Casey Lartigue commentary about North Korea shooting at loudspeakers

Information, information, information... 
Don't shoot this podcast, please

Here's my commentary produced by OTV (of Unification Media) about North Korea threatening to shoot at loudspeakers.


Casey Lartigue at Harvard (2015-05-24)

Casey Lartigue discussed Teach North Korean Refugees (TNKR) at the Innovation Symposium hosted by the Harvard Extension Alumni Association. 
TNKR playlist: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=LFPNLwMKwfo&list=PL-6_xImxyTAJw3qeFJBXFv6fSCFEOb9eG&index=1


Preparing for North Korean migration--Planning or freedom?

In the paper "Internal Migration in North Korea: Preparation for Governmental Disruption," Sandra Fahy makes many great points, she did get me to think about what will happen later in terms of NK migration.

But my random thoughts...

1)  I'm old enough that I remember when the Berlin Wall fell,and people were worried that East Germany would be abandoned. Although many East Germans did leave after reunification, many more stayed, and many have now returned. On page 118, the author even speculates about the "near emptying of North Korea."

My guess is that many if not most NKs will stay where they are. That's the world, most people stay where they are, even when they have the freedom to move. 

2) There was the Great Migration of Blacks after the Civil War, then during then during the 20th century. That has also reversed somewhat. It could be that North Koreans are more like former slaves rather than East Germans. Either way, there were also debates in the 19th century about whether or not former slaves should remain where they are, with Booker T. Washington advising blacks to "Cast down your bucket where you are" and Frederick Douglass was also opposed to blacks migrating to the North.

3) When South Korea lifted martial law in the late 1980s, with passports becoming widespread among South Koreans for the first time, there was also an outward migration, along with a bump in tourism that troubled many politicians and academics at the time.

4) It seems to much of an emphasis in the paper on keeping North Koreans in North Korea, on page 120 the author states that  NK "out-migration must invariably be managed and regulated." I'm not sure who is supposed to manage and regulate NK out-migration. The gang currently stopping North Korean refugees from leaving the country may have some ideas...

5) On page 128, the author states that the "2004 Human Rights Act, which enables them to attain refugee status in the United States after first settling in South Korea." It may be a distinction without a difference, but I guess that should mention that they can also gain refugee status by going directly to the USA, not necessarily after first settling in South Korea.

6) The author states that this "contemporary trend of the onward migration of  North Koreans suggests that we begin to critically examine whether  South Korea is the ideal destination for North Korean migrants." I have agreed with this for years, it shouldn't be assumed that South Korea is the ideal destination, and it shouldn't be seen as unusual that NK refugees look to other countries. That's even true of South Koreans, many of them would also like to move to other countries.

7) The author's final statement: 1) Reduce the number of North Koreans leaving North Korea to reduce additional crisis 2) by providing for the critical needs of internal migrants in NK, prepare into order to "incentivize" individuals to "shelter in place." 

As I said, there is too much about regulating and controlling the future migration choices of North Koreans.

8) Alas, the author never mentions the freedom of North Koreans to be able to travel, to choose when and where they can live. It is an academic paper with ideas about government policy that addresses migration barriers imposed by China and South Korea, but still, shouldn't North Korean right of locomotion be part of the conversation at some point? Instead, the emphasis is on regulating, managing, controlling and preparing for the time that NKs may finally be able to venture out into the world.

Hat tip: Hyun Song


Got an app for that? Former TV star is still folding paper (Joongang-ilbo)

Ask your average 20 to 30 year old South Korean who grew up here to make something out of paper and you will be amazed by the results. It isn't genetic. Back during the 1980s-1990s, there was a popular show for kids about paper folding.

The JoongangDaily writes does an interview with the host of the show.

* * *

My random thoughts:

* These days, the kids might wonder if there was a paper folding app...

* Mr. Paper Folder says that the adults who watched his show were so pure as they recently chatted with him. The next time someone asks me, "What should we tell kids about (the latest war or hot political topic)," I will answer, "Nothing. Let them fold paper and enjoy being kids."

* He hasn't been on TV, leading people to conclude he hasn't been doing anything. As I often say: "The only things more important than being alive are being on TV and Facebook." He has avoided the spotlight, he says, on purpose.

College girl found dead; suspected kidnapper kills self (Korea Times)

I'm not a heavy drinker so I don't understand

1) getting so drunk
2) that you fall asleep on a street
3) trust a stranger to take care of your girlfriend

According to today's Korea Times, it happened to a couple in Suwon. The woman is now dead, her alleged killer dead in a suicide.

"The victim's boyfriend said the couple had fallen asleep while drunk on a street near Suwon Station in Gyeonggi Province around midnight on Monday. A man, later found to be Yun, woke him up and asked him to go buy some wet tissues so he could tend to the woman, who had vomited on the street.

"When the boyfriend returned from a nearby convenience store, he found that both Yun and his girlfriend had disappeared, which he reported to police."

