift means for the ROK Armed Forces. The following article provides some answers:

US leans on South Korea
From North Carolina to North Korea

Whatever his politics or the circumstances of Charles Robert Jenkins' defection or abduction, he must have led a very strange life in North Korea. (see Mystery Surrounds Japan Abductee's American Spouse.)

Tuesday, May 18, 2004

Notice the Pin

From From GI to Pawn in 39 Years:

    "Family members of victims of North Korean kidnapping, Hitomi Soga and Megumi Yokota, see off Soga and four other Japanese abductees leaving Pyongyang airport for Japan for the first time in 25 years in this Oct. 15, 2002, photo provided by Japanese government. Seen from right are: Soga's husband Robert Jenkins, an accused U.S. Army deserter from Rich Square, N.C., Jenkins and Soga's daughter Belinda, Kim Hea Kyong, daughter of Yokotas, and Mika, Belinda's sister."
5.18 Revisionism

I came home from lunch today and my wife's first question was, "What did America have to do with the Gwangju Incident?" She had been watching an MBC documentary on the same topic, which had apparently not answered the question either. Like all historical revisionism, the aim is to create doubts and suspicions for future historians to follow up on.

The basic allegation seems to be that the US did not intervene in the Republic of Korea (a sovereign nation, let it be remembered) to put an end to the ROK government's suppression of an armed insurrection.

Monday, May 17, 2004

Old News

From Attitudes change to US in S Korea:
    "I would guess that most Americans felt a sense of betrayal."
    -Jeffrey Jones, US Chamber of Commerce, Seoul
Be Careful What You Ask For

South Korea Says U.S. Wants to Pull Troops

Saturday, May 15, 2004

Blog Write-up

Ruminations in Korea has received a very favorable write-up from OhmyNews in an article entitled Blogging From 'The Perfect Expat'.

Friday, May 14, 2004

An Appreciation of a Presbyterian Missionary Family

[EDITORIAL]Departure of the Underwoods
Nick Berg's Murder on MBC

Re: TV Audiences Criticize MBC Report on Iraqi Execution

I suspect MBC's motivation was not to present a full story, nor much less to engender sympathy for America, but rather to garner support for Korea's withdrawal of its pledge to send troops to Iraq.
The Sad Plight of Korean Prostitutes

Everyone knows sexual slavery exists here. Until recently, very little has been done to stop it. Let's hope attitudes continue to change.

From Prostitutes File Suits Against Government, Brothel Owners:
    "Prostitutes who were confined in red-light districts and forced to provide sexual services filed a class action suit against the government and the brothel owners for massive compensation."
He's Back!

Re: Roh Impeachment Dismissed

I won't offer any opinions here. The Church advises us to pray for our leaders. While I enjoyed praying for acting-President Goh for the past two months more than I did praying for President Roh, I will update my prayer intentions accordingly.

Omnes Sancti et Sanctae Coreae, orate pro nobis.

Thursday, May 13, 2004

A Great Protestant Missionary Family

After four generations, the Underwoods are leaving Korea (see [EDITORIALS]To the Underwoods: Thank you).
Korea, America, and the Politics of Apologies

[Opinion] Presidential Apology
Very Sad

Re: NK Defector Internet Radio Station to Suspend Broadcasting

Free NK is shutting down afer 22 days of operation due threatening calls, protests (!), and squemish renters. What's not mentioned in the article is that not only is South Korea crawling with Fifth Columnists and the "Useful Idiots" Lenin spoke of, its government is now dominated by them!

Wednesday, May 12, 2004


According to the gematriculator, " is
44% evil, 56% good."
Great Site

I received an email from an American woman who has an excellent site In Honor Of Saint Andrew Kim Dae-gon, the Patron of this blog.

Tuesday, May 11, 2004


From A Dormant Volcano?: Korean Sentiment Towards United States:
    "South Koreans are only one of two non- Islamic peoples where a majority opposes the U.S.-led war on terrorism."

