Saturday, November 29, 2003

le parcours coréen

Koreabloggers have been on a rampage.

Mike at Seeing Eye Blog fisks an Aidan Foster-Carter article that seems a little light on substance and heavy on the Bush-bashing. He also informs us of another traffic death caused by a US soldier... who, like a dumbass, attempted to flee the scene. I have no sympathy for the soldier, who should've acted like a man and stood tall to face the consequences, but also no sympathy for the Korean public, which is bound to overreact to this while ignoring the fact that Korean drivers crush and mangle fellow Koreans more often than foreign drivers do. On a positive note, I hope that every flareup of anti-Americanism drives home to Rumsfeld et al. that our troops have no business being where they're not appreciated.

Which leads me to the Marmot's fantastic post titled "Don't lecture the Americans about friendship." I almost cheered. The Korean attitude contains a high bullshit factor, and I'm less and less sympathetic to it. My only caution, as I mentioned a while back re: France, is that we shouldn't slide over to treating South Korea as if it's the enemy. It's not, and I don't think that kind of black-and-white attitude serves any constructive purpose. SK isn't proving itself to be much of a friend, true, but all this means is that it's high time we packed up and went home. If SK wants to stew in its own perceived helplessness (the litany of "we cannot help but..."), then let it stew.

Choice slice of Marmot:

To the extent that South Korea is "dependent" on the United States, it's by choice, not the result of some terrible systemic bind that the ROK finds itself in. Given the overwhelming superiority of the ROK over its northern adversary in just about every category that is used to calculate national power, the United States could leave tomorrow and South Korea would still be able to not only defend itself, but unify the peninsula by force if it simply put its mind to it. The ROK relies on the US military because, frankly, its cheaper for it to do so, and that does not, in my book, translate as "dependence."

And if you think that by cutting deals and playing nice to the genocidal Stalinists that rule the northern half of this peninsula will somehow restore your "racial/national pride," you've got another thing coming when unification is finally achieved.


Your "Achilles [heel]" is not your "dependence" on 37,000 American servicemen. If you wanted to become self-sufficient militarily, you could do so overnight. But then, that would require resolve, and that's your real "Achilles [heel]." To "free" yourself from your "dependency" (by choice) on the American military, you'd have to raise defense spending to levels consistent with your security situation AND make changes to the draft. But to do so is expensive, both economically and politically, and would require the government to dispense with the pro-North Korean crap and explain to the voters the reality of the situation. So Seoul simply relies on the Americans to provide it security. But make no mistake about it - this is a choice, not an unavoidable concession to systemic realities.

Friend...or parasite?

I love it.

In the fisking vein, Brian the Vulture deconstructs the South Korean reactions toward a standardized test containing a question with two correct answers. The test is to be regraded, with points given to those who were initially marked wrong. The problem: the people who benefit from the regrading may "bump down" those who initially got the question "right." The Vulture's sharpest peck:

"I cannot understand the decision," says one student, who apparently turned his brain off once the big test was over and done with. As if the idea that students get due credit for their work was some sort of alien construct.

Giving the cheated students two points is the right, and fair, thing to do. In fact, it's probably the only way out of this disaster, as you can't very well not give credit to students for [answering] a question in a manner the test-makers admit is correct. But those that got it "right" original[l]y aren't having it... because they know it is likely that they will be pushed down the ladder a few notches as a result.

This whole embarra[s]sing episode brings to the forefront the ugliness of Korean selfishness that has arisen due to the dog-eat-dog nature of this broken society they have created. Like everywhere else in Korea, the "winners" in this battle aren't interested in doing what is right... they're interested in doing what is best for themselves. And if the situation was reversed, everyone would just switch sides and do the same thing.

There is zero empathy for others... no consideration for others. You'd think one of the kids who was lucky enough to get his answer marked "correct" from the start would think to himself, "You know... if that had happened to me, I'd be angry, and I would want the extra points. I think they should get them." But of course, that's not how Koreans operate. It's survival of the fittest... and luckiest... and they'll do anything to keep those below them right where they are.