* * *

As a reminder,

* 159 women are missing in Suwon.
in 2010, there were 1,374 murders in Korea, an average of almost four a day.


2015-07-01 Korea is doomed (in 2750) by Casey Lartigue (The Korea Times)

“Koreans to Become Extinct by 2750” was the eye-popping headline about a simulation commissioned by the National Assembly of South Korea. The National Assembly Research Service forecast that, based on current trends, South Korea’s population of 50 million would shrink to 10 million by 2136 and become extinct by 2750.
Methodological questions aside, my first thought when I read the story: 2749 is going to be one helluva year on the Korean peninsula.
If you enjoy clips of Korean politicians fighting over parliamentary procedures, then imagine the glorious fisticuffs and flying kicks over who allowed Koreans to go extinct. The handful of Koreans remaining will protest against the other half of Koreans remaining. The “chattering class” (today’s Netizens) of conspiracy theorists will connect-the-dots to the USA or Japan.
I'd have my popcorn ready, singing an updated version of Prince's “1999” song: “2-7-4-9, Party Over, Oops, Out of Time!” We will miss the 2749 show, but we have had front row seats to yet another sneak preview.
In case you hadn’t heard, the MERS virus hit South Korea. Numerous schools, businesses, events, and celebrations got shut down, canceled or toned down. It changed Korea, at least for a few weeks. I even had to wait in line at public restrooms for the chance to wash my hands. It seemed that the Doomsday Clock had hit midnight in Korea. Forget 2750 ― it seemed that Koreans wouldn’t make it out of 2015.
In Korea, you first fix the blame, then the problem. The first question: Who was to blame for MERS threatening to annihilate Koreans 735 years ahead of the simulation’s schedule? The second, after it became clear that MERS was not going to annihilate Koreans prematurely: Who was responsible for scaring everyone into thinking Korean life was coming to an end in 2015?
Of course, the president got blamed for allowing the virus in. The rulers here always get blamed. I’ve heard that, historically, Koreans even blamed kings for droughts. Former president Kim Young-sam was said to be “bad luck” because of tragedies that struck during his administration (primarily, collapses of the Sampoong Department Store and Seongsu Grand Bridge).
A Korea Times staff editorial suggested that the president “needs to stay around the anti-MERS headquarters.” To do what? In the movie version, the president would dramatically walk in, issue stern commands while brow-beating workers caught napping or smoking, and look really presidential as the proper solemn soundtrack music played in the background.
Some Korean politicians, used to taking credit for the sun coming up, may be tempted to explain that they lack control over the weather or viruses. It must be easier to bow for the cameras and ask for forgiveness.
In the “if it bleeds, it leads” world of news, we must be frightened into following the latest updates, our “social homework” so we can be part of scuttlebutt at school, the office and Social Media. In the book “The News,” Alain de Botton notes that people can feel relevant by following the news. We may struggle to get people we know to take us seriously, but we can Tweet how the world ought to be.
Climate change experts, doomsday cults, and others make predictions about when the world will come to an end. Centuries ago, the Mayans supposedly chose December 21, 2012, which was turned into a popular movie. (Parenthetically, if the world had ended four days before Christmas, it would have been a relief for those of us who hate last-minute holiday shopping).
Reporters and politicians can’t operate at room temperature, there is always catastrophe around a corner humanity avoids turning at the last moment. De Botton writes: “A bad avian flu may disrupt international travel and defeat known drugs for a while, but research laboratories will eventually understand and contain it.”
Then came beautiful headlines backing de Botton’s stoicism: “No MERS deaths for two days,” then “No new MERS cases reported.” How often do we get such “no dogs bit men today” stories?
About three dozen people in Korea have succumbed to MERS. It would seem that Koreans were going extinct if the media reported with as much gusto about a typical day in Korea as it has about MERS: almost 200 die of cancer, almost 20 die in automobile accidents, about 40 commit suicide, about four are victims of homicide, and about 60 rapes are reported. I was wrong when I predicted that there would be suicide notes citing MERS.
But de Botton was and is right, the media can’t help but try to scare us. We should take precautions, yes, but also avoid being “easily seduced into panic.” To encourage 28th century Koreans, I will print this column along with articles about MERS to include in a time capsule to be opened in Korea in the year 2749.
The writer is the Director for International Relations at Freedom Factory Co.in Seoul. He can be reached at:  CJL@post.harvard.edu
casey_lartigue_jr profile photo to upload


'How black is he?' (2015-06-17, The Korea Times)