Plastic Surgery

Choice quotes from Plastic surgery craze:
    "More than half of women university students have had plastic surgery to make themselves prettier and about 82 percent of those who have not undergone such surgery say they intend to do so in the near future, KBS-TV reported the other day....

    "What is really interesting though, is the fact that all these women who undergo plastic surgery want to look Caucasian....

    "This trend, however, is strange in view of the rising nationalist and xenophobic sentiment among South Koreans, especially among young people who reject or at least hold unsympathetic opinions of anything foreign....

    "This perpetual need to change our personal appearance comes from a feeling of inadequacy or an inferiority complex that, let's face it, most of us Koreans are afflicted with."
China and North Korea

Re: China hunts down starving North Korean refugees to send home: UN expert

This is the country 63% of Uri Party representatives want to be South Korea's closest ally.

Monday, May 10, 2004

Korean Cloner Under Fire

British journal Nature has challeneged the ethics of Seoul National University professor Hwang Woo-suk's cloning experiment, alleging that eggs were gathered from Dr. Hwangs own students. [Tellingly, that was the only ethical violation the journal was able to find.]

Here are Nature's articles:

Korea's stem-cell stars dogged by suspicion of ethical breach

Ethics of therapeutic cloning: A moment of triumph for South Korean science appears to have been marred by doubts about lab practice.

Stem-cell research: Crunch time for Korea's cloners: A team in Seoul has stolen a march with its work towards human therapeutic cloning. The researchers have been fêted, but an ethical controversy may threaten their work. David Cyranoski investigates.

And here is Dr. Hwang's defense:

South Korean Cloning Scientist Rebuffs Nature Journal's Claim on Ethics
Korea's Lack of Natural Resources - A Blessing in Disguise

From Cursed by Oil:
    "Countries such as Japan, Korea, Taiwan and China have relatively few natural resources like oil. As a result, in the modern age, their first instinct is to look inward, assess their weaknesses, try to learn as much as they can from foreigners and then beat them at their own game....

    "The Arab world, alas, has been cursed with oil. For decades, too many Arab countries have opted to drill a sand dune for economic growth rather than drilling their own people — men and women — in order to tap their energy, creativity, intellect and entrepreneurship. Arab countries barely trade with one another, and unlike Korea and Japan, rarely invent or patent anything. But rather than looking inward, assessing their development deficits, absorbing the best in modern knowledge that their money can buy and then trying to beat the West at its own game, the Arab world in too many cases has cut itself off, blamed the enduring Palestine conflict or colonialism for delaying reform, or found dignity in Pyrrhic victories like Falluja....

    "One thing about countries like Singapore, Korea, Taiwan and Japan, they may not have deserts but they sure know the difference between the mirage and the oasis — between victories that come from educating your population to innovate and 'victories' that come from a one-night stand by suicidal maniacs like 9/11"

Sunday, May 09, 2004

Saturday, May 08, 2004

Birth Rate Blues

Re: Alarming Birth Rate Decline

The above article correctly describes the terrible affects of the declining birth rate in Korea:
    "The declining birth rate is certain to trigger a wide range of social problems unless it is addressed as early as possible. First of all, it will be impossible for the nation to become an economic power. The current job insecurity will further deteriorate because a large number of schools will inevitably close. Women might be conscripted to make up for shortages of military manpower. Various pension funds will be depleted, threatening the welfare system in its infant stage. The nation will suddenly become an aged society. Retired people will be compelled to return to worksites."

The article misses the point, however, when it attributes the decling birth rate to "economic woes and social injustices." Really, quite the opposite is true; Korea's increased affluence and apathy is to blame.

This declining birth rate is one of my "pet issues." Reproduction runs counter to the Culture of Death. Marrying young and having many babies is an act of patriotism. I hope more young Koreans will come to realize this.
"Religion of Peace"

I have a lot of respect for Islam. I even considered converting to that religion before becoming a Catholic. Muslims are, in a very real sense, brothers of Christians and Jews, as fellow spiritual descendants of Abraham. Although many Christians ignorantly refuse to admit it, Muslims pray to the same God, the Creator of the Universe.

