Teach North Korean Refugees--directions to Mulmangcho Human Rights Institute

DIRECTIONS to Mulmangcho Institute=Easy, easy, easy. Almost like they chose the location for the people who get lost within a block from home...

* Bangbae station on line 2, exit 1. Walk to the top of the stairs. 

* Look to your left. There will be a Woori Bank teller machine.

* Standing, looking directly at the teller machine location, walk inside the building to the right of it, under the navy blue sign with the telephone number "587-4145-6..." Walk up to the 3rd floor, room 305.

That's it. After you leave the subway exit, it will take you about 5 seconds to get to the building. I don't have a Naver map for it, but if you are driving, use the Bangbae subway as a landmark. Bangbae station (line 2) exit 1 Woori Bank Bd (우리은행건물) #305호

I know people won't believe me, they have been lied to so many times by people in Korea who said a location was "easy to find." I have learned that "easy to find" in Korea means:

“Sure, just go down the street about 100 meters. Turn left, enter the third unmarked building. Take the elevator to the top floor. After you get on the roof, run to the edge and leap to the next building. Climb down the side of the building. Squeeze through the tiny door marked 'danger,' probably turning your body sideways. Haha, just kidding, doors in Korea are never marked 'danger.'

Go down the alley--quickly, fast fast--that is marked ‘run or die.’ Then, dig a tunnel--I hope you brought a shovel--until you reach a wall with the sign, 'Easy to find Supermarket.' Exit through the manhole. If you run into a barricade, no problem, just don’t stop running, especially if it between 5 to 7 p.m. If you see a sign reading ‘Welcome to North Korea’ then you have gone too far and should dig a hole in the opposite direction. Then, look on your left. And you’ll be there! Easy, you can't miss it! I go there once a week! Tell them I sent you.”


Korea is a "hero-less" society

Why doesn't Korea have landmarks named after its great leaders and heroes/heroines? That's what Lee Chang-sup asks rhetorically before answering...

1) Individualism of Americans and that Koreans see things in terms of nations, dynasties, epochs. (Parenthetically, I think this explains things such as why Koreans are fine with a 513% tariff on imported rice.) 

2) Korean's turbulent modern history. Hallelujah! This is one of the most fightingest civilized countries I am familiar with. It isn't enough for Koreans to win, the other side must lose. And opponents are never to be honored. It doesn't matter about the good things a leader may have done, the downside is to be focused on. Yes, it is the same in other countries, in the same way that terrorists chopping off heads and children stealing candy are both criminals...

3) North Korea's deification of leaders. This one is less persuasive to me. A street named after one of South Korea's dictators will conjure up memories of the Kim dictators in North Korea? Okay, not persuasive to me, but apparently so in Korea, so that Koreans will refuse to want to drive down Dictator Street. 

4) Not enough history--this makes some sense. Leaders from 500 years ago are safely praised--King Sejong the Great was king, which should make him even worse than a dictator. Historical perspective may be needed before Koreans can objectively (or at least, somewhat reasonably) assess their leaders. But I wonder if there will enough time, I recently read that Koreans will become extinct by the year 2750.

5) Bias of historians... Yes, I'm always willing to believe that one...

6) Strict criteria...yes, good point... I have noted this one before, that even one flaw in a political leader (especially when it is an opponent) means the person is flawed and illegitimate, resulting in all Korean leaders as being regarded as criminals.

As another aside: 730 streets named after MLK. As Chris Rock, if you know someone on MLK, just say one word: "Run!" That's because many of those MLK street are in dangerous neighborhoods. Proving that Shakespeare (or whoever wrote it) had it right: "What's in a name?"


2749 is going to be a hell of a year in Korea

Headline: Koreans 'to Become Extinct in 2750'

My observation: 2749 is going to be one hell of a year!

* Fights about who let that happen
* Numerous investigations and hearings by the National Assembly about which political party is to blame
* Calls for the president to resign to take responsibility
* Protests by the handful of Koreans remaining against the other handful of Koreans remaining
* Conspiracy theories about Japan plotting since 1910 when it colonized Korea to cause Koreans to go extinct, etc...

2-7-4-9, Party Over, Oops, Out of Time!


Korea's "Justice Trap" (Korea Times, June 18, 2014)


Harvard University Professor Michael Sandel was so popular during his trip to Korea in 2012 that I'm surprised he didn't apply for Korean citizenship before he departed.
By Casey Lartigue, Jr. 

He threw out the first pitch at a baseball game, pow-wowed with Seoul Mayor Park Won-soon and spoke to an overflow crowd of 15,000 at Yonsei University's open-air theater. Oh, and he had already reportedly sold more than 1 million copies of his book "Justice: What's the Right Thing to do?" in Korea in the lead-up to the trip.

Why was his book on philosophy so popular? My main guess: He tapped into what Professor David R. Henderson calls the "justice trap."

