Month: May 2014

No You’re Not Allowed To Talk About Colonization

Koreans rejoice on August 15th, 1945. Unless you come from a country that was once colonized. It’s like this: I had Stage 4 cancer, and miraculously came back to life after extensive surgery and chemo that took all my hair, health, and life. My boyfriend of 5 years also left me because he couldn’t handle the pain I was in. And then you say “Hey, you used to be overweight, now you’re all thin! Looking great, mate, you should totally get a better guy now, forget about that loser!”. I now reserve the right to slap you with my hand, which is studded with metal rings. You can’t say “Yes, but Japan did bring modern law and railways, which really helped the Korean economy”. You can’t say “But now that Indians all speak English well and all, isn’t it better? You guys can all go to Silicon Valley and work, as soon as you get a job and a visa!”. You can’t say “You have French nationality even though you’ve never been to France? That is …

Where do North Korea and Porn meet on the Internet? On an South Korean IP!

  The pop-up screen from the National Police Agency Early March, I went to a launch party for an NGO called Arirang Institute. It’s mostly Americans and some Koreans working on cultural and reunification studies. What was fascinating was that the NGO is legally registered in the US, and that most members are not Korean. Oh, I should clarify, accessing information on North Korea here is illegal – if you try to access NK-sourced websites you will get a screen with a police badge that says “You were stopped from accessing this site because either (1) You are breaching national security; or (2) You are accessing porn sites, or gambling sites” (Yes, it’s illegal to access porn sites too!). One of the founders, Mike, who is studying for a PhD at the North Korean Studies University in Seoul, told me that the library does have all those books from North Korea (about Kim Il-sung and Kim Jong-il’s ideology, propaganda textbooks, and such) but no one is allowed to bring the books out or make personal copies – they can only read them …

Why Korean Soldiers Are Banned From Reading Chomsky and Ha-joon Chang

    Left: Guerrillas of the Samsung Empire, Pressian Books, 2008 Right: Bad Samaritans, Ha-Joon Chang, 2007 In 2008, the National Ministry of Defence was found to have produced a list of 23 “Anti-governmental” books and  officially banned them from  the military. An investigation found that under this regulation, all Korean soldiers are banned from reading and possessing them, and are subject to having their possessions searched when returning from a holiday (Pressian) (Reminder: All Korean men above the age of 18 must serve in the military for 2 years). The Seoul Central District Court ruled against the first lawsuit filed by 11 publishers and 11 authors in 2012, and the Seoul High Court against the lawsuit by 11 publishers and 11 authors in 2013 (News1). In both cases, the publishers and authors claimed 200 million KRW (200,000 USD) in damages caused by this censorship. However, the High Court said this action could not be classified as a censorship nor as a violation of the freedom of press, since (a) the books were not banned from …

Law Schools: Oh-oh, Here Comes Trouble!

Public prosecutors, including the first batch of Law School graduates, are sworn into office, 2012 Image source: Joongang Daily 2009, the year I entered university, was a remarkable year. It was the  first year Law Schools as 3-year postgraduate programs were introduced (same for Medical Science, but this topic really deserves another post). The goal was to “offer law (and medical) studies to a wider array of students, instead of discouraging them at the high-school level”. As a result, the Gosi System (사법고시, or ‘National Bar Exam’, but I will use the term ‘Gosi’ in order to distinguish it from the National Bar the current Law School graduates have to pass) will end in 2017. Instead, Law School graduates will have to pass the National Bar, a much simpler exam, in order to start practicing. A difference is that one does not need to hold a Bachelor’s degree in Law Studies in order to pass the Gosi, but one does with the new Law School system. In reality, prior to this, many high-scoring students would retake their …

How Koreans Who Are Merely Acquaintaces Quarrel

Source: Laurent Haug In a nutshell: by text-message, in politely arranged words, and over weeks, without every calling each other rude names and making sure they do not offend the other person. I recently had a ‘quarrel’ with a Korean acquaintance whom I worked with two years ago. We keep in touch a couple of times a year by text, but have never met since. Let’s call this friend A. A asked me to translate a couple of documents for him. I said yes, and obviously I thought I was going to be paid, since he knows I work as a translator. It didn’t even cross my mind I needed to state it (which was unprofessional of me, I realize now. Won’t make this mistake again). When I finished the job, I sent him my bank info, with my usual quota listing. He was startled, and said “Oh, I didn’t know this was a paid job. I’m really broke these days and in debt. I’ll pay you next time”. I texted back “Oh okay, I’m …