Monday, May 31, 2010

B.R. Myers on the Cheonan

[Update at bottom]

An op-ed article by B.R. Myers about the South Korean reaction to the sinking of the Cheonan appeared in the New York Times last week:
South Korean nationalism is something quite different from the patriotism toward the state that Americans feel. Identification with the Korean race is strong, while that with the Republic of Korea is weak. (Kim Jong-il has a distinct advantage here: his subjects are more likely to equate their state with the race itself.) Thus few South Koreans feel personally affected by the torpedo attack.[...]

[E]ven the conservative news media talk of the attack in terms of an “error” that the North should own up to, not a cold-blooded act. Students in my classes tend to refer to the sinking as an “accident.”

This urge to give the North Koreans the benefit of the doubt is in marked contrast to the public fury that erupted after the killings of two South Korean schoolgirls by an American military vehicle in 2002; it was widely claimed that the Yankees murdered them callously. During the street protests against American beef imports in the wake of a mad cow disease scare in 2008, posters of a child-poisoning Uncle Sam were all the rage. It is illuminating to compare those two anti-American frenzies with the small and geriatric protests against Pyongyang that have taken place in Seoul in recent weeks.
A number of my friends believe the government isn't revealing everything, and that North Korea may not be to blame. As for the "posters of a child-poisoning Uncle Sam," all I could think of was something like this (from here):

Does anyone know of any other posters that feature 'Uncle Sam,' or was Myers just using that term as a catchall metaphor for the U.S.?

Here's one (edited and posted at the top of this post):

(What a great t-shirt... or album cover)

Here are some more. For an earlier post on such posters, see here, and see here for the background of the 2008 protests. Brian also suggested this picture).

(Oddly enough, they don't mention how many Korean
cows are checked for Mad Cow Disease (from here))

"I believe!"

Relax and eat up, everyone!

"Oh no! Don't eat that!
That's a dangerous substance for Koreans to eat!"

Friday, May 28, 2010

Warm smiles, red devils, and baseless rumors

On subways and in store windows these days is this poster:

The first part reads 'Speak through a warm smile, "Welcome, come well."' Why, you may ask? "2010-2012 is the visit Korea year. Speak with a warm smile to foreigners who discover Korea, you are a smiling national representative of Korea." I wonder if this campaign to remind people to be polite to foreigners (somehow I doubt the invitation to 'come freely' extends to white males) is a national one or if it's just based in Seoul.

Of course, that poster is just one of ten to fifteen times I saw Kim Yuna's face today. It's nice to see her hawking watermelons for Homeplus - in a 'Be the Reds' shirt no less:

Yes, it's that time of (every four) year(s) again. It's already appearing on beer bottles:

The two people above look really look like the kind of people you'd like to be sitting next to as you cheer for Argentina. The Korea Herald also looks at two soccer-related films coming out soon, both of which seem to suggest that people from other countries in Asia would like to jump on the Korea soccer bandwagon. Unfortunately, one of those films is a JSA-style movie featuring North and South Koreans getting together on friendly terms, and probably couldn't come out at a worse time.

On the topic of alcohol bottles, this is interesting:

"The theory that Jinro is a Japanese enterprise is a baseless, vicious rumor. Since 1924 Jinro has been a pure minjok (ethnic/national) enterprise and for 86 years one national company, Jinro, has always shared all sorts of emotions together with people."

There are other companies that I think people would also like to think are pure minjok enterprises, something I was reminded of when I saw this article about Lotte today, which mentioned that
Shin established Lotte in 1948 as a maker of chewing gum and has taken a firm root both in Korea and Japan, expanding its business horizons to beverages, retail, fast food chains and amusement parks.
For some odd reason, the article fails to mention that Lotte was started in 1948 in Japan by a Korean who was raised in there, and didn't make its way to Korea until 1967.