An associate professor of economics at the Naval Postgraduate School in Monterey, Calif., Henderson recently wrote, "Years ago, I came to the conclusion that seeking justice is usually not worthwhile no matter how unjustly you think you were treated. It can take your energy and take you away from achieving your other goals." Henderson suggests we should learn from the way professional athletes quickly get over a bad call from a referee. They move on, rather than falling into the trap of searching for justice.

He cites a discussion he had with Walter Oi, who lived in a horse stall at the Santa-Anita Racetrack during World War II when the Franklin Delano Roosevelt administration locked up Japanese-Americans in internment camps. Four decades later, Oi expressed opposition to the Reagan Administration giving compensation to Japanese-Americans. Oi said that yes, Japanese-Americans like himself were treated unjustly, but that the best thing for them was to move on and not create a new government program. That is, to use Henderson's phrase, not to get caught up in the Justice Trap.

I suspect that Koreans will ignore the sports analogy and the Japanese-American case. Move on from Japanese colonization? Forgive past atrocities? Until there is justice in the form of a list of demands fulfilled (direct compensation to victims, state-level apologies similar to Germany's to Jews, history books rewritten), then Japan can never be forgiven.

Lee Chang-sup, executive managing editor of The Korea Times, quotes Marshall Goldsmith, the author of "What Got You Here Won't Get You There: How Successful People Become Even More Successful," as saying that apology is the most powerful tool in human relations. "Expressing regret, or apologizing is a cleansing ritual," that can make you feel better. Lee quotes Goldsmith as saying the difference between successful and less successful nations and people is the ability to say "I'm sorry" and "Thank you."

Accepting that as true, my questions: 1) What if the recipient of an apology is caught up in a Justice Trap? Does Goldsmith say that successful nations and people accept apologies?
 Japan has offered apologies over the decades that Koreans have dismissed as not being "genuine." 2) Lee adds that Koreans hate to give apologies because they ''lose face." If true, then what are they doing when they refuse to accept apologies?

Based on my observation, if a Justice Trap did not exist, Koreans would create one. There is an endless desire to fix history, to make things fair today. Accepting that Korea has always been the victim, never the victimizer, and that it is innocent and deserving of apologies and justice, it seems that apologies are not easily accepted.

Looking at news reports of Korean politicians, celebrities, athletes and others apologizing with their heads bowed and handcuffs on their wrists, promising to donate the money they stole or to live better lives, apologies are rarely accepted as genuine by Koreans except when they are announced in a suicide note. I've heard some Koreans ask why can't the Japanese be more like the Germans when it comes to apologizing, but perhaps Koreans are not like Jews when it comes to accepting apologies?

I recently encountered one of the former members of the group that advocates for Korean comfort women, she was proud that her organization 
had blocked the Japanese government's Asian Woman's Fund from providing payments to the Korean comfort women during the 1990s.When the issue is justice, then other options ― such as raising money locally to support the comfort women ― are ignored by people living in a Justice Trap. The advocates for the comfort women ― perhaps the women themselves ― are caught up in a Justice Trap, determined to fight for proper apologies until the last comfort woman passes away. And even more after that, apparently.

Professor Sandel didn't set the Justice Trap. He is a philosophy professor who does what philosophy professors do ― ask a bunch of questions without providing answers. Korea just happens to be a perfect case because it is a country ready to make a bed for itself in the Justice Trap, with him coming along to tuck them in.

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

That's me pictured with Harvard University Prof Michael Sandel, a generous guy who gladly took a photo with me even though I criticized him.


Dear readers: I'm on N. Korea's enemies list (Korea Times, 2014/02/25) by Casey Lartigue, Jr.

Dear readers: I'm on N. Korea's enemies list

By Casey Lartigue, Jr.

Although I absolutely love my job, I occasionally update my resume to track milestones and achievements. How should I categorize this? I have been included on former North Korean leader "Kim Jong-il's Official Enemies List."

There are 30 of us on the list, including former U.S. President George W. Bush and former Soviet leaders Mikhail Gorbachev and Nikita Khrushchev. Just two enemies list names above my own: Former South Korean President Kim Young-sam, on page 417 of the hilarious new book, "Dear Reader: The Unauthorized Autobiography of Kim Jong-il." According to the book cover, everything, as dictated to celebrity ghostwriter Michael Malice, who never met Kim Jong-il, is 100 percent "TRUE"!


Forgotten once again: The hapless consumer

In reporting on a story, such as the one below, a reporter can decide what the focus will be. In the story below, it is told from the viewpoint of SMEs battling large companies, but the viewpoint of the consumer having choices blocked is ignored. As the Korea Times writes in black, my edits in blue italics.

Starbucks' expansion to be curbed

By Kim Tae-jong

Global food franchise brands, including Starbucks and McDonald’s, are expected to change their aggressive expansion strategy plans because of government intervention here, as Korea’s small players are urging the government to restrict their fast growth.to block the choices of consumers.