At the same time, however, I'm getting very tired of the politically correct simplification of Islam as "the religion of peace" in the media, particulary the Korean media. Look at this nonsense from the The Donga Ilbo Op-ed page:
    "Its harmonic and peacemaking spirit, which embraces diverse ideology and culture, made its spread to Europe, including Spain, as well as the Middle East, North Africa, Central Asia, South East Asia, India, and China within the short period of the 100 years since it was formed first. “Islam” itself means peace, stability and obedience." (from [Opinion] “American Superiority”

It was not a "peacemaking spirit" but a sword that was accountable for the phenomenal rise of Islam in its first century. I'm not aware of even any revisionist histories that would dispute this claim.

Thursday, May 06, 2004

Koreans and the "Staff of Life"

Just as we Westerners have misconceptions about rice, e.g. we see it only as a side dish, so do Koreans have a false understanding of bread. The Korean word "빵" (bbang), from the Portuguese "pão," usually refers to rolls, muffins, and other sweet desserts made from wheat dough. A Korean might say, "Let's have some bread for a snack." "식빵" (shikbbang), adding the Chinese character "食" for “food,” denotes what we in the West think of when hearing the word “bread.” Thus, the basic form of the word “bread” in Korean denotes a secondary meaning of the corresponding word in Western languages, and a compound noun is used to represent the Western basic form. This leads not only to a translation problem but a problem of meaning. Koreans tend to have a negative impression of bread; patients are even advised to avoid food made from wheat ("분식," another mistranslation). Korean do not necessarily need to develop a taste for bread nor should they substitute it for their traditional rice-based diet, but for them to learn to recognize the truly wholesome character of the "staff of life" would be a welcome development.

Shaman Ritual on Stage

Here's another example of Korea's traditional religion gaining recognition at home: Performance Prays for Dead and Living.

Wednesday, May 05, 2004

Happy Children's Day!

To all the children of Korea and the World, and especially my daughter Joy, may you have a day full of happiness and blessings!

Tuesday, May 04, 2004

"Blogs" vs. "Cafés" in Korea

Earlier this evening, in a graduate-level class, two students presented a presentation on blogs. One of the points discussed was the lack of popularity of "blogging" in Korea. "Cafés" were said to be popular due to the communal nature of Korean culture, whereas "blogs," due to a traditional lack of individualism in Korean society, have not caught on. It was also suggested that in tech-savvy Korea, the relatively "primitive" technology used in "blogging" was looked down upon.

Blogito ergo sum.
Only in Korea...

can you find a stauncly Leftist "news" outlet like OhmyNews publishing socially-conservative viewpoints like the following, from Reform of the Korean Divorce Law: Divorce today is similar to the U.S. in the 1960s. Korea should learn from America's mistakes (Caveat lector: the article quotes extensively from Hitlery Clinton):
    "In Korea it seems harder to catch a taxi after midnight in Jongno than it is to obtain a divorce. A couple in Korea that agrees to all the terms of the divorce simple goes to the court house, waits in a long line, and signs a paper and they are on their way to their next marriage and often next divorce. The situation in Korea today is similar to America in the late 1960s. Korea should learn from America's mistakes and fight this plague that is ripping apart the very foundations of Korea society. The first tool for government to fight this plague is the legal system."

God bless this country!

Monday, May 03, 2004

Korean Catholic Politicians

UCA News Online recently published a story entitled "Church To Support Catholic Lawmakers In New Parliament." From it, we learn the following encouraging news:
    "In the April 15 general election in South Korea, 70 Catholics and two catechumens were elected to the 299-member National Assembly. They form 23.4 percent of the assembly members, more than double the ratio of Catholics -- about 9 percent -- in the country...

