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Moon Jae-in, Diplomacy God: Peace Olympics Lead to Breakthrough

Koreabridge - Fri, 2018-03-09 17:16
Moon Jae-in, Diplomacy God: Peace Olympics Lead to Breakthrough Listen to "Moon Jae-in, Diplomacy God: Peace Olympics Lead to Breakthrough" on Spreaker.


Steven Denney (Munk School of Global Affairs at the University of Toronto/Senior Editor at joins host Andre Goulet to discuss the diplomatic delegation's visit to Pyeongyang and how Korean nationalism and American obstructionism continue to clash in the wake of the 2018 Pyeongchang Winter Games.

 Plus: January's weird Foreign Ministers’ Meeting on Security and Stability on the Korean Peninsula, organized by the Canadian government and the U.S. State Department, comes under observation. All this and more, on episode 72 of The Korea File.  Music on this episode: ‘그리움만 쌓이네' by여진 (1979)


    The Korea File

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360 views of Seoul at Naksan Park

Koreabridge - Tue, 2018-03-06 14:37
360 views of Seoul at Naksan Park

I’ve been watching one of those old dramas called “The King 2 Hearts” which is about a handsome South Korean prince falling in love with a North Korean commando. The plot isn’t that great but there’s this amazing scene where the minor characters get up on the old city wall in Seoul and have a heart to heart.

I really wanted to know where this beautiful scene was shot so I checked up and it’s Naksan Park near to Hyehwa station on Line 4. You can walk from the station or take a bus. The park is a famous shooting location for many dramas and movies – I think I recall it in Hong Sang-soo’s Our Sunhi.

Unfortunately, on the day that I went, the haze in Seoul was pretty bad so I didn’t get quality photos. But Naksan Park truly has a 360-degree view of old Seoul, especially the Jongno area, with the palaces and Dongdaemun all close up, and Bukhansan in the distance. Definitely a strong rival to the more touristy Namsan.

Naksan Park also has a famous wall-mural village that you can check out. Back at Hyehwa station, which is known as Seoul’s arts district, there are some fantastic theatres and galleries as well as great food.

Blogging on is my way of sharing cool travel experiences with all of you. I do my best to personally verify everything posted here. However, prices and conditions may have changed since my last visit. Please double check with other sources such as official tourist hotlines to avoid disappointment. If you like this post, disagree, have questions or want to contribute additional information for other travelers, please comment below! =)

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Korea International Expat Film Festival (KIXFF) Oscars Party 2018 in Seoul

Koreabridge - Tue, 2018-02-27 05:13
Korea International Expat Film Festival (KIXFF) Oscars Party 2018 You’re Invited! Join The Toronto Seoulcialite @ KIXFF’s Oscars Party

WHAT IS KIXFF? KIXFF stands for the Korea International Expat Film Festival which was established in 2015 by director, Kevin Lambert.  It’s mission is to bring films with an “expat-perspective” to Seoul.  It’s the only festival in the world to do so.  It became apparent to the creator of the fest that the experience of the expat, not just in Korea but of those living all over the world, is unique.  Films that come from this point of view deserve to be celebrated.

WHY AN OSCAR PARTY? The KIXFF Oscar party is a fund-raiser in it’s essence.  KIXFF is a nonprofit organisation and therefore relies on donations for it to be able to operate.  The secondary goal of this party is to spread awareness about the film festival that will be taking place in September.  The festival will screen movies that have never been seen by a big audience in Seoul and the KIXFF wants people to come and enjoy them when the time comes. WHAT WILL HAPPEN AT THE OSCAR PARTY? People can expect live entertainment of the highest quality.  Well-renowned cellist, Lucia Won-Jung Kim (from Moment House Music) will be accompanied by Chang-hyeon Jung on piano.  Kim Hyman and Sean Levitas will sing and play ethereal folksie jams.  Hip-hop group Boomba entertainment and the incredibly talented Sang Don Park will be beat boxing the night away.  My favourite vegan whole food service, Sprout, is providing glamorous catered finger snacks. Best of all?  There will be amazing goody bags from sponsors CLIO cosmetics, Seoneemall and Healience.  I’ve been assured there are no “samples” or pointless advertisement leaflets in these bags – only the good stuff!  They will also have prizes for best dressed and two games; fake acceptance speech contest and Oscar Predictions.  Readers can already sign up for the Fake Acceptance Speech Contest at registration.  House of Tease/Starlight Burlesque will lend glamour and extravagance to the event, too.  They will present awards and previews of the 2018 best picture nominees as a prelude to the REAL Oscars happening in Hollywood the very next day.  Guests get to feel their best when they walk down the red carpet and get their picture taken by everyone’s favorite photographer in HBC, Robert Micheal Evans.  KRW 25,000 is a bargain considering you’ll get a whole lot of goodies and have a great time supporting two great causes.

KIXFF SUPPORTS WOMEN IN FILM KIXFF would like to celebrate women in film specifically at this year’s Oscar party because, let’s face it, the time is now.  They got the idea from watching this year’s other award ceremonies’ fashion trends and saw that the Golden globes did “black” which is a very sensible dress-code choice.  After contemplation, they wondered if some women wouldn’t love to give their little red number a spin, or maybe their emerald green ball gown so we decided to use gold since it carries value in it’s vulnerability; just the way women do.  Wear whatever you want and just add a gold accessory.  For those who forget, they will have golden ribbons on hand to pin to dresses and lapels.  They will be using female only presenters from the House of Tease.  The event will be MC’d by Greta C Wink who will bring the glitz and glamour of Hollywood to Seoul! WHERE WILL IT TAKE PLACE? This is the second year the Oscar party will take place.  This is the first one with KIXFF non-profit partner Emu Artspace in Gwanghwamun.  They are an art cinema with a book cafe/ art gallery experience and give KIXFF a home away from home. THE SKINNY
  • WHEN: Saturday March 3rd, 2018 @ 7pm
  • WHERE: Emu ArtSpace, Gwanghwamun, Seoul 복합문화공간 에무 – Emu Artspace 종로구 경희궁1가길 7, Seoul, Korea 110-062 (Go to  for directions OR find the event on Facebook (The KIXFF Oscar Party 2018)
  • HOW: Buy a ticket and sign up for our Fake Acceptance Speech contest by messaging KIXFF on facebook or going to where you can find a Paypal link OR The KIXFF Oscar Party 2018 on Facebook
  • COST: 25 000 KRW Cash or Paypal or at the door

The post Korea International Expat Film Festival (KIXFF) Oscars Party 2018 in Seoul appeared first on The Toronto Seoulcialite.