The Korea Convenient Restaurant Association, representing small food and beverage outlets, last week, after finding an excuse to do what they already wanted to do, decided to ask the National Commission for Corporate Partnership (NCCP) to restrict major coffee franchise brands from opening new stores, block consumers from places they'd like shopt at, arguing the survival of small coffee houses has been threatened by their aggressive expansion. that businesses should be able to use government power to decide where consumers should be allowed to shop.

It is almost impossible to run an individual coffee shop due to the dominance of big franchise brands,” "We don't like it that consumers want to buy from those others businesses," said Kim Soo-bok, a director at the association. “We will first begin with coffee franchises and later ask for restrictions on the excessive expansion of pizza and hamburger chains. "We will use government power to first block consumers from buying from coffee franchises and later block consumers from buying pizzas and hamburgers from the places they want."

The request came as a lot of the self-employed who run small coffee shops and diners have been put in jeopardy due to competition from larger firms. The request came as a result of consumers choosing that they want to buy from other businesses, so those failing businesses decided to get the government to do their dirty work.

A recent study by the KB Financial Group showed that nearly half of self-employed businesses fail within three years, and more than 75 percent of them do not last a decade. So instead of blaming customers for spending money as they choose, the smaller companies are blaming big companies.

If their request is accepted, major coffee chains such as Starbucks, Coffee Bean, Twosome Place and Angel in Us, and fast food brands such as McDonald’s, Burger King and Pizza Hut, will be restricted from opening new stores. consumers will be blocked from buying from businesses they want to buy from.

The underlying logic excuse is that owners of small coffee houses and food outlets believe that limiting the expansion of big franchises will promote shared growth. blocking consumers from shopping where they want will keep them in business.

In response, the NCCP said it will examine their request and take necessary action. if there is enough support politically for them to get it done.

“We will first see whether it is legitimate or not and have a thorough discussion involving representatives from both big franchise brands and small coffee outlets to seek a solution,”  "We will abuse our power to force large businesses to have a conversation with us, then we will do what want anyway," an official from the NCCP said. “The decision we will force on them should come out in the first half of next year.”

She stressed that the restriction, if approved, would be applied to both local and foreign franchise brands in a fair manner.

The government has pushed for restrictions as part of measures to protect small- and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs). to play God in the economy, choosing winners and losers while ignoring the desires of consumers.

In September 2011, the government prohibited conglomerates from further expanding on a list of industries where SMEs could thrive as long as they can block competitors and force consumers to go to them. Under the policy, big companies are limited in the number of products they are allowed to sell, and cannot open new stores in any industry on the list. consumers are limited in the number of places they are allowed to buy from.

Previously, the government has put the brakes on the expansion of big bakery franchises by banning them from opening new stores within 500 meters of existing bakeries. came up with some arbitrary restrictions on preventing companies from having the opportunity to serve customers.

The commission has also recommended that food service chains be barred from expanding and asked with the threat of government backing their request for big companies not in the food business to refrain from entering that market. That's even if they can provide consumers with better and/or cheaper choices.

Regarding the recent move, industry observers think the commission’s restriction on foreign brands could cause trade conflicts, as it could be seen as excessive regulation.

But foreign coffee brands and eatery chains took a very careful stance, saying they will take action depending on the NCCP’s final decision. They probably saw what happened to Costco when it defied the government's stupid shutdown of large stores. The Korean government sent in regulators and rabid Korean nationalists went crazy.

Basically, it is our global principle that we follow local government’s rules,” "So many activists hate us and opportunistic politicians use us as punching bags," an official from Starbucks Korea said. “Of course, the NCCP’s decision would have an impact on our business, as we would be restricted from opening more stores.”  "So we know we can't fight with anyone, just hope that our customers will keep coming to the stores we do have. And we have to hope that we can find a loophole with these ridiculous restrictions."

The local arm of the U.S.-based coffee chain previously announced that it would increase its number of stores to 700 by 2016. Starbucks currently has about 530 stores nationwide. But the Korean government is poised to abuse its power to restrict them from acting in the interests of customers, and instead having to act in the interests of business rivals.

McDonalds’ also shared a similar view, saying that it will abide by the local rules.

“It’s difficult to comment on what has not happened yet,” "We agree with what the person from Starbucks said," an official from McDonald’s said. “But basically, we will follow what the government comes up with.” "But we will try to find a loophole to get around it."

The brand has 330 stores nationwide, which it had planned to increase to 500 by 2015. But McDonald's can't decide what makes sense for it, instead it need to get permission from third party people and their competitors.


