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Korea’s Healthily Bland Presidential Race

Wed, 2017-05-24 01:56
Korea’s Healthily Bland Presidential Race

This is a re-post of my pre-election prediction piece for the Lowy Institute a few weeks ago.

It’s dated now of course, so you should probably read something else. But, I think I broadly got things right: Korea is a stalemated society. Neither right, left, nor center has a majority. So even though Moon won, he won’t govern far too the left. He does not have the political space to do it. He will be a social democrat, not a socialist.

The left won, but its combined total, 47%, is the same as Moon’s 2012 total. So the left missed a huge chance to cross 50%. Choi-gate was a once-in-a-lifetime chance for the left to prove it could win a national majority, which it has never done, and it failed. This is practically a smoking gun that the left cannot win a majority here, that South Korea is a center-right society.

The right ducked a huge bullet by coming in second. Had Ahn beaten the Liberty Korea party, LK might have faded into a largish third party as the People’s Party assumed the role of the head of the opposition. For much of the race, polling suggested this. Hong got very lucky, given the SK right is now a national embarrassment. They stuck with Park way too long into Choi-gate, and then Hong, in wild desperation, started calling himself the ‘Donald Trump of Korea,’ whatever the hell that means. Ech. The SK right’s time in the wilderness is well-deserved.

The center flopped. Ahn has been saying for 7 years that he could be president, and when he finally got the chance, he imploded. His debate performances proved how soft his support was. When he flamed out on TV, his voters fled. The question now is whether Ahn has a future at all in SK politics after such a dismal showing after all the hype. The answer is probably no.

The full essay follows the break:



After months of turmoil and confusion, South Korea will finally have a proper president next week. The South Korean presidential election will occur on May 9, and the legal inauguration will happen next day. At last, a legitimate leader can begin tackling the many issues of “South Korea’s dangerous drift.”

The impeachment of former President Park Geun-Hye means South Korea now only has an ‘acting president.’ The ‘Choi-gate’ scandal which brought her down has rolled on since October, paralyzing the government for months and necessitating this special election. Hence the rushed next-day inauguration, even if there is some later public ceremony: South Korea needs a fully empowered president as soon as possible.

Thankfully, the presidential campaign has been reassuringly bland and normal. There has been no last-minute constitutional tinkering, nor efforts by Park dead-enders to sabotage this in the name of the ‘real president.’ Park’s own party has accepted her impeachment and is running a candidate. As I argued last month in The Interpreter, for all the ‘crisis’ talk about South Korea’s recent troubles, it has weathered Choi-gate about as well as any democracy could reasonably expect. This election has should produce a properly legitimated president, and things should revert to normal in short order.

With a week to go in the campaign, the specific challenges to each major partisan current – right, left, and center – are increasingly clear:

The Right

The Korean right has all but collapsed. The Park-era conservative party desperately re-named itself and then factionalized over Park’s legacy. The two conservative candidacies refuse to merge, and their combined polling is around 20%. This is a partisan wipe-out worse than the post-Watergate routs of the Republicans in the US in 1974 and 1976.

This is not surprisingly. Park has badly discredited Korea’s traditional conservatives. Conservative voters have flirted with the centrist candidate, Ahn Chul-Soo, to block a liberal victory. But he imploded after several poor debate performances. Conservative voters now seem to be drifting all over the place. Some back to the right; some cleaving to Ahn; others staying at home. The liberal candidate and likely victor, Moon Jae-In, has even made a play for these dissatisfied conservatives by publicly denouncing homosexuality (which in turn has helped push up the far-left’s numbers as leftist voters have bolted).

All in all, a disaster for the right, which has led to a desperation move: the primary right-wing candidate is now calling himself the ‘Donald Trump of Korea.’ This suggests, along with Marine LePen’s advance into the French presidential election’s second round, that Trump is a possible model for new political entrepreneurs in democracies. Is this the route by which the post-Park South Korean right will reconstruct itself? Traditionally the right’s planks have been anti-communism and business friendliness. In practice, this has often meant mccarthyism and corruption. It is hard to imagine that a trumpified right is an improvement.

The Left


Moon, the overwhelming favorite now, will be a minoritarian president with a final total around 40%. This will likely constrain him from governing too far to the left on North Korea and Japan, which is probably the greatest anxiety of foreign observers of the election. Moon has prevaricated on the Terminal High Altitude Area Defense (THAAD) missile defense debate. He has hinted that he may re-open the Kaesong Industrial Complex. He was also a major architect of the Sunshine Policy under South Korea’s last liberal president. And he has criticized the ‘comfort women’ deal between Park and Japanese Prime Minister Abe Shinzo, as well as an intelligence sharing deal with Japan.

Moon’s instincts may be to push all these issues hard, but he will meet a wall of resistance, which his liberal predecessors did not. In 1998, when the Sunshine Policy was untested, it was worth a try. Today, given North Korea’s continual recalcitrance and norm-breaking – nuclearization, missilization, criminality, blatant provocations such as the sinking of the Southern warship Cheonan in 2010 or the use of VX, a weapon of mass destruction, in an airport, and so on – Moon will have to explain why North Korea is not the frightening global menace many now see it as. Why is Kaesong, which came to be widely understood as subsidizing dictatorship, suddenly no longer that? Why, if North Korea is building missiles, should South Korea not have missile defense?

