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Trump’s ‘Clash of Civilizations’ with China: Huntington’s Model doesn’t even work in East Asia

Koreabridge - Sun, 2019-05-12 01:31
Trump’s ‘Clash of Civilizations’ with China

This is a re-post of an essay I wrote for The National Interest a week ago.

Basically my argument is that even if you are a hawk on China and see it as an emerging competitor or even threat to the US, the clash of civilizations framework is a weak analytical model by which to understand Sino-US tension.

The big problem is that Huntington builds his civilizations everywhere else in the world around religion, but in East Asia he can’t, because that would make China and Japan – who are intense competitors – allies in a Confucian civilization. Making Japan and China allies would be ridiculous, so Huntington can’t use Confucianism as a civilization, even thought that so obviously fits his model for East Asia. Hence, Huntington falls back on national labels, identifying separate ‘Sinic’ and ‘Nipponic’ civilizations. This ad hoc prop-up of the theory undercuts Huntington’s whole point of arguing that national distinctions are giving way to civilizational ones and that therefore we should think of future conflicts as between civilizations, not nation-states. Well, apparently East Asia didn’t make that shift; conflict here is still nationalized. So

There are other issues I bring up as well, but that’s the main problem. Please read the essay after the jump…



Kiron Skinner, the Director of Policy Planning for the US State Department, ignited a controversy last week when she analogized Sino-US competition to a clash of civilizations. There has been a good deal of pushback from international relations academics (here, here). Many noted that Samuel Huntington’s famous thesis (article, book) has not actually been born out much. There have not in fact been wars since his writing that have been as epochal as the ‘civilizational’ label would suggest. And Skinner’s particular comment that China will be America’s first “great power competitor that is not Caucasian” sparked a lot of extra controversy that ‘civilization’ was being use as rhetorical cover for the Trump administration’s persistent flirtation with white nationalism.

But one problem in all this not yet pointed out is how poorly Huntington’s model actually fits the dynamics of conflict in East Asia. The argument got its greatest boost from the post-9/11 war on terrorism. There, religious conservatives – on both sides ironically – saw the conflict as much as a millennial clash between Islam and Christianity, as between the US and rather small, if radical, terrorist networks. Huntington’s book was even re-issued with a cover depicting a collision between Islam and the US. But in East Asia, the thesis really struggles.

The central variable defining Huntington’s civilizations is religion. This is why the argument feels so intuitive for the war on terror, where religion is a powerful, obvious undercurrent. But in East Asia, religious conflict was never as sharp as in the West, Middle East, and South Asia. Nor did religion define polities in East Asia as sharply. Confucianism and Buddhism were obviously socially influential, but they generated nothing like the wars of the Reformation or the jihads of early Islam.

So while much of the world is coded by Huntington via religion, he struggles to use that in East Asia. Instead, he falls back on nationality mostly – coding China, the Koreas, and Vietnam as ‘Sinic’ and Japan as ‘Nipponic.’ He also suggested a Buddhist civilization in southeast Asia, as well as Mongolia and Sri Lanka.

All this is analytically pretty messy, however interesting. First, the most obvious benchmark for Huntington to use in East Asia, since he focuses on the world’s major religions elsewhere, is Confucianism. Whether coded as a social philosophy or religion, there is little doubt that Confucius’ writings had a huge impact on China, Japan, Korea, and Vietnam. But if Huntington had done the obvious and tagged a Confucian civilization including these four players, he would have made the laughably inaccurate argument that those states are natural, i.e., cultural/religious/civilizational, allies.

In reality of course, there is a lot of traditional national interest-style conflict – the kind Huntington says has been replaced by civilizational bloc-building – in the Confucian space. China and Japan are obvious competitors, and the East China Sea is a serious potential hot-spot now. The Koreas are still very far apart ideologically, and neither feels much affective affinity for China or Japan. And China and Vietnam also sliding toward competition in the South China Sea.

So Huntington is stuck; his model does not work in northeast Asia. So to save it, he carves out Japan as a separate civilization defined by nationality, not religion, with little explanation. He then lumps the Koreas and Vietnam under a Chinese-nationality defined ‘Sinic’ civilization, which, in my teaching experience, Korean and Vietnamese readers find either typical American ignorance or vaguely offensive.

The Buddhist civilization of southeast Asia struggles analytically too. Do Mongolia, Thailand, and Sri Lanka have enough in common to bin together? Why isn’t South Korea, where Buddhism was long influential and still very much alive, put into this civilization? Do these states communicate or cooperate with each other in any way that much reasonably defined as ‘buddhistic’? The answer is almost certainly that Huntington did not know or really care that much – likely as he did not know what to do with non-Arab Africa, so he just labels it all one ‘African’ civilization and moves on.

The thesis was really designed to explain the collisions in southeastern Europe (the Balkan wars of the 1990s) and the Middle East between Muslim-majority states and their neighbors, and this is where it continues to be most persuasive when taught. In east Asia though, it falls down pretty quickly. The units of analysis (civilizations) are not constructed in that region around the variable (religion) which Huntington uses elsewhere, and the conflicts of the region have little to do with religion, because organized religion was not as influential in East Asia’s political past as it was elsewhere.

So if this is to be the Trump model for US foreign policy – and it certainly seems to be the administration’s preferred mode to address Islam – it will lead to bizarre predictions and behaviors. The ‘Confucians,’ Buddhists, and East Asian ‘non-Caucasians’ are not going to ally against the United States. China, for all its ‘Sinic’ cultural difference from the West is also, obviously, deeply influenced by Western political thought – most obviously Marxism-Leninism, and, today, capitalism.

We may well fall into a cold war with China; prospects for a benign, or at least transactional, Sino-US relationship are narrowing. But there is no need to over-read that competition as an epochal civilizational clash and thereby make it worse and more intractable. That kind of thinking applied to 9/11 lead to wild overreaction, as we read salafist-jihadist networks as a far greater threat than they were. If we do that with China, which really is very powerful, our competition with it will be that much sharper and irresolvable.

Robert E Kelly
Assistant Professor
Department of Political Science & Diplomacy
Pusan National University



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Nothing's Really Real Podcast: (Ep 57) Skin On Sundays

Koreabridge - Wed, 2019-05-08 11:22
Nothing's Really Real Podcast: (Ep 57) Skin On Sundays

Skin on Sundays is a project created by Jessica Lakritz. Jessica makes physiopoetry, where she combines her own poetry with the physical canvas of the human body. We talk about her art, her life, the flat earth, anger management, herpes and how lucky we are for dogs. We discuss the excessive amount of dick pics Jessica receives in her DMs, and the environment women endure online. She also reads a poem from her book, Seasons of Yourself.

 Jessica shares a very sincere and personal Memory of Regret, and I share a very light and kinda yucky one. You can see and learn more about Skin on Sundays at the website, skinonsundays.com and Instagram.com/skinonsundays/ If you enjoy the show, please recommend it to a friend, leave a review on iTunes or whatever app you listen to podcasts on – and remember I love ya.

 Nothing's Really Real Podcast:  Soundcloud    Stitcher    iTunesKoreabridge.net/NothingsReallyReal

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In-depth examination = key to successful surgery! (BGN Eye Hospital)

Koreabridge - Mon, 2019-05-06 01:18


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You can also check their Facebook pages, to find some useful information






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John and Jen: An American Journey

Koreabridge - Fri, 2019-05-03 21:22
John and Jen: An American Journey

Fifteen years. It’s a long time. Fifteen years ago, I was fired from a telephone survey job I had held onto out of laziness and fear of jumping into my eventual journalism career, despite having graduated the year before with an English degree, with experience under my belt and knowing that sitting in a drab, windowless, soulless call center in four-and-eight-hour shifts was no way to spend my early 20s. The following month I would work at a neighborhood park, sweating buckets as I pulled weeds and laid mulch until I finally stopped listening to the voice in my head saying no one would possibly hire me to be a reporter and applied, and became, a reporter. What a difference 15 years makes.

Fifteen years is also the collective amount of time my girlfriend and I lived and worked in and around Busan, South Korea. For the final two of my six years, I was the foreign editor for Busan’s English-language newspaper, Dynamic Busan. Jen taught English for the entirety of her nine years. We left that life behind on March 4th. After traveling through Vietnam, Britain and Iceland, we touched down at Newark Liberty International Airport on April 5th.

Growing up in New Jersey, I never thought much about some of the Garden State’s curiouser curiosities such as jughandles, pork roll and its infamous law banning people from pumping their own gas. But, Jen–born in Indiana and a resident of the suburbs outside of St. Louis, Missouri, since she was nine–certainly did. Likewise, I am finding Missouri’s double-lane turns, booze in the convenience stores, tenderloin sandwiches and “midwestern goodbyes” that can stretch beyond an hour things that I did not experience until the first time I visited her family home. Despite both of us having lived and traveled through Canada, South Korea, Japan, China, Cambodia, Vietnam, Thailand, Philippines, Guatemala, Italy, Austria, Germany, the Czech Republic, France, Britain, Switzerland and Iceland, we’re both still surprised by things the others took for granted their entire lives.