Where the hell is this society going?

Meanwhile, Kevin at IA has a great piece on the Nestle Korea labor situation. It appears that management has stood firm and, in the end, few concessions were made to the workers. Kevin also writes on the "State of the Union" in Korea. The zestiest bit of incest is this diagnosis, Zen-like in its directness: elected the corrupt, dumbfuck children.  Next election, you'll elect more of the same as long as they tell you how they intend to "stand up" to Dubya.  You'll believe it.  They'll go to Washington and cower.  You'll protest.  Rinse.  Repeat.

Also posting about the traffic death, the Infidel remarks:

The good news (if one can honestly say that at a time like this) is that Sgt. Jerry Olken is in ROK police custody, which means the ROK-US SOFA Agreement is working. South Koreans might have rioted in 2002, but if USFK continues to cooperate with ROK authorities, then South Koreans cannot complain that USFK was not honoring the agreement. I'm sure many will say far worse, but not that. In international conflicts involving diametrically divergent cultures, keeping to the letter of the agreement is about the most that can be expected.

Let's hope so. But the Infidel also calls me out for my comments in Mike's blog:

I would also caution Kevin Kim to refrain from such incendiary statements as he made in the [SEB] Comments, because hopefully the papers will not be full of that trash from tomorrow. If USFK leaves, it's not with [its] tail between [its] legs in a storm of fury, but because there's a sound reason to do so.

I don't think what I wrote was all that incendiary, and I'm way too small-fry to catch the attention of any journalist even if it was. I wrote:

On the bright side: another anti-American flareup might make administration officials strongly reconsider leaving ANY of our troops on the peninsula.

This doesn't strike me as the least bit dramatic. First, we can be pretty sure a flareup will happen, because that's what Koreans in groups do: overreact. I'm not worried about what I can't control. If Koreans are incensed by my point of view, that's really their problem, not mine (and this is consistent with the Infidel's larger point: don't worry what the oversensitive are thinking). Second, Korean anti-Americanism is already a reason for considering troop withdrawal, even if it's not the most significant one. Third, if we go, I don't think we'd be leaving with our tails between our legs at all. If anything, it's a sign of either laziness or complacency if we don't make some significant changes in our troop presence. Rumsfeld is right on this score, but I think what we're seeing right now is a flaccid compromise: a pull-back and not a pull-out.

My point, which I probably should have stated more clearly in the SEB comments, is that I hope the anti-Americanism makes people realize we don't need to be where we're (1) not appreciated and (2) not really needed. This would also be a shot in the arm for a Korean sense of responsibility. The four words Koreans simultaneously want to hear and dread to hear are: "You're on your own."

(Or is that five words...?)

Kirk of It Makes a Difference to the Sheep quotes Mark Steyn, who deems the NK regime "not long for this world." Kirk remarks:

"Not long for this world," is, of course, sufficiently vague as to absolve Mr. Steyn of any credibility problems should North Korea still be around in, say, a year. But what about two? Five? Ten? How much longer does the DRPK need to last before the End of North Korea crowd starts chewing on crow?

In other news...

If one hunger strike isn't enough masochism for you, how about two?

Noh Mu Hyon, apparently still intent on giving up his job, has expressed willingness to face a corruption probe. Plus ça change, plus c'est la même chose.

"The strife-ridden labor situation in Korea will deteriorate."

So: is the South Korean economy improving or isn't it, dammit?

And finally: an unintentionally funny lament about the Korean educational system over at the Chosun Ilbo. Gone, gone, gone are the days when the US looked Asiaward for wisdom about how to educate the people. One of the benefits of deeply exploring a problem is the occasional realization that the devil's in the details: you can't simply overlay a so-called "Japanese/Korean paradigm" atop the American system and expect American students to react to it as Japanese and Korean students do.

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