Archive for the ‘politics’ Category

What is the Korea Times for?

May 1, 2014

Updated:  This is how it should have been written!

 

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Terrible editing casts doubts on the paper’s raison d’etre (The online version has this error corrected).

coast guard 1

It would be nice if the jerk at the Korea Times did some research before writing his editorial.

In this attack piece the author either has an ax to grind or has no critical thinking ability.  Let’s dig in:

They did save people ― the captain and the crew. It is an ABC of maritime rescue that the crew should be the last to leave the ship not only for moral but for realistic reasons too: they should help the relief squad, mainly by informing them of the structure of the vessel. The Coast Guard should have told the crew to go back to the ship, as was the case of Italian rescuers years ago. Again, the officers said they could not tell passengers from the crew, but the latter would have been recognizable due to their clothing.

Here is the captain.  Would you recognize him as such?  Image from Channel Asia News.  He is wearing a sweater and boxers.  To be fair, they are navy boxers.

We are lost for words after hearing that an officer reported that the Sewol was sinking to the Mokpo Coast Guard by means of a “ax”[sic] instead of using a telephone. More surprisingly, when the Mokpo office received an SOS call from a student, it asked him to provide the “latitude and longitude” of the location.

I’m pretty sure the print edition had the word “fax”.  At 8:00PM Thursday night, the online edition still had “ax”.  Why by fax?  I can’t say for certain, but numbers and letters are more easily sent in print than aloud.  People read faster than they speak.  I could only wish the editorial-writer were lost for words.

Why would the Coast Guard ask for latitude and longitude?  It doesn’t take much thought offer ideas. 1) There were fake calls after the disaster.  It doesn’t seem unreasonable to imagine that there have been other false alarms.  2) The Sewol was way off course.  To be told the ship was near islands and might have hit one would reasonably be greeted with skepticism when there were no rocks on its intended route.

[A] Coast Guard executive stunned people by saying, “We did our best. Rescuing 80 people is no small feat.” The other 94 people were saved by fishermen on vessels smaller and older than those of the Coast Guard.

There was a lot of confusion during the initial stages of the rescue.  The Coast Guard is not blameless and there is always room for improvement.  Still, there were many fishing boats; it was not one vessel crewed by old sea-salts that somehow loaded 94 in their boat.

I approve of a free press and would not want to see it muzzled.  On the other hand, if the author really wants the Coast Guard to be the subject of” a vast and meticulous report on who did what (wrong) with respect to this tragic incident, not omitting even a single and minor mistake or misdeed”, perhaps the Times should suffer the same.  After all “What matters is not a lack of manuals or agencies but those of training and experts” and the Times appears to be lacking both.

 

Domesticated, feral, and wild animals

March 21, 2013

2 updates at the end of the post

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Original:

Why do we have pets? I grew up constantly having an animal companion. We almost continuously had a dog and cat, but also for short periods, a turtle, a salamander, newts, a hamster, a guinea pig, and/or goldfish. The ideal home for me would be one like Farley Mowat’s.   I don’t know if I could properly or with-scientific-references defend the idea that pets are good for their owners. I definitely believe this is the case, though.
Is it good for the pets themselves? This time my affirmation is less confident. Michael Pollan offers the great success of chicken and other fowl as part of his support for eating meat. If we didn’t eat meat, chicken would likely be extinct.
Ted Kerasote might offer an opposing view in his book Merle’s Door, an account of his attempts to offer his dog as much freedom as possible and how pets thrive when they aren’t treated as modern-day pets. The life of a modern pet is long periods of boredom mixed with attempts to be stimulated by their owners.
As part of this long introduction, let me ask a different and more specific question, one that I cannot answer. Should we have pet cats?
I love cats; there is one sitting at ease just outside my doorway, and my son would need therapy if I got rid of it. The negative points are more important to my post today so let me focus on the positives first. They entertain and comfort us. Some kill pests. They are little burden and bring great joy.
This post is not about the sadness that comes with the inevitable death of a beloved pet. This is a serious concern and my son is already asking questions about lifespans and death.
No, this post is principly about feral cats and secondarily about wildlife mortality caused by pet and feral cats.

According to National Geographic News, last week,

” Ted Williams, then editor-at-large for Audubon Magazine, advocated for trapping and euthanizing feral cats due to their rampant hunting of birds and their reputation for carrying diseases like toxoplasmosis.”
More from the article:
Over 80 million pet cats reside in U.S. homes and as many as 80 million more free-roaming cats survive outside.

To David Ringer, director of media relations for the Audubon Society, the dust-up shows “that we all need to work together on effective strategies that will address the very serious harm cats inflict on birds and other wildlife and that are also truly humane toward cats,” he told National Geographic by email.

“Cats do a great deal of damage to birds and other wildlife, and it needs to be addressed, but Audubon absolutely rejects the idea of individuals harming or poisoning cats.”

From the comments, I find myself agreeing most with Pete McLean who argues against protection all cats at all costs. “The entire argument is a stupid juvenile argument from lovers of stuffed toys.”
The article discusses some methods of feral cat population control. Apparently, Tylenol is unusually toxic to cats and could be used as a relatively specific poison that wouldn’t do much harm to other animals. Another proposed method is neutering or spaying.
Before going into my opinions, let me quote articles from South Korea that I discussed three years ago.  There I quoted from a touchingly sensitive article in Yonhap News.

 “Controversy over treatment of cats often makes headlines. In 2006, residents of a Seoul apartment culled scores of stray cats by driving them into the basement of their building and cementing over all exit holes.

Last year, the local government of Geomun Island off the southwestern coast moved to cull hundreds of feral cats overpopulating the fishing region, a controversial decision that was changed at the last minute to neutering them.”

Alright, first, the problem is not merely feral cats; happily domesticated cats are mixed in too. Tylenol might specifically kill cats but it will not further specify only feral cats. Feral cats are not the only predators of urban wildlife either. In all the time we had a cat, it typically wanted out in the evening and in again in the morning, often trying to bring the night’s kill in with it. And these were well-fed cats who needed to kill only as much as most North American human hunters.
I guess neutering or spaying would work in the long term even though new feral cats and fully potent domesticated cats are often entering the equation. I wonder if proponents of spaying would insist on a human-sort of tubal ligation so that the cats could continue to enjoy the attempts to procreate? In this case, clearly neutering males would be seen as equally evil: vasectomies all round!
I gotta say, I am for a humane cull. I would prefer it if humans could adopt every last feral cat -which are unlikely to make good pets -but an entirely reasonable, though distant, second best option involves poison, live traps leading to identification and killing (feral cats) or releasing (actual wildlife) or return and fines (loose domestic cats). I would even go so far as to train the killers (I don’t want use the euphemism of harvester or collector) to kill onsite with cheap, scalable techniques. There is no more reason to have an expensively trained trained vet use (expensive?) injected poisons with cats than there is with chickens, pigs or cattle.
At the same time, cat owners, be responsible and care for and give away your pets properly. That last paragraph was hard to write and I don’t want my little friend to ever suffer like that.

 

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UPDATE 1:
Ted Williams lost his job for posting concern over the number of feral cats and how to reduce that number.  Well, he lost his job briefly.  I don’t know if this is an apology (or that he needed to apologize) or simply a better explanation than he included in his article.  Here is an excerpt:

 “In my recent op-ed I reported that a common over-the-counter drug, an effective and selective poison for feral cats, had not been registered for this use because of pressure from feral-cat advocacy groups.”

“While the statement was not inaccurate, it was unwise because readers might construe it as a suggestion to go out and start poisoning feral cats. What’s more, the statement could be, indeed was, manipulated by feral-cat advocates into something I didn’t write or intend.”

Update 2:

Scientific American has an article that relates more to my commentary than Mr Williams’ predicament.  3,000 feral cats have been culled to protect an endangered species of bilby.

Unfortunately, the sanctuary is located in a relatively remote region of Currawinya National Park. Flooding in the park not only makes the sanctuary occasionally unreachable by humans, it also apparently damaged the fence last June, allowing several cats to make their way into the enclosure, with devastating results. “We estimated we could have had around 150 newborn bilbies inside that fence, and [the cats have] cleared the lot out,” Frank Manthey, co-founder of the Save the Bilby Fund, told the Australian network news show 7.30.

The fence has since been repaired, but Manthey says the surrounding countryside is still besieged by feral cats and has appealed to the government for help in reducing their numbers. Feral cat populations have actually risen in the past two years, an unintended side effect of government efforts to control dingo populations. Dingoes, which compete with cats and other predators for food, have been poisoned to protect agricultural sheep, but Griffith University researcher Jean-Marc Hero told The Australian last September that this approach gave cats and foxes a chance to fill the ecological gap the dingoes left behind.

A lesson from Springwater Provincial Park for Arrowhead

March 20, 2013

Thank you very much, Emily Mckiernan for your corrections and advice regarding a year-long all-parks day pass for Ontario Provincial Parks.  Summer and year-long passes can be found here.  Thanks also to Lisa Fleming who linked to my previous article about Springwater Park on the Facebook Save Our Springwater  page.

I hope their work goes rewarded although, as I’ve previously noted, I have not been in the area long enough to be greatly invested in the park.

I need to correct a mistake I made in my previous post. I wrote that I had been to Springwater two times but I have since learned that my parents took me there many times when I was a young child.  I don’t remember this at all.

A new article in the Barrie Examiner suggests that the work to close the park is continuing.  The article describes plans for the animals currently in the park to be moved to new locations.  Ah, the article describes the animals as ‘wildlife’, and the animals mostly fit that definition but these are animals:

“… that have been injured in the wild, or are unable for a variety of reasons, unable to survive in the wild. This makes it [Springwater] unique among parks and an especially valuable treasure: one of a kind. It is a legacy for future generations,” Miller said.

They are not removing every squirrel or free wild animal.  That would be a little creepy.

Also in the article:

Springwater is the only provincial park with an animal sanctuary,…[and has] 29 animals, including Monty the bobcat, a black bear, a timber wolf, two foxes (one red and one silver), two raccoons (one of them albino), two wild turkeys, a turkey vulture, a great horned owl, a peregrine falcon, a rough-legged hawk, a trumpeter swan, two mute swans, three Canada geese, four white tailed deer, two lynx, two bald eagles and two skunks

Finally

Two groups are leading the charge to keep the park operational.

They include the Springwater Park Citizens’ Coalition at www.SpringwaterParkcc.org and the Friends of Springwater Provincial Park at www.friendsofspringwaterpark.ca.

 

I think other Provincial parks need to take heed.  Algonquin, in my opinion, will always be here.  It is giant, famous and historic and just close enough to Toronto to be a daytrip.  Parks that I like and think are lesser known are Awenda and Arrowhead.  Arrowhead, get a Friends Of… group, get a real website, a Facebook page and more.  If you already have these things, I need to tell you that a Google search didn’t find them on the first page.  I did find this wordpress blog that looks like it is updated annually and dryly informative.  It does have a facebook page that looks well used.  Awenda could use one; this page needs work.

 

These are suggestions only.  I wonder how saturated people are with wilderness-based advertising.   Algonquin Outfitter’s Facebook page is updated nearly hourly. as is Pure Muskoka.  Well, even if the Facebook pages or other online content doesn’t attract many new visitors, it does a good job of maintaining the enthusiasm of longtime patrons.

What is RTO7 -Ontario Ministry of Tourism’s designation for the area (Regional Tourism Organization 7) doing to help Springwater – or Awenda?  And RTO12 for Arrowhead?

 

I am too newly returned to help Springwater in the way I would like, but I will do my best to post a Provincial Park image every day.

The closing of Springwater Park

March 19, 2013

On Saturday, my son and I visited Springwater Provincial Park. along with a few hundred others, to show support for the continued existence of the park which is slated to lose its status at the end of the month.  It is a great little park and everyone there had fun.

Springwater links:  Facebook, Barrie Examiner.

I will be sad to see the park go but I can’t claim to be heavily invested in it.  It is a great local park for Barrie but I have only visited it twice.  I guess I won’t be visiting it again as it will become a ‘non-operational’ park the beginning of April.  I think that means the cross country hiking or ski trails will continue to be open but the animal sanctuary, the unique part of the park, will be no more.

Animal sanctuaries are my thing.  I love seeing local wildlife close up and even as a young adult would call strangers walking down the street to see some raccoon or snake I had found.  The Robertcats (I convinced my son that it was too informal to call them ‘bobcats’) and lynx were the first I had seen ever. I even loved the “site vacant” signs with their explanation that the park did not buy or collect animals but only provide a home for those unable to return to the wild. This kind of viewing opportunity needs to be preserved.


The thing is, from a numbers standpoint, the park really should be shut down.  I said that several hundred people attended the Saturday gathering, but that is probably the same number as visited the park in two or three months last year.  This is a local secret that people only seem to learn about from word of mouth.

I hope Springwater stays open but I also hope other people and parks are taking a second look at marketing and public awareness.  I’ve been out of the country for thirteen years so perhaps my ability, or lack of, to name parks is no indicator of the average Ontarians’.  I looked at the Ontario Provincial Parks website and was happily surprised to see how many there are, and how many I didn’t know about in my neighbourhood.  Well, I might be a little upset, too.

Why aren’t these parks better known?  Springwater is a great park that I suspect no one knew about three months ago.  I only recently learned that Springwater has cross country ski trails.  Wish I’d known that in early February.

As I’ve repeatedly written, I’ve been away.  I am not sure what the responsibilities of a park are compared to the responsibilities of the “Friends of…”  Who is involved in marketing?  How professional are these groups.  Back in the nineties, I had thought “Friends of Algonquin Park” was a volunteer organization of enthusiasts.

The thing I want is for those responsible for Awenda Prov Park and Arrowhead Prov Park to be sure they are keeping their parks in the public’s eye.  These are two great places that I know about that don’t get much attention. I know nothing about Bass Lake, McCrae or Mara Provincial Parks even though I drive within 50kms of them twice or more a month.  Explorer’s Edge, are these parks are in your region of responsibility?

What advice can I give to the marketers?  Well, I have a few ideas.

First, when you make a website, Facebook page, Google+ or Twitter account, Keep Adding Content!  The Wye Marsh, a great place that also needs to be aware of its marketing, offers both a good and bad example.  The Facebook page Wye Marsh has four friends and five photos (all mine!).  It has been in operation for two years with no apparent support from Marsh management.  The Wye Marsh Wildlife Centre, another Facebook page, is full of what appears to be daily content.  Attention seems to attract attention.  Next to actual Wye Marsh generated content is more content made and prepared by the public.  Win-win.

Second, make sure you have accounts with the three media above (and more) and your own website.  Link between them.  Really, these two steps are all that is needed for basic Search Engine Optimization.

Third, plan some events and write about them now!  Don’t wait until news comes that your park will soon be shut down. Do it now.

North Korean aggression – an attempt at big picture thinking

March 15, 2013

This woman may have stolen my thunder:

Lately, the threats have been more jarring than in years past. However, like many Koreans, most of the expat community shrugs it off, likening the threats to whining from a petulant child.However dismissive we are to news of Kim Jong-un’s (김정은) newest tantrum, we quietly acknowledge that the threats are not completely empty. There is a danger of escalation. We simply keep an eye out for that email or phone call from the embassy telling us it’s time to go (or hope we will have the luxury of time and notice to do so).

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I have been in the small town of Penetanguishene, Ontario for about six weeks now and feel settled.  The times I get confused here and have to explain that I have lived abroad for many years have decreased and I mostly understand how things work.
The opposite is not true. When people hear that I am from South Korea, and they have time to care and talk about it, they ask about North Korea’s recent belligerent threats.  Here is what I would tell them if my thoughts were properly organized and they really wanted a lecture on the subject.  People who have lived in Korea for any significant length of time may choose to skip the rest of this post.

For ex-pats with some experience in Korea, the USFK are a great comfort and much beloved.  Yes, individual soldiers do stupid things, but no more frequently than individual English teachers.  As a group, as a military force, they are on the side of angels.

I need to belabour this point a little.  I think the reasons behind the second Gulf War were petty, deceptive and have hurt America’s image worldwide.  The American-led attacks in Afghanistan started for good reasons but the military and political leadership are doing stupid things and their coverups are only making things worse.  Bush Junior started digging a hole to bury America’s reputation and Obama is using drones to deepen it.

There’s a lot I don’t trust about American foreign policy.

Regarding Korea, I believe nearly every word.  Often, I trust the American reports over Korean ones.

I have lived in, and watched carefully, Korea for about a quarter of its sixty years of armistice.  What I have seen in sixteen years is an excellent example of the whole.  I arrived in Korea just after a North Korean submarine ran aground near Gangneung,a place where I would work for seven years.  The crew and their cargo of commandos slipped inland and evaded capture for two months before being killed or captured.  They killed many South Koreans during this period.  More recently, the North Koreans sank a South Korean naval vessel and fired artillery shells at an island of civilians.  The BBC has a timeline of attacks but it is outdated as it does not include the Baeknyeong Island shelling of 2012.

Now, they are making threats of more, and more violent, action.  My Canadian friends don’t understand why.  To some extent, I join them.  Nobody really understands what happens in North Korea.  This is what my friends and I think is happening.

From 2000 to 2008, presidents Kim Dae Jung and Roh Mu Hyun pursued a ‘Sunshine Policy’, that of giving North Korea vast amounts of aid and not watching to see where it was going.  Kim won the Nobel Peace Prize for it.  However, many felt that the lack of oversight meant that the aid was going nowhere or nowhere useful.  Now, I must admit to descending into rumour: I have heard that when bags of rice are sent into North Korea, the bags are labelled “Product of South Korea” or “A gift from the USA” and the rice then either emptied into new bags with North Korean labels or described as war reparations from these countries.  I place slightly more stock in the latter scenario but both are believable.

From the New York Times:

Tired of giving billions of dollars of aid and trade to the Communist North but getting little in return, South Koreans in 2007 abandoned the policies of Mr. Kim and his successor, Roh Moo-hyun, by electing Lee Myung-bak, a conservative leader who promised a tougher stance on Pyongyang.

With Lee Myung-bak came restrictions on aid and a return to violence by North Korea.  Although not precisely admitted as such, it sure appears that the North Korean government is saying give us aid or we will kill South Korean citizens.  This is a protection racket writ large.

The Daily Maverick has it right in an article titled North Korea: Eccentric, yes; Irrational, no.

Contrary to what is often said about North Korea’s leadership, it is not irrational. The Pyongyang leaders pursue highly rational goals in a highly inhospitable environment. They are not zealots of a mechanistic ideology or religion; rather, they are a hereditary oligarchy where a young king, Kim Jong-Un, is surrounded by aging lords whose forefathers once served the kings that came before,” writes Andrei Lankov in Asia Times. “These people have not the slightest desire to initiate a nuclear holocaust and bring the threat of nuclear annihilation merely for the pleasure of killing a few ten thousand Americans, Japanese or South Koreans.”Lankov argues – and it’s hard to disagree – that the real point of the nukes, and the bravado, is self-defence, and diplomatic blackmail. “Without nuclear weapons it would be virtually impossible for them to attract international attention and squeeze unconditional aid from the international community,” continues Lankov.

 
Finally, this account has caught up to current events.  North Korea has threatened to tear up the armistice agreement and attack both the US and South Korea.  Is this the same ol’, same ol’?

I think so.  The novel part of the situation is that we have two new players or perhaps two new leaders of the original players.  Both North and South Korea have relatively inexperienced leaders and who can say what the testing will reveal.

From the above-linked Daily Maverick article:

Park Geun-hye was inaugurated just a fortnight ago, and already she’s had to deal with an opposition that keeps blocking her cabinet appointments, plummeting opinion polls and a major escalation in hostilities with North Korea. It’s been less a baptism of fire than a baptism of impending nuclear apocalypse, and so far it is her equally inexperienced North Korean counterpart Kim Jong-Un that seems to be holding all the cards.

Lee Myung Bak claims to have been held back by the Americans and Southern generals appear prepared this time to retaliate rather than merely bluster.  Nobody calls an evened scale revenge.  You always have to reply with interest and who knows how quickly that interest will compound?

Kim JongUn and Bak GeonHye are new to their posts but their respective military leaders aren’t.  My prediction is caution with a chance of stupidity.  I rate the possibility of localized violence over the next year as around 10% and wider action as well under 1%.

I saw the completion of the 4-rivers project.

January 22, 2013

I’m leaving soon.  I depart on January 31 and don’t know if I will be back.  As I wrote on Facebook (names removed),

“My work these past three years -and also at Kwandong before that, has been great but I am returning to Canada next year. I can’t say for how long.

The Little Guy’s English is barely sufficient for day to day conversations with me and falling far behind his Canadian cohort so we (TLG and I; my wife will remain in Korea) are moving to my mother’s home in Penetang for at least one year. TLG will attend school and I will look for some kind of work. If I find useful and valuable work, my wife will emigrate and join us. If not, we will return to Korea to work I love and have shown an aptitude for but with the real concern about what high school will be for TLG- and any Korean child.”

I am not ready to talk about Canada, but that will come.

I am ready to talk about my long stay here and how connected I feel to Korea, even if only as a foreigner.   Case in point, my views on the Four Rivers Project.  I started blogging only a year before Presidential candidate Lee Myungbak proposed a crazy project, then withdrew it in favor of the Four Rivers Restoration Project.  I was here during his transition and throughout the Four Rivers work.  I also learned about flooding (one thing his project was designed to reduce) caused by North Korea.  Although I am not at all satisfied with the result of the project, I feel a strange satisfaction in my deep understanding of it.  I’ve been here long enough, and been aware long enough, to have real opinions on the subject.  I remain impressed with the bike trails built along the rivers and experience a thrill when I see the “Andong, 380km” sign near my home at the mouth of the Nakdong River.

For the record, I still have no opinion on who owns Dokdo.  I don’t know how long I would have to stay in the country for that to happen (Hans Island is, however, clearly Canadian).

I feel so connected to farming in Korea.  Even though I am unable to plan or schedule when or what crops should be planted, I have been involved in that work for several years.  I don’t love rice like my wife does, but I know it grows.  I don’t know how hot my in-laws’ peppers are but I know how productive the plants are and hot to recognize a pepper from a leaf at a metres’ distance.

I even sorta understand why Korean lifeguards are so cautious about letting people swim here.  Full understanding is beyond me, but I have seen so many non-swimmers launch themselves in tubes into deep water that I would be equally draconian in running a beach.  I now only grimace when I see a two-metre deep pool only filled to 1.4 metres so non-swimmers are safe.

Maybe I am leaving just in time.  Everytime I see a car or truck running a red light, I plot about bringing a realistic doll to the intersection and tossing it in front of a red-light-running vehicle.  I have held back because I can imagine the result of a car swerving wildly to avoid the ‘baby’ and because I don’t have such a doll handy.  I’ll leave it to you to guess which influence is greater.

I don’t know if I will write a ‘_-things I love in Korea” or a “__ things I hate in Korea”.  With my current blogging regimen it will be July before they finish. Still, I should take some time to review my time here and my future plans at such an obvious demarkation point. What better place to put my private thoughts then on a public blog?

The Games start soon!

July 27, 2012

Tomorrow night, my son and I will be watching Olympic swimming, and probably other sports and events.  I’m excited to see what the swimmers can do but also am envious of my son’s idealistic view of The Games.

If I were to write down my own version of an Athlete’s Credo, it would describe wanting to do my best but also wanting the same for my competitors.  I would prefer to win or lose and be secure in my belief that the outcome was correct.  If I were to win, I would want my opponent to say something like, “I did my best and you were better” rather than “If I’d had a better start…”.

Of course, I won’t be there competing and perhaps people who have put enough effort into getting there have different priorities.

Back to contrasting my son’s view of The Games with mine.  He doesn’t notice all the politics involved.  He happily sings the jingles of the Olympic-themed advertising.  He doesn’t know that one of Korea’s IOC representatives is a convicted felon who was pardoned specifically so as to improve Korea’s chances of hosting the ’18 Olympics.  He hasn’t read The New Lords of the Rings.  Again, I envy him.

I will not be burdening him with my views of the games for a decade or more.  Unlike Santa or Jesus, the idealism of The Games is not  imaginary.

I’ll probably share this story with him.

Kang Seung-woo gets it.

In my time zone, it looks Like Bak Tae-hwan is swimming 400 free at 6:52 tomorrow night. Finals around 4:00am Sunday morning.

Serious issues spoiled by incoherent ranting style

July 17, 2012

Child Abuse camp as advertised on the Democratic United Party blog and protected by corrupt police soon to be exposed

By [name redacted] and translated by Surprisesaplenty

My ‘translated by’ claim above is snarky, but I am starting from the man’s Facebook claims and following other links.  His writing is … challenging.

A sample from various locations (1,2) on Facebook (these are from large groups on Facebook so I don’t think they are private utterances.  The latter link is to “Every Expat inKorea” which sounds like it should be considered a public space):

“Korean Conman with no degree is touted as professor on the Korean Democratic United party blog, that also names his business that prior to that time had been in the papers (Korean Herald) for human smuggling US citizens with fake visas to work for free in his illegal unlicensed English camps the Jeju City Office of Education yet again has filed more changes against this week.

The full truth is not in the 1000s of newspaper report about this illegal business 제주국제영어마을 – that it includes pedophile activity and stupid foreigners who profit from job ads saying they get bonus money for working their kids, which should have been a know brainier that that is against the law.”

A “know brainier” indeed.  These 100+ words  in two sentences were separated in the ellipses by a citation.  Oh, alright, here it is: As seen On KBS News and 제주가 보인다 2012.2.1.

Still, [redacted] is passionate about his claims; so much so that I had to dig in and try to understand them.

Okay, I’ve looked into the claims and they are too hot – criminally hot – for me!

At 3 Wise Monkeys is a good description of the problem.  Giving real names and identifying businesses , even if the claims made are true, is considered libel.

The Korea Herald has reported as much as it dares here.  Dare I say it, the reporting is as well done as it could be without risking exposure to libel.

A second problem with discussing [redacted]‘s problems are their variety.  3WM and the Herald discuss (1)immigration and contractual issues, but [redacted] also claims (2) sexual abuse of the students, corruption among the (3) police (The Herald article looks at this) and (4) a political party and (5) death threats he has received*.  They might all be true but if too many claims are stacked like this, why not add one more: “(6)And he cancelled Christmas!”

I feel there is something wrong here and that [redacted] has been mistreated, possibly criminally, but I am honestly afraid to write further.  Korea’s libel laws are clear.

This is a serious issue and I feel for [redacted] but at the same time I must retreat into snark again and say that if his writing is a good example of his English communication skills, I would not much want to hire him either.

* Search for information from 3WM… You can find this claim if you wish.

Creationists in Korea: They’ve hit the big-time!

June 6, 2012

Updated again: Ask A Korean has looked into the changes and feels, as Gord Sellar does (below), that the changes are more cosmetic or for purposes of updating the texts.

The group that represents these creationists, called Society for Textbook Revise (STR), has attempted to attack the references to evolution in Korean science textbooks in any manner possible.

What STR did manage to pull off with three textbook publishers was this: STR convinced those publishers that two diagrams in their books — one about the evolution of horses, and the other about archeopteryx — and the text accompanying them were scientifically incorrect. Notice the claim here:  the claim was not that the diagrams were against creationism. The claim was that the diagrams were scientifically incorrect.

Updated: Resistance to the proposed changes has emerged:

Conflict between pro- and anti-evolutionists has escalated half a year since several major publishers were approached by a local organization to delete or revise examples explaining the process of evolution from science textbooks for high school students. 

In turn, the dormant evolutionists and biologists here have mobilized. On Wednesday, academics and researchers from the Paleontological Society of Korea and five other scientific associations gathered for the first meeting of the Committee to Promote Evolution to debate the issue in question, which is whether or not the archaeopteryx, a prehistoric bird from the Jurassic Period, was a transitional species between reptiles and birds. 

————–

Two weeks ago, I wrote about changes to Biology Textbooks in Korea.  At the time, I was of the opinion that the changes were merely updates: one example of evolutionary change being replaced by another.

Gord Sellar recently wrote about the changes and earlier errors – were at least partially the result of conservatism among the publishers.  The industry receives five-year contracts  and if a publisher has won such a contract, it won’t want to make any changes beyond what is required.

The problem, as a friend explained Miss Jiwaku, is that a lot of Korean biology textbooks have outdated material when it comes to evolutionary theory; the explanation of horse evolution was so old that it had actually been badly needing updating. This, of course, is a deadly situation when you have religious nuts around fighting a holy war against science.

So they struck. Sometimes it’s embarrassing how ignorantists can be so coordinated, so organized, so clever about this stuff.

…[big ellipsis here]…

textbook companies normally do not take risks when it comes to content and their potential inclusion on the Ministry of Education’s textbook lists for public schools. They are, indeed, so risk-averse that they will publish outdated material just to avoid being left off the list. This is because exclusion from the list means a loss of billions of won (ie. millions of dollars) of revenue

Well, this morning, my Google Newsreader was full of international attention to the subject.

The Friendly Atheist:

The National Center for Science Education isn’t surprised by the move — acceptance of evolution in the country is relatively low compared to other countries… (excluding the U.S., because we’re full of science denialists)

The Sensuous Curmudgeon (quoting from Nature) (SC added the bolding):

The campaign was led by the Society for Textbook Revise (STR), which aims to delete the “error” of evolution from textbooks to “correct” students’ views of the world, according to the society’s website. The society says that its members include professors of biology and high-school science teachers.

The relationship between Korea and the journal Nature is an interesting one.  I wonder which report is more embarrassing for Korea: This or the Hwang Woo-seok cloning scandal?

privileges for varsity athletes

June 4, 2012

I talk about myself a lot in this post so I should start by clarifying a few things.  I was an athlete while at high school and university and a fairly good one.  I kinda-sorta reached the national level of competition during a few years of university.  I once qualified to try out for the Olympics but knew my chances were so low, I went on a biology field trip instead of Olympic Trials.  In the world of competitive swimming, I was very good, but definitely not great.  Now, to talk about great athletes:

In Canada, I don’t recall receiving many privileges in support of my athletic training.  At university, my competitive swim training was entirely free and if I missed a class due to a competition, my professor was obliged to allow me to make up missed tests or  assignments or the like in another way.  Nowadays, athletes at university have to pay for some of their training.

There was a quiet scandal at my university about an American basketball player who had joined our school and basketball team.  Reports were, he wasn’t attending class nor handing in assignments.  The guy was only there to play.

Here in Korea, university students are not required to attend classes or take tests and have other benefits.  The Korea Times recently published an article on the subject -the first of a series.

“Recently, a professor talked indirectly about the privileges for athletes when he raised an issue over figure skater Kim Yuna’s teaching practice, arguing that as a senior at Korea University’s physical education department she lacked the qualifications to participate in teaching practice. The professor was threatened with a lawsuit by Kim’s agency and was overwhelmed by a Yu-na-supporting Internet mob.”

