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2011-07-07 Korea-EU FTA conference

July 2011: Once upon a time, I was focused on political and economic issues in South Korea.

I was then Manager of International Relations at the Center for Free Enterprise, later promoted to director. I wasn't determined to stay in Korea at that time, but several months later that changed, destroying my professional career. In this particular photo, I was one of the organizers of a conference about the Korea-EU Free Trade Agreement in July 2011.

A few notes:

The think tank world is much easier and pays much better than founding and developing an organization focused on North Korean refugees. Sometimes, I wonder what I was thinking when I left that soft cushy think tank world routinely holding events at plush hotels. I can't blame anyone, because I left the think tank world TWICE, and rejected overtures to return to it a few years ago. Fool myself once, blame myself. Fool myself twice or more?

* Parenthetically, some people ask if I take photos for Facebook. This conference was held one year before I joined Facebook, back when I used to ask, "Why in the hell should I post on Facebook?" Now people ask (and whine to each other) why I post so much. I joined Facebook because of my work with North Korean refugees, and use Facebook for that reason.

* The conference at the Koreana hotel was FREE! I loved those days when it seemed we had an unlimited budget. The event was jointly hosted by CFE and the Naumann Foundation. When TNKR holds events, we must think about charging admission or raising enough money through donations to support our activities. I guess downgrading myself in such a way was part of my undercover work as a CIA agent (when I first got involved with NK refugees a year later, I had some blockheads spreading rumors and speculating that I must be a CIA agent).

* CFE worked closely with the Naumann Foundation, but TNKR is a threat to such organizations because we focus on North Korean refugees and they do work in North Korea. I occasionally have people who know about such foundations telling me that TNKR should try to work with or even get financial support from them, but I guessed several years ago that it would not happen. I already knew some of the people there, but people who didn't know them thought they knew better. I guess that seven years later, such people can now believe that I was right and had reason to believe so?

Here are more photos from the conference back in 2011!

We had planned it for a few months, almost from the moment I had been hired by CFE. There was some uncertainty about whether or not the Korean government would approve the agreement on the targeted date. The usual suspects of Korean activists, complainers and nationalists in Korea were opposed to it, but it almost seemed that they had the strategy of not opposing this agreement strongly. Instead, they focused their energy on blocking the US-Korea FTA.

Korea Herald, July 5, 2011
A conference on economic opportunities and challenges arising from the Korea-EU FTA which came into effect on July 1 will take place in Seoul on Thursday. The conference, taking place at the Koreana Hotel from 2 p.m., will also examine the current economic crisis in Europe and economic development in Korea. The event is being jointly hosted by the Center for Free Enterprise, a Seoul-based free market think-tank, and the Friedrich Naumann Foundation for Liberty, a German foundation for the promotion of individual freedom which has offices around the world including in Seoul. “We picked the date hoping National Assembly members wouldn’t find a way to delay the agreement going into effect. So this is really timely because we are holding this less than a week after the agreement went into effect,” said Casey Lartigue Jr., manager of international relations at the CFE.
Speakers at the conference titled “Economic Freedom and the Wealth of Nations” will include independent political and economic consultant Stefan Melnik, Barbara Kolm of the F.A. v. Hayek Institute and Choeng In-kyo of Inha University in Incheon. Lartigue said the conference was free and open to the public but recommended that those interested RSVP in advance. “We are always trying to remind the public about the benefits of free enterprise, trade, voluntary exchanges. Agree or disagree, we are happy to present our analysis to the public,” Lartigue said. Those interested in attending can visit (Korean) or (English) to register, or call (02) 3774-5000 (Korean) or (02) 3774-5056 (English).

* * *

2020 comment:

Looking at photos from nine years ago when I was holding forums at plush hotels while being paid my largest salary in South Korea, I wonder: "Which CIA agent would be stupid enough to walk away from that easy well-paid life to instead start a grassroots organization focused on North Korean refugees that relies on volunteers and individual donors?"

When I started getting involved with North Korean refugees, I heard there were rumors that I was a CIA agent. Then later I heard that I was part of a libertarian conspiracy against North Korea. Then later I heard other stupid conspiracy theories, which had me wishing I could gather all of those blockheads together and have them decide which conspiracy I was leading. That I wasn't on Facebook was evidence that I was part of a conspiracy, then later I heard that being so public could be part of my CIA cover.

And looking at the photos from nine years ago, I am wondering why anyone would walk away from that easy life to instead struggle with creating an organization from scratch that relies on enough individual donors and volunteers to keep the organization alive (and now to expand).

Which CIA agent would be so stupid as to take such an assignment of working endlessly for less pay instead of the easy life of working at a think tank? I've walked away from that think tank life twice to find the thing that interests me, then I hear that idiots think I am part of some conspiracy. They are so breath-takingly stupid, and yet, there they are.

Of course, I realize that by posting this that some of the idiots will be thinking, "He must realize we are onto him, and he is posting this as a confession (or a denial)."

More photos and random thoughts here:

A Conspiracy against me?

Dear Critics: You may be right

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