By Casey Lartigue, Jr.
In late 2012, I wrote a Thoughts of the Times column reflecting upon some racial slights that I received in South Korea during the 1990s. Unfortunately, I have experienced a few cases recently that topped all of those.
A Korean professor who is a fan of mine has been recruiting me to join her university. She secretly let me know her colleagues pushed back. One concern: I might be too independent. She says that Korean professors typically seek colleagues who won’t challenge them, so I will need to show humility.
Two, citing my career, they worried that I might not be satisfied with their lesser known university (Harvard graduate, previously taught at Yonsei University as a young man, and have worked at high profile organizations in both the USA and South Korea). In previous job searches, I have responded to the “overqualified” point by saying: “If you think I am overqualified then you should watch me work for a week.”
She listed a few other things, but the grand finale: They needed to be sure that I am not “completely black.”
It sounded like a joke, but she was sincere, as always. She said her colleagues were worried because they “know” that black people fight with white people. That university certainly wouldn’t want to hire a one-man riot who would burn, baby burn the university. She said they concluded that I might be mixed race, and debated what percentage black I am, and wondered about the racial makeup of my parents and grandparents.
My fan apologized. She said she deeply admires and respects me, that’s why she recruited me for the job. I had the sense that if they wanted me to run across hot coals or stick my hand in fire as part of the interview that she would have given me tips, without condemning the process.
She advised me that if they invite me for an interview that I should stress that I am a team player, have white people in my family and have many white friends. Amazed, I suggested that I might be able to get racial letters of recommendation from white family members, friends and former colleagues.
I thought to add that I could include photos of myself frolicking about with white friends, but stopped myself. After all, if I went through with the interview, I wouldn’t want them to reject my application because I had failed to include such photos to bolster my case. (“He said that he had photos with white friends, but he didn’t include them as proof he won’t cause trouble, so how can we risk hiring him?”)
I imagined a faculty meeting with those respected professors with their Ph.Ds, using their expertise and experience to determine my level of blackness as part of my job qualifications. “Is he completely black? If yes, how violently black?”
As often happens in life, your enemies slander you, and your friends deliver the news. She is an inadvertent whistle blower, demonstrating evidence of what many black people in Korea complained about when I was here in the 1990s _ blacks aren’t seriously considered for many university jobs and are hired reluctantly.
I thought about my own role: Should I reveal the university? After all, black people should not waste their time applying there. But I don’t want my fan who secretly delivered the news to get into trouble for trying to help me.
Two Korean friends I discussed this with cited Martin Luther King Jr.’s “I Have a Dream” speech, saying those Korean academics need to learn his message. I assured them that it wasn’t just Koreans.
During one of my recent trips back to the USA, I gave a speech about my project connecting North Korean refugees with volunteer language tutors and speech coaches. Everything went well during my presentation, but that night at dinner, one of the Ivy League professors who had been singing my praises all day informed me that a few of the people at the conference were asking: “Why is a black man doing so much to help North Koreans?”
I didn’t try to catch the source, I wanted to keep focus on my activities rather than race. Those respected people had revealed their small minds, so I doubted they could understand or would believe that I am focused on individual liberty and creating learner-centered opportunities.
It was good that I didn’t debate or argue with them, it could have been disastrous. Based on what the Korean university professors said about me in their meeting, such respected white professionals are the type to write racial letters of recommendation for me.
Perhaps I should tell my Korean professor fan that I didn’t argue with them. Plus I got some great photos of white people smiling with me.
The writer is the Director for International Relations at Freedom Factory Co.in Seoul and the Asia Outreach Fellow with the Atlas Network in Washington, D.C. He can be reached at: CJL@post.harvard.edu.
2015-06-17 how black is he upload


What's in a name? Thriving versus mediocre business

There are two Korean mom-and-pop restaurants that face each other.

* They serve similar "side dishes" as a meal.
* They have virtually the same names, such as one star being named "7-11" and the other being named "Big 7-11."
* They are in the same area here near the National Assembly.

One side has a line of people  waiting to eat...
the other side has no one waiting...

Ah, but the side that is not attracting customers does have a sign.

Complaining that the other restaurant stole their name...

The Korean customers who wait in line surely must know what is going on. Still, they choose to go to the other restaurant, waiting in line. One day, I went with a friend to that less popular restaurant. The food was not as good. Even the workers were not as friendly.

My co-workers and I had lunch again today at the more popular restaurant.


Changing pants (caught in the act)

About two hours ago, walking into a building I come to very often, the guard/gentleman at the front of the building who answers questions was sitting in his underwear, in the middle of changing his pants. It almost seemed that he had started changing them, got distracted by something on TV, took a seat, said hello to me as I walked by, then finished putting on his pants...

He seemed nonchalant about me catching him in the act. Instead of judging it from my immediate "what the hell" response, I was thinking about it from his perspective.

"Hey, I needed to change my pants at that moment. If I do this at the bathroom, and someone comes in looking for help, then I will get criticized for not being there. If I change my pants at my desk, then yes, some foreigner may wonder 'what the hell?' Damned if you do, damned if you don't."

* * *

The editorial writers of the Korea Times spend too much time watching movies. They want big symbolic actions that mean nothing. And they'd like to have photos to demonstrate those big symbolic actions that mean nothing.

The latest example is the response to MERS:

All this explains why Park needs to stay around the anti-MERS headquarters at least until the end of this week when the worst is expected ― or hoped ― to be over. If the epidemic still rages on, the President ought to consider delaying her scheduled visit to the United States. Nothing could be more important than people's safety and lives. And the U.S. administration will understand because President Barack Obama has also put everything on hold in the past when there is a national emergency.

