Showing posts from March, 2008
In my "US and the World" class today we were talking about high tariffs as a developmental program. Trade policy and taxation is, as you undoubtedly know, the kind of subject that undergraduates find really riveting.

But one student was very interested, and she started asking questions about US hypocrisy in promoting free trade but at the same time preventing terrorists from selling their drugs in the American market.

Since we were talking about Henry Clay and the American System I was a bit of a loss about the question. But then I realized that she was hearing me say "high terrorists" rather than "high tariffs"!

I don't know what Henry Clay would have thought about Afghani heroin imports... but I am certain that he would have supported tariffs on marijuana to protect Kentucky hemp farmers!

(You can read historical hemp trade statistics here)

no word if the rat was organic

Rat import arrives in veggie pack

You couldn��t smell it since it was frozen but a second rat has been found inside a food package in two weeks. This time the suspected rodent was in a package of frozen organic mixed vegetables imported from the United States, the nation��s food safety agency said yesterday.
The contaminated product, ��Willow Wind Organic Mixed Vegetables,�� manufactured by Columbia Foods Inc., was immediately recalled by the Korean unit of Costco Wholesale Corp., after a consumer complained and reported the case to the Food and Drug Administration on Monday.
Sales of the product have been suspended.
The administration said the foreign object is the whole body of a very small rat �� about four centimeters long.
��The final result will come out next week. But the object is currently believed to be a rat because it has fuzz all over it and what appears to be animal flesh when we look at it with a magnifying glass,�� FDA official Lee Jai-lin said.
The Korean branch of Costco s…
Yup, you guessed it, she is the cutest baby in all of East Asia.
There is a sushi place across from Sogang that used to be really reliable and a hell of a value. Besides a large platter of sushi they gave you a half dozen Korean style sides- samchi and radish, octopus and seaweed, soup, salad, fresh tofu, the works. Then they closed it to remodel and reopened it with small portions, worse food, and higher prices. Ah well.

But the interesting thing is that during the remodel they produced a spiffy new sign and new menus. Doesn't quite seem worth the effort:

We went to a new coffee house here today (there is truly a limitless number of them), this one a huge and well lit place. The thing that stood out was the back wall, which had this row of chairs in which to sit and soak your feet while enjoying the coffee. Nobody was using them when we came in.

But as we left a couple sat down to their beverages and the guy soaked his feet.

It was a rainy and crappy day and neither of us really felt like a soak, but, we shall return, as they say.
Miss Lark safely contemplating some cooking jjukkumi, the spicy octopus about which I have waxed rhapsodic in this space several times.
The latest Fulbright Forum was interesting since it focused on American complicity in the hideous 1980 Gwangju Massacre, in which Korean armed foeces killed a huge (unknown) number of pro-democracy protesters in the southern city. I know of the massacre but the detail was all new to me, it was quite interesting (as all of these forums have been, incidentally).

The argument of the talk (a version of which is here) was that the U.S. supported if not actually facilitated the massacre in order to bring about the "neoliberal" transformation of Korea.

I don't doubt that economic motivations were and are the core of U.S. policy to maintaining order and systemic stability, and that the 1980 actions reflected these interests. But though I have a limited knowledge of the history of Korean economic development, I am fairly certain that the "neoliberal" transformation of South Korea did not occur that early (especially given the ongoing state-directed economic development…
Two things I don't understand:

1. why Yale would have ok'd this in the first place.

2. Why anyone would want to claim to have gone there in the first place...

INSIDE JoongAng Daily: "An art curator¡¯s attempt to climb the ladder of success with forged academic degrees has prompted a multimillion-dollar court battle, as Dongguk University filed a lawsuit against Yale University.
Dongguk, the former employer of disgraced art curator Shin Jeong-ah, said yesterday that it filed a civil lawsuit with the Connecticut District Court against Yale, seeking at least $50 million in compensation.
Dongguk claimed that Yale¡¯s ¡°unlawful actions¡± resulted in damage to the school because Yale mistakenly certified Shin¡¯s false claim to hold a Ph.D. from the Ivy League school. Yale later admitted the mistake and vowed to tighten its degree verification process.
Dongguk hired Shin in September 2005 as an associate professor. At the time, Shin claimed the Yale doctorate and two degrees from the …
Over in the Jongno 4(sa)ga area and in that huge, endless market area I happened to find myself yesterday evening (seeking said bubblewrap, see below). The whole place shuts down before 7, which surprised me since I know Dongdaemun market goes all night. But I was interested to see that when the stores close, they pile up the boxes for shipment on the curb. There were these enormous piles of boxes filled with goods on most corners I walked past. Nobody guarding them either.

