As the Korean Wave continues to become popular in many parts of Asia, Korean dramas & music have also begun to make inroads in other parts of the world, including villages in rural Africa. Last spring, Korea FM reporter Chance Dorland spoke with Xiaochen Su, an American working in Tanzania for an agricultural micro finance institution to support local farmers, who had recently written an article describing how his new home was becoming inundated with Korean dramas & K-pop music. Korea FM also spoke with Husna Ramadhani, a Tanzanian woman who became interested in Korean dramas & music while attending university, & thinks the Korean Wave will become even more popular as time goes on. Find more information via ’s post at https://international.thenewslens.com/article/27864/.
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Cheongdo, in Gyeongsanbukdo is well known for its bull fighting, dalmaji burning and annual tug of war. It is a renowned garden city popular for its fresh farm produce such as peaches and persimmons. It is for the latter that most visitors venture from all over the peninsula to sample some of Cheongdo’s famous persimmons… in wine form at the Cheongdo wine tunnel.
Cheongdo's excess of fresh persimmons (producing 25million tons annually) led to the development of gam ('gam/감' is Korean for 'persimmon') wine. The tunnel was established in 1904 before it was repurposed to the wine tunnel in 2006. Cheongdo wine tunnel features light installations and exhibitions from locally based artists and schools. While the tunnel is especially beautiful in autumn when local orchards are brimming with bright orange fruit, it can be enjoyed all year round as inside it remains between 13 and 15 degrees throughout the year.
Visitors can sample a dry or sweet glass of gam wine for just 3,000-4,00원 (add a cheese plate for 5,000원). Differing from western style wine, gam wine has a tart taste but isn't entirely unpleasant if consumed slowly with a plate of cheese and chocolate. The makers of the wine boast that it offers health benefits in preventing disease. Persimmons are considered somewhat of a hangover cure in Korea the wine apparently won't inflict any kind of hangover.
In addition to gam wine, there are a range of persimmon products to try including chocolate, vinegar, makgoelli, sweets, dried/half dried fruits, and bread.
Take a train or bus to Dong Daegu. Switch to another train travelling through Cheongdo station (en route to Busan or Pohang). Trains depart every 20~30 min from 6am till 11pm and take 20 mins.
Buses from Cheongdo station depart for the tunnel 10 times a day: 07:00, 07:50, 09:40, 11:20, 13:20, 14:50, 16:00, 18:00, 19:20, 20:20 (take a bus bound for Songgeum-ri 송금리).
Entry fee: 2,000원 per person- free for the first 200m.
Opening hours: Weekdays & National Holidays 09:30-20:00
For more information on Cheongdo and its attractions visit here.
De Poco un todo. Magacín del Taller de radio ViaRadio. Colegio Sta. Mª del Naranco Alter Via en Oviedo. Asturias. España
25:21 minutes (23.21 MB)
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If you’ve ever been to Korea as an adult, either as a student or as a worker, you probably noticed right away how much Koreans drink. In fact, it’s been statistically proven that Koreans drink the most hard alcohol in the world – even more than Russians!
You might have also noticed how difficult it seems to escape from meetings involving drinking, even if you’re not into it yourself. Almost every time you meet a new person, or even an old friend, someone will likely suggest a round of drinks. The impression you get is that it’s an important part of Korean culture, and that especially soju is liked by many Koreans, but you’re probably wondering how the Korean drinking culture came to be this way. You might still be curious of all the rules that have to do with it, such as never leaving a glass empty. With this post we would like to explain to you why the drinking culture in Korea is the way it is.
Koreans believe drinking helps to get closer to others
One big reason why the drinking culture in Korea is so heavy is because it opens people up. Even the shyest man becomes more talkative after a few glasses of soju, and thus, if someone new suggests to go out for drinks with you, it’s because they want to break the ice faster and get to know you better. Not only that, but Koreans think that by having some drinks together, one can build a stronger friendship with the other person. This seems to apply to both interpersonal social relationships as well as work relationships.
The alcohol is incredibly accessible
While Korea is getting stricter at checking IDs at bars and convenience stores before young looking people can buy themselves a bottle of soju or something else, the alcohol is of easy access to anyone possessing such an ID. If you go to your nearest convenience store, you can get a soju bottle for 1,500won at most – that’s cheaper than bottled water in many Western countries! Not only that, but Korea lacks any rules when it comes to selling hard liquor! This means that any supermarket or convenience store you go to you can find hard liquor, from soju to tequila, in all of them, day or night.
Drinking is a part of working culture
It might not be normal at most companies to drink during working hours, but it is common to have work dinners together with your co-workers every once in a while. And you might have already guessed it that soju or other kinds of alcohol are a big part of these work dinners. There are several reasons why these work dinners happen, the most important one being the bonding opportunity with colleagues and bosses, and it’s frowned upon not to attend.
The Korean drinking culture goes all the way back to the old days
Since the invention of Korean alcohol several hundred years ago, Koreans have had the habit of consuming alcohol when celebrating important holidays. During those times, and still today, this took place during a ritual to show respect to ancestors. The reason for drinking was quite different then from what it is now, but alcohol has always been important to Koreans.
Hierarchy says you can’t say no
It’s also the norm that if your elder offers you a glass, or ten, of soju, you should accept every single one of them as a sign of respect. The fact that they are even inviting you out for a drink should be seen as a great compliment towards you. This naturally adds to the amount of alcohol consumed in Korea as especially the older people like to end their days (or start their days) with some liquor burning down their throats. There’s plenty of other etiquette that comes with drinking with your elders: you should always hold the bottle with both hands as you pour and accept your drink with both hands; you should never pour your own drink; and you should turn your head away from the elders as you take the shot.
Saying no might offend someone
Frankly speaking, saying no to a drink in general is deemed as rude. There are exceptions to that rule, such as being pregnant or having a disease that won’t allow you to drink or religion in case of foreigners, but all the other excuses will likely come across as party pooping. Just accept your drink and find an alternative way of getting rid of it, whatever that may be. Perhaps the soup?
Living in Korea can be stressful
And in order to decrease that level of stress, whether it’s due to family or a relationship or work, Koreans like to get together at the end of the day over drinks to air it out. It’s perhaps a familiar situation to all of us that it gets easier to talk about what is bothering one’s mind when there’s some alcohol involved to loosen the situation. This is also seen as a bonding experience with the fellow drinkers.
There’s no worry about getting a hangover
Korea has bulked up on so many different hangover cures – from drinks consumed prior to your first glass of soju, to grapefruit ice cream (wait, what?!) to specific kind of a soup to eat the morning after – that it’s difficult to consider the possible consequences of drinking. And, hey, is that so bad? It’s better than staying in bed all day feeling like your head will explode every time you sneeze!
It’s best to practice moderation when it comes to drinking, even while you’re in Korea, but it could be a fun experience to go out with the locals for a crazy night of soju just once! Just keep the hangover cures in mind!
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This is a local re-post of an essay wrote for The National Interest about 10 days ago. Basically, I’m curious why the Chinese are making such a huge deal out of THAAD missile defense. They’ve been bullying South Korea relentlessly for a year or so now over this. But THAAD doesn’t even impact them, as everyone knows now. That graphic over, from the Heritage Foundation, nicely illustrates that.
So the big question is why. Why is China making a huge deal of something where it’s so obviously on the wrong side of the debate? (Everyone can see North Korea’s nuclear missile program and South Korea’s obvious need for a ‘roof.’) Why does China think something this minor – THAAD has no impact on Chinese strategic forces – is worth wrecking a decent relationship with South Korea, one of the few regional states that is not that scared of China’s rise? Is this coercive diplomacy to prove Chinese regional hegemony, with South Korea being the first target to be bullied into knuckling under? Is Vietnam next? Or does China really care about North Korea so much that it wants NK to be able to blackmail South Korea with nuclear missiles?
I can’t believe that latter explanation is right. To me, this is China feeling its oats. It’s rising; no longer feels it has to keep its head down per Deng’s early advice. Now it’s number 2 in the world, on the way to being the world’s largest economy. So it’s going throw its weight around, and the states closest to it will feel the hammer of its prestige-seeking fall first.
The full essay follows the jump:
In 2016, the South Korean government agreed to the 2017 installation of a US missile defense system, Terminal High Altitude Area Defense (THAAD). The objective arguments for South Korean missile defense are pretty irrefutable at this point. North Korea’s missile program is well-known. Pyongyang conducted dozens of tests just last year and even talks up intercontinental ballistic missiles and submarine-launched ballistic missiles. Its nuclear weapons capabilities, after five tests in ten years, are well-established also. And the regime’s harsh, extreme rhetoric about South Korea – turning Seoul into a ‘sea of fire’ – is notorious. If any state in the world needs missile-defense, it is South Korea.
The Chinese know all this. The Chinese also know that THAAD is not particularly effective against Chinese strategic forces. The South Korean THAAD radar will be configured around North Korea, not China, and cannot simply be ‘turned left;’ the technology and software package is more complicated than that. The US already has remote-sensing for Chinese strategic launches in any case, so THAAD’s X-band radar adds nothing new. THAAD is also intended for use against a few incoming missiles (in their ‘terminal’ phase, per the name of the system), not hundreds of missiles in the lift-off or boost stage, as would be the case were the Chinese to launch against the United States. US and South Korean officials have explained this to the Chinese repeatedly, and the media discussion of this has been quite extensive. It is hard to imagine that the Chinese are still unclear about the technical issues around THAAD.
Politically, South Korea has tried for years to work with China on the underlying issue – North Korea’s missilization – to no avail. South Korean President Park Geun Hye launched a three-year charm offensive to flatter the Chinese into a tougher line on North Korea. South Korea has consistently reached out to China to work on North Korea sanctions at the United Nations. Seoul has said THAAD is only a stop-gap measure until its own Korean Air and Missile Defense is completed. It is very obvious that South Korea wants some kind of deal with China on North Korea. The THAAD decision came only after years of prevarication during which Seoul would likely have made major concessions for serious Chinese action on the North.