That's exactly what Hollywood directors would stage--have the president show up on the scene, barking out orders about what must be done, standing around looking serious as solemn music plays in the background, canceling visits to assure the public. And as for Obama? Yeah, he would put everything on hold--in one case, he even held a press conference about the beheading of an American shortly before heading to the golf course. Okay, okay, the beheading of an American isn't the kind of national emergency the Korea Times is referring to. And I'm also wrong because the president didn't get caught changing to his golf pants.

President Obama, playing golf shortly after holding a press conference.


MERS, as if anything else mattered...

I picked up the Korea MERS Times, I found that a 5th person has died of MERS. The Korea MERS Times and Korea MERS media overall have been fixated on MERS. It got so bad that I have even bought a mask for the KC Mini-Me at my office.

Meanwhile, also in South MERS Korea...

197 cancer deaths per day (2010 statistic)

40 suicides per day (2013 statistic)

16 traffic related deaths per day

158 die every day from smoking related deaths

60 rapes reported per day

3.7 murders committed daily (2010)

2.4 rapes and sexual assaults committed daily by senior citizens

If the media focused on murders or rapes in South Korea the way it has gone wildin' about MERS, it would seem that this country was on the brink of disaster. The schools would be shut down and dynamited so no one would try to go, women would be afraid to leave home but also afraid to be home alone, husbands would be afraid to leave their wives or children home, and we'd kill ourselves because staying home we'd be afraid we would die of fan death.

Will update this with more recent or relevant statistics from others.
Thanks to Daniel Lee for this precious photo, which he says was probably a joke...

* * *

I'm not a medical professional--or a reporter--so I could be wrong about this, but swine flu, mad cow disease, bird flu, SARS, Ebola, foot-and-mouth disease, West Nile virus, MERS...


Bringing back this blog

Making a guest appearance, at his desk....

Casey Lartigue​ Jr.! That's right, he has had so many meetings, but he is now back at his desk. I mean, he was "here" yesterday for about 45 seconds, to pick up something for a meeting. And  he was here on Thursday or so because he happened to be passing by and thought it might be polite to stop in to say hello, dust off the cobwebs off his desk...

Years ago, I came across a quote from H.L. Mencken that was something like: "Editorial writers need to get out of the office at least once a week." I have been living that way for quite a while.

That's why I tell people that I'm on Facebook, but I'm not *into* Facebook. I prefer living Facebook--connecting, talking--then sometimes I take a break to post on Facebook what I have done. Then when someone asks me, "What have you been up to?" I can say, "Let's check Facebook so I can remember."

* * *

Social media downdate

It should be an update, but...

I have deleted two of my other blogs, 3 meetup groups, Twitter.

I did join Instagram, it has grown  by 100% since a colleague helped me set it up in late January. Yes, from 1 to 2 photos posted.

I was going to kill this blog, then decided to leave it as a museum. I have decided to start posting my random thoughts on the passing scene here, but my more professional activities at CaseyLartigue.com

* * *

I can prove it

A few days ago a friend of mine told me that she was hearing the same excuses most of us have heard in job searches. Either she is (a) underqualified or (b) overqualified. I told her that it sounds like BS, in my many years of experience that is just a diplomatic way to say they don't want to hire you.

Whenever potential employers told me that I was overqualified for a position, I would tell them, "Just watch me work for a week, you will stop saying that."

* * *

North Korea studies drama queens

Those talkers and stalkers in the North Korea studies field are now predictably freaking out about two main stories:

1) Whether or not North Korea has executed a defense minister. They are trying to prove that the media is incompetent (as if that needs to be proven) and that this is part of a propaganda war (is it a surprise that people searching for propaganda find it in every story, the way Jesse Jackson or Al Sharpton even seem to see R-A-C-I-S-M spelled out in their alphabet soup).

Last fall, those alleged experts were falling all over each other to prove the same things about the reporting about Kim Jong-Un when he was out of sight for a while.

2) A peace march by some loony leftists. Let them have their march. There are, of course, some people opposed to that march. My suggestion to them: Stop bitching about what the others are doing, and hold your own counter march.

* * *

Mini-me KC

Guarding my desk while I was away.

* * *

Father time marches on update

"I know my time is winding down, so I'm enjoying it more."
--Tim Duncan, about  his NBA career, but I would add, that's about life in general.



I will be moving to my own domain.. Nothing against blogger.

I also am finally on Instagram, although I am not sure what to do with it.

I already have several sites over the Internet, plus Twitter, Facebook, and other sites, so I may shut down this or mirror this one.

3/26/15 update:
Instagram: Posted one photo, haven't logged in since then.
Twitter: Deleted.
Nayacasey: Deleted
Blogger: Won't delete, may use it again.


Busy time coming...