This wouldn't last long in any American city I can think of. By the time you read this sentence the pile would be picked clean.
Unless you sell stuff on ebay, or have a particular, Christo-style interest in having things securely wrapped, you may not appreciate this, but here in Korea you can buy a human-sized roll of bubble wrap for only 3000 won. Well, a small human-sized roll.

In the US this would easily be ten times the amount, meaning there is an alarming bubblewrap gap.

Coupled with the incredibly low prices of boxes of all sizes and descriptions, and the price of packing tape (free at the post office and most supermarkets) it does indicate that the world packing business might well migrate to Asia. It may explain why this nation is blessedly free of "Mailboxes" type stores. And free of check cashing businesses as well. And no Liberty Tax Statue of Liberties dancing at intersections as blanket my neighborhood at home Lay it down to those old bugaboos so foreign to the US these days: "booming economy" and "industrial productivity" and "high savings rate"

$14.3 Million Buddha

This answers a question that I had about the wealth of Buddhism in Japan (which did seem apparent in the size and maintenance of the temples)

Tokyo Temple Bought $14.3 Million Buddha - New York Times

A Buddhist temple in suburban Tokyo revealed itself on Tuesday as the buyer that paid $14.3 million for an 800-year-old cypress wood sculpture of Buddha at a Christie’s auction in New York last week, Agence France-Presse reported. The Shinnyo-en temple said it bought the sculpture of the Dainichi Nyorai, or supreme Buddha, above, with donations from the faithful because it did not want the icon to fall into foreign hands. The sale set a record for a piece of Japanese art and exceeded the sculpture’s presale estimates of $1.5 million to $2.5 million.

Dispute Erupts Over Right-Wing Textbook(The Korea Times)

This controversy over textbooks is particularly interesting in recasting the colonial and authoritarian questions in developmental terms.

Dispute Erupts Over Right-Wing Textbook(The Korea Times)

A conservative high school history textbook is igniting a fresh round of ideological conflicts as it acknowledges Japanese colonial rule's (1910-1945) contribution to the modernization of Korea.

The New Rights' Textforum's textbook focusing on ``modernization'' and pragmatism rather than ideology or ``ethics'' has put a twist on historical events. Historians and civic groups are denouncing the new textbook, calling it a ``distortion'' of history.

The most controversial parts are its evaluation of Japanese colonial rule and several military juntas. It says, ``it was the period where Koreans had the time and chance to get the ability to establish a modern state.''

The head of the Textfroum Prof. Lee Young-hoon, who used to cite Japan's contribution, was…

Seoul Categorizing Dogs as Livestock

standards, smandards

Seoul Categorizing Dogs as Livestock(The Korea Times): "Seoul will propose to the central government that dogs should be categorized as livestock in order to properly regulate the trade of dog meat and strengthen sanitation inspections.

The proposal aims to solve the ironic situation where many Koreans enjoy eating dog meat despite the absence of regulations on the sale of dog meat amid ambiguous categorization of the animal, a city official from the Seoul Metropolitan Government (SMG) said.

``The real problem is, we cannot regulate the sanitation process of how dog meat is served due to the lack of regulations,'' the official said. ``We will have a series of public hearings to discuss the issue as it's a necessary step.''

Under the current law, dogs are categorized in the same group as donkeys, rabbits, horses and deer, not as livestock such as beef and chicken.

The categorization allows for the mass breeding and butchering of dogs and serving…
I've gotten really interested in Buddhism over here for any number of reasons. I studied it as part of my graduate minor in Asian history, but that was some time ago, and in a different context. It helps to be surrounded by it, especially the stunning temples I've frequented here (and in Japan), and to be reading in it and thinking about it with greater attention and intent.

I am fortunate that one of the Fulbrights is both an expert on ancient Korean Buddhism (here is his recent book) and, even better, willing to answer a flurry of my questions in all directions. It really is a treat to be able to pose any question and get an scholarly answer of great depth and complexity. Plus, he seems to know where the good restaurants are in this city, which means both great conversation and food.

