Other people who need thanking for joining FUCK (scroll up and down this blog for more re: what's going on, why my banner is currently nasty [CLICK IT], and why we're writing bad erotica):
The Rathbone Press
The Primary Main Objective
Scott Summers' Taiwan Weblog
My Pet Jawa
Special note: Owen Rathbone (The Rathbone Press) has been a FUCK for a while; I think I forgot to acknowledge this early on, and I apologize.
Wednesday, June 30, 2004
Other people who need thanking for joining FUCK (scroll up and down this blog for more re: what's going on, why my banner is currently nasty [CLICK IT], and why we're writing bad erotica):
Sorry-- I was sick of the term "mail bag."
Welcome, all newcomers, to the Hairy Chasms. Life here is like a Star Wars movie: "It is a period of civil war." The Korean government is perpetrating a campaign of censorship against many blogs and other websites in order to suppress access to the recent Kim Sun-il beheading video. This is ridiculous for any number of reasons. Click on my banner to learn more, then think about joining FUCK (but please don't write to Satan's Anus anymore: he gave me the Instalanche; the awful deed is done).
By the way, first-timers, people seem to be getting a kick out of this post. It doesn't have much to do with censorship... except maybe for the pornography angle. And here's something else you might like.
We're continuing the fight against Korean censorship here at the Hairy Chasms and elsewhere (check out the Koreablogs on my sidebar, and once again, THANK YOU to Satan's Anus and its devoted followers for the Instalanche).
Here's a sampling of some of the mail I've received.
Steven Den Beste writes with encouragement:
This is now the third such letter you have sent me.
Please do not send me any more.
Sperwer writes with some possibly-sinister news: is the Hominid a special target of the ban? He says:
I've just returned from a week back in the "World" in a real city - NY - and see that everyone is caught up in the latest bit of nonsense being perpetrated by ROKGOV. Apropos which, it may interest you to know that MIC seems to be making a distinction between the consumer and business sectors of the internet in applying its censorship. I can't access any of the usual suspects at home (where my ISP is Thrunet), but at work I can not only get (almost) all the blogs but also the sites that carry the video in question. My work ISP is KT, from which we have a T1 connection. The one exception is The Hairy Chasms! Maybe you've got an audience where you least expect it.
I hate emoticons, but I've developed a special one for the MIC:
There's no reason to get too exercised even if I have been specially targeted: I can still see my site through proxies! Howdja like them horse apples!?
The illustrious Dr. HJ Hodges (no blog, as far as I know) writes:
Dear Big Ho,
Greetings, o stalwart champion of the anti-borg alliance. I stand with two beers in my belly behind you against censorship.
Thus my rhetoric.
I finally figured out why you never replied to any of my emails. I wasn't pasting "hairy chasms" in the subject line. I noticed this info in my attempts to locate your blog under these trying conditions.
Okay, now that's straight.
What did I email? Not much. I think that I said, "Hey, I also lived in Fribourg, learning French and German (sort of German) and getting my heart broken." I said, "I read your blog for the peanuts." I said . . . um, I don't remember what else I said. Blame the beer or incipient alzheimers.
Anyway, I hope you and the others defeat this censorship by the government.
Dr. Hodges, is KU in the market for someone who could teach an English-language course re: Topics in Interreligious Dialogue? No? Shit.
Regarding Fribourg-- it's a great little town. I lived in Bourguillon, just outside of Fribourg. My daily walk to the Université de Fribourg took me down a smallish mountain (one flank of the Gorges du Götteron), over two beautiful bridges, past the cathedral (Fribourg is a Catholic enclave, which is probably why Georgetown U. had a program there), and uphill to the Uni.
Back to the letters!
Simon of Simon World (I can see your blog through proxies) has been a voice of encouragement since this whole flap started (go visit his blog; it's quite good), and he was one of the people instrumental in getting me the Instalanche (thanks as well to the KimcheeGI and others now too numerous to mention). Simon and I have had a running exchange, and in his latest, re: the banning of MuNu sites (sorry, Annika, you're banned here), he writes:
If Munu is banned then you're missing out on my fantastic blogging. That's a crime in itself.
From what I can gather Instalance is like crack - it doesn't last long but it feels great when it happens...but then you want another, and another until you're stealing TVs from retirees. That's what I've heard.
As for Munu it's a shame you didn't join but you do need to blogroll the whole gang as the price of entry. Most are actually quite good blogs so it's no loss. Oh, there's something about sacrificing one's first born, but who reads the fine print?
If this South Korea thing keeps going I'm going to start favouring the Norks. That's how bad it's getting.
TIME Magazine writes:
Thank you for letting us hear from you. The editors appreciate the interest that prompted you to write, and they will be taking attentive note of your comments. We hope that you will continue to share your thoughts with us.
Yeah, thanks for the form letter, TIME. Real motivation for me to continue to share my thoughts with you.
Ed at Gumbi (thanks for posting my letter and commenting) is drafting a petition (I'll get back to you on this in a bit, sir). Because it's still in drafting phase, I don't want to spoil things for Ed by revealing the whole thing, but it's great. Here are some key points:
1. The violation of article 21 of the Korean Constitution.
2. Unfair blockage of sites NOT hosting/linking to the beheading video.
3. Hypocrisy of censorship now, but not for previous beheading videos.
There's much more.
Someone with the handle by47ronin writes in with a great suggestion about where to direct your ire: go straight to the Constitutional Court! ronin's email reads in part:
Take a look here:
Korean Constitutional Court
If you can verify, or get hard evidence that it is a Korean government agency behind the Internet blocks, you can have a petition drafted to challenge the policy if you believe that it is in direct violation of the Korean Constitution. You can petition the very self-same Constitutional Court of impeachment fame. Anyone with a valid grievance can.
If the Court rules in your favor, the Internet blocking has to be abandoned... it's that simple.
Look into it.
This is a very good idea, and I hope some of the Koreabloggers who either have Ministry contacts or are in journalism can set about getting documented evidence that the ban is governmental. OhMyNews has been following the story, and is proceeding on the assumption that this is all rooted in the MIC. Most of us also take this for granted, but obtaining and displaying hard evidence of this would be golden.
At this point I should note that a few other people are diligently working on the petition idea. Joel is a notable in this. The more, the merrier! I think petitions are probably the next phase of the fight. I'll be happy to e-sign whatever petitions come my way (is there petition-writing software out there?), though I myself won't be writing one. I also strongly suggest that you celebrate life by visiting the hilarious and juicy Hardy and Tiny blog as often as possible.
Keep the letters coming. I have no comments feature, so this is how I interact with folks. Also-- keep writing the Ministry of Information and Communication, and as Gumbi suggests, the Information and Communications Ethics Committee (firstname.lastname@example.org). Operation FUCK proceeds according to plan.
Ah-- CYBER-DIARRHEA! The Hairy Chasms get its very first (and likely only) Instalanche, and I'm unable to access SiteMeter to watch the numbers tick upward. How fucking perverse is that?
First-- credit where it's due:
Jeff at Ruminations in Korea has been on the Korean censorship case, as have many other Koreabloggers (for a quick and dirty orientation, click on my banner; see my sidebar for other Koreabloggers, all worth a large chunk of your time).
I also need to note that the excellent Koreablog called About Joel is where I got the email address for the Korean Ministry of Information and Communication: email@example.com. Check Joel's blog out.
While I can't take responsibility for The League of FUCK because FUCK has no members and does not exist (cough), I'm happy to see that the nonexistent FUCK will be growing in size.
Just be sure you write the South Korean government. Did Satan's Anus suggest "polite disagreement"? Nah-- if you're safely ensconced in the US, go ahead and fuckin' rave at the government!
One word of caution: although I'm having a lot of fun with circumventing the ban, there are deadly serious issues in play here. I need to make a request: if you feel the urge to mail the Korean government tasteless and censorship-worthy material, do me a favor and please DO NOT mail them copies of the Kim beheading video. I would also ask you not to host the video on your site (or link to the video) as a gesture of defiance-- the video is already easily available, even from inside South Korea.
I ask the above because, while I'm willing to thumb my nose at this government, I'm not willing to do further damage to Kim's family, who has already suffered enough from media saturation. Think about what you do: as the Korean papers are saying, the broadcast of Kim's beheading is like "killing him twice." I also need to caution our own home-grown crop of racist fuckwads to cut the shit and stop using Kim's death as an excuse for your sick, stupid jokes about Korea and Koreans. While I'm often critical of Korea, I won't stand for the racism.
Aside from that, I hope you squat on the South Korean government's doorstep and squeeze out a huge, steaming load. Their hypocrisy deserves nothing less.