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What Kind Of Teachers Do Schools In Asia REALLY Want?

Koreabridge - Wed, 2018-02-21 06:42
What Kind Of Teachers Do Schools In Asia REALLY Want?

Are you looking for a job teaching English in East Asia? Do you want to know what schools/employers there really want?

For me this wasn't really surprising, but that's because I have been part of the teaching English in Asia thing either as teacher or researcher for a good 13 years.

I started teaching in Taiwan in 2004 and then later Korea and China. I worked in a lot of schools as either a full, part-time or substitute teacher. I have also applied for and looked at a lot of jobs.

So the words and qualities of a teacher that schools are actually looking for that you will find here are not a surprise to me. I could have roughly told you these before without doing any research since I have seen so many jobs.


It's cool to actually see some data. So how did I get this data?

I did a combination of command "f" on a Mac to find the count of keywords on a page (multiple job ads on a page) and sometimes a count of the Google search results.

Towards the end of the article I will tell you how you can use this info to help.

What do employers want in ____?

  1. Taiwan
  2. Korea
  3. China
  4. Japan
  5. Total results
What do employers in Taiwan want?

These are some of the most common words employers used on on 02/19/2018-11/27/2017. These were based on 50 job posts. 

The number represents how many times it was placed on the page.

  • experience 71
  • degree 34
  • professional 31
  • children 28 (i.e, working with children)
  • team 18 (join our "team" or "team" player)
  • enthusiastic 13
  • responsible 13
  • kids 10
  • passion 9
  • adult 8
  • tefl certificates 7 (preference)
  • patient 7 
  • positive 6
  • criminal background check 4
  • teaching demo 4
  • teaching license 6
  • chinese ability 0 (compare that to Ohayosensei in Japan below)

I only counted the word "degree" here and one other time. A degree is pretty much a given requirement to teach English in Asia.


What do employers/schools in Korea want?

These numbered search results were taken from on Feb. 19, 2018 using the keyword and the following search operator: "keywords below go here"
  • kids 1,960 results
  • experience 1,820
  • energetic 726
  • enthusiastic 345
  • passionate 293
  • positive 284
  • professional 42
  • tefl 36
  • responsible 32 "keywords below go here"
  • experience 524
  • tefl 283
  • professional 173
  • kids 104 children 147
  • enthusiastic 106
  • fun 84
  • passion 71
  • responsible 56
  • energetic 52
  • friendly 52
  • passionate 35


What do employers want in China?

For this I searched 2 sites: via Google and eChinacities. "keywords below go here"
  • experience 719
  • professional 399
  • kids 269 children 280
  • adults 240
  • passion 202
  • enthusiastic 197
  • fun 177
  • tefl certificate 123
  • energetic 99
  • responsible 91
  • no experience 44

The below results were found by site search on, "teaching jobs".

  • degree 53,836
  • experience 52,654
  • TEFL cert 17,837
  • love children 15,621
  • professional 12,377
  • children 11,621
  • enthusiastic 5,385
  • responsible 4,516
  • adult 2,864
  • fun 2,443
  • passion 2,236
  • creative 1,521


What do employers in Japan want?

This one and the Taiwan one are the most accurate as all the job posts were on one page, so I could easily find the keywords and get a direct count. Feb 19, 2018
  • experience 124
  • no experience 0
  • children 65 kids 18
  • adults 35
  • responsible 0
  • tefl certification 48
  • professional 1
  • enthusiasm 1
  • japanese ability 24
  • must currently reside in japan 56 education/teaching Jan. 19-Feb 19, 2018
  • experience 275
  • children 215
  • professional 98
  • fun 98
  • japanese ability 71
  • motivated 69
  • enthusiastic 68
  • love children 65
  • creative 63
  • adults 52
  • positive 41
  • passion 38
  • responsible 36
  • tefl 26


Final tallies

How accurate is this?

Well, it's not extremely accurate for a few reasons.

  1. It's possible that some of the words here have were not necessarily used in the same sense. For example, the keyword "enthusiastic" is a pretty common quality that schools are searching for in a teacher, but the word can also be used in a different way like the school could say we are "enthusiastic" about making learning English fun.
  2. Some results may include multiple postings by the same school or recruiter which inflates the keywords mentioned in that post.

    • Some keywords may have multiple meanings. For example, most schools want “experience” but a smaller percentage may accept teachers with “no experience”. 

      • I didn't search for all of the same exact keywords on every site which resulted in some differences.

      It's a bit wabi-sabi, but I think it still can help.

      Here is a list of keywords found in job advertisements from most to least popular.

      • experience 56,187
      • tefl cert 18,070 (-17,000 for China)
      • love children 15,686
      • professional 13,121
      • children 12,356
      • enthusiastic 5,770
      • responsible 4,744
      • adults 3,199
      • fun 2,802
      • passion 2,556
      • kids 2,361
      • creative 1,584
      • energetic 877
      • passion 328
      • positive 290
      • japanese ability 95
      • motivated 69
      • must currently reside in japan 56
      • no experience 44
      What can you gather from this?

      Schools prefer teachers with experience, however there are a few schools that have stated above that they accept teachers with "no experience".

      Most of the jobs in East Asia are for teaching children. According to the numbers above there were 30,000 plus mentions of children, kids, etc. vs. 3,000+ mentions of adults. 

      So according to those numbers there are possibly 10 times as many jobs teaching children than there are adults.

      Do you like teaching children?

      That's a common question employers will ask. If you have experience teaching children or just like teaching children then put that on your resume.

      Use these words in your copywriting and interview if...

