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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 28, 2006

to Korea

In three weeks, on Dec 13 to be more precise, me and my wife will travel to Korea for three weeks. For me, that's the first time in four years and for her, for five. For the three weeks that we'll stay there (returning on Jan 5) we'll stay the better part, or at least half of the time in Jinhae and its surroundings where my in-laws live, participating also in an important family event, but we'll spend also some quality time in Seoul. I'll also be giving a talk in the Academy of Korean Studies in Seongnam on Dec 18 - more precise info will follow later.

Of course I would've liked to get my Ph.D. before going, but things didn't go that way. It's still better to leave when having received the statement concerning my dissertatin from the other of the two so-called external examiners; I don't think I could have hoped for a more positive assessment.

Tuesday, November 21, 2006

making foreigners sympathetic to the unification policy

The Institute of Unification Studies at Ehwa Women's University has a research project that, given a closer look, doesn't look like a research project at all but a covert propaganda and intelligence campaign for the government's and Unification Ministry's North Korea and unification policy. The project, begun in May 2005, is named something like "Developing a new model for citizen's participation" ("국민참여방안 신모델 개발"), and it's sponsored by the Ministry of Unification.

The research project, as explained in the above link, is basically about conveying correct information about the policies of the Ministry of Unification to "outside customers" (oebu kogaek, that is foreigners) via strategically placed Koreans. After quoting professor Andrei Lankov that he has received concessant requests from embassies in Seoul to explain North Korea and South Korea's northern policy since arriving in Korea, it is noted that there needs to be an effective route to convey the unification policy to this kind of "outside customers."
In the following, I have translated the frequently appearing word kogaek as "customer", even though it is clearly used to mean the object (target) persons of the planned policies.

To respond to this kind of a need, this research has the following aims. First, to define the citizens of the Republic of Korea who are in frequent contact with foreigners and are thus in a good position to explain the specificities of the Korean partition and the unification as the main type of "connection customers" (yôn'gyôl kogaek) to be administered by the Unification Ministry and find out about their special characteristics and attitudes about unification and North Korea.
Second, to draft an effective administration plan for the Ministry of Unification concerning those who fall into the category of "connection customers."
Ultimately, the purpose of this study is to present a plan, which would persuade the "outside customers" to become sympathizers (tongjoja) of the policies of the Unification Ministry of the Republic of Korea via "connection customers."

III. Targets and Contents of the Study
1. Targets of the Study
This study will define the following groups in specific circumstances as "connection customers," who are going to be developed as the new "policy customers" of the Unification Ministry
o Korean employees serving in embassies, cultural institutes, chambers of commerce and research institutes
o professional secretaries and professional interpreters working with foreigners
o other Koreans in similar circumstances

2. Contents of the Study
This study will survey and analyze the following issues among the "connection customers."
o What are their overall attitudes concerning unification and North Korea?
- the necessity and properness (?) of unification; do they want unification? What do they think North Korea is? Do they have exact knowledge about the reasons and the process of the separation?
o How exact and how sufficient is their knowledge about unification and North Korea?
- This part needs to be discussed between the researcher and the Ministry of Unification, because this will include also the inspection of how much the persons are aware of the policies to be conveyed to citizens in addition to their general knowledge.
o Have they received questions from their foreign co-workers concerning the questions of unification and North Korea?
- if they have been asked, have they explained to the degree that they themselves are happy with? If they have not, have they felt the need and tried to give an explanation?
o Do they think that the foreign co-workers are trying to gather information about unification and North Korea from other sources than asking from him or her?
o Do they think there's a need for lectures or other information material about unification and North Korea for people in their position? How positively would they respond to this kind of initiatives?

V. Expected results of the study
1. To develop a new kind of policy customer for the Unification Ministry
2. To develop methods of explaining unification policy that conform to specificities of different groups
3. To contribute to more effective explanation of the unification policy to the international society

A ministry or a governmental organization that does not make efforts to explain its policies is not doing its job, and I'm not surprised that the Unification Ministry feels its policies are understood properly, but here, this scheme clearly expects these "connection customers" (secretaries, interpreters) to compromise their loyalty and confidential position and even misuse it.

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Wednesday, November 08, 2006

"PD Memo" team tells more about the Hwang case

The team of the PD Memo program of MBC received pressure from a former government minister not to air the program in which it was to be stated that Hwang Woo-suk did not have any stem cells, the recently published book based on the PD Memo's investigation (article in Pressian).

The producer Han Hak-su tells in the book that in the evening of the 3rd of December, when the team was preparing the program about the existence of the stemm cells, Choi Seung-ho, the head of PD Memo's investigation team, met a former government minister, who asked them not to broadcast the segment, "even if there were no stemm cells." He claimed that he was not representing the presidential office (Blue House, Chongwadae). The person asked to think of Dr Hwang as "something like a father who has raised a family in difficult circumstances, so even if the father had done something wrong, would the PD Memo's claims be credible?" The person also mentioned the confusion the revelations would cause to the populace.

As Choi, the head of team, refused the requests, the former minister referred to the problems in investigation ethics that YTN was going to broadcast a program about the very next day. Choi admitted that some of their wordings may have been excessive, but they were not legally troubling and were neither related to the main issue. Still, the person insisted that there were going to be problems concerning the issue of investigation ethics.

Interesting and important issues that arise from these pieces of info are the facts that the person was already aware of the forthcoming contents of both the PD Memo program on stem cells and the YTN program on PD Memo's investigation ethics. The person - and those behind him - had been informed about the conclusion that the stem cells did not exist either by governmental intelligence gathering (NIS, Kukka Chôngbowon) or directly by MBC itself. Further, the Pressian article points out the possibility that YTN was doing its own program that questioned the credibility of PD Memo by a request from the government. (It was pointed out already at the height of the scandal that there was a high likelihood that the government authorities had pressured MBC and PD Memo in the matter; Pressian article from Dec 17, 2005.)

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