    "Uri Party has 39 Catholics among its 152 elected lawmakers, and the main opposition Grand National Party (GNP) has 24 among its 121 winning candidates.

    "The left-leaning Democratic Labor Party (DLP) and the minor opposition Millenium Democratic Party (MDP) have two and three Catholic lawmakers respectively among their 10 and nine elected members. Other small parties and independents have two Catholics among the remaining seven seats.

    "Additionally, the heads of all four main parties are Catholics."

French Bishop on Korean Catholicism

The Most Rev. Jean Luc  Bouilleret, Bishop of Amiens, quoted in Descendents of a French Martyr Saint Visit Korea and Experience the Culture and Church in Korea:
    "I think Korea is very spiritual country and has a unique origin of Catholic community because it combines the wisdom of the traditional religions with the Catholic faith."


Cho Se-hyon, writing in Brainwashing:
    "Actually, I wouldn't be too surprised if someone were to tell me that an increasing number of people in this country are becoming sympathetic to the communist regime in Pyongyang and that they are ready to listen to whatever it tells them, however, unbelievable or ludicrous it may be. These are the people who have come to believe such North Korean propaganda as the Korean War was launched not by the North but by the South and the United States; that Korean Airlines flight 858 with 115 persons aboard was blown up over Burma in November 1987 not by North Korean spies but by South Korean agents; and North Korea would never drop a nuclear bomb on the South but it is developing the weapons so that all Koreans can "benefit" from them when the countries are united in the future."

For once, I agree with the Hankyoreh: [Editorial] Sexual Abuse of Iraqi Prisoners.

Sunday, May 02, 2004

Anti-Americanism in Korea (and Beyond)
    ''It isn't noisy protesters that should bother Americans. What should bother Americans are the quiet feelings of anger and disgust filling the hearts of people who normally would be your best friends. America is becoming such a bully and a boor -- deaf to every voice except its own. Demanding its own way, 'Now, now, now!', and suggesting that anyone who disagrees or argues is an enemy. That frightens me. I think it frightens many people."

    - Lee Ji-Woo, a 21-year-old South Korean student of agricultural economics

    ''My first memory is of American soldiers bringing food and blankets," said Kim Seung-Yil, 55, a South Korean garment manufacturer, who was a baby when invading North Koreans destroyed his home village of Seotan-Mun before being repelled by US forces. ''I've always thought of Americans as saviors. Their blood is soaked so deeply in our soil. But now it feels as if the US is becoming the crusader only for its own values and interests. It wants America's rights and wrongs to be the world's rights and wrongs. This makes people uncomfortable."

    -Kim Seung-Yil, 55, a South Korean garment manufacturer (both quoted in On world stage, critics of US grow louder

As much as I might think such views are gross oversimplifications based on emotion rather than reason, I must admit they have some validity. While it is true that everything did change with the events of September 11th, 2001, I can't help but look back with a sense of loss at what could have been if Presdident Bush had forgone the Wilsonian experiment in Iraq and stuck to the true conservative principles he had uttered eleven months before in the Second Presidential Debate with Al Gore on October 11th:
    "Well, I think [people from other countries] ought to look at us as a country that understands freedom, where it doesn't matter who you are or how you're raised or where you're from, that you can succeed. I don't think they ought to look at us with envy. It really depends upon how (the) nation conducts itself in foreign policy. If we're an arrogant nation, they'll resent us. If we're a humble nation, but strong, they'll welcome us. And our nation stands alone right now in the world in terms of power. And that's why we've got to be humble and yet project strength in a way that promotes freedom. So I don't think they ought to look at us in any way other than what we are. We're a freedom-loving nation. And if we're an arrogant nation, they'll view us that way, but if we're a humble nation, they'll respect us."

Saturday, May 01, 2004

Dr. Laughlin

Nobel Prize winning physicist Robert B. Laughlin has been appointed to head the Asia-Pacific Center for Theoretical Physics, located at POSTECH (see [Herald Person of the Week] Nobel laureate to help develop science).