      If these words apply to you and the position you are applying to then you can use them on your resume/cover letter and or in your interview.

      • experience
      • professional
      • children (love)
      • enthusiastic
      • responsible
      • fun
      • passionate
      • creative
      • energetic

      If they don't then try to find a job that may suit you better.

      Differences in the countries

      There weren't many, but there were a few.

      • TEFL certification is in greater demand in China than it is in other Eastern Asian countries.
      • Most schools in Japan and Taiwan hire in country.
      • Some schools in Japan require some Japanese ability which is extremely uncommon in other countries in Asia.
      • Teaching demos are more common in Taiwan and China than other countries.

       ESLinsiderThings You Probably Didn't Know About Teaching English In Asia, But Should Know

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      An Open Letter to Newbie Myeonuris on Seollal

      Koreabridge - Thu, 2018-02-15 12:13
      An Open Letter to Newbie Myeonuris on Seollal Read more at http://kore


      Dear Newbie Myeonuri,

                     You must be feeling nervous, uncertain of what tomorrow is going to be like. You’ve probably heard from other myeonuris what a pain in the arse Chuseok and Seollal are for us married women in Korea. I’ve been a myeonuri for eight years now, and let me confirm what you’ve heard from the others… sorry to break it to you, but you’re not going to have a ball tomorrow. You’re going to wish you had the ability to teleport, so you could be somewhere else… not in the kitchen, enslaved by incessant housework a.k.a. myeonuri duties. I’ve been there, and I survived it.

      I don’t loathe Chuseok and Seollal as much as I used to. You’ll survive it, too. Just think of it as another gloomy day of your life that shall soon pass. You might feel like you’re wasting a decade of your existence every time piles of dishes are being brought to the sink, but there will be an end to it. Your hands might go numb from cooking jeon and preheating food from breakfast until dinnertime, but don’t you worry, the numbness will fade away with some mentholatum lotion that you can purchase from any drugstore. You’d better buy it now, and remind your husband not to get too drunk on Seollal, so he can give you a well-deserved massage when all the work is over. You might sulk over the bogus machismo you’ll witness and question why men get to enjoy the day while women do all the work, but remember… every country has its own culture. You married into this culture when you married your man.

      You might not like tomorrow’s experience at all, but believe me, you’ll get used to it. As time goes by, your workload will be lessened. Just pray that a new myeonuri will come and that she won’t be your senior. No matter how overworked (and annoyed) you are tomorrow, keep smiling. You’re not alone in this battle. If you can, be nice… be polite to everyone… even to your husband’s most annoying family member.

      Don’t throw your wrath at your husband for letting you toil the whole day. Talk to him today, and urge him to help you when work seems too much. When Seollal is over, do something for yourself. Take a rest, go shopping, treat yourself to the spa… make it your day! ^^

      Good luck! Myeonuri, fighting!

      Lots of hugs,

      From a fellow myeonuri


      Note from the author:

      Before this letter gets negative reactions from myeonuris who claim that they have an awesome life and are not subjected to any distressing housework on Chuseok and Seollal, let me reiterate what I have mentioned in my previous posts (one in particular that was shared in an expat group without my permission and wasn’t received well by other readers: Things You Should Never ever Say or Do When Your Korean Parents-in-law Are Around)… not all myeonuris go through the experiences I have described in this letter. Not all families in Korea follow the antediluvian tradition of enslaving women to housework during family gatherings. Nowadays, more and more families practice equality in their households. Many younger Korean men help around the house. My husband and my brothers-in-law are some of them… but my husband’s older family members and a number of families I know still have a long way to go.


      From Korea with Love



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      Ilbe and the Alt-Right: Fascism and Conservative Politics in South Korea

      Koreabridge - Mon, 2018-02-05 15:06
      Ilbe and the Alt-Right: Fascism and Conservative Politics in South Kor

      Listen to "Ilbe and the Alt-Right: Fascism and Conservative Politics in South Korea" on Spreaker.


      On this episode of The Korea File podcast, host Andre Goulet and blogger Ask A Korean unpack the spy-ops and psy-ops that have informed more than a decade of alt-Right agitation in South Korea. Plus:

      * a look into the anti-democratic overreach of the National Intelligence Service 
      * a deep dive into the origins of Ilbe, Korea’s nihilistic proto-Reddit web forum and Breitbart predecessor
      * an analysis of the diminished status of South Korea’s political right-wing today

      And: three fundamental questions that establish first principles when talking about North Korea: 
      1) May the North Korean state continue to exist? 
      2) May the Kim Jong-un regime remain in power? 
      3) Is war acceptable on the Korean peninsula?

      Ask A Korean’s answer to all three questions is an emphatic ‘No’.

      Support this show at to receive access to exclusive interviews and bonus content!

      Original Post

          The Korea File

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      Favorite Winter Olympic Events

      Koreabridge - Mon, 2018-02-05 12:48
      Alpine Skiing Bobsled/Luge Curling Figure Skating Hockey Ski Jumping Snowboarding Speed Skating
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      Why Korean Machine Translation is TERRIBLE | Google vs. Bing vs. Naver

      Koreabridge - Fri, 2018-01-26 17:37
      Why Korean Machine Translation is TERRIBLE | Google vs. Bing vs. Naver

      There are several web sites that you can use for free to instantly translate to and from Korean. The top 3 are currently Google Translate, Bing Translate, and Naver Translate (also known as Papago Translate).

      I've had a lot of people ask me which is the best to use, and I've always responded with "none of them." But if I'm going to give a proper reason, I figured I should make a video to explain why.

      If you need to translate something that's important, avoid machine translation wherever possible. Find out in this video why it might be a bad idea to use any of them, and learn about the problems with current machine translation.

      The post Why Korean Machine Translation is TERRIBLE | Google vs. Bing vs. Naver appeared first on Learn Korean with GO! Billy Korean.


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      North Korea’s Goals are Limited: It couldn’t Absorb S Korea even if it Won a War

      Koreabridge - Fri, 2018-01-19 22:30
      North Korea’s Goals are Limited

      This is a local re-posting of an article I wrote for The National Interest last week.

