Thursday, July 31, 2014

The not-so-wildlife of the National Arboretum

Last week I made it to the National Arboretum east of Uijeongbu where they had quite a few not-so-exotic, Korean animals on display. Up first was a 너구리, or raccoon dog, which I hadn't seen (in person) before. Unfortunately, the pens were quite small, perhaps ten by twenty feet.

Attracting a lot of attention was the Siberian tiger, donated by China. It was asleep, but that didn't stop people from yelling at it and trying to get its attention. Its pen was bigger, but not very large considering we're talking about ten-foot long animal.

Up next was a wild boar, which I'd never seen in person. There were several, in fact, and long time readers may remember me writing about the wild boar invasion of Seoul (as the media presented it) nine years ago (here and here) as well as a (rather amusing, considering the convenience store invasion) update here in 2010. Needless to say, they were quite large, and seeing one these bearing down on me in a forest doesn't rate too highly on my to-do list.

A gray fox in a small enclosure. This one was sleeping; the other was pacing about quickly in its small enclosure. I remember an article by Robert Neff pointing out that in the 1920s it was wolves, and not tigers or leopards, which killed the most people in Korea's countryside (especially children).

Here's what the bear enclosure looked like.

At least it had a shaded area and a pool to cool off in, but it still looked pretty hot.

The bird enclosures contained (huge) vultures...

... and owls.

Next door was a 고라니, a small water deer. I was actually able to see this one in its entirety, compared to the rear end of one I caught a glimpse of along the Han River years ago.

I didn't actually look too much at the plants and trees, though I liked the shape of this flower:

Wednesday, July 23, 2014

"South Korean patients have nowhere to go as world gathers to discuss HIV/AIDS"

On July 2 the Korea Times reported on this sad state of affairs:
Dozens of AIDS patients on the brink of death are struggling to find places to receive care after being told to leave the nation's only care center for dying AIDS patients, according to a rights activist.

According to HIV/AIDS Human Rights Nanuri, the patients were told to leave the care center, Sudong Yonsei Sanitarium Hospital, earlier this year because it was deprived of a license following alleged violations of human rights.

One patient was raped in 2011. In August of last year, a new patient died 13 days after arriving. The investigation found that the care center staff refused the patient's request for medical attention. Her death attracted media coverage which eventually led to the uncovering of years of human rights abuse.
Benjamin Wagner and Kwon Mi-ran have written an article about this titled "South Korean patients have nowhere to go as world gathers to discuss HIV/AIDS." An excerpt:
As experts gather in Melbourne this week for the world’s largest conference dedicated to fighting HIV/AIDS and associated stigma and discrimination, the patients of Sudong Yonsei Sanitarium Hospital in Seoul are caught in a desperate limbo.
Following shocking abuse by hospital staff that culminated in the rape of one patient and death of another, the Korea Centers for Disease Control stripped the center of its license. But with the KCDC failing to provide a suitable alternative facility to what is the only long-term care center for AIDS sufferers in the country, more than 30 patients now have nowhere to go.

Meanwhile, ten other patients have been transferred to the National Police Hospital where they report yet more neglect and being denied necessary treatment and care.

The KCDC’s failure to rectify the situation marks its second betrayal of patients after it ignored allegations of mistreatment at Sudong first raised in 2011. Residents of Sudong have reported being denied human contact and not being asked about their condition by a medical professional even once. Some had their requests to be discharged ignored because the hospital insisted on obtaining permission of family members with whom patients had long lost contact. [...]

Shamefully, the plight of the patients at Sudong is not an isolated case of mistreatment of those living with HIV/AIDS in South Korea. In a modern country with world class medical facilities and easy access to antiretroviral therapy, there is no reason why people with HIV/AIDS should not be able to live long, comfortable and productive lives. In fact, a recent study found that some people living with HIV in the United States, particularly those diagnosed and treated before their CD4 counts fell below 350 cells/mm3, “now have life expectancies equal to or even higher than the US general population.”

But not in South Korea where, despite the country’s wealth and capacity for early diagnosis and effective treatment, governmental policies and prevailing societal prejudice conspire to destroy the dignity and quality of life of people living with HIV/AIDS and drag the nation back to the 1980s where an HIV positive diagnosis was a death sentence.

