Year: 2016

Question 1. Why do the Dutch charge for flooring when you take over their rented flat?

To be specific, what would they do if you told them you didn’t want to pay for the flooring? Would they tear it up and take it with them? Considering the Dutch reputation (and truth) for being stingy (they say practical), I consider this to be a real possibility. I mean, I can definitely see one of my Dutch cousins with a stack of parquet or laminate flooring in their store-room somewhere, waiting for the day they can either sell it off for a good price or wandering around Ikea looking for the same material so they can redo their living room. Do you know what I’m talking about? Maybe not. On Dutch housing adverts, they often list the flat rent (what the space itself costs), the utility charges (can vary – usually a combination of electricity, water, gas, heating, Internet), and a list of furniture to take over. Sounds pretty standard, right? Then come a couple of items I’ve only seen on Dutch adverts: “[Insert type of material] flooring to be taken over at 50€” “5€ extra to share Wifi …

[Photography] Hao x Ozon

My friend Hao and Ozon are stating  a new photography project in Seoul. nights by hao, days by ozon https://www.instagram.com/haoxozon/ Hao is an interpreter by day and photographer by night. Well. I think he does daytime pictures too, but this sounds cooler.         Sleeping Beauty 白雪公主 is translated as White Snow Princess in East Asia. In this Beijing photoshoot, Hao simply changed first letter to 黑 (black). He was awarded the Grand Prize at Benetton Korea’s yearly photography contest.

Soranet officially shut down by owners

“We’re officially shutting down Soranet. The @soranet Twitter handle will also be closed. There are no plans to recover or to relocate our services, so do not let copycat websites trick you. We thank our users, who’ve shown so much love over the years” Soranet has officially announced that it will shut down its services, according to its official Twitter account (now closed). Read my coverage of  Korean women’s battle to shut down Soranet, which was not only Korea’s biggest porn hub, but also a breeding ground to underage prostitution, money laundering, extortion and most notoriously, revenge porn and gang rape. (Picture from Ize)

“I Am a North Korean Millennial”

  Young North Korean defector Yeonmi Park gives an informal talk at LiNK. She talks about the Jangmadang Generation – the NK millenials who grew up with the illegal but widespread market system. The elder generations experienced the “good times” – The North was much better off than the South after the Korean War (1950-53) since it experienced fewer bombings. Within years, the North collapsed and its communist distribution system failed, leaving the people hungry – while the South rebuilt all its infrastructure, becoming the world’s 12th biggest economic power today. Here is a short summary of Yeonmi’s talk: North Korean millennials have little, if any, loyalty to the Kim regime. They have access to foreign media, including South Korean and Hollywood movies. They see the regime as an obstacle to private wealth and are starting private businesses. Yeonmi’s family was part of the social elite and of the Communist Party in North Korea, and she was only 13 when she escaped. She currently studies Economics at Columbia University.   Edited on June 15th for …

EAHRNK conference on UN Inquiry into North Korea’s human rights violations

North Korea denies 2014 COI report, accuses witnesses and COI members of conspiracy I was in London earlier in March to attend the European Alliance for Human Rights in North Korea (EAHRNK)‘s conference on the Commission of Inquiry. The conference was attended by South Korean diplomats, North Korean exiles (the EAHRNK chose the term’exile’ over ‘defectees’, which I find to be more appropriate), journalists (British and Korean, including the BBC and YTN – Dan Damon was there!) , diplomatic and NGO representations (including UN Women), and of course, students. Commissioner Michael Kirby, lead author of the 2014 COI report gave a moving speech – I highly recommend you take a look at his speeches on NKHR. Dr. Lee Jung-hoon, Human Rights Ambassador of the ROK and professor at Yonsei University’s Graduate School of International Studies gave the keynote speech – very moving, I wish there was a recording of this somewhere. Wikipedia founder Jimmy Wales was also supposed to give a speech – but did not attend. The EAHRNK prides itself in including exiles in its organisation, and …