Although, neither of us were surprised by the “photo zone” in the Korean spa in Edison, NJ.

America is a big place. There is a lot neither of us has experienced in our own home country. That’s about to change when, on May 15, we set off from Jen’s family home in St. Charles, MO, for parts known and unknown, to see friends, family and places we’ve only seen on television, in magazines, on the internet and in our imaginations. To Indiana, Ohio, New York, Vermont, Massachusetts, New Jersey, Washington D.C., Virginia, North Carolina, South Carolina, Alabama, Louisiana, Texas, Arizona, California, Nevada, Utah, Colorado, Kansas and then, finally, back to Missouri.

We’re going on an American journey. We hope you’ll join us.

An ongoing list of posted and upcoming entries:

* Two Plumbers Brewery & Arcade (St. Charles, MO)

* Hermann, MO, wine country (Hermann, MO)

* Beer Sauce (St. Peters, MO)

* the Iron Fork food festival and competition at the City Museum (St. Louis, MO)

JPDdoesROK is a former news editor/writer in New Jersey, USA, who served a one-year tour of duty in Dadaepo/Jangnim, Saha-gu, Busan from February 2013 to February 2014. He is now a teacher in Gimhae.

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Take Only Photos and Leave Nothing behind

Koreabridge - Thu, 2019-05-02 13:40
Take Only Photos and Leave Nothing behind

It was Earth Day a little while ago and while I am no environmentalist, I do have a strong background in the outdoors which basically means that I used to spend a lot of time outside. I was an avid hiker to the point where one of my degrees is in Outdoor Recreation, Parks and Tourism. This love for the outdoors is also why I got into landscape photography.

However, a recent Facebook post by Sean Bagshaw of Outdoor Exposure Photography where he shared a post from David Cobb that talks about the complicated subject of sharing locations got me thinking about this issue. While I love the idea of finding a new place to shoot after seeing what happened to a very beautiful spot in Gyeongju, I have second thoughts.

In his post, David grapples with the idea about sharing locations and the damage that we inflict on these natural spots. He mentioned about “feeling guilty for not sharing [the locations]” and that is something that I feel too. I often felt that by sharing my locations, that I was doing the photographic community a favour. That being said, I now feel part of the problem.

In an article by the New York Times, they explain in detail some of the issues of geotagging pictures. It’s not just flowers and grass that is in danger but wildlife as well. Poachers are using the geotagged images to locate Rhinos and kill them.

DaereungwonOctober 2017 – Got Kicked off the grass this time

If you are wondering how all of this ties into a park in Gyeongju, South Korea then you have to take a look at the above image. The trees and the surrounding royal tombs are now the main attraction of the Daereungwon Park. This is a beautiful and unique place is the final resting place for the Kings and Queens of the Silla Dynasty. Of the 23 burial mounds, the tree between these two mounds is the most popular to instagrammers.

Fall 2018

It used to be a secret location that you could only get to at certain times of the year. They had staff to kick you out, if you were caught on the grass. Now, it is THE spot for instagram shots. In recent years, line ups have been forming during the spring and fall particularly on the weekends.

These are royal tombs are of particular importance to the nation. What was once manicured grass is now brown, dead and dusty along the ever-widening path to the Selfie Spot” as I will call it. The dusty path and the obvious impact does not stop people from lining up to take their picture in front of the trees.

May 2019 – The affected area (dead grass) has expanded quite a bit in just a few months.

Now, before you start casting shade on instagramers, I have seen lots of photographers here as well. Actually during sunset, it is the photographers that outnumber the couples. So many came during the blossom season that some chose to bring a ladder to shoot overtop of the crowds.

I also think that the numerous shots of the lone tree are what brought so many people here. This is/was a go-to spot for many photographers coming to Gyeongju. However, the growing crowds brought in by the popularity of the surrounding cafes are causing a massive impact.

To Share or Not To Share

So the big question big question is if it is still ok to share your location or not. I have often felt that photographers who did not share the locations of their photos were protecting their images in some selfish way. I felt that it was just petty. However, thinking about this again, I can see that it maybe better to NOT to share the location for reasons of simply protecting the site, not necessarily the image.

Spring 2019

While it is good for SEO to hashtag the location and add the location/GPS data to the image before you upload, when you look at the popularity of some sites, you can easily see the impact that it has on the environment.

In just a few short years, the trees in Daereungwon went from a location only local photographers knew about to an “it place” for instagram shots. Now, this place is not too hard to find but for other areas, you can only image the level of impact large amounts of photographers can have.

Expanding this out to protected lands and eco-sensitive areas, you can see that this is becoming a serious issue. These areas have been protected for years and can’t handle the hordes of influencers coming into take pictures and hold bottles of essential oils up to their faces or middle-aged semi-pro photographers humping in more gear than an Everest expedition to use a single lens to get the same shot as everyone else.

What Can You Do?

A pet peeve of mine are articles that simply point out the bad things people do and then leave it at that. It’s easy to complain about people but more difficult to figure out a possible solution. It’s like the guy that tells you that your photo sucks but then has a difficult time explaining how you could make it better. I don’t want to be that guy.

The best thing in my mind is to stay on the path and stick to the designated areas. Much of the wear and tear in places like this comes from people venturing off the designated paths to get their shots or worse lining up for them. Parks officials and staff are trained to monitor and handle wear and tear in these areas and that is why they build boardwalks and paths to keep the damage to a central location. However, they can’t always monitor areas in remote parts of National Parks. So please practice Leave No Trace photography in these cases.

If you feel that you are not getting close enough, I am pretty sure there is a lens out there than can help. Either rent one or buy one, it is that simple. Just don’t start romping through places that you know you shouldn’t just to get a shot for instagram.

Education, I feel is the next step. As we all seem to be online and a part of photography clubs and groups, start telling fellow photographers to be careful in sensitive areas. If you run workshops or classes, don’t take people to these spot or do so in a way that doesn’t harm the natural landscape.

You could even go so far as to start publicly shaming them on Instagram as one guy does in the states but I feel that is going a bit too far. The account PUBLICLANDSHATEYOU is an extreme example of a person fed up with the destruction caused by photographers trampling the natural landscape to get shots. He particularly targets influencers on his account but nobody is safe, not even drone users.

The bottom line here is that we need to protect the areas that we love to photograph. Sometimes, it means not actually photographing them at all. I am not going to tell you that I have never gone to a location that I have seen on instagram because I wanted to get the shot. However, what I am going to be more careful about is geotagging the areas that I feel are ecologically sensitive.

Sometimes we just have to appreciate the images that we see and that is it. While I do think that we all can benefit from sharing and exchanging locations, tips and tricks, we should also help to protect the places that we go as well.

The post Take Only Photos and Leave Nothing behind appeared first on The Sajin.


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If South Korea Wants a Cold War with Japan, Trump Won’t Stop It

Koreabridge - Fri, 2019-04-12 02:29
If South Korea Wants a Cold War with Japan, Trump Won’t Stop It

This is a re-post of an essay I wrote a few weeks ago for the Lowy Institute. I am also happy to say that I was translated into Japanese, here.

So everyone knows that South Korea and Japan are having another spat – this time over compensation of Korean forced labor during the Imperial period. Korean courts have opened the door for lawsuits, while Japan continues to insist that all such claims were resolved at the time of normalization treaty. Korean officials I’ve talked with tell me that there is nothing the government can do. This is coming from the courts. I find that highly unlikely given the extreme presidentialization of the South Korean constitutional order and regular POTROK flouting of checks-and-balances.

But my concern here is that the  South Korean push on Japan on yet another issue will not lead to pushback. Trump doesn’t care about this stuff. He’s racist, dislikes allies, and gets most animated when telling them to pay more. SK conservatives, who have traditionally slowed the march to a precipice with Japan, are out of power. And Abe is burned out on this issue (‘Korea fatigue’).

So if the South Korean left genuinely wants a breach with Japan, and a slide into a cold war over Dokdo/Takeshima, Sea of Japan/East Sea, comfort women, labor reparations, and so on, then they’ll get it this time. This is very worrisome, but also a ‘useful’ social science natural experiment moment: we will learn just how far the South Korean left is willing to go on Japan, because the traditional brakes are not there this time.

The full essay follows the jump…



Relations between South Korea and Japan are spiraling downwardagain. This is a depressingly regular event. Every few years, these neighbors slide into a serious spat, driven usually by disputes over historical interpretation – the record of Japan’s colonialism in Korea from 1910 to 1945 – or territory – Dokdo to Korea, Takeshima to Japan, and the Liancourt Rocks to the rest of us. It often gets pretty nasty pretty fast, as this one is becoming too.