Today in Korea, discrimination against people living with HIV/AIDS is still so extreme that public and private hospitals routinely refuse to treat them. And the very few that do often segregate them from other patients, forcing them to shower and dine in separate areas, pandering to stigma and the mistaken belief that people with HIV/AIDS can easily infect those around them even though Korean medical professionals know this isn’t true.

The stigma surrounding HIV/AIDS is so intense in South Korea that the National Human Rights Commission of Korea has estimated that Koreans living with HIV are 10 times more likely to commit suicide than the general population, which already has one of the highest suicide rates in the world.
The rest of the article can be read here.

Monday, July 21, 2014

The battle over Guryong Maeul

Four years ago I took a brief look at Guryong Maeul in Gangnam-gu, a shanty town first settled in the 1980s.

Though a 2009 article said redevelopment plans were in the works, this still hasn't happened. Today's Joongang Daily takes a look at how the area has "become a political battleground between Seoul city government and Gangnam District Office."

Friday, July 18, 2014

'Quincy Black' gets two and a half years in prison

You may remember Quincy Black, the English teacher working at the Dajeon International Communication Center who caused a media and internet firestorm back in October 2010 when videos of himself having sex with two Korean women which he uploaded to foreign porn sites were discovered by Korean netizens. He ended up being fired and leaving the country (and causing his employer some grief as their 'morality' was questioned) before it was discovered one of the girls was underage. He was extradited from Armenia in late January this year and on February 12 the Seoul Central District Court indicted and detained him on charges of producing a video of him having sex with an underage girl.

Yesterday, as the Joongang Ilbo reports, he was sentenced to prison:
Quincy Black sentenced to prison for spreading video of sex with high school girl

A foreign English instructor who spread videos on the internet of sex with Korean women including a high school girl under the name 'Quincy Black ' has been sentenced to prison.

On July 17 the Seoul Central District Court sentenced foreign English instructor C (29), who had been charged with contravening the Law for the protection of children and youth by producing and distributing pornography) to two years and six months in prison was ordered to complete 40 hours of a sexual violence treatment program.

The court's judgement said that "C committed a crime when, as a native speaking English instructor who taught elementary school students, he was in a position to protect youths, and by spreading the pornography he inflicted considerable psychological schock upon the victim."

The judgement listed as reasons for the sentence that "the underage victim in the incident found daily life difficult and moved overseas, while the adult victim wished for C to be punished."

Before the trial C protested that "the video was filmed with the consent of the underage victim" but the court did not accept this, saying that "the victim's feeling uncomfortable during the shooting of the video is valid."

C was charged for videoing sex with high school student A, who he met via a Korean dating site, with a camera and uploading the video to an overseas porn site in late August 2010. C invited A to the lodging provided for him by the Dajeon International Center and after drinking alcohol he filmed their sex using four cameras installed in his room.

Among those victimized by C was an adult woman who did not give her consent to be videoed.

After his criminal activity was discovered, C left Korea and went to China, and early this year was arrested in Armenia and was transferred to Korea for trial according to an extradition convention.
There are about 25 articles reporting on this story, including my favourite from a couple hours ago by the Kyunghyang Sinmun, which opens like this:
Elementary school instructor by day, sex criminal by night
The two-faced native speaking instructor 
A native speaking teacher who taught elementary school students who had sex with a female student who was only 15 and videoed it has been sentenced to prison. The native speaking instructor committed the crime and continued to openly teach English classes to elementary school students.
I almost miss this kind of writing. There's been very little of this kind of article this year, and none in the last three and a half months. More than half of the negative articles about foreign teachers have been related to Quincy Black, with the rest revolving around a drug bust in Daegu in January and the drug arrest of a Korean citizen native speaker in Daejeon in April.

If Quincy Black's sentence seems light, the Kyunghyang Sinmun states that one reason for the relatively lax sentence is that he deposited 9 million won for his victims.

Thursday, July 17, 2014

Scientist arrested in US for fraud connected with HIV research

On June 25, Jilard News reported on a fraud case involving HIV research in the US:
In a rare move, federal prosecutors have charged a scientist with fraud. The charges stem from falsified data which had attracted millions of dollars in research grants.