Thursday, May 27, 2010

Apartment article

The Joongang Ilbo has an interesting article about the desire in Korea for apartments. It gives some interesting statistics:
According to the city, about 80 percent of the newly constructed buildings in Seoul were apartments in 2008, while this year about 56 percent of the city’s households lived in apartments, 13 times higher than in 1970. The number of houses and apartments in smaller buildings - known here as “villas” - fell by about 10,000 over the same period. [...] In a survey of 3,560 people conducted by the country’s top lender Kookmin Bank in 2009, 73.8 percent of respondents said they wanted to live in apartments.
We're also told that "Seoul's very first apartment building appeared in 1962 in Mapo, near downtown." This isn't true. Other apartment buildings had appeared before this; Mapo was the first apartment complex (or the source of its apartment complex), which I've looked at before here.

The article also mentions some of the attempts being made to move away from apartments, such as the Seoul city government-backed Human Town Project:
The project was designed to improve the quality of life of residents living in“villas,” by adding neighborhood facilities often found inside high-rise apartment complexes, such as security offices, surveillance cameras, parks, parking lots and senior citizens centers.
I've noticed that in the neighbourhood my school is in, which was slated to become a new town under Oh Se-hoon's plans to add another 25 new towns to Lee Myung-bak's original 25 (which was dropped when the economy tanked), that a lot of new villas have been built instead. I think villas are just as comfortable, but the problem is that they don't appreciate in value.

The article spends some time looking at Valerie Gelezeau's research:
Most [Koreans] told her Koreans had no choice but to build tall apartments because the country’s territory is too small for its many people. But Gelezeau already knew that Japan and the Netherlands, which also have high population density, were not dominated by apartments.[...]

Seeing the love affair with the apartment as a unique by-product of Korea’s modernization, Gelezeau came to the conclusion that Korean apartments function as factories, producing a middle class through investment. Families buy apartments for lower prices before they’re even built through the “bunyang” system, then when construction is completed and values shoot up they find themselves suddenly wealthy.

“In Korea, apartments have become products measured by price, and that’s the reason Korean apartments were mass-produced and so hugely popular,” Gelezeau wrote. “In addition, the purpose of an apartment [in Korea] is to be owned, not to be rented to the working class as in many other countries.”
I've mentioned her work before, looking at this worthwhile presentation:
On April 5th, 2007, the Korea Society hosted an Arts program titled "How Did Korea Become a Land of Apartments" with Valerie Gelezeau, associate professor of Geography at Marne la Vallee University in France and author of The Republic of Apartments. Gelezeau explained how South Korea has transformed from a country of single-unit housing to one where apartment living is the dominant paradigm. Gelezeau believes that in addition to economic and demographic factors-such as a growing population and a shortage of buildable land-this change has been driven by cultural factors.
More on Gelezeau can be found over at Hunjangui Karuch'im here and here, as well as in this Chosun Ilbo article, and in this review of her book (translated in Korean as The Republic of Apartments). A podcast of her presentation can be found here.

The article continues:
That financial gain brought high-rise apartments their cultural mystique. Today, mothers consider moving to apartments when their children reach school age as a status symbol.

“I purchased a new villa [apartment] earlier this year but everyone around me said I should have bought a [high-rise] apartment. They say my children will be discriminated against by children living in apartments when they go to school,” commented one woman on a Naver cafe for mothers in Incheon named “Precious Ties.”
Has 'What kind of building do you live in?' become just another 'finding someone's place on the social totem pole' question like 'How old are you?' and 'Are you married?' I find it hard to believe that young children would care that much - though those with helicopter moms controlling their children's lives might. The article ends by making it clear how popular apartments are - or at least it gives some idea of the supply part of the equation:
Despite the city government’s efforts to bring diversity to housing in Seoul, many people still hope to move into a new apartment. On May 19 alone, apartments in 30 buildings were put up for sale nationwide, and a whopping 17,000 apartments will pour onto the housing market next month.
The article begins with a photo of a stampede to get apartments in Songdo New City in Incheon. I hadn't realized how far it was coming along until I saw it from the top of Cheonggyesan yesterday (obviously it was a very clear day - the Incheon bridge (at right) is about 30 km away!):

A naver search turns up these photos of the area, including blogs like this, this and this. I guess South Koreans got so tired of not being able to go to Pyongyang that they built one on Songdo.