The commentary on this topic has been enormous (start here). Western analysts particularly tend to be flummoxed that South Korea exerts so much effort on this question, despite living flush against three dictatorships (North Korea, China, and Russia). Much international relations theory – balance of threat realism and democratic peace theory particularly – suggest that these two states should cooperate far more. But the South Koreans are simply not interested: anti-Japanism is a core nationalist narrative here. Japan has increasingly responded in kind.

There is no need to go over all these details again (my own thinking is here). This time the fight is over wartime compensation for Korean forced labor in wartime Japan (here is the movie version which pretty well captures the South Korean national attitude on this issue). The Korean side is now threatening to even expropriate Japanese corporate assets in South Korea to pay these claims.

The morality of this South Korean claim is arguable, but suffice to say that Japan will not accept these claims. It is threatening to respond, starting with tariffs on Korean products and restricting market access, and likely threatening to block any later South Korean accession to the CPTPP.

My concern here however is the lack of the usual brakes on these spirals, specifically the American administration and South Korean conservatives.

Trump Won’t Bother


The primary brake on these disputes has traditionally been the Americans. Indeed, the Americans have often been the informal umpire of this dispute, particularly for the South Korean side. South Koreans and Korean-Americans have made a concerted effort to ‘win’ American opinion to their cause on Japan by erecting comfort women statues in the United States, lobbying to change the name of the Sea of Japan to the East Sea in US textbooks and maps, and bringing the issue up directly in bilateral talks with the Americans. Many South Koreans over the years here have told me that the US should push Japan much harder on these questions.

The Japanese initially sought to ignore this, but the South Korean effort has been successful enough, that Japan now routinely protest these changes.

The American government’s position is officially neutrality, but increasingly that is difficult. The US has been forced to intervene repeatedly. President Barack Obama explicitly met with South Korean President Park Geun-Hye and Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe to bridge a split three years ago. US Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi asked current South Korean President Moon Jae-In this year on his visit to Washington to avoid breach with Japan.

But with Donald Trump now in the presidency, it is unclear if he is willing to do the same. Trump is famously disdainful of US allies. His primary interest in Japan has been trade tariffs, car imports, and getting nominated for a Nobel Prize. His primary interest in South Korea has been demanding increased payment for US security guarantees. He has been burned in dealing Korea to date over the Northern nuclear program. Trump is also a racist. It is unlikely that he cares much if America’s Asian allies tear each other.

South Korea’s Conservatives are Out of Power


The other traditional constraint on deterioration is the presence of conservatives and national security hawks in South Korea’s government. The South Korean right has long shared a basic hawkish alignment preference for the US and Japan, in opposition to North Korea, the Soviet Union in the past, and China today.

In a curious reversal of traditional left-right political patterns, the South Korean right is the ‘internationalist’ bloc, while the South Korean left is the nationalist one. It is the South Korean left, for example, which has emphasized the common ‘Koreanness’ between North and South Korea and has sought various breakthroughs with Pyongyang over the decades. Conversely, it is the South Korean right which has emphasized an international ideological alignment of South Korea with other liberal, democratic and anti-communist states, most obviously the US and Japan.

It must also be said that many South Korean conservatives are descended from the founder fathers of South Korea, many of whom were collaborators with the Japanese empire. This remains a thorny issue of nationalist contention in South Korea.

Whatever the background issues, the point is that the South Korean right has often tried to maintain a basic working relationship with Japan and avoid an open breach over divisive, highly politicized historical issues. Former President Park, for example, sought to put to rest the comfort women dispute with a deal several years ago.

The South Korean left rejects this outreach and emphasizes, often with great militancy, Japan’s need to apologize continuously. The current leftist president has abandoned Park’s comfort women deal and has made no effort to head off the emerging legal battle of reparatory confiscations of Japanese corporate assets. The South Korean right has been left carping on the sidelines.

Thomas Friedman has long argued that US ties allow centrists in the Middle East to defeat their maximalists by insisting that Washington ties their hands. I believe the same is the case in South Korea and Japan. Maximalists on both sides – often NGOs and ‘citizens groups’ – would drive the relationship to the brink, but US pressure, often behind the scenes, acted as a critical brake. Centrist elites who lacked the courage to directly challenge maximalists could blame their restraint on the Americans.

This no longer operates and is particularly relevant for South Korea, as the forced labor compensation issue here is driving the current downswing. If this drive in South Korea picks up national momentum, the Moon government may not be able to stop it. Indeed, the Moon government may not want to, and Trump likely does not care enough to bother to intervene. We could be racing toward a real cliff here.

Japanese colleagues and friends have long asked me if the South Koreans actually want a breach, a genuinely competitive or cold war-like relationship with Japan. I have always thought that was not the case, and I still believe a majority of South Koreans want a better relationship – but they fear saying this publicly given intense nationalist emotions on this question. We may now found out just how far South Korea is willing to go. Its president is publicly aggressive on Japanese historical issues; a new historical issue – wartime labor – has just arisen and is sliding quickly into the standard nationalist framing of relations with Japan; the Japanese prime minister is a conservative exhausted with the Korea question; and the Trump administration is checked out on this issue. Yikes.

Robert E Kelly
Assistant Professor
Department of Political Science & Diplomacy
Pusan National University



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Nothing's Really Real Podcast: (Ep 55) Jung Yoon Choi

Koreabridge - Thu, 2019-04-11 13:03
Nothing's Really Real Podcast: (Ep 55) Jung Yoon Choi

Jung Yoon Choi ( @standupjy ) is a stand-up comic, journalist, and sexual health educator based out of Seoul. We talk about the stand-up comedy scene that is just getting started in Korea. We talk about depression, being scared of the devil, the importance of sex education in Korea, being open about sexual abuse, lying and more!

 Jung Yoon doesn’t pull any punches, and things do get pretty heavy in this episode. Please pay attention to the content warning at the very start of the episode. If you enjoy the show, please recommend it to a friend, leave a review on iTunes or whatever app you listen to podcasts on – and remember I love ya.

 Nothing's Really Real Podcast:  Soundcloud    Stitcher    iTunesKoreabridge.net/NothingsReallyReal

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Hanoi Fallout (3): Moon Jae-In is Now Leading Détente with N Korea – and He Needs Clearer Domestic Political Support for It

Koreabridge - Sun, 2019-03-31 12:30
Hanoi Fallout (3): Moon Jae-In is Now Leading Détente with N Korea

This is a local re-post of an article I wrote for The National Interest a few weeks ago.

Basically, Moon Jae-In is now in charge of détente with North Korea. Trump is too checked out, too lazy, and too ill-informed to run this thing properly. Trump blew Hanoi because he got outwitted by his own staff (Bolton), because Trump doesn’t know anything about the issues, so he didn’t know how to push back on Bolton, or even realize he was being manipulated by him. So it’s up to Moon now.

But Moon lacks a national coalition in South Korea to push through a major change in relations with North Korea. South Korean conservatives are sliding into paranoid delusions that Moon is being manipulated by the North. The Liberty Korea Party is totally cut out of this process and furious. The big three newspapers in South Korea are all center-right, and all are skittish if not hostile to Moon’s initiatives.

Moon is running this from his left-liberal base, but it’s not big enough. He won with only 41% of the vote. If he does not get at least some conservative buy-in on a new relationship with North Korea, the right will destroy ‘Moonshine’ when it next re-takes the POTROK, just as it destroyed ‘Sunshine’ in 2008.

The full essay follows the jump:



One of the great ironies of the inter-Korean détente process of the last twenty-six months is the Americanization of it. South Korean President Moon Jae-In has met North Korean leader Kim Jong Un four times already. Moon has spent decades of his political life preparing for this effort. And the issues are most critical, of course, for the people who live on the Korean peninsula. Yet much of the debate has been dominated by US President Donald Trump’s erratic outreach to Kim.

This is both unfortunate and predictable. Unfortunate because it sidelines South Koreans from the most important policy issue facing their country. And predictable because of Trump’s capacious personality. Trump has a well-established tendency to make policy issues into personal psycho-dramas in which we are all spectators. As South Korea’s primary security partner, US engagement was always required, but under a more traditional president, the South Koreans likely would have led this more clearly. As it is, under Trump, the South Korean news services are often reduced to translating his tweets on the evening news and hosting panel discussions to divine them.

Moon has taken some criticism for this. There is a clear hankering on both left and right here to take control of this process. South Koreans are slowly grasping Trump’s mixed motives and poor knowledge of the actual issues of denuclearization here; there was much laughter when it was revealed that Trump strong-armed Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe into nominating him for a Nobel Peace Prize for his Korean efforts.