I contrast this experience with going to a lecture at the Buddhist English Language Library of Seoul (which, despite the name, has a website almost entirely in Korean). The lecture was given…
Big difference in this session of kayagum lessons, it is really challenging and interesting.

There are only four people in the class and one of them has been studying intensively for a year and is quite accomplished. And the class has 3 guys in it (all Americans). Obviously someone isn't getting the memo about this being a woman's instrument.

Our teacher is a woman and she is not messing around. We are using all of the left and right hand techniques she ran through rapidfire the first week. Instead of the simple folk pieces I was learning in the fall, she has pushed us right into some really complicated solo music --kayagum sanjo, solo pieces for the smaller 12 string kayagum. Evocative and dark too, strange music, very technical. We are using western notation, but to capture the weirdness of the Korean music there are lots of little squiggles and arrows and other symbols. I don't feel like notation can quite capture it, especially when you hear the teacher play it …
I am stoked to see that the U.S. Embassy has put online a bunch of pictures from our Five Points Serenaders concerts at the Information Resource Center in Seoul, as well as two videos of selections from the two shows.

One is of the afternoon concert, with us playing "Streak o' Lean, Streak o' Fat," Fiddling Chuck fiddling a solo tune, and then "Grandma's Rag," and the second video has "Streak o' Lean, Streak o' Fat", a couple of solo pieces, plus one of the dances. The dance gives you a taste of what it was like to call a square dance with translated calls.

I am glad they included these selections. I figured "Streak o' Lean, Streak o' Fat," a great tune from one of my favorites, John Dilleshaw, known as Seven Foot Dilly-, would be an ideal tune for us to play in Korea given that it basically describes the national favorite sam gyeop sal--pork belly.

And the dance in the video, called "The Wild Goose Chase,&…
I went to my office on the Sogang campus thinking it would be quiet since there is a two day break for Easter, and so was at first surprised to see a Passion Play in the works on top of the hill.

Of course it makes sense since this is a Jesuit school, but I failed to anticipate it.

It was a nice sunny and warm day for an outdoor passion play, but overall it was pretty sedate overall, with only a moderately sized crowd.

Though this is Asia, Korea is a whole lot different than the Philippines. No live crucifixions here.

MANILA (AFP) - Philippine health officials Wednesday warned people taking part in Easter crucifixions and self-flagellation rituals to get a tetanus shot first and sterilise the nails to avoid infections.
Every Good Friday in this predominately Roman Catholic Southeast Asian nation dozens of men re-enact the crucifixion of Jesus Christ by having themselves nailed to wooden crosses.

At the same time hundreds of others, mostly men, strip to the waist and whip themselves unt…

Know your market

Maybe there is an addendum to Warhol's 15 minutes of fame quip for the globalized era where we will be counterfeited in Asia at least once. At least we can hope so.

I think of it as a sign of real accomplishment, to be good enough to have your copyright violated. If they want to see any of my product (such as it is) on the street, feel free.

Back in the fall I wrote about seeing my friend's wife's independent film for sale on the pirated DVD tables. Just a day ago I saw another friend's film for sale on a table in Sinchon. This was an obscure film with a specific target audience not common in Korea (it is a comedy about bar mitzvahs) so what buying public the Korean pirate community is copying films for is a mystery to me. But my friend was excited--he told me to look for his new film, which would make a whole lot more sense. No dice so far.

A friend of ours who works for a major brand name in the US came through town on business and we spent a while talking abo…
This article about newly installed urban beehives in Japan is interesting. Bee disappearances are happening over here too, though they have a different range of explanations for them.

Beekeeping is no longer limited to rural areas, as city centers and residential areas are becoming hives of activity. And surprisingly, it seems bees are adapting well to the "penthouse" lifestyle atop tall buildings.

For instance, a shopping mall in Tokyo bought some beehives for this spring as part of a development effort in the area.

Two years ago, in Tokyo's Ginza district, a volunteer group, the Tokyo Mitsubachi (honey bee) project, set up a rooftop apiary with about 20,000 Japanese as well as Western bees near one of the main avenues in the well-known shopping area.