Normally the U.S. Office of Research Integrity will investigate allegations of research misconduct, although since they do not have prosecution authority, charges are rare. In this case, the alleged fraud was so blatant and involved such a huge amount of money that federal prosecutors felt they had to step in.

The charges are based on years of research by Dong-Pyou Han, a former laboratory manager at Iowa State University and a native of South Korea. Han’s research into an HIV vaccine was promising and gained widespread attention. The hope was that the successful HIV vaccine could be administered to at-risk people around the globe, preventing them from catching the devastating disease. Because of the urgency for HIV treatments and vaccines, and because the research showed great promise, Han’s lab secured millions of dollars in grants from the National Institutes of Health to continue their research.

However, another laboratory eventually looked into Han’s work and found irregularities. They became convinced that the data was purposely falsified.

As Han was investigated, he admitted to placing human antibodies in rabbit blood to make it look like his vaccine was working. He had sent the samples to another lab who verified the results. However, in reality, Han’s vaccine appears to be a dud, which is a big disappointment for the scientific community and those affected by HIV and AIDS. Han claims he acted alone, without the knowledge of the lead researcher Michael Cho, and that he simply wanted the results of his research to look better.

Last week, prosecutors went ahead and charged Han with four counts of making false statements. If convicted, the scientist could face up to five years in prison for each charge. Han failed to appear in court Tuesday for his arraignment, apparently due to a mix-up, so he has another court date scheduled next week. Han had already surrendered his passport.
Two weeks later, the Demoines Register reported further on the case, noting that Han had resigned from the university last year when the fraud was discovered, and that he had pleaded not guilty. It also reported that
The team, which includes researchers at other universities, was awarded $14.5 million in such grants over several years, officials have said. Much of that money was awarded because of the team's dramatic reports of vaccine success, which turned out to be bogus.
The National Institutes of Health decided, unsurprisingly, "not to make the final, $1.38 million payment on a grant to the ISU team." The article adds that this "decision comes on top of ISU's agreement to reimburse the federal agency $496,000 for salary and other costs related to Dong-Pyou Han's employment."

Quite the salary, though it's possible it was for his five years of employment at the university.

As the Jilard News article makes clear, the money could have been of great use had it not been misappropriated, considering the progress being made in HIV research elsewhere:
The next most promising vaccine comes from a lab in Thailand, which has succeeded in protecting about a third of its recipients from infection. However, this rate is not high enough for widespread vaccination programs. An HIV vaccine remains a priority for scientific research as people in both developed and developing countries continue to contract the serious disease at a rate of about 6,300 new cases a day.
Despite it being 'a rare move' for federal prosecutors to charge a scientist with fraud, and despite similarity with another well-known Korean scientist who committed fraud (and especially in the post-Sewol mood of self-criticism), only a handful of Korean news outlets reported on this, with the Segye Ilbo being the only major paper to publish a report (which refers to him as a '재미 한인,' or Korean American).

Survey on the experiences of native English speakers living and working in Korea

I received an email asking to publicize a survey for native English speakers in Korea:
I am a former EPIK English teacher, and am currently in graduate school doing research on the experiences of native English speakers living and working in Korea.

I wanted to do this research to give foreigners in Korea the chance to talk about their experience in a controlled forum, so that we could ultimately use the data to help improve the experiences of expats in Korea.

Here is the survey info:

We are looking for native English speakers currently in Korea and 18 years or older to participate in a research study with the purpose of learning about typical emotional experiences.

Complete an approximately 30 minute online survey to have your experiences heard. You will also be entered in a raffle. 1 in 10 participants will win a gift card prize up to a $50 value for their participation!

If interested, go the link below!

This research is conducted by Nicole Senft in affiliation with Georgetown University. For more information, contact her at

Tuesday, July 15, 2014

100 year-old drainage tunnels designated as cultural assets

As the Korea Times briefly reported the other day,
The Seoul Metropolitan Government designated two underground drainage
tunnels built in the early 20th century as its cultural assets, Sunday. Pictured is a tunnel beneath Namdaemun [sic], central Seoul, which was discovered in 2012. The other tunnel is under City Hall Plaza.
Here are photos of the 394 meter tunnel beneath Namdaemun-ro (as in the street) from the Donga Ilbo:

The location of the tunnels can be seen below (marked in blue) in a map published by Aju News:

The 191 meters of tunnel under Seoul Plaza, pictured below (from the Herald Gyeongje), feature two branches which head towards Deokgusgung Palace and a main tunnel which cuts diagonally under the plaza.

