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Can Moon Sell a Deal with North Korea to the Hawks, in the US and SK?

Fri, 2018-04-13 22:56
Can S Korean President Moon Sell a Deal with North Korea to the Hawks

This is a local re-post of an op-ed I wrote earlier this month for the Lowy Institute. Basically, I am wondering if Moon can get a deal with North Korea by South Korea’s  conservatives, especially in the press. I am skeptical.

It is worth noting in this regard that Moon and the Blue House have said almost nothing publicly about the talks with Kim Jong Un, specifically what the agenda might be or what proposals POTROK might make. Does anyone else find that vaguely alarming? Given all the big talk about settling the big issues of Korean, shouldn’t POTROK be floating some ideas out there for the public and analyst community to chew over? And Moon talked so much about improved transparency in government as a candidate.

It is worth remembering that when SK President Park Geun Hye negotiated the comfort women deal in a blackhole like this, she faced punishing public criticism when the deal was finally released. Moon will face the same backlash if he gives away a lot with little to no public input or warning. This is all very curious. I wish we knew a lot more about what Moon and Trump are considering offering up – USFK, the alliance itself, aid, sanctions relief, recognition? Everyone is guessing, because these two democratic governments aren’t telling anyone anything. Grr.

So below the jump are some ideas on how to get a deal passed Seoul conservatives who are increasingly suspicious of this whole thing.



Later this month, South Korean President Moon Jae-In will meet North Korean leader Kim Jong Un. This is the third inter-Korean summit since the days of the Sunshine Policy – an approach of opening and dialogue toward North Korea from 1998 to 2008. This effort earned a Nobel Peace Prize, but previous liberal governments in South Korea struggled to show real successes. There were widespread complaints, from the right especially, that the Sunshine Policy was all South Korean concessions in exchange simply for a provocation halt. All North Korea gave up was its willingness to attack South Korea, and in exchange it received somewhere around three to four billion US dollars over a decade.

Overcoming this conservative skepticism at home will be Moon’s biggest hurdle. Moon won with only 41% of the vote. As a minoritarian president, whatever deal he brings home will be dissected in the conservative press, and there will likely be much analogizing of him to Neville Chamberlain and ‘peace in our time.’ Moon has not floated any proposals or talking points unfortunately, so we can only guess what he might focus on or give away, but here are some suggestions to slip this by the hawks:

1. Do not get derailed by all the North Korean efforts to change the subject away from its nuclear and missile programs.

Perhaps the heart of the skepticism from analysts everywhere about these summits is that North Korea would ever give up its nuclear program despite forty years of effort to build these weapons and the obvious deterrent utility – no American-led regime change is possible now – of keeping them. It is easy to predict that Kim will seek to discuss anything and everything but the nuclear missile program. There will be lots of suggestions for joint projects like sports teams at international games, economic cooperation, rail through North Korea, training of North Korean technical staff, family reunions, and so on. And lots and lots of nationalism with the subtle dig that the Americans stand between the two Koreas. Moon must nevertheless hook any movement on these pleasantries to some kind of controls on the nuclear missile program.

2. If the North Koreans will not discuss denuclearization, try nuclear safety.

I have floated this idea for the last month or so because of the likelihood that the North will balk on denuclearization and possibly walk out. Our goal, however unlikely, is CVID: complete, verifiable, irreversible disarmament. The North Koreans will likely not move on that much if at all. Or they will ask for a concession so outrageous – the end of the US-South Korean alliance, e.g. – that Moon will have no choice but to say no. (Moon himself might be open to such a swap, as Lowy’s own Sam Roggeveen has floated too, but I doubt 41% Moon could get that past the right back home.) Indeed, John Bolton may be hoping for exactly this outcome: Moon demands CVID; the North Koreans laugh and walk out; and the Americans have their casus belli.

An alternative that keeps the discussion in the nuclear space, and avoids the subject-changing problem I mentioned above, is nuclear and missile safety. North Korea, besides being a horrible orwellian tyranny, is also a grossly mismanaged semi-feudal state. One can only imagine how sloppy and careless it is with nuclear materials. We already know their main test site suffered a tunnel collapse which killed two hundred people. So why not talk with them about issues like waste disposal, storage, site access, missile command and control, and so on to avoid a Chernobyl-style meltdown? That is a legitimate concern, one North Korea (and China) probably share, and keeps the conversation focused on the nuclear program.