The bees keep themselves busy on nearby roadside cherry trees and horse chestnut trees year-round. About 300 kilograms of honey is collected each year from their hives and a local shop recently started to sell cakes and tradi…

blame it on China

The rat head that appeared in a snack food package may have come from China.

The nation's largest snack maker, Nongshim, made a public apology Tuesday for one of its best-selling items containing the head of a small rodent. The company shut down the snack production line, and supermarkets are already removing them from their shelves.

The apology came after gray skin-like material, 1.6 centimeters in length, was found last month inside a jumbo-sized Nongshim snack, ``Saewookkang'' (shrimp snack). The Food and Drug Administration on Monday gave a correctional order to the snack manufacturer.

The ``material'' was very hard and covered in oil and burnt hair, and it also had the remains of eyes and a nose, which led the administration to conclude it to be the head of a rat.

A customer had reportedly called Nongshim asking for a refund and a recall on all of its product made on that day, but initially her requests were denied. However, later the company tried to compensate …

it's not too late to buy gold...

It is rare you can trust a politician in Washington in general and virtually never when the economic indicators are heading south (and for presidents this tends to go double).

So it is refreshing when Korean President Lee Myung-bak is candid in how things look for the future:

President Lee Myung-bak caught the spirit of unease, if not incipient panic prompted by the plunging won and other signs of economic turmoil yesterday.
¡°We are only in the beginning stages of a crisis. It¡¯s totally impossible to forecast the world economy,¡± Lee said prior to a meeting with the Ministry of Knowledge Economy yesterday. ¡°I think, maybe, a world economic crisis is just beginning.¡±
The numbers backed him up as the Korean won yesterday dipped below the psychologically crucial barrier of 1,000 won to the dollar, the lowest level since December 2005, after falling for 12 straight days.

Some signs of spring around Seoul

The warm weather is paying off, the trees are just budding out here and by the end of week we very well should have some nice color.

They have been pruning the sycamores all over the city for the past few weeks. Being from the Great State of Illinois, I have a particular affection for sycamores. The largest recorded tree east of the Mississippi River was a sycamore in Illinois. (Here is a fascinating study of the huge old growth forest there, and the remants in Illinois and Indiana)

Here they prune these magnificent trees in a particularly extreme way, really trimming down the trees to their core and trimming all smaller branches. The effect is to have trunks and main branches, and then I guess all new growth for the crown. They were doing the same kind of trimming to the sycamores in Japan I noticed when we were there, so I figured it must be a basic aspect of urban forestry.

In Norfolk, it is common to prune back the ubiquitous crepe myrtles like this in the spring, but these ar…
One of my students came by my office today to ask if I thought that the economic crisis brewing (or already brewed) in the US at the moment is at all related to the large military expenditures of the Bush years. She noted that the Bush approach to military spending and foreign adventurism seems to be at odds with the vision of the policymakers during the Founding generation we are currently studying in ourt "US and the World" class, and alao at odds with Washington's Farewell Address and even Eisenhower's Farewell Address (which we read last semester). It was a thoughtful question.

It is pretty easy to answer with this Iraq War Cost clock, which basically speaks for itself:

Iraq War Cost

I was happy to get that clock to work on this blog. I am less happy that this astonishing expenditure has yielded zero in terms of strategic returns for the US except for a military that is overstretched and quite battered (at least according to this interesting survey in Foreig…
Sunday afternoon we were wandering around central Seoul with a friend of Skye's taking in the sights and happened across this culinary innovation in Myeon-dong

What is most striking about the pasta waffle cone (I mean besides the core fact that it is an abomination) is the advertised versatility of it--useful for pasta, steak, or ice cream.

Must have seemed like a good idea on paper.

As might have this little booth with a women singing through an amp:

Further alone we happened on a truly enormous police presence, including hundreds of officers in phalanxes on both sides of the street.

Note the guys on top of the riot buses

Something must be coming we figured, and sure enough it ended up being a sizable anti-Iraq war rally. Here was the front of it:

Most signs were in Korean, but this one calling for bringing the Korean troops home was interesting:

Back in the fall I had noted the bind the Korean administration found itself in regarding Iraq.