UPDATE: I got access to SiteMeter a few minutes ago. Holy shit, you people move in droves. Thanks for the hits, folks. And if some of you have a foul sense of humor and want to stick around after the Instalanche crests in a few hours, I hope you will. Once the Korean government drops its ban (in days or weeks), I'm switching back to my usual, more sedate blog banner, and we'll be returning to our regular, intestinal burblings on the sacred and the profane.
UPDATE 2: Some of you have tried contacting me via email. Please read the policy on my sidebar before doing so. If you don't type "hairy chasms" in your subject line, my filter will trash you. The email is recoverable, but I don't always go rooting through my trash for emails.
Tuesday, June 29, 2004
Andrew Sullivan has been very gung-ho about the Iraq war, and while I love his blog, I have to disagree with him here. I was against the war and was never convinced by the moral arguments in its favor (though I am, as I've said before, in favor of continuing the project we've begun, because we can't simply abandon the place). Now Sullivan is quoting überconservative William F. Buckley, who says:
With the benefit of minute hindsight, Saddam Hussein wasn't the kind of extra-territorial menace that was assumed by the administration one year ago. If I knew then what I know now about what kind of situation we would be in, I would have opposed the war.
For Sullivan, this completely misses the point. What about all those happy Iraqis? I'm sure there are plenty who remain happy. In fact, this blog is very encouraging about the future (and while I'm not a regular reader of this blog, I found this post touching). But when you zoom back to look at the overall picture, it's very mixed. As my buddy the Air Marshal asks, Has this been worth it? I don't know. If you focus relentlessly on "liberation" as a concept, then I suppose the answer's a clear "yes": Iraq has been liberated from the tyranny of Saddam. But if you stop fetishizing the concept of liberation and look instead at the actual situation (to the extent we can know what that is), an honest person will be hesitant, I think to offer a clear, firm "yes."
As things are, it'll be years before we have the perspective we need to judge any of this properly. In the meantime, be careful out there.
But don't get all somber! Join FUCK!
The South Korean Ministry of Information and Communication (MIC) and its Netizen collaborators, not content simply to block bloggers and websites indiscriminately in their campaign to keep the citizenry ignorant, have created a "fight song," in the style of many universities, to drum up support for their repressive efforts.
And now, without further ado:
THE NATIONALISTIC CENSORSHIP FIGHT SONG
Citizen, you're mine, watch your surfing
something on the Net gonna land you in jail some day
You got porn in yo' face
You big disgrace
Whackin' your dick all over the place
We will we will BLOCK YOU
We will we will BLOCK YOU
Citizens unstable, fragile
Shoutin' in the street, wanna see a man's head chopped off
You got blood on yo' face
You big disgrace
Video's hosted all over the place
We will we will BLOCK YOU
We will we will BLOCK YOU
Citizens needs strictures, structures
Can't afford to think, gotta keep your stray thoughts at bay
You got gore on your face
You big disgrace
Somebody better put you back in your place
We will we will BLOCK YOU
We will we will BLOCK YOU
Freddie's rolling in his grave.
In my letter, I wrote:
The best and quickest way to persuade the South Korean government to back down from its current position is to make it lose face in the eyes of the world. This can only happen through a determined (and civilized!) campaign to expose the government's hypocrisy and to cause Korean citizens to rethink their own narrow-mindedness.
Heh. I said "civilized," but I know some puritans are going to jump all over the fact that the word FUCK appears all over this blog. "Civilized? Are you kidding me?" they'll screech.
The assumption is that "FUCK" makes the blog, and my approach to this censorship problem, uncivilized-- i.e., I'm not engaging in civil discourse.
Alas, this is a problem, but something has to give. Suffice it to say that, in person, I'm actually pretty polite, and would remain so in a confrontation with, oh, an irate MIC official or an Angry Korean Netizen. So in that sense, I'd live up to the ideal of civil discourse.
But if I'm going to remain polite in tone on this blog, that, to me, is tantamount to doing nothing. No-- the blog needs to draw fire, attract attention, provide some laughs, and maybe get my fat ass deported. My deepest hope is that my letter (and the letters of others) will spiral upward until we reach all the blogospheric titans, and they then spend five minutes chattering about it. That's all I want, really. And to clarify: I don't hold any other bloggers to this standard. If you choose not to make waves, that's a valid response. I won't think you're going to hell, locked in a cave with an overworked minor demon who'll spend eternity stuffing hell-gerbils up your ass.
So, like I said, something has to give, and I'm afraid it's the civil tone of the blog that gets chucked (as if this blog had a civil tone to begin with!). Plus, I repeat: I'm more amused than angry about all this. Consider my "fuck you"s to be uttered with something approaching a haughty upper-class British sneer, a Severus Snape-like curl of the lip.
But let's take a different tack: What is "civilized"? Are not irony, sarcasm, the use of words instead of brute violence, and a list of foundational principles (see previous post) the very marks of civilization? I think that, even when things are at their basest on this blog, we're quite civilized, thank you.
One commenter at Justin's blog asked how I can be "ethnically half-Korean." It was a good question, so I'm reprinting my reply here:
My Dad's Causasian (the scientific term is White Cracker) and my Mom's Korean (the epithet found in Clavell novels is Cowardly Garlic-eater).
This doesn't translate to zero ethnicity, so I say I'm ethnically half-Korean. There're a lot of us. I'd say there IS a such thing as half-Korean ethnicity, though I suppose one could argue the point. It'd be a wider, vaguer ethnic grouping than more distinct ones, but even when you start parsing the distinct ones, you see how much diversity they already include.
Having just looked up "ethnic" in the online Webster, I can say with assurance that people often use the terms "race" and "ethnicity" interchangeably because the terms' semantic fields contain a lot of overlap. They're not exactly synonymous, of course, but I'm well within bounds to say "ethnically half-Korean" instead of "racially half-Korean." But again, it depends on how picky one wants to be about terminology. If I were an ethnographer, I might bridle at "sloppy" usage of terms, but I'm just your average hominid, so it's no skin off my balls.
To head off an issue for the oversensitive contingent: James Clavell novels are just novels, people. Many Japanese take them with a grain of salt, and even if the epithet about Koreans is historically accurate (in the sense that people actually used the epithet), it's not as though Koreans don't have their own extensive library of nasty labels for Japanese people, white people, etc.
I hope that clears a few things up.
Monday, June 28, 2004
FUCK stands for Folks Undermining Censorship in Korea. It is a league. The League of FUCK, the FUCK League, what have you. Despite the name, we have nothing to do with Vietnam (unless one of our members happens to have the surname Phuoc).
Here are the sacred principles of FUCK:
1. FUCK has no leadership. FUCK is a many-pronged hydra-penis: if you cut off one dickhead, many more will sprout in its place. This is how FUCK always responds to pressure: the FUCKs simply become harder and more numerous. FUCK is a mystery. It is the force fnord behind the Discordians. You cannot find FUCK; FUCK finds you.
2. The above image does not imply that FUCK is a phallocracy: FUCK is as Amazonian as it is phallocratic.
3. The First Rule of FUCK is, You DO NOT talk about FUCK.
4. Given that the First Rule appears at #3, the Second Rule of FUCK is, You DO NOT talk about someone's inability to count. FUCK accepts all people, no matter their counting ability.
5. Membership in FUCK requires no pay, but it does require one deed: the dissemination of this letter to as many bloggers as you can reach, cc'ing to two destinations: (a) the South Korean Ministry of Information and Communication (firstname.lastname@example.org), and (b) Satan's Anus. You must then report this deed to the Big Hominid, who is neither the leader nor the founder of FUCK.
UPDATE: Satan's Anus has bestowed the Sacred Instalanche! There's no more need to write to it! Instead, send your ire to another wing of the Korean government, the Information and Communication Ethics Committee (ICEC: email@example.com), and think about petitioning the Constitutional Court (http://www.ccourt.go.kr/english/).
6. It is quite possible to become a member of FUCK without knowing it. Catholic theologian Karl Rahner spoke of virtuous non-Christians as "anonymous Christians"; there are plenty of anonymous FUCKs out there.
7. FUCKs (i.e., members of FUCK) might have delicate sensibilities, to the point that they shy away from words like FUCK. What a true FUCK lacks, however, is the will to impose his or her squeamishness on other people simply because s/he feels that it's "for the public good."
8. FUCKs prefer to dwell on their pubic goods.
9. FUCK exists only so long as the MIC and Netizens persist in their campaign of willful ignorance and censorship.
10. The French word for "seal" (the animal) is "la phoque." Seals may not become members of FUCK unless they can reliably document a systematic campaign of censorship against members of their species. We regret the addition of this, the Tenth FUCKing Rule, but we've had trouble from other species. We reiterate that FUCK is not a sexist organization, but it is by necessity speciesist.