Moon’s time has now come. The Hanoi summit between Trump and Kim this month collapsed. No one is quite sure what to make of it. There is much confusion, with hardliners on both sides jockeying with doves. North Korea gave that unique press conference to push back on Trump’s interpretation of Hanoi, while US National Security Advisor John Bolton and Secretary of State Mike Pompeo seem to be sparing over how toughly to proceed.

This is an ideal chance for Moon to step up and reconcile all parties with a major initiative. But Moon faces growing challenges at home. His approval rating his slipped significantly, from over 80%, when he pushed back on Trump’s 2017 war threats, to around 45% now. Much of this is due to the economy. South Korean unemployment has recently spiked. But an element is also Moon’s continuing vagaries on North Korea coupled to grandiose rhetoric.

Moon has promised a revolution in inter-Korean affairs. The hype here has been enormous. I have seen books for Moon’s speeches about ‘a new era of peace’ available for purchase at gas stations even. Yet Moon has been disturbing short on specifics. This was understandable a year ago when détente was just beginning during the Olympics. But now, it is becoming harder and harder to determine what exactly Moon’s goals are and his strategy to get there. This would be less troublesome were it not for the soaring rhetoric, leading even to another bout of unification hype.

In practice, Moon’s primary initiatives seem to be re-opening inter-Korean economic projects – namely, tourism at Mt. Diamond and the inter-Korean export processing zone at Kaesong in North Korea – and rolling back international sanctions on the North. Both of these efforts are controversial. The site closures stem from issues still unresolved – a South Korean tourist was shot at Mt. Diamond, while the North habitually threatened Kaesong with arbitrary demands. No apology or acceptance of responsibility of the former event was ever given, nor is it clear that North Korean behavior on Kaesong will be any different than before.

The effort to rollback sanctions is even more debatable, given that they represent the collective will of the international community to punish North Korea for openly violating UN Security Council resolutions against its nuclear and missile programs. The South Korean left has long looked at global sanctions against the North as an ignorable foreign intrusion into Korean affairs. Moon’s constant pushing on the sanctions regime has riled allies and provoked domestic opposition.

And there is Moon’s real achilles’ heel. Moon has done little to groom and build domestic consensus inside South Korea for his outreach. South Korea is highly presidentialized. Moon has taken advantage of that to push his détente effort with little outreach to other stakeholders in South Korea. The legislature has complained that Moon has not shared information with them, and the conservative opposition party has been so cut out that the South Korean right now spawning conspiracy theories that Moon is a tool of Pyongyang. Moon has also insisted that his agreements with North Korea do not require formal legislative approval.

Proponents will argue that Moon has a unique window to push through change and should not dither, and that South Korean presidents routinely govern in this monarchic manner. The latter is indeed the case, but Moon is promising a revolution in politics which his similarly haughty predecessors did not. Dramatically changing relations with North Korea – to the point of renewed talk of unification – is not the same as ramming through yet another infrastructure white elephant. Moon’s initiatives – if successful – cut to the core of South Korean sovereignty. This is the reason for the very sharp response from South Korean conservatives.

Moon may indeed be right about his detente – but South Korea is a democracy. For political change of this scale, Moon needs public support and at least some buy-in from the right, which is now digging in its heels. Without it, Moon, who campaigned as a democrat opening closed South Korean politics, will be damned as yet another unaccountable president. And when the unsolicited, ignored conservatives returns to power, they will undue all of Moon’s effort. Moon can lead where Trump has failed, but he needs to rally a national consensus – reaching beyond just his coalition – to sustain an outreach of this magnitude.

Robert E Kelly
Assistant Professor
Department of Political Science & Diplomacy
Pusan National University



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Nothing's Really Real Podcast: (Ep 54) Bathing Belles

Koreabridge - Wed, 2019-03-27 15:21
Nothing's Really Real Podcast: (Ep 54) Bathing Belles

Bathing Belles is a two piece chilltronica band currently based out of Busan. We have a fun conversation about witches, making sexy music, losing connections with your parents, ICP, ghosting, stealing, and being hard on your close friends. As for Memories of Regret, Jess and Amy both bring heavy and meaningful stories that I think many listeners will be able to relate with. More info about Bathing Belles can be found at bathingbelles.net If you enjoy the show, please recommend it to a friend, leave a review on iTunes or whatever app you listen to podcasts on – and remember I love ya.

 Nothing's Really Real Podcast:  Soundcloud    Stitcher    iTunesKoreabridge.net/NothingsReallyReal

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Busanjin Fabric Market

Koreabridge - Mon, 2019-03-25 04:29
Busanjin Fabric Market

I think I mentioned in a couple of my blogs about my passion for sewing. I learned sewing my own dress back in 2011. And from then till moving here in Korea, I used to design and make my own dress. I think the main reason I wanted to learn sewing is that I was too impatient to wait for my tailor to finish the work lol.  But I never really wanted to take sewing as a profession, I never wanted to be a professional designer. All I ever wanted was to be not dependent on someone else for designing or tailoring my dress. My mother knew sewing, she taught me everything by herself. I even made some dresses for my sisters and my only niece. Sadly, after coming here, I couldn’t do much sewing. I didn’t own one, cause we used to live in a studio apartment, and we didn’t want to make our house too messy as we already had too much stuff.

Recently we shifted to a bigger house, so I decided to buy one sewing machine finally. At first, I was thinking about buying from G Market. But thanks to my amazing husband who did a research about where to buy a sewing machine in Busan and found out that on the opposite side of Busanjin Fabric Market, there are some shops that sell second-hand sewing machines at a cheaper rate. So, last Saturday, we went there. Although it says Busanjin Fabric Market, you need to get off at Beomil station in line 1, which is two stops before the actual Busanjin station. The market is quite easy to find, keep walking straight from exit 1, and you will find it soon. Beside the market you will find various street shops, selling sewing stuff like various types of threads, tailor shops, and street food shop as well. Most of the tailor shops were for suit tailoring. Inside the market, there are varieties of fabrics and clothes available. From pillow, curtain, bedsheet, clothes and yes for gorgeous hanbok, you will find the fabric you need here. However, I feel like it’s a bit expensive here. One of my friends later told me you need to bargain here, but that’s quite difficult for us foreigners. My friend suggested that taking a local Korean helps with bargaining. However, later I searched fabrics in G market, and I found some really good deal there.

At first, we couldn’t find the sewing machine shops, then a kind ahjussi told us that the shops are on the opposite side of the market. There’s a foot-overbridge with the market that connects the two sides of the road, so you don’t have to go all the way down and actually cross the road to go over there. We checked 4 or 5 shops and most of them were asking for 200,000-300,000 KW. Some of these machines were quite old, so were a bit dirty, some of them were pretty small. Finally, we found one for 130,000 KW. The ajumma and ahjussi were actually asking for 150,000 KW, but my husband requested to give some discounts telling we both are students and they were kind enough to offer 20,000 KW less. Back in Bangladesh, I used to have a manual sewing machine, so I was a bit confused about the functions of an electric machine. The ajumma made sure to teach me everything before we leave. So far, I used it two times to do some alterations, and I really feel comfortable using the machine. For students like us, it’s really difficult to buy new things at expensive rates, so I think you can check this place if you are looking for a sewing machine.

I made a small vlog about the whole experience, just a one minute video showing the market and the sewing machine shops:

As I mentioned, I found fabrics at a cheaper rate in G Market, so I ordered some from there. Soon I am going to design a new dress and make it with my sewing machine from scratch! Hopefully, in my next blog, I will be sharing my experiences of making a full dress with my newly owned sewing machine. Wish me luck, guys!

Have a nice weekend, people!
-Munira Chowdhury, 09/03/2019

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via Busanjin Fabric Market

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Flying a Drone in South Korea

Koreabridge - Tue, 2019-03-19 07:34
Flying a Drone in South Korea

If you are living or traveling to South Korea, here are some rules and advice that you should know before launching your drone. This advice not only comes from the actual websites but from my own personal experience as well. Often you are going to find sites that have just copied and pasted the general drone rules for Korea and only reflect on part of the experience.

Korea has accepted drone use and actually many people quite enjoy using drones as a hobby. However, this is still a country with many military sites, competitive companies, and high-level government facilities scattered across the country. It is best to understand not only the rules, regulations, and laws, but the acceptable practices as well.

Licences and Permission

At the time of this writing, you do not need a license to fly a drone in Korea. However, if you are flying a larger commercial drone, you will need to to apply for a drone pilot’s license. However, for smaller DJI mavic series type drones, you will not need one.

Using the AirMap app, you can see how much of the city is a No Fly (Blue) Zone

If you are flying around places like Seoul, you are not going to have a great time flying. Much of Seoul is a P-73A or a P-73B NO FLY zone. This is due to the high density of government and military installations within the city limits. These are absolute no fly zones and many are compliant with the DJI Go 4 app and it simply will not let you fly. If you can, it is highly risky and if you get caught, you will face a fairly heavy fine.