It was interesting to me that being opposed…
On the advice of the Fulbright expert on Korean Buddhism, we went in search of the large temple complex on the other side of the mountain from where we live. It ended up being a sprawling and very beautiful complex nestled up against the mountain. This is Bongwonsa, founded in 889 and then moved to its current location in 1748. There have been, over the centuries, a long list of fires and other misadventures including large scale destruction during the Korean War. So, many of these buildings are newer. Nevertheless, they are built in the incredible traditional style, and the overall impression is one of great beauty and peace up against the hill. It helped that it was such a nice spring day.

I really can't get enough of these roofs, they are just magnificent.

The main hall has 3000 Buddhas in it, which is quite a sight. They are lined up in ranks, with one quite large one.

You can't take interior pictures, but here is the south end of the main hall. It isn't much of a…
I have mentioned that the street vendors seemingly peddling homemade food are actually selling food imported from China before, but finally got a picture of the steamed corn on the cob arriving pre-cooked from China and then reheated for sale as fresh steamed corn. (no word if it is steamed in glycerine)

I walked by someone selling various clothes on the street down by the Seoul Arts Center and was surprised to see this sweatshirt, which isn't uncommon in Virginia:

Last picture for now is of the lovely and ever-growing Miss Lark, who has moved onto solid foods. Here she is enjoying some zucchini, which is best tasted when spread liberally over hands and feet and only occasionally in the mouth.

My kayagum lessons started up again today for another 12 week session (at 30,000 won definitely the best music instruction deal going). I am taking the intermediate class and has already gone far beyond what I learned in the fall. We had just started getting into some of the ornamentation that is at core of Korean music, especially on the kayagum (though in my untutored way I hear similar sounds in the singing, I need to talk to an ethnomusicologist and get some detail on this).

We spent the whole time today learning new right hand picking techniques and running through the left hand noting and vibrato techniques. The left is all fairly easy to get, it is only a matter of remembering what the little squiggles and symbols on top of the western style musical notation mean, there about 15 core additions, but they aren't especially hard. Of course getting the vibrato right and noting the strings (which are elevated on the bridges) accurately without hesitation is going to take quit…
The weather is turning warm here, with sunny and reasonably warm days and nights, which inevitably brings my mind to bees. This is one of my favorite times of years in the hives (assuming they survived the winter), the bees are friendly and all the hard work is still a few months away. Mid-March at home in southeastern Virginia is decidedly into spring beekeeping tasks, and I have difficulty getting through these warm days without the urge to get into some hives. Some of my beeyards at home are, from sketchy reports I have gotten, doing well, though several hives might not have made it through the winter.

So, with these thoughts buzzing through my mind (sorry), I was happy when, while walking crossing the street in Sinchon, a bee came and landed on my finger. I took this to be an auspicious sign of a good year.

I am teaching a class on globalization and the United States for the Graduate School of International Studies (GSIS) and so far, two weeks in, it is shaping up to be a fascinating experience.

It is a large class for a graduate class (22 students) which indicates the lively interest in the subject. The fact that none of the students were scared off by the reading-heavy syllabus is a good sign that people are eaqer to learn something. (I can't figure out how to post the syllabus on this blog, and can't access my webpage from here, but if you want a copy send me an email). The class focuses on what is interesting me these days, legal structures underlying markets and systems of power and authority in globalization since the nineteenth century, the question of empire, and the ways these reflect or shape American domestic interests. Given the Free Trade Agreement (FTA) negotiations between Korea and US we are also going to be looking at liberalized trade and especially at the …
We went to play music outside today (it is about 60 degrees and perfect weather for it) and decided to try the Hongik University campus, which has a nice area with trees and benches and a fair sized pagoda, only to find that the university pipes in terrible music through speakers placed about every 10 yards. We ended up sitting in the park at the entrance to Sogang, which did make it easier to get to class.
Being in Seoul with Fiddlin' Chuck has yielded a strange circumstance when Koreans who meet him and ask his name respond by saying 'Oh, Chucky! and making a stabbing motion with their hand.

I suggested he change his name but am awaiting a response.

I do wonder why Chucky the killer toy is so popular and well known. Maybe because there is no Chuck E. Cheese Pizza over here.

Southern Tunes in Korea

The Five Points Serenaders shows made the JoongAng Daily today, see below (the printed version has a picture though none is online).

I am misidentified as a professor at the University of Wisconsin (where I went to grad school but not where I teach) and one of the students interviewed at the show apparently thought this Southern music was evocative of the American West, and some of the quotes are a bit suspect, but other than that the story is not bad and I am not complaining-- any publicity being good publicity as long as your name is spelled right. I think Abraham Lincoln said that.