Freedom Factory seeking bilingual interns (Korean and English)

Freedom Factory Co. Ltd., a new think tank located in Seoul, South Korea, is seeking a bilingual intern for its International Relations division.
The intern will support the International Relations team’s goals to:
1) expand economic and personal freedom in the world, with a focus on North and South Korea
2) connect FF with think tanks and liberty lovers around the world.
Job Description and expectations:
Multimedia and translation: Assist with video and translate (between Korean and English) newsletters, columns, other documents.
Research: Conduct light research (internet searches, phone calls) for published articles and activities.
Event assistant: Provide logistical support at external events.
Office hours: Should visit the office located near the National Assembly subway station twice a week and, when necessary, attend meetings with the Director of International Relations.
Stipend: Negotiable.
To apply, email your resume, including a brief self-introduction in English and Korean, expected stipend, and anything else you want to present to make your case (use your imagination, this is not a checklist project!).
Assuming anyone applies, the position will be filled sooner rather than later, hopefully before Christmas, and, because of the flexibility of the position and FF leadership, it is possible for more than one candidate to be selected.
If there is a problem with links in this message, please check the original link:


Fantasy Sports is better than Fantasy Economics

A few weeks ago, I noticed that Fantasy Sports is now getting billing ahead of actual sports.
look at the left column..Fantasy sports gets top billing, both under sports and under the NBA menu.
look at the left column..Fantasy sports gets top billing, both under sports and under the NBA menu.
Years ago, a friend asked me why, as a sports fanatic at that time, I didn't play fantasy sports. I told him that 1) I wasn't interested and that 2) I suspected it would give couch potato fans the opportunity to act like they are the real coaches and general managers of teams (instead of just fans yelling at the scream about what the coach, owners, or players should have done differently).
* * *
I just read a Tim Worstall article in Forbes Magazine. Worstall notes that Chang Ha-Joon and Hans Rosling agree that the washing machine is a more important invention than the Internet.
I have no doub that Worstall, Chang and Rosling all know more about economics than I do, they have forgotten more than I will ever know about it.
But wait...there is a discussion among some really educated men about whether or not the washing machine is a more important invention than the Internet? Is this really real?
Question 1: Even if true.... so what?
Question 2: Accepting that they are correct...then what?
A great thing about being an intellectual--you can make observations that don't need to be tested in the real world. Chang Ha-Joon's book on capitalism is full of such irrelevant observations mixed in with strawmen. And Ted.com, where I first came across Rosling, is grooming and highlighting a whole generation of talkers making witty observations that I'm sure will do better in the fantasy world than the real world.
How many angels can dance on the head of a pin? How many economists does tit take to start a washing machine as they cruise the Internet? With the kinds of observations that Chang often makes, I am convinced that he will live to be about 300 years old. That's because his observations are clearly from a man who thinks he will live for about three centuries, so he doesn't need to worry about making observations that are relevant to today.
So I will make my own irrelevant observations. At least with fantasy sports:
1) A fan's picks will get examined during and after the game, demonstrating whether or not they were good that week or season at guessing which players would do better in their fantasy leagues. That's unlike the expert economics who talk all day but couldn't squash a grape when it comes to action.
2) The fans aren't treated like geniuses for making irrelevant observations.


Korea--theory versus reality

Korea in theory: Smile Korea
Korea in reality: The beatings will continue until morale improves

Korea Herald--serious news & columnists, business focused, your grandfather's newspaper
Korea Times--Kpop columns, news lifted from urban legends sites, your grandfather is having sex with your teenage cousin's best friend.

Weather in theory: 4 seasons year around
Weather in reality: 4 seasons--every day.

Education in theory: Schools should become child-centered.
Education reality: National entrance exam

Outlook in theory: Shaping the Future with Korea
Reality: Checklist country

Economy in theory: Creative economy
Reality: Checklist country

Hope: Carpe Diem
Reality: Checklist country

National branding slogan: Dynamic Korea
Reality: Korea Fighting


That's like a negative bonus?

In doing some reading, I came across a funny term in economics: "Negative subsidy."
It sounds like a joke, but some smart and powerful people take it very seriously.
In actual language, it is a tax or fine.
But smart people use such stupid language to hide what they really mean. It is the kind of term that people would ignore in every day life, but in the make-believe land of politics and planning, such make-believe terms are taken seriously. And because people with power take the term seriously, you also need to take it seriously if they target you.

* * *

Employee: Boss, I'm a bit surprised. According to this document, I am not receiving a bonus this year.
Boss: Let me take a look....Hmm...
Employee: In fact, it says I am being penalized $100. What is that?
Boss: Don't think of it as a penalty. You are receiving a negative bonus this year.


The only thing I like about Tigers is Frosted Flakes

If I ever work at a zoo, you can be sure that

1) I would have a weapon

2) would it have it drawn on any animals that needed to be locked in cages for the protection of the public and employees

3) that I would be known as the trigger-happy employee who was ready to shoot at any moment because he didn't trust his idiot co-workers to properly close the cages.

* * *

I'm thinking about this because a Siberian tiger at a zoo in Seoul briefly escaped from its unlocked cage, and it then did what tigers do--it attacked. The unfortunate person was a 52 year old trainer named Shim who is now in a coma. I suppose after this that, assuming he survives, that he will never try to feed a tiger without confirming that the cage is locked. And he will probably take tips from me.