Tuesday, May 25, 2010

Perhaps I misjudged the four rivers project...

After reading all the propaganda information provided by the government at a page about the four rivers project at, I'm starting to wonder if perhaps I misjudged the whole thing. Just look at the delightful cartoons here and here, and perhaps your mind will change too!

Monday, May 24, 2010

RAS lecture featuring Robert Neff tomorrow

Tomorrow (May 25), Robert Neff, the author of Korea Through Western Eyes, will be giving a lecture for the Royal Asiatic Society titled "Superstitions and Perceptions of Early Korean-Western Relations"
In this lecture we will talk about the interaction between these early Westerners and their Korean hosts by examining Korean superstitions and the perceptions and misperceptions of the Westerners and Koreans.
More details can be found here. The lecture will be held at 7:30 p.m. in the Residents' Lounge on the 2nd floor of the Somerset Palace in Seoul, which is north of Jogyesa Temple (see map here).

New cartoons about 'fraud' English teachers

I found some new anti-native speaking English teacher cartoons, this time in a Segye Ilbo article from August of last year that I missed at the time.

Note that the Korean word for 'fraud' in the title below, '엉터리,' also appeared back in 1984 in the first Joongang Ilbo article to tie together such ideas as 'any foreigner can get a teaching job,' 'unqualified,' 'irresponsible,' 'overpaid,' 'playboy,' 'Koreans are too kind to foreigners,' learning from foreigners hurts 'national pride,' etc into full-bodied, richly flavored hit-piece, perhaps the first of its kind. The name of that article was "In private foreign language classes, there are a lot of 'fraud teachers,'" and it's translated here. I've been told that '엉터리' might be better translated as 'quack,' but that word is usually only associated with doctors, and wouldn't work well with teachers. At any rate, I'm sure no similarity in the titles of these articles, published 26 years apart, will be seen.
In one year tens of millions of won are spent inviting… fraud native speaking teachers.

To familiarize elementary, middle and high schools students throughout the country with English and cut down on private education fees, a native speaking teacher system has been put in place, but many problems, such as weaknesses in the selection process, have been exposed. A staggering 7000 or more native speaking teachers have been put into elementary, middle and high schools this year, but a good many native speaking teachers make good money moving to a hagwon and taking unapproved absences. Many [Korean] English teachers pointed out that, "We should really reconsider the value of the tens of millions of won spent in one year on native teachers" and "It is too much to expect these people to carry out their jobs in Korea when they don't even have any experience teaching children."

Great demand for private lesson site 'snooping' = According to education officials and data, a considerable number of native speaking teachers snoop around to find other sources of income like hagwons, and devote more attention to this 'rice offered to Buddha.' This is because, compared to schools, it's easier to make a lot of money at hagwons. According to a high school teacher in northern Seoul, "Native speaking teachers can work at small hagwons without any particular documents when they want," and said, "Once they get a taste for money, they have no interest in their classes, and finally they don't renew their contracts and move into a hagwon."

Thus cases of native speaking teachers in Korea with at least one year of experience teaching in a school are rare. In 2008, of 5,805 native speaking teachers placed at schools across the country, 1,309 (23%) had at least one year of teaching experience and only 787 teachers had two to five years experience, while 3,709 native speaking teachers (64%) had less than one year's experience. Most native speaking teachers are only 'novices'.

◆ "I hate Korea" and also absent without leave = A certain middle school in southern Gyeonggi-do hurriedly received a new native speaking teacher just before summer vacation was to start. The native speaker who was to come notified them suddenly saying, "I hate (the idea) of going to South Korea." Eventually the school was forced to spend a lot on tidy housing, blankets and pillows and all kinds of appliances like a rice cooker and microwave. "Far from having a passion for teaching, the teacher was unsociable and classes did not proceed," and "It appeared he was only interested in dating a Korean girl he'd met in the via the internet in the United States," was extreme criticism coming from another teacher from the same school.

There are cases where they quit working because its too difficult and do a 'midnight run.' Last September at C high school in Seoul's Gangseo-gu, the native speaking teacher couldn't be contacted. The school asked around about his whereabouts and realized he'd already left Incheon International Airport for the U.S. the day before. The school tried several times to make contact with him before they finally heard his reason for leaving.

