Politicians solving their own problems: Rep. Shim Jae-Chul

If you are a member of the National Assembly, please stop reading this now, if you want to save your career.

Case: Rep. Shim Jae-Chul, leading Korean politician
Problem: He hates working with so many guys.
Solution: Look at nude photos during legislative session.
What he shoulda said: I thought I was reading the Korea Times when I saw those nude photos.
According to the Korea Times:
Over the weekend, Rep. Shim Jae-chul of the ruling Saenuri Party was shamed after local media released a photo of him looking at pictures of nude women on his smartphone during a session of the National Assembly.

The four-term lawmaker initially made the excuse that he was just checking an e-mail sent to him, but was disgraced further as another media outlet released a photo that he was typing “nude” into his smartphone.
This case is hilarious. I'm not complaining about porn. But considering the other scandals in the news, you would think that a leading politician could hold off on viewing some T&A until after work. Still, I think he should have blamed it on the Korea Times. Below is a sampling of the stuff you can see. I hope that all non-members of the National Assembly have already moved on to a different page.

Asiana to end skirts-only policy

Congratulations to the ladies at Asiana Airlines!
Starting from early next month, Asiana's 3000-odd female flight attendants will be allowed to wear trousers for the first time since the company came into existence 25 years ago, an airline statement said.
The decision came after the national rights watchdog, responding to an appeal lodged by the Korean Confederation of Trade Unions, ruled the existing dress code was "gender discriminatory".
I haven't heard about Korean Air's response or policy. It is the number one airline in Korea, so it doesn't have to worry, for now.

But it would seem to be a great opportunity for Jeju Air, the number three airline, to immediately announce a "miniskirts-only" policy for 50% of new hires. Of course, people would be outraged, President Park would denounce it, women's groups would start burning their bras, and "experts" and philosophers would discuss the ethics of it.

And Jeju Air would have to buy a lot of new airplanes.

If I were CEO of Jeju Air, I would applaud Asiana's flight attendants not being required to wear skirts.

Dealing with North Korea

Of course, the new president of South Korea will warn, threaten, beg, try to make deals to get North Korea to stop developing and testing its nuclear weapons program.
In the Korea Times (maybe today's paper, maybe yesterday's or maybe she said this last week or 15 years ago):
* Of course, North Korea will continue developing its nuclear weapons program. ROK president Park knows it. DPRK dictator Kim knows it. US president Barack Obama knows it. Bill Clinton knew it. George W. Bush knew it. And you know it.

Still, everyone outside of North Korea will continue to say it even though they know North Korea won't do it. The leaders don't believe it when they say it and the NK leaders don't believe it when they hear it. I guess that is what diplomacy is about.

* I don't mean to criticize President Park, but I'm sure she must know that asking North Korea to give up its nuclear weapons is like politely asking the mafia to give up crime or expecting politicians to stop doing the various crooked things they do when they have access to power and money. None of them stop doing what they do until it becomes more painful than continuing what they are doing.

* And I don't mean to criticize President Park by pointing out that she couldn't even convince the various ministers she has selected to tell her the truth about their lives.

* And she hasn't been able to convince the opposition parties about anything yet.

* The leftists in South Korea are already condemning her as strongly as they did after she won, so I doubt that the folks in NK will be convinced.

Exporting South Korea's economic policy to Taiwan

So there's a debate in Taiwan about whether or not Samsung threatened to "kill" Taiwan by taking over some industries there.
Here's another reason I will never have a leadership position in Taiwan. Instead of debating about whether or not Samsung had such a plan, I would visit South Korea on a fact-finding mission. I would then announce that I was going to apply South Korea's various restrictions on business on Samsung:

* Force Korean businesses operating in Taiwan to shut down their businesses at least twice a month.

* Restrict large Korean companies from expanding into other industries.

* Prevent Korean companies in Taiwan from open in randomly designated areas (such as, within 500 feet of mom and pop stores)

*  Force large Korean companies in Taiwan to share their profits with smaller companies.

* Demand that they increase their CSR giving.

* Even monitor and control such things as the temperature in their buildings.

* Threaten to tax them more to pay for numerous social programs.

Well, actually, I wouldn't do such stupid things, proof that I am not a politician in South Korea.

To paraphrase Mark Twain:
Suppose you were an idiot.
Suppose you were a politician in Korea.
But I repeat myself.
Of course, that isn't true. I'm just talking about the ones intervening in the economy.

My local Lotte Mysuper. Forced to close because of the government's (national, local, regional) idiotic "economic democratization" campaign.

One night, I stopped by to go shopping, then, oh, Snap! The door was locked. Thanks, Korean government!

The Korean government's effort to slow economic growth.