      Basically, I am continuing to bush back on all this insane talk that we are on the verge of a conflict, can’t live with a nuclear North Korea, and are imminently threatened with a North Korean nuclear strike. None of that is true, and all the alarmism from the bomb-them-now ultras is just making this all worse.

      So to keep the wingers happy, here is a worst case scenario, in which North Korea somehow levers the US out of the region AND defeats South Korea on the battlefield. This is already so unlikely that the ultras should be somewhat embarrassed we have to game this out, but fine, whatevs. And what happens after the supposedly long-sought unification under the Kims? The implosion of North Korea, because there is no way it could manage a hugely expensive, widely resisted, easily corrupted occupation even bigger than US post-Civil War Reconstruction. So forget it. Unification would blow-up the North’s extremely unique and rigid system. They don’t want it. (What they do want is a pseudo-confederation that gets South Korea paying their bills semi-permanently without actually having to change politically, but that’s for another column.)

      The essay follows the jump…



      As the possibility of conflict with North Korea sharpens in 2018, there has been much discussion of North Korea’s ultimate aims. I have argued elsewhere that it is highly unlikely that North Korea actually wants to absorb South Korea – or more specifically, that North Korea is prepared to carry any serious costs in order to pursue that goal. But there is a continuing, very hawkish interpretation that North Korea really does seeks final unification, so it is worth gaming out how the might happen – and why absorbing South Korea would likely overwhelm North Korea.

      The ultras’ interpretation takes seriously what North Korea says. And indeed, North Korean elites routinely pronounce their interest in unification. Kim Jong Un mentioned this topic around a dozen times in this month’s New Year’s address. Yet this has never struck me as serious ‘evidence’ of North Korean goals:

      First, South Korean elites say this all the time too. That both sides of an artificially divided nation would seek unity is hardly a surprise. Yet no one talks about South Korea recklessly pursuing unification and risking regional stability for that goal. So why is North Korean rhetoric, from a state which routinely lies, taken so seriously? And if we believe them when they talk of unity, why not believe them when they say their nuclear weapons are intended for deterrence and defense?

      Second, talk is cheap. The two Koreas are locked in a zero-sum contest over national legitimacy. Both want to speak for the minjok (the Korean race), so both claim unification as their goal. This is written into their constitutions, and their elites evince that goal routinely in their public commentary. Naturally then, they will both talk about unification a lot. But the acid test is whether side is carrying any real costs for that outcome. Are they engaging in what social science calls ‘costly signaling’ or taking serious chances that put their regimes at risk to pursue this goal? Is North Korea, for example, building up offensive weapons which would allow it to overrun a South Korea abandoned by the United States? And no, nuclear weapons are not evidence of such signaling, as nukes’ primary utility is defensive.

      Third, the North Koreans lie relentlessly. Rhetoric is easy, especially for North Korea. It should be very obvious at this point that the North Koreans will say anything, so why is their talk given much credence? If there was ever a country where we should look at what they do, not what they say, it is North Korea. And there is little evidence that North Korea is planning some kind of serious unification bid.

      In short, is North Korea actually carrying real costs and risks to pursue the goal of coerced unification? Talk supporting that goal is not really evidence, besides which there is no obvious Mein Kampf-style text which lays out some grand, forceful unification plan. (No, this is not it.) Sure, all other things being equal, the North would like to control the South. In the fever dreams of the Kims, they presumably lead the Koreas together into a promised land of unity and socialism. But maximal hopes are not really evidence. The ideal preferences of the North Korean elite hardly suggest that they will act on them. Instead, as always, North Korean elite behavior suggests that they: a) are dead-set on survival, and b) want to enjoy a gangsterish good-life.

      Even if all this is incorrect, consider just how difficult coerced unification would be:

      1. The US alliance with South Korea would have to collapse.

      No North Korean military action against the South could take place as long as the South remains allied to the United States. That alliance is almost seventy years old. It has endured all sorts of ups-and-downs before. Sure, all other things being equal, the North would like it ended, but again, are they carrying any real costs to pursue that goal? That the North wants the US out is not in itself evidence that it will take real risks for that end. No North Korean leader since the 1970s has actually considered the use of force against the Americans in South Korea.

      2. South Korea would have to be defeated on the battlefield.

      Per the ultras, assume that the US was pushed out (de-coupling). A coerced, Northern-led unification would still have to overcome the South Korean military. Yet it is widely understood that the South Korean military is a vastly better fighting force: better trained, with far greater resources, in better health, with far superior technology, less corrupt, better lead, and so on. The South Korean defense budget is expanding and will soon be the size of North Korea’s entire economy. South Korea’s population is more than twice North Korea’s, and its GDP almost forty times North Korea’s. This is surely not a fair fight. Without the US, the fight would be harder, but in ten years of going to conferences in South Korea, I have never heard anyone say that North Korea would win a conventional inter-Korean conflict. Nuclear weapons use might change the battlefield characteristics, but that obviates the point of winning – who wants to conquer irradiated blast-zones in widespread social chaos? The point is to take South Korea reasonably intact, otherwise it is yet another burden.

      3. Occupying South Korea would be a catastrophe for the North.

      Per the ultras, assume yet further, that the North somehow won anyway. The war would practically bankrupt it, and its occupation of the South would be far more like American post-Civil War Reconstruction – with massive social resistance leading the occupier to basically give up out of exhaustion after awhile – than the peaceful absorption of German unification in 1990. If nukes were used to win, the occupation would be that much worse; can anyone imagine the North Korean military operating sustainably in an irradiated occupation environment? It gets worse:

      North Korea would immediately cut off South Korea from the global economy, which would promptly impoverish it. The wealth the North wants from the South requires the South’s connection to globalization, which the North could not tolerate.

      South Korean citizens, accustomed for decades, to the freedoms of liberal democracy would resist. Given the huge size of the South’s population compared to the North Korean military, the occupation force would be overwhelmed. There would be guerilla actions everywhere.