3. Map out a Trump-Kim summit as best as possible.

The possible May summit between Kim and US President Donald Trump is an enormous risk for the democratic camp. I have argued vociferously in print, Twitter, and on TV for weeks that it should be cancelled. Trump has neither the knowledge of Korea, the willingness to learn (i.e., to read), the attention span, nor a clear preference for democracy over dictatorship to negotiate on behalf of democracy with a tyrant Trump may well secretly admire as he does so many other dictators. I am amazed the Moon government thinks it is a good idea to put someone like Trump in a room with their existential competition. Were it up to me, I would cancel the summit immediately.

But if Moon insists, then he should do the very best to nail down specific items and issues for that discussion. Naturally Kim and Trump, fellow norm-breakers, will violate those guidelines. So Moon should broadcast those very publicly so that Trump faces a public backlash if he veers wildly. It is easy to see Trump gambling away South Korean security for some small-beer outcome which he can market as a ‘win’ back home to change the subject from his endless scandals so that the Republicans survive this fall’s midterm elections so that Trump will not be impeached next year. It should be pretty obvious to everyone now that Trump makes decisions based on his narrow interest; he is certainly not thinking about the American national interest, much less a small ally’s.

4. Get the details.

Deals with North Korea in the past have collapsed over sequencing, implementation wiggle room, delays, and other such deep-in-the-weeds specifics. Moon should try his mightiest to nail down very specific moves and timetables. US officials used to complain of ‘buying the same horse twice’ from the North. After twenty-five years of negotiating with the North on nukes, it should be pretty clear to everyone that they are canny negotiators who will take a mile if you give them an inch.

This is does not mean Moon should negotiate in bad faith. Democracies should not do that; that is one of things that makes democracy morally superior to places like North Korea. But there should be enormous skepticism. A big-bang deal – swapping US troops for nukes is the most obvious – is a huge risk. Go slow. Get the North Koreans to agree to some mid-level proposals which can be overseen in some detail, and then let’s see if they actually stick to them. There is little strategic trust between North Korea, and South Korea and the US. Moon will be pilloried as Neville Chamberlain if he naively hopes that Kim is not of the same ilk as his family predecessors. Seven years into his reign there is little to suggest that he is some manner of reformer. Indeed the most remarkable part of his reign is just how little North Korea has changed despite the shotgun succession and all the international pressure. The North is still a human rights disaster, still a tyranny, still belligerent, still a trouble-making international rogue, still promoting a cult-like ideology, and still threatening South Korea. And on top of that, it is a nuclear missile state.

These prescriptions are admittedly hawkish. Perhaps too skeptical. But they channel the response Moon will receive here if he takes a huge leap later this month. Moon surely sees himself as Nixon going to China, rather than Chamberlain going to Munich. We can always hope of course. But that is not a strategy, and in the midst of all this year’s pleasant atmospherics, note that North Korea has yet to float one meaningful concession. It’s all just talk so far. Maybe Moon can change twenty-five years of nuclear North Korean history, but I doubt it.

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



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The Korea File: Summit Spring Brings DPRK, ROK, US and PRC to the Dialogue Table

Fri, 2018-04-06 14:56
Summit Spring Brings DPRK, ROK, US and PRC to the Dialogue Table

Listen to "Summit Spring: DPRK, ROK, US and PRC in Dialogue" on Spreaker.

Jenny Town (Assistant Director of the US-Korea Institute at the Johns Hopkins School of Advanced International Studies/Managing Editor at 38North.org) joins host Andre Goulet to discuss Washington's reaction to the surprise announcement of a Donald Trump/Kim Jong-un summit and- what can we expect from this month’s upcoming inter-Korean talks? How do the conditions surrounding the summit compare to the Roh Moo-hun/Kim Jong-il meeting of 2007? 

Plus: John Bolton as White House National Security Adviser adds a dangerous element to peace-making efforts on the peninsula and- why is Seoul still without an American ambassador? All this and more on episode 73 of The Korea File. 

Music on this episode: 방주연's '당신의 마음' (1987)

This conversation was recorded on April 3rd, 2018


    The Korea File

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Cancel the Trump-Kim Summit – because you don’t really think Trump is up to this, do you?

Fri, 2018-03-30 23:18
Cancel the Trump-Kim Summit – because...



