Seoul Searcher

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Seoul Searcher

Tuesday, April 30, 2013

Japanese militarism


            A nation that fails to learn from its past mistakes is condemned to repeat them. This aphorism came to my mind the other day when I heard the news that some Japanese cabinet ministers and members of the Diet (Parliament) visited Yasukuni Shrine to pay tribute to their war dead including the war criminals who were executed at the end of the Second World War.
 
Japan, needless to say, is the only nation on earth, two of whose cities were destroyed by nuclear bombs. It was part of the price the Japanese had to pay for the cruel and inhuman aggression they had perpetrated against Korea, China and other Asian countries before and during the war that they started against the United States in 1939.
 
The nuclear bombings of Hiroshima and Nagasaki as well as other painful experiences of the war that had “traumatized” the Japanese and forced them to do some soul searching after the war are apparently fading fast from their memories. Led by an increasing number of rightists, the Japanese voters elected Shinjo Abe as their prime minister late last year, paving the way for their country toward the revival of militarism.
 
Unlike Germany, Japan’s Axis partner, which has apologized for the atrocities that the Nazis had committed in Europe, Japan refuses to admit that it had brutalized Korea as a colonial overlord for 35 years. Instead, it claims that it had been a generous benefactor to Korea and China as it has helped modernize them

It says, for instance, it built railroads in Korea for the Korean people when it actually needed them to transport the minerals and other materials to Japan to produce weapons, among other things, in preparations for the war against America. Japan also claims that it had helped “Korean prostitutes” to earn their living when it had, in fact, forcibly recruited young, innocent girls and sent them to China to serve as sex slaves to Japanese soldiers fighting there

This kind of white lies are sweeping Japan these days in rightist efforts to cover up its wartime brutality.

In any event, Korea and China today are not what they used to be at the turn of the 20th century: a pair of meek and poverty-stricken neighbors. South Korea and China are the world’s 12th and second largest economies, respectively, with strong armed forces that could defend themselves against any foreign aggressors including, possibly, Japan. The Japanese would have to pay a heavy price once more, if they try and repeat their past mistake by arming themselves heavily and attack their neighbors again.
(END)
 

Saturday, April 13, 2013

North Korea wins again

         North Korea wins the game of chickens once again.

For the last two months, South Korea and the United States stood eyeball to eyeball with North Korea while Pyongyang threatened to nuke the South as well as some American cities. In the end, though, Seoul and Washington obviously blinked and are now begging Pyongyang to come out for another round of talks with them to resolve their problem peacefully.

The outcome of the talks, as they had done so many times in the past, will compel the United States and South Korea to provide the North with food, fertilizers, oil and the like for a few months of “peace and quiet.”

On the surface, the United States and its allies would agree to extend their economic aid to the North only on condition that it will give up its nuclear ambition. But we all know that North Korea will throw any international agreement like a pair of old shoes into a waste basket whenever it wants to.

That is not all. The gangsters in the North will shake the world with a new series of nuclear threats again after the economic aid from its "enemies" stops coming. Its young dictator and his lackeys will stage the worldwide circus again. Thus, the farcical North Korean show will go on and on ad infinitum.

In the meantime, American scholars and journalists as well as government officials will continue their current arguments on whether North Korea has or has not succeeded in miniaturizing its nuclear warheads and developing intercontinental ballistic missiles capable of carrying nuclear bombs “to reduce the cities in the U.S. and South Korea to piles of ashes,” as North Koreans are fond to say these days.

While the Americans are arguing endlessly and fruitlessly, North Koreans would be able to arm themselves with viable nuclear weapons and missiles sooner or later. Then they would not only use the bombs for themselves without any hesitation but also sell them to any country or group of crazy people that are willing to pay.

Thursday, March 28, 2013

A corrupt society


            Once upon a time in Greece, a philosopher named, Diogenes, became famous for walking the streets with a lighted lamp in the daytime looking for “an honest man.” He believed that the ancient Greek society of his time (about 412-323 BC) was full of corrupt and dishonest people that it was almost impossible to find an honest person.

Today, some 2,300 years later, South Korea’s new President, Park Geun-hye, could use the help of Diogenes, as she has been struggling to find honest men and women to fill the high posts of her administration.

More than a month after she became the nation’s chief executive, President Park saw six of her nominees for her cabinet posts resign, some even before facing the Congressional scrutiny, because of their past records that were tainted by financial irregularities, unscrupulous, if not illegal, accumulations of personal wealth, or other unethical conducts.

Meanwhile, opposition political parties and the news media were busy criticizing the President, day in and day out, for her “inability” to find well qualified officials for government positions. But they forget that the country is full of corrupt and sleazy people so that President Park, like Diogenes, is having a hard time finding “smart and able” persons who are also “clean and honest.”

Tuesday, March 5, 2013

Rodman, once again

            A day or two after I posted the piece here on Dennis Rodman and his North Korean visit, it was reported that the American visitor told his hosts that he wanted to meet “Psy,” the South Korean rock star, who has become a worldwide sensation with his “Gangnam Style” video.

But wanting to meet Psy in Pyongyang? Despite his friendship with the North Korean dictator, Kim Jong Un, Rodman apparently didn’t know the first thing about two Koreas. He was not aware obviously that Psy simply couldn’t be in North Korea to accommodate his wishes. Asking to meet Psy in North Korea is like wanting to eat a McDonald’s hamburger at a Chinese restaurant.

            Rodman has probably heard about the Korean War, recalling vaguely perhaps the facts that the North Koreans invaded the South in 1950 and that the United States and other allied forces fought, under the United Nations flag, with the South Korean Army to repel the Communist invaders.