      The cost of occupying a hostile population would be staggering, especially for an economy as small as the North’s, which had just been badly stressed by the war. Looting South Korea might pay for that briefly, but that is not sustainable and would make the medium-term problem of subduing and integrating South Korea even harder.

      The North Korean military is not trained at all for what the US military calls ‘phase IV’ operations – counter-insurgency, occupation, transition, and so on. If you thought US military botched this effort in Iraq, try to imagine it from a badly trained, corrupt, under-funded totalitarian military.

      The blowback into North Korea itself from all this would be massively destabilizing too. North Korea is highly stylized society with very unique, highly refined rules, most obviously the songbun system. The North is very rigid, and not designed at all for integrating outsiders or immigrants. Grafting its framework onto 53 million resentful people would be a nearly impossible task and almost certainly overwhelm the corrupt, rickety, dysfunctional administration in Pyongyang. North Korea soldiers in the South would come home with outlandish tales of Southern wealth. North Korean commanders in the South would be sorely tempted to free-lance in this wealthy environment. Ideological indoctrination of all these conquered people would gargantuan task facing enormous resistance. The hugely complex administrative burden of managing the South would likely lead to state breakdown in the North.

      The best analogies for such an administrative disaster and the massive pressures it would place on the occupier are US Reconstruction, or, as a contemporary example, the Israeli occupation of the West Bank. I cannot imagine the Northern leadership willing to take such risks.

      Robert E Kelly
      Assistant Professor
      Department of Political Science & Diplomacy
      Pusan National University



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      Podcast: 2018 a Year of Possibility with Inter-Korean Talks and the Pyeongchang Olympics

      Koreabridge - Fri, 2018-01-12 14:38
      2018 a Year of Possibility with Inter-Korean Talks and the Olympics

      As the Koreas begin high level diplomatic talks, host Andre Goulet is joined by photojournalist Jules Tomi for a wide-ranging conversation on the upcoming Pyeongchang Olympic Games and the confluence of factors, including chaotic American political leadership, that may be leading to an easing of tensions on the peninsula. 

      Plus: critiquing voyeuristic journalism, apocalyptic diplomacy by Twitter and debating the perilous potential of possible reunification. This conversation was recorded on January 4th.

      Music on this episode is Kim Gwan-suk's ‘Buchiji Anheun Pyunji #1 (Geudae Jal-gala)'

      Photo credit: Spencer Cameron w/ Getty Images 

      Support The Korea File podcast at

      Listen to "2018 a Year of Possibility: Inter-Korean Talks and the Pyeongchang Olympics" on Spreaker.

          The Korea File

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      Imjin River Classic Commemorates Korean War Hockey

      Koreabridge - Fri, 2018-01-12 02:39
      Imjin River Classic Commemorates Korean War Hockey

      In the bitter winter of 1952, Canadian soldiers stationed near the frozen Imjin River did what Canadians do whenever they have lots of ice and a little free time.

      They played hockey, eh.

      Soldiers from the the Princess Patricia’s Canadian Light Infantry, and the Royal 22nd Regiment (the Vandoos) fought side by side on the front, but during breaks from the fighting, faced off against each other in friendly hockey games, to put the war behind them for a while by enjoying the great Canadian pasttime.

      On Friday, January 19th, the Canadian Embassy and the City of Paju, in cooperation with the Pyeongchang Organizing Committee for the 2018 Olympic Games, are hosting a commemorative hockey game near the site of the original games.

      Team Canada, composed of active members of the PPCLI, the Vandoos, and Korea’s Canadian residents will face off against Team Corea, a mix of players from Korea University and Yonsei University.

      Guests of honor include Korean War veterans Claude Charland of the Vandoos, and Dennis Moore and John Bishop of the PPCLI. Charland and Moore played in the original games during the war.

      The game and related events will run from noon to 4:30 on January 19th at Yulgok Wetland Park, Paju. See the Canadian Embassy website for more information.

      Individual soldiers form the boards for the rink, while spectators cheer on their regimental comrades from the riverbank.
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      North Korea 2017: What Did We Learn?

      Koreabridge - Sat, 2018-01-06 06:06
      North Korea 2017: What Did We Learn?

      Sorry for the long hiatus. The holidays were pretty busy and exhausting.

      This is a local re-post of something I wrote The National Interest late last year. I like these end-of-the-year retrospectives and predictions. So here is a look back at all the craziness around North Korea in 2017.

      The most obvious new element is an American president talking to the world’s most dangerous state like a petulant man-child. Honestly, Trump just made everything worse, and his rhetoric almost certainly convinced the Kimist elite that going for nukes was wise.

      The other big thing I think is how the debate over responding to North Korea is increasingly cutting out the doves. North Korea with nuclear weapons is such a scary prospect that it is side-lining engagers and powering the hawks in the debate. Increasingly the debate is an intra-mural one among the hawks, between moderates (where I’d put myself), who are wary of strikes and at least open to talks even though we know the Norks will gimmick them, and ultras like Trump or Nikki Haley who genuinely seem to want to strike. The real question in the US debate now is whether the moderate hawks, with an assist from the doves, can restrain the ultras from attacking North Korea this year.

      The full essay follows the jump…

      This was an extraordinary year for North Korea. It finally achieved a regime dream going back decades: establishing direct nuclear deterrence with the United States. Despite months of tough rhetoric and war threats from US President Donald Trump, the North pushed on and became the first rogue state to acquire a functional nuclear intercontinental ballistic missile.

      Negotiating with North Korea will become that much harder from now on. The resources devoted to these weapons are rumored to represent perhaps as much as 5% of GDP. For a state as small and poor as North Korea, they are an enormous sacrifice. Hence, Northern leader Kim Jong Un will almost certainly not trade them away, or the concessions he will demand will be tremendous. But some kind of negotiations with the North are almost inevitable now. North Korea with nuclear weapon and no outside supervision at all – no participation in the Non-Proliferation Treaty (NPT0 or International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) – is so frightening, that pressure for the US to talk to Pyongyang will grow dramatically. Secretary of State Rex Tillerson’s recent free-lancing on negotiations suggests this.