Outside of these areas are what is called a R-75 which is a restricted air space but you can fly with permission. There are certain guidelines that you must follow but the government is making the process more streamlined.

Click here for the Korean Drone Permission Site

**The site above seems not to be secure but it is the only one that I have come across. Check here for more information regarding obtaining permission to fly in Korea.

Outside of Seoul, you will have a much easier time but you may still need permission if you are flying near or around certain controlled airspaces. There are a lot more factories and Nuclear Power Plants dotted along the coastline that you need to be aware of. Again, the DJI app is great at picking these up.

The Basic Rules for Flying Your Drone in Korea

Here are the basics rules for flying your drone in Korea. Now keep in mind that these may not be laws but they are certainly enforced in some areas. Others in this list are guidelines and/or best practices. Source: UAV Systems International. *edited to add more clarity for Korea.

  • You cannot fly higher than 150 meters (492 feet). You can set the limit in your DJI Go4 app.
  • You cannot fly within 5.5km of airfields or in areas where aircraft are operating. These will be regulated in the app but also keep an eye out for hospital helipads (there are more here than you may realize).
  • You must fly during daylight hours and only fly in good weather conditions. Use UAV Forecast to let you know the conditions.
  • Avoid flying over crowds and respect the privacy of others. This goes double for places like Haeundae beach and other areas. There are police that will patrol these areas due to a higher rate of people taking pictures of sunbathers without permission.
  • You cannot fly near Seoul Plaza, military installations, government facilities, power plants, or areas of facilities related to national security
  • You cannot fly when there is low visibility or yellow dust. This is a particular issue this year and will continue to be a problem. Fly with caution.
  • Do not fly your drone beyond line of sight. This can be an issue for smaller drones but keep it in mind when flying.
Common Sense

Above all, what I tell people to “use your head!” more than anything else because if you find yourself in trouble chances are you were not using your head. I just mean that if you are flying around a place that you know you shouldn’t be, then you are going to get into trouble. Especially for photography, many of the places that you shouldn’t fly are not the greatest for photography anyway.

Places like Nuclear Power Plants and Military/Police sites are no fly zones, even if your app doesn’t catch it. Just don’t do it. Again, it is common sense.

Also open spaces away from crowds and people are often acceptable to fly your drone. I find the seaside to be a great place to fly and have flown my drone along the Eastern coastal shores of Korea quite a bit these days. That being said, flying within the city may seem tempting but there is so much going on. I have flown around Ulsan and Busan quite a bit and it is tricky with so much signal interference.

Public Reaction

The one major difference that you will notice is how people approach a drone here. In the West, there is a great deal of suspicion surrounding drones. I have published some stories back in the fall and had people email me about how bad drones were. Some went so far as to tell me that my pictures do the community a disservice as they promote the active use of drones.

In contrast, the public reaction in Korea is much different. The people that I have encountered are generally accepting of drones and are even fascinated by them. I have had people come up and look at the video as I fly around or even ask questions about it. Many people even own drones themselves and have offered local tips to the best places to fly.

The only thing that I would caution you with is that if you are flying in a park or other area, drones are like magnets for children. They often don’t have a real concept of how dangerous the drone’s propellers are and will sometimes chase it or try and catch it as it is landing. Thus, you have to be extremely cautious when operating a drone when there are children around.

Where to Buy a Drone in Korea

Korea is great for shopping and there are many places to purchase a drone both online and from a physical store. DJI is the most popular brand but you can also find other brands as well through the country and online.

There is a DJI Flagship store in Hongdae in Seoul. This is the first place that I went as you can really check out all of the models and experience them first hand. The staff spoke excellent English and were very helpful.

The DJI Flagship Store in Hongdae, Seoul

ElectroLand, which can be found all across the country in places like E-mart and the Shinsegae Department Stores. These are great places to take a look at other brands of drones that are available in Korea. I have also found out that their prices on DJI drones are comparable to those at the flagship stores and online.

If you are looking at getting a deal, keep in mind that you are not going to get that much of a deal here in Korea. I am not sure why people have this notion that Korea of all places will have cheap prices on electronics. Typically, most of the stores will be more expensive than the U.S. or even Japan.

If you are looking some a better price, try shopping online. These days in Korea, online shopping is second to none. I purchased my mavic air online and save around $200 when I got the “fly more” combo. So if you have a Korean friend, enlist their help. Just remember that you get what you pay for and if the deal sounds too good to be true, then you are probably buying a DJI box with a brick inside.

Places to Fly

If you get outside of Seoul, there are a ton of great places to fly. I really like flying along the coast and have found that my drone is an indispensable tool for capturing lighthouses for my recent personal project.

Also the mountains and countrysides are also great places to explore and learn how to use your drone. The cities are enticing but I do find that there is a lot of interference especially with the mavic air.

Gyeongju is a decent option especially during the low tourist seasons.

Again, avoid Seoul as it is tricky to find places to fly. The drone park is rather underwhelming and busy on the weekends. If you are just starting out, it maybe a place to start learning but I would not recommend it. I just found that there were too many drones in the air at one point and really there was not much space to fly around.


Just a quick note on editing. I have started testing Skylum’s AirMagic and it is a really good program so far. You can batch edit your photos with all of their AI enhancements along with settings that detect your exact drone model and make lens corrections based on that.

This just shows the remarkable improvement that AirMagic makes on a simple drone image.

Check the image below as there maybe still time to get the pre-release package before it comes out. If you are reading that after March 23rd then you can pick it up for the regular price as it is a great asset to quickly edit your images from your drone.

The post Flying a Drone in South Korea appeared first on The Sajin.


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Hanoi Fallout (2): Trump is Too Incompetent and Unprepared for these Open-Ended, High Stakes Summits. Time to Stop

Koreabridge - Mon, 2019-03-18 06:58
Hanoi Fallout (2): Trump is Too Incompetent and Unprepared

This is a re-post of an essay I wrote for the Lowy Institute earlier this month.

Basically, Trump blew Hanoi, because he is lazy and poor negotiator. He has no empathy, so he cannot put himself in another’s shoes. Nor does he read, so he has no idea what the issues really are. He isn’t preparing for these meetings. He is throwing them together as he goes. So he walks into them unprepared with little fallback when he doesn’t get his way. Both Singapore and Hanoi failed along the same lines. Trump is 0-2, because he’s winging it.

This is classic Trump of course and shows yet again how badly suited for the office he is. A normal president would have at least had staff hammer out some basic agreement beforehand so that acrimony was not the only outcome. But not Trump. Negotiating to him is laying down ultimatums and sounding off on Twitter. And the response is predictably: the North Koreans are upset at the snub and threatening to restart testing.

For the life of me, I cannot understand the affection of Trump’s voters for such rank incompetence. He is so obviously in over his head, bungling a rare window of opportunity with NK, because he simply will not read, plan, or prepare like a normal professional. It’s amazing he hasn’t wandered into something genuinely catastrophic.

The full essay follows the jump:



There is enormous uncertainty now about the failure of the summit in Hanoi between US President Donald Trump and North Korean supreme leader Kim Jong Un. There will be a natural rush by hawks and doves to frame this, respectively, as proof that North Korea is belligerent and overdemanding, or that Trump is inflexible. Both may well be true, but analysts should be careful. We just do not know enough yet; we are not even sure which leader pulled out first, despite Trump’s claim it was him.

But if the ideological and policy fall-out is unclear now, one thing that is clear is that Trump’s thrown-together, fly-by-the-seat-of-his-pants diplomacy has reached the end of the road. This is an argument I have made for a year now, both on the Interpreter and on Twitter. So at the risk of belaboring the obvious, it should be pretty apparent now that Trump has whiffed twice in summits with Kim, almost certainly because of a lack of staff preparation and presidential commitment.

The US and North Korea face a decades-old strategic and ideological divide. The issues are deep-rooted and genuine. North Korea is a terrifying country that treats its people barbarically. That is a powerful moral reason why so many countries hold it at arm’s length. The US also has a strategic interest in seeing South Korea hold its own against this orwellian state. The South Korean constitution does not recognize North Korea. The US has stood behind that for decades. In South Korea, Japan, and the US, there are many interest groups and actors with deep commitments – some of them ideological, many hawkish – on North Korea. So the status quo with the North is very deeply entrenched – for moral, ideological, strategic, and bureaucratic reasons.

