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Showing posts from February, 2008
This is a fascinating story of the legalized seizure of pro-Japanese collaborator's property. I am sure that the English story is only picking up a portion of the whole. it isn't clear to me why this is happening now, but I will poke around and see if I can learn something.

An independent commission probing pro-Japanese collaborators' wealth built up during Japanese colonial rule (1910~1945) ruled that 41 billion won ($43 million) worth of properties owned by seven collaborators should be returned to the nation.

The Investigative Commission on Pro-Japanese Collaborators' Property, headed by Kim Chang-kuk, announced Thursday that it has decided to confiscate a total of 308,388 square meters of land.

They are Lee Jung-ro, Min Young-ki and Lee Yong-tae, who won key posts from the Japanese government in recognition of their supporting roles in the ruling, and Kim Seo-kyu, Kim Young-jin, Lee Kyung-sik and Lee Jin-ho, who then served as advisors for the government.

Ownership of…

NY Philharmonic in Pyongyang, yawn

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This has been big news locally and also the NYTimes wrote extensively about it of course.

Turns out that the Philharmomic played "Arirang", which is one of the standard folk songs my Kayagum class learned.

Sure, sure, this visit is unprecedented, and has major diplomatic ramifications and so on, and yes this is a world class orchestra. But, be honest, wouldn't you rather be listening to an old time string band?

You're in luck next week, as the US Emabassy Cultural Affairs Office is sponsoring a series of five concerts with my band the Five Points Serenaders here in Seoul and in Gyeonggi Province at Yeoju University, where we are giving a concert for all of the students in the music school.

We are going to play old time tunes as a band and also give solo examples of technique on fiddle, fingerpicked guitar, and clawhammer banjo. We are also going to be having at least one square dance that I will be calling.

Here is the poster produced for the square dance:



There is…

Surfing Korea

This is a written by a guy uncovering some decent surfing spots here.

Surfing Korea

You just need to avoid the North Korean midget subs:

"A few months back I went to Seuroksan for the weekend. The nearest big town is Seokjo, a large fishing village and to my surprise I had found Squids. It was flat that day, but the potential was obvious. Unfortunately, most access is severely restricted. Because you're so close to North Korea, everywhere is patrolled and off limits, however starting at the nearest public beach it's only a short paddle to the outer reef."
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Our trip to Gyeongju was great, what a spectacular and fascinating place.

The town itself is, let's be clear, a run down and rather featureless place with dirty air. If there is a good restaurant there we sure didn't find it, though there were some nice markets.

Some octopuses:



Some kimchi jars:



Most importantly, though, the surrounding mountains are beautiful, and there is a lot to see and do in them. The mountains look a lot like the Appalachians in size and structure. The town is basically embedded in a national park, and there are innumerable significant spots in every direction. Part of the area has been made into a Wisconsin Dells style resort (with theme parks like Kyeongju World) but I only saw it from the bus window, thankfully.

And it was sunny and very warm (60s), so no complaints from these quarters.

Traveling by train in Korea is even easier (and cheaper) than in Japan, and the KTX bullet trains seemed nicer than the Shinkansen. 300 kph and virtually silent. Our…
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I am heading off to Gyeong-ju, famous for its incredible array of UNESCO world heritage sites and Buddhist shrines, for a few days and will surely have interesting things to post here at Nunal upon my return.

In the meantime, I am happy to see that my old friend Tony Gaughan, an ever-interesting historian and lawyer in the Great State of Wisconsin, has (finally) started a blog.

And, for your viewing pleasure, I post this impressive poster of a meat rose I saw in a butcher shop yesterday.

Walking around central Seoul today with my sister and brother-in-law, in town visiting, we happened to stop in Jongmyo Citizen's Plaza as we strolled by, which is a dirty park that always seems to be filled with a great number of older Korean men milling about. In that way it is not unlike most of the parks here (or anywhere, I suppose) since they tend to be gathering spots of duffers. When I have gone by there usually, they tend to be playing Goh or shooting the breeze, but today there was a political rally involving Korean flags and the men shouting encouragement with fists raised in the air.

My brother-in-law is a garrulous sort and he started talking to one of the old timers, one of whom was wearing a pin with the U.S. and Korean flags intertwined on it and all of whom were stridently anti-communist and pro-American. Several had adulte children living in the U.S. The guy with the pin, who spoke good English, explained that the protest was against the 'repatriation"…
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I wanted to post a few more Japan pictures.