Yet the Chinese will not budge on THAAD, nor will they seriously enforce the sanctions. They warned South Korea for years not to accept THAAD and in the last year, have threatened various punishments. Stephen Haggard conveniently brings together the many, often quite petty ways, the Chinese have struck back. Beijing is essentially demanding that South Korea remain defenseless – ‘roof-less’ – in the face of a spiraling nuclear missile threat on its doorstep. That is an astonishing ultimatum – to effectively surrender South Korean national security over an existential threat to demands of a foreign power. That China would make such a demand regarding an issue where the developments all broadly support the South Korean position – the North Korean missile threat is blatantly obvious, as is the South Korea’s thin defense – shows all the more chutzpah on Beijing’s part. The Chinese ‘argument’ against THAAD is so preposterous, that it is hard to read its demands against Seoul as anything but bullying power politics.
The question then is why – what is China’s objectively bizarre resistance to something so obvious telling us? For years, China vigorously promoted the idea that its rise was different from that of previous great powers. Its ‘peaceful rise’ would open the possibility of a ‘new type of major power relationship’ to promote a ‘harmonious world.’ All would benefit from China’s growth, as the ‘one belt, one road’ initiative tied Asia together. The Asian Infrastructure Investment Bank would help developing states. Chinese cultural production even got in on the act. But in its maritime periphery, specifically, the South and East China Seas, China is acting, however quietly and obliquely, like a fairly typical aggrieved rising power. Its actions on Senkaku, the Paracels, Scarborough Shoal, North Korea, and now THAAD all suggest that it expects regional states to bend to its demands conveniently packaged as uncontestable and expanding ‘core interests.’
This looks an awful lot like a sphere of influence by stealth. China has learned the cost of unnecessary belligerence. It is avoiding the forthright aggressiveness of Imperial Germany or the Soviet Union, which both provoked large counter-coalitions to their rise. Instead, it pursues a salami slicing strategy of pushing here and there to see what happens. This escalating coercive diplomacy worked reasonably well with the Philippines, where President Rodrigo Duterte last year gave up and bandwagoned with China to appease it. And in South Korea, this year’s leftist presidential candidates are hinting that they will roll-back the THAAD deployment. Seoul conservatives will read this as ‘kow-towing’ to Beijing, but economic anxiety is rising given South Korea’s asymmetric economic interdependence with China.
The next questions then are: will China try this bullying, using asymmetric economics and oblique threats as a lever, again elsewhere (Vietnam would be my guess)? And will Japan and the US, the only regional powers with a serious ability to push-back, eventually hit some kind of threshold and respond?
Department of Political Science & Diplomacy
Pusan National University
Happy New Year! Can you believe 2016 is officially over? Neither can we!
2017 is the Year of the Rooster and Koreans celebrate the Lunar New Year, or ‘Seollal’ in Korean, which is one of the biggest holidays in Korea. This year, Seollal is from the 27th to 30th of January.
During the holiday period, many Koreans head back to their hometown to see their families and pay respect to ancestors. As most people head out of Seoul during this time to see their families, the city that is usually bustling with people becomes a lot more peaceful and quiet.
Also, many businesses including major department stores and small local shops close during the holiday period. But don’t be in despair as travelers (or you!) can find and partake in Seollal events at many tourist attractions and destinations within and around Seoul.Check out these destinations where you can celebrate and make the most of your trip during the Korean Lunar New Year holiday!1. Theme Parks
South Korea’s three best theme parks, Lotte World, Everland and Seoul Land are open during the Korean Lunar New Year and they offer various attractions and winter-themed events like sledding, light shows and parades.
Lotte World is holding a special parade where performers wearing colorful “Hanbok” (Korean traditional costume) will play traditional Korean instruments as they sing and dance. Seoul Land is also hosting a Pond Smelt Festival consisting of a sledding slope, fishing area, indoor children’s playground and food trucks selling delicious food.2. Korean Royal Palaces
If the royal palaces are somewhere you’ve been meaning to visit, Seollal is the perfect time to go. Four of the royal palaces in Seoul (Gyeongbokgung, Changdeokgung, Changgyeonggung, Deoksugung) will be open and will showcase different programs for the guests.
Programs include traditional rituals and games, activities that you can participate in and performances like the famous “changing of the guards” ceremony with the palace as the perfect backdrop. You can also have an in-depth tour of the Korean royal palaces here.3. National Folk Museum of Korea
You may perceive museums as mundane places, but head to one during Seollal and you’ll find that it’s actually quite fun and exciting!
During Seollal, the National Folk Museum of Korea, located in Gyeongbokgung Palace offers a range of hands-on programs and exhibitions such as arts and crafts and traditional folk games for visitors of all ages to enjoy.
You can try playing Korean traditional games like “paengichigi (top spinning)”, “jegichagi (hacky sack)” and “yutnori (a board game where you throw sticks)”.4. Namsangol Hanok Village
The Namsangol Hanok Village is a collection of five traditional Korean houses from the Joseon Dynasty that have been restored. As part of the Seollal festivities, here you can register for various experiences involving Korean traditional percussions, folk songs, games and more. It’s sure to be a lot of fun!5. Korean Folk Village
The Korean Folk Village is also hosting Seollal events such as folk games and traditional Korean music performances.
There are also performances like tightrope walking, horseback martial arts and role playing by actors donned in makeup and outfits that make it look like they’re from the Joseon dynasty.
Have a private tour to the UNESCO-designated Suwon Hwaseong Fortress and Korean Folk Village in one day here.6. National Gugak Center
The National Gugak Center is a place that preserves and promotes Korean traditional music and performances.
During Seollal, there are special cultural performances about the history of Korea that are both educational and entertaining!Other destinations to visit during Seollal holiday in Seoul
Other major tourist attractions that are also open during the Korean Lunar New Year holiday period include COEX Aquarium, N Seoul Tower and Myeong Dong Nanta Theatre. All of them are easy to reach by subway and they are truly wonderful places to visit with your family and friends and have a great time together.
So, what are you waiting for? Do try a visit to one of these spots during Seollal!
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This is a local re-up of a broad predictive overview of East Asian security issues in 2017 published first at the Lowy Institute a few days ago.
The standard first line of reviews like this is to bemoan North Korea and China. I do a little of that here, but tried to look beyond facile predictions that the US and China will fight in the South China Sea shortly. Asia is a pretty status quo place, so the only big ‘disruptors’ are the usual suspects – the Kim family of North Korea and Donald Trump. The Chinese and the Japanese aren’t really interested in rocking the boat much, so they’re barely mentioned, curiously enough. For example, the next time North Korea does something dumb, we can count on China saying that we should all calm down and maintain stability – in other words, do nothing. One thing I do wonder about is if the left wins the South Korean presidency this year, will it dramatically change South Korean foreign policy by accommodating (read: appeasing) North Korea?
Part 2, next week, will focus on South Korean security issues in the new year.
The full essay follows the jump.
The consensus seems to be that 2016 was terrible – because your favorite celebrity died, or you still have not processed that Donald Trump did actually get elected – but 2017 promises to be tougher. Trump will actually take office, and in East Asia, medium-term trend lines are broadly running in favor of China and North Korea. Trump will almost certainly do little good – he lacks the necessary patience, attention span, and industry – and has the potential to trip-up badly. Nor will the region take its cues from him. Asia’s rise is increasingly distinct from the United States and its dynamics independent of Washington influence. So here are four issue areas to watch in the new year:
Will East Asian Elites Take Trump Seriously?
East Asia is generally a status quo-cleaving place, so it will be curious to see how regional leaders will respond to the orange theatricality of President Trump. Indeed, it will be curious to see if Trump himself calms down in office enough to get through an ASEAN or NATO summit without acting like a clown. So when Trump finally meets Xi Jinping and starts babbling in a press conference about how he loves Chinese people because they make great takeout, especially sushi, how will the tetchy Chinese public react?
If only for the obvious structural reason of US power, regional elites will have to deal with him. Trump, for all his ridiculousness, still represents the United States. But it is easy to foresee wars of words between the US and regional leaders, especially from China, breaking out if Trump lies or mischaracterizes his meetings with them, as he did his meeting with the Mexican president during the campaign. At the very least, Trump’s staff needs to get him off Twitter when his presidency commences.
How to Slow North Korea’s March toward Nuclear Weapons?
Trump being Trump, his antics will often dominate day-to-day news, but the big ‘tectonic’ issue of Asia 2017 is the relentless pursuit of missile power by North Korea. After five nuclear tests (2006, 2009, 2013, twice in 2016), it is now clear that North Korea has mastered the basic technology of crude atomic bomb. The yield of the last test exceeded that of the US bombs used against Japan in World War II. It claimed that its fourth test was of a hydrogen bomb. This turned out to be a lie; the traditional fission bomb was perhaps ‘spiked’ with tritium. But it does suggest North Korean interest in continuing to move up the nuclear weapons chain – to a hydrogen bomb next. North Korea sits on its own uranium deposits, making sanctions a poor tool to slow this.
The next obvious step is missilization, and in 2016, it tested furiously. After dozens of tests, leader Kim Jong Un claimed in his 2017 New Year’s address that North Korea is close to testing an intercontinental ballistic missile. The obvious target of that is the continental United States. Conservative voices are already calling for such a test to be shot down, and I have long suspected that North Korea’s insistence on such an expansive nuclear program would bring calls for preemptive strikes. Throw Donald Trump’s combustible personality and hawkish cabinet selections into the mix, and it is easy to see escalation occurring (so long as China continues to drag its feet on Pyongyang, as it has for twenty years).
Will Trump Revive Taiwan as a Major Regional Issue?
The recent re-surfacing of the Taiwan issue is a nice example of the shallow unpredictability that Trump brings to the region – and the problems his theatricality raises when taken from television into geopolitics. After his victory, Trump phoned the president of Taiwan. This violated the informal ‘One China’ policy the US has traditionally pursued to calm Beijing’s nerves on the issue. Unsurprisingly, the Chinese hit back. So before he has even taken office, Trump has already picked a fight with the world’s soon-to-be largest economy. But as there was no follow-through, it is not clear why Trump even did it.