INSIDE JoongAng Daily

In a country where American culture is mostly consumed through mass media, Koreans can only take in true Americana to a limited extent.
To fill a gap in American culture in Korea, a trio of musicians from the U.S. Midwest crossed the Pacific earlier this month.
Southern musical heritage is a hidden facet of America that could enhance Korean understanding of one of its diplomatic all…
I've been negligent posting here at Nunal, but having the opportunity to play old time tunes for appreciative audiences in and around Seoul made it a necessary and worthwhile sacrifice.

We played a variety of stuff--many fiddle tunes of course, plus a bunch of old time songs, a couple of novelty numbers, a couple of gospel songs. We each did a solo section concentrating on technique and different styles. Everything went over really well.

Our first show was at the Yellow Handkerchief coffee shop, which ended up being a great venue for music and a fun place to play too. The crowd was unexpectedly big, a good mix of expats and Koreans and a good smattering of my students too.

It was quite a new experience to see a large banner with the band name (Five Points Serenaders), Korean information about the concert series, and the embassy logo. I am supposed to be getting the banner. Here is one of the posters the embassy printed, on the elevator on the way up. (unlike the Sogang poster…
A friend of mine sent this to me with the note "this is the best headline ever," and I do believe he is correct.*

Skywalkers in Korea Cross Han Solo -

Skywalkers in Korea Cross Han Solo

SEOUL, South Korea -- They came from all over the world, poles in hand, and feet ready to inch more than half a mile across a high wire strung over the Han River in a spine-tingling battle of balance, speed and high anxiety.

As part of its annual city festival, the South Korean capital staged Thursday what was billed as the world's first high-wire championship, drawing 18 contestants from nine countries for three days of supreme feats of concentration.

Each acrobat must navigate the 1.2-inch-thick wire that spans the river, with the top prize of $15,000 going to the person crossing it fastest.

The contestants _ 14 men and four women _ include such masters of the high wire as Jade Kindar-Martin of Shelburne, Vt., a former Cirque du Soleil performer who once crossed London'…
It happened that the Fulbright Forum this week was about comparative treason trials in the post-WWII world, especially Korea. It was a timely talk from a bright history PhD candidate named Konrad Lawson doing research in Korean, Japanese, Chinese, among other languages. Very impressive talk, and definitely an interesting subject to study, especially this comparison of treatment of treason in post-colonial states and post-occupation states.

The timeliness comes in because Korea is, amazingly, still actively figuring out the fate of pro-Japanese collaborators, as I posted about a couple of days ago with the ongoing property confiscation of collaborators.

Here is the website for the Presidential Commission for the Inspection of Collaborations for Japanese Imperialism [sic], which was formed in 2005 to look at the colonial era collaboration. It is simply fascinating that this is occurring after this remove of time, and a sure sign that this is a subject worth much additional attention,…
You can buy counterfeit goods absolutely everywhere, especially things like Adiddas track suits and Gucci bags and so on.

North Face is a popular brand in Korea, so it is ripped off all of the time. Some of the North Face jackets sold on the street look exactly like the real thing, though they are only 10,000 won.

I think I may have mentioned some of the most common counterfeits which use the same font and logo but different words. You see "The Kusa Mountain" a lot. There is a store called "The Red Face" which has the same logo.

Over at Dongdademun flea market, I just saw a couple new ones. One was "The Full Rushhour" which is weird but interesting.

This one, however, by far took the cake:

This is the week of our old time concerts so I am getting very excited about the experience. It is also the first week of the semester, so I am going to be amazingly busy. I may not have time to post here at Nunal, but will when the dust settles.

There seems to be a little confusion in some quarters over at Sogang about what exactly old time music is. Here is the poster for the event, with Korean text except for the words banjo, fiddle, guitar and square dance.

But the illustration included has a rather loose definition of old time music. Note the harpsichord, lute, flute, and cello, and the frilly dresses:

Someone stopped by my office and said " do you play madgrigal music?" I had no idea what he meant but now it makes sense. I thought this was hilarious. Somebody got confused between "old time" and "early music" I suppose.

In order to follow through with truth in advertising, I guess I had better wear one of these collared outfits and floppy hats...