This does not means that the US (and South Korea and Japan) cannot change or evolve regarding the North. We can, and perhaps we should. That is a policy and ideological question. My point, rather, is methodological. Changing the relationship with the North will require a major and serious effort. The notion that Trump could simply swoop in and turn the allies’ relationship with North Korea on its head in just a few months with a few meetings was always hugely provocative – all but guaranteed to produce a serious backlash from the many interested parties in South Korea, Japan and the US. And indeed, a wide, informal coalition of human rights activists, hawkish analysts, conservatives in South Korea and Japan, the US military (quietly), the US Congress, including Democrats, and others have all expressed deep anxiety and pushed back. Trump even acknowledged this in passing at Hanoi, when he remarked that ‘you people would have criticized me for a bad deal.’

This bureaucratic resistance was fairly predictable, but Trump approached negotiating with North Korea as he has so many other major initiatives in his career – with a mix of bluster, laziness, and media over-exposure. As with reforming health care, building his wall, or pursuing an infrastructure build-out in the US, Trump showed once again regarding North Korea that he is just too slothful, impulsive, and disinterested in details to really do the work necessary for a major bureaucratic push.

Revolutionizing US relations with North Korea may be possible, but it will take much effort. Trump needs to use the ‘bully pulpit’ of the presidency to sell this to the many skeptical parties concerned about North Korea. He has to try to bring these groups – US allies, Congress, the think-tanks and media, military elites – along and assuage their fears – that he is abandoning South Korea or Japan, that is ignoring human rights and abductees, that he is bending on North Korea to get a deal from China, and so on. This might be doable – I am not actually sure myself – but something this big requires sustained, serious, public presidential leadership.

And Trump just cannot do that. He is just too checked-out from his own presidency. He is too lazy, most obviously. He goes to work late, watches too much TV, does not listen to briefings, does not read, and so on. In the two years he has spoken about North Korea as president, there has been no perceptible improvement in his grasp of the issues. He is still grossly uninformed about Korea, nuclear weapons, and missile technology, and so wildly unqualified to go one-on-one with Kim Jong Un.

Staff work would presumably fill in these gaps in presidential leadership, but here too Trump has undercut his efforts by throwing these summits together in just a few weeks. Given how deep, serious, and complex the issues between Pyongyang and Washington are, it would be a remarkable bureaucratic feat if the relevant staff work could be done in a month – which is the time Trump gave his team before both the Singapore and Hanoi summits. Previous efforts to engage North Korea involved months of planning (the Agreed Framework, the Six Party Talks), while the Camp David Accords, which brokered peace between Israel and Egypt, benefitted from years of rethinking by all parties and serious, committed, focused US presidential leadership. If Trump really wants something big like that between the US and North Korea (so he can win a Nobel Peace Prize, which he apparently really wants), he needs to make a much greater effort, really learn about these issues in order to speak of them in at least some level of convincing detail, and lead a major presidential, cross-party, cross-ally bureaucratic and public relations push.

He has not done that, relying instead on his supposed chemistry with Kim Jong Un and South Korean President Moon Jae In. As should now be clear, that is woefully insufficient.

It is now apparent that Trump will not mature into the presidency and acquire these skills. Hence the next step should be to kick negotiation with North Korea down to the staff level at the State Department. Let the diplomats and technicians hammer out some small, workable trades with the North Koreans to build some basic confidence all around. Otherwise, a third summit with Kim will founder just as the last two did. Presidential whimsy and lust for recognition is not enough.

In a normal presidency, the preparation for a further summit would see Trump learn the issues at least somewhat, work up a few trades with North Korea (aid for missiles, for example) which will enjoy some kind of consensus among the many interested parties, and then give some major programmatic speeches laying arguments for these deals with North Korea in the context of why a dramatically changed relationship with North Korea is a good idea.

This is actually doable. US presidents launch major initiatives like this all the time – George W. Bush’s war on terror, or Barack Obama’s push to expand health care come to mind. But Trump is just too lazy and disinterested, relying instead on these thrown-together-at-the-last-minute summits. They have now pretty obviously failed.

Robert E Kelly
Assistant Professor
Department of Political Science & Diplomacy
Pusan National University



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Nothing's Really Real Podcast: (Ep 53) Alcoholic

Koreabridge - Wed, 2019-03-13 12:49
Nothing's Really Real Podcast: (Ep 53) Alcoholic

I’m joined on this episode my one of my best friends from all time, Michael Laperle. Michael is a recovering alcoholic. He joins me on the podcast to talk about his life, his childhood, some of his lowest lows, his theories on addiction, relapse – and the daily struggle that is sobriety. It is a pretty heavy episode.

For anyone listening in Korea who may be struggling with alcoholism and wants to talk with someone about it, there are English AA groups that meet around the peninsula. More information about those can be found at www.aainkorea.org

If you’re interested in reaching out to Michael with comments or questions, he has given me permission to include his email address: michaelalaperle@gmail.com

If you enjoy the show, please recommend it to a friend, leave a review on iTunes or whatever app you listen to podcasts on – and remember I love ya.

 Nothing's Really Real Podcast:  Soundcloud    Stitcher    iTunesKoreabridge.net/NothingsReallyReal

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Spoken Korean vs Written Korean | Korean FAQ

Koreabridge - Tue, 2019-03-12 16:20
Spoken Korean vs Written Korean | Korean FAQ

There are many differences between spoken and written Korean - that is the Korean you'll actually hear Koreans using, and the Korean you might see written somewhere. They're the same language, but there are some fundamental differences that can make the two difficult. In order to master reading, writing, speaking and listening, you'll have to understand these major differences.

These differences include word order, grammar forms used and conjugations, verb endings, as well as vocabulary, phrases, and more. Did I miss anything? Let me know in the comments~

The post Spoken Korean vs Written Korean | Korean FAQ appeared first on Learn Korean with GO! Billy Korean.





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Getting an Apartment in Korea

Koreabridge - Tue, 2019-03-12 00:00
Getting an Apartment in Korea

While getting an apartment in Korea may not be of much concern to you if you are only planning to travel in Korea, it will be a big deal if you’ll be working here and staying for longer. In that case, you absolutely should familiarize yourself with how the Korean apartment market works. And also, you should conduct research on your needs, what options there are out there, and what requirements there are. To make all that easier for you, we’ve done a lot of the research for you. Read on for our advice about getting an apartment in South Korea!


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First and foremost, before you even start looking at apartments, you should organize your needs, wants, and requirements when it comes to where you’ll live. This can have a big impact on what types of apartments and accommodation you’ll be looking at. Here are some essentials:

  • Your length of stay in Korea. As far as actual apartments go, the rental contracts typically start from 1 year. So if you’re staying for less than that, it may be less hassle to consider alternative types of accommodations instead, such as shared apartments and share houses.
  • Your budget. Mind you, apartments in Korea typically have a higher key deposit to pay in comparison to other countries, usually starting from 5,000,000won (approximately $4500) and up. You’ll get this money back at the end of your stay, but it may be difficult to cough up that kind of money to begin with. But if paying a large key deposit is no objection then you have no problem!
  • Can you live with other people? What about the layout and size of the apartment? These are also some questions you should ask yourself while making preliminary decisions, although remaining flexible will provide more options.

Once you have sorted out some of the basics of what type of place you want to live in, and what you can afford, it’s time to get started on the search itself. Know that the apartment market in Korea moves at a hectic speed, so there isn’t a strong need to sign up for anything until a week or two before arrival. Better yet, do not commit to anything until you are already in Korea and have seen your new apartment in person first. You’ll usually have a lot of options to choose from. Here are some of the main ways which you can find your Korean apartment or other accommodation while you’re living in Korea.

  • Realtors – This is the absolute best way to get your own apartment and rental contract in Korea. Choose the neighborhood, or neighborhoods, you are interested in finding a home and visit realtors in the area to have them show you around. Tell them what kind of apartment you are looking for, and especially what your budget is. They’ll usually show you around 10 apartments in one go, depending on availability and your limitations. You don’t need to decide on an apartment on the spot, although it’s typically advised to choose quickly if there is one that interests you. The downside of going directly to realtors is that they do not usually speak any English, so you’ll want to take someone who can speak Korean with you.
  • Apps – There are apps like dabang (다방) and jibbang (집방) with which you can view rooms and their prices in specific neighborhoods without actually visiting them. You can’t actually rent one directly through the app however. It will give you the contact information of the realtor in charge of renting it out. By using these apps, you’ll get some advance insight on the apartment you’re interested in, before you’re taken on the tour. And when you do go to the realtor’s office, make sure that they show you other rooms as well, since sometimes the pictures give out a different impression of the room than what it looks like in reality, or the apartment in question is no longer on the market but the information hasn’t been updated yet.
  • Craigslist – There are a lot of apartments, and rooms in shared apartments available here. The price is usually lower than if you go through a realtor, but it typically won’t be you making the actual rental contract. Most of Craigslist is also in English!
  • Other services – In addition, there are many websites and apps from small start up companies offering translation services as well as other help in finding an apartment in Korea. If you can afford this, it’s definitely a service to use in order to make your moving in process smoother!