"With the won/dollar exchange rate dropping, the amount of money you can earn is decreasing. There is no other reason than that." At that school, another teacher said, "It's just some, but it's a direct example of how trivial and carelessly native speaking teachers here [consider] their work. To talk with some students and hear their stories the children are not familiar with English and he did not speak with them. He was not someone who continuously helped with their educational level."

◆ Selection and management of native speakers should be reexamined = Successive instances of many native speaking teachers leaving like this shows above all that the structure of demand for native speakers is wrong. The quality of native speaking teachers invited through EPIK is evaluated in schools, but the supply is insufficient and local school district offices are seeing directly an increase in adverse effects. Of 7,088 native speaking teachers brought into the country to work in schools throughout the country this year, 1,339 (19%) were invited through EPIK. In addition to these, companies contracted out to by school boards and local governments procured 3,779 teachers (53%), while 1,798 teachers (25%) were hired directly by schools.

Officials from the Ministry of Education, Science and Technology said, "Native speaking teachers are the business of city and provincial governments and not the central government, and loopholes are being shown with problems in their selection and management. The selection criteria and verification procedures for the employment of native speaking teachers will be strengthened and in order to ensure proper administration once hired the Ministry of Justice and Immigration are consulting with local governments and in the latter half of this year we aim to present [new] measures."

Catching up on some links

Jamie over at Two Koreas is posting again, after taking a year or so off to finish his dissertation. It was Jamie who convinced me to start blogging with him over five years ago, and I started this blog to post things that didn't really fit within the parameters of that blog. I've posted there from time to time since, and will try to continue in the future (though it can be hard enough posting regularly here - I spend too much time doing research). At any rate, Jamie has posted links to an article he wrote with Rob Prey for Japan Focus titled Between Migrant and Minjung: The Changing Face of Migrant Cultural Activism in South Korea, as well as to his dissertation, The Postdevelopmental State: The Reconfiguration of Political Space and the Politics of Economic Reform in South Korea, an "exploration of developmental state theory, the liberal left, and the restructuring of Korean political economy," which is available here.

In other news, the Hankyoreh reports that the military is being mobilized to aid the massive transfer of funds from taxpayers to construction companies / white elephant that is the four rivers project:
[T]he ROK Army Second Operations Command and Busan Regional Construction Management Administration concluded an agreement for army engineers to provide support for construction along Area 35 of the Nakdong River. To do this, the Defense Ministry assembled a unit centered on the 1117th Engineer Group of the Second Operations Command, which it will deploy from June to next November. The task of the army engineers will be to take the sediment soil removed during deep dredging of the riverbeds and moving it to a different location. Some 117 military engineers and 72 units of equipment including 50 dump trucks, will be deployed to the site. Military engineers will billet in a location near the construction site. The Defense Ministry has budgeted some 2.75 billion Won ($2.47 million) for equipment and billeting. The Busan Regional Construction Management Administration will support the costs.

The article notes that this is the first significant mobilization of military labour since the dictatorships, and gives examples from the past:

According to a report submitted by the Defense Ministry to Lawmaker Ahn on military deployments to national construction sites, the army was deployed as a major source of construction labor force to national projects during the military dictatorship, such as the construction of the Seoul-Busan Highway (1968 to 1970), Uljin-Hyeon-dong Road (1982 to 1984) and Seoul Beltway (1991 to 1994).

Incheon Airport has been voted best airport in the world for the fifth year straight. How best to celebrate this? Why not sell it -- for less than it's worth? Why is the government looking to sell 49% of its stake?

"After cutting taxes on high-income households and blowing an enormous amount of money to renew the country's four major rivers, the government is desperately trying to sell the airport to help mend its massive budget hole."
Actually, an acquaintance who works for the airport planning division has cited the need to fund the four rivers project as the main reason for wanting to sell it.