This is a local re-post of something I wrote for The National Interest earlier this month. This essay expands on what I have been saying on Twitter for last two weeks since Trump – or rather foreign envoys speaking on behalf

 of the US president (WTH?!) – agreed to the summit. Namely, that Donald Trump is woefully, obviously, embarrassingly unqualified to go head-to-head with Kim Jong Un in a serious bargaining environment

Normally it would not make much difference that Trump himself is clueless about Korea, because staff work would comprise most of the summit effort. But with only 8 weeks before the summit, much of the burden of negotiating falls on Trump himself. And since it is a summit, presumably the the really big issues between the US and NK are on the tables – nukes, a peace treaty, recognition, etc. Does anyone really believe a reality TV star who doesn’t read, watches five hours of TV a day, and relies more on family and friends than technical staff is qualified to negotiate these sorts of questions in just 8 weeks? Wake up, everybody.

To be sure, the summit will likely just be a bust, with Trump skylarking about how he’d like to build a Trump Tower in Pyongyang as Kim gives a long-winded speech about US ‘war crimes.’ But it might also go badly wrong as Trump veers wildly off-course and trades away US forces here for some weak-tea de-nuclearization deal the Norks will cheat on. Honestly, I am amazed the South Korea government thought it a good idea to put Trump – the guy who just 3 weeks ago gave this insane speech – in a room with Kim. What is going on?

The full essay follows the jump.



The last week has been yet another head-spinner in the Trump administration’s interaction with North Korea. Six months ago US President Donald Trump threatened to ‘totally destroy North Korea.’ Then suddenly he agreed to a summit with North Korean leader Kim Jong Un just forty-five minutes after the idea was first pitched to him by South Korean envoys. Everyone has whiplash, which is almost never good for policy.

All week on cable news and Twitter the Korea analyst community has prevaricated over this, as it seems far too fast and too unlikely. My own sense is broadly the same: This is moving so quickly, that the possibility of the summit stalemating or falling into an acrimonious back-and-forth between Trump and Kim is much higher than normal. Traditionally summits occur at the end of years of diplomacy and staff work in which the devils in the details are hammered out. The heads of state show up at the conclusion to nail down a few particulars, lend their prestige to the proceedings, and finalize the deal.

By contrast Trump is suggesting to meet Kim in just nine weeks. That is simply not enough time, especially if a grand bargain on peninsular affairs is really in cards. Previous efforts on North Korea’s nuclear weapons – the Agreed Framework and the Six Party Talks – took years of effort and still fell through. (For an account of how difficult the Six Party Talks were, try this.) If the summit really does happen by the end of May, the two sides will simply not have had enough time to close much of the enormous strategic and ideological divide between the US and North Korea. That will leave much that Trump himself must do, personally, in the room with Kim. To put it gently, it is huge question whether Trump is really up to this.

Trump defenders are already suggesting he has the chops for this, because he is a great negotiator practicing the ‘art of the deal.’ But we need to be more candid here; the stakes are far too high to indulge Trump’s reality TV persona. Much in Trump’s character suggests he is not, in fact, ready for this. He does not read, including the presidential daily brief if rumor is true. He almost certainly knows very little about Korea. He watches enormous amounts of television. His grip on policy detail is notoriously thin and error-prone. He lies regularly. He is moody, erratic, unpredictable, and impulsive. He dislikes professional and technical staff and has an obvious preference for amateur friends and family. He is absorbed with his vendettas, feuds, scandal, and so on. His attention span is short, and he is prone to wander wildly off-script. He is given to rage, profanity, and insult when challenged.

Kim, by contrast, will almost certainly be a tough customer. No one could survive the brutal backrooms of Pyongyang politics without being a skilled bureaucratic knife-fighter. Kim is, to the surprise of many who suspected a young man with no time in the party or army would not last, overcame his inauspicious beginnings. He has culled the army brass, assassinated his brother-in-law, rapidly finished the North’s nuclear and missile programs, and gotten the moribund economy growing again – all while sanctions have piled up. Trump has never dealt with anyone or thing like this, and his usual negotiating tactics of bluster, threats, lawsuits, insults, and so on will not work. If this is to succeed, Trump will really have to buckle down and prepare. That is, to be generous, highly unlikely.