Go now and be sincere, loud, ardent FUCKs. Feel free to use the following logo (as advertised previously):
Fuckin' A, indeed. Fuckin' A... indeed.
UPDATE: Hats off to Simon, a true FUCK if ever there was one. Grazie.
UPDATE 2: Courtesy the KimcheeGI, I find out that Dr. Miyake has become a FUCK. Thank you, thank you, thank you, sir. Love the blog, by the way. It gives me hope that, one day, I might actually learn a good bit of Korean and Chinese. Thanks as well to Far Outliers. The meme spreads. Fuck with FUCK at your peril.
jumping off a cliff
all the cyber-lemmings leap
underestimate them NOT!
lo, they come this way!
Anger Poultry House*
Verily, I say to thee
it will conquer you
elevate discourse beyond
Vous avez bien compris, j'espère?
[*reference to an old post of mine about how a translation program rendered the Buddhist temple Hwagye-sa's name as Anger (hwa) Poultry (gye, like gye-ran) House (sa), something which Justin Yoshida picked up on on his blog-- here and here.]
In reading around about the censorship flap, I came across two interesting observations:
1. Over at the comments section of Todd Thacker's OhMyNews article on the subject, a couple people are discussing the possibility that the Korean government is using the beheading video merely as an excuse to shut down the expat blogging community, which tends to write critically (heh) about Korea.
Personally, I disagree, though I'm open to discussion about this. My feeling is that the expat Koreablogs, even when taken together, don't have nearly enough of a readership to draw this kind of attention from the government. Maybe I'm being naive, but if I might use myself as an example, I don't see how someone who averages only 150 unique visits a day (according to SiteMeter)-- most of which are repeat visits by a small core readership-- could possibly catch the eye of the Orwellian Hyeong (Big Brother, from a little brother's perspective). 150 unique visits, many of which are repeats and random search hits (including the inevitable porn hound searching for "Big Hairy Asses"), boil down to a core readership of, at a guess, no more than a couple dozen people-- barely enough to fill a standard-size high school classroom in America. Some of the bigger Koreabloggers, with their more muscular traffic, might average five to ten times what I get (or more!), but even with them, when you account for repeats and randomness, we're only talking about a readership you could fit into a large lecture auditorium on a university campus. How many people do we really reach? Not that many.
True: a single person performing a single act can make the news, even if that act (say, setting yourself on fire on the street) is actually witnessed by only a few dozen people. But the English-speaking Koreablogosphere is largely unexplored by the Korean Netizens; that, at least, is my superficial impression of the matter. We reach each other and people in the States and Europe, but we aren't exactly penetrating the Korean Netizenry. Wherefore government concern? (Yes, feel free to write in and tell me I'm full of shit, but I do think the current ban has more to do with the Kim video than with a governmental urge to suppress blogged foreign criticism.)
It might be interesting to see some "bridge" blogs, though: something along the lines of Merde in France, where every single post is published in both English and French-- hipster English and French, no less. If my Korean were good enough, I might try that, though I'd have to make every post pretty short-- of necessity, since I'd be translating the whole time. A "bridge" blog would have a lot deeper penetration into Korean cyberspace, and would serve as a great ambassador for Western thinking. Instead of pulling random quotes from an English-language blog out of context, a Korean Netizen might be motivated to read an entire blog post, from start to finish, and would then come away with a better overall idea of where the Westerner was coming from.
But this would be a new frontier, and I don't know how many Western expats in Korea feel confident enough to blog fluently in Korean (fluency would be important, I think). In the blogosphere, there are arguably more Koreans who've mastered English than there are English-speakers who've mastered Korean, so I nominate Wooj as our first bridge blogger. Westerners will follow, if only because so many do speak and write Korean well these days.
2. A comment, by a Blogger Who Shall Not Be Named (but Who Will One Day Return in Clouds of Glory to Claim His Own), that the Western blogosphere has done a good job of ignoring the Korean censorship issue. I was happy to get my letter published by as high-profile a blogger as John Moore of Useful Fools, but other biggies like Andrew Sullivan, Steven Den Beste, and Satan's Anus either haven't caught on or don't want to, for whatever their individual reasons (I also sent a cc of my letter to Kevin Drum).
Yes, overall, there doesn't seem to be much interest in our plight in the Western (read: American) blogosphere, so I think BWSNBN is on to something. This is unfortunate. I hope more America-based bloggers take the meme and run with it.
Thanks as well to Dr. Vallicella, Andi, and Beth at My (edited) Journal for posting my letter (and a hat tip to Joel for alerting me to Beth's gesture).
In honor of Beth's squeamishness at my profanity (and to continue our assault on censors), some more bad erotica:
Delila grabbed her nipples and tugged her breasts apart. Marvin goggled: it was like the parting of the Red Sea. She had a sternum? Who knew!?
"Dive on in!" she commanded.
Marvin licked his lips, took a deep breath, and dove. A tidal wave of mammaries came crashing down on his skull. The pressure was immense, benthic. Something cracked.
All was dark.
Marvin thought he heard screaming.
Then he realized, too late: the screams were coming from him.
Maybe it's in poor taste to throw out new swag during a time of crisis (cough), but I've come up with a couple mug designs which'll be featured at my CafePress site. Behold!
Just a reminder that mug designs are 300 dpi when printed onto the mugs, so these 72dpi images are rougher than the actual final product. I've bought one of my own mugs; it looks good.
(Oh, yeah-- my thanks to the mysterious people who recently bought my last in-stock copy of Scary Spasms in Hairy Chasms from Amazon. I'll be restocking soon; don't let that stop you from ordering your own copy. Thanks as well to the folks who've visited my CafePress store recently. All moolah is appreciated by the crushingly debt-ridden.)
After I sent out my letter, I did get a few replies, including an email from Tacitus. I also want to thank the various members of the blogosphere who've either acknowledged my letter or put it up on their own sites.
A good cause. I'll try to address it sometime this weekend. I may be going to Korea in a few weeks, so I went online last night to see the ROK-official tourist sites. A shocking amount of shilling for the North Koreans. Last time I was there, in the early 1980s, they had a much clearer understanding of the enemy.
On the other hand, the government then was also a quasi-fascist military dictatorship, so I guess we can't be too nostalgic for it.
My thanks also go out to:
John Moore of Useful Fools
Angry Chinese Blogger
Richard at Peking Duck
Justin Yoshida of Cosmic Buddha
...and others I might have missed. Some of the above, like Blinger, posted my letter despite my not having emailed them directly. I'm honored.
A REMINDER to people who email me at the GMail address: please write the phrase "hairy chasms" in your subject line, or your email will get trashed. I've taken to rummaging through my trash bin lately, and have found a few emails from friends in it. I don't rummage that often, though, which is why I haven't replied swiftly or at all to some of those correspondences.
And the bad erotica continues for our censors' delectation...
Her ass cheeks were like mounds of Jello inside plastic garbage bags: bursting with fruity flavor, waiting for a meaty spoon to dig in and explore them to the fullest.
"Hold still," Bruce grunted as he tried to keep the ass cheeks from jiggling uncontrollably, but his hands, which could palm basketballs with ease, were simply too small for the task.
Her tongue flicked playfully at his scrotum like a child batting at a piñata...
If you go to OhMyNews and read Todd Thacker's article about the current censorship (is he the Koreabloggers' only friend?), be sure to scroll down and get a load of the reader comments. The first one's a beauty:
Is this REALLY A ARTICLE?
John Doe, 2004/06/26 22:46
Fuckin' US must reduce muderer rate first place in the world and rape rate,too.
What you really want to say to the reader is that your country is better than korea and admire your fuckin' country.
that fuckin' US soldier in korea rapes and kill innocent korean citizen and the accused are freed in US mainland after transtported from S. Korea to US mainland because of suckin' SOFA!*
you know about US soldiers devilsh crimes in S.Korea?
You'd better keep your mouth shut fella!
[*SOFA = Status of Forces Agreement, a cause of much resentment in South Korea because of the perceived free ride given to US soldiers when they commit crimes in Korea. Huge, unending debate on this.]
We need to put John Doe in perspective: other Netizens (e.g. Wooj, Sugar Shin) entered the thread and presented much more reasonable viewpoints. People like John Doe are the ones who've gone starkers-- it's no use trying to talk to them. The best revenge is for John Doe's children to grow up loving America. Heh.
Some of John Doe's fellow Koreans were positively ashamed of him:
Moon [2004-06-27 09:27]
John Doe, why don't you just keep quiet and stop embarassing other Koreans?
Just so you're aware: Koreans aren't of one mind about all this, despite the prevalence of the han-ma-eum (one mind) idea in Korean culture. Remember the same is true of the myth of Muslim brotherhood: Muslims are actually pretty fractious, not nearly as monolithic as they consider themselves (or as we stereotype them).