When you are renting an apartment in Korea, whether it’s for 1 year or longer, there are two main ways with which you can pay your rent. These will be the same for Koreans and foreigners, although most foreigners will fall into the first category, and you’ll likely have been in Korea for a long time with a well-established status before you’ll try the second.

  • Paying monthly aka wolse (월세): This is sort of a no-brainer, as it will be similar to how most of us would pay our rent in our respective home countries. You’ll pay the key deposit, which can be 5,000,000won or even more than 20,000,000won, and then you will pay the normal monthly rent each and every month. If you pay with 월세, there is some flexibility in extending your rental contract if you end up liking your apartment a lot, and you’ll get the key deposit back when you move out. It is possible to also negotiate whether it’d be possible to pay a higher rent for a smaller key deposit, or the other way around.
  • Paying everything in advance aka jeonse (전세): In the long run, this is actually the more sensible option, but obviously it’s a lot of money to put in, think about multiplying that 5,000,000won key deposit by 6 at least. Typically the Koreans who go for 전세 get a loan from their bank, but while it is also possible for some foreigners, it may be overwhelming to navigate, especially if you aren’t fluent in Korean yet. The advantage to this option is that there’s no monthly rent fee and you even get the money back when you move out! This option is far less common these days though.

Of course, in neighborhoods like Itaewon you may find apartments with a smaller key deposit burden, so don’t break into cold sweat just yet! Additionally, for shared apartments, share houses, and other types of accommodation, the renting may happen a bit differently (and more cheaply) than it does for your very own wonrum (원룸) aka a Korean style studio apartment.

Regardless of how long you’re planning to stay, know that there are no shortage of options to choose from.

What house hunting advise would you give to would-be South Korea residents? Let us know in the comments below!

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Teaching English In Seoul Might Not Be What You Expected

Koreabridge - Mon, 2019-03-11 21:19
Teaching English In Seoul Might Not Be What You Expected

Want to teach English in Seoul, Korea? Are you looking for a job teaching English in Seoul, Korea? Well, guess what? So is everyone else!

In this article I am going to cover a few topics not usually covered about teaching English in Seoul. Teaching English in Seoul might be great for you, but like other things in life there are 2 sides to a coin.

I lived in Korea for 3.5 years and in that time I lived mostly in Busan and in Changwon. So how does Seoul compare to Busan? Well, from my point of view it is only better for one thing.

What's that?

It's more cosmopolitan. Maybe you love K-pop, Korean dramas, you want a wide variety of restaurants and foods catered towards foreigners, or English bookstores, shopping experiences, nightlife, to be in a big Asian city or whatever. The bottom line is Seoul is going to have the most options in Korea.

So it just might be for you.

So what's the darkside of teaching and living in Seoul?

  • Monsters
  • Competition
  • Pollution
  • Seoul is in Korea and there are reasons why some people don't like Korea
There are monsters in Seoul

And unlike the rest of Korea it looks like they don't get plastic surgery.


Haha, very funny.

That's a joke you probably don't get now, but plastic surgery is very common there and Korea does have a growing film industry too hence the screen shots of "The Host" and "Colossal".

But what are the real monsters to teaching in Seoul?

Well, your monster might not be the next person's monster. It could be the culture, a co-worker, a hagwon horror story or something else.

But for starters...

It's competitive

So if you are like half of the people that want to teach English in Korea then that means you probably want to teach in a public school in Seoul.

Good luck.

Or maybe you want to teach in a hagwon in Seoul? That's actually more likely and towards the end of this article I'll give you a tip for that.


What happens when you want to be where everyone else wants to be?

I spend a lot of time on Reddit answering people's questions about teaching in Korea. I see a lot of people asking questions about teaching in Seoul. Now it's possible that you will find a great job teaching in Seoul.


When everyone wants to be in a certain place that creates competition. It's good for the employers, but not for you. They don't have to pay you anymore money or treat you any better because if you don't work out there is always someone else that would love to teach in Seoul.

So you are more dispensable.

They could take you or leave you. They will be less inclined to treat you well because they don't have to. There is always another naive foreigner around the corner.

But hey you are different so maybe you will find a great school teaching in Seoul.

Lots of people want to teach English in Seoul. It's a big city. And it's going to have the problems that other big cities have: it's going to be crowded and polluted.

Seoul is polluted

I see a lot of people complain on Reddit about pollution in Korea. But honestly I never thought it was that polluted, but hey, I didn't live in Seoul. I lived in Busan for 3 years and in Changwon for 6 months.

So if you really want to teach English in Korea and avoid the pollution then I would aim for smaller city on the east coast. Busan is not that small and it's not perfect, but the pollution never bothered me and I have traveled and lived throughout Asia.

I thought it was much cleaner pollution wise compared to the cities (Taichung & Tainan) that I lived in Taiwan while teaching English.

So when I see people complaining about pollution in Korea I can't relate. It's not going to be Beijing or as bad as some cities in China.


Did you know that it snows in Seoul?

Yes, the white stuff, but also the yellow stuff and it looks like this.

Seoul joins the ranks of the most polluted places in Asia


It's caused by dust from the deserts in Northern China and Mongolia. Then as the winds blow across the most polluted areas (Northeast China) it picks up air pollution particles and then drops them down on Seoul and other places.

Doesn't it look nice?

"...It is normal seasonal dust with some increased year round pollution that has been around for years. All these people are complaining every spring when the dust comes, but not the rest of the year where it's just as polluted. If you look at the graphs it's been pretty polluted all year, and often it's most polluted in the winter, and indeed pollution has been a problem for decades, but for some reason you all are only dying from "pollution" exactly during yellow dust season every year."- bukkakesasuke

More posts on Reddit about the pollution in Seoul.

But wait, if you REALLY want to be in Seoul

If the monsters, crowds, pollution and competition didn't discourage you then here is some advice you probably haven't heard of yet.

Go there and look for a job.

Sure you could get a job in Seoul online. That's definitely a possibility, but being there in person will increase your odds of finding a job teaching there.

Think about it like this...

The school has to make a decision between the teacher standing in front of them vs. the teacher online. Who are they going to choose? They will choose you because for them "a bird in the hand is worth 2 in the bush".

Scared to?

Well, you are going to have anticipation anxiety whether you get a job beforehand or not. It might not be for you, but there are a lot of advantages and really only one disadvantage to going there to find a job teaching abroad.

This would increase your chances - if done correctly of finding a job where you want to teach. It worked for me. I found a pretty good job in the center of Busan with a nice studio and loft because I went there and looked.

Are you sure you really want to teach English in Seoul?

Because chances are it's not going to be what you expected. Things are always different. Yes, you might still like it or you might not. Also if you are 100% sure that's where you want to teach then don't complain about the...

...because that's the other side of the coin. I personally think the desire to teach English in Seoul is overrated. It never really appealed to me, but I can understand as one time I wanted to live in Shanghai. I did and now I have no desire to do so.

I also lived in San Francisco. It's a nice place, but you know these big popular cities aren't that appealing to me now. There's too many people and yeah, it's too busy for me.

I'd rather live in a place with an easier going lifestyle, some place closer to nature.


If you are a socialite then Seoul or any other big city might be for you, but if you aren't then why bother enduring the crowds and pollution?

I think you could probably do better in a different place where there is less competition and you might find a better job there.


 ESLinsiderThings You Probably Didn't Know About Teaching English In Asia, But Should Know

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Hanoi Fallout (1): Trump’s Impulsiveness & Laziness Undercut the Process (or just go watch that CPAC speech)

Koreabridge - Mon, 2019-03-04 10:35
Hanoi Fallout : Trump’s Impulsiveness & Laziness Undercut the Process




This is a re-post of an essay I wrote just before the Hanoi summit for the Korean Dong-A Daily newspaper.

If you’re tired of all this, save yourself the trouble of reading the essay and just go watch the highlights of Trump’s crazed CPAC speech from yesterday. He is pretty obviously having a mental breakdown. If the guy at CPAC is the same guy who will bring peace to Korea, then we’re all delusional.

Basically I wrote this because South Koreans don’t quite get just how unhinged and ignorant Trump really is. Not being Americans or watching as much American news, they still, flatteringly, expect the US to be, um, mature and normal and don’t quite understand that we’ve elected a man-child who couldn’t care less about Korea, US power in Asia, allies, and so on. It’s crushing to see my students’ faces fall when I repeat some of the things Trump has said. Can’t wait for this to end…

The essay is after the jump:



On February 27 and 28, US President Donald Trump will meet North Korean leader Kim Jong Un. As with the first summit between these two, little is being told to the public beforehand. No one in the US government has given a programmatic statement of goals, strategies, or swaps the US might suggest to Kim. Less than three weeks from the meeting, the parties have still not even agreed to a specific venue. No one really has a sense of what sort of what the discussions will focus on, and more importantly, what Trump might be willing to concede. Once again, we are all in the dark.

