Wednesday, January 21, 2004

putain, ça caille! (et un bref parcours)

It's freezing outside, I mean. Since I learned the art of keeping warm in my own place, the indoors haven't been much of a problem.

[UPDATE: It's 3 degrees Fahrenheit outside right now, at 11PM.]

I spent a good part of today, Wednesday, outside, just walking around. I wanted to visit the Bonghwasan Station, in the hope that Bonghwasan itself might be nearby and accessible for a short mountain hike, but no. Getting off at Bonghwasan Station isn't like getting off at Gwanaksan Station, where the mountain's pretty much right there.

The air today was so cold that my ears, which were freezing, actually felt like they were burning.

So I'm inside the local PC-bahng where it's warm and toasty. They're closed tomorrow, as almost everything else will be, so these will be among my final entries for the next day or so. Perhaps the Maximum Leader, Carpemundi, the Air Marshal, and the Minister of Agriculture would care to fill in...?

It's the Year of the Monkey, starting the 22nd. What's the monkey all about? Read this Peking Duck entry to find out... and learn why Singaporeans are being enjoined to act more like monkeys.

FINALLY! Free North Korea has a fascinating post on what it's like for NK defectors who try adapting to life in SK. A huge chunk:

Despite his current position as a well-known and respected reporter, Kang had to overcome numerous difficulties upon arriving in the South, including confusion and alienation. He admits that life here wasn't exactly what he had imagined

"When I first came here, I didn't understand why South Koreans kept saying the word, 'stressful' in such expressions as stressful day and stressful life, because I thought I wouldn't have worry about anything as long as I had something to eat," the 36-year-old said.

He added with a smile, "I guess I am now pretty much used to life here because I also keep using the word."

However, Kang says he is still learning about South Korean society despite living here for ten years because the capitalist society changes so rapidly. This is a complete turnaround for someone from North Korea where changes are measured in decades.

Kang definitely is a rarity as a long-time observer of both North and South Korean societies, gaining life experiences and achieving a level of cultural immersion not common for defectors.

Life can be difficult for defectors and Kang points to cultural differences being one of the biggest obstacles they face in their new homeland. But with time and patience these can be overcome.

Unfortunately, there are also some things that are out of their hands like South Koreans' prejudice toward defectors that he has experienced first hand. As Kang points out from his own experience, many defectors have difficulties dealing with South Korean parents when they want to get married to South Koreans. A prospective spouse must come from a good family but for defectors they are often alone and considered as on par with illegal ethnic Korean-Chinese workers staying in South Korea.

Because he studied at a university and prepared for entering a better university before fleeing from the North, Kang says he had fewer difficulties adjusting to the South Korean education system than most defectors who barely learn the basics for survival in a capitalist society during their two-month stay at the Hanawon facilities when they first arrive in the South.

However, unlike some defectors, Kang doesn't completely blame the failures on the government. As he points out, defectors themselves are partly to blame for neglecting their duties to adapt to life here. For younger North Koreans, who tend to struggle more in finding their way, he advises them to toughen up and to never forget what their lives were like in North Korea and China.

Yet the government doesn't get off that easily either. Kang strongly criticizes the government for its lack of preparation for reunification, saying: "I don't see what the government is trying to do for unification. I don't think unification is something that will just happen some day. And even if the peninsula is reunited, how will the government cope with the chaos? President Roh Moo-hyun keeps mentioning about peaceful unification and prosperity of the two countries, but how?"

And that, as Kang sees it, is where the defectors can play a vital role as intermediaries.

"As well shown in the reunification of the two Germanys, I think the defection of more than 3 million East Germans led to the collapse of the communist society and finally reunification. So, the government should accept as many defectors as possible," Kang said.

He added that education for defectors should emphasize that one of their missions here is to prepare for unification and to bring the people of the two nations in closer after reunification by helping them understand each other.

Earlier on, the article mentions that horror stories abound: in fact, many North Koreans have great trouble adapting to life in a bustling capitalist society, and this is strong support for my belief that the "one people" label is tenuous at best. People like Kang make the news because they're exceptional. I agree that North and South can again become one people, but Kimist ideology has so damaged and warped North Korea that reunification will present cultural difficulties that will probably outstrip economic ones.

The Marmot posts a picture that eloquently captures the mess of Lunar New Year's travel.

Interesting post over at John Moore's Useful Fools re: China's global irresponsibility in not alerting the world to the dangers of SARS and "pandemic lethal influenza."

The Flying Yangban notes that Korea will be sending a special detachment of ass-kickers to guard its interests in Iraq. I should hope so! Nice pic to accompany the post.

An old Conrad post on Taiwan playing chicken with China.

Pundits are talking about the SOTU address.

Here's Joe Katzman.

Tacitus did a "live feed" blog of the SOTU. Start here and work your way upward.

Annika's blog, with its several guest bloggers, is strangely silent as of this writing about the SOTU address.

Dan Darling posts briefly on the SOTU. (UPDATE: Dan's also got another post on al-Qaeda/NK connections, which he thinks are tenuous. There might, however, be an Islam-NK link running through the Philippines.)

Satan's Anus on the SOTU.

Andrew Sullivan, like Tacitus, poo-poos this SOTU address. His full commentary can be found here.

Leaping over to France now...

Kensho Godchaser and Ryan discuss France's religious intolerance. Ryan offers another quickie on the subject here.


Validation? Satan's Anus pays a little attention to Korea. But no, this isn't a link to yours truly. There will be no Instalanches today.

Happy Lunar New Year, to all who celebrate it! Now go eat a monkey!


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