Sunday, June 27, 2004
I've got an interview coming up with Sookmyung University, but I'm still searching the ads.
Here's a nice one:
We are looking for Caucasian teachers preferably from Canada or USA. The age level of our school is (pre K to 6 grade). It is great place to work. If you like teaching, you will like our school for many reasons. (good staff, a lot of educational materials and resource books, reliable & relaxed atmosphere)
Black folks need not apply. They make us... uncomfortable.
Oh, wait-- some bad erotica for the censors (and be sure to check out the KimcheeGI's blog for a howler about how only "39 sites"-- now 40-- have been blocked by the Korean government):
Jessica eyed the beast in Frank's pants with unbridled lust. Even from across the room, she could tell he was the biggest (heh heh) man she'd ever seen, and her inner spaces became moist with desire. Lust consumed her, driving out all rational thought. Without further deliberation, she let out a bark and leaped ninja-like across the floor space, cartwheeling and somersaulting, flinging her arms and legs wide and landing upon Frank with the force of an Everlast punching bag thrown by the Hulk.
"Whoa!" Frank said.
Clothes flew off willy-nilly. Frank didn't seem to understand how badly Jessica wanted him, but he played along. Jessica impaled herself on Frank's massive Wienerschnitzel and screeched like a harpy as she slammed and pumped herself up and down his unimaginable, almost science-fictive length. Her love juices anointed their impromptu union; she pumped faster, even more desperately, Kegeling Frank for all he was worth, milking his life-essence.
"Ow, it hurts," Frank said as the friction became too much to bear. Smoke was pouring from their crotches. There was the smell of searing meat. Frank's manhood was literally cooking from the heat Jessica was generating, and he didn't know how to tell her.
But at that moment Jessica howled as her climax came upon her, her orgasm crashing in waves upon Frank's frank, which was now giving off a distinctly Hebrew National Hot Dog odor. Jessica gasped several times, then fell sideways off Frank, spent and drowsy from her efforts.
Frank, in the meantime, was weeping. His formerly massive schlong had been reduced to little more than a fat eraser. He looked over at Jessica, pleadingly, helplessly, but she seemed not to notice. Frank looked around him.
All activity in the reception area had stopped, and eighty people were staring down at Frank and Jessica.
"I'm so sorry about this," Frank said lamely.
Jessica was snoring.
We're now on a war footing against the idiots and useful idiots who think that a beheading is worth the obstruction of free speech. I never offered my own condolences to Kim Sun-il's family on this blog, and for that I apologize. I view Kim's death with great sadness and anger. His family lost a son. They can never get him back. And those of us who remain have the obligation to remember. This was a war death. War doesn't give a shit whose life it claims.
I want to make it clear whom I consider my targets as the cyber-anus of the Hairy Chasms ponderously readjusts its aim: the South Korean "liberal" government, which has shown its true colors, and the stupid-as-shit Angry Korean Netizens who agree with the government's attempt at censorship only because Kim Sun-il was Korean. I don't care about the Happy Korean Netizens (are there any?). I don't care about the Koreans, in Korea and outside, who are perceptive enough to see we're all in this together. No; I reserve my scorn for those who insist on a Hermit Kingdom mentality-- the fuckholes who've chosen to play the role of cultural immune system against a bad, bad world, combatting the intrusion of annoying ideas like truth and reality.
Also, I should clarify what I meant about the change in prose. We're going to get nastier here, I'm afraid, and that can mean only one thing: bad erotica.
So I apologize to the people like Sperwer who are waiting for me to write some silliness about religious issues, but if the beheading incident is cause for some idiots to murder free expression in an ostensibly democratic country, then the Hairy Chasms has little choice but to become a venue that celebrates life. That's code language for SEX, in case you didn't get that.
So enjoy the new banner. I'll take it down when the government lifts its ban. In the meantime, I sincerely hope it enrages the stupid.
PS: I thought about labeling the banner-penis "Black B. Beautiful."
Recent comment posted over at the Marmot's site by someone (probably a Korean) with the handle aaaa:
americans in Korea are really stupid
unipeak? fuck you, we're gonna shut/shoot it down
In other words: "We like being stupid and we'll do whatever it takes to remain stupid. We are the Korean Borg. Existence is feudal."
I laugh. So, aaaa, will you try to shut down all the proxy servers? If you do, how will you access your porn in Mommy's house? Will you whack off to pictures like:
Pass it on: aaaa likes interspecies porn!
POST SCRIPTUM: Everyone knows the above pic doesn't really come from Sallini.com. The first time I saw this pic, years ago, it was with a caption that said, "How Easter eggs are made."
SCROTE SCRIPTUM: I'm not sure, but it appears MuNu blogs are also being blocked. I know some of you naughty folks are either hosting the video or providing links. That's probably why MuNu's been targeted. Assuming it has been targeted-- it could simply be that my current computer is on the fritz.
Todd Thacker at the English division of the Korean publication OhMyNews risks life and limb to write the following article (quoting a few of us bloggers in the process, and making doubly sure that the BigHominid quote was one containing a swear word-- thank you, Todd).
Todd publicly notes what many bloggers have been saying:
The sudden crackdown by the MIC, which came without warning and is not mentioned on the English Web site, is in direct contravention of the Korean Constitution.
Some penis heads are gonna roll.
I think this censorship calls for a shift to a war footing.
THEREFORE I MAKE THE FOLLOWING DECLARATION:
From now until the day the censorship is lifted, prose at the Hairy Chasms will be rife with puns, slang, and more sexual and scatological imagery than you've ever seen. The primary purpose is to make translation a headache for any Koreans attempting to decipher my core message-- whatever it may be.
The shift begins now.
Oh, and I'll be working on a "war banner" for the site.
FUCK da' po-lice! Fuck-- fuck-- FUCK da' po-lice!
Saturday, June 26, 2004
UPDATE: I just readjusted my banner logo to link to this blog entry. If this is your first time visiting the Hairy Chasms, a hearty, chunk-farty welcome to you. This blog is about as shit-caked as they come; it's all about the scatology, but we also have fun saying words like BLOWJOB and CLIT. This is also, on occasion, a blog about religious issues (I have an MA in Religion and Culture from The Catholic University of America; I'm a Presbyterian with a keen interest in interreligious issues and Buddhism-- go figure), but we have no qualms about crossing the very artificial barrier between the sacred and the profane here. Sacred and profane are not-two. The blog is currently on a war footing thanks to the South Korean government's recent cyber-censorship, so if the banner offends you, well... that's the fucking idea. If you're here from the Korean Ministry of Information and Communication, checking up on whether your cyber-ban is working, (1) FUCK YOU and the dittohead Korean Netizens who fight for the right to remain ignorant in a time of Islamic fundamentalism, and (2) NO, your ban ISN'T WORKING BECAUSE I CAN STILL ACCESS MY BLOG AND READ THE ONES YOU'VE BLOCKED. I hope I've made myself clear: your ban has accomplished precisely dick.
To learn more, read the following letter, which I sent to a whole slew of bloggers and media people, some of whom have responded right away, others of whom have chosen, for whatever reason, not to address the issue. Again, if you're a newbie here, welcome. I push out a brown, steaming log in your honor. A log worthy of James T. Kirk-- a veritable Captain's Log.
I just sent a letter to a bunch of bloggers, and cc'ed it to a couple news organizations, and also made sure it would reach the MIC. One possible consequence is that the MIC will start hunting down proxy sites; then again, they might be doing this already. Be warned. This fight might see several twists and turns before it's over.
I am sending this message to the bloggers on my blogroll (and a few other folks) in the hopes that some of you will print this, or at least find it interesting enough for comment. I'm not usually the type to distribute such messages, but I felt this was important enough to risk disturbing you.
As some of you may already know, a wing of the South Korean government, the Ministry of Information and Communication (MIC), is currently clamping down on a variety of blogging service providers and other websites. The government is attempting to control access to video of the recent Kim Sun-il beheading, ostensibly because the video will have a destabilizing influence. (I haven't seen the video.)
Many Western expat bloggers in Korea are in an uproar; others, myself included, are largely unsurprised: South Korea has not come far out of the shadow of its military dictatorship past. My own response to this censorship is not so much anger as amusement, because the situation represents an intellectual challenge as well as a chance to fight for freedom of expression. Perhaps even to fight for freedom, period.
South Korea is a rapidly evolving country, but in many ways it remains the Hermit Kingdom. Like a turtle retreating into its shell, the people are on occasion unable to deal with the harsh realities of the world around them. This country is, for example, in massive denial about the atrocities perpetrated in North Korea, and, as with many Americans, is in denial about the realities of Islamic terrorism, whose roots extend chronologically backward far beyond the lifetime of the Bush Administration. This cultural tendency toward denial (and overreaction) at least partially explains the Korean government's move to censor so many sites.