The stunt was classic Trump – rule-breaking, attention-grabbing, shallow, poorly thought through, and lacking follow-up. Two months later, nothing has come it. Trump has not followed through. He has dropped the issue on Twitter, has not appointed any major China hawks to his cabinet, not spoken of his anti-Chinese tariff, and so on. So what was the point? To throw the Chinese off-guard? To what end? Just because he can?
The insouciance is striking. Surely, the American president should stand with Taiwan if necessary. No one wants to see a nasty autocracy bully a small democracy. But that was not this, because it was Trump who picked this fight and for no clear purpose. This was not a precursor to a policy shift, just a media stunt. The status quo, however uncomfortable, has served Taiwan well for many years. The open fiction of ‘One China’ allows all players to avoid a clash none of them want. This is not North Korea, where a military clash may well be necessary to protect South Korea. This was easily avoided.
Will South Korean Foreign Policy Swing Widely to the Left after Park Geun Hye Leaves Office?
South Korea’s president has been partially impeached. The legislature voted to impeach her in December. The case is now before the country’s highest court, which must confirm the National Assembly’s (lopsided: 236-54) impeachment vote. Expectations here are that the Constitutional Court will concur, which would force a new election within sixty days. But even if it does not, the next normally schedule South Korean presidential election is in late 2017.
Either way will see a vote, which the left is widely expected to win. President Park has badly damaged her conservative party which is consequently in the process of splitting. Opinion polling suggests a strong, if not remarkable, presidential victory for the left. Regionally the crucial factor here is that the South Korean left is still committed to the ‘Sunshine Policy’ of accommodation and engagement with North Korea. It is widely thought that this is the reason North Korea has been so quiet since the South Korean presidential scandal broke: Pyongyang is happy to see a conservative government fall and be replaced by the left. Left-wing candidates have suggested rolling back US missile defense in South Korea and intelligence sharing with Japan, and even re-opening the inter-Korean Kaesong Industrial Zone. This would be a major shift.
BONUS: What will Not Happen
Perhaps the most important non-event of the year is an obvious Chinese challenge to the United States or Japan. Realists and conservatives of all stripes have predicted this for years, but China has been far more tactically cautious about challenging Western power than Imperial Germany or the Soviet Union ever were. China has obviously learned from those cases. Regional trends are running in Beijing’s way. Why not just wait for the apple – a regional sphere of influence – to ripen and fall? There is no need to fight and risk a counter-balancing coalition.
Department of Political Science & Diplomacy
Pusan National University
Eating lunch alone or having a quiet beer at home on the couch doesn’t strike most Westerners as out of the ordinary; but in South Korea, a country whose culture is more oriented toward group affiliation, something as simple as having a sandwich at your desk could mark you as anti-social or an object of pity: the dreaded wangtta, or social outcast, doomed to a life of solitary meals and other lonely pursuits.
This stigma on eating and drinking alone however is rapidly changing, as a few recent articles note (here and here). In the past year or so, restaurants have embraced solo diners, and a new word, honbap (a compound derived from the words for “alone” (honja) and “rice” (bap)), has thus entered the Korean lexicon. Likewise, drinking alone no longer marks you as a bum or an alcoholic, but merely a practitioner of honsul (“alone” plus “alcohol” (sul)), which has a decidedly more sympathetic ring.
As many observers have pointed out, the changes in dining habits are driven in part by the rise in single households, which now account for over one-quarter of Korean households – a significant social shift that has been playing out over the past few years as property values rise while economic uncertainty and changing personal priorities impels more young people to delay or forgo marriage.
The rise in solo living arrangements may also be having other interesting effects on consumption trends. This recent article traces a recent rise in the number of convenience stores to the same single-living trend, noting that many people who live alone simply find it easier to procure most of their daily needs at a CU Mart than at a larger store, which tend to deal in larger quantities and sizes.
On a personal level, I have noticed a steep drop in the looks of pity I used to receive from Korean students and friends whenever I was sighted sipping a coffee or scarfing down a sandwich by myself. Now it appears that I was just a man ahead of his time. Who knew?
If you have read this blog for a while then you might have noticed that I didn’t post all that much in 2016. The truth was that I was busy and if you read my last post, you would have found out that I was not really in the best state of mind for much of the year. However, that does not mean that the year was all bad. There was actually quite a lot of good stuff that happened. This is what I am going to focus on here as this is the end of the year here in Korea and I am looking forward to a better and more happy 2017.
The year started with me coming to terms with the passing of my best friends and mentor, Dave Harvey. I wrote about him near to the end of 2015 but it really started to hit me throughout 2016. I felt that this was one of my key struggles in 2016 as the sadness felt like an anchor to everything that I wanted to achieve. However, as time passed I knew that Dave would not want me to throw it all away and I had to push on.Magazines
I did a lot of work with different magazines around the country and a few outside of Korea as well. This to me was where I felt more alive. These “missions” that I was sent on allowed me to push my photography into new places. It also forced me out of the conventional landscape modes that I fall into sometimes. From going to Pohang to the alleys of Jagalchi Market in Busan, I covered a lot of ground in order to make some pretty pictures.
The biggest lesson that I learned from this work was not to give up. In one of my last assignments for Seoul Magazine, I was sent to cover the Eonyang area. They really wanted a picture of the silver grass or eoksae fields. Although I had photos they wanted ones from a different spot. I set out early in the morning and proceed to make a HUGE mistake. Which was taking a shortcut over one of the most dangerous peaks that I have seen in over a decade.
The sad part was that by the time I got up to the peak it was too late to take the easy way down but worst of all, my camera recorded nothing! It malfunctioned and I left with only the pictures that I took on the way up. Thankfully with a few edits the magazine was satisfied with what I sent them.The Documentary
In a rather surprising twist, I was contacted by Ulsan MBC who were interested in doing a documentary about the foreign community in Ulsan. We gathered at the studio to discuss the project. It was unclear what the final result was but it was an interesting experience. It kickstarted my interest into making more videos and doing live broadcasts of my photographic outings.
One of the most surprising things was seeing myself on tv for the first time in a way that made me realize how much image and charisma play a part in today’s photography celebrities. I realized that I am far from any celebrity and that I certainly lack the on-camera poise that people like Chase Jarvis or Trey Ratcliff have.
At any rate, it was a fun project to have been a part of and there were certainly some nice exposure from it. I like the fact that many of my students saw it and realized that I was not just an English teacher. I was happy to have them “report back” to me that they saw the show and that they liked my pictures that were shown in the documentary.Working with the City of Ulsan
I have been in Ulsan for many years. I first arrived in July of 2003 and was in love with the lifestyle and freedom that I had here. Over a decade later, I am one of the last long-term expats here. Many of my old friends have long since moved away and only vague memories of their time here. For me, the time spent here paid off when the city of Ulsan contacted me about my photos. They had admired my style for a long time and wanted to put them up around the city to celebrate the new “12 scenic sights of Ulsan” project that they started.
They chose two of my photos for signs to commemorate the scenic spots and then they commissioned an interview with a leading travel magazine in Korea. It was a huge leap for me, especially doing the interview alone and in Korean. At any rate, my wife was able to make sure that I sounded alright and that were were not any misunderstandings or things lost in translation.
The interview appeared in not only a major travel magazine but in the Jeju Air inflight magazine as well. It was huge exposure for me and no doubt help solidify my standing as a professional photographer in Ulsan, if not the rest of Korea.
Cinemagraphs and Tutorials
As many of you know, I have been working with the fine people over at Flixel and creating some cool cinemagraphs with their amazing app. I can’t say enough good things about these wonderful people. Over the year, I took some interesting chances with my creations. I reached out to DeathWish Coffee to see if they’d be interested in helping with a project. The cinemagraphs were a hit and Flixel even used the footage in some of their training material.
Following that, I decided to started my own online tutorial site Learn.Jasonteale.com which is where you can learn how I make cinemagraphs and (in a few weeks) learn beginner lightroom techniques as well. The start of the tutorials were a huge high point for me and I made it on F-stoppers, a popular photography site thanks to Dylan Goldby for interviewing me.http://jasonteale.com/blog/wp-content/uploads/2016/06/spark_promo.mp4
The tutorials allowed me a glimpse into a world that I have grown to love. I am a teacher and in 2016 I completed my Masters of Education as well. However, after spending over a decade battling the nagging feeling that maybe ESL is not what I should be teaching, I realized that online courses are what I should be doing. 2017 will have more courses added to the learn.jasonteale.com site.5 Day Deal
One of the high points of 2016 was getting to know Griffin and Valerie Stewart who are the co-owners of the amazing 5 Day Deal better. They taught me so much about the business side of being a creator that I am forever in their debt. By working with them, I saw my own strengths and weaknesses. Being a part of their team showed me how much drive and productivity I have to have in order to create a successful online business. Their passion and drive is inspiring. To be honest, now that I got a glimpse of how they have put together as well as run the 5 day deal made me realize that those two are nothing short of geniuses.Gallery Exhibitions and National Geographic
I was lucky to have had my photos exhibited in a number of places throughout the year. Most notably in Seoul as part of the National Geographic “Through a Lens” exhibition. I was one of only a few photographers chosen, which completely shocked me as there were tons of talented photographers who were a part of the photowalk. I showed my work in Busan as well as most recently in Ulsan City Hall.
Getting to meet an Editor from National Geographic during a two-day event was also a high point of 2016. Making an honest connection with a person like that was a great experience. I was lucky enough to sit down with Jeanne Modderman who is a photo editor for National Geographic and their “Your Shot” site in particular. Having coffee with a person like that awesome and gave me a lot of insight into the world of National Geographic.Onward to 2017
With that being said and time quickly running out for 2016, I just wanted to say that I am going to make 2017 the best year ever! There are going to be a few changes in store for the coming year and I will elaborate more on that in a few days. The short version is that the Sajin blog is going to be a center for learning. Rather than focussing so much on my photos, it will teach you how to make your own. Learn.jasonteale.com will be stocked with the best tutorials from lightroom to Aurora HDR and more.