Regarding Japan, Moon will likely be tougher on ‘history’ issues than Park. But here too, he will face a lot of resistance if he tries to undo the progress of the last few years. The easiest thing to do politically is attack Park’s Japan deals as conservative perfidy but leave them in place. Otherwise, his presidency will be hijacked by a return, yet again, of the Japan-Korea dispute. That was so bad a few years ago that it required direct intervention by the US president to tamp down. Moon can throw the leftist-nationalist NGOs the concession of not moving the comfort women statues in front the Japanese Seoul embassy or Busan consulate. But he likely has many other plans – chaebol reform, intelligence reform, air quality improvement, social services, North Korea – he would rather pursue than re-open the permanently stalemated stand-off with Japan.

The Center

Ahn Chul-Soo will probably lose, and he was always an unlikely candidate. A quirky celebrity businessman seeking office along the lines of Arnold Schwarzenegger’s run for the Californian governorship, Ahn briefly closed the gap with Moon as conservative voters abandoned the conservative parties. But he did not deeply appeal to them, because he markets himself as a modernizing reformer. Once he stumbled in the debates, they left him, and the gap with Moon re-opened.

If Ahn goes down in defeat, the big follow-on question is whether his centrist People’s Party will survive. It has always been, more or less, a vehicle for Ahn to run for the presidency, with only scant evidence of institution-building toward a genuine or durable party.


South Korea now has a far-left, center-left, centrist, and two center-right parties. Yet its electoral law is (mostly) first-past-the-post. Duverger’s Law tells us that this strongly incentives bipartism, unlike the multipartism South Korea has now. After next Tuesday, the two conservative parties will likely re-merge, as is already happening, and the People’s Party, with its not-so-charismatic-after-all leader in defeat, will likely dissipate over time. This would return South to a 2.5 party system (big-tent right, big-tent left, & small far-left parties). This would be yet more blandness in Korean politics – multipartism is always more exciting and interesting – but after months of confusion, some political boringness would likely be a good thing.

Filed under: Domestic Politics, Elections, Korea (South), Lowy Institute

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



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White Koreans: The Drink ‘The Dude’ Would Have Drank If He Lived Here

Fri, 2017-05-19 08:21
White Koreans: The Drink ‘The Dude’ Would Have Drank If He Lived Here

You’re in Korea. You love White Russians. But, damn, 33,000 won for a small bottle of Absolut at GS25? Get the GTFO out of here, good shopkeeper.

Fortunately, there’s another liquor that might get you sicker quicker, but at least it’s cheaper.

Photo hijacked from Wikimedia Commons.

Your average green-tinted bottle of soju costs about 1,500 won, give or take a Korean penny, which comes out to about $1.50, give or take an American dime. With an alcohol content between 14 (for those weak-ass flavored sojus that were pretty popular about two years ago but seem to have died down) to the punchy 21 percent your finest haraboji were shotgunning when they were young whippersnappers (and probably still drink today). They’re alcoholic enough to get you where you want to go (if where you want to go is on the floor in front of some dirty public toilet) without being strong enough to feel like you’re breathing in fire after having a shot. In short, soju is a perfect enabler for alcoholism.

Except for the fact that it kind of tastes like shit. So, let’s take care of that by adding some coffee liqueur and milk!

Using regular milk instead of cream. #healthychoices

But, since I’m so fancy, I opted for the Andong Soju they had at my local mart. It’s not 1,500 won. But, at 8,000 won, it was still far cheaper than Absolut (even if the bottle is small, shut up). And look at that ABV. There also was a 21% version for 5,000 won. But, this is probably the closest thing you’re going to get to vodka without, you know, vodka.

I took a sip of the stuff before mixing it, which could have been a mistake (but, it wasn’t!). Soju might be lazily (by me) described as kind of a watered-down vodka, but it’s really not. And 40% ABV soju is even less like watered-down vodka than the adjosshi backwash we knock back when we’re trying to stretch our hagwon paychecks through to the end of the month. Was this experiment going to work? Could I call it a “fusion recipe” and get away with it?

Let’s make a drink!


INGREDIENTS and AMOUNTS per serving:

*Fill a glass with ice. I think an old fashioned glass would be the preferred choice, but I’m already too fancy. Use what you have on hand.

*1 shot soju (don’t get one of those nasty, artificially-flavored ones. Step up your game and open that wallet just a little wider and pick up something halfway decent like the above libation)

*1 shot coffee liqueur (I bought Kahlua, which seems really expensive here in Korea at about 16,000 won for a 375ml bottle at Home plus. I have no idea how much it costs in the U.S. Everyone knows it, everyone who likes coffee liqueur seems to enjoy it. It’s like getting crappy coffee from Dunkin’ Donuts or a great, hand-stimulated drip from some independent place. It all will taste the same when it’s mixed with sugar and milk)

*Finish with milk (didn’t The Dude powdered Coffeemate? That’s disgusting! To each their own. I think really fancy White Russian drinkers would use cream, but I only had milk when I thought of this half-assed recipe)

Posted only as an excuse to show off my Icelandic Phallological Museum shot glass.