The fact that the current administration, led by President Noh Mu-hyon, is supposedly "liberal"-leaning makes this censorship more ironic. It also fuels propagandistic conservative arguments that liberals are, at heart, closet totalitarians. I find this to be a specious caricature of the liberal position (I consider myself neither liberal nor conservative), but to the extent that Koreans are concerned about what image they project to the world, it is legitimate for them to worry over whether they are currently playing into stereotype: South Korea is going to be associated with other violators of human rights, such as China.
Of the many hypocrisies associated with the decision to censor, the central one is that no strong governmental measures were taken to suppress the distribution of the previous beheading videos (Nick Berg et al.). This, too, fuels the suspicion that Koreans are selfish or, to use their own proverbial image, "a frog in a well"-- radically blinkered in perspective, collectively unable to empathize with the sufferings of non-Koreans, but overly sensitive to their own suffering.
I am writing this letter not primarily to criticize all Koreans (I'm ethnically half-Korean, and an American citizen), nor to express a generalized condemnation of Korean culture. As is true anywhere else, this culture has its merits and demerits, and overall, I'm enjoying my time here. No, my purpose is more specific: to cause the South Korean government as much embarrassment as possible, and perhaps to motivate Korean citizens to engage in some much-needed introspection.
To this end, I need the blogosphere's help, and this letter needs wide distribution (you may receive other letters from different bloggers, so be prepared!). I hope you'll see fit to publish this letter on your site, and/or to distribute it to concerned parties: censorship in a supposedly democratic society simply cannot stand. The best and quickest way to persuade the South Korean government to back down from its current position is to make it lose face in the eyes of the world. This can only happen through a determined (and civilized!) campaign to expose the government's hypocrisy and to cause Korean citizens to rethink their own narrow-mindedness.
We can debate all we want about "root causes" with regard to Islamic terrorism, Muslim rage, and all the rest, but for me, it's much more constructive to proceed empirically and with an eye to the future. Like it or not, what we see today is that Korea is inextricably linked with Iraq issues, and with issues of Islamic fundamentalism. Koreans, however, may need some persuading that this is in fact the case-- that we all need to stand together as allies against a common enemy.
If you are interested in giving the South Korean Ministry of Information and Communication a piece of your mind (or if you're a reporter who would like to contact them for further information), please email the MIC at:
(Blogspot is currently blocked in Korea, along with other providers; please go to Unipeak.com and type my URL into the search window to view my blog.)
PS: To send me an email, please type "hairy chasms" in the subject line to avoid being trashed by my custom-made spam filter.
PPS: Much better blogs than mine have been covering this issue, offering news updates and heartfelt commentary. To start you off, visit:
Here as well, Unipeak is the way to go if you're in Korea and unable to view the above blogs. People in the States should, in theory, have no problems accessing these sites, which all continue to be updated.
PPPS: This email is being cc'ed to the South Korean Ministry of Information and Communication. Please note that other bloggers are writing about the Korean government's creation of a task force that will presumably fight internet terror. I and others have an idea that this task force will serve a different purpose. If this is what South Korea's new "aligning with the PRC" is all about, then there's reason to worry for the future.
I (may) stand corrected-- it's possible that Blog City isn't being targeted by the government, and is simply suffering from its usual shitty service. My own ability to access Blog City blogs has been patchy at best, so it's a tossup. Kevin at IA gloats with a barely-veiled phallic reference.
Friday, June 25, 2004
I'm rather proud of the new logos I've made. I added Fafblog and Prosblogion to the blogroll, but it's my rule to give each blog its own logo (blogo?).
Fafblog is hilarious, so I wanted to do it justice. I'm not sure whether my first attempt was worthy:
...so I went and made what I think is a much better logo:
My centipede makes a decent stand-in for the dragon Fafnir, I think.
Prosblogion is devoted to religious issues, and I'm reserving Chinese characters for religion-oriented blogs (it makes them easier to segregate, you see). Voilà:
Welcome to the blogroll, gents.
Kev can now see his blog, courtesy of an anonymous redirector.
HOMINID'S NOTE: People having trouble accessing their own blogs should head over to UniPeak.com, type in their blog's URL into the window, and they'll see the blog (courtesy Jeff, whose link I found through SiteMeter).
Just so you know: I'm posting this blind. I'm currently unable to access my own blog directly, though I'm still able (for the moment) to post to the blog through Blogger. If you're a reader in the States, you might not have any trouble accessing my blog, but if you're in South Korea, you're fucked.
Apparently, the Ministry of Information and Communication has taken a page from the Maximum Leader's handbook (the PRC also followed Mike's procedures to clamp down on its own cluster of wayward, meddlesome bloggers) and is hunting down blogging service providers and cutting off access-- Blogspot, Blog City, and other services have already been closed off to us. This is almost definitely linked to the Kim Sun-il beheading video, which some Koreabloggers have linked to, but to which the government is trying to block access.
My opinion, shared by many: the government is not interested in allowing people to see what they're up against. The government (with its ostensibly liberal administration) is frightened that the people might make a decidedly rightward swerve. The Korean right hasn't exactly been angelic throughout its history, but at least it's willing to confront the actual threats to the country (in this case, the NK government and Islamic terrorism).
I haven't seen the beheading video, and since I've been in PC-bahngs lately, I don't plan to see it anytime soon. I do hope some concerned SK citizens see it, get mad, focus their anger in the right direction, and decide we need to stand together to face this threat.
I'm almost afraid to link to him for fear he'll be shut down, too, but Joel has the scoop on the censorship.
Strangely enough, the censorship doesn't make me furious: it makes me grin. Censorship is a sign of insecurity, a sign of mind control, a sign the emperor has no clothes. If you want proof that the government would rather you be a sheep, here it is! Theoretically, I can keep posting blind, unless the MIC blocks access to Blogger. Joel was kind enough to offer his blog as an area to post; I'll use either him or the Maximum Leader's site (where I'm a guest poster) until we get things sorted out.
In America, we can fight the bullshit of censorship, and people do. As much as certain parties (cough-- Tim Robbins-- cough) cry "Help! I'm bein' repressed!" à la "Monty Python and the Holy Grail," the only real ruling force is the market (and Tim Robbins doesn't really look that uncomfortable to me). There's a lot of confusion in America these days about market vs. censorship, and it needs to be made clear that, if people are burning piles of Dixie Chicks CDs, it's not because the government has ordered them to do so. People did this of their own free will (which may, in fact, be scarier than a government order).
Currently, the US is experiencing a flap over Michael Moore's film, "Fahrenheit 9/11." People have been crying "Censorship!" for a while now, from Moore on up. For the most part, this hasn't been about government censorship: it's been about the market. The recent news, however, is that we may in fact see a government mandate (from the FEC) to ban advertisements for Moore's movie. This still isn't censorship, but the flimsy reasoning behind the ad bans begins to creep toward the censorship line.
Personally, I think Moore's film should be seen by as many people as possible. I implicitly mistrust the critiques of people who haven't bothered to see the film (and everyone's been linking to Christopher Hitchens's scathing review of it-- keep in mind that Hitchens is a leftie), and if you censor the film, how can you critique it? How can you debate it?
The same goes for my blog-- it should be read by as many people as possible, so that I might become a god among men. Or something like that. Luckily, in secular, pluralist societies, we can discuss, question, and critique our gods.
Next up: I've got logos for Prosblogion and Fafblog. I'm rather proud of them, too.
UPDATE: To clarify-- I'm unable to access any Blogspot (Blog City, etc.) blogs, not just my own.
UPDATE 2: Check out Oranckay as well.
Thursday, June 24, 2004
You will now learn more than you ever wanted to know about Joel of About Joel. In this exclusive and revealing email, the Korean language whiz and former missionary discusses everything from the unusual tensile strength of his penis to how to kill a magpie using only your tongue and a plastic straw-- and how all of this is possible through the liberating, exhilarating power of Satan.
...OK, I lied. Joel offers us a glimpse of a serious, thoughtful, spiritual individual. I read this email with great interest, and I hope you do, too.
Kevin - Here are some answers to your questions. I probably wrote a lot more than you wanted or needed to know. I could have written a whole book on the damn thing so I should be glad I kept it limited to a few pages.
Am I a practicing Mormon? That's a tricky question. I guess it depends on your point of view. My family was Mormon originally. I was baptized at 8 years old and went to church pretty regularly until I was 12. At which time my parents, who both held a variety of high-level positions in our ward (a local church organization) decided to get a divorce. Partly as a result of their divorce and partly because of the underlying causes of their divorce they both had their names removed from the records of the LDS church. Scratch that I don't know what my father did since I never talked to him after he left our house when I was 12.