With that being said, I wish you a happy new year!
It was about this time last year when I got probably one of the worst messages of my life. As I wrote in my previous blog post about it, I got a message early in the morning telling me that my best friend had just lost his battle with cancer. My whole world fell apart.
Pats on the back or likes on facebook didn’t help against the darkness that crept in late at night. I was defenseless against the multitude of negative emotions that confronted me. Anger, frustration, hopelessness, ripped me apart and left me broken. I lost the motivation to deal with or do anything. It was hard to find the beauty in a world that made me so angry and full of pain.
For a personal such as myself, these feeling are dangerous. I slipped up and stumbled throughout 2016. When you have as much on the go as I do, you soon realize that you can stop or you will pay the price. I am not just a photographer. I run another website, I am a teacher, I am a photography instructor and during 2016 I also completed my masters in education. Couple that with the pain of trying several times and failing to have a baby, losing the family dog and working a job that I absolutely hated, found me breaking down in my car before classes and snapping on idiotic drivers on the way home.
I felt trapped. Lost in the darkness. Not to mention, dealing with the reality that you only get so long to grieve before people start rolling their eyes when yours start to water. You learn to keep the pain in and live with it like an unwanted house guest. Nobody really cares how much you are in pain after while and if you continually drop the ball people don’t want to hear the same reason over and over again. I missed deadlines, damaged work relationships and got kicked out of classes due to backups and screwups resulting from procrastination. There was simply no drive left in me.
So as I dug myself further into this dark hole, but I was fortunate enough to have been given a gift by my late friend. I was given the gift of photography. This allowed me to see the beauty in a world full of dark desolation. It wasn’t easy to find the beauty at first, but it was there. I just had to force myself to find it.
The first thing that I tried was to use photography to express my loss. This resulted in one of my favourite cinemagraphs. It reflects my feeling of hopeless and lack of direction. The black and white image shows how the colour of world was lost one my friend past on. The overall tone reflected how cold I felt in his absence.
I was also a part of a documentary that took most of the year to film, also gave me new direction and taught me new skills. It showed me what was important to me and how to express it to others. The producers gave me little projects to complete throughout the filming and also showed me where my strengths are. I am happy to say that they were impressed with my work and plan on doing more projects with me.
It is was direction of these projects and the deadlines that forced me to get out and do something. It forced me out into the world to face it head on. I had no other choice. People were expecting results. At times, I failed to deliver but I still made the effort. I still got out and just did it.Articles
I am grateful that I know a number of people in the publishing world that like my work enough to hire me. Both my other community site and this blog remained largely untouched as I found it difficult to put anything down into words. Feared opening up old wounds and dealing with that pain again, even though it was probably for the best.
However, each month I had a place to go and an article to write for different magazines around the country. `These articles gave me focus and direction up until their completion. Heading out to Pohang or eating at a nice restaurant was great and it got myself and my wife out of the house. For some articles my wife and I worked as a team and this was a huge bonding experience as I was really pushing people away. She helped in so many ways that we actually got even closer because of it. She also understood the lengths that I go to get a story. After following me around on a travel piece in Seoul, she realized that I was not just “having fun” but was actually working hard to get the right shots.Photowalks and Meetups
As I said before, I was pushing a lot of people away. In some cases I just needed space and time to think. However, that was also becoming the issue. I was thinking too much about the loss and the depression. Heading out with other photographers allowed me to just focus on the photography and not all the other stuff. Throughout the year I participated in a number of events from leading the Kelby Worldwide Photo Walk to heading up to Seoul to participate in an event put on by National Geographic. All of these events allowed me to distance myself from the pain and the negative thoughts that filled my head. It allowed me to have fun and meet new people. It was a needed break because the stress from day to day life was starting to bubble in unpleasant ways.Learning
The final part of the puzzle was learning new bits about photography. Again, this allowed me to shift my focus onto the something that I am passionate about. Learning new techniques or experimenting with different styles of photography took my mind off of the outside world for a moment. I could obtain some sort of satisfaction from acquiring a new skill or getting the shot that I wanted. When you feel like your whole world is crumbling down around you, these small wins are what’s needed. When depression hits you tend to only look at the negative side of things. In a world of celebrity photographers who are gifted with brand new expensive equipment and have tons of money (or so it seems) to travel the world, it is easy to get down when you don’t get the responses, likes, attention or the high-paying contracts that others seem to get.It’s Never Over
While I feel that I am through the worst of it having suffered probably 2 of the worst years of my life (yes, 2015 was not a good year either), I can say that as I look towards 2017 I feel optimistic. I feel the energy flowing back into me again. I pretty much left this blog and others for lack of energy and time but I promise in 2017 I will be taking them in a new direction. Hopefully I will be able to most more with different content.
However, if you are reading this and looking for the answers, seek the right help. In all honesty I should have sought professional help but living in South Korea, finding that is hard to comeby. This is still a country with one of the world’s highest suicide rates and professional help is tough to find for Koreans, it is even tougher to find for foreigners. At any rate, if you are needing more of this style of help (therapeutic photography) then then check out The One Project.
It is a great site that offers a ton of help. There is a free package that is perfect or other plans that help the project stay funded. I just signed up to get myself better for 2017. My goals are to make myself the best that I can be so that I can help ease the stress of the transition back home to Canada.
Lastly, I just like to thank Griffin and Valerie Stewart and my awesome wife Jinny who really helped me throughout 2016. Were it not for you guys, I probably would have not even made it this far in my career or photography. Thank you so much for your help and support.
The post How Photography Helped Me Overcome the Death of my Best Friend appeared first on The Sajin.
If that thrilling post title doesn’t pull you away from It’s a Wonderful Life or Sound of Music, I don’t know what will.
This essay is a local re-post of my op-ed posted with the Lowy Institute this month. The pic is President-Elect Donald Trump in his first meeting with Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe. It well captures what a banana republic amateur hour set will be running the US shortly, which makes Trump the number one Asian security story of the year. That is Trump with his daughter and son-in-law business partners, but no US-side translator or Japan expert, because heh, what really matters is getting Trump Tower Tokyo built…
My top 5 security events for the region in 2016 follow the jump, but honestly you’re probably a lot more interested in my picks for the worst TV show and movie of the year.
As the year winds down, it is time to look back on the biggest stories in the always-tense northeast Asian region. End of year annual lists can be fairly ridiculous, but also a somewhat useful, if soft, methodological tool in that they force a ranking or prioritization on events. Events that may seem like a big deal at the time, blow over, while other reveal themselves as more critical. In that vein here are the five biggest regional shifts for the year 2016:
1. The Election of Donald Trump
Asian security has turned, since World War II, on the American regional commitment. During the Cold War, the US and Japan informally held communism at bay. When China partially defected on ‘socialist fraternity’ in the 1970s, it informally lined-up with the American ‘hegemonist’ it would today like to leave the region. As the region’s balance of power shifted after the Cold War, the US again played a dampening role, this time on China’s regional ambitions. Smaller states in the region have generally supported America’s post-Vietnam footprint here for that reasons.
All of which makes erratic, theatrical Donald Trump a hugely destabilizing prospect. This is a business-like region where elites tend toward dark suits, grey hair, and bland seriousness. Trump, right down to his orange skin and penchant for flamboyant lying, is the antithesis of this demeanor.
And indeed, the buffoonery and destabilization have already started. Trump brought family business members, but not a US-side translator, to his first meeting with Shinzo Abe. He has already managed to provoke China in way far more serious than he probably realizes with the Taiwan phone call. By contrast, had Hillary Clinton been elected, that would not even be in this top five.
2. The Impeachment of the South Korean President
Park Geun Hye was impeached by the South Korean parliament on December 9. The vote was badly lopsided against her (234-56), and her approval ratings are at an astonishing(ly bad) 4%. South Korea’s high court, the Constitutional Court, must now take up the case within the next 180 days. I believe they will impeach her, forcing a new presidential election within sixty days, which the left will almost certainly win. (My thoughts on ‘Choi-gate’ are here, here, and here.)
The left’s victory will likely re-orient South Korean foreign policy. The left here continues to believe in the Sunshine policy, a policy of engagement and dialogue (or appeasement to conservatives) with North Korea. It continues to oppose intelligence sharing with Japan (even though South Korea benefits much more than Japan from that). And it continues to oppose THAAD (Terminal High Altitude Area Defense) missile defense. The latter two were pushed through by Park just prior to the explosion of ‘Choi-gate.’ If the left wins the presidential election by a wide enough margin, it may re-open those decisions.
Finally, the leading candidate on the left, Moon Jae In, has now begun speaking of South Korea taking a ‘balancing’ position between China and North Korea, and the US and Japan. This will almost certainly re-open US alliance issues, as an American defense commitment to South Korea is politically unsustainable, especially in the Trump era, if South Korea’s rejects its position as an ally.
3. The Two North Korean Nuclear Tests
It is practically a requirement that any such list include North Korean shenanigans and hijinks. Would the DPRK be what it is if it were content to act like a normal state? This year’s outrage was two nuclear tests in just nine months. The first on January 6 was approximately 10 kilotons; the second, on September 9, was approximately 30 KT. The yield of that last test means Pyongyang now has a weapon more powerful than those the Americans used against Japan.
Two tests in nine months breaks North Korea’s pattern of roughly one test every three years. It is unclear what signal the second test was to send. Perhaps it was simple defiance. The fourth nuclear test provoked a tough new sanctions package, so perhaps the fifth test is to inform us that no matter how much we sanction them, they’ll just keep charging ahead.
The last test also finally revealed the open secret that no one seriously expects North Korea to denuclearize, when the American director of national intelligence admitted as much. Denuclearization is formal US policy, but I cannot think of anyone in the North Korea analyst community, hawk or dove, who thinks it will happen. North Korea is now a nuclear weapons state whether we like it or not.