      Here then are a few of 2017’s North Korean ‘highlights’:

      1. Pyongyang is hell-bent on acquiring these weapons.

      Probably the most important lesson we learned this year is that North Korea is going to have these weapons no matter what the rest of the world says or does and is prepared to carry heavy costs for them. Since the collapse of the Six Party Talks, North Korea has been increasingly sanctioned and isolated. Previous South Korean President Park Geun Hye (now-impeached) sought to worsen that isolation by trimming away at the North’s diplomatic relationships, especially in the global South. China too has slowly stepped up sanctions and broadly concurs with the Americans on a denuclearized North. Despite all this, the North persisted. In the face of global rejection, it nonetheless tests bombs and missiles relentlessly under the leadership of this newest Kim (Jong Un).

      That the North clawed its way into these weapons despite decades of hassle, global isolation, and sprawling multilateral efforts to prevent them should serve as a warning. Any rogue state with sufficient resources and ruthlessness can now likely acquire these weapons. If the North can do it against all odds, then many other troublesome states might well be considering this too.

      2. Bluster will not stop them.

      Trump’s harsh language on North Korea was arguably an experiment. No US president had ever talked to the North this way; perhaps it would intimidate the North Koreans? Trump talked as the North does. Pyongyang has threatened for years, for example, to turn Seoul into a ‘sea of fire.’ Trump turned such incendiary rhetoric back on the North, threatening to send an ‘armada,’ to ‘totally destroy North Korea,’ and use ‘fire and fury’ to do so.

      Unsurprisingly though, the schoolyard taunting did not work. The North, predictably, refused to bend, rather matching Trump insult for insult. In the end, even Trump seemed to realize that his large threats were leading nowhere, given how risky the strike options are. After the most recent missile test on November 29, Trump restrained himself, saying only, ‘we’ll take care of it.’

      3. Safety is a looming issue.

      As North Korea nuclearizes outside the NPT-IAEA framework, questions about safety are growing. We have little technical information about the state of Northern reactors, their safety protocols, waste disposal practices, maintenance, and so on. A tunnel at North Korea’s primary testing facility collapsed this fall, and the North Koreans said nothing. A Japanese newspaper broke the story several months later, and South Korean scientists are now predicting that continued testing at Punggye-ri may actually bring down the mountain and release radioactivity in the manner of Chernobyl.

      When talks do eventually resume, this will provide a curious form of leverage to the North. Its nuclear program is now well-established and growing; Kim has spoken of making North Korea ‘the world’s strongest nuclear power.’ Outsiders will be increasingly desperate to get into the North to inspect its facilities, at minimum to insure it is not proliferating or on the cusp of a meltdown. This problem will worsen significantly in coming years.

      4. Hawks are dominating the debate over North Korea.

      It is an irony that just as the North’s overt nuclearization is forcing talks back to prominence, hawks seem to be ascendant in the debate over responding to the North. Major western outlets like CNN, Fox, TNI, The Economist, The Atlantic, and the big American papers are dominated now by hawkish pundits on North Korea. Even the left in South Korea, which took the presidency earlier this year, has felt compelled by North Korea’s extreme intransigence, to sign up for Trump’s ‘maximum pressure’ approach. South Korean President Moon Jae-In, an earlier architect of outreach to North Korea and no hawk, has followed Trump’s lead on pressuring the North. China too inched further and further along the path of yet more pressure.

      This shrinkage of the debate to a one between moderate and ultras among the hawks is cutting out dovish voices encouraging engagement. Now, the debate seems to be more about more sanctions and isolation (the moderates) or airstrikes (the ultras). North Korea’s adamant refusal to talk has encouraged this, and it raises the likelihood of eventually exasperation and a willingness to risk strikes.

      These four 2017 trends are unlikely to change much next year. North Korea will not likely rein in its program, thereby increasing marginalizing doves in the debate over what to do. As the program grows apace, safety anxieties will worsen which may incidentally help push the US, South Korea, and Japan back toward talks. But if Trump did teach us anything this year, it is that the North Koreans will not get brow-beaten into giving up their program. It is here to stay.

      Filed under: Engagement, Korea (North), Nuclear Weapons, Strategy, The National Interest, Trump, United States

      Robert E Kelly
      Assistant Professor
      Department of Political Science & Diplomacy
      Pusan National University



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      Welcome 2018, Goodbye 2017

      Koreabridge - Tue, 2018-01-02 15:05
      Welcome 2018, Goodbye 2017

      It is the evening of January 2nd as I write this and I have had a slow but productive weekend. In many ways it was reflective of the past year.  I would say that 2017 was a defining year for myself and my photography. It went by unusually fast but had its share of ups and downs. Without boring you too much, I will go through them as best that I can.

      At the beginning of the year, I took the blog in a new direction and focussed more on learning than I did in the past. The purpose was to give the blog a stronger focus and align it more to my page that is designed to actually help people learn photography and editing. I dialed in a number of ideas about the theory and business of photography as well as the travel side of things. Little did I know that 2017 was to become one of the hardest years of my photography career.

      At the beginning of the year, I launched a new course on lightroom that pushed me to focus more on the marketing side of things. I had no idea that after spending over a decade taking photos and teaching that it would lead up to a lot of criticism from numerous professionals in the industry. More on that later, but basically I had to learn how to market myself more than just posting ads on instagram.

      The biggest success came with the inclusion in the 5DayDeal. This was an amazing experience and I have to thank Griffin, Valerie and Corwin for taking a chance on me. Being a part of this event helped solidify what I really wanted to be doing. I also have to thank Griffin for always being there and offering some solid advice.

      March had some ups and downs. I was part of the Hyundai Hotel Global Supporters program and that was amazing. It gave me a much needed break from juggling my photography, teaching full-time, and completing my masters. I stayed at some of the best hotels in county and got to focus on what I love to do.  It was a great feeling to be a part of the Global Supporters team and to say in such luxurious accomodations simply to take photos and blog about them. The feeling was short-lived as my Grandmother passed away on my birthday directly following one of the assignments.