1/24 TNKR Matching session
1/27 speech--Harvard
1/28 speech--Volunteering
1/29 speech--TNKR
1/31 Korean language Matching session
2/9 speech--TNKR
2/14 speech--Frederick Douglass
2/16 testimony--Uber
2/28 speech contest
3/21 rally

6 speeches in three weeks on different topics in 2 different countries...


An expatriate encountering myself (The Korea Times, 2015-01-14) by Casey Lartigue, Jr.

When people ask me if I have read a certain book that I indeed have read, I often hesitate to confirm. Reading "To Kill a Mockingbird" or a book about dating is a different experience at age 16 compared to 36 or 56.

I first read the late Paul Fussell's provocative collection of essays "Thank God for the Atom Bomb" as a graduate student. When I reread it a few years later, I noticed that I had completely skipped the chapter about traveling.

I am a "digital immigrant" who still prefers printed books, newspapers and articles so I can markup the text. I didn't mark a single thing in that travel chapter the first time around.

The second time around, years later, I wondered how I could have missed Fussell's profundity. In particular, I appreciated his point distinguishing among travelers, tourists and explorers. ("There's No Place Like Home," Feb 12, 2013).

What had changed? Me. I grew up in Texas and Massachusetts, but had not even crossed the U.S. borders nearby in either direction until after graduate school.

Experience is the greatest teacher, as Mark Twain has been attributed with demonstrating: "When I was a boy of fourteen, my father was so ignorant I could hardly stand to have the old man around. But when I got to be twenty-one, I was astonished at how much he had learned in seven years."

Living abroad, I learned how America-centric I had been. Paraphrasing Alexis De Tocqueville, the late Seymour Martin Lipset said: "The best way to know your own country is to experience another one."

When I first traveled to Korea on a short trip back in the 1990s, I met several Koreans one night when I went dancing. One young Korean man enjoyed hearing my stories about my first time abroad, in Taiwan. Taking me aside, he asked me, in all seriousness: "Can we play?"

Earlier I had just been talking about dominating the basketball courts in Taipei, so I responded, "Sorry, I didn't bring my tennis shoes on this trip."

He was confused, then explained: "I mean you. Me. Play. Special time together." It finally dawned on me that he was coming onto me. He had not traveled to America but had read in the Korean press about many Americans being gay (I wish I had thought to say it was true about Europeans). I gently declined his offer, informing him that I love women, but would bring my tennis shoes the next time I visited Korea.

For a long time, I was surprised, at myself. I had met gay people in the U.S., but based on what I knew then about Korea I didn't expect to encounter a gay person in a country where homosexuality seemed to be strongly discouraged. The beauty I saw: He was willing to be himself, despite Korean society trying to condition him.

Starting a professional career abroad working at a libertarian think tank in Seoul and speaking at international conferences, I encountered a different pleasant shock. Although I had encountered libertarians in America, there was still something different about meeting natives in Malaysia, China and India advocating individual liberty and respect for the rights of others.

I can see the same effect on colleagues of mine as they venture abroad. Last week, I spoke at the Asia Liberty Forum in Kathmandu, Nepal, and was joined by two Korean colleagues. Lee Eun-koo, a progressive, joined me last July to attend her first libertarian conference, the Shanghai Austrian Economics Summit. She said she was shocked as she watched Chinese people speaking out strongly in favor of personal and economic liberty. She was less shocked last week in Nepal.

Another South Korean colleague, Jeong So-dam, also joined me in Nepal last week for the Asia Liberty Forum. It was her second international conference. She's a rising star among Korean libertarians. She mentioned that it was "exotic" to hear the word "freedom" being uttered every 10 seconds in Nepal.

She has started to speak out on issues, setting off rabid netizen attacks in Korea. She's an optimistic lady, but I suppose it can still be encouraging to meet others from around the world also advocating for liberty in authoritarian cultures. Many of them are speaking English as a second or foreign language, pronouncing "freedom" and "liberty" with different accents, but they have found common ground in international settings.

American writer James Baldwin once said: "I met a lot of people in Europe. I even encountered myself." Living abroad, I have encountered myself, learning to look beyond the U.S. context, and encountered others as they are, where they are.

Unfortunately, during my travels, I lost that copy of the Paul Fussell book with the marked up chapter on travel, but I do read a replacement copy from time to time.

The writer is the Director for International Relations at Freedom Factory Co.in Seoul and the Asia Outreach Fellow with the Atlas Network in Washington, D.C. He can be reached at CJL@post.harvard.edu.

Korea Times, Korea News Gazette



It's a crime the way Korea punishes rapists of children

According to the Korea Herald: "In its safety forecast for this year, the Police Science Institute said the number of sex crimes, which rose 41.3 percent from 20,375 cases in 2010 to 28,786 cases in 2013, will continue to rise."

One reason? Sex criminals aren't punished harshly in South Korea when sentenced for raping youngsters.*

"At the same time, the average sentencing for raping children and adolescents stood at four years and nine months, falling short of the minimum five-year sentence mandated by the law."