As a result, there is a not insignificant possibility that Trump will be outplayed by someone who knows the issues far better than he, or that the event will descend into a shouting match as two characters unaccustomed to being challenged tear into each other, as they did last year in the media (‘rocket man’ vs the ‘dotard’). If I had to guess, this outcome is unlikely, but it is still far more likely than in a normal summit preceded by proper staff work involving a president intellectually committed to the process. Most likely, the summit will be a bust, in which the genuinely deep issues between the two sides go unresolved given just nine weeks to overcome them. A face-saving communique could be released in which each side gives up something small, but no grand bargain would emerge.

But even that is a victory for the North, because a meeting of its leader and the US president on equal terms is a huge propaganda coup, something the North has sought for decades. That Trump has already given this carrot of US prestige away for nothing suggests just how woefully unprepared he is for this. North Korea doves keep saving we should the talks a chance, but consider how unlike any other summit this is so far, and it is only a week since it was announced:

No consultation with relevant stakeholders was done. Trump just decided to do this at the drop of a hat. Even his staff did not know. South Korean conservatives will be apoplectic if Trump trades away US forces in Korea for a weak-tea denuclearization deal the North might renege on. US hawks in Congress and the DC think-tank community would fight back too. Trump is hugely unpopular in South Korea; if a deal looks like it threatens South Korean security out of Trump’s reckless insouciance, desire to put tariffs on South Korea, or to provoke Seoul to pay the US more in the special measures agreement this year, it could well provoke an existential crisis in the alliance.

Trump lacks the staff for this. Not only does Trump only have nine weeks to put this all together, he is woefully under-staffed for it. Astonishingly, he fired Secretary of State Rex Tillerson just after he agreed to this momentous meeting. The national security advisor and chief of staff look to be on their way out. The State Department has been decimated by Trump and Tillerson. There is no US ambassador to South Korea, no Assistant Secretary of State for East Asian and Pacific Affairs, no point person on Korea in the White House or State Department. So few Korean experts are at the State Department that Secretary Tillerson mispronounced Kim Jong Un’s name – ‘Kim Yong Oon’ – for fourteen months without being corrected. When the South Korean foreign minister came to Washington this week, she met Ivanka Trump regarding North Korea. This is almost surreal.

The North Koreans have still not accepted the offer, nor even said that an offer was made. It increasingly looks like the South Korean officials who met Trump overhyped Kim’s words to them. Again, it is all moving much too fast.

Trump decided to accept this momentous summit offer after just forty-five minutes with no staff consultation. This is classic, impulsive Trump, and is a recipe for disaster in a tough negotiating environment. It displays his obvious disdain for expertise. Indeed, accepting this offer and pushing through his tariffs look more like Trump declaring independence from his establishmentarian staff rather than any real concern for these policy areas.

That in turn brings up that no one can say with any confidence that Trump is not doing this for all the wrong reasons, which in turn could encourage him to make bad decisions at the meetings. Trump is under investigation, bedeviled by scandal, likely faces an impeachment investigation if the Democrats do well in this fall’s midterm election, and loves TV coverage and attention. A grand-bargain deal with North Korea to be marketed as a ‘win’ at home might change the subject from Stormy Daniels and all the rest. To get to that, who knows what he might put on the table?

In brief, the summit should be delayed until the US side has done a lot more work, or cancelled, because an outcome good for the US is quite unlikely. If it goes badly, it could set could set us on the road to war as Trump concludes diplomacy has failed and hawks around him like Mike Pompeo and John Bolton concur. If it stalemates (the mostly likely outcome), it is still a propaganda win for the North because of the optics of Trump meeting Kim as equals. The only way the summit benefits the US is if Trump pulls off a grand bargain. Little in Trump’s character, staffing troubles, or the highly compacted nine-week timeframe suggests this is a likely outcome. It is all just too risky. The best move is just to cancel it.

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



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Living Abroad & Coming Home: Coy Canada, Please Take Me Seriously

Fri, 2018-03-30 05:23
Living Abroad & Coming Home: Coy Canada, Please Take Me Seriously

Living Abroad and Returning Home: Oh, Canada!

I’m back in Canada.  After a year in Busan, 2 in Seoul, a questionable first week in Bali, blissful 2nd week in Gili Trawangan, and a lengthy journey back home chock-full of nasi goreng, kimchi, and caesars, I’m back, Beaches.  To be clear, I’m not quite back in Toronto, yet.  Those beaches I referenced in a 6ix-centric pun were not, in fact, on the boardwalk of my hometown, but actually way East.  I’m in a little town called Port Hope, and there doesn’t seem to be an escape in sight.  One might say I’m still technically “living abroad”.