For interesting (if not-so-related) reading, Park Noja's essay "Militarism and Anti-militarism in South Korea: “Militarized Masculinity” and the Conscientious Objector Movement" can be read here. I wrote a bit about the Conscientious Objector Movement here about five years ago.

Japan Focus also reprints an article from 2005 originally printed in the Korea Times:
[A] book on pro-Japanese art works has been published by the Institute for Research in Collaborationist Activities, an organization working on nation-related issues in Korea's modern history and putting forth the correct history by illuminating Koreans' pro-Japanese activities during the Japanese occupation.
By 'illuminating' the writer means 'uncovering history in order to stomp on what ever scurries out.' Anyone who talks about 'correct' history worries me.
The book is composed of a collection of art works that have been on display in a pro-Japanese arts exhibition that has been touring the nation since last October under the title "Choson in the Japanese Colonial Period and War Art" and features war footage and the difficult lives of Choson people at that time.[...]

Four-hundred pictures, including art works, visual images and various propaganda of the Japanese regime, depict the lives of Korean people who had to put up with the plundering and exploitation of manpower as well as resources through conscription of labor, the draft, and the forced mobilization of comfort women. The book also enables readers to witness pro-Japanese activities of representative Korean painters such as Kim Eun-ho, Kim Ki-chang, Kim Kyong-seung and Shim Hyung-gu whose work beautified and praised Japanese invaders at that time.
Question: Are they really still invaders if they've been there for 30+ years?

At any rate, what I want to know is if anyone knows what the Korean title of that book might be. I'd be very interested to see it or anything else which might collect visual propaganda from the colonial period. Here's an essay (pdf) about colonial era postcards from Korea, while this page has a collection of vintage posters for Japanese industrial expositions. To find images from the colonial period, doing an image search on Naver or Google for 내선일체 (naisen ittai, or 'Japan and Korea as one body') will turn up several images, such as this one:

Sunday, May 23, 2010

Kim Dong-won box set released

It's nice to see that there's a box set of Kim Dong-won's documentary films out now, which features 14 of his documentaries, including Sanggye-dong Olympics (more here) and Repatriation. It's nice to see Repatriation given a DVD release at last. Seoul Selection held a talk with director Kim back in 2004, and at the time I asked him when a DVD of the film (then Korea's best-selling documentary) would be released. He hoped it would be out by early 2005. Better late than never. Also, this has to be one of the most comprehensive box sets I've seen yet. Fourteen films! I just hope it remains in print for longer than some of the other box sets that have been released...

Friday, May 21, 2010

'The Housemaid' playing with English subtitles

According to the Korea Times,
Seoul City and major theater chain CGV have joined hands to facilitate foreign residents' access to Korean cinema. Im Sang-soo's ``The Housemaid,'' featuring 2007 Cannes best actress winner Jeon Do-yeon, is being screened with subtitles at CGV Gangnam and Myeong-dong.[...]

"Poetry,'' on the other hand, was written and directed by Lee Chang-dong, who directed Jeon's award-winning film "Secret Sunshine.'' Veteran actress Yun Jeong-hie makes a comeback after 15 years as a naive grandmother who discovers the beauty of poetry. But when confronted with a disturbing incident she discovers that life is not all about writing about pretty flowers. English subtitles are available at CGV Yongsan and Guro.
A look at CGV's website gives the times for 'Housemaid' at the following theatres this weekend:

Friday 10:40, 19:20, 26:10
Saturday 11:50, 17:05, 25:20
Sunday 10:40, 19:20, 24:25

Friday 9:30, 16:25, 22:25
Saturday 9:30, 16:25, 22:25
Sunday 10:40, 19:20, 24:25

Friday, Saturday, Sunday
10:25, 15:05, 20:25

Friday, Saturday, Sunday

It seems 'Poetry' is barely playing at any CGV (it came out last week), and I can find no showings with English subtitles. Hopefully the showings of 'Housemaid' with English subs last longer.

Tuesday, May 18, 2010

The June 3 protests of 1964

In order to prevent the 'humiliating diplomacy' of holding a conference to open diplomatic ties with Japan (20 years after Japan's occupation ended), students protested against the conference in 1964. Unless otherwise mentioned, the photos are from Seoul Through Pictures 4: Seoul, to Rise Again (1961-1970).