To get a better idea of what it looks like to wander in the tunnels, SBS has a report here.

The tunnels were first reported on last October, as this Yonhap article notes, when the city announced that it was considering designating the two tunnels, which had been discovered between December 2012 and May 2013, as cultural properties since they were symbols of modern urban development and civil engineering. Previously tunnels under Deoksugung had been considered cultural properties, but they were included as part of the palace, and this was to be the first time such tunnels would be considered separately as cultural properties. They are thought to have been built between 1907 and 1915; the tunnel under Seoul Plaza is made of brick, with the lower half sealed with plaster/mortar, while the tunnel under Namdaemun-ro has a top half made of brick and a lower half made of concrete, which was a new material at the time.

The SBS report also notes that the city plans for the drains that were designated as cultural properties to be open to the public for free tours from October. That sounds like it would be fun.

(Hat tip to Hamel and Ami.)

Thursday, July 10, 2014

Bits and Pieces

Last week the Joongang Daily published an article about subway crimes, describing among them people who urinate in subway stations. I'd never seen that happen before, to be honest, but the very day I read that article, I happened to pass by this guy at Gimpo Airport Station. Classy.

On a similar topic, K-law Guru looks at subway sex crimes and the current police crackdown on them.

Speaking of class acts, Gag Concert did another blackface skit making fun of Africans. (Hat tip to Scott Burgeson.) Also classy was the response last week to the Korean World Cup team's return home:
At that moment, the team became the target of a volley of pumpkin yeot (Korean taffy) thrown by a small group of fans yelling “Eat yeot!” and “Shame on you!” Some of them also held signs, one of which read “Korean football is dead.” Fortunately, their bad aim meant no Korean team member was struck by the candy.

In Korean, the phrase “eat yeot” is an offensive slur equivalent to “screw you,” which originated in the 1960s when students protested against the Education Ministry over a question on their school exam regarding how the taffy is made.
While I know about the incident from the 1960s, I hadn't realized it's where the term 'Eat Yeot' as a swearword originated from. It's described in Seoul Through Pictures 4: Seoul, To Rise Again (1961-1970) on pgs 304-5:
In December of 1964, elementary school students in Seoul took junior high school entrance examinations. Question 18 in the Science section asked, "What can replace malt when making rice taffy?" Choices included 'diastase' and 'radish juice,' the correct answer being 'diastase.' However, 39 parents of those studnets who chose 'radish juice' filed a lawsuit, presenting rice taffies that were made with radish juice as a piece of evidence. The Supreme Court accepted 'radish juice' as a correct answer and the students who passed the examination by earning the extra point were able to enter their desired schools in May of 1965.

Hell hath no fury.

On a more classy note, I liked this story about Seoul building bug hotels, though I wonder about the people raised in the city who live in fear of insects and how they would feel about it.

Tuesday, July 08, 2014

The nine-hour occupation of Namsan by two GIs in 1973

When I heard about the most recent shooting incident by a Korean soldier, an incident from the 1970s I'd seen mentioned once - perhaps at ROK Drop - came to mind, and I became curious to learn more. Here's the introduction to a New York Times article about the incident, which took place on Monday, April 2, 1973.
2 GI's Occupy Police Tower in the Heart of Seoul
Two American soldiers, armed with light machine guns and M-16 rifles, holed up in a hilltop police box here for nine hours today demanding honorable discharge from Army service and a safe trip out of South Korea.
In truth, I was able to find that article only after searching the Naver News Library and finding the following article published on April 3, 1973, by the Donga Ilbo:
Two armed US soldiers in 9 hour disturbance 
Demand to be discharged, occupy guard post, afterwards turn themselves in

From 10 am on April 2, two American soldiers armed with service weapons occupied the guard post on the hill next to the Namsan TV Antenna and held a sit-in for 9 hours and gave themselves up at 7:40 pm.

USFK headquarters announced on the afternoon of the second that Sgt. Michael McDonald, 25 and private Terry Hergert, 22 from Camp Humphries in Pyeongtaek demanded an honourable discharge from the army, exemption from arrest by Korean and US officials, and being able to safely leave Korea.