4. South China Sea Cat-and-Mouse Ramps Up
This is not exactly in northeast Asia, but it involves China and likely will suck in Japan in the future. China’s expansion into the South China Sea has been twenty years in the works, but this year, the zero-sum nature of the tussle over control starkly emerged with Philippine President Rodrigo Duterte’s defection on the shaky coalition to push-back on Chinese control.
Ironically, it was the Philippines which brought the issue to the Hague, where it won a major ruling in its favor in July. But in October, newly-elected Duterte jetted off to Beijing to apparently make a deal exchanging acceptance of Chinese claims for development assistance. He made sure to add while there, “I announce my separation from the United States…Both in military, not maybe social, but economics also. America has lost.”
It is unclear if Duterte can bring the very pro-American Philippine military with him. Nor is it clear if Duterte can survive the public backlash if he surrenders the islet closest to the Philippines, Scarborough Shoal, to overt Chinese control. But like many states around China, he is far more eager to trade with China than fight with it. Hawks expecting a robust anti-Chinese coalition have not properly grappled with how well Beijing has forestalled that with offers of trade and assistance – which makes Trump’s decision to cancel the Trans-Pacific Partnership all the more misguided.
This was also the year that South Korea finally agreed to missile defense. The system is not nearly as destabilizing as China says it is, but China has chosen to plant its flag on this issue, so it makes the top 5. THAAD provides only enough shielding to partially deter North Korea and defend mostly US assets in South Korea. It does not provide robust coverage of South Korean cities, nor is peering into China (as the China so duplicitously, endlessly argue). America has other, satellite assets that cover Chinese strategic launches.
Nevertheless, China has framed this as a fork-in-the-road issue for South Korea. An overt choice between the US and China has long been an existential anxiety for Seoul, and it is curious why Beijing chose this issue to force that choice. So uncomfortable was the South Korean left with Park’s acceptance of THAAD, that several opposition lawmakers flew to China the day after the decision to apologize. Moon’s ‘balancing’ comments capture this strategic tug-of-war as well. China is now forcing a long unwanted grand strategy debate on Seoul.
Department of Political Science & Diplomacy
Pusan National University
Tis the season to be jolly, fa la la la la la la la la~~! Christmas is just around the corner and you’re probably busy getting ready for holiday parties and shopping for presents!
If you’re stumped on what to buy for your friends and family, then read on for our Christmas gift guide!1. Christmas Edition Korean Yogurt
These adorable Christmas edition Korean-style yogurts, or ‘yakults (야쿠르트)’ make the perfect stocking stuffer as they’re donned with festive designs! There are 6 to choose from including a Santa, snowman and polar bear!2. Snowman Banana Milk
This drink is nostalgic for many Koreans as it’s literally been sold for decades. It’s simple, sugary and super addictive and available in strawberry and melon flavors too in convenience stores everywhere.
You’ll be able to find a Christmas themed banana milk this month that features an adorable snowman with the foil lid sporting Christmas colors. How cute and festive!3. The Coffee Bean & Tea Leaf Santa Hat Tumbler
At the coffee shop chain “Coffee Bean & Tea Leaf”, you can get these tumblers that are shaped like a Santa hat complete with a straw that resembles a candy cane!
The best thing is the price. You only have to pay an additional 1,000 KRW with the drink you order to receive this tumbler!4. Kakao Friends Ornaments
Grab these Kakao Friends ornaments at your nearest Kakao Friends Store to complete the Christmas tree!
There are two types available: The “friends” edition which features the full-size character and “face” edition which has just the character’s face blown up on the ornament.5. Kakao Friends Santa Lion
Kakao Friend’s newest character Lion has put on a Santa outfit just in time for the holidays! This limited edition “Santa Lion” is available at Kakao Friends stores around Korea. Click here to check out a list of Kakao Friends stores in Seoul.6. Christmas Beer & Soju
Since drinking culture is so huge in Korea, it’s no surprise that even the beer cans and soju bottles have gotten a Christmas makeover!
Enjoy a “Hite Christmas” by sipping beer from Hite’s green cans embellished with Christmas trees, baubles and snowflakes.
Chamisul Soju is spreading festive cheer as well with a ribbon design on the bottle which will make it seem like you are receiving a special holiday gift.7. Missha Twinkle Holiday Collection
Makeup brands have also released their holiday collections which feature irresistibly cute packaging! Missha’s Twinkle Holiday collection is one of them with sparkly glitter pigments and mascaras, berry colored lip crayons and mini nail kits.
Follow this nail tutorial for nails that scream Christmas!8. Banila Co. x Pink Panther Holiday Collection
Banila Co. has done a cartoon collaboration with Pink Panther (cue the classic Henry Mancini theme song we all know too well)! The theme is pink, pink and more pink!
The collection includes the cult favorite Clean it Zero Cleansing Balm and the Clean it Zero Cleansing Foam with images Pink Panther sporting a pair of reindeer antlers printed on them. You can buy the two items in a set housed in a pink gift box along with a Pink Panther towel hair band as a freebie!
Check out Trazy.com, Korea’s #1 Travel Shop for more fun and interesting posts like this one as well as the latest and trendiest things to do in Soth Korea!
a service for travelers to easily share and discover the latest hip & hot travel spots from all over the world.
We are currently focusing on Korea as our destination and plan to expand to other countries gradually.
Sometimes the easy road is not worth taking… but in the case of Korea’s iconic Seoraksan Mountain it’s hard to be disappointed with any of the scenic hikes and trails- even if they don’t lead to the peak.
Hiking in South Korea is serious business, and is a pastime enjoyed by most of the population, both young and old. Fall is a great time to head to one of Korea’s many mountains to enjoy the stunning fall colours, dotted with the striking hues of the assorted hiking outfits. Here are some suggestions around Seorksan that allow visitors to comfortably enjoy the scenery without excessive sweating or thigh burning.
- Sogongwon Cable Car (설악 케이블카) a great option for anyone traveling with a restrictive time limit. After disembarking the cable car follow the path directly outside the exit around 15mins to the impressive view of the park from the top of Gwongeumseong. Lines for the cable car can stretch into hours during peak season so consider joining the early birds at the top for sunrise. Admission (return): Adults 10,000 won / Children 6,000 won. No tickets sold in advance. Check website for running times: here.
- Biryong Falls (비룡폭포) 2.5km – Approx 1 hour. This hike is easy to combine with the two others mentioned here for a full day trip. For the most part the trail is more like a trekking trail before a few short climbs to the narrow ravine at the end of the path. Beside the falls you’ll most likely find groups of hikers enjoying lunch and/or resting before hiking a further 30mins to higher view of another waterfall.
- Biseondae (비선대) 3km – Approx 1 hour. In the opposite direction to Biryong Falls is the easy but beautiful hiking trail to Biseondae. A relatively flat train that allows you to enjoy the mountain view while following the river to the high rock walls of Biseondae. This part of the valley is so beautiful it’s supposed to have inspired poets and scholars. From here you can rest and enjoy the view before turning around or continue on to other more challenging hikes to Guemganggul or ChunBulDong Valley.
For more Seoraksan hiking trails and their individual difficulty check the map below:
What is the Game of Minds?
Before proving yourself in the project “Game of Minds”, it is good to learn first, what the reality of the quest is.History of the title
It is good to start with the terminology. The word “quest” itself is well-known and we frequently use it in life, when we search for the meaning of any object. Actually, the word “quest” means the searching for an object. But the roots of “Game of Minds” and other similar projects come from computer games of the same-name genre. Virtual quests, also called “adventures”, distinguish themselves by the presence of tasks that require mental effort from the players. These are not violent slasher games or one-on-one fighting games that we see today. Computer quests appeared at the dawn of the video game revolution (in the start of 1980s) and are still popular today. The classic example of the quest game can be the video game based on the Indiana Jones movies.From virtual to reality
The situation with real quests is much more interesting. It is not certain when and where this form of entertainment appeared, but many believe it to be Japan. According to popular belief, it was in the Land of Rising Sun in 2007 where the first quest in reality was opened. The publisher of entertainment magazine in Kyoto arranged for the citizens of the city unusual adventures in clubs and bars when they had to find all the codes and hints within one hour. Then he began conducting quests in gardens and abandoned hospitals, in large stadiums and even in churches.
The public liked the new kind of entertainment, and therefore, the quests spread into Asia (Thailand, Singapore, China), Europe and the USA. At the present moment the largest centers of the quests in reality are Beijing (China) and Budapest (Hungary), where more than hundred rooms are based. It is remarkable that in Asia for the fixed time (they get only 56 minutes there) only 10% of participants are able to complete the quest. However in the USA only 2% are able to complete the quests.So, what's the point?
So, what is «Game of Minds»? The game represents itself as full immersion in imaginary reality: everything looks totally the same as in computer games, but the action is conducted in real room with tangible objects. The mission for the players consists of escaping the room they are locked in. For this purpose they must use their logic and sanity, as the players will be solving brainteasers, searching hiding-places, getting hints they have to interpret correctly, and ultimately obtaining the key which will open the door to the freedom.
Players will have only one hour to complete the quest. After the time is up, the doors of the room will open even if the team does not complete the task. If at first you don’t succeed in the completion of the quest, a second attempt may be purchased. The team may consist of two, three, or four persons.
You can get acquainted with the rules here, but the major thing that the players of “Game of Minds” should remember is that if they want to overcome the enclosed space they should use not the “strength of Hercules” (it is better not to use force at all, because the items have the way to broken) and not the wisdom of King Salomon, but ordinary logic, gumption and imagination.
At the present moment of the project “Game of Minds”, seven quests are open and ready to be played: “Jail”, “Polar station”, "Interstellar" and "Nautilus" - located on Gwangalli Beach and "Dark Magic", "Da Vinci", "Cannibal" - located on SeomyeonFacebook.com/gameofmindsInstagram.com/gameofminds
Address of game locations in your Busan:
Busan, 613-805, SUYEONG-GU, GWANGAN HAEBYEON-RO 179, 7th FLOOR (GWANGAN-DONG, 200-4)
Busan, Busanjin-gu, ChungangDAERO 680Beonga gil 11-5, 2nd floor (Bujeon-dong, 198-10)
Game of Minds - Busan's First Escape Room
The end of a year is always the time for festive spirit and celebrations. Korea is not an exception – in fact, it’s probably one of the best destinations in the world to celebrate Christmas!