Students at SNU called for protests, burned effigies of 'imperialist and nationalist traitors,' and held a protest against the upcoming Korea-Japanese conference on Jongno on March 24, 1964.

On March 28, another protest against the conference was held at City Hall (or more likely, in front of the National Assembly, just out of the frame on the left.

On May 20, a 'funeral for nationalistic democracy' was held at the College of Liberal Arts and Sciences at SNU.

The apex of the protests came on June 3 when 15,000 protesters gathered at Gwanghwamun to call for the resignation of the government (and Park Chung-hee). The photo below would have been taken from the old Government General building. What is now the U.S. Embassy (then the USAID building) is visible in the background).

At 8:00 pm on June 3, Park Chung-hee's government declared martial law, banning gatherings and protests, closing all the schools in Seoul, and censoring all broadcasting and publications. The front page of the Donga Ilbo can be seen here, with clearly whited out and censored pages here.

The photo above was obviously taken between City Hall and Deoksugung. In the background the Bando Hotel (left) and (I think?) the original Chosun Hotel can be seen. I'd thought that troops were used against protesters only in 1979 (in Busan and Masan) and Kwangju in 1980, but I was clearly wrong.

Troops on Sejongno (Donga Ilbo)

A closed school (Donga Ilbo)

Protesters taken away in trucks.

The head of Korea University's student council, Lee Myung-bak (below, center), was among those arrested and given a prison term (he served three months).

(From here).

I learned about this protest by reading this article written by James Wade:

His reference to Japan – in 1964 – as "the ancient enemy whose colonial exploitation of Korea is well remembered and reiterated by chauvinistic professors and politicians" is certainly interesting, as are his comments on anti-Americanism. It's long been held that anti-Americanism began with the Kwangju Uprising, and while that's true as far as it spreading from campuses to the public commenter USinKorea has argued before that it was already present before 1980. Comments by Wade such as the following certainly support this idea: "[C]lumsy American intervention in Korea’s internal affairs is widely resented [. T]he narrowly nationalistic attitude of the students may turn on any fancied scapegoat at a moment’s notice. Anti-Americanism is latent in the current economic crisis and prospect of further aid cuts."

While the truly violent anti-American protests were in the 1980s, two widespread bouts of it in early and late 2002 helped reshape protest culture and nationalism in Korea, which were then harnessed in 2008 to try to throw the former jailed student leader of "narrowly nationalistic" students out of the Blue House. Funny how history plays out.

The 30th anniversary of the Kwangju Uprising

Today is the 30th anniversary of the Kwangju Uprising. I've written quite a bit about the uprising before, as the 'Kwangju Uprising' label will attest. A brief timeline is here, there are also background posts about the 1960 student uprising, the 1961 coup of Park Chung-hee, the situation in 1979 leading up to Park's assassination, and  Chun Doo-hwan's 12.12 coup. I've written more in-depth looks at the events of the uprising, such as the violence on the first day, the escalation of violence over the first three days, forcing the military out of the city, as well as an analysis of US news reports from May 22. (I have yet to look closely at liberated Kwangju or the situation on the outskirts of the city between May 21 and May 27). I also looked at the retaking of the city by the military and the death toll.

A bibliography of books in English about the uprising is here, links to literature inspired by the film are here, and links to several essays about the uprising are here. The single best essay to read would likely be the first one published in English, Tim Warnberg's "The Kwangju Uprising: An Inside View," which can be downloaded here (scroll down to bottom left).

I've also looked at more personal stories related to the uprising, such as the memories of a nurse, the memories of a photographer, and the story of soldier. The single post I'm happiest with is likely this one, about the death and memorialization of a high school girl named Park Geum-hui who was killed during the uprising.

A parade was held to commemorate the uprising last night (though judging from the photo, the weather wasn't cooperative), and more commemoration activities will follow today.