Korean military and police blocked off the entire area, and with the help of the US military they were advised to turn themselves in.

That afternoon, after being persuaded by private Johnnie Dunn, who works in Seoul, they turned themselves in and returned to barracks.

USFK authorities disclosed that they were arrested and are under investigation.

A spokesperson for USFK headquarters expressed regret for the incident to the people of Korea.
We're provided with basic information above, but its source is clearly USFK (made clear by the fact that in Korean, the article lists their names and ranks followed by numbers (이이), (이오), which I correctly guessed were their ages; apparently a translator didn't quite understand that). A lot has been left out, as the following Stars and Stripes article (which began on page one of the Pacific edition) published on April 4, 1973 reveals:

That's quite the "veritable arsenal of weapons" that they had: "at least three high-caliber machine guns, two grenade launchers, two M16 automatic rifles, shotguns, pistols, more than a thousand rounds of ammunition, at least two cases of grenades, blankets, several days' supply of field rations and other assorted items[.]" Yikes. One wonders what led them to take such drastic - if ridiculous - action.

From the police and military response, with even the C-in-C of UN command making an appearance and soldiers surrounding the mountain, it doesn't seem like a minor event, though that's how it was reported in the Donga Ilbo. From the descriptions in the above Stars and Stripes article, it's clear much was left out of the Donga Ilbo's account. Though S&S describes Korean police as having described the nine people as hostages, the Donga Ilbo did not, perhaps due to censorship for the sake of the alliance? 

On July 1, 1973. Stars and Stripes reported on the upcoming trial of the GIs for larceny (stealing the weaponry) and aggravated assault, which would suggest that claims by US military officials that the nine persons held by the two soldiers weren't 'hostages,' and that 'they were at no time forced to stay in the building' were false.

On July 26, 1973, Stars and Stripes reported on the outcome of the trial:

We're still left with no explanation of why the soldiers did what they did. Would any readers out there have any idea? One also wonders what kind of sentence they would have gotten if they had actually fired the weapons.

To go off on a tangent, in this case regarding Seoul's history, I found the mention of a construction worker "who was working on a nearby television tower" to be of interest. That tower was Namsan Tower, which, according to Wikipedia, was completed, in its initial form, in December 1971. Apparently, it wasn't until 1975 that the upper observatory was added to the tower; one assumes it was this that was under construction when the incident took place in 1973. As Wikipedia tells us, "The tower was open to the public for the first time on October 15, 1980." To get an idea of what the tower looked like without the upper observatory, here is a shot taken in 1972, which is from a Naver Cafe (to get to it click on any of the photos here):

It's interesting to see such an iconic structure in an incomplete form.

Wednesday, July 02, 2014

Incheon Metropolitan Office of Education announces foreign English teacher cuts

According to the Korea Herald, Incheon Metropolitan Office of Education has cancelled its  recruitment plans for native speaking teachers for this fall, even though EPIK stated that there had been plans for them to recruit teachers for IMOE. An IMOE official says that though teachers are "needed" and proficient, it's due to budget problems, and the article hints it's related to the incoming superintendent:
Lee Cheong-yeon, the newly elected education superintendent-elect for Incheon, has made it clear that his office will be run on a tight budget. He said in a recent press conference that the IMOE needs an additional 100 billion won ($98.8 million) to carry out all the programs that it had scheduled for the second half of 2014.
It also adds that
The IMOE was not the only education office short on cash. The Seoul Metropolitan Office of Education recently announced that its budget was 300 billion won short.
The Herald claims the news came to light at, and states that one teacher posting there was asked to resign by her employers, indicating that the cuts may affect current employees.

The article then describes "angry responses from foreign teachers" at
One said that teachers in Korea are being “used as pawns in a game” and are never provided enough protection from authorities’ decisions, which can devastate their lives.

Another disdainful native English teacher claimed that Incheon was “never a good destination for EPIK teachers,” and said that the education office there hires too few and its practices are “shady.”
Is is just me, or do these quotes undermine using as a source at all?

I won't pretend to know much about Incheon politics (other than to say I've heard these cuts have been in the offing for some time now). If any knowledgeable readers want to add their thoughts, feel free.