The Korean “3-Times A Day” Ritual

(Picture from Korea Depart) One thing that strikes me is how infrequently people seem to brush their teeth here in Central Europe. My question is: Why don’t people brush their teeth after lunch, if they’re at university or at work all day? (I’ve also met a higher-than-average number of people with bad breath in France and in Belgium which eventually culminated in me developing skills to implicitly and strategically avoid them) In Korea, it is an accepted norm that one brushes their teeth after lunch. High schools dedicate space specifically for brushing your teeth. Everybody keeps toothbrush and toothpaste (and mouthwash) in their locker, and if you don’t brush your teeth, you’ll get called out for being “dirty”(smelly is the exact term if you think about it). Even the smallest convenience stores carry several types of toothbrush kits. At university, students usually eat at restaurants around campus or at the cafeteria. And after eating, they go to one of the bathrooms on campus, take out their toothbrush kit and brushed their teeth before the afternoon …

MAXIM Korea’s 2015 Blunder

In its September 2015 issue, MAXIM Korea’s cover depicted the images of a naked woman’s feet dangling out of a car boot, with the slogan “This is what a real bad man is like. How do you like me now?”. The photoshoot goes on to show the images, most likely of the female victim in the boot, looking up at the assailant, then being dragged in a plastic body bag. Korean women and the international media engaged in a fierce backlash against the magazine, who, following a drawn-out media battle, issued an apology. At one point, the Korean editor-in-chief posted a Facebook message saying “Jeez, if I wanted to glamourise sexual violence, we’d have cast So Ji-seop [instead of Kim Byeong-ook”, only to delete it after it caused further controversy. Only after an AVAAZ petition went viral and a spokesperson for MAXIM US issued a statement condemning their Korean affiliate did MAXIM Korea finally retract is defensive position. Link to Cosmopolitan UK coverage Link to Huffpost US coverage The Korean editor-in-chief promised to retrieve all copies of …

Facebook Korea and its gender-biased community policy: Kimchi Girl vs. Megalia

Facebook Korea turns a blind eye on misogynic Pages while constantly shutting down satire-based feminist movement Megalia The SNS giant’s actions are puzzling as complaints filed regarding both groups fall under the same Community Guidelines Korean feminist group Megalia has continuously spoken out against Facebook Korea ‘s actions as the social networking website’s Korean regional office continues to ignore user’s complaints regarding the maintenance of Kimchi Girl Facebook, a Page dedicated to promoting posts on ‘Meninism’ and on bashing women, in particular well-known female Korean figures and the Ministry of Gender Equality. Meanwhile, Megalia’s pages have been temporarily shut down several times and its images have been removed without consent of the Page’s administrators. Complaints filed against both groups fall under the Community Guidelines – under which the website should block hate speech and call to violent actions. Kimchi Girl and its affiliate pages qualify for both, but despite continuous reports by users, it continued to operate until it was hacked and taken over by an unknown user in December 2015, who has since kept the …

The Battle Against Soranet, Korea’s Biggest Porn Hub

I’ve previously written briefly about Korean women’s battle against Soranet. Today I’ll provide a more in-depth analysis. Soranet, Korea’s biggest pornographic website with over a million registered users, has come under fire several times during its 16-year history. The website, launched in 1999, has been crucial in distributing pornography, but also in encouraging and even brokering illicit activities. Its ability to keep avoiding legal action by constantly changing domains names and servers has kept it from being shut down, as it effectively stands outside the jurisdiction of South Korean law. The administrators announce its new domain name through Twitter – and so help tens of thousands of Koreans, mostly male, evade the Warning Window that blocks any pornographic website based in Korea (this system is highly ineffective, since most sites including Soranet have their servers in the US and VPN connections are on the go). The website and several of its members are currently facing charges for criminal activities ranging from ‘hidden cam’ videos illegally shot in public places, brokering underage prostitution and drug trafficking, violence against women including genital …

North Korea Human Rights Act

There’s a US NGO, called Human Rights Foundation, (HQ: New York City) which works on improving and promoting human rights in North Korea. One of HRF’s ongoing projects is called Disrupt North Korea, which in September 2015 created the Global Coalition for the North Korean Human Rights Act – a group of activists, academics and policymakers and technologists (including Wikipedia founder Jimmy Wales) whose goal is to encourage South Korean lawmakers to pass the law. The North Korean Human Rights Act (NKHRA) has been held up at the National Assembly in South Korea for 10 years now. In fact, there is no NKHRA – it hasn’t been passed yet and different political parties have put forth varying versions. However, both Saenuri (majority) and New Alliance versions contain similar ideas – to systemise North Korea human rights programs by creating new government agencies and archives specifically designed for this purpose (in coordination with the Ministry of Unification and the Ministry of Justice). The US Congress, on the other hand, has enacted the North Korean Human Rights Act (USA) in 2004. Japan …