From the Korea Times:
A Seoul City official said he presumed the injured trainer failed to lock the gate of the cage while preparing for morning feeding.
Of course, there is no way that I would ever work at a zoo. I wouldn't want to ever encounter an actual tiger or elephant, so why would I go to the zoo to look at them? Even when I was young I didn't understand the fascination with zoos.


Obama's credibility is going, going, gone!

The Economist gives some tips about how Obama can get his credibility back. It is hard for a liar to get credibility back.

Of course, it is possible that Obama can reverse things by finding a new scapegoat to blame his lies on or by finding a good way to blame Republicans. His truest of true believers will continue to stand by him, no matter what, especially those who support the policy. And except for the loyal opposition, citizens want to believe the nation's leader.

I'm skeptical, however, that Obama will be able to "get his credibility back." There is reason to believe that things will get worse, not better.

A video showing some of the many times Obama saying, without any qualifiers, that people can keep their health care plans. Like a crooked car salesman, he is now trying to explain why the broken-down car that fell apart within a week is actually working just fine.

1) REALITY: It has been said that the worst thing that can happen to an idea is that it is put into practice. Obama's idea sounded grand in theory on the campaign trail and in speeches, but now it is time to implement it. Ouch! Dr. Obama is here, with a needle the size of Texas to injection the medicine. The reality of the disaster of Obamacare is just starting.


Random Saturday thoughts: Trade, Travel, Heisman

As I wrote in the Korea Times, citing Paul Fussell, there are three kinds of people who travel:
Tourists, travelers, and explorers. Briefly, tourists stick to the familiar. Travelers get somewhat involved in the local culture. Explorers dive right in, often “going native.” (I confess to being a traveler. I have been mistaken as being an explorer, although “unorganized” is more accurate.)
Travel writer Amy Gray
Today's Korea Herald has a piece extolling the virtues of traveling solo. The article quotes travel writer Amy Gray and travel lover Han Hye-jin at length.

They are talking about explorers. Tourists wouldn't know how to travel alone--at least, not for long! They'd be on the phone, threatening their tour guides for putting them in danger.

Travelers may give it a try, but the idea of just going it alone, bouncing around, doesn't provide them with enough structure.

* * *

In a commentary in yesterday's Korea Times, Shomi Kim reminds us that Korea is the first country to go from being an aid recipient to an aid giving nation, and she also notes that Korea has had the highest increase of giving among the members of the Development Assistance Committee. She then says this "leads to an obvious question: Does this reflect the growth of Korean people’s interest in international development issues?"

Well, that is not my obvious question. Instead, my obvious questions:

1) Was foreign aid a good thing for Korea? Based on what I have read in the past, Korea's economy didn't start to grow until its economy was opened. So if countries want to follow Korea's lead, then getting off (foreign aid would seem to be important and a better model).

2) Does giving foreign aid really help those countries that are recipients of Korea's aid today?

3) Instead of aid, could it be that trade would be better for those recipients?

* * *\

Jameis Winston is already a great college football player as a redshirt freshman. But there is no way he is winning the Heisman Trophy this year as long as the sexual assault charge is pending. Even then, it might be tough because the woman making the accusation is saying he raped her.

He was joking around during the off-season, saying that if he suffered from "Manziel Disease," that he wanted reporters to hit him in the head with a microphone.

Last year's Heisman winner, Johnny Manziel, is a crazy guy, but he doesn't have possible rape charges. The Heisman voters will be voting soon, his possible court case hasn't been resolved. That means, at least this year, I have a better chance of winning the Heisman than he does.

Update: Winston won't be charged. He is, once again, favored to win the Heisman.

* * *


One interesting thing about living in in Korea is hearing how often Koreans take pride in some unimportant things. The latest:

A study published in a journal about a Korean coffee shop.
I’m proud, as a Korean, that the thesis was selected,” said Kim Sun-kwon, the chief executive and founder of Caffbene. “We’ll continue to work to improve our services and quality to become a global brand.”
On the other hand, what do the folks at the Korea Times who, last year wrote "Just too many coffee shops around," feel about that?

And, by the way, how is the name of the business spelled? In the Korea Herald, it is Caffbene, but on the actual business, it is Caffe Bene..


Linked by Aaron McKenzie

Aaron McKenzie makes several great points and adds some great data. In particular, I like this:
Our average South Korean need not take an explicit “interest in international development issues” in order to actually bring about an improvement in the material well-being of her counterpart in the developing world. When a Samsung engineer cooperates with his colleague in India, or when an SK executive finalizes an agreement to build a new road in Africa, they are contributing to international development, even if this is not their goal. That their efforts are not funneled through the World Bank, the ADB, or the DAC, makes them no less effective (indeed, they're probably more effective).

And from Don Boudreaux at Cafe Hayek a few days ago, he notes the New York Times in 2011 used the phrase "United Nations assembly of parts." Great! But that runs counter to the development specialists out there who want to talk about how to increase development through their 5 year plans, while business people, when they don't have barriers thrown in front of them, are already doing what the development specialists and politicians dream of and talk about...