      This had a great impact on my wife and I as we firmly decided to leave Korea and return home to Canada within the next 2 years. Meaning that my photography will play a greater role in my future than I had originally planned. After losing my best friend to cancer a few years ago and then my Grandmother and not having the ability to drop everything and fly home, makes you start to reconsider your career path.


      March also had the first round of critiques on photography as well. The first was from pro photographer Jared Polin from Fro Knows Photo  who offered some advice on how to cut through the noise. It was a tough pill to swallow but I took his advice and started a youtube channel. I never realized how hard it was to put out content in the form of a vlog or weekly tutorial. I decided to start thinking more about how I could get my name out there. I later found out that this is a double-edged sword to say the least.

      This was one of my most popular photos on National Geographic’s Your Shot site. It earned me an editor’s note.

      I later focussed on capturing the spring as one does in Korea. That means cherry blossoms and Buddha’s birthday. During this time,  I managed to get some good shots from Samgwangsa which earned a note from a National Geographic editor. However, it was the lantern parade at Tongdosa that really blew me away. I guess because I really hadn’t planned on seeing something like that and just went out there on a whim. I was rewarded with some of the most beautiful memories of this celebration in all my 15 or so years here in Korea.

      2017 was also a surprisingly critical one as I took a solid look at my work and my site. I managed to have my stuff reviewed by yet another famous photographer this time, Chase Jarvis. The 10-minute review was one that cut to the bone and really opened my eyes. Chases peeled back the layers picking through a number of different issues with my approach, my photography and my aspirations. It also set the stage for some other reviews like this one from DIY photography. The episode and critiques made it right up to places like SLR Lounge and even F-Stoppers. Some of which had me questioning myself and wondering if it was really all worth it. It really makes you want to give up when you have a professional like Kishore Sawh who is the editor-in-chief of SLR Lounge telling you that “it’s a bit naive – as it is for many –  to think that an affection for something or experience with it means you can charge for it, or that you’re at all currently relevant.” This is a polite way of saying “Dude you suck and nobody is going to pay you to teach them how to make shitty photos” and that is what I mulled over for quite some time.

      Image courtesy of Leigh MacArthur

      Bouncing off from that, I was later chosen to be a part of a National Geographic Photography workshop with pro photographer David Guttenfelder. It was another eye-open experience. I got to hear stories of his adventures in North Korea as well as being a conflict photographer. It was an amazing experience as it really shed some light on what it means to be a photographer for National Geographic. Not to mention that David was the real deal. He was patient and took the time to really show us what makes a National Geographic worthy photo.

      The year ended off with the building of some stronger partnerships with sponsors like Flixel. They have been instrumental in facilitating some key moments in the next few months. The biggest being a contract to work with a top sponsor during the Olympics as well as a possible webinar with 500px. Also I have built a stronger relationship with photographers like Pete DeMarco, Justin Balog, Dave Seeram, and Brent Mail thanks to a weekly photo mastermind group call.

      These chats have set my head straight on a number of issues and kept me from giving it all up at times. For that, I just have to thank those gentlemen and I hope that we all will get up to bigger and better things in 2018.

      So with that being said, I am hoping that 2018 will be a good one for us all. The blog will continue to focus on learning and tutorials and I am hoping to stay on track with weekly posts…. please hold me to that. I will continue you improve my posts, photography and everything in between. 2017 was a hard year and I learned a lot from it. Thank you for being a part of it and I hope that you will continue to do so in 2018.

      The post Welcome 2018, Goodbye 2017 appeared first on The Sajin.


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      The 31st Polar Bear Swim Festival - Free Tickets Registration

      Koreabridge - Tue, 2017-12-26 01:47

      The Polar Bear Swim Festival is back again in Busan!

      Maybe this is your first time hearing about it, or maybe you've always wanted to try but always have been too scared of getting cold. Well you know what, it's cold on land anyway so why don't we all just jump in the water together and celebrate new year? I know, I know, it's freezing, but I promise you're gonna have tons of fun!!

      What's even better is that this year, Royal Butler Korea together with Busan Metropolitan City are giving away FREE TICKETS (worth 20,000 KRW) for you adventurous expats in Busan!
      Each ticket comes with a t-shirt, a swimming cap, a bath towel and a wrist tag (wrist tags will be checked prior going in the water).

      All you have to do is fill out the online form right here:

      12:30 ~ 13:10 PM - Opening Ceremony
      13:10 ~ 14:50 PM - Stage Performances (local bands&musical act)
      14:50 PM ~ - Event information

      SUNDAY, JANUARY 7TH 2018
      08:00 ~ 10:00 AM - Polar Bear Swim
      10:00 ~ 12:30 PM - Stage Performances (KPop concerts, DJs, and more)
      12:30 ~ 13:30 PM - Closing

      Still not sure?
      Just sign up, it's free, who cares.

      ** Please note that we have a limited number of tickets, so they will be given on a first-come-first-serve basis.

      Official website:
      For more information please contact:
      010-6602-1906 / (Gabrielle)

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      Korea 2017 Year in Review: The Presidential Impeachment was Actually the Biggest Story

      Koreabridge - Fri, 2017-12-08 11:00
      Korea 2017 Year in Review: The Presidential Impeachment was Actually t

      This is a local rep-post of a piece I just wrote for the Lowy Institute. I like these sort of retrospective, end-of-the-year pieces.

      Basically I argue that the impeachment of former President Park Geun Hye was the biggest story of the year. Yes, Trump sucks up all the oxygen in the room, but who even knows if he means all his threats? But completing a full impeachment cycle is a pretty rare event in the history of democracy. And the Koreans did it with no violence or civic rupture. That is pretty impressive. But yes, I did then list North Korea and Trump as otherwise the big stories of the year.

      The full essay follows the jump:

      2017 was a rollercoaster year on the Korean peninsula. The South Koreans impeached their president. The North Koreans tested dozens of rockets, including intercontinental ballistic missiles. The American president threatened war repeatedly, possible nuclear war, against the North. And some random dorky foreigner in Korea got famous, because his cute little kids wandered into the frame while he was on TV. Honestly, why didn’t they fire that guy? It was quite a year.