My mom became anti-religion for a long time claiming that she still believed in the Mormon doctrine, but couldn't bring herself to attend a place with so many hypocrites and 'friends' who had turned against her when she needed them most. She lived outside the church's standards for a long time and I, as a result of having no one around to force my hand, took a much-needed break from church and its rules. I hated going as a kid and often found ways to ditch out and this was exactly what I wanted. A couple years of non-attendance and self-enforced isolation from other activities as well and I started to work my way out again.
I think I started going to church mostly at 13 or 14 because it was a requirement to play church basketball, but as I went and I began to read the Bible and the Book of Mormon I enjoyed it and found the history and the theory and the doctrine really interesting.
Of course as interesting as something is that doesn't make it true. That is one of the premises behind LDS religion. If you want to know if something is true you are told to take it to God through the Lord in personal prayer and the answers will be given to you by the power of the Holy Ghost (Who has a host of other titles). I prayed about it for the first time in high school sometime after I finished the Book of Mormon for the first time. I felt good about my prayer and had given it a sincere answer and felt like it was something worth exploring further. I did and I had it confirmed to me on many occasions after that.
I attended seminary (a scriptural study course offered to LDS youth) throughout high school and was asked to speak at seminary graduation. I began to think about a mission and a closer inspection of my life found I was struggling to keep the commandments at home with my mother, whom I had hypocritically and harshly judged and deciding I wasn't going to make it alone. I moved out during my senior year of high school and moved in with a friend's family to better help myself prepare for a mission.
When the time came to actually prepare for my mission my friend's mother tried to force my hand. Telling me I had to pay 600 dollars a month rent to her for the year leading up to my mission, convinced I wouldn't go on a mission because of my family history, she thought she should force my hand by offering to give the money back to me for my mission fund if I went and keeping it if I didn't. 600 dollars was a lot of money and I still wasn't sure and spite was always the strongest motivator for me. I moved out and with no place else to go went back to my mom. She made me pay rent, but it was something more suiting an 18-year old boy and didn't give me any ultimatums.
I eventually decided for myself without the aid of $8,000 blackmail that I needed to go on a mission. I prayed again and this time managed to force myself to live the commandments alone rather than relying on other people and got ready to go. I got my mission call to Korea in October of 1999 and left in Mid-January of 2000. I arrived in the MTC for 2 months of intensive language study and then flew to SOKO on March 22, 2000.
I lived for 2.5 months in Daejeon, 6 months in Yeo-su, 1 month in Cheonahn, 4 months in Gunsan, and 2 months in Hongseong. 2+2.5+6+1+4+2 = 1 year and 5.5 months. A standard mission for Elders (the title of male missionaries in the LDS church) is 2 years. So you know I didn't stay my full time.
I started out my mission loving it. I loved trying to share things with people and I loved doing service. With time though the daily rejection on the street and the guilt I felt telling members and the nonmembers what they needed to do, when I realized how I failed to do many of those same simple things myself finally wore me down. The mission was run a lot like a business. Stats were collected daily of people you had talked to, numbers you had got, people committed for baptism, etc. Service time was limited to 4 hours a week and only then if we thought there was a chance of getting the "baptisms."
Eventually one of the areas I was in the peer leader (called a ZL) tried to cancel service altogether because it was ineffective. I personally took it upon myself to do everyone's four hours for the week, filling my companionship's time with nothing but service. I don't say that to brag. I am not sure I even did it out of the pure love of Christ or to help others as much as it was to spite those who I didn't see as having their heads in the right place.
I didn't notice any of this until I got off "greenie" autopilot and became the senior companion. There are a thousand stories where I conflicted with my mission president, the competition in the mission, and people who sought to tear others down to climb the mission hierarchy.
At home my mom joined the Lutheran church (my big hope in serving a mission was that she would return to the LDS church) my older sister was getting a divorce, and a variety of other things. Finally I found myself getting depressed, hating people, losing hope, and I failed to receive any kind of spiritual confirmation that what I was doing was right. I decided to go home and hop back into school and look for the feelings I had once felt in the place I first felt them.
Maybe I should never have gone back. I think as soon as I stepped off the plane I lost half the friends who had always proclaimed me the bright and spiritual boy who overcomes all his obstacles and succeeds. They loathed me for making a liar out of them. I went to church for the first three months after I was home. I had too many people corner me and ask me "Why did you get sent home?" "What sin did you commit?" I had too many friends shun me or talk about me or tell me how they were going to make me stay active in the church. I guess no one understands that someone as stubborn as me does what he wants when he wants and not because he is some sinner. (That's not true. A few did and they remain my best friends today) I was not going to feel God's love worshipping with them. They made me almost hate myself. It wasn't everyone, but enough people to make me never want to go to church again.
It would be my recommendation to missionaries who want to go home early, that if they are not a strong enough person to survive without support to not do it. I have failed to feel the Holy Ghost or any spiritual feeling aside from the breath taking beauty of nature or emotion in the long three years since my mission. I of course stopped actively studying too because I determined something that was providing me with no tangible or spiritual reward was not worth the time I was investing in it.
Maybe it's too practical but I kind of feel like I am on another little break of isolation where I need to figure myself out. I am not the same person I was at home. I could never have found out who this person is at home. I learned in Korea that I want to be happy and there are many ways to get there. I also learned that if something is making me unhappy most instances there is something I can do to fix it.
I loved Korea as a missionary. I just hated being a missionary, at least the kind others wanted me to be. I kept in contact with a bunch of people I met here and after I finished my BA decided I wanted to come back for a while see what life is like without a badge and a little buddy watching my back. I still keep MOST of the commandments of the LDS church (even good Mormons only keep MOST of them because no one is perfect.) I don't smoke or drink. I am not sure it's true, but I am not sure it's not true either. I'm in religious limbo. Maintaining a high level of artificial apathy to get through life as "just life." However, Sunhang has started going back to church again here in Gunsan and I promised her if she went 4 times in a row that I would start going with her (because she has this weird habit of starting stuff and quitting and I don't want to get non-stop phone calls from missionaries and church members on one of her whims.) So if she can do it, we will see where it takes me.
There are a lot of missionaries here. Of course that is relative. There are more missionaries who served in Korea living back home. I know Jeff is married to a Korean so maybe he can attest to this better than I can, but a lot of missionaries don't return to their mission country because of judgments and pressures from the Mormon community. A lot return on internships through BYU, which is viewed as 'acceptable,' and some come back and get married to girls they knew from their missions, which is not viewed so favorably. It implies that you didn't serve your mission fully because you were out eyeing the merchandise and preparing to score yourself a honey. Marrying a girl from your mission country, that speaks a different language, and is a different ethnicity is a whole lot of pills for typical white Mormon from Utah to swallow.
There are a bunch of ex-missionaries married to Koreans in Seoul. There are a few in Pusan and a couple in Kwangju, specifically Robert Holly himself. As far as a community though I don't know that unless they go to the same church building or live in the same city they are really familiar with each other. If you hear someone speaking passable Korean be leery.
So-- Jeff? Will you take the Hominid Challenge and satisfy my curiosity?
Yes, there's the typically stupid anti-American hatefest going on in Korea. But there's more happening than just the anti-Americanism. Many Koreans-- thousands-- are remembering who they are, and are focusing on the proper target: the terrorists.
And because I have a conscience and do strive for self-consistency, I'll note that my current cynicism about Korean reactions is partially contradicted in this post from March 17 (Saint Pat's!):
But Korea isn't Spain or any other European country, nor is it America. Most Muslims can't blend in here. There aren't many Korean Muslims; most of the Arab/Persian Muslim population, to put it politely, stands out. Just about every non-East Asian race stands out here. So if al Qaeda is planning any shenanigans in South Korea, the hammer is going to fall on these people. Koreans aren't exactly shy about their own racism and xenophobia; unlike in America, there won't be extensive hand-wringing about racial (or religious) profiling. If anything happens here, no one will make any bones about watching the Arabs and Persians closely, as well as tracking East Asian (and other Asian) Muslims. They will all be marked people.
But the paragraph that follows is consistent with what I wrote last night:
In the meantime, of course, the Spain Effect is likely to happen: should an attack occur (which I doubt), we yang-nom will be objects of resentment, at least in public demonstrations. I'm not too worried, though: during one of the heavily anti-American periods, I got around with no problem and didn't encounter any particularly resentful behavior. One dude at the gym would go on about how much he hated America, but that was about it. My being plump and not having a crewcut might be a saving grace at such times; I don't experience what our servicemen have to go through. So keep your thoughts for the soldiers who are more likely to endure petty and major slights.