Reverse Culture Shock from Living Abroad

Everyone’s been asking me how the reverse culture shock has been.  Well, it’s been like coming home after a vacation (which, hello – Bali, I did!) I mean, it’s crap not having access to public transportation, but beyond that I don’t really feel that much of a difference.  Canada and Korea aren’t massively different.  Off the top of my head, Canada has better snacks, healthier options at Starbucks, and horrible drugstore skincare products (in my opinion).  The only real adjustment has been to tax & grat being added.  I’m happy to pay the tax and grat, but could do without the surprise!

I no longer start my workday banding with the other teachers on my floor, forcing one another to smile and say positive affirmations before our ogre of a boss arrives to derail our classes.  I have gone to the gym and to community events with my parents.  Sleep has been most important while “funemployed”.  The rest of my time has been spent editing photos from my trip to Kota Kinabalu where I partnered with the Shangri-La Rasa Ria Resort and the Sabah Tourism Board.  I’ve got work to catch up on, a cough to get over, and a schedule to resume.  I also have distractions everywhere.

My “Influence” Living Abroad vs. At Home

To be fair, I’ve only been “home” for a week.  It’s been awesome to see my parents and go about their daily lives when I haven’t been impacted by a chest/ ear infection I picked up in Bali or the jet lag I thought I’d be able to avoid with 30 hours in transit from Denpasar through Incheon to Pearson.

Adjusting to life back home didn’t appear to be so challenging from afar.  I started applying for jobs 2 months before my Korean contract was up, and I’ve been applying aggressively since coming back home.  Keeping busy building two brands abroad has been great when submitting to influencer marketing agencies, but tough to get bites from actual full-time jobs with salaries and benefits.  Do these people genuinely think living abroad means a 3-year working (read: babysitting) vacation?

Living Abroad vs. At Home: Job Hunting

Job hunting in Korea was simple because there weren’t any many options as an E2 visa holder.  Our teaching options are limited to EPIK or hagwon, and Kindergarten, Elementary School (usually at a hagwon you’d teach both the former), middle school, or adults.  The age group of your pupils dictated your schedule, and that was that.  If you have a degree from an English-speaking country, a resume with your name and contact information listed, and a half-decent (but definitely foreign-looking) face, badda-bing, badda-boom you were employed.  It’s not necessarily fair, and I know plenty of native English teachers who are a disservice to their students, but that’s the way the cookie crumbles in Korea.

Now, I’m applying to jobs in Marketing, which is an eco-system unto itself.  I’m open to Event Planning, although I’m not 100% sure I want to go back to the hospitality side in the same way.  I did Influencer Relations in Korea and Public Relations at my 3 previous Toronto jobs, which means I’m all client side/ in house and have no agency experience (= slim to nil job prospects).  I’d love to sink my teeth into Content Production and Copy Writing, but all my experience is from newspapers, magazines, blogs, YouTube, and digital media in Korea.

Permanently Living Abroad? Never in the cards.

I don’t want to continue teaching English as a Second Language.  I’d love to continue teaching, training, or coaching high school or university students.  I’d love to train sales, marketing, and client service professionals, too.  ESL in Korean hagwons (private academies) is not for me.  If it was something I thought I’d continue to enjoy long-term, I would have stayed in Korea where the cost of living is significantly lower!

Living Abroad vs. At Home: Perceptions and Instrospectives

A successful and professional friend sent me a job post today.  It was for an online English teaching position starting at $16/ hr part time.  That’s a great way to supplement income while abroad, but there’s no way you can live in Toronto making that.  Also, I was director level before leaving Toronto.  I had a career.  I worked my ass off.  I don’t know if there’s been a moment in my adult life when I felt less capable or believed in by my friends.

Was it unsafe to assume their perception of me was different to that of recruiters?  Did I just imagine they thought of me as an outgoing, motivated, polished, and accomplished young professional?  She then followed up with “you might have to settle for entry-level”.  I was no longer just insulted, I was hurt.  Is this what my friends think of me?  Have I become the stereotype of an LBH (Loser-Back-Home) in the precisely 7 days I’ve been back in Canada?