Prof. Boudreaux was responding to a book review about Benjamin Barber's political hero fantasy "If Mayors Ruled the World."

Prof. Boudreaux notes:
Even the most commonplace items that we consume in modern society are the results of the creativity, risk taking, and efforts of literally millions of people from around the world.  The computer that Mr. Barber used to write his book was likely designed in California and assembled in Suzhou, China, from raw materials and parts transported from the Americas, Africa, and Europe on vehicles built in Germany, Japan, Norway, South Korea, and the U.S.  Financing and insurance for this globe-spanning supply chain were supplied by investors and institutions from Seattle to Sydney, Lima to London, and Melbourne to Montreal. 

Politicians and development specialists keep dreaming about a world that is being made without them, and one they can't take credit for...


"When a fire is lit in the heart"--North Korean male refugees speak out

An estimated 70% of the North Korean refugees coming to South Korea are women. Why are so few men escaping North Korea and arriving in South Korea? What are their lives like in North Korea--and once they have escaped.

On December 7,will hear , as they address those and other questions. 

FAQ (subject to be updated based on questions)

Business casual. No one knows exactly what business casual means, so my personal definition is: "Dress the way your mother would approve."

That means you can choose: Business Casual, or Business Clown. Either way, welcome!

The session will be held at the Seoul Global Center, at the Jonggak Subway Station, line 1, exit 6. From exit 6, walk for about 30 seconds, you will see the building on your left. I visited the location today, checked out the room, took photos, checked the address and directions.

Space is limited. To reserve a seat in advance--and by that, I mean an assigned seat, just in case the demand happens to exceed the supply--deposit 10,000 won to the Woori bank account 1002-842-088197 (the name on the account will be "Larti." The cost may go up after December 1.

Please send an email to cjl@post.harvard.edu to confirm the name on your account.

They made it very clear that we are not allowed to have any beer or food at the event.

As a reminder, here was the October 16 event with North Korean ladies telling their stories.


2 cute North Korean children singing

One was singing directly into the microphone–the other notices it, pulls the microphone down as she continues singing!

Wonderful! She may have an ear for music–or she may just be a bossy young lady.^^
They are students at the Mulmangcho School, an alternative school for adolescent North Korean refugees. The school is located in South Korea


Casey Lartigue quoted in opposition to the minimum wage (Korea Herald 9/10)

Casey Lartigue quoted in today's Korea Herald by John Power in weekly Voice. He argues that the minimum wage law harms low-skilled workers and adds yet another unfunded mandate on business.
Some free market advocates take this argument further still ― they say the minimum wage shouldn’t be frozen or lowered, but abolished altogether. “It prices low-skilled workers out of the market with a forced arbitrary wage set by third-party people who don’t pay those wages, while it also adds yet another government-imposed cost on small companies already struggling to survive,” said Casey Lartigue, a former scholar of the U.S.-based Cato Institute and Seoul-based Center for Free Enterprise, and current international adviser to Freedom Factory Co.  Lartigue said the government should do less, not more, to help job seekers and the lowest-paid workers get a leg up. “According to some estimates, 75,000 to 100,000 jobs could be created if the Korean government reduced regulations on business and barriers to entry,” he said. “A new report by the World Economic Forum says that Korea’s competitiveness has fallen. The government creating a hospitable environment for business would do more for the poor ― and society in general ― than the constant unfunded mandates on business.”
See the Korea Herald for the full article.
Members of a labor union for part-time workers protest for a higher minimum wage in Seoul last month. (Yonhap News)


Korea--The Ireland of Europe?

It has been said that Korea is the Ireland of Asia. What does that tell the listener? That both are hot-headed and like to drink is the typical explanation.
I remember when I first heard it. I asked:

* What if you don't like Ireland? That means you probably won't like Korea?

* Do Korea and Ireland have close relations? Or if they are both hot-headed nations, could it be that they don't get along?

* Do people in Ireland describe Ireland as "the Korea of Europe"?

It isn't just the two countries.

I sometimes hear that (choose your favorite SKY university) is the "Harvard of Korea." Does anyone say that "Harvard is the Seoul National University of Korea"?

Chuseok is said to be the "Korean Thanksgiving." So...Koreans eat turkey and watch football?

Anyway, there's an article in the September 5, 2013 edition of the Korea Times with the headline: "Is Korea Ireland of Asia?"

Ireland--the Korea of Europe?

Also at my new blog.


Mulmangcho--September 1, 2013

Sunday we had four new volunteers join us at the Mulmangcho School for adolescent North Korean refugees. I had warned them that there would probably be no veteran teachers to help them, so it was sink or swim. They came armed with games and activities!

I'm always amazed by the people willing to take time out to go out to Yeoju, but Sunday was even more amazing: They thought it was a three-hour ride to the school. So they were delighted when they realized it takes about 75 minutes to get there. What I couldn't get over was: they were willing to spend six hours traveling to volunteer.