As you can see, my feelings on this matter are complex. One thing I can say: it's wrong to stereotype Koreans by assuming they're all robotically conformist, which is why seemingly contradictory observations about Korean society and behavior are possible. Nearly 50 million people can't move in lockstep. Diversity is inevitable. I say this at the risk of sounding very condescending: in an attempt to get a "read" of the Korean populace, we Westerners have to acknowledge that Koreans come in all shapes and sizes. Yes, there's more conformism here than in the States-- a lot more-- but that's not the whole story and it's very unfair to reduce Koreans to that caricature.
So today, the sky is brighter, I'm a bit less moody, a bit more hopeful, and I take back some of what I wrote last night. What I hope, though, is for Koreans and Europeans (etc.) to realize that we're all in this together. And it may become necessary for all of us to stand and fight.
Read a very good post by Wooj here.
Allah is back in fine Photoshopping form. In this post, he mocks the cover of Clinton's new book, but for a real laugh, you need to look through the comments thread and enjoy all the Star Wars jokes, especially dorkafork's "reviews" of Admiral Ackbar's book.
Wednesday, June 23, 2004
Some random thoughts on the beheading of Kim Sun-il:
1. The reflexive need to blame Bush/America and only Bush/America is spectacularly stupid. I've read around the various blogs in my cyber-neighborhood and was reassured to see that many of those who did blame Bush/America were rational enough to blame the terrorists as well. I haven't read any of the bloggers carefully enough, but if the equal laying of blame implies some sort of moral equivalence between Bush and the fuckheads who behead people on camera, then I'm sorry, but I disagree. Let me say it outright: if you see Bush as the moral equivalent of any of these terrorists, or as the inheritor of Hitler's legacy (or as Hitler's reincarnation), you're flat wrong.
2. Related to the above: I have to come back to that book by Andrew Natsios, The Great North Korean Famine. (See my sidebar for the essays I wrote on his book.) I'm not citing Famine because the contents are somehow relevant to yesterday's beheading, but because I admire the balanced way that Natsios tackled the problem of how to lay blame for North Korea's current dire situation.
Natsios makes clear that the free world shares a measure of blame in NK's predicament. Only the truly simpleminded would lay total blame on North Korea alone, as if it operated entirely in a vacuum. This warped view is, perhaps, the way some people treat issues of freedom and responsibility. According to this view (a ridiculous caricature, in my opinion), we are-- each of us-- absolutely, radically free and separate moral agents, as if we were not connected by chains of causation. This is a stupid way to view freedom and responsibility.
Natsios says more, however: he makes abundantly clear that the primary responsibility for North Korea's situation is on North Korea's head. I admire Natsios's way of parsing the issues: he sees geopolitical connections, understands how events and motives relate to each other, but has enough perspective to make a clear judgement on who gets the most blame. While I disagree with his book's conclusion (to wit: "Don't mix aid and politics"), I still admire his analytical ability. I suspect Natsios is a very compassionate man, but he's also a rational one, and I'd rather have the calmer, cooler rifleman by my side when the shit hits the fan.
This "Natsionian" perspective is sorely lacking on both sides of the political aisle in current American and Korean public discourse, whose primary mode seems to be sound bites and bumper stickers, even in the blogosphere, where there's a low tolerance for long, involved posts. People who see Bush/America as morally equivalent to the terrorists (or Hitler, etc.) lack the ability to address the complexity of actual situations. By the same token, those on the right who reflexively question the patriotism of the Bush Administration's critics are demonstrating their own inability to address the complexities of actual reality.
Who is primarily responsible for the death of Kim Sun-il? Put the issue in perspective. If you're going to take aim at something, aim well.
The conservative Koreabloggers seem optimistic that, thanks to this horrible incident, Koreans will remember themselves, remember their past fierceness and nobility. As they face the horror of what these terrorists have done to one of their fellow citizens, they'll once again show why Koreans were so feared by the Vietnamese during the Vietnam War-- or so these conservative Koreabloggers seem to be saying.
I was feeling down and pissed late last night (or, more truthfully, early this morning; I was up way too late), and I wrote the following comment on Andy's post:
Korea is not Spain* and I think that the Korean people are made of sterner stuff than many observers give them credit for. If Kim is killed, it could very well unite Koreans against the terrorists who are trying to take over in Iraq.
I hope you're right, but I don't have your confidence. More likely, we're going to see a reaction (now that we know Kim is dead) that reflexively blames America-- yet more of the victim mentality. Sadness and fear are what we'll see, not anger properly directed at the people who actually did the killing.
Is South Korea still a nation of the brave? I have to echo Verdun's comment on the Marmot's post:
As a Korean living abroad, I do hope that the citizens of a nation famed for resilience and fortitude haven't all turned into pussies.
I have the same hope.
If you visit the Marmot's post, you'll see that the very first comment in the ensuing thread is exactly the kind of typical and misdirected overreaction I (and others) expected, posted by someone with the handle mmm:
Sure, I'll give the naysayers their due: we have our own hair-trigger "Nuke the shit out of Mecca!" crowd in the States. I even joked along those lines in this blog (though I hope you'll read all my posts on Middle East-related subjects before jumping to half-baked conclusions about where I stand).
I'm not hopeful that South Korea will pull its head out of the sands of appeasement. The country is already busy appeasing North Korea (and yes, as Kevin at IA has noted, we're not much better); I've said on this blog before that, at times, South Korea seems like a second France (see here and here). I wish I had more access to Korean-language media (my Korean reading ability still sucks), but if the English-language Korean media are any indication, South Korea is in deep denial about some extremely important matters, not least of which concern its "brothers" to the north. The most embarrassing evidence in favor of this thesis is the recent flap over the radio station run by North Korean defectors. The simple attempt to broadcast how miserable life actually is in North Korea has been met with cries of outrage, even threats against the broadcasters. South Koreans-- at least many of the ones currently living in South Korea-- don't want their brotherhood-myth destroyed, even if it means perpetuating an awful situation indefinitely. This doesn't hold as true for those Koreans who live abroad; I've come to understand, from Korean expat bloggers and people of my mother's generation, that expat (or ethnic) Korean perspectives are all over the political spectrum, often depending on what country the Koreans live in.
Whether we're dealing with terrorist surliness or with North Korean petulance, we're looking at pretty simple human psychology.
I've taught high school kids in America, and I learned some shitty facts about human nature during my two years at a private Catholic school. First: people will push boundaries. We all have a natural tendency both to want limits and to test them: chaos and order are two of our most fundamental impulses. Second: The corollary is that if you don't provide firm boundaries and clear strictures-- if you try to be your students' "buddy"-- you doom yourself to a hell of your own making. If you're not prepared to push your students, to hold them to high expectations, then you'll end up coddling them, and they end up being less than they might have become. I made this mistake repeatedly as a high school teacher, convinced that I could "win hearts and minds" through a sense of humor.
My buddy Jang-woong sees North Korea in this light. "It's like giving candy to a baby to keep it quiet," he says. That's it in a nutshell. The basic mentality really is that simple to grasp.
As I've noted in my more sympathetic posts, however, that simplicity may lie at the core of the peninsular problem, but it's harder to find as you work your way outward. If South Koreans are reluctant to consider war as an option for solving the NK problem, this is because of recent-- and probably ancient-- history. Koreans have known a great deal of violence and oppression. It's unsurprising that, as a result, they don't think like the Japanese or Americans. Japan has a powerful nation-myth of its own, and it still plays a role in the public consciousness. America is currently the most powerful nation on earth-- economically, perhaps even militarily. Asking Koreans to be as hopeful as Americans, or as willing to consider violent options as a path to eventual peace, may be asking too much.
There are further complications, however, that are more strategic (by which I mean game theory-oriented) than psychological. North Korea has done a stellar job of playing the surrounding nations off each other. Its relentless focus on the US as its only dialogue partner remains problematic even as we embark on further "six-party" talks. The image of the Mexican standoff is apropos here, I think. But as that image implies, any sudden change in the standoff will result in a quick and bloody denouement.
I, too, am reluctant to consider war as an option on the peninsula. I've advocated a policy of continued strong rhetoric against North Korea coupled with tighter sanctions and further restricted aid (contra Natsios), even in the face of NK's threats of war and international condemnation. The most desirable outcome is whatever brings about the internal collapse of the NK regime. At the same time, however, I'm not about to take the military option off the table, and here we see yet another wrinkle.