This is one of the many stream beds in Nagasaki, which is bisected by a number of streams and rivers and help make the city quite beautiful and rugged at the same time. This is Nakashima-gawa.


This is what is called the hypocenter of the atomic bomb dropped on Nagasaki. It exploded above ground at this exact spot.

In the foreground is a church destroyed by the bomb, the plinth in the back is directly where the bomb fell.




here is another view of the bomb site.



It is a very well done memorial, I thought. Quite striking, especially on a cold winter dusk. And the intense activity of the city around you is really a striking contrast to the austerity of this place. A bit complicated to view, in a way, since people kept coming up to the site and praying and I felt at times like a bit of a gawker.

The museum about the boming was very well done and both evenhanded and unflinching in describing the effects of the bomb without at all sidestepping the …
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We went over to see the Naedaemun Gate today and were astonished to see what has transpired since the fire.

To begin with, the entire gate is surrounded by a huge wall. You can get a sense of the size of thing from the vehicles in front of it and the cranes operating behind it.






This fence was put up since the fire less than a week ago. This was a huge endeavor. The base of it is a concrete footing of impressive size.




They did leave a large glassed area so people could watch the work.



One interesting touch was the photo of the gate erected in front of the viewing area for the disaster.




There were a lot of people there, a huge crowd taking pictures, signing the many banners and books, laying white flowers at the base of the wall. (White is the color of mourning in Korea).



Most people were very somber, I saw more than a few crying and many more praying. It was unexpectedly moving. I wanted to see the gate out of a basic morbid curiosity in disaster, and instead came away quite saddened…

donga.com [english donga]

One of the fruits of supporting the US war in Iraq:

donga.com [english donga]: "A consortium consisting of Korea National Oil Corp. and other Korean firms has won exploration rights at a large oil field in the Kurdish autonomous region of northern Iraq.

The state-run oil giant said yesterday that the vast field holds an estimated one billion barrels of oil, 200 million more than Korea’s annual oil consumption of 800 million barrels.

Led by the oil corporation, Samsung Corp., Daesung Engineering & Construction, Samchully and UI Energy, the consortium will sign a memorandum of understanding today with the Kurdistan Regional Government on energy cooperation at the Shilla Hotel in Seoul.

Sources said the two sides will also announce details such as the oil field’s location.

At the ceremony, visiting Kurdish Prime Minister Nechirvan Barzani and consortium executives will sign the deal.

The consortium is the second from Korea to win oil exploration rights in the Kurdish autonomous region…
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One horrifying thing we discovered upon getting on the plane and receiving a Korean newspaper was that some idiot arsonist had destroyed Korea's No. 1 national treasure, the Namdaemun Gate.

They caught the guy very quickly and the sheer pointlessness of the arson is really sad.

I happened across Namdaemun Gate on my first day riding my bike across Seoul back in August and it was so beautiful and distinctive that it was one of the things that made me think something un-profound but hearyfelt like "wow, I really am in Korea."

The huge public outcry about its destruction is quite amazing.

The Washington Post ran a story about it as well (unsurprisingly, a much better one than the English language stories here) and they had this striking picture:



SEOUL, Feb. 13 -- To appreciate the fury that has gripped South Korea since Sunday, imagine this:

The Alamo (or Independence Hall or the Old North Church) is set afire. There is live prime-time coverage on national television. Firefig…
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We are back from Japan, which was an incredible trip in all ways.

It was really very nice to return to Seoul, and a surprising and welcome feeling that we feel so comfortable here in that it really did feel like coming home.

Part of that happy homecoming may have been that after living in minuscule Japanese hotel rooms with bathrooms better suited to a sailboat for two weeks our tiny apartment here feels spacious and glorious.

Traveling was easy and not as expensive as I had feared (though nowhere near cheap). You could eat good food in decent amounts for not much money if you looked. This included the horsemeat sushi they served at a restaurant in Kyoto, only 137 yen for two pieces (about a buck thirty).

It didn't help the financial situation of the trip to arrive and find that my Korean ATM card doesn't work in Japan because, as the KB bank representative in Tokyo told me helpfully: "You can only use the ATM card if you are Korean and [here he looked me up and down] y…