Support After Living Abroad

As a teacher, it was my job to pump up self-sabotaging students with self-esteem issues.  The kid who cried  every day for the first two weeks because his reading, writing, and speaking abilities were limited won a speech contest he wrote by himself and delivered in a huge hall at the end of the year.  Another who refused to pick up a pencil out of sheer laziness brought home a thick, colourful field guide full of research and writing on dinosaurs by Christmas.  My entire class of 6 year olds was writing informational and argumentative essays by the end of last year.

Why is it that I can motivate and engage little ones to see their skills and value, but can’t seem to jump up and down enough to get anyone else’s attention?  I’m used to pointing out the path to kids who have lost their way.  Now, I can’t seem to see the trees for the forest.

Have you returned home “funemployed” and without your own place to live after living abroad?  How did you adjust to your lack of schedule (and lack of importance)?  How did you find your first job and did you need to take a big step back professionally?  

Leave me a note in the comments!

The post Living Abroad & Coming Home: Coy Canada, Please Take Me Seriously appeared first on The Toronto Seoulcialite.

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Yeongamsa Temple – 영암사 (Yangsan, Gyeongsangnam-do)

Fri, 2018-03-30 02:09
Yeongamsa Temple – 영암사 (Yangsan, Gyeongsangnam-do)

The main hall and the three tier pagoda at Yeongamsa Temple in Yangsan, Gyeongsangnam-do.

Hello Again Everyone!!

Located southwest of the towering Mt. Togoksan (855m) is Yeongamsa Temple in Yangsan, Gyeongsangnam-do. In fact, if you look towards Togoksan, you’ll be able to see the abandoned Bokcheonjeongsa Temple from Yeongamsa Temple.

You’ll first approach Yeongamsa Temple down one of the worst roads I’ve ever driven on while visiting a temple in Korea. After finally traversing the pothole filled country road, you’ll be greeted by the Cheonwangmun Gate. You’ll be greeted by this gate and a very friendly Jindo dog. Painted on the doors are two intimidating guardians. With the doors wide open, the painted Heavenly Kings take up residence behind the large wooden entry doors.

Entering the temple’s lower courtyard, you’ll notice the monks’ residence to the right and the kitchen and visitor’s centre to the left. There is a stream that divides the two sides up the centre. It’s up the embankment that you’ll enter the upper courtyard. It’s the upper courtyard that houses all of the shrine halls at the temple.

Sitting in the centre of the upper courtyard is the main hall at Yeongamsa Temple. Adorning the exterior walls to the main hall are two different types of mural sets. The lower set, which are masterful in composition, are the Shimu-do (Ox-Herding) murals. The upper set is the Palsang-do murals. Housed inside the main hall is a triad of statues that rest on the main altar. These jade-looking statues that are green in hue are centred by Amita-bul (The Buddha of the Western Paradise). This statue is joined on either side by Daesaeji-bosal (The Bodhisattva of Power and Wisdom for Amita-bul) and Gwanseum-bosal (The Bodhisattva of Compassion). This triad is surrounded on the main altar by row upon row of smaller sized green Seokgamoni-bul (The Historical Buddha) statues. To the left of the main altar is an altar dedicated to Jijang-bosal (The Bodhisattva of the Afterlife). And this bodhisattva is backed by a dark Gamno-do painting. To the right of the main altar is the guardian mural.

To the left of the main hall is a biseok, while out in front is a three tier stone pagoda. To the right rear of the main hall is a glass shrine hall dedicated to Yongwang (The Dragon King). Out in front of the Yongwang-dang is a stagnant pond with, miraculously, Koi fish inside. Stepping inside the Yongwang-dang, you’ll be greeted by another green statue; this time, of Yongwang.

Over the ridge, and to the rear of the main hall, in a plum tree orchard, is the Samseong-gak. The plainness of the shaman shrine hall is elevated by the natural beauty of the flowering plum trees during the spring months. The Chilseong (The Seven Stars) mural is traditional in composition, while the blood-red eyes of Sanshin (The Mountain Spirit) and the atypical appearance of Dokseong (The Lonely Saint) standout. To the far right of the Samseong-gak, and over the bisecting stream, is another stone pagoda. This pagoda is seven tiers in height.

HOW TO GET THERE: The easiest, and perhaps only way, to get to Yeongamsa Temple is by taxi. You can get a taxi from Jeungsan subway station, #240, in Yangsan. The taxi ride should last about 30 minutes and cost 15,000 won one way.

OVERALL RATING: 5/10. While a bit treacherous to get to, Yeongamsa Temple is surrounded on all sides by the beauty of nature. As for the temple itself, the main highlights are the interior of the main hall with its jade-like looking ceramic statues, as well as the eerily dark Gamno-do painting.

The Cheonwangmun Gate at Yeongamsa Temple.

The stream that bisects the temple grounds.

The friendly Jindo dog that might just accompany you around the temple grounds.

The main hall at Yeongamsa Temple.

The biseok to the left of the main hall.

One of the murals from the Palsang-do set that adorns the exterior walls to the main hall.

As well as one of the masterful Shimu-do murals that also adorns the main hall at Yeongamsa Temple.

The unique main altar inside the main hall.

The Jijang-bosal altar inside the main hall with the Gamno-do mural backing the green bodhisattva.

The guardian mural to the right of the main altar.

The view from the Yongwang-dang towards the main hall.

The glassy exterior to the Yongwang-dang.

The hulk-like looking Yongwang (The Dragon King) inside the Yongwang-dang.

The plum tree orchard that fronts the Samseong-gak shaman shrine hall.

A closer look at the boxy Samseong-gak.

Some of the beautiful nature that surrounds Yeongamsa Temple.

Unfortunately, the Sanshin mural was placed in a glass frame. But his red eyes are still pretty menacing.

It’s not everyday that you get to see Dokseong with such a unique hairstyle.

And the seven tier pagoda through some of the plum trees.

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LTW: #MeToo all Over Korea

Thu, 2018-03-22 07:11
LTW: #MeToo all Over Korea

The Me Too wave from Hollywood has crossed the Pacific, hitting Korean peninsula hard. It started when Seo Ji-hyeon, a district attorney, appeared on TV on Jan 29, accusing her then boss Ahn Tae-geun groped her in a funeral home in 2010. That opened the gate, and a flurry of Me Too came out. Seoul city government removed a tribute to Ko Un, 84, a respected poet and perennial candidate for Nobel Prize in Literature, for multiple accusations of his sexual misconduct in the past. Police questioned Lee Youn-taik, a prominent playwright and a best friend to President Moon Jae-in over 50 years, on sexual allegations on a dozen women in his theater troupe. An Hee-jung, the governor of Choongcheong Province with high potential to be the next president, had to resign and face prosecutors when his own secretary accused him of raping her. Rep. Min Byung-doo of the ruling party announced his resignation at a news report that he made an unwanted sexual advances at a karaoke bar in 2008. A famous actor and a professor at a university committed suicide out of shame when media reported their sexual misconducts to would-be actresses and students. Can go on with 10 more stories. A big puzzle is why all this Me Too are taking place with those in the liberal, instead of conservatives.

Ann Taegeun/Ko Un/Lee Yountaik/An Heejung/Min Byung-doo  from left to right

Korean society had been generous about men jokes in the past, especially while in drinking. Not any more. The Minister of Defense was in trouble for his joke at a dinner speech last year. "What do speeches and skirts have in common? The shorter, the better." He meant good to have his hungry soldiers not wait too long for his speech to end, but it was not appropriate. "A good speech should be like a woman's skirt:long enough to cover the subject and short enough to create interest." Good thing Winston Churchill made this comment over 70 years ago. If now, 
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Moon Jae-in, Diplomacy God: Peace Olympics Lead to Breakthrough

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 SinoNK.com) 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

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 secretkorea.net 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

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  http://kixff.com/oscar2018  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 http://kixff.com/oscar2018 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?

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 Tealit.com 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 koreabridge.net on Feb. 19, 2018 using the keyword and the following search operator:

site:koreabridge.net/jobs "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
site:eslcafe.com/jobs/korea "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: eslcafe.com via Google and eChinacities.

site:eslcafe.com/jobs/china "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 jobs.echinacities.com, "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.

ohayosensei.com 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
jobs.gaijinpot.com 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

      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

      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 patreon.com/thekoreafile to receive access to exclusive interviews and bonus content!

      Original Post

          The Korea File

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      Favorite Winter Olympic Events

      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

      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

      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

      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 patreon.com/thekoreafile

      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

      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?

      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

      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 learn.jasonteale.com 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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