Many South Koreans, as I think Owen Rathbone has noted, don't have the best grasp of geopolitics (by which I'm not implying that I do, nor am I implying that all Americans are spot-on policy wonks!). Or maybe South Koreans do have such a grasp, but don't understand how the politics affect South Korea directly. In the case of North Korea, there are intimate inimical connections ramifying outward-- drug trade and arms shipments, to name the two most prominent ones. American cities have been threatened by NK, and even if NK is simply blowing smoke about its nuclear ability, it's manufacturing and distributing weapons to parties who don't have our best interests at heart.
Simple psychological elements, complicated situation. NK's looking to continue its existence. It knows that a sudden change in the standoff will spell its end. It's therefore vitally important that every player continue to play its assigned, appeasing role, and this is why I think we should play against the grain, ratchet up our own rhetoric (something that won't happen under Kerry), and repeatedly remind NK that the military option isn't off the table. In the meantime, we have to clean up our own appeasing inconsistencies, which are shameful.
Since this post's theme is "perspective," let's zoom back a bit and take a slightly wider view of history. First, we note that the plan to take down the Twin Towers wasn't merely one year in the making, as was previously thought in the disaster's aftermath, but five years in the making. This places us well within the Clinton Administration. Next, we note that the motives behind the attack are positively ancient, if bin Laden's ravings are to be believed. This is all about the restoration of Islam's former glory. America's not an ancient country, but it's assumed an ancient role in the minds of Muslim extremists. Both of these facts are conveniently ignored by people who believe that Bush or Bush's America is somehow the cause or catalyst for what befell my country on September 11, 2001. If you can't acknowledge these two basic facts without debate, then you and I will get nowhere in discussion.
I'm not going to speak at length about the Iraq-al Qaeda connection because, as with my anti-war stance, the issue is academic. We have to look forward, not backward: we're in Iraq now, and whether or not there was a connection between Saddam's government and al Qaeda, there's a definite connection between Iraq and terrorism now. This needs addressing.
Koreans (and Americans) who attempt to blame Bush for too much are accomplishing nothing by thinking sloppily. I think Bush does have a lot to answer for; Richard's recent posts following the Bush Administration's problems have been most informative, and I think there's plenty of dirt and guilt to go around. As a political cynic, I never assume politicians of any country to be totally innocent in their motives.
Speaking of motives: let me state again for the record that I don't see the terrorists as animals. To dehumanize them is to give them a ready excuse for their behavior. I won't let them off that easily. They're responsible for their actions in both the usual senses of that word. The central piece of illogic in much hawk rhetoric is that we're dealing with savages arising from a savage culture and religion-- and this is maintained while at the same time it's argued that, within this cultural/religious milieu, we can build a new Western-style democracy. I don't see how these two convictions are compatible. If, in truth, we're dealing with savages from a savage culture and religion, then really, the only answer is genocide.
There, I said it. Why bother with nation-building? Why not just fumigate the entire nest (or pick your own sick metaphor)? That's the logical conclusion if you're dealing with a species you view as beneath you.
One final note on perspective: Koreans who have managed to witness video of Kim's death (no longer available in Korea? --see Marmot's "Update VIII"; I share his disgust) need to multiply that death by three thousand to understand why Americans remain furious. A fundamental misunderstanding about America-- sourced mainly in European outrage at our outrage-- has been that "we should have gotten over this by now." When three thousand of your countrymen perish in the space of only a couple hours, you don't have that luxury. If three thousand Koreans are suddenly slaughtered because a terrorist-piloted plane has rammed into the Yuk-sam Building, you can bet this nation will be baying for blood. Why? Because it's natural. It's easy to urge calm when it's not your own people. But you start to feel it when your own brothers (actual fellow citizens and not romanticized "brothers" to the north) are sacrificed at the altar of hate and cosmic religious stupidity.
In the meantime, I hope this post is right and I'm very wrong. Sometimes you can't just pray for peace and wish that nothing bad happens. This is a very bad time to be a frog in a well, blinkered in perspective and (if I may give the image a modern twist) unable to avoid a dropped grenade.
UPDATE: Since I mentioned US appeasement, it's only fair to note this Salon article (no link because of those damn ads):
U.S. proposing aid in North Korea talks
By Audra Ang
June 23, 2004
U.S. negotiators presented the first detailed American proposal Wednesday on resolving the standoff with North Korea, offering the North energy aid and a security guarantee in exchange for dismantling its nuclear program.
The proposal is meant to break an impasse in talks that began their third round after earlier negotiations brought no progress on Washington's demand for the North to scrap its nuclear program.
The step-by-step plan would begin with Pyongyang freezing its nuclear program for a three-month period to prepare for dismantling, during which it would list all nuclear activities and allow monitoring of its facilities, U.S. officials said.
North Korea didn't immediately reply to the seven-page proposal presented during the opening session of the third round of talks at a Chinese government guesthouse, the officials said.
The North's envoy, Vice Foreign Minister Kim Gye Gwan, said earlier that Pyongyang was willing to renounce nuclear weapons in exchange for aid and an end to Washington's "hostile policy."
"What we will be presenting is a practical series of steps to achieve the complete, verifiable and irreversible dismantlement of North Korea's nuclear program," White House press secretary Scott McClellan said, traveling with President Bush in Philadelphia.
"One way to look at this is to look at the Libya model: Good faith action on North Korea's part will be met with good-faith response by the other parties," he said.
It is the first detailed U.S. offer to North Korea since President Bush took office and lumped it into an "axis of evil" with Iran and Iraq.
South Korea said it would provide fuel for the North once it declares the freeze. But the timetable for any benefits the North might receive for each stage of the process still must be worked out, the U.S. officials said.
Under the proposal, the United States and the other four nations participating in the talks -- South Korea, China, Japan, Russia and the United States -- would give North Korea "provisional security guarantees" while the nuclear dismantling work is carried out, according to the American officials.
North Korea has insisted that without such a guarantee, it must keep its nuclear program to deter a possible U.S. attack.
"First you would have to have North Korea commit to the dismantlement of its nuclear program," McClellan said. Then the two sides would agree to "a detailed implementation plan."
The plan would include the supervised disabling and dismantling of "all nuclear-related facilities and materials," and the removal of all weapons components, including centrifuges, fissile material and fuel rods, followed by a "long-term monitoring program," he said.
He said North Korea would get tangible benefits in return.
"We would work to take steps to ease their political and economic isolation," McClellan said. "There would be provisional or temporary proposals that would only lead to lasting benefits after North Korea dismantles its nuclear programs."
The help could include the resumption of oil shipments from countries other than the United States, McClellan said. He didn't know whether it could include food or cash.
The dispute erupted in late 2002 when Washington said North Korea admitted operating a secret nuclear program in violation of a 1994 agreement. Under that deal, the United States was providing the North with fuel and helping build nuclear reactors for energy production -- help that has since been halted.
Under the new U.S. proposal, Washington wouldn't directly supply the power-starved North with energy aid, the U.S. officials said.
But South Korea said Wednesday it was prepared to provide fuel oil.
"If North Korea starts freezing its nuclear program under the conditions that we proposed, we, South Korea, will participate in providing North Korea with heavy oil," said South Korea's chief delegate to the Beijing talks, Deputy Foreign Minister Lee Soo-hyuck.
U.S. officials say any agreement must cover all nuclear programs in the North. Pyongyang has denied U.S. claims that it has a nuclear program based on uranium, in addition to its disclosed plutonium-based program.
Kim, the North's envoy, said its efforts to possess nuclear arms were "intended to protect ourselves" from the threat of a U.S. nuclear attack.
"Therefore, if the United States gives up its hostile policy toward us ... we are prepared to give up in a transparent way all plans related to nuclear weapons," he said.
But North Korea also demanded that Washington withdraw its call for a complete and irreversible dismantling of its nuclear program, casting doubt on hopes for a breakthrough during the talks.
Kim also said the United States must accept the North's demand for aid in exchange for a nuclear freeze. If Washington agrees to both points, "we are prepared to submit specific proposals concerning freezing the nuclear program," Kim said.
He gave no details, however, of how the secretive North's renunciation of nuclear weapons would be transparent, or whether that might involve international inspections.
The U.S. delegate to the talks, Assistant Secretary of State James Kelly, urged the North to seek a resolution, saying that would "open the door to a new relationship" between Washington and Pyongyang. He said there would be "new political, economic and diplomatic possibilities."
You've never seen my brush art done up as scrolls before. I'm supposed to send these to Andi, but I haven't done it yet. The first is bul shim, or "Buddha Mind." My humble offering to the walls of Mu Sang Sa, a temple south of Seoul on Kyeryong-san.
The next work was something I did out of curiosity, just to see if I could do it: an abstract brush art rendition of a swordswoman. Andi, you like? You want? I was thinking of making a series of these, one for each major Korean martial art. The word "komdo" is in hangeul, not hanja (Chinese characters).
And here's a close-up: