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∙ Current position: Academy of Finland Postdoctoral Researcher, Social and Cultural Anthropology, University of Helsinki
∙ Ph.D. dissertation Neighborhood Shopkeepers in Contemporary South Korea: Household, Work, and Locality available online (E-Thesis publications a the University of Helsinki). For printed copies, please contact me by e-mail.
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Tuesday, November 30, 2004

Hwang Seok-yeong distorted

Corrected the translation of the Korean-language parts of yet another documentary on North Korea, this time made by French. The translator did the work first based on the I guess French translation, of which I checked the parts where Korean was spoken. Thanks to this, Hwang Seok-yeong did not end up sounding like a chusap'a...

On the left is the translation made on the basis of the translation provided by the distibutor. On the right is the translated of what he said in Korean in the program. (And both are my translations from Finnish...)
The South Korean investments
and economic aid to the North -
are a proof of abominable aims.

South Korea proves
directly and indirectly -

its aim to conquer the north -

and subjugate it in the
name of reunification.
If we are going to be honest, -

Building factories
in the Northern side -

and manufacturing cheap products
with the Northern labor force -

means that North Korea

is made into a domestic colony.

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puja sinmun, kappu sinmun

Quite ironic that to back its own stand on the media (newspaper) policy and newspaper ownership and monopoly legislation, Ohmynews interviews a journalist from a Finnish newspaper which is monopolistic (think of Chosun, Joongang and Donga combined) and owned by the richest man in Finland, constantly expanding, and which would be the main target of media criticism by Ohmynews and reporter Sin Mee-hee.
If Son Seok-chun of Hankyoreh calls Chosun, Joongang and Donga puja sinmun, "rich newspapers", I don't know what this Finnish paper should be called, kappu sinmun?

The Ohmynews reporter seems to be worrying about the thing that the visiting reporter tells that newspaper editing is not completely free from the control of the owner and that the editorial policy reflects the views of the owner to some degree - thing that is seen quite natural here in the "newspaper paradise" where many important papers have been founded to back a political party or represent political or social interests.

Ok, the visiting reporter himself tells that his newspaper is a monopoly, so at least that is made clear for the Ohmy readers, and what the interviewee tells in the piece ends up not backing Ohmy position in any way.

By the way, taking the first quick look at the accompanying photograph I thought Ohmy was running an interview on Mr Oranckay.

Reporters Without Borders about the influence of two draft laws on freedom of the press: Two draft laws : one good, one bad for press freedom
Reporters Without Borders (Reporters sans frontières) welcomed a legislative reform plan to repeal the National Security Law that should benefit press freedom but urged withdrawal of a draft media law that would endanger free enterprise in the printed press. Both draft reforms to be put before parliament by the ruling Uri Party would have significant press freedom consequences, it said.
The worldwide press freedom organisation called on the Chairman of the Uri party, Lee Bu Young, to shelve the media reform law. While welcoming the repeal of the National Security Law, the organisation expressed concern about attempts by the majority to use the law to control the printed press sector.
"This law intended to curb the influence of the three major conservative dailies, looks more like ideological revenge that an attempt to regulate the news sector," said Robert Ménard in his letter to Lee Bu Young.
Reporters Without Borders is aware that a monopoly or an oligopoly is not desirable for pluralism of news and information, but South Koreans have a wide range of sources of news on top of the traditional dailies. [...]
It should be added though, that the proposed definition that the combined market share of 60% of three biggest dailies would constitute a monopoly position wouldn't mean forced reduction of circulation (who the heck could that be done anyway?) but by excluding the papers from certain favors. But to try to maintain that the law has nothing to do with the three particular major conservative dailies is something that even dogs and cows laugh at.

The first draft of the law included all the newspapers and not only national dailies, which gave the market share of only 44% for Chosun, Joongang and Donga, so the draft was amended to include only national dailies, which gave the three papers a market share of 68%.
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Monday, November 29, 2004

"Self-employment, no rescue" (Donga Ilbo series)

Donga Ilbo has begun a series on the plight of self-employed in Korea under the title "Self-employment, no rescue" (自營業 비상구가 없다). Seems there's a sense of urgency around the topic

"Opening new business en masse"; some basic facts about the situation: employment structure is changing, permanent wage employment diminishing; misled government policies; lack of proper infrastructure around small businesses; lack of entrepreneurial culture (자영업 문화의 부재).
Donga gives a lot of emphasis on the "distortions" of the labor market, and the effect that the hard-line unions protecting the interests of the permanently employed in large companies; that is a difficult question and addressing it gets one easily labelled as being against labor and union rights, but the discrepancy between permanent and non-permanent labor is undeniably severe.

The government saw self-employment as a way to alleviate the unemployment caused by the econimic crisis of the late 1990s ("The IMF"). [That could also be seen in the huge increase of research on small businesses at the turn of the century; research funds seem to have been available.] The good intentions in granting low-interest loans to prospective self-employed have brought non-intended consequences such as masses of people with bad credit records (what's 신용불량자, luottokelvoton in English?) and failed or barely surviving shopkeepers living on the edge of poverty.
정부도 뒤늦게 자영업 창업 촉진책이 적잖은 부작용을 가져왔음을 인식하고 있다. 저부가가치의 생계형 창업이 경기 진폭을 더욱 확대하고 심각한 불경기가 겹치면서 신용불량자와 도시빈민으로 전락하는 등 경제문제를 넘어 사회문제화하고 있기 때문. 최근 전체 신용불량자 수는 줄어들지만 유독 40대 이상에서 신용불량자가 늘어나는 것도 창업자금으로 빌린 돈의 이자도 갚지 못하는 자영업자가 늘고 있기 때문이다.
Lastly, the artice notes the abruptness or unpreparedness that is typical for business opening in Korea.

(I'm reminded of Mr Pak, 2nd from right in the blog header picture, who went to work for another to learn pangakan keeping sometimes in late 1970s; all he was given to was cleanign floors, so he quit after a week and went headlong to open his own place. "I was a bit afraid [kôbi nada] when the first customers came." That is what's called paetchang; he fared well in the end, and has been in the business for 25 years now.)

(Continues in "44% of the self-employed living in poverty" (Donga Ilbo) (same in English as well)

And those who read Finnish may take a look at a discussion paper by Jaakko Kiander (pdf file) from the Government Institute for Economic Research on the relation of entrepreneurship or small businesses and employment.From the English summary:
Comparison of OECD countries clearly shows that a high rate of self-employment is positively correlated with low employment and low income. Self-employment is not correlated with economic growth. Within a comparable set of edvanced countries the high income level is best explained by high relative number of business sector employees, which paradoxically is not an increasing function of self-employment or entrepreneurship.

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retirement age in Korea

Korean Development Institute has surveyed that the actual retirement age of Koreans is 68 years on the average, which is 14 years after the retirement from one's main career occupation at 54 (via Chosun Ilbo). Men spend on the average 13 years in another occupation before retiring completely, and women 14.5 years; also the age of women's final retirement is higher than men's.

This once again tells that "retiring" in Korea doesn't mean the same as what many are accustomed to in the West - getting a pension, being leisured, having hundred and ten hobbies, but trying to scrape together a living. (Not that many pensioners were not having economically hard time in the West as well.) Sure those elders with well-earning children and good relations to their daughters-in-law should be doing fine.

What are the jobs that the retirees have after they retire or are let go from their main occupation? The article doesn't talk about that, but jobs like apartment block guard, all kinds of small businesses, and book salesman are common.

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Friday, November 26, 2004

film exposure

While reading an article in Pressian that full frontal nudity in movies is going to be allowed without cuts on artistic basis (moviegoers in Korea will be treated for example with Ewan McGregor's treasures hitherto hidden from them), I learned of a soon-to-be-released Korean film called Kwiyôwô (귀여워, So Cute in English?). It's about a male shaman (paksu mudang) and his three sons and one daughter who each have a different mother, and who, according to the Pressian piece, carry out the principle "family that lays together, stays together". (<귀여워>는 극중 여주인공 (예지원)이 박수무당인 아버지(장선우), 그리고 배다른 삼형제들(김석훈, 박선우, 정재영)과 동시에 성적 관계를 맺는 역할로 설정돼 있음에도 불구하고 큰 저항감없이 각종 언론으로부터 주목받는 작품으로 소개되고 있다.)

The father is played by Chang Sôn-u (graduate of SNU anthro dept by the way), the director of Kojitmal (of which the Korean movie theater audiences have not been allowed to enjoy as graphically as the audiences abroad). Seems that his career as a director is not over after all after the (deliberate?) disaster of the "Little Match Girl", since he is about to begin the production of a film set in Mongolia.

Eying briefly the descriptions, this movie looks like a kind of a bad taste comedy on low classes, which is still able to present itself as an art piece. An interesting thing is that it also documents the last moments of the "old" pre-restoration Cheonggyecheon and Hwanghak-dong, which is visible in a stylized form in the background of the accompanying picture caption from the movie homepage.

An interview of the director Kim Su-hyeon in NKino.

As Woojay noted in the comments, copies of the uncut version of Kojitmal were widely circulated in Korea after the release of the movie, so the sentence above goes now "...of which the Korean movie theater audiences have not been allowed to enjoy..."

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Thursday, November 25, 2004

National pension - they told you so

Hankyoreh reports that the national pension (kungmin yôn'gûm) funds are running out much sooner than expected now that the interest rates of bonds (ch'aekwôn), to which 90% of the pension funds are invested, are falling and falling. The pension payments have been raising constantly and the pension sums to be later paid falling.

Being unable to think in terms other than what I'd come to know about pensions, I was under the impression back then when the national pension system was extended to cover also the urban self-employed that it'd be a permanent pension system, but I've come to realize little by little that it's been mostly a sort of a enormous investment plan of the government.
But the people that I talked with already new it many years ago. (The following excerpts are from my notes.)
A restaurant-keeping woman:
I ask her about the pension system? (kungmin yôngûm), which is introduced in today's papers. (See especially Chosôn Ilbo 30.1. for a detailed explanation.) I show her the article in today's Tong-A Ilbo. – Chal mollayo... I've seen about in TV and papers, but I don't know any better. – Received any official notice from the authorities? – No. (She brings the food and takes her own newspaper to see the news I mentioned.) – Seems like people like us would be getting some benefits (hyet'aek). – Has there been any system like this before? – No. There's been private/individual medical insurance, cancer insurance etc… In places like this income can vary greatly from day to day unlike in the more established professions like lawyer. This system seems to be for bigger things than mine is. One cannot know whether it will be beneficial or not… Here you can get [social benefit] money like 40-50 000 won. bag of wheat flour or bag of rice from the dong office. The system is not yet very developed. Isn't it very developed in Finland and New Zealand?
A hairdresser:
How about the kungmin yôngûm like in this piece of news? – There are those systems, but you cannot trust the government (chôngbu). My husband (uri ajŏssi) paid money to a fund (chaedan) while he was working (hoesae tanil ttae), but when he went to collect the money after he had quit the job (no longer didn't work) he was told that there's no money any more. You cannot know how these money is being taken care of or you cannot know if it's any good (beneficial).
A restaurant keeper:
Dinner in Mokp'o Siktang. Ajumma asks why I haven't come around for a long time. Her ônni is also here, and their mother, who sits on the maru and smokes cigarettes. How about this kungminyôngûm (showing her the Chosôn Ilbo article)? You don't need that kind of a thing. Nararûl mot midôyo… Toni ôbsôbôrilkka poa... [Can't trust the government. Afraid that they'll waste the money.] It has happened before that money has been gone (wasted or something) from places like that.
A small restaurant:
To Wangjokpal at 19.15 o'clock. The couple is alone. – How about this kungmin yôngûm? – Its administration has gone wrong (he probably refers to some other pension system) and the money has disappeared / they've run out of money. As he says it, it doesn't seem to be compulsory to them or at least they don't take it as such. – Kaiphasil saenggagi issûseyo? – Chigûmûn ôbsôyo.. [Are you going to subscribe to the pension? Not at the moment.]
A restaurant-keeping woman:
It's a burden (pudam) now that the economy is difficult. People don't trust government systems like that. They have previous experiences about paying money to a fund but then ending up getting nothing. They are afraid that the money they've paid have gone somewhere else. (She tells of her own employment, when she was in some system, paid money and got something back after a certain period, and that was all.)

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Hanja input in Mozilla?

For all the deserved praise about Mozilla Firefox, where's my hanja (Chinese character) input? Why doesn't the hanja list bar open when pressing the customary button as with IE? 이러면 훈장이 못 쓴다 이거. 흠.

I also need to use Explorer to send email in Korean from my uni account, since Firefox doesn't have language coding change as a mouse button function, which I need to change the language coding in the message composition window. Let's see if changing the composition window not open in a separate window helps any - perhaps, but language coding recognition in Firefox still seems to be lacking compared to Explorer.

Tuesday, November 23, 2004

Jo Jung-rae interview in Ohmynews

There was a long interview of the novelist Jo Jung-rae (Cho Chông-nae) in Ohmynews a few days ago. I have previously expressed my great appreciation for his latest work, 10-part Han'gang, which depicts the modern Korean history from late 1950s to 1980 through the eyes of a wide array of characters. But he still can't get me convinced that the root of most of the evils is in the three major daily newspapers, and that Roh Moo-hyun government would be that radically different from its predecessor (in which Roh served as a cabinet minister and from which he became a presidential candidate).
Unfortunately but perhaps not surprisingly he speaks as if president Bush had expressed possibility of a preliminary attack on DPRK because of the nuke issue (부시가 핵 문제를 놓고 북한을 선제 공격할 수 있다고 말하는 것), but this is something that Ohmy wants to hear and print, in addition to the newspaper issue.

An interesting detail is that Jo Jung-rae is a personal acquaintance of Park Tae-joon, the former chairman of Posco, to the degree that Park was present in the opening of the Arirang Cultural Center in northern Jeolla dedicated to Jo's work. Park Tae-joon who was a close confidant of Park Chung-hee, a fellow perpetrator of the 1961 coup and a model representative of president Park's era if any, and also some sort of a guardian of pres Park's son. It has been noted that Jo has an unusually positive appraisal of Park Tae-joon in Han'gang, written in the form of a newspaper reporter making a story of the construction of Posco at the turn of the 1970s.
In an interview for Posco News he tells that he chose Posco and Park Tae-joon to represent the undeniable contribution of the Park Chung-hee regime for Korean modernization and economic development, because putting up president Park would have been difficult (어렵다) due to the yusin ("revitalization") dictatorship.
"First, as an entrepreneur he was constantly conscientious and exemplary. Secondly, he contributed to the change of Korean industrial structure through Posco. With Posco the Korean industry changed towards heavy chemical industries. Until 1972 steel worth of 100 million dollars was imported, but thanks to Posco Korea became self-sufficient in steel, and the price was 1/3 of the imported steel. The GNP per capita which at the time of president Park's death was 1000 dollars is now at 10 000 dollars. The contribution of heavy industry like Posco has been essential in that."
So even the novelist Jo Jung-rae cannot but admire all the dollars....

This detail finely illustrates all the ambiguity of the modern history of ROK: undeniable development and improvement of life amidst poor democratic record (which in the end turned better as well).

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Monday, November 22, 2004

polarization of economy: consumption

Feel like living the "IMF era" once again with news and headlines like this: "서민들 허리띠 죄고, 유한층은 해외서 펑펑" '소비양극화' 심화, 해외에서 쓴 돈이 가계지출 3% 넘어 (The ordinary people tightening their belts, the leisured stratum going wild abroa: polarization of economy becoming all the more severe, consumption abroad over 3% of household expenses). The picture accompanying the article illustrates the state of ordinary people's economy in its most typical site, marketplace: empty alleys between the shops. (It's not the first time that Pressian has this very same pic in the same use.)

the state of ordinary people's economy in its most typical site, marketplacePressian tells that Koreans' use of money abroad ("shopping, study and training abroad") has increased by 10% during the first nine months of the year, while the whole domestic consumption by households (최종 소비 지출 총액) has decreased by 0.9%, according to the Bank of Korea. Foreign consumption (consumption abroad) takes now 3.2 percent of the total household consumption instead of the 2.9 percent last year at the same time.

Consumption of non-alcoholic beverages decreased by 1.8%, clothing by 1.4%, entertainment 4.6%, traffic 5.3%, education 0.7%.
What have increased are consumption of alcohol and tobacco as by half a percent and communication tech by 7.4%.

Kyunghyang Sinmun has a leader (or editorial...) commenting these developments; it tells that the consumption of the rich needs to be directed at home markets instead of letting them scratch (긁다) their credit cards and spread their dollar wads abroad. Kyunghyang doesn't suggest restricting legislation but change in attitudes towards the use of money by the rich and expects the government to do something about it.
What could that be, cultural revolution which overturns the Koreans' attitudes towards the innûn nom (the haves)?

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this is progress and human rights (law bill for abolition of death penalty)

Lawmaker Yoo In-tae (Uri) has prepared a law bill for the abolition of death penalty, and he has gotten signatures from 150 (Hankyoreh) or 151 (Chosun) lawmakers, which already makes a majority. (Of these, 113 are from Uri, 21 from GNP, 10 from DLP, 5 from Minju, 1 nonaffiliated.) The bill will be introduced in early December. In 2001 a similar bill did not make it past the Legislation committee despite of having the support of majority of the lawmakers.
Chosun Ilbo asked the 15 members of the committee about their stand in the issue, and 10 were for the abolition and five against; the problem (for the abolitionist's point) is that the committee chair is against the abolition.
(from Chosun Ilbo and Hankyoreh)
From today's Hankyoreh leader we learn that representative Yoo who prepared the bill has once been in death row himself.

This is a chance for the Korean lawmakers to show where ROK belongs to in this world.

See also Oranckay for the same subject. He reminds that no death sentences have been carried out since the inauguration of Kim Dae-jung as president, since both him and Roh Moo-hyun have not approved any executions. The last executions, was it more than 20 at once, were carried out in the last moment of Kim Young-sam regime, in order "not to transfer the burden to the next government" if I remember correctly.
(Wed Nov, 24: The latter name corrected to Kim Young-sam)

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Saturday, November 20, 2004

free exchange of info, good

Now that the ROK officials have gone on to block the access to several DPRK or DPRK-related sites (which in my opinion shouldn't be done), the usual suspects are standing behind banners demanding free exchange of information between the South and the North (see Ohmynews).

Their sincerity in demanding "free exchange of information" would just be much more credible if they hadn't been the ones who demonstrated against and demanded the closure of the Free North Korea radio station last summer.

I think the T'ongil yôndae will also have to file a complaint if not go and have a demonstration against... Ohmynews for printing stuff like this:
The constant lying also poses dilemmas for journalists, Jang Hae-sung said. "Some colleagues were supposed to do a report about the quality of meat at a Pyongyang butcher's. But when they arrived, the place had no meat. So they staged things to give the impression that the butcher's was functioning normally. After the report was screened, residents complained to their party cell that it was a lie and that the shop had no meat. The journalist was punished for the false report. But he would also have been punished if he had failed to do the report."

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Friday, November 19, 2004

Polarization of economy; big and small businesses

Hankyoreh 21 Weekly has an interview with the head of the presidential economic "task force team" (t'aesk'ûp'osût'im, really) and the head of the policy planning board at Cheongwadae Yi Jeong-u (or Lee Jeong-woo, or...), who sees that the economy seen in general is not that bad - 3% unemployment, 5% growth - but the polarization is. That is mostly a consequence of oversupply of small businesses like restaurants and taxis (he mentions these two). (Translation AL)
Small businesses like restaurants and taxis are having the hardest time. Since the currency crisis the number of restaurants and cabs has increased. There's oversupply. There are 240 000 taxis in Korea, that is 1 per 200 people. Looking at other nations, a proper proportion would be one per 2000. So that's ten times the normal supply. And the number of restaurants is one million. A few years ago with high real estate prices and credit card bubble, business was good for restaurants and taxis despite of oversupply. Now that the bubble has burst the oversupplied branches are hit the hardest.
I had an earlier post about the low Korean unemployment figures and what lies beneath them; one thing was that there is a lot of petty self-employment and low quality employment in Korea, which absorbs much of unemployment: part-time work, peddling, non-paid family business work etc. And the lack of social security systems doesn't really invite anyone to stay idle but scrape together pennies for example from selling socks on the curb. Or start a restaurant or drive a cab and barely get by.
Now comes the real proof from this guy that the president and his cronies are ready to turn the Republic of Korea all red:
So what's to be done to overcome the polarization?
The the social security model of Europe has its limits, so we can't go in that direction. The problems needs to be solved with production, and it means creating middle-class jobs. In my view work based on human capital can be found in manufacturing, welfare services, culture and tourism and other services and especially education. What's important is the reform (reorganization) of the distribution of asset sources (자산의 원천적 '분배' 개선) rather than redistribution of income (소득의 '재분배'). [He mentions government's recent real estate policy, reallocation of finance capital, and investment in education.] Trying to 'redistribute' what has already been 'distributed' in a wrong way will not be successful.

And here is an example of the kind of low-quality employment that is common in Korea and that keeps the unemployment figures down, a tearjerker case of an underwear shop keeper in Ohmynews, presented by the person herself. (Now that's the reason why the article arosed such a strong wave of sympathy.)
나는 속옷 가게를 하고 있는데 먹고살기 힘든 마당에 속옷이 팔리겠는가. 임대료조차 나오지 않는 가게를 붙들고 앉아 긴 한숨만 뱉어내고 절망에 빠져 우울해지고 몸도 자꾸 아파온다.
Gas had been cut last May for unpaid bills, and electricity was going to be cut. Called the gas company and managed to get better conditions for paying the unpaid bills and the guarantee. Called the electricity company, and managed to keep the electricity coming despite of paying only one month's bill. She managed to persuade the phone company to open her phone despite of paying only one month's bill.
더구나 고 2학년인 딸아이는 제 할일을 정말 열심히 하고 있다. 지금 또래의 친구들은 학원에 과외에 그 뒷바라지가 대단한데 나는 뒷바라지도 제대로 못해주고 있다. 하지만 혼자 열심히 공부하여 고맙게도 상위권을 유지하며 자신의 목표를 세우고 그 꿈을 이루기 위하여 열심히 살고 있다. 딸아이의 이런모습이 내게 가장 큰 격려와 힘이 되어주고 있다.
This becomes a story of a person trying to overcome difficulties despite of very bad circumstances, and readers are some moved as to open their purses and send voluntary fees en masse so that by now the amount adds to over 5 million won. See the voluntary fee window and the article of the expressions of sympathy by the readers; the presidential task force head has apparently much less sympathy and expectations for prospects for this kind of livelihood...
From the Ohmy interview of the woman:
- 하루 매출은 어느 정도인가?
"담배 가게도 함께 운영하는데 거의 담배만 팔고 있다. 담배는 마진이 별로 없다. 속옷은 하루 5~6만원 정도다. 그나마 마진은 25% 수준이다. 임대료도 밀려 있는 상태다."
- 언제 가게를 열었나. 처음부터 안 좋았는지.
"2002년 12월에 시작했다. 작년의 경우 동네에 속옷가게 처음 생겨서 그랬는지 괜찮았다. 하지만 지난해 여름 이후 조금씩 나빠지면서 올해 완전히 바닥을 기고 있다. 예를 들면 지난해 카드매출이 한달 2~3백만원까지 나왔다. 그러나 지금은 한달 카드 매출이 20만원도 안나온다. 현금은 말할 것도 없다. 하다못해 담배를 사러 오더라도 동전을 긁어 온다. 그 정도로 돈이 없다.
내가 업종을 잘 못 선택한 건 아니라고 생각한다. 근처 상가들도 마찬가지인 것 같다. 동네 슈퍼마켓도 가끔 전화가 끊기는 것 같고 매장 물품들이 비어나가는 것 같다. 나는 같은 심정이니까 말 안 하는데 손님이 '폐업정리하나'고 물으면 아픔으로 다가온다."

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좌파세력, 지배계급, 정치지배세력

김규항씨가 다음과 같이 미국 대통령 선거 결과 및 미국이 움지기는 원칙과 나라를 살만한 곳으로 만드는 데에 대해서 썼다:
미국에게 필요한 건 부시와 캐리의 차이가 아니라 부시와 캐리의 차이를 근본적으로 뛰어넘는 차이다. 그것은 그 나라가 오로지 지배계급의 이윤가치에 따라 움직이지 않게 하는 힘, 바로 좌파 정치세력이다. 독일이나 프랑스 같은 나라, 혹은 북구 나라들이 그나마 사람 사는 모습을 보이는 가장 큰 이유는 그 나라에 좌파 정치세력이 강력하게 존재하기 때문이다. 그 세력이 그 나라를 지배계급의 이윤 가치로만 움직이지 않게 ‘억지’하기에 그 나라가 살 만한 나라일 수 있는 것이다.
여기서 빠진 것이 하나 있다. 바로 "좌파세력"이라 주장하는 자들이 정치적인 지배계급이 되는 경우다. 그런 좌파가 언제까지, 어디까지 비(非)지배계급을 대표하는지 자세히 살펴봐야 하는 것이다. "국제화에는 대안이 없다"든가, "노동시장이 유연화돼야 한다"든가 하는 좌파정치엘리트 말이다.

아무리 좌파세력이 강한다 하더라도 오늘날 세상에서 그 세력도 지배계급의 이윤가치에
눈치를 돌릴 수 밖에 없는 것으로 보인다. 사민당도 여기서 (핀란드) 지난 10년동안 내각의 핵심이었기에 근로자는 좋아진 게 별로 없었을 거다. (아니면 더 나빠지지 않은 것을 사민당의 덕으로 봐야 하는가?) 냉정하게 보면 그것이 노동이 자본에 크게 지고 있다는 현실의 결과다. 자꾸 위치가 약해져 가는 근로자의 입장에서 좌파세력은 별로 도움이 되지 않다고 보면 꼭 무리라 할 수 없다.

물론 유럽, 특기 스칸디나비아의 경우엔 개량주의 좌파의 오랫동안의 정치 참요, 사민주의의 공산주의와 극우세력에 대한 경계, (어쩔 수 없는) 개량적이고 다른 정당과 협조하는 정치방식은 나라를 많은 다른 곳보다 살만한 나라로 만들기에 크게 기여했을 것이다.
그래서 나도 사민당을 찍는 것이다...

아, 근데 민주노동당은 국제사회주의연맹에 가입할 의지가 있나? 아니면 영국 노동당도 회원으로서 있는 데 가입하기 곤란하나? 아니면 당에서 민족과 민주의 순서를 먼저 정해 놓고 가입을 하고...

영국의 좌파계 신문 가디언에서 "좌파는 죽었고 부활되지도 않을 것"이라는 칼럼이 있다.

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Wednesday, November 17, 2004

women's "life force" (self-quote)

Part of what I've been writing lately:

Women's economic capability and household maintaining ability: saenghwallyŏk
Women across the spectrum of social groups and classes in Korea partake in formal and informal employment or generate non-wage income by money management and investment, and bring in often crucial proportion of the family income. Despite of the overall frequency of women's work and earning, women's economic capability, business savvy and ability to contribute financially to the maintenance and reproduction of the family are often associated with women in shopkeeping and other kind of self-employment. This kind of economic capability is often conceptualized as saenghwallyŏk, which literally means "life energy", and is defined in the online Standard Korean Dictionary as "capability needed to maintain social life, used especially of economic capability."
Saenghwallyŏk is used in a gendered manner. In the case of men, the lack of it is conceptualized, as if men's economic capability is a given, but the lack of it not unthinkable. For women, capability in economic terms makes a context for the use of the term, and it is usually applied to women who are major or sole contributors to the household support and maintenance. Behind the incapability and lack of "life energy" of men is the notion that in such a case the capability is expected of women. Similarly, woman's saenghwallyŏk implies that the husband is either absent or unable to contribute and give enough support for the family livelihood. A consequence of men's lack of saenghwallyŏk is that it is required of women should the family be properly provided and reproduced – thinking only of for example school and extracurricular tutoring expenses.
Nancy Abelmann (2003: 86-88) pays attention to the notion of incapability or munŭnghada, most often applied to men unable to support themselves and the family, as conveyed by the women who are the subject of her recent study on women's talk on social change, class and social mobility in Korea. The incapability of men is defined largely as lack of saenghwallyŏk and inability or unwillingness to catch on or accommodate to the changing times.
Women's earning power as conceptualized as saenghwallyŏk doesn't presuppose husband's incapability (munŭngham), as the cases of the three women in this chapter and their husbands show. Nevertheless, in the case of hairdressing shop keepers the issue of woman's earning power and economic capability compared to the husband's ability to provide for the family is often relevant, and easily evokes the notion of saenghwallyŏk. (Compared to the level of education and the economical potential of the prospective marriage partners of hairdressers, the woman a higher chance than most of their peers to earn more than their husbands.)

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Monday, November 15, 2004

moral downfall of Hunjangûi karûch'im

When one's too busy to make notes on anything worthwile, one can blog about the google search results that lead people to one's place. This most recent shows that something's gone terribly wrong at Hunjangûi karûch'im; the first Google hit for photographs of pimps gives this site. Unfortunately for the googler, I can't provide what she or he was looking for.
Update. Oops, now that I click this link hunjang comes only fifth.

Another one googled in Korean for "서울, 1964년 겨울 -레포트" apparently because the person needs to write a school report about the short story of that name.
야 임마, 니 레포트를 니가 쓰라 이 사람아. 아무리 싫어도.

I guess I'll have to go the grave without ever getting to know why one earth would anyone do a search on the term But you are a male . im not always, actually im never and why would Hunjangûi karûch'im come up as 12th? Is that a song line or what?

Sunday, November 14, 2004

on Iraq in the minjung art style

Ohmynews tells of a new book of paintings and woodblock prints on the present state of things in Iraq, 바그다드를 흐르다 by an artist and a writer working for Busan Ilbo. Interesting to notice how the once so strong and influential minjung style is still alive and deemed as effective - here the intention is of course to show the barbarity of the USA and the suffering of the Iraqi people.
Just a couple of examples from the minjung art of 1980s and the newly appeared work.

Our People's Art Institute: "The Kabo Peasants' War" (1989) (from Frank Hoffman's essay Images of Dissent: Transformations in Korean Minjung art.)

ⓒ2004 바다출판사 (From the Ohmynews article)

ⓒ2004 바다출판사 (From the Ohmynews article)
(From Frank Hoffman's Images of Dissent.)

It'd been better had the writer of the article not quoted Vladimir Lenin for the phrase that "art always must plant its roots among the proletariat", or something. The artists are able to convey their message, whatever the viewer's view on the Iraq campaign is, without bringing in dictatorship builders.

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Friday, November 12, 2004

bottom economy at bottom (Ohmynews story)

An interesting "on-the-spot" (hyônjang) report on the frozen "ordinary people's economy" in Ohmynews; cigaretters sold by piece and soju by glass - quite unheard of in Korea. (Considering that it was seen as a landmark that Korean restaurants got a right to sell soju by bottle in Virginia, USA; my earlier post)

The writer offers all kinds of examples of the bad state of economy from her own life and from going around in marketplaces - the site to go whenever something about the state of economy is needed.
- Seoul Subway tells that users have increased a few percent lately despite of the expectations of slight decrease; this is most likely due to more expensive gasoline.
- The good old coal briquet (yônt'an) are having a revival due to the increased price of oil, despite of the labor that coal briquet heating brings.
얼마 전 유가 상승으로 연탄보일러와 가게가 다시 활기를 띄고 있다는 보도를 많이 접한 적 있었다. 정말 그런지 성북구에 있는 D연탄가게를 찾았다.
주인 정오복씨는 "연탄보일러로 바꾸려면 하루에 세 번 불을 갈아줘야 하고 집안 바닥을 뜯어야 해서 비용도 만만치 않다"며 "하지만 기름값 때문에 가게나 사무실의 난로를 기름난로에서 연탄난로로 바꾸는 경우가 많아진 것은 사실"이라고 바쁜 와중에도 답해줬다.

"Suicide clearance" of a kitchenware shop in Guro market.
Prices are down, one bowl of k'alkuksu 990W in Myeongdong, haejangguk at Jongno 3-ga 1500W, Chuncheon chicken kalbi one person portion 2000W for students and 2500 for others and so on. Clothing stores and others are having sale upon sale. Someone has come up with the idea of putting up a "Suicide clearance" (chasal chôbun).

"The IMF" or the economic crisis of the late 1990s appears in the usual manner as the point of comparison about how severe the economy is: "it wasn't this difficult even during the IMF":
"사실, 제가 이 곳에서 일한지 10년이나 됐지만 IMF 때도 요즘처럼 경영이 어렵진 않았어요. 요즘은 세일을 하고 고객관리를 더욱 철저히 해도 워낙 상황이 어려우니 사람들이 옷을 안 사입어 운영상 걱정이 많아요."
The writer tells also that recycling and second hand shops are having a good business; this if anything reminds of the late 90s, when second-hand retailing had good times not only in the Hwanghak-dong market in Cheonggyecheon.

The writer has heard of a drinking place which sells soju for 500 won a bottle and 100 W a shot. That place, kept by a 25-year old woman, is in an underground arcade somewhere close to Hoegi station (Kyunghee uni) on the Uijeongbu line. My goodness, the drinking place preserves customers' soju bottles in the way nightclubs preserve customers' whiskey! Sure, her sales have increased twofold, but how long will the business go by selling a bottle of soju for 500W?

Someone in the comment section asks what a kaep'i tambae means; how come, even I understood that it's one cigarette, here meaning selling cigarettes by piece (even though there's no mention of it in the text). A reply tells that in '88 one cigarette was 50 won - sold by piece to students and others who were short of cash.

And finally a horror story from Chosun Ilbo of a man who was more afraid of the hospital bill than the pain, and stitched a wound in his forehead by himself in front of a mirror. Now he had seeked a poor people's clinic as the wound wouldn't heal.
“우리 집사람이 손등에 조그만 상처를 입고 갔을 때 8만원을 냈거든요. 내가 관절염 치료를 받으러 갔을 때는 침 한방에 물리치료만 조금 받고 12만원을 낸 적도 있어요. 그런데 어떻게 병원에 갑니까?” 상처가 아물길 기다렸지만 면사가 녹는 바람에 상처가 자꾸 터졌다. 이틀 동안 두 번이나 터진 부위를 다시 꿰맸는데도 고름만 줄줄 나오자 곽씨는 요셉의원을 찾았다.
Wonder if Chosun makes the conclusion that more taxes should be collected and medical care irrespective of personal or work-related insurances increased? But sure that's just another case to show what it's like for the poor in today's Korea.

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Wednesday, November 10, 2004

Cheonggyecheon video (and other things from Flying City)

(Update, Jan 24, 2007.The link to the video has changed; as of today, the video appears to be available in the page I've linked to, but it opens very slowly. The Flying City site has been overhauled meanwhile to the degree that none of the links to Flying City below work any more.)

Went to see if there's anything new at Flying City, a site about urbanism in Seoul. The place seems to be under update, but there's something anyway.
There's a very interesting 22 minute video called "Talkshow Tent" (Iyagi ch'ônmak about the merchants of Cheonggyecheon, on top of all with English subtitles. I haven't had time to take a look at yet, but it looks very interesting.

Click the captured picture to get to the Flying City page that contains a link to the video. Alternatively, here's a direct link to the video file (wmv, 363 kbps, 52M). As of today (Jan 24, 2007) the file opens very slowly.

Never heard the proverb that the man in the caption quotes, 장사똥 개도 안 먹는다. Instead I'm more familiar with 장사돈 개도 안 물어 간다, "not even a dog touches merchant's money" - perhaps someone came up with the former proverb based on the latter...

Watched the video yesterday evening; after the two interesting interviews it turns into a report on the activity of the Cheonggyecheon to-be-evicted street vendors, who don't really manage to present their case very convincely. But at least the second interviewee is worth watching; a vendor who's been around Cheonggyecheon since the 1970s, first in 4-ga and in the later years in front of Doota shopping mall. He says during the 5th republic (Chun Doo-hwan's era) the crackdowns were the hardest, but the police didn't mind about him selling rat and lice poison. Once when chased by the cops he run from 3-ga all to 7-ga

Flying City에서 또 한 가지: 성남시에서 철물점을 하시는 최씨 아저씨를 만나 보십시오.
아저씨가 ‘종업원’이 아닌 ‘사장님’으로서의 삶을 시작한 건 아줌마의 말을 빌리자면 어쩌다 이다. 새로 이사 간 봉천동 집에 자리가 남았고 누군가가 슈퍼는 회사를 다니며 동시에 할 수 있다는 말에 시작한 슈퍼란 진정 슈퍼맨을 요하는 가게였다. 결국 최씨 아저씨는 1979년 11월 5년간의 롯데제과 시절을 마감하고 슈퍼에 열중, 김포, 낙원상가 등으로 자리를 옮기며 진정한 사장님으로서의 인생을 시작한다. 김포에서는 새벽 5시부터 밤 12시까지 문을 여는 19시간 ‘근대화 슈퍼’를, 그 후 종로 낙원 상가에서는 123카바레와 같은 층에서 123카바레 웨이터 청년들이 간식으로 즐겨먹던 우유 넣은 허연 라면을 파는 슈퍼를 한다.

Update 2.
Wonder if the Flying City people got the idea of presenting the wonderful panorama pictures of housing and urban change in Seoul as smaller ones to be seen on one page and for the original big ones to be clicked (see "굽어보기" 시리즈) from me (my earlier post). I'm happy if I provided the idea - the pics are truly worth seeing and valuable as documents.
The pics are by the way taken with a film camera, the film scanned and the scans then attached to make the panoramas.

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Monday, November 08, 2004

Progressive seomin?

In my explorations into the Korean culture and society, following the anthropologists' habit (and my supervisor's advice) of paying attention to the use of concepts, I've come to show a lot of interest on the concept of sômin (seomin), as one of the Korean words for "people" in the sense of politically disinterested or unconscious masses or ordinary people.
My interest on that has stemmed from what in my view has been an overemphasis on the idea of minjung (民衆) in scholarship and from the simple observation that seomin is a widely used term as self-identification and as defining others. Especially before elections, seomin is a favorite term of politicians from the Hannara (Grand Korea) Party to Dem. Labor Party to use about people somewhere below the middle class.

김훈의 유토피아 디스토피아: '서민'
Illustration from 김훈의 유토피아 디스토피아:'서민'. 한겨레21, 2002.6.12
A member of the Hankyoreh editorial board has a column about the reasons for the low popularity of president Roh's government: "Progress is the Way to Go". The writer uses seomin in an interesting manner: for him they are the basis of support for the "progressive forces" (chinbo seryôk): "at the time of the present government which is said to be relatively progressive, the sômin which is the supportive stratum for the progressive forces is suffering the most"; also "resistance (panbal) towards Roh's government is spreading from the people with vested interests (kidûkkwôn) to the sômin".

This is almost like turning around the idea that seomin are those who besides being less well-off, having difficulties acquiring decent housing, living from hand to mouth (하루 벌고 하루 먹다), are also politically unmotivated and unconscious and do not act out of common political interests but individual or familial economic interests.
Why not, concepts do change over time. And it's not fitting from the point of view of the present government the idea that "ordinary people" would be conservative and disinterested in reforms and all kinds of political stuff.
But perhaps the politician who visited a marketplace last ch'usôk knows that it's the economy.

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Sunday, November 07, 2004


A Chosun Ilbo reporter has a nice selection of photographs from a trekking trip to Gwanak-san in his blog. Brings back nice memories from trekking trips twice a year to the Gwanak-san by the anthro department of a certain university at the foot of the mountain.

Photograph linked from the blog piece.

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Friday, November 05, 2004

Restaurant keepers' demonstration

Some time ago I had a note on the planned mass demonstration of the Korea Restaurant Association (Han'guk ûmsigôp chunganghoe) to attract the attention of the government for their plight and get tax reliefs and other concessions.

A restaurant that was: a chokpal (pork hock) and sundae kukpap place in Sillim-dong. (c) AL 1999
Chosun Ilbo tells that the 30 000 demonstrators (police estimate) made quite a noise on October 2 with the steel kettles (the Korean one with a wide brim[?]). It is described as a performance: 솥뫼의 외침, "cry of the kettles" (more literally "cry of the mountain of kettles"); note the use of the original Korean word for mountain, moe (뫼) which has been discarded already centuries ago for the Chinese-originating san (山), clearly a reference to a kind of "originality" that these restaurants catering Korean food are supposed to represent.

It is good to remember, as pointed out in the article, that the number of restaurants has grown considerably since the "IMF crisis" of the late 1990s as wage earners fired from their jobs invested their severance monies into small businesses, and also a lot of bank loans have gone into restaurant and accommodation businesses (음식, 숙박업) lately (in the "IMF year" 1998 207 billion won [2076억], in the first half of this year 2.6 trillion[?, 2조6218억] according to Bank of Korea). So of the restaurant surplus the example of 10 000 jjimtak chicken places opened in 01-02 is given; except for the "original brand", most are on the verge of extinction, and the "1000 won mandu" place boom of last year was cleared off by the rubbish mandu scandal (earlier post).
So in one sense it's time for some market capitalism, dear restaurant proprietors.

On left: the number of opened and closed restaurant
Right: bank loans to restaurant and accommodation businesses

A commentator paid attention to the steep rise in loans to restaurants and accommodation businesses between 2001 and 2002. The article mentions that "during the last few years the lack of appropriate object of investment has directed bank funds into restaurant businesses"; also the words of a bank representative: "companies don't take loans because of bad economy, and the insecurity of credits hinders private loans, so money goes to restaurants and accommodation businesses."

I cannot recall any direct governmental policy order to increase loans to small businesses like restaurants, but in those years the government directed a lot of attention to small businesses at the aftermath of the economic crisis, which really brought into limelight the importance (in good and bad) of this kind of livelihood.

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Film festivals: Ewha, and Labor

The Ewha Film Festival arranged in the university of the same name hasn't most likely been about marriage in movies; no, it was "'entertaining and artistically challenging films' for foreigners" as put in the Ohmynews article. It's actually not the festival itself that deserves a note but the fact that the article features my acquaintance Dr Lee Hyang-jin from the University of Sheffield - a person whose credits include using my paper (Sŏmin as a Social Category in South Korea) in her class (a thing that I myself haven't done yet), and a well-received work on Korean film called Contemporary Korean Cinema: Identity, Culture and Politics.

Later this month on Nov 16-21 opens the 8th International Labor Film and Video Festival; the slogan of the festival is "Occupy, Resist, Produce! Another world is emerging" (점거하라, 저항하라, 생산하라! 다른 세상이 시작되고 있다). Seems that this line is taken from a Canadian film, which has one Naomi Klein as one of its makers... There are 26 films from 10 countries.

Kind of refreshing to see that despite old-sounding style of talk, someone is at least using the word "worker" or "labor". (Even if this happens in a country in which "workers" do their utmost for their children not to become workers - which is understandable and which is one reason why this festival has its place.) And if the use of the term minjung (民衆) for "people" has been on the decline since the early eighties, this festival is doing its best to revive it.

And who else is pictured in the festival homepage than the late Jun Tae-il (Chôn T'ae-il), who immolated himself in 1970 after a hopeless struggle to improve the working conditions in Seoul downtown factories and to have the labor laws observed. I think I'm repeating myself from some earlier post, but he is a figure that gives legitimacy to workers' concerns, as there's no way he could be painted red.

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Thursday, November 04, 2004

東方無禮之國의 醜風惡俗

It is said that one lives longer with a positive attitude towards life, so it may not contribute to one's health to be for example too cynical towards Koreans' claims that theirs is a nation of good manners and affection between people, but sometimes (some would say "often") Koreans themselves make it difficult not to be negative.

I'm pretty much speechless after reading the piece of news that a divorced father had sold his two-year son for 6 million won in 1998 two a childless couple to pay for his horse race gambling habit, and that the couple who acquired the boy took care of him for six years but handed him over to a childcare facility after their business failed.

The father has now been arrested.

Now I should perhaps say something like "the notion of the relation between parents and children is different" or "it has been a common cultural practice to leave one's children for others to be taken care of." Or better, I could take this as another proof (besides Lotto, for example; my earlier post, and another; and yet one) that money in general and gambling in particular are disruptive for the Korean society, communities (kongdongch'e) and interpersonal relations.
근데 하는 척 했더라도 누가 진짜로 황금 보기를 돌같이 했을까? 황금이 돌같이 많은 놈?

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Wednesday, November 03, 2004

Korea pics, yet more...

A few new or remade picture pages in my photography page.
Click the thumbnails below to enter the respective galleries:

karaoke · 노래방

Läksiäiset · 송별식 · Farewell party

kirjakauppa · bookshop · 책방

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Tuesday, November 02, 2004

Pak Chi-man to get married

The son of the former president Park Chung-hee, Park Ji-man (Pak Chi-man), (46, chairman of EG company) is getting married with lawyer Seo Hyang-hee (30), tells Chosun Ilbo (you didn't expect to read this in Hankyoreh, did you?). The two met in a luncheon two months ago, started dating and decided to get married after getting the acceptance from both families. [Who is it that gives acceptance to Park, as he is the oldest son and both his parents are dead? His older sister Park Geun-hye?]
The age difference is 16 years, and Miss Seo has been calling Mr Park very naturally as oppa ("woman's older brother"). On president Park's death day, October 26, Miss Seo went to present herself (sôn) to Park's older sister Park Geun-hye and other family members.
According to Ms Park's secretary, she is happy for her brother, as she has had so much worries because of him.
Any older sister would be worried if one's little brother is a junkie. Park Ji-man has been penalized for drugs at least six times, but as is well fitting for the Korean judicial system, his circumstances as a son of the former president and as a person whose both parents have been murdered have granted him leniency.

"It is of course a burden to get married with a well-known person, but because Miss Seo likes oppa so much, it'll be ok." This is one way to put it; it'd be too rude to refer to Park's once strong drug habit.

Park Chi-man graduated from the infantry academy, and retired (?) as captain. After his first drug arrest in 1989 the Posco chairman Park Tae-jun recruited him as the vice chairman (pusajang). (Park of Posco took part in Park Chug-hee's 1961 coup as his junior, and was later given the task to build the company, Pohang Steel Company.) Then in 1990s he is said to have gotten 800 mil W from Kim Woo-joong of Daewoo, with which he acquired the ownership of the company which manufactures electronics parts. The company name was changed from Samyang Saneop to EG after getting registered in Kosdaq. [How could a company be named Samyang Sanôp when registered in the technology stock market.]

But no need to be cynical about Park's marriage; hope it helps him to get his act together. (He hasn't been apprehended in 2-3 years now.)

(Meanwhile, Oranckay links to a Hankyoreh discussion on whether marijuana really is harmful.

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Monday, November 01, 2004

Book notes

A few forthcoming books in Korean studies.
(The quotations are from publishers' introductory texts.)

Andrei N. Lankov: Crisis in North Korea: The Failure of De-Stalinization, 1956, U.of Hawaii Press (Link to publisher page)
Dr Andrei Lankov's book was supposed to come out in August, but is now due later this year. The book is about the "last attempt" to curb Kim Il-sung's power by the reformist opposition in 1956; this important year in the Soviet sphere had percussions also in DPRK.
Lankov traces the impact of Soviet reforms on North Korea, placing them in the context of contemporaneous political crises in Poland and Hungary. He documents the dissent among various social groups (intellectuals, students, party cadres) and their attempts to oust Kim in the unsuccessful "August plot" of 1956. His reconstruction of the Peng-Mikoyan visit of that year--the most dramatic Sino-Soviet intervention into Pyongyang politics--shows how it helped bring an end to purges of the opposition. The purges, however, resumed in less than a year as Kim skillfully began to distance himself from both Moscow and Beijing. The final chapters of this fascinating and revealing study deal with events of the late 1950s that eventually led to Kim's version of "national Stalinism." Lankov unearths data that, for the first time, allows us to estimate the scale and character of North Korea's Great Purge.

Kyung Moon Hwang: Beyond Birth. Social Status in the Emergence of Modern Korea. (January 2005; Publisher info)
If this is not coming out as a softcover it's unlikely that I'll order it, and the university libraries are busy paying rent to the governmental real estate corporation, so it may take time before I get my hands on this.
The social structure of contemporary Korea contains strong echoes of the hierarchical principles and patterns governing stratification in the Choson dynasty (1392-1910): namely, birth and one's position in the bureaucracy. At the beginning of Korea's modern era, the bureaucracy continued to exert great influence, but developments undermined, instead of reinforced, aristocratic dominance. Furthermore, these changes elevated the secondary status groups of the Choson dynasty, those who had belonged to hereditary, endogamous tiers of government and society between the aristocracy and the commoners: specialists in foreign languages, law, medicine, and accounting; the clerks who ran local administrative districts; the children and descendants of concubines; the local elites of the northern provinces; and military officials. These groups had languished in subordinate positions in both the bureaucratic and social hierarchies for hundreds of years under an ethos and organization that, based predominantly on family lineage, consigned them to a permanent place below the Choson aristocracy.
As the author shows, the political disruptions of the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries, however, rewarded talent instead of birth. In turn, these groups' newfound standing as part of the governing elite allowed them to break into, and often dominate, the cultural, literary, and artistic spheres as well as politics, education, and business.
This doesn't look like previously unknown history - the emergence of chungin (中人) specialist clerks and the previously discriminated illegitimate children of the yangban - but a detailed study is definitely welcome! (As if I was so sure there hadn't been one before...)

Alexis Dudden: Japan's Colonization of Korea: Discourse and Power (U of Hawaii Press, Oct 2004; publisher info).
As much as the famous Finnish linguist G.J. Ramstedt contributed to the knowledge of the Korean language with his research in the 1920s and 30s and with the publication of the Korean Grammar in 1939, his sympathies were with Japan in its East Asian policies; he went as far as to denounce some critical reports sent to the Finnish foreign ministry by the Finnish consule in China about Japanese activities in northern China in the 1930s. (Cannot quote from memory to which it referred in particular.) So here's a work that should help understand how the Japanese pursuits got the approval of a bourgeoisie (or right-wing) Finnish Asia scholar.
From its creation in the early twentieth century, policymakers used the discourse of international law to legitimate Japan's empire. Although the Japanese state aggrandizers' reliance on this discourse did not create the imperial nation Japan would become, their fluent use of its terms inscribed Japan's claims as legal practice within Japan and abroad. Focusing on Japan's annexation of Korea in 1910, Alexis Dudden gives long-needed attention to the intellectual history of the empire and brings to light presumptions of the twentieth century's so-called international system by describing its most powerful--and most often overlooked--member's engagement with that system.

Pang Kie-chung and Michael D. Shin (eds.): Landlords, Peasants and Intellectuals in Modern Korea (Cornell East Asia Series, forthcoming; publisher info)
This volume introduces, for the first time in English, the work of one of the major schools of historiography in South Korea. Centered at Yonsei University, the school focuses on intellectual and socio-economic history. A selection of studies illuminates the internal dynamics and historical roots of Korea’s transition to modernity and the division of the country and is a powerful refutation of the so-called "stagnation theory." The volume is in three parts: the first covers the period before the Japanese occupation; the second focuses on the socio-economic history during the occupation; and the last examines the work of three major intellectuals of the occupation period: Paek Nam’un, An Chaehong, and Yi Sunt’ak.
"Powerful refutation of the so-called 'stagnation theory'; this theory refers to the view that the late Chosôn (Joseon) society and economy was somehow "stagnated" and didn't possess the qualities needed for (capitalist) economic development.
(But notice that denying the validity of the "internal development theory" or "sprouts theory" [maenga-ron] doesn't mean that one sees Chosôn as helplessly stagnant.)
I had an earlier note of a new book edited by the economic historian Lee Young-hoon; The Landlords volume should represent quite a different (if not opposite) view on this phase of Korean history; it should be noted that Lee's volume is not about stagnation but of downfall and crisis of the Korean economy in the 19th century.

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Venice blog

Found out that there's a blog dedicated to Venice called Veniceblog. Worth a look for anyone wanting to go or longing back. No matter how cliched the place might be, it's so uniquely unforgettable for someone who's been there, especially with the loved one.

Those anywhere near the place should check the Turner and Venice exhibition at Museo Correr.
(The linked picture to the right: J.M.W Turner: Approach to Venice, 1844)