I asked an employee if I could have the sign the day after. I'm sure if she knew how much I am opposed to the policy that she would have given it to me.
I guess she didn't get the memo that the store was closed, per the government's orders.
Definitely, she didn't get the memo. She walked even closer to the sign, then stomped her foot. I wonder if she voted for the politicians who supported the policy.
If I were CEO of E-mart, the banner would have a photo of the politician responsible for the closure, thanking him for his vision for helping the economy.

Government causing problems: Caffe Bene

According to the Korea Herald:
Caffe Bene, the nation’s largest coffee shop franchise, has started cutting jobs and executive salaries, blaming regulations against expansion of its bakery and restaurant chains.

Then a funny thing happened on the way to a seemingly bland story: There was actual talk about the Korean government playing a role in damaging Caffe Bene's business. Not just a throwaway line or a final comment at the end of the article, but actually tying the business's problems to the Korean government's policy.
Caffe Bene took over bakery chain Mainz Dom in December despite the National Commission for Corporate Partnership’s advice to reconsider the acquisition as the panel was discussing restricting bakery franchises. The state-funded commission last month designated bakeries and restaurants as “SME-only” businesses, barring franchises to keep from opening too many stores or within 500 meters from small bakeries. Large companies in the dining industry including Caffe Bene, which runs Black’smith, were also told not to open more restaurants.
A company wants to expand, but the government steps in to block it.

Ludwig von Mises wrote in the 1956 book Anti-Capitalist Mentality that one reason people despise capitalism is that it takes away the excuse for failure. When you have a king or some other person making decisions about your life, then you can blame that person. But when you are on your own, in a free economy? Then you can only blame yourself for your failures. When others succeed where you fail, then in a free economy, it is unpleasant to consider that you are to blame. So people are more comfortable with having a scapegoat rather than evaluating their own decisions.

It is possible that Caffe Bene's management made bad decisions--mainly, thinking that the South Korean government was actually interested in companies that attract customers being allowed to thrive. It is clear that the government screwed up their plans, putting up unnecessary barriers. 
“Our plans to expand Mainz Dom and Black’smith restaurants this year were altered due to the commission’s decision,” said Caffe Bene spokesman Kim Dong-han.
“Mainz Dome, which has 20 stores, cannot open a new store because the panel limited the number of stores a bakery franchise can open per year to only 2 percent of existing stores. Black’smith, which we started in November 2011, can’t expand further, either.”
As Thomas Sowell has written: What is politically defined as economic “planning” is the forcible superseding of other people's plans by government officials.

Actress Han Ye Seul opened a Caffe Bene in Los Angeles--out of the reach of South Korea's busybody politicians.


NK and China, in cahoots

Suzanne Scholte, chairman of the North Korea Freedom Coalition, shared this with me: A copy of the Chinese police order offering rewards for turning in North Korean refugees and severe punishment for those who know about the refugees and do not turn them into police.

The North Korean leaders are, to borrow a phrase from Willliam Lloyd Garrison: "Men-stealers and women-whippers," And the Chinese police are modern-day slave-catchers.


Earth Hour 2013 Man of the Year!!!

In case you missed it, last night was Earth Hour. That's when people around the world turn off their lights for one hour to show concern for the Earth. The idea originated from the World Wildlife Fund.

Bouncing off Don Boudreaux, I would like to announce that Kim Jong-Un is the Earth Hour 2013 Man of the Year.

Kim Jong-Un, Earth Hour's 2013 Man of the Year

I won't read through his resume and accomplishments to make my case, I will point out this satellite photo showing the difference between the two Koreas.

North Korea, where every day is "Earth Hour."

Not only is the dashing young dictator's regime focused on keeping North Koreans in the dark more than just one hour a year, but he is now leading a government that is threatening to blow up other countries for various reasons. He has ordered his military to strike with "lightening speed"--apparently confusing lightening speed with lightening, and thinking that lightening can bring light to the country.

I suspect that he is a leading candidate to be Earth Hour's Man of the Year next year, and probably every year after, as long as he is in power.

* * *

Prof. Boudreaux's letter to World Wildlife Fund President Carter Roberts in 2010:

Earlier this week your organization sponsored another worldwide “Earth Hour,” an event in which people demonstrated their commitment to the environment by turning off their lights for one hour.

In light (no pun intended) of your dark view of industrial and commercial activities, I recommend that the WWF create a special Lifetime Achievement Award for North Korea’s Dear Leader, Kim Jong-il.  As this nighttime photograph of the Korean peninsula makes plain, the Dear Leader – like his father before him – works tirelessly to keep his nation’s carbon footprint to a bare minimum; in fact, if you look carefully you can see what is likely his, and only his, office light glimmering in Pyongyang.

North Koreans show their reverence for mother nature not with a mere Earth Hour but, rather, with an entire “Earth Lifetime.”