"The fact that sex crimes against children 13 years and younger accounted for nearly a quarter of all sex crimes committed against children and adolescents in 2013 should ring alarm bells for society to better protect its vulnerable members. One way to accomplish this is to deal strictly with sex crimes, by letter of the law."

* * *

* This is not endorsing or condoning rapists of adults. It seems that reporters paid to write articles write snapshot stories, focusing on the latest statistic without combining it with other possibly relevant and comparative statistics. S0 send your angry letters to the Korea Herald for this snapshot story.

Fine print in government crackdowns

The results are in, many Koreans stopped smoking after the government raised the tax on cigarettes. The tax hike has been so effective, according to the Joongang Daily, that some people stopped smoking even before the tax went into effect.
"Of those surveyed, 10.6 percent had quit smoking sometime between the price increase announcement in September and Jan. 1, when it was implemented. Another 26.7 percent answered that they had reduced the number of cigarettes they smoked per day." 
This reminds me of the 1990s, when Bill Clinton announced that the federal government was going to help police departments put an extra 100,000 cops on the streets. There were reports that crime went down after the announcement. Apparently criminals didn't read the fine print that the cops weren't going to be on the streets for at least a year or so, and that they would be spread out across the country. They just heard: 100,000 cops.

This is why I suggest that the government should make random announcements--"Jaywalkers will be executed on the second Tuesday of every month." "People who litter will be shot on sight." "1 million police officers will investigate sexual harassment at the office."

As criminals in Korea and smokers in Korea have shown, people don't always read the fine print, but they hear or read the headlines.

And now that the cigarette tax has gone into effect:
"In a survey conducted by the JoongAng Ilbo of 700 smokers, 63.9 percent answered that they had either already stopped smoking or plan to quit."
Whoa! Already stopped smoking or "plan to quit." That seems to be the fine print of the article. Many people "plan" to do or stop doing many things. Many people "plan" to exercise more, eat healthier, drink more water, volunteer more, save more money.

I won't doubt the newspaper, but it has been, what, 5 days since the tax went into effect? Many smokers quit at the beginning of the year, or several times a year. I wonder if the newspaper will do a follow-up story in 6 months and see how many of those who stopped or "plan to stop" smoking will be puffing again.

As Mark Twain said: "Giving up smoking is the easiest thing in the world. I know because I've done it thousands of times."


P.S.: This is a comment about journalism, not encouragement for people to keep smoking.



2015-01-03 TNKR speech contest planning meeting

I met with several enthusiastic volunteers helping us with the planning of the TNKR speech contest planned for February 28.

I often say that I can't do this without volunteers, and I sincerely mean it. By myself, I couldn't sell candy in an elementary school without going bankrupt. So I need smart folks willing to help out to make things happen.

Special thanks to my TNKR co-director Lee Eunkoo for coming out (again) on a Saturday afternoon. Our TNKR-FAN coaches Fiona Fong and Fatima Nicholson and TNKR tutor Gabrielle Wray for joining. The meeting was inspired by Gabrielle asking how she could help with the speech contest. So I confirmed she could make it, then held a meeting!

Thank you also to Michael Buckalew, Stephen Choi, Jessiica Steffl, Hyewon Hwang, and Charles Costello for showing up and for signing up to take on various tasks.

Not even Eunkoo and I agreed on everything. It was good brainstorming, but with practical action items attached, so people weren't talking pie-in-the-sky (at least, not for long!) as is often done in staff meetings.


2015-01-02 Asia Leadership Institute

Friday night I was one of the speakers at an event with about 40 members of the Asia Leadership Trek--a collection of geniuses from Harvard, MIT, Tufts. I spoke along with three Ambassadors from the Teach North Korean Refugees project.

The students responded really strongly! In my case, some of the students were pleading for the opportunity to help TNKR. And they were telling me specific ways that they could help out, so there could be some real opportunities. A few of them said the same thing--they follow many issues (talking and analysis), but it isn't often that they can see real opportunities to get involved.

Our three Ambassadors all gave speeches that touched the audience in different ways. One with her call to action, another with his personal story, and another who had the courage to give her talk in English even though she is still new to TNKR.

Special thanks to John Lim and Samuel H Kim for allowing TNKR to present at their event, and to the students who gave us such a strong response. A few of them... amazing, they didn't want to leave. The organizers were saying it was time to go, but one group at the end refused to go, they wanted to talk with me even more, to find out more about me and my activities helping North Korean refugees.

Actually, I gave two speeches that night. One was about Harvard, the other about North Korean refugees. We (organizers, handful of NK refugees students and TNKR Ambassadors) were waiting for the Asia Leadership Trekkers to arrive, so I gave a speech to the 10 or so refugees giving them background about Harvard. Then as soon as the Asia Leadership Trekkers arrived, I switched to my PPT about North Korea. I was the first speaker to arrive and the last to leave, talking to the last group for quite a while. The people at the building may have been wondering if they would have to call security to escort me out of the building...

Even then, I wasn't done... I was introducing two friends so they could talk about how to collaborate... so I met with them after the Asia Leadership Trek crew finally left...