There are so many festivals and celebrations at this time of the year that the list goes on and on. This blog will attempt to cover just a few of them that are happening in Seoul and Busan.Seoul
Here are some of the best places to see amazing lights and get into the holiday spirit in Seoul!A. Christmas Lights & Fun at Theme Parks1. Lotte World: Christmas Miracle Period: 11.12.2016 ~ 12.31.2016
Lotte World, the only indoor amusement theme park in Seoul will hold a Christmas festival with a theme, “Christmas Miracle,” until December 31. In addition to the rides that are available at Lotte World promises to bring an amazing show with a variety of characters and performances throughout the evening.
The highlight of the festival is various special zones set up outdoors and indoors. Outside there is the “Castle of Miracles” where you will be able to see a beautiful light show and indoors there’s the “Miracle Santa Village” where you can take photos at the snowman photo zone.
You can get a discount ticket for Lotte World here.2. Everland: Romantic IlluminationPeriod: 11.24.2016 ~ 12.31.2016
Everland is possibly one of the most famous and largest amusement parks in Korea. Held until December 31, the Christmas Fantasy and Romantic Illumination guarantee a fantastic display of lights and fireworks that are sure to let you immerse yourself in the Christmas spirit.
The highlight is the “White X-mas Parade” starring Everland‘s Christmas character such as Santa and Rudolph dancing to delightful carol songs. The parade will take place once a day from December 18.
For convenient transport options and discount tickets to Everland, check out this link.3. Seoul Land: Christmas PartyPeriod: 11.17.2016 ~ 12.25.2016
As Korea’s first ever theme park to be built, Seoul Land is definitely one of the most established and popular amusement parks in Korea.
This year’s festival is called “Santa Run” and will be held until December 25, featuring various special performances and gift donations. One of the highlights is a performance where Ebenezer Scrooge and a pack of wolves try to ruin Christmas for Red Riding Good and her friends of the Character Village.
Fathers will also get a chance to win special gifts for their children by participating in the Santa Run.
For discount tickets to Seoul land, click here.B. Christmas Taken to the Streets1. Sinchon Christmas Market & Sinchon Christmas Street FestivalPeriod: 12.21.2016 ~ 12.29.2016
Sinchon is “the” place to be for youths. The area, in close proximity to 4 major universities (Yonsei, Ewha, Sogang and Hongik), is a famous hotspot for street performances, great food and shopping. You’ll be able to enjoy everything from thrifty shopping to joyous caroling to free concerts from December 21 to 29 around the area. Street performances will mainly be held near Hyundai U-Plex Mall near Sinchon Station.
Along the famous shopping district of Myeongdong, awe-inspiring Christmas decorative lights have gone up!
Take note however, especially during Christmas Eve, this place gets jam-packed. Try to avoid at all costs, and visit it another day (usually the Christmas day itself is less crowded than Christmas Eve).C. Fabulous Christmas Events & Performances1. Universal Ballet’s ‘The Nutcracker’Period: 12.16.2016 ~ 12.31.2016
A Christmas classic, the world-renowned Universal Ballet presents Tchaikovsky’s classic holiday performance of “The Nutcracker.”This family-friendly winter performance will run from December 16 to 31, 2016 at the Universal Arts Center in Seoul.2. Merry Chri Sound FestaPeriod: 12.24.2016 ~ 12.25.2016
Held on Christmas Eve and Day, the Merry Chri Sound Festa is a festival where you will be able to enjoy music from artists of all different genres.
There’s everything from rap to pop to indie to EDM! The line-up includes artists like Beenzino, Glen Check, Hoody and many more! It’s sure to be the perfect way to celebrate Christmas! Grab your tickets here before they’re all gone!D. Christmas Vibes Near Seoul1. Garden of Morning Calm: The Lighting FestivalPeriod: 12.02.2016 ~ 3.26.2017
Spanning 82 acres, the Garden of Morning Calm boasts the largest collection of herbs in Korea. There are also areas themed after the Italian city of Venice and a French farm.
The different colors of the garden harmonize together to create a beautiful, picturesque scenery. There are 30,000 lights of all colors illuminating the garden that will look amazing in photos!
Enjoy your visit to the garden and also explore the beautiful tree-lined paths of Nami island and enjoy a rail bike ride in Gangchon by signing up this tour!2. Pocheon Herb Island: The Lighting & Illumination FestivalPeriod: 11.01.2016 ~ 12.31.2016
Friends, families and lovers can make precious memories together at the Lighting & Illumination Festival in Pocheon which is full of LED lights that make the place look like something out of a fairytale.
There is also an area called “Santa’s Village” with a 300-meter long tunnel full of wishing cards that you can take a walk through.
Visitors can also entry hands-on programs such as herbal candle and soap making, pressed herbal flower arts and crafts, lavender pillow crafting and more.
Take an excursion to the Herb Island in Pocheon with ease by simply hiring a private van for your group. For details, click here.Busan
The range of activities and festivals you can find outside of Seoul is definitely much more limited, but Busan is the second most populous city in Korea after Seoul, and there are definitely many festivals that can rival those in the capital. Here are some that you should definitely check out if you’re in Busan:1. Busan Christmas Tree FestivalPeriod: 11.26.2016 ~ 01.08.2016
The Busan Christmas Festival in Nampodong has been going on for 6 years in a row and has been making its name known as one of the biggest festivals of its kind in Korea.
The annual Christmas Tree Festival will feature a myriad of festive and family-friendly holiday activities including the tree of wishes, various street performances, and a photo and video contest. On top of the daily cultural and Christmas concerts, local visitors can also participate in the festival’s popular carol singing contest.
The festival is free and open to the public and will be held until January 8.
If you want to enjoy a dazzling winter holiday trip at Busan Christmas Tree Festival this year, join this overnight tour! You can book your trip here.2. Haeundae Rockgo Lighting FestivalPeriod: 12.02.2016 ~ 2.12.2017
View the colorful lights by the seaside in Haeundae, Busan at the Haeundae Rockgo Lighting Festival! This year there is a love story theme with special events held for couples.
The main event is an SNS event, where if couples upload a photo of them at the festival, one of them will be chosen at random every week and receive an 18 karat couple ring.
There will also be street busking performances every Friday and Saturday to add some joy to people’s days as they walk by.3. Illumia Light FestivalPeriod: 11.01.2016 ~ 12.31.2017
Launched at the Let’s Run Park in Busan, the Illumia Light Festival is essentially a theme park full of colorful and shining lights.
Aside from large lit-up life-size figurines all over the park, there is also an area with ground light illumination and a musical fountain show where images are projected onto the water.
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This is the English-language version of an article I published this week with Newsweek Japan on ‘Choi-gate.’
This pre-dates the impeachment vote of yesterday, but the basic point still holds: the Korean public just gave the world a lesson in what democracy looks like. In the 8+ years I have lived here, this is its finest hour. Koreans should be proud of themselves for peaceful protests in the millions on behalf of clean and transparent government. It’s all the more impressive given that the US is about to install an authoritarian game-show host as president. Who ever thought the Koreans would teach the Americans what democracy is all about?
Yesterday, I told Bloomberg that corruption is now, very obviously, the most important domestic politics issue in Korea. Yes, it is still trumped by North Korea, but it is now painfully, painfully obvious that Korea needs much cleaner government. In fact, corruption is so bad, I am surprised that there is no Donald Trump figure entering Korean politics. Yet again, the Koreans prove themselves more democratically mature than Americans.
So yes, Korea’s political class is a corrupt, self-serving mess, but its public is not and that is vastly more important. For all their flim-flam about Dokdo, the curative powers of kimchi, the made-up anthropology of a ‘glorious 5000-year history,’ and all the rest, when it came to the big thing – clean, robust democracy – they got it right in a big way. Props to the Koreans.
The essay follows the jump.
Next year is the thirtieth anniversary of South Korean democratization. Yet that democracy is now facing its greatest constitutional crisis. President Park Geun Hye is involved in a sprawling, frequently bizarre influence-peddling scandal involving long-time confidante and obvious swindler Choi Soon Sil. Park will almost certainly be driver from office because of it. The investigation has revealed disturbing allegations of corruption and nepotism at the same time that the South Korean parliament, the National Assembly, has passed an extremely strict anti-graft law in yet another effort to beat back seemingly entrenched corruption. Korean politicians and public figures have described themselves embarrassed at the seemingly endless parade of corruption scandals and Park’s epic miscalculation in permitting Choi such influence in her administration. The North Koreans, predictably, are gloating; ‘Choi-gate’ apparently proves the superiority of their ‘system.’
The South Korean Public Embraces Democracy
But there is a clear upside to this story, one that suggests that Korean democracy is deeply rooted and maturing despite the public circus of the last month. The Korean public has responded with a massive outpouring of peaceful resistance to the shenanigans of its leaders. Corruption may stalk the Korean political establishment, even the president, but the public has made very clear it will not accept that. In the weeks since the Choi scandal broke, millions of Koreans have protested peacefully. On November 26, estimates suggest two million people demonstrated, a staggering 4% of the entire national population. Even overseas Koreans protested in Europe and the United States.
Numbers of that scale are astonishing in modern democracies. 4% of the Japanese population would be 5 million people on the streets; 4% of the United States would be 13 million people. Japan and the US have never seen demonstrations of that size. That suggests a strong, genuine commitment to Korean democracy and clean government, a popular desire to participate that is often lost in the elitism that normally characterizes Korean politics.
These protests have happened five weeks in a row, another astonishing feat. Mobilizing millions of people for more than a month requires a deep well of public support for democracy. Further, the protests have been entirely peaceful. There have been no reports of assaults, robberies, and so on. The kind of social anarchy we saw during Arab Spring protests of similar scale did not occur. The protestors even cleaned up their trash, signaling a commitment to their society even as they rejected its leadership.