Sure, the Korean War ended in truce in 1953. What Rodman probably didn’t know is that two Koreas are still technical at war as they have not signed a peace treaty. And under the hostile circumstances, no South Koreans are allowed to visit Pyongyang unless the North Korean dictator invites them as he did for Rodman and his friends.

The various remarks Rodman made in Pyongyang and in the United States after his return betrayed his ignorance of the situations in Koreas. But I am not surprised because I have run into many Americans who, like Rodman, were unable to distinguish between the two Koreas and say which side is America’s ally and which one is developing long-range missiles and nuclear bombs to fight the United States.

(END)

 

Friday, March 1, 2013

Judging people by the friends they keep

     I have nothing against Dennis Rodman. As National Basketball Association (NBA) players go, he was an above-average player, for sure, but it was his antics that attracted the attention of basketball fans more than anything. If the fans were to pick one great player purely on his athletic ability or even his charisma, there are a plenty of them, other than Rodman, to choose from.

     Strangely, though, Rodman's playing as well as his antics must have enthralled, of all people, Kim Jong Un when the current North Korean dictator was studying as a teenager in Switzerland. Year later, remembering him, Kim apparently invited Rodman to Pyongyang. And Kim has entertained the visitor with a sumptuous banquet after watching a game together between a North Korean team and the Harlem Globetrotters who accompanied Rodman.

     Press report said that Kim and Rodman have even vowed to keep their friendship in the rest of their lives. Hearing the news, I recalled a saying: "You can judge a person by the friends he or she keeps." But a dictator and a clown on the basketball court? They sure make an odd couple, I thought.

     It was also reported that Kim has expressed the hope that Rodman's visit would help thaw the frigid relations between North Korea and the United States. It is a good news, of course, provided the remark was not just a diplomatic nicety the 29-year-old leader of the Coimmunist nation was exercising.

     When I heard the news, I almost exclaimed: "A good show, Dennis!" After all, President Nixon established ties with China following his visit to Beijing with a U.S. table tennis team. The visit was later dubbed "ping-pong diplomacy." If Rodman's visit brings about a similar result, maybe we should give him some credit and call his visit the "slam-dunk diplomacy" or something.

     Being an eternal pessimist, however, I don't believe that there would be a thaw in the relations between Washington and Beijing as long as North Korea keeps developing nuclear bombs and refusing to denuclearize the Korean peninsula. His friendship with Rodman notwithstanding, Kim Jong Un cannot afford to give up his nuclear ambition. For, he knows it means the end of his regime and the Kim dynasty.
       (END)


Wednesday, February 27, 2013

December 12, 2012

     The world, if you remember, was to end on Dec. 12 last year, according to some astronomical "theory," or groundless prediction. Luckily for most of us and to the great "disappointment," no doubt, of those who believed in such a theory, no meteorite has struck the earth. Nor has a worldwide nuclear holocaust taken place, wiping out all creatures from the face of our planet.

    The good old sun kept rising from the east every day and we all went with our business as usual. And as for as I know, not even doomsday believers or religious, scientific or other organizations have publicly stated as to why the world did not end as feared. Newspapers and TVs also chose not to remind the public what has happened or rather has not happened on that day.

   As far the doomsday believers, I could not help wondering about some of them who had hoarded bottled water and food like canned stuff and instant noodle (ramyon) in the belief that they would be the only survivors even if the world was completely destroyed. Are they incurable pessimists or hopeless optimists? Whatever they are these dizzy people would never come to their senses; they would jump on another similar prediction as soon as some people with ulterior motives of their own set a plausible date, like, Friday the 13th, 2013,  on which the world would end..., er, again.

   Meanwhile, I can only sympathize with those believers who had stockpiled the food for survival; they have to consum them even if they get sick of eating the same stale thing so long.

Sunday, February 17, 2013

An absurd world



There was a brief newspaper report that caught my eyes the other day. It was about an old Korean man who was making a meager living by picking garbage, mostly recyclable papers on Seoul streets, and selling them for a few hundred won. The old man, who is living alone, is a recipient of a bronze medal from the U.S. government for his bravery during the Korean War (1950-53). He was a member of KATUSA (the Korean Augmentation to the U.S. Army), who were assigned to fight against the common enemy along with American soldiers.

            Details of his life before his retirement were not disclosed. But the report said he tried to receive the Korean government’s financial support that is given regularly to most veterans who had served in the Korean army during the war. The stipend is said to be not much, but for many old men in situations like his, the sum of money, however small it may be, can help them eke out a living.

But the South Korean government refused to give him the support because the bronze medal he received was an honor bestowed on him by the United States and not by South Korea, the report said.

When I heard the news, I was puzzled by the Seoul government’s reasoning for rejecting his request. For, regardless of which allied nation has honored him with a military medal, the fact remains that he had fought bravely for his country in the war against the invading Communist enemy from the North.

I realize that the government, burdened by perennial budget deficits, is trying to curb its spendings as much as it could. Nevertheless, I believe it shouldn’t begrudge its monetary support for the single veteran who has also risked his life for the country.

Ironically, the government has been more than generous toward the violent anti-government rioters and demonstrators. Since leftist politicians took power with the inauguration of Kim Dae-jung as President of the country in 1998, they have been giving money to the families of those who were killed during their seditious "struggle” against the government and the nation that they claimed was controlled by the "rightist dictators" in the '60s and '70s.
 
But can any one make sense out of this kind of government policies that refuse to support the old war veterans while paying monetary compensations to the relatives of those who got killed while fighting the nation’s police officers and army troops? It's absurd, to say the least.

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