Monday, November 30, 2009

Incorrect math

Benjamin Wagner sent me this October 1, 2003 Munhwa Ilbo article and translation. It's well worth reading.
On the morning of the 30th, a shocking debriefing material, as part of the parliamentary inspection of state administration, with the title "Among Foreigners Residing in Korea, a Minimum of 3,000 are infected with AIDS," came into my (the reporter's) possession. The material was from the Grand National Party's Lee Won-hyung's office. I called to confirm.

Reporter: What is the basis of this calculation?

Assemblyman Lee's Office: The total amount of foreigners residing in Korea is about 600,000, so after excluding legal residents, I multiplied 0.1 onto the number of illegal residents which amount to 300,000. The number 0.1 is the smallest figure among what UNAIDS announced as AIDS prevalence rates among countries (Southeast Asia 0.1% ~ South Africa 8.8%). Assuming that legal residents are not infected with AIDS, then even the minimum calculation comes out to be 3,000.

Reporter: (Disregarding the appropriateness of the calculation method itself) But 300,000 x 0.1 equals 300.

Assemblyman's Office: Ah, is that right? I'm sorry. I happened to be in a hurry and so...

Five minutes before the evening paper deadline. I received a phone call from the Assemblyman office. "The calculation may be incorrect, but we are just going to go ahead with it. Normally, AIDS-related statistics are usually one tenth of the actual figures, so if you multiply 10 onto 300 again, then the figure turns out to be 3,000. This was totally absurd. So I asked, "If you use that kind of method of calculation, then it would mean that it is possible that a minimum of several tens of thousands of Koreans are infected with AIDS. Would you be willing to take responsibility for that kind of statistic? Also, what is the importance of resident status that you would include only illegal residents in the figure of AIDS-infected foreigners? Don't you know that a British legal resident foreigner who once worked as an English professor at "S" University in Seoul was forcefully deported because his homosexual lover reported him?" I only got an obscure and smothered response.

I called the National Institute of Health. "A certain Assemblyman used this kind of calculation... Is it right?" The answer: "That is only a basic equation. To calculate the prevalence rate of a disease or the number of people infected with a disease, the calculation should be much, much more elaborate and precise."

To take such a sensitive topic such as AIDS infection rates, and to just use the most basic form of math, and incorrectly at that, and then to create and distribute material based on that, and then to take on such an irresponsible attitude of "Oh, if not, then never mind," ... this kind of practice is still being repeated by those in charge of parliamentary inspection of state administration. Why is it that they do not know that such debriefings not only ruins the reputation of the Assemblyman himself but also of whatever remains of the last bit of authority that the parliamentary inspections has right now, a policy that is already being constantly deemed as useless by many.
Score sheet: Rep. Lee Won-hyung earns my contempt, and reporter Lee Gang-yun earns my admiration. Wagner puts this article into context looking at Anti-English Spectrum's foreign English teachers =AIDS campaign here).

7 comments:

kushibo said...

matt wrote:
core sheet: Rep. Lee Won-hyung earns my contempt, and reporter Lee Gang-yun earns my admiration.

Actually, a great many reporters have earned my contempt.

So, given the sorry state of journalism in Korea, with agendas and distortions of fact, is everything Lee Gang-yun wrote to be believed?

I mean, there couldn't possibly be a reason for the Hyundai paper to be massaging the facts in order to embarrass a Hannara politician, right?

Anonymous said...

Didn't law makers such as Lee, Won-Hyeon study math? Or, shall we name a mathematical formula after him, maybe the "PhiHyeonpie formula" which I'll say means..."Just Leave it the Way it is."

Darth Babaganoosh said...

Holy shit!

500,000 Koreans are infected with AIDS!

Stafford said...

Is the name of the representative correct? There is no Lee Won Hyung listed on the Assembly website. Its not the name of an aid is it? Can Someone check that.
BTW Verification word: "cheek"

matt said...

Kushibo:
Perhaps the reporter is HIV positive and that's why he wrote the article. Of course, since nothing is offered to back that up, someone could justifiably ask me why I suggested it in the first place.

Stafford:
이원형 may not be a representative anymore - the article is six years old.

Colonel Fernandez said...

AIDS, its spreading faster thanks to Korean Media. Who would have thought that AIDS would have become such a hit. Hats off to AIDS and a big shout to the Korean media for making it happen

Sandy said...

There's a mistake in the article: "But 300,000 x 0.1 equals 300."

It should read 0.001 or 0.1%.