All this is hugely inspiring, even as the constitutional drama reveals the weakness of the Korean political class and the need for reform of South Korea’s institutions. In the eight years I have lived in South Korea, this is its finest hour. South Korea often enmeshes itself in controversies western observers find bizarre: the debate over THAAD missile defense here is dominated by (Chinese) misinformation; accusations about nascent Japanese ‘re-militarization’ are unhinged; the Korean media is deeply vested in a wildly exaggerated nationalist story of Korean pop-culture ‘conquering the world.’ But when things really mattered, the Korean public came through, demonstrating a deep commitment to core modern democratic values – peaceful protest, civic participation, and clean government. If there was ever a moment to see the large difference between North and South Korea in stark relief, this was it. Indeed at time, when the West has voted for Brexit and Donald Trump, and the National Front is running strongly in France, South Korea is illustrating to the world how an engaged, responsible democratic public behaves. Who ever would have imagined the South Koreans would be teaching the Americans about democracy?
The Public Rejects Park
The next steps in the crisis are likely either Park’s resignation or an impeachment vote. As the scandal has unfolded over the last two months, Park has stood her ground. She has insisted that she committed no crime. She conceded that she gave too much space and consideration to her friend but insists that this was not illegal. The Korean public has, by a large margin, rejected this interpretation. Park’s approval rating has crashed to an historic low of 4%. I am unaware of any chief executive in a modern democracy who returned such low numbers. Not even Richard Nixon in the depths of Watergate was so unpopular. For this reason, most observers think she will be forced out one way or another.
Park cuts a somewhat tragicomic figure here. Unlike most politicians felled by scandals of politics, money, sex, war, and so on, Park has bizarrely discredited herself on behalf of an obvious con artist who exploited her for decades. It may indeed be true that she technically committed no crime, but the sheer extent and weirdness of the scandal has been damning. Choi seems to have had influence over a vast expanse of presidential decisions, from the mundane, such as the presidential wardrobe, to the serious, such as the president’s speeches and staffing choices. Choi may have even impacted Park’s tougher line on North Korea, in that Choi apparently predicted North Korea’s imminent collapse and edited some of Park’s speeches on the subject.
And the scamming and nepotism have been both egregious and astonishingly petty. Despite all the wealth accrued through her graft, Choi seems to have embezzled much of the funding for the president’s wardrobe while clothing Park in cheap outfits (which the Korean fashion press picked up on years ago). Choi exploited her presidential connections to shake down large corporations for ‘donations.’ She used those connections to bully a university into accepting her daughter as a student and even alter her daughters’ scoring in an equestrian competition. Choi’s personal trainer (!) even got in on the act, getting appointed a staffer in the Blue House, the Korean executive residence.
Park may indeed be correct that she herself violated no law, but the whole thing is so preposterous and bizarre that she has been thoroughly discredited and her presidency all but ended even if she somehow retains the office itself. The public has concluded that Park was conned by an obvious grifter and charlatan, and there is widespread amazement that Park, who otherwise seemed like a canny, intelligent politician, was taken in by such an obvious fraud. That Choi has no obvious qualifications for the wide influence she wielded makes Park look all the more like an easy mark in a con scheme. Choi is not a lawyer, economist, policy expert, and so on. Her ‘qualification’ seems to be that her shamanistic cult-leader father convinced Park that he could communicate with Park’s deceased mother (yes, really). This would be laughable, were it not so politically consequential.
What if Park Stays in Office?
The upshot is that even if Park is technically innocent, the public has concluded that she has been a shadow president while Choi was the real power behind the throne. In the protests, the most damning image has been of Choi looming above Park, pulling strings attached to Park’s limbs as if she were a puppet.
Park may constitutionally survive. At the time of this writing, an impeachment vote looks likely to occur on December 9. The opposition bloc needs twenty-eight government party members to vote for impeachment to overcome the required two-thirds impeachment threshold (200 out of 300 members of the National Assembly). Park floated a bizarre, not-quite resignation proposal on November 29 in which she suggested that she would accept whatever fate the National Assembly deemed fit for her presidency, including a shortening of her term. This does not follow the constitutional process, in which impeachment or resignation leads to an acting president followed by a new election within sixty days. It is widely suspected that her curious non-resignation offer was a last ditch attempt to muddy the waters. It might convince some of her party’s wavering parliamentarians to vote against impeachment because she would imminent resign. This is dangerous territory: constitutional ‘reform’ hastily tossed about by a president desperate to slip out of impeachment.
Even if the National Assembly votes to remove her, South Korea’s highest court, the Constitutional Court, must also vote in a two-thirds majority (six out nine justices) to remove her. Two of those justices’ terms end in the next six months, which would almost certainly provoke a sharp fight over the appointment of pro- or anti-Park judges. The Court also might not wish to proceed until the final report of the Choi-gate special prosecutor is completed, which may take months. Yet another layer of confusion is that the government party’s position is now that Park should remain in office until April, so that it can find a viable candidate to run in the snap election which would follow her resignation.
All of this political confusion raises the importance of constitutional reform. The Korean public has spoken clearly. Indeed, they have carried the mantle of democracy in the last few months as the formal system has devolved into chaos. The Korean political class has flailed, while millions of Koreans have peacefully demonstrated for clean government and transparency. It is time the Republic of Korea had institutions to match its electorate’s democratic intensity.
The most obvious reform needed is major crackdown on corruption. This has become the bane of Korean politics. When family and friends ‘cash out’ their connections, as happens far too often here, Korea looks like a banana republic. A great irony of Park’s presidency is that she explicitly claimed it would cleaner than usual because she was unmarried and alienated from her family. Instead, this seems to have made her so lonely that a quack was able to befriend her.
The new anti-graft law should help, but the real problem is the Korean developmentalist state. So long as the Korean government insists on ‘guiding’ the economy, state officials and businessmen will regularly interact regarding money. This obviously opens huge, regular opportunities for graft. In Choi’s case, if Korea’s largest companies were not so dependent on presidential goodwill, Choi would never have been able to blackmail them with her friendship with Park.
The other big reform, which would make this crisis much simpler to resolve, is the creation of a vice president. South Korea is a hybrid, ‘semi-presidential’ system. That is, it has both a president and prime minister. Constitutionally, the PM becomes the acting president should the president die or otherwise exit the office. There is then to be a new election within sixty days for a new president for a full five-year term. As the Choi crisis is demonstrating, this is an unnecessarily complex transfer of power process.
The PM is a weak, poorly defined office in Korea. He often acts as a ‘fall guy’ for the president when scandal hits, and he does not have the clear mandate to take over the presidency a vice-president has. That the PM can be fired easily by the president makes the office even more unstable. The current PM was actually fired by Park but retained as acting PM, because the president and parliament could not agree on a successor. The 60-day snap election of a full term presidency raises the stakes even more. South Korea’s conservatives are trying now to forestall Park’s resignation so that they do not lose the presidency for the next five years. It would far easier to simply impeach Park if there a waiting vice-president who would only finish her term. There would be no incentive to fight for an ideal timing of her resignation. The existence of meaningful vice presidential office made Richard Nixon’s resignation over Watergate much easier. His vice president assumed the office; the country moved on; and the next election was held normally on schedule.
Park Should Probably Resign
Park’s desire to hang on is understandable. Her resignation will destroy her reputation in Korean history. Given that her father’s presidency was in fact in a dictatorship, her fall from grace will impact the family legacy too. More immediately, Park may face criminal charges after resignation and go to prison. As president, she is immune. Perhaps she imagines that if she can just hang on a few more months, the cold weather will drive the protestors from the streets, and then the upcoming election will convince everyone to just let her ride out the rest of her term.
This is risky. She is discredited. She is widely understood now as a naif controlled by a con artist. The protests to date have been peaceful, but the potential for unrest is obvious. If she survives impeachment by some gimmicky parliamentary maneuver or the replacement of high justices, public opinion will worsen. The protests could expand, and the government would be paralyzed. Were that to occur for months on end, it would be unprecedented for a modern democracy. Park’s term formally ends in late February 2018. That opens the possibility of 15 months of protest and paralysis if she fights to the end. The protests so far have been a remarkable display of civic responsibility, but the longer they grind on, the more they will attract troublemakers and radicals. Disorder over the course of a 15-month political stalemate is an obvious possibility. Korea has not seen protests of this scope since the street contests of democratization. Defying the will of 96% of the population, with millions on the street for months on end, is a frightening prospect.
Department of Political Science & Diplomacy
Pusan National University
Looking for something fun to do this winter in South Korea? Well, this winter festival is definitely something that you don’t want to miss out on!
The 10th annual Pyeongchang Trout Festival is a famous winter festival in South Korea that takes place in the town of Jinbu-myeon in the Pyeongchang-gun district, which is about 2.5 hours away from Seoul. Visitors can enjoy ice fishing as well as many other fun winter activities! Pyeongchang is an alpine county that is a haven for winter sports as it receives an abundance of snowfall every year. Here, you can enjoy ice fishing as well as many other fun winter activities like sledding, bobsleigh riding, ice skating and more! The main attraction at the festival is ice fishing, where you can attempt to catch fresh trout from a hole drilled into the ice. You can choose between open-ice fishing (pictured above) or tent fishing (these tend to sell out very quickly).
A fishing rod can be purchased which differs in price depending on the type of artificial bait attached on the line.
Be prepared to sit idly by the hole as you bob your rod up and down, waiting for a trout to bite onto the bait. Bring your own foldable chair or purchase one on-site for comfort!
*Ice fishing is only available depending on the ice conditions. If it is not cold enough, it may not be available as the ice will be too thin, causing it to break easily. If you’re feeling super brave, why not try your hand at fishing for trout with your bare hands? Brrrr… aren’t you shivering just thinking about it? You, along with many other brave souls, will enter a large pool full of trout in just a t-shirt and shorts and attempt to catch grab as many of them with your bare hands.
The best part? You get to feast on what you’ve caught afterward! Choose to enjoy your fish processed raw as sashimi or get it grilled the traditional way over firewood by chefs on standby. Don’t worry if you don’t catch any fish as you can buy them!