That’s true commitment!  Indeed, you might want to invite Mr. Kim to join your board.

Donald J. Boudreaux


Random Thoughts: There's a foreigner watching

A few days ago, I was at a small fly-by-night grocery store trying to buy some fruit. A customer was complaining at the clerk. I admit that I don't know what led her to complain. She was gently but strongly complaining--and holding up the line. She noticed me, motioned in my direction as if I weren't there, and mentioned to the guy in Korean that there was a foreigner there. She seemed to be trying to defuse the situation she was exacerbating. He flipped the script on her and he started getting angry.

Assuming I read the situation correctly, from her view: "I can complain like crazy, unless there is a foreigner watching." In his case: "Hey, I'm gonna do what I'm gonna do, I don't care if there is a foreigner watching."

* * *

There are some times that it is amusing to explain some things about America when Koreans I talk to ask me what Americans think about one thing or another. I used to say, "Not all Americans think the same way," or "There is no American opinion about that" or, even more pathetically: "There are more than 300 million people in America. I am not the nation's spokesmen.At least half of the country disagrees with the president of the country--at least he was elected to that position."

I have given up that fight. Now, I respond by telling such questioners what I think or do--and presenting that as the American point of view.

"Americans love singing at noraebang, they enjoy swing dancing whenever they have time, they read and write for fun, they are greatly concerned about North Korean refugees and others being oppressed by the crime family in North Korea, and, oh--they are trying to lose some weight by playing basketball."

When people tell me that I'm wrong, that Americans don't believe or do such things, I put up a good fight, insisting that Americans do believe such things--the handful who don't are oddballs, exceptions to the rule.

* * *

Last week I came across an article on The Root. I have published a few articles on the site, back when there was more serious content and less trash. It was created by Harvard University professor Henry Louis Gates in association with the Washington Post.

Drum roll please for this article: "Why White Men Are Obsessed With the First Lady's Butt."

I could just dismiss it as desperation by the Root to rile up its readers, as it strives to do so often these days, and to make news in places where such analysis is news. Even if true, so what?

Prof. Gates, what do you think about the First Lady's butt?
 I asked a few white male friends. They expressed great surprise that there was even such a discussion. Perhaps they just don't know. I suggested they were oddballs, exceptions to the rule.

If I had to explain such an article and discussion to Koreans...I couldn't even fake it in this case because I have no interest in Michelle Obama or her butt. So I can't even give the American view based on my own.

I can understand crazy talk from netizens on opinion boards, but an online publication that once tried to be respectable, talking about the first lady's butt? Uncouth. The Root has gone from profound to provocative. I guess at this point that the Root is chasing Web hits rather than the somewhat serious analysis they seemed to be after a few years ago.

And it reeks of being a "heads-we-win, tails-they-lose," argument. Either white men are obsessed with a black woman's butt or they have been socially conditioned to dislike a black woman's butt. Either way, you white guys are odd balls and guilty.

But I guess this is good news for black men--apparently this means it is okay for black men to obsess about Michelle Obama's butt.

* * *

There are some times that people outside a culture or country might not understand what is going on. So should I be more understanding about the lady pointing in my direction, and wanting to end the argument because I was watching?

It reminds me of the site "Black Out Korea." The site features photos of Koreans who have gotten drunk and passed out in various positions and locations. I suppose I should not laugh. For people who get offended and want me to denounce such photos, I would suggest that you show those photos to me about six or seven times, step out of the room, let me get my laugh on, then by the time you are ready for me to be serious, I'll be able to discuss the issue with you.

Those Koreans who get drunk and pass out in the street...should they be embarrassed they got drunk and passed out? And did so in front of an occasional expat passing by? I suspect that people who like to get drunk and pass out are not going to complain about who is watching them. Is it, "We should behave ourselves because the foreigner is watching" or "Hey, I'm gonna do what I'm gonna do, I don't care if there is a foreigner watching."

* * *

In case you hadn't heard, Koreans are not heavy drinkers. In 2010, various Korean media reported with pride: "Korean Reputation for Heavy Drinking Proved Unfair." I suppose that next there will be a study proving that Swedes love Kimchi more than Koreans do.

So clearly, BlackOutKorea is capturing just a few isolated cases, oddballs. And the people I will be stepping over in a few hours if I am out late? I'd like to ask both the lady and the clerk at the fruit and vegetable store I was at a few days ago who they think those people are.

* * *

Disclaimers and Parenthetical comments:

* Talk-show host Rush Limbaugh calls First Lady Michelle Obama "MooChelle," not "Michelle My Butt," that's another case of The Root relying on Media Matters for misinformation..
* With BlackOutKorea, I could certainly understand people not wanting to be photographed, whether or not they are drunk. And when they come to, hitting their heads on the bench as the bus stop as they sit up, I guess they can make that complaint...
* I don't mean to suggest that I am the only non-Korean who has ever had someone Korean try to defuse a situation because I was watching.