Authoritarian mentality lives on (Korea Times, 12/31/14) by Casey Lartigue, Jr.

By Casey Lartigue, Jr.

The next time Seoul Mayor Park Won-soon speaks about innovation and new ways of doing business being "deeply rooted" in city administration, I hope he will surround himself on stage with police officers and prosecutors.

The authoritarian mentality is still alive in Korea, as 
Mark Clifford wrote in his 1994 book "Troubled Tiger." Korea remains a "country of elite control" in which "the state oversees everything from wedding ceremonies to corporate investment."

Korea then had 500,000 local government officials, reaching into every sector of Korean society. Two decades later, there is still no issue too trivial for Korea's numerous politicians to get involved in, with even former President Lee Myung-bak discussing in a 2011 cabinet meeting ― yes, a presidential cabinet meeting ― whether men working in host bars should be considered as hostesses. In March 2013, at her first cabinet meeting, President Park Geun-hye's new government endorsed a regulation imposing fines on those caught wearing revealing clothing.

Seeking scapegoats leading up to the 2012 National Assembly and presidential elections, large discount stores were mandated to be shut down at least twice a month, in the name of protecting small business. When Costco didn't comply during litigation, the Seoul city government retaliated by sending in regulators with white gloves to find dirt on Costco. As Steve Austin noted in a Korea Times letter: "Carrefour, the National Cattlemen's Beef Association, Wal-Mart, Lone Star, Standard and Chartered, and Apple have had to fend off these attacks." Korea's authoritarian mentality lives on.

It has become a cliché to say that Korea is a mix of the old and the new, but often there is a reason for clichés. Korea is at the forefront of high-tech, the Seoul city government has dubbed itself a "Sharing City" and established a "Sharing Hub." That openness is partnered with crackdowns, fines and arrests. As Korea Times columnist Jason Lim recently wrote, "Korean culture of governance is still characterized by command and control tendencies tinged with dismissive condescension toward those whom they have been elected to serve."

Seoul is now targeting Uber, a drive-sharing app that remotely connects drivers with customers. Instead of finding space for "disruptive innovation," the Seoul city government has summoned law enforcement to the stage.

The Seoul prosecutor has indicted the CEO of Uber, threatening him with up to two years in jail or a fine of 20 million won. Seoul has shown one sliver of "creativity" ― offering rewards (1 million won) to tipsters who report Uber drivers.

In a recent Wall Street Journal op-ed, Bret Stephens explains why many innovations originate in America (indirectly explaining why few come from Korea): "Innovation depends less on developing specific ideas than it does on creating broad spaces. A free society that is willing to place millions of small bets on persons unknown and things unseen doesn't have this problem. Flexibility, not hardness, is its true test of strength. Success is a result of experiment not design."

Where are Korea's broad spaces "to place millions of small bets" on innovators and new approaches? In explaining his vision of "social innovation," Seoul Mayor Park quoted Peter Drucker: "Innovation is change that creates a new dimension of performance. Change cannot be controlled. The only thing we can do is be in the front, and the only way to stand in front is through organic cooperation and collaboration between sectors."

Cooperation? Collaboration? Can't control change? Nice quote, Mr. Mayor, but threatening to arrest the CEO of Uber doesn't match. In cracking down on innovators, Mayor Park may want to take note of a different Drucker quote: "There is nothing so useless as doing efficiently that which should not be done at all."

In his 2011 book "Capturing New Markets: How Smart Companies Create Opportunities Others Don't," Stephen Wunker asks: "How can companies spot markets that do not exist?" He stresses focusing on "underlying customer need," citing the (perhaps apocryphal) story of Henry Ford saying, "If I had asked customers what they wanted, they would have said a faster horse."

Consumers need freedom to choose among options available in the market and innovators need space, without the threat of arrest. Those "persons unknown" seeing "things unseen" can yield cars rather than faster horses and apps remotely connecting drivers with riders.

The attack on Uber may just be politics as usual ― there are more than 70,000 taxis in Seoul (280,000 across the nation) with drivers voting as a bloc. The unions mainly object to UberX so compromise may still be possible (although "compromise" will mean allowing businesses to choose their competitors).

The Seoul government should drop its ridiculous indictment against Uber. Whatever happens, the outcome can help determine if the prosecutor and police should start appearing on stage with Korean politicians when they say Korea is open to innovation and creative ways of doing business.


Mulmangcho Christmas Party (2014-12-21)

In late 2012, shortly after I became the volunteer International Adviser to the Mulmangcho School (for adolescent North Korean refugees), I talked with school founder Prof. Park Sun-young about us holding a Christmas Party for the kids. I quickly concluded there was no way I could do it on my own so I dropped the idea and ignored her when she tried to remind me about it.^^

But last year? Edward M. Robinson, a party planner in America, among many other things, took the lead! Helping Others Prosper Through English (HOPE) hosted spectacular Halloween and Christmas parties for the kids last year (I'm also the International Adviser to HOPE).