So, how was it? How did it compare to the White Russians we made too many of last year when my girlfriend and I were taking advantage of our Costco membership by buying massive 1.75-liter bottles of Kirkland vodka?

Even Dunkin’ Donuts coffee doesn’t taste like Dunkin’ Donuts coffee (read: terrible) when it’s full of sugar and milk. And, this coffee-esque flavored drink was. Not terrible. And, it didn’t taste like soju. It tasted like coffee liqueur and milk. It pretty much tasted like what we were making last year with that Kirkland vodka. Hell, maybe even “The Dude” would approve.

Insert post-ironic Big Lebowski quote here. Something about rugs, abiding or telling Donny to shut up.

If that’s something that sounds tasty to you, I recommend you give this humble recipe a try. And, if you do decide to go cheap and get a green bottle, let me know how it turns out. I assume it, too, will taste like coffee liqueur and milk.


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

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My New York Times Op-Ed: A North Korea “Agenda for SK’s New Leader”

Wed, 2017-05-17 01:42
A North Korea “Agenda for SK’s New Leader”

This is a local re-post of an op-ed I wrote last week for The New York Times.

Basically it is four suggestions to President Moon on dealing with North Korea. They are (mildly) hawkish arguments of the sort I routinely make here, including all my favorite hobby horses – talks are a shell game, move the capital, spend more on defense, bang away at China to cut off North Korea, and start treating Japan like a liberal democratic ally instead of a potential imperialist. Naturally a dovish liberal like Moon will adopt all these. Hooray! I anticipate a Blue House call any day now…

Regular readers have seen all this before, but it’s still pretty cool to get into The New York Times though. I figure this will be the most read thing I ever write, so I rolled out arguments I know well rather than something really new. The full essay follows the jump.



South Koreans elected Moon Jae-in as their new president on Tuesday against a backdrop of heightened United States-North Korean tensions. Yet North Korea did not dominate the campaign. South Korean voters were focused on the economy, corruption and other domestic issues like air quality. Before the voting, only 23 percent of voters said that international security was the most important issue to them.

Mr. Moon, a center-left human rights lawyer who will take office as soon as this week following the ouster of former President Park Geun-hye in a corruption scandal, is a dove inclined to start negotiations with the North Korean leader, Kim Jong-un. His candidacy was most likely bolstered by President Trump’s tough talk against the North Korean regime, which is widely seen here as dangerous bluster.

South Korean equanimity toward the North’s threats surprises Westerners, but the South Koreans have lived for decades with Pyongyang’s provocations and, more recently, the nuclear program. Young South Koreans increasingly consider the North Korean menace a fact of life. South Korea’s vulnerability to a devastating attack from the North — Seoul’s northernmost suburbs begin just 20 miles from the demilitarized zone — adds to the sense here that the South should do everything it can to avoid war.

An overture from the incoming Moon administration to start talks with Pyongyang should be made with caution. Engagement with North Korea has a mixed, if not poor, record, and new talks would be more effective if started from a position of strength. It is vital that Mr. Moon pursue policies to decrease his country’s vulnerability to attack, while dangling the possibility of talks. Beijing and Washington are key to any deal with North Korea, but Seoul can do a lot on its own.

South Korea spends only 2.6 percent of its gross domestic product on defense. To strengthen Seoul’s negotiating position, Mr. Moon could indicate he will spend more on military preparedness. Civil defense (preparation of the civilian population for North Korean urban strikes), improved pay for conscripts, more intelligence, homegrown missile defense and stronger cyberdefense would help make up for Seoul’s military vulnerabilities.

South Korea and Japan could work together much more to show a united front. Such coordination is undercut by persistent tension over the history of Japanese colonialism in Korea. South Korea’s historical concerns with Japan have legitimate roots, but there is too much exaggeration — such as routine suggestions in the media that Japan is remilitarizing with designs on Asia — and not enough recognition that modern Japan is a liberal democracy and a potential ally against the North.

Seoul and Tokyo should agree to avoid separate deals with the North and reject Pyongyang’s efforts to play them against each other. Mr. Moon and his left-wing base are hostile to a recently signed South Korea-Japan intelligence-sharing pact, but he should consider that South Korea benefits from it more than Japan. Military cooperation in adjoining air and sea spaces would be ideal.

To further improve South Korea’s position, Seoul and Washington need to persuade Beijing to reduce trade with North Korea. Pyongyang is dependent on China for resources and access to the world economy. Cutting off North Korea would slow the nuclear and missile programs, and a reduction in luxury imports would put pressure on the regime elite.

Beijing is already obligated to enforce the existing sanctions against Pyongyang but does so haphazardly because it fears a North Korean implosion. Mr. Moon should work with Beijing to reassure its anxieties over a post-North Korean order, including the possibility of United States