Also see:
Get rid of that watermelon, September 1, 2003
How will I know Korean culture when I see it, August 17, 2009



Casey Lartigue quoted in today's Financial Times

Casey Lartigue is quoted in today's Financial Times by his newest favorite reporter, Mr. Simon Mundy

“I'd rather use my money to support an organisation helping North Korean refugees, instead of putting it in [North Korean supreme leader] Kim Jong-eun's pocket,” says Casey Lartigue, a visiting scholar at the Liberty Society in Seoul.

Obviously, a British paper: They changed my accent so that I spell “organization” with an “s."


Visit Seoul next time, Mr. Rodman (Korea Times, by Casey Lartigue, Jr.)

There’s an old joke that after being in China for a week you believe you can write a book. After being there a month, perhaps you can write a magazine article. After a year in China, you put your head down and mutter to yourself. The more you know, the more you know you don’t know.

I would hope the same kind of thing is happening to former NBA star Dennis Rodman after he made international headlines with his visit to North Korea (and made himself the butt of jokes with his ignorance about the country).

Others are mocking Dennis Rodman, but I hope he will come to Seoul before his next visit to North Korea. I would invite him to visit Mulmangcho, a school for North Korean refugee children (I’m the International Adviser to the school). We have 15 orphans and disadvantaged children who were rescued from China after their families or others helped them escape from North Korea. Some of them suffer from mental or physical problems after being beaten and starved in North Korea.

I would introduce Rodman to Prof. Park Sun-young, the founder of Mulmangcho who was a former member of the National Assembly. Rodman probably didn’t hear about it, but she staged an 11-day hunger strike last year when North Koreans captured in China were threatened with deportation. Rodman’s “friend for life,” Kim Jong-un, probably had them tortured or executed. Park knows many people who could give Rodman a fuller picture of North Korea’s gulags.

After that, I would take him to meet various poorly funded organizations here that aid North Korean escapees. Rodman could put his basketball skills to good use by organizing clinics or exhibition games here to raise money.

After he hears from scholars, activists and others aiding North Koreans, I would then introduce him to North Koreans who successfully escaped.

These are people who fled only with the clothes on their backs, under the threat of death. They lived their entire lives oppressed by the crime family that has ruled North Korea since the 1940s. North Koreans see family members publicly executed or tortured, they are punished for “wrong-thinking”, tortured for minor crimes, or executed for trying to escape.

If they manage to escape to China, they are illegal aliens targeted by modern-day slave-catchers who threaten to report them to police (resulting in deportation, and often torture or execution). They still aren’t completely safe in South Korea — North Korean refugees have been assassinated by North Korean spies.

Rodman called Kim Jung-un his friend. Dictators don’t need friends. It is people who are trying to escape to freedom who need friends, not criminals who issue “shoot-to-kill” orders against those people.

Shortly after former North Korean dictator Kim Jong-il died in December 2011, Reason magazine columnist Ira Stoll reminded us not to forget the dead dictator’s victims. I would suggest that Rodman remember his new friend’s victims.

Rodman spent a few days in North Korea, so he felt courageous enough to talk with his usual swagger about it. I would suggest he hear the other side of the story about North Korea by coming to South Korea.

After he has learned more about North Korea, he might put his head down and mutter to himself about being fooled by Kim Jung-un.

* * *

The writer is the international adviser to the Mulmangcho School for North Korean refugees, in Yeoju, Gyeonggi Province. He can be reached at cjl@post.harvard.edu.

Korea Times link
linked by Booker Rising

Update: I got a comment from Namsu who wrote: "Skillful use of the opening made by Dennis Rodman could grow into a significant diplomatic opportunity for the American Black Community."

I seriously doubt it, but anyway, here's an article from NK News: "The Black Panther’s Secret North Korean Fetish."



2032 Magazine article by Casey Lartigue

I have an article in the March issue of 2032 Magazine, published by the Liberty Society in Seoul. I am now a Visiting Scholar with the Institute.

1) I get to brag about some of the great stuff I did back when I was the Director for International Programs.
2) The organization was recently ranked among the top think tanks in the world. Coming in #106 might not seem great to some, but #106 out of 6,603? That's damn good! Apparently that puts the organization in the top 1% of think tanks around the world. And it is ranked #4 of Korea's 35 think tanks.
3) Thanks to Hana Lee, Aaron McKenzie, Eric Song, and other great staff members, but most of all, Kim Chung-Ho for making me the Jackie Robinson of the expat community in Korea, by making me the first (and possibly) last non-Korean that the Institute has hired.

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