      For all the bluster and threats of war, I would nonetheless rate the impeachment of the South Korean president as the most important event. North Korean war scares are, as disturbing as it is to say it, pretty common, while a completed democratic impeachment is actually quite rare.

      1. The Impeachment of South Korean President Park Geun-Hye

      With several months of distance from the upheaval of the winter protests against Park, the impeachment trial, the new election, and all the attendant drama, it is now pretty clear that Park Geun-Hye’s circle was grossly corrupt, and that she, by extension, did not really deserve to remain in office. There are diehards who are convinced it was a ‘communist’ conspiracy. The South Korean right is disturbingly comfortable with mccarthyite attacks on liberal opponents, and there is an Alex Jones-style conspiracy fringe here. But it is otherwise pretty widely accepted that Park’s confidant, Choi Soon-Sil, grossly abused her access to the president and had far too much influence over Park.

      Choi was often compared to Rasputin. Choi’s father had a quasi-religious influence over Park since her youth, and Choi seemed to ‘inherit’ that. Choi in turn abused it, particularly on Park’s ascension to the presidency, enriching both herself and her cronies. It was undeniable sleazy and embarrassing, and as more and more details came out, Park’s approval rating fell to an astonishing 6% at one point. Has any chief executive in a modern democracy ever fallen that low?

      There is much debate about whether Park herself knew about all the corruption. But like Ronald Reagan’s ignorance defense during the Iran-Contra affair, this too represents a gross dereliction of duty. President Park was either blithely unaware of what was happening right under her nose among her closest companions and staff, or covered it up, Nixon-style.

      Eight months out now from all the controversy, my own sense is the former, while most of the Koreans I know seem to think the former. Park, it strikes me, was more incompetent than dastardly. Her behavior throughout her presidency suggested she was constantly overwhelmed by the scope of her office. On missile defense, North Korea policy, or the sinking of the Sewol ferry, she was adrift, and the rumors from her staff regarding her (low) intelligence were harsh. We will likely never know.

      2. North Korean Missile Tests.

      North Korea conducted twenty separate missile provocations in 2017, involving dozens of missiles, from short-range Scud-style launches to full-blown ICBMs designed to strike the continental United States. This was the fastest test tempo ever. For all Donald Trump’s pettiness, his ‘rocket man’ nickname for Kim Jong Un is not wrong.

      One of these tests overflew Japan, prompting the commencement of civil air defense drills. (Although in a society whose median age is 47, they likely will not work well given the 8 minute warning time the Japanese will have.) Others have sought to demonstrate a capability to strike the United States. November 29’s test seems to have been accepted as that breakthrough.

      Much of the debate over the weapons turns on whether the North intends to use them offensively. It is widely accepted that nuclear weapons give North Korea a potent shield against US-led regime-change against Pyongyang. After the Western removals of Saddam Hussein, Slobodan Milosevic, and Moammar Kadaffi, that is an understandable goal, however regrettable for us. There is a defense and deterrence logic here which all can grasp.

      We may dislike it, but it is in fact quite rational for a state like North Korea to pursue these weapons. It is poor and backward. It is loathed by much of the world as a freakish cold war relic. It is surrounded by enemies, or frenemies like China eager to exploit it instrumentally, but it has no real friends. When international relations theorist Ken Waltz spoke of ‘internal balancing,’ North Korean nuking up against such a tough neighborhood despite its poverty is exactly what he had in mind. Friendless, encircled, dysfunctional, and poor, North Korea is, in Victor Cha’s words, the ‘impossible state.’ In such circumstances, nuclear weapons are in fact an excellent choice. Not only for security, but they can be proliferated for cash and used as gangsterish shake-down instruments as well.

      Hawkish fears of North Korean aggression in the vein of the old saw that ‘nuclear weapons make the world safe for World War II’ strike me as over-wrought. Even if North Korea could successfully ‘de-couple’ the US from South Korea, it could likely still not defeat South Korea. The terrible health of that recent defector, who was a relatively privileged border card, is suggestive. And even if the North somehow managed to win, it would struggle enormously to occupy and integrate a modern state of free people twice its size into its ossified framework.

      3. Trump’s Fire and Fury

      Throughout the year, Trump’s erratic and explosive commentary raised tension in ways not seen before. No previous American president had ever threatened to ‘totally destroy North Korea’ or threw around casual war threats – the ‘armada, ‘fire and fury.’ Trump, in his impatience to distinguish himself from his predecessor, claimed ‘strategic patience’ to be over. All this created a momentum to strike North Korea – enough that South Korean President Moon Jae-In felt it necessary to publicly declare to the National Assembly, just days before Trump’s arrival, that no war could take place against North Korea with the South’s assent.

      And curiously, Trump blinked. When he also spoke to the National Assembly, he forsook the best chance he had to lay out a case for war to the South Korean government and public. Instead he fell back on bromides about South Korea’s self-evident moral superiority and the need for ‘maximum pressure.’ In fact, there is little difference between that and strategic patience – alliances, deterrence and defense, missile defense, sanctions, etc. Similarly, after the November 29 ICBM test in which North Korea triumphantly declared it could strike the US, Trump said little more than ‘we’ll take care of it,’ likely because he know realizes that no one believes his bizarre threats anymore and that war in the region would be a catastrophe laid at his feet.

      South Korea came through these multiple challenges remarkably well. It completed a full impeachment cycle without violence or civil upheaval. Few democracies have ever done that. It similarly held the line on the North’s bullying despite a new liberal president whom conservatives relentlessly criticize as too dovish. And for all the anxiety about Donald Trump’s warmongering – or it just reality TV star blather? – the US president finally seems to have realized what South Koreans and the analyst community have known for years: There is no obvious solution to North Korea; if there were, it would have been tried long ago; and war is a terrible option. Now if only they could find a way get rid of that hack BBC Dad guy…

      Filed under: Korea (North), Korea (South), Lowy Institute, Nuclear Weapons, Trump

      Robert E Kelly
      Assistant Professor
      Department of Political Science & Diplomacy
      Pusan National University



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