This year, Eddie took the lead again, but the crew organizing the party has increased. (I hope I don't miss anyone). Eddie is the energy behind the organizing, but we do have plenty of help. In-Jee Lee led the toy drive with her colleagues at the Chungdahm Learning Institute. Mike Ashley reached into his own pocket and bought many gifts for the kids. Rachel Stine helped with organizing the party. Kelly Pratt helped with organizing, also bought many items to donate to the kids. And then there are volunteers like Nina Hong and Kristen Lefebvre who seem to be at Mulmangcho every weekend now.

Jungah Ji was one of the main organizers of our Christmas parties at the Yonsei Severance Hospital and she joined us at Mulmangcho for the first time, bringing her friend Yoonjee Kim along with her. Aaron Grommesh is back in Korea, that means that he is back at Mulmangcho. Laura Nell, who knew me back in the day before I got involved in NK issues. Serena Ha is yet another friend who joined Mulmangcho, and keeps coming back. Whereas the rest of us volunteer on Sundays, she was going on Thursdays once a week to tutor one of the young adults. Hannah Acuña Nedrow, Kasia Middleton, Niina Cartier, thank you so much, too. There were a few other volunteers Eddie brought, and I didn't catch their names...

Nevada Rhodes brought the same rambunctious energy he brought to the parties at the hospital a few days ago. If you are looking for an MC for parties, he is definitely someone to look up.

Oh! And of course the high school girls from Wonju who are regular volunteers at the school.

Several of the volunteers are also regulars in the Teach North Korean Refugees project, so it is delightful to be able to collaborate with them on more than just one thing...

Here's video from the Chosun Ilbo.

When the party was over, we said goodbye to Eddie, who boarded the bus with two crates and a suitcase, then had three taxi drivers refuse to take him home later on. If only they had known what a great thing he had done, they might have given him a free ride. So next year, someone please remind me to arrange Uber for Eddie.^^


Teach North Korean Refugees launches new project (2014-12-20)

In March 2013, Lee Eunkoo and Casey Lartigue co-founded Teach North Korean Refugees. The main goal was to give North Korean refugees opportunities to study English with volunteer English tutors. We weren't the first to do it, but we added a few twists to it by allowing the refugees to choose the tutors themselves, and to choose as many as they wanted. We didn't benchmark the program by studying others, we just did what we thought made sense based on the situation. So far, we have matched 147 refugees and 11 South Koreans helping NK refugees with 205 tutors. We recently expanded beyond English to add Spanish and Latin, and later may add more languages.

But we have now launched a project that promises to be really special. We are splitting TNKR into two main parts;

Track 1: Finding My Own Way
Track 2: Telling My Story

Track 1 will be the original project connecting refugees with volunteer tutors to study for standardized tests, employment, school, personal enrichment, travel, curiosity.

Track 2 will allow those refugees who would like to become public speakers to work with Coaches. Some of them should be ready soon, some will need some time, and some are long-term projects. I want everyone to be realistic and I think everyone got that point.

We launched Track 2 yesterday, with 8 NK refugees, 1 South Korean, and 14 Coaches. What a talented and interesting group of Ambassadors and Coaches.

Seven of the eight refugees were or are current students in Track 1. It was the first time I had seen a few of them in a while, and wow, what an improvement in their English. They thanked us so many times for setting up this project, I can see they are so determined to improve themselves. One said that her "responsibility' will be to study hard. Another thanked us all for being interested in helping NK refugees, and also doing something about it.

Special thanks to our first group of Coaches:
Hannah Acuña Nedrow, Josh Cole, Fiona Fong, Sean Varley, Danielle Solof, @Mairi Law, Marisha Saifulina, Craig Urquhart, Fatima Nicholson, Charlotte Hammond, Jean Chung, @Colleen Dougherty, Suzanne Atwill Stewart, @kelly Sue Jin

It seems that our Coaches got swept away in the moment. Some of them stated at the beginning that they wanted only 1 or 2 Ambassadors to work with--but by the end, had three or four each.^^ I guess after they heard the refugees trying to express themselves in English, and saw their eagerness to learn that they kept finding time in their schedules.

This is a pilot project. We won't be benchmarking other projects, we will, like we did with Track 1, do what makes sense based on the situation. So we will be relying on our Coaches to give us feedback.

Thanks so much to the TNKR team:
Co-directors Lee Eunkoo and Casey Lartigue;
Special Assistant Suzanne Atwill Stewart.
Academic Adviser Sodam Jeong

If you'd like to support TNKR, please consider making a donation. Thanks to the Atlas Network in Washington, DC, our donations will be DOUBLED if you donate through them. They will send 100% of the money to us, doubled, minus wire fees. All of the money wil go into the project, not into salaries or commissions.

I think this project will be really special. I'm not the only one who thinks so. Some of the idiots who are sympathetic or protective of the North Korean regime started complaining about this project even before we launched it. So I guess they realize how incredible (terrible, in their eyes) it will be if we can have a team of refugees able, in English, to tell their stories and discuss issues related to North Korea.