Two of the volunteers stayed in the afternoon to go pick some apples with the students and school leaders.

Prof. Park and the students also celebrated my latest birthday coming up, so that was good.

The school is going through some changes because a few of the students have graduated or moved on. And we are also going through a transition with our volunteers because some of our regulars have also moved on (to go back home or other activities).

The Mulmangcho group to sign up for updates.

More photos and details here.


Flashback: Fights over seating arrangements between the two Koreas

The New York Times has the kind of article I like--a review of an issue/event that includes a bit of history to remind readers to be skeptical of today's optimistic headlines.
During border talks decades ago, the sides took the competition over protocol and appearances to the extreme, with North Korean military officers secretly adding inches to the legs of their chairs so they would look taller than their counterparts across the table from South Korea and the United States.
In those cold-war-era meetings, the sides usually exchanged invectives and retorts. But they also sometimes persisted in silence — for over 11 hours in one session in 1969 — challenging the other side to speak first.
In the best-known contest of pride on the divided peninsula, North and South Korea once engaged in a race over which country could raise its national flag higher over the heavily fortified border. That battle was eventually settled with the North beating the South; today, the North’s flagpole stands over 500 feet tall, beating the rival South’s by roughly 200 feet.
Of course, they can't mention everything in every article, but I would just like to add the previous battles over the seating arrangements at such meetings.

From March 1998:

Seating Squabble Gets Peace Talks Off To Slow Start 
March 17, 1998|By From Tribune News Services.


What's Worse?

Re: Can't see the forest for the trees!

What's worse:

* A Korean husband who beats his immigrant wife--or the Korean government that makes it difficult for that immigrant wife to live here legally without that abusive husband?

I ask that question because both issues are raised in Kim Rahn's article in today's Korea Times. Yes, I counted the paragraphs--the first 20 paragraphs of the article are about those abusive husbands. The last nine discuss the role of government making things more difficult for those immigrant wives. Reporters are taught to put a human face on issues--in this case, the faces of immigrant wives having their faces bashed in by their Korean husbands. And, of course, it is possible that Rahn has focused on the government in other articles.

Okay, so some people don't like "what's worse" questions, and I accept that. For those people, feel free to rephrase the questions as, "which part of this problem deserves more attention?"

* Brokers making money off North Korean refugees sending money to their families members in North--or the NK regime treating people born in NK as their private property?

* A big company bullying its suppliers and smaller companies--or a government using its guns and laws to bully big (and small) companies?

* Slush funds hidden by people trying to hide their money from the taxman--or politicians who openly steal MUCH MORE money from citizens?

* A whistle blower revealing a super secret government program allowing the government to have access to private phone calls, photos and emails of private citizens--or a government that rigs the law so it can have access to private phone calls, photos and emails of private citizens.

* High or low prices?

* A racist who doesn't want his daughter to marry a man of a different ethnicity--or a government that allows Jim Crow laws in public policy?

* A slaveholder--or a government that allows slavery?

* A slavecatcher--or a government that allows slavery?

* Bad words or bad actions?

* People paying and getting paid for sex--or arresting and prosecuting people for such activity?

* Someone who asks "what's worse" questions--or someone who asks "what's worse" questions?

* * *

In so much of public policy analysis, the focus is on the particular players. There is something that, it is good to tell the stories of people for dramatic effect, for example. But so much of public policy analysis also focuses so much on the individual stories that the larger story gets lost in the anecdotes and personal stories. In spending so much time, for example, in denouncing Korean husbands for beating their immigrant wives, it is easy to lose focus on government policy that makes it difficult for such wives to remain here legally without those abusive husbands.

Of course, one public policy change creates new problems. So what's worse, current problems that are known or new often unanticipated problems?

* * *

(And, of course, the husbands mentioned in today's Korea Times deserve to get denounced, I hope people won't somehow draw the opposite conclusion.)


Change we can believe in, sure--but how to get it done?

RE: When everyone agrees there must be change, but when change is slow...

Don't most people who experience Korea agree that there must be some serious societal changes (high suicide rate, constant complaints about inequality, other daily news complaints). At least, that seems to be true among intellectuals, politicians, culture vultures and others in the chattering class. But when there is such broad agreement, and that change doesn't happen, then what is the explanation?

Andrew Salmon writes in today's Korea Times about the kinds of stuff that I suspect most Koreans would agree about: that the education system needs to be reformed so that it can be more individualized and less competitive, there must be more diversity of talent, more variety in Korean life, more diversity in business, diversity of opportunity, etc. More and more, different and different.

So when almost everyone agrees, I suppose there will be a tipping point and change will come about. But it isn't like the American civil rights movement or push for democracy in Korea where people can go to the government and say, "Yo, government, get your boot off my neck." What Salmon and others are discussing is change in the mindset of people in society.

I guess he and others have taken the first step by making their argument, that change comes from people changing their mindsets or the old generation dying off, and someone needs to often make those arguments for change.