This does not mean the summit will fail, but it is indicative of the sloppiness and impulsiveness of the Trump administration. The run-up to this summit looks much like the hasty, thrown-together preparation for the last one. And that previous summit, despite all the claims of a ‘historic’ breakthrough, did not really accomplish much. In the eight months since that first Singapore summit, little movement on Northern nuclear weapons has occurred. We are still waiting for some concrete deal or swaps – North Korean concessions for US counter-concessions – to be proposed.

Much of the stalemate is unavoidable. North Korea and the US are very different regimes. The strategic and ideological gaps are enormous. There is also little trust. Neither side wants to make a large concession, likely because both understandably believe the other will cheat. Given this, it was always a heroic assumption that Trump (or South Korean President Moon Jae In) could revolutionize relations with North Korea so rapidly. One thing that would help this entire process a lot is if Moon and Trump spoke in less grandiloquent, transformational language.

But beyond these structural factors are variables specific to this American presidency, which I think many South Koreans still do not quite grasp. In my experience, South Koreans still, flatteringly, see the US as it was before; they do not realize how clownish, corrupt, and untutored Trump is, how little he cares for allies and previous US commitments, and how much he is undercutting US relationships around the world. I encourage my political science students at Pusan National University to watch CNN, with its endless coverage of Trump, to see just how much his endless scandals and outburst dominate the news and corrode America’s institutions.

It is natural that foreigners would not see all this, and I find generally that most American allies – the South Koreans, Europeans, and the Japanese – are just hoping that the Trump era ends quickly and normality returns. But Trump has focused on North Korea, leaving South Korean little choice but to deal with him. Seoul does this at its peril, because Trump is grossly unserious and unqualified for the office he holds, and that undercuts his ability to negotiate with all his counter-parties – whether that be the opposition Democratic Party at home, or Kim Jong Un or Vladimir Putin overseas.

Trump simply does not put in the time and effort to lead a major initiative – on North Korea or anything else. For the same reason that Trump’s promise to build a wall on the US southern border or fix US infrastructure has failed, so has his efforts to engage North Korea. Trump, to put it bluntly, is simply too lazy to drive the politics to resolution on issues this complicated.

We know now from leaks that Trump spends around half of his day in unstructured ‘executive time’ – a euphemism for Trump drifting around the White House, tweeting, watching TV, calling his friends, and so on.

Yet major policy initiatives – like addressing the North Korean nuclear program – require serious bureaucratic commitment and focused presidential leadership. North Korea policy has many stakeholders – both in the US and east Asia. Congress, human rights groups, think-tanks, the military, the diplomats, US allies, public opinion, and so on all have vested interests in what deal Trump strikes with Pyongyang. Trump has made almost no effort to reach out to anyone on North Korea, beyond Moon Jae In personally.

Trump has never given a programmatic speech on North Korea, laying out his strategy and goals. He ignores US allies – Japan and South Korea most obviously – when it is in his interest. He is impulsive, often changing his mind for no obvious reason. He does not read or listen to briefings, so his foreign policy is prone to capture and competition among his aides. He is so erratic that I am amazed President Moon wishes to work with him.

This unruly laziness also makes Trump ignorant of the most basic issues in any negotiation. There is no evidence that Trump has spent any time learning about nuclear weapons and missile technology, or about Korea. In the eight months since Singapore, he has demonstrated no growth on the relevant issues. How can Trump negotiate with Kim when he does not understand the debate?

Trump’s response to all is that he has a ‘great’ relationship with Kim, which is all that matters. But that is preposterous. Trump has met Kim just once, for only 41 minutes alone. That is shorter than a date. The idea that Trump and Kim can trust each other, through translators after one short meeting belies reality.

In short, Trump is walking blind into this summit, just as he did the previous one. Laziness crippled his ability to pull a deal out of Kim at Singapore and will almost certainly do so again this time.

All this does not mean a deal will not emerge. But it likely will not be a good deal. Negotiating with North Korea is tough, and Trump would have to take it more seriously to get a solid outcome. Far more likely is that Trump simply makes concessions that he does not understand or does not care about because he does not care about South Korea or the US position in Asia.

Maybe we will get lucky, and we can always hope. But there is no obvious ‘process’ leading us to a good outcome. Trump is just stumbling along as he always does. North Korea is holding fast; nothing in its negotiating behavior has changed since June. This next summit is being thrown together hastily in a few weeks, just like the last one, even though the complex issues have bedeviled negotiators for decades. Trump is still grossly untutored in even the basics of the relevant issues – nukes, Korean history – and he is still petulant, impulsive, and focused on optics not substance. His passion, revealed in the recent sharp fight over USFK funding, is still for baiting South Korea over burden-sharing while he claims that he and Kim are ‘in love.’ Who seriously believes that someone this flippant, disinterest in US allies, and ignorant of the negotiating issues will be the one to make a breakthrough that is not just a give-away to North Korea?

Robert E Kelly
Assistant Professor
Department of Political Science & Diplomacy
Pusan National University



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LTW: Friendly handshakes turn into slap in the face in Hanoi

Koreabridge - Fri, 2019-03-01 13:58
LTW: Friendly handshakes turn into slap in the face in Hanoi



It's been a while. With Donald Trump under Mike Cohen's  deep stab in the back and Kim Jong-un's desperate need for sanctions off, both Trump and Kim had good reasons to land a deal,whether small or big, at their 2nd encounter in Vietnam, on Feb 28.  It didn't  go well as Trump literally walked away from lunch table because Kim demanded all sanctions be lifted while Trump insisted more than the dismantlement of Yongbyon nuclear complex. "Basically they wanted the sanctions lifted, in their entirety, and we couldn't do that. They were willing to denuke a large portion of the areas that we wanted, but we couldn't give up sanctions for that. So we continue, but we had to walk away from that particular suggestion," said Trump. Kim now has to take another 66 hours train ride back to Pyongyang with empty hands to his North Koreans.While  South Korean government expressed regrets over the summit result, many cheer Trump's decision as they also think no deal better than bad deal.

Adding injury to insult, poor Kim Jong-un is facing another headache. A secret dissident group called Cheollima Civil Defense declared the birth of provisional North Korean government in exile called Free Joseon on March 1 via the group's website to topple Kim's regime. 

(https://www.cheollimacivildefense.org/ ).

  Joseon was the dynasty before Korea got merged by Japan in 1910, and March 1 is meaningful because of the 100th anniversary of Independence Movement in 1919.  Currently safe guarding Kim Han-sol , the only son of Kim Jong-nam poisoned to death in Malaysia in Feb, 2017 by agents sent by his half brother Kim Jong-un, CCD runs its organization from unknown location.  Blood is important in North Korea leadership. The great-grandson of North Korea founder Kim Il-sung, and the grandson of Kim Jongil, Kim Han-sol is thus considered the biggest threat to his uncle Kim Jong-un. ABC to send Steve Harvey  to Pyongyang shortly for his Family Feud Part 2 show.


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Busan Liquid Arts Open Stage+14 @ Ovantgarde

Koreabridge - Wed, 2019-02-27 22:03

Hey Folks,

Liquid Arts Open Stage Open Stage will return on Saturday March 2nd at 8:00pm at the Ovantgarde in the Kyungsung University area. We are solidly into 2019 and it’s time to bring the best of our spirits together for another night of performances, fun, and camaraderie.

This will be our 112th event since 2000. We have held 51 Words Only events and 47 Poetry Plus events.

What is the Liquid Arts Open Stage?

Well, it’s an evening of performances across whatever artistic endeavors performers wish to contribute: spoken word and storytelling, comedy, music, theater, improv, dance, and whatever mish-mash that can be dreamed up. Here is a partial list of how to approach this event and what we hope to attract:

-Aspiring performers who have very little or no stage experience.

-Performers who are new to Korea but who have not had a chance to be on stage & introduce their talents to the community.

-Veteran Busan performers who are unable to attend the other weeknight open mics in Busan.

-Veteran performers seeking to present raw material or branch out into other genres.

-Performers looking to create collaborative work either within a particular discipline like co-songwriting or across disciplines like theater & music or poetry & music or music & dance.

-Theater folks can do original or classic scenes, with or without scripts, rehearsed or not, whatever.

We do sign ups at the event and time allotment will be determined once we see how many folks want to perform.

Old Skool Directions: KSU is stop 212 on the Green Line. Go up & out exit 3. Walk straight past Starbucks. Take the first right. Go 1 block. Turn right. Turn right into the first little alley. It’s on the left. Go down the steps.

More details about this event are forthcoming.

Thank you so very much,


From: https://www.facebook.com/events/1190755657757185/


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