First let’s look at this specific situation.  If she were teaching physical education, then I argue that she has had more first-hand knowledge of teaching and coaching than almost anyone on the planet.  From the example of her own excellent coaches, to the lessons of anatomy she received with therapy from multiple injuries, she doubtless has the background to coach most sports.  At my high school, phys. ed. teachers also taught sex education and I can’t say one way or the other whether Kim Yuna would know what to say there.  In the US, sex ed is so politicized and regimented that proper training is probably unnecessary.

Second, let’s look at the general situation.  I have had many athletes who skipped classes with the university’s blessings and I don’t think many of them went to the Olympics.  Kim Yuna probably speaks English well, having trained abroad for many years.  My students, whom I only saw on paper, couldn’t string three words together.  I think the unnamed professor in the quote above has a point.

“In addition, the members of the 2002 World Cup squad including Manchester United midfielder Park Ji-sung, and Korean baseball players participating in the improvised World Baseball Classic (WBC) in 2006, had their military service waived after each side got out of the group stage for the first time in history and reached the semifinals. Both exemptions were hurriedly established exemptions, which raised voices against the extreme favor.

In Korea, all able-bodied men over 20 are required to serve in the military for about two years under the country’s mandatory conscription system.”

“…”

“Looking back in history, there were some renowned sportsmen who joined the military, fought in wars and even lost their lives during their heydays. Boston Red Sox great Ted Williams, the last player in MLB to bat over .400 in a single season, was called up to serve in World War II and Korean War, while Pat Tillman, formerly of the Arizona Cardinals in the National Football League (NFL), enlisted in the U.S. Army in 2002 after turning down a contract offer of $3.6 million (4.25 billion won), only to be killed by friendly fire during his service in Afghanistan in 2004.”

There is a huge gap between the quotes above.

I don’t know much about Williams although I have met a pitcher who struck him out, but Tillman was a volunteer.  The whole argument over conscription is more important than that of a few privileged athletes but not one I don’t intend to get into now.

My main concern here is that the age of conscription is also the age of peak performance for many athletes.  For a competitive swimmer, losing two years to the army would require at least two years to return to that form.  The army training would keep the guy fit but all the subtlety of technique would be lost.  So a twenty-year-old, nearly-Olympic-level swimmer would join the army, then at age twenty-four would be in the same position.  Four years is a lot.

“But Park said there is no leg[al] evidence that medalists improve the national brand or glory by winning medals at international competitions.

“Who remembers where the gold medalist in canoeing at the Beijing Olympics came from?” he asked.”

I didn’t remember and so looked it up.  Still, I think the world knows that Korea is the home for Olympic violence (if it could be used to hurt people, Koreans win medals at it).  I think Park is likely correct but he has also carefully chosen his example. As a competitive swimmer, I had some tiny degree of recognition at school, but the team sport players on the basketball and hockey teams were far better known.  If Park had asked about the Olympic Gold medalists in Hockey, baseball, soccer or basketball, more people would have answered.

At the same time, Park Tae-hwan is famous among swimmers the world over.  If Park had asked canoeing enthusiasts, he would probably have gotten the correct names.

“Another problem is that medalists from the Olympics or Asian Games are awarded monthly pension money after they reach 60. Amid escalating negative comments on the system, the Military Manpower Administration (MMA) is set to take an action to revise the current law.”

Wow.  This is something I would like to have waiting for me.  Rising to the level of Olympian is hard on your body.  I have already pointed out that I was nowhere near that level, yet I have some minor knee and shoulder problems now.  Perhaps Olympians or Asiad medalists don’t need assistance so much as everyone does at that age and a more universal care package should be arranged.

—————

Updated: The day after I posted this, I had a final exam with a student who is also an athlete and permitted to skip classes and homework.  The student, very correctly and responsibly, had informed me early about her training schedule and inability to attend classes.  We made arrangements long before the exam and I commend her planning.

The exam was terrible.  It was an oral exam and I ended up speaking more Korean than she did English to try to elicit any answers from her.  At the end of the exam, I wished her well, saying, “I hope you’re a good [sport name redacted]”.  Two coworkers overheard me and remarked on the backhanded remark.

This student presumably does well in her sport and her sport is a very competitive one in Korea.  If she had made it to the Olympics, she could have used that name-recognition to find work afterwards.  As she has not qualified for the Olympics, she is merely strong in her field but weak in background sports theory.

It reminded me of a student from a previous university who was permitted to skip my classes for most of the semester but somehow lost her protected status and suddenly needed to catch up on homework and prepare for an exam.  The outcome was not a good one for her.


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