* * *

Even if Salmon gets the laundry list of what he suggests needs to be changed, I predict that a short time after that--and definitely a decade or so later--that people would still be complaining about the need for more and better change. When is the last time there was a public policy change that a large percentage of the population later concluded, "Wow! That's exactly the change we needed. And now things are exactly the way they should be."

The key point: People who want to change society are rarely, if ever, satisfied.

* * *

Of course, when I criticize the criticize the criticizers, people want to turn the mirror on me. I guess I am a reformer of the reformers, constantly questioning the never-ending plans of the planners.

* * *

A few asides:
* There has already been tremendous change in Korea, as anyone who has been here for more than a few years will tell you. Perhaps the amount of change has made people impatient about remaining problems.

* American and Brit friends of mine seem to be even more impatient about change than Koreans are. I like to remind them about the slow pace of change in their own countries.

* Okay, there should be change. So how is it to be done? Even advocates of limited government, huge government, or a mixed economy can agree there must be change in the economy. And that's where the agreement often ends, once it is time to implement change.

* One of my predictions from years ago is that Barack Obama was the one person with the potential to undermine trust in government. That's because he had convinced so many people that "change" was needed. Five years later, his change is looking like an extension of previous bad policies.


Hey, ya'll--I ate my veggies

If I ever go to Africa--and I don't expect that I will anytime soon--then I won't feel guilty at all. That's because I will be able to say to anyone I meet, "I ate all my vegetables."

Yesterday on TBS eFM 101.3 in South Korea, "This Morning" host Alex Jensen interviewed a lady who sounded like everyone's mom, warning about the danger of wasting food. She actually mentioned about everyone's moms telling them not to waste their food! 

In my case, if I ever go to North Korea--which I have no interest in doing--then I will also be able to say the same thing to them: "Hey, ya'll, I ate my vegetables. So don't blame me."

A few Korean friends have told me that when they were growing up that their moms told them to eat all of their food because the children in North Korea were starving. And I suppose that North Korean parents used to say the same thing about South Korean children--until the CDs and DVDs smuggled in proved otherwise.

My parents used to tell a story--which I deny, by the way--that when I was about eight years old, I dramatically told them, "Okay, I will eat all of the vegetables this time. Really. But next week, could you plan ahead and just send them all to the kids in Africa? I'm not starving, they are." I don't remember that particular incident, although I suppose that the ass-whipping I probably got right after explains why I don't remember anything about that--or that day...

If I had known more about African governments at the time, I would have also mentioned--"and they have armed guards blocking people from sending food to the unlucky people born there, so it isn't my fault they are starving if I don't eat all of my vegetables." And I suppose that South Korean youngsters could have said the same thing in the past--and today--about starving North Korean children.


The right of locomotion (Frederick Douglass, 1869)

(1869) Frederick Douglass Describes The "Composite Nation"

 In an 1869 speech in Boston, former slave and leading 19th century abolitionist Frederick Douglass challenged most social observers and politicians by advocating the acceptance of Chinese immigration. Thirteen years later, the US Congress passed the Chinese Exclusion Act of 1882, the first major piece of legislation blocking people from entering the country, laying the foundation for other exclusions.
Here is an excerpt in which Douglass argues that there is the universal right of locomotion (I hate to put words in his mouth, but I suspect he would argue today in favor of North Koreans also having the right to locomotion).
There are such things in the world as human rights. They rest upon no conventional foundation, but are external, universal, and indestructible. Among these, is the right of locomotion; the right of migration; the right which belongs to no particular race, but belongs alike to all and to all alike. It is the right you assert by staying here, and your fathers asserted by coming here. It is this great right that I assert for the Chinese and Japanese, and for all other varieties of men equally with yourselves, now and forever. I know of no rights of race superior to the rights of humanity, and when there is a supposed conflict between human and national rights, it is safe to go to the side of humanity. I have great respect for the blue eyed and light haired races of America. They are a mighty people. In any struggle for the good things of this world they need have no fear. They have no need to doubt that they will get their full share.

But I reject the arrogant and scornful theory by which they would limit migratory rights, or any other essential human rights to themselves, and which would make them the owners of this great continent to the exclusion of all other races of men.

I want a home here not only for the negro, the mulatto and the Latin races; but I want the Asiatic to find a home here in the United States, and feel at home here, both for his sake and for ours. Right wrongs no man. If respect is had to majorities, the fact that only one fifth of the population of the globe is white, the other four fifths are colored, ought to have some weight and influence in disposing of this and similar questions. It would be a sad reflection upon the laws of nature and upon the idea of justice, to say nothing of a common Creator, if four fifths of mankind were deprived of the rights of migration to make room for the one fifth. If the white race may exclude all other races from this continent, it may rightfully do the same in respect to all other lands, islands, capes and continents, and thus have all the world to itself. Thus what would seem to belong to the whole, would become the property only of a part. So much for what is right, now let us see what is wise.