Monday, May 17, 2010

Bookending 5 years of blogging with posts on Dokdo

Huh. Five years. Who'da thunk it? We'll see what the next five years holds. And the first post was about the island that shall not be named and territorial claims to it appearing in the Buddha's Birthday parade. Fun times. As Nathan at Korea Beat wrote awhile ago,
I remember back in 2005 suddenly having my afternoon lessons cancelled so that students could be "educated" about Dokdo, which really meant listening to some speeches and then memorizing a Dokdo song.
As he notes, that was in middle school, but learning the Dokdo song was something that took place in elementary schools as well. I remember hearing it preceded by, "미국 똥! 외국 똥! 캐나다 똥!" Yup, good times. Ah, let's forget about it and look at these cute stickers!

(They spelled Korea wrong)

My friend Andrew found these in a stationery store at the time and gave me one. As Korea Beat notes here (and also in an article here), the curriculum has been altered to allow for more Dokdo education.
Under the new curriculum middle school students will study four areas of history rather than three, and two of the areas will include depictions of Dokdo.
I wonder, this administration being what it is, if this will mean dropping that whole useless 'democracy movement' chapter. This was interesting as well:
When data on the agreement regarding the illegal seizure of Dokdo by Japan is investigated, the problems are clear... the need to properly remember history can be clearly seen when one investigates the invasions of Southeast Asian lands, historical troubles, and other longstanding problems."
I imagine by "invasions of Southeast Asian lands" they aren't referring to Korean participation in Vietnam.

At any rate, Dokdo education is going strong, it seems, judging by this display I saw in the center of an elementary school in eastern Seoul:

Dokdo Love Learning Area

There are maps, more maps, video, models - everything you need to indoctrinate young children. One thing is for sure though - whoever is making those models of the islands must be making a killing. I saw these ones in Gimpo Airport subway station last week:

My two cents: I think Dokdo serves the same purpose in South Korea as Anti-Americanism does in North Korea - it serves to whip elements of the public up into a pavlovian-response nationalist/xenophobic lather at the drop of a hat and distract people from more important issues (or help unpopular politicians raise their approval ratings, much as Roh Moo-hyeon and his 'diplomatic war' of 2005 did). Hence the need to teach this to children at a young age. Korea could solve the 'problem' by pressing their claim, but why would the government want to get rid of such a useful mobilization tool? Similarly, B.R. Myers argues that better relations with the US would deprive the DPRK of its justification for poverty and for the military-first policy that is said to be responsible for it.

Sunday, May 16, 2010

The 49th anniversary of 5.16

Today is the 49th anniversary of Park Chung-hee's coup. It was known as the 5.16 Revolution at the time, and more details about this time period can be found in this post. Below are photos of the coup and its aftermath, and if they are not otherwise noted, they are from Seoul Through Pictures 4: Seoul, to Rise Again (1961-1970).

Park and soldiers in front of City Hall

Soldiers in front of Deoksugung (City Hall is in the background).

Soldiers in front of City Hall.

Soldiers keep crowds off street near the then National Assembly.

Soldiers and tanks downtown. (Any idea what that building is?)

Citizens forced to wait at Seoul Station.

One of the tasks that needed to be completed after the coup was 'purifying' and reconstructing the nation. This building - one of two - was completed soon after.

Perhaps it looks familiar?

Yes indeed. Considering its background, one wonders why it was chosen by the US government for its embassy. But I digress. After the coup, many campaigns were carried out to mobilize people to 'rebuild' the nation, luxurious items were burned, and smugglers were sentenced to death. Here's a parade of 'reformed' gangpae:

Below are the ultimate sinners against the nation - dance enthusiasts - who were given 3 months to 1 year in prison:

Curfew violators in Myeong-dong held temporarily

Again, this post has a lot more information about those times.

Thursday, May 13, 2010

The Housemaid opens today

Im Sang-soo's remake of the Housemaid is released today. The trailer can be seen here, background information about the production can be found here. I wrote about the original 1960 film here (it's great!), though it seems the Donga Ilbo didn't quite get it in 1960, while the Joongang Ilbo has a bone to pick with the remake. I think it'll be worth checking out, especially if we get to see lots of Seo Woo (who appeared in Tamra the Island).

(Photo from here)