If you’re looking for something else to enjoy besides ice fishing, look no further as there’s plenty of recreational activities to do! Choose from snow tubing, ice skating, snow rafting, ice cycling, sledding, spinning rail cars or an ATV (four-wheel motorcycle)! There are even rides like bumper cars and disco pang pang, which is a circular ride that spins around and bounces up and down, accompanied by entertaining comments from the announcer controlling it. Ice sculptures are also scattered around the area for you to take photos with. This festival is something you must check out this winter season as it’s fun for people of all ages. This Shuttle Bus Package offers round-trip transportation for convenience and you’ll also be able to enjoy ice fishing and the activities! Make sure you also check out Yongpyong Ski Resort which is located nearby! With 28 slopes, it’s great for skiers of all levels and features Asia’s longest gondola course spanning 7.4 km!
Alpensia Ski Resort is another great choice with 6 slopes, top-notch leisure facilities and 5-star accommodation. You can enjoy both the ice fishing festivaland skiing at the resorts with our packages! Browse more of our awesome winter tours and ski packages on Trazy.com, Korea’s #1 Travel Shop and plan your trip with us this winter 2016-17!
a service for travelers to easily share and discover the latest hip & hot travel spots from all over the world.
We are currently focusing on Korea as our destination and plan to expand to other countries gradually.
This is the English-language version of an article I published with Newsweek Japan last week.
Is anyone else, among readers living in Korea, amazed at how the coverage of this is now essentially non-stop? If you turn on any of the cable news stations here now, it’s Park Geun Hye all day all the time.
My big concern is that she stays on, perhaps surviving an impeachment vote or somehow or other lurching on into the spring next year, while facing regular demonstrations. How much longer will those protests say so peaceful? To date, they have been remarkably non-violent. But civil unrest is not hard to imagine if a hugely unpopular president stays in office for months and months with an approval rating around 4%. Even Park seemed to realize this when she gave that kinda-sorta resignation speech last Wednesday.
And the answer to the post title question is yes, in case you haven’t figure that out yet. Let’s just hope the Norks don’t pull some hijink while the ROKG is frozen like this. God forbid we have some executive-vs-legislative battle over who leads the response.
My previous writing on this scandal is here.
The full essay follows the jump.
he scandal around South Korean president Park Geun Hye and her disgraced confidante is spinning out of control. Park is unlikely to step down, and the barriers to impeachment in South Korea are high, so she is likely to hang grimly onto her office. But her obstinance in the face of massive social resistance is paralyzing government in Seoul. Should she stay for the remaining fifteen months of her term, South Korea may well become ungovernable. It will be unclear who will wield legitimate authority when the president is so widely loathed, and if the street protests and opposition resistance continue, as is expected. The constant threat of North Korean provocation means a long period of stasis presents a strategic risk as well.
The Choi Soon Sil Scandal
The president’s close associate, Choi Soon Sil, has been a family friend for decades. Choi’s father apparently convinced an impressionable young Park that he could commune with her dead mother. When Choi the father died, it appears that his daughter, Soon Sil, stepped into his emerging role as spiritual advisor to Park. The influence of the Chois over Park has been widely likened to Rasputin’s influence over the last czar of Russia. Park herself has not disclosed the details of the relationship, but we do know now that she granted Choi extraordinarily wide reach within her administration, even though Choi had no relevant training or experience in politics. Choi then traded on this influence to amass wealth and favors for herself.
So bizarre is this and so wide was Choi’s reach, that the scandal has provoked the largest, most sustained street demonstrations in Korea since the democratization protests of the 1980s. More than one million South Koreans protested on Saturday November 12, a staggering 2% of the entire national population on the streets at one time. Choi apparently influenced areas as wide-ranging as the presidential wardrobe, presidential staffing choices, and North Korea policy. All this was conducted in secret, which much bureaucratic infighting as some staff sought to limit Choi’s power. Apparently the president even took action against those staffers, replacing them with others who would not challenge Choi. When all this broke, local media portrayed Park as a string puppet; the international press picked-up this interpretation as well. Park’s approval rating crashed to below 5%. The opposition parties abjured all cooperation with the administration, while Park’s party wants her to exit the party and govern as an independent. Should the National Assembly choose to impeach Park, much would defend on how these former party supporters would vote.
What if Park Stays?
Park almost certainly will not resign. She has not responded to the protests, and she has opened her administration to an independent prosecutor to placate public opinion. An old associate of her father’s (he was also president), Kim Jong Pil, said in a widely covered interview that she is too stubborn to step aside. Impeachment is possible, but the opposition must muster a two-thirds majority of the National Assembly (200 out of 300 MPs), on top of which the Korean high court, the Constitutional Court must also concur with a two-thirds majority (six of nine justices). This latter requirement blocked the impeachment of a previous president in 2004.
But with public opinion so strongly against her, plus the opposition parties and some of Park’s own party members, the real question is, can she govern if she stays? The National Assembly will almost certainly reject any meaningful cooperation on legislation. Street protests, endless media coverage, and rolling investigations that seems to uncover more with each passing week, will distract the administration so much, that little presidential or staff time will remain for the affairs of state. As American president Richard Nixon sought to fight off the Watergate investigation, it consumed so much of the White House staff’s time, that the administration was effectively paralyzed. One could easily foresee the same thing happening here.
Park has suggested conceding power over domestic policy to the prime minister. But the opposition, sensing blood in the water and keen to win next year’s presidential election, has dragged its feet on this. This would also probably generate major policy confusion, as the Korean prime minister’s role to date has been to be a president-in-waiting, like the American vice president, rather than to guide policy. It is easy to predict that this newly empowered PM would clash with the sitting president creating gridlock, as is frequently the case in countries with both a powerful president and PM. There is no Korean precedent or constitutional direction for such a prime ministership. This would be uncharted waters.
This Will End
The good news is that South Korea is scheduled to have a presidential election on December 20, 2017, with the inauguration on February 25, 2018. That at least puts a time limit on the chaos. A scandal of this magnitude, the greatest in South Korean democratic history, could have been disastrous in Park’s early years. But fifteen months is still a long time for a democratic government to be effectively paralyzed like this. Except for Watergate, I am hard-pressed to think of any other modern democracy frozen in crisis for such a long time.
If Park stays, her administration will nonetheless be neutered. She will be a care-taker, riding out the reminder of her term. The parliament will give her nothing. A technocratic PM may be able to make small decisions, but were any major issues or crises to arise, it is simply unclear who would rule. This would be a dangerous time for any democracy. Rabble rousers and troublemakers might arise. Civil unrest is even possible if Park insists on her full presidential privileges in the face of a nearly united rejection of her presidency. And of course, always lurking in the background is North Korea, ever-ready to take advantage of trouble and disarray in the South.
The greatest risk, should South Korea descend into ungovernable stasis next year, is indecisiveness in the face of a North Korean provocation. North Korea is notorious for its efforts to intervene and disrupt South Korean life. Many analysts believe North Korea times its provocations, such as missile launches, to influence South Korean political decisions and elections. Even were Park’s popularity very high, North Korean action next year around events such as US-South Korean military drills is entirely predictable.
The international fallout could expand beyond North Korean opportunism should the crisis grind on. To date, the major states in Korea’s foreign relations have remained quiet. All have their own scandals too, and even in her troubles, Park Geun Hye compares favorably to the tyrants of the Chinese Communist Party or irresponsible populist Donald Trump. Nonetheless three problems will arise in the coming months as serious foreign policy decisions can no longer be put off:
First, can Park’s administration convincingly negotiate the trade deals which are the life-blood of Korea’s export economy? A Central American Free Trade Agreement with a bloc of small Latin American states is nearing completion. In normal circumstances, this would be non-controversial, but now it is unclear if the opposition will ratify the deal. To schedule a vote on the deal and support it would signal business as usual, a return to normalcy with Park submitting legislation to the assembly, and MPs voting on it as required. Yet the assembly’s majority has declared her unfit for office. To work with her would undercut that position and ‘normalize’ her continuation in office.
Second, can Park push the South Korean public toward unpopular foreign agreements such as intelligence sharing with Japan on North Korea, or American THAAD missile defense in the region? Traditionally, presidents (or prime ministers) in democracies can use the ‘bully pulpit’ to persuade and cajole the public to endorse policies which otherwise might be controversial. Park has done so in the past regarding outreach to China on North Korea, and THAAD. But public support for THAAD is fragile, and for intelligence sharing it is low (around 30%). A functional Park administration could move those public numbers by launching a concerted national campaign of persuasion and discussion in the media, parliament, and presidential addresses. That is all but impossible now, because the scandal is becoming all-consuming and her approval rating is historically low. Intelligence sharing with Japan will likely fail this year, as it did four years ago, and the left is unlikely to give up on THAAD now that the president is in so much trouble. THAAD is scheduled for deployment next year; the scandal opens renewed opportunities to fight it.
Finally, as Park shows herself unable to deliver the Korean public support for important foreign policy decisions, foreign leaders will increasingly ignore her. If Shinzo Abe, for example, figures her approval rating is so poor that she cannot deliver intelligence sharing, why even try to pursue it now? Why not simply wait for her successor? As Park flails on foreign policy issues such as THAAD, simply due to scandal gridlock, foreign leaders will treat her as a lame-duck and forestall Korean deals until spring 2018.
Hence the obvious strategic vulnerability of ongoing chaos at the highest levels in Seoul. This is a gift to North Korea, precisely the sort of episode it uses to tell its people that South Korea is corrupt and decadent, precisely the sort of disruption it could worsen with even more disruption. Indeed, I would not be at all surprised if, somewhere in Pyongyang’s backrooms, there was not active discussion of how to take advantage of this mess. Were North Korea to lash out, who could authoritatively shape the South Korean response? Can Park, if she is facing months of street and parliamentary obstruction? Would the left, which has traditionally been somewhat sympathetic to North Korea, support a president whom it demands should be impeached? The potential for trouble is extraordinary.
Department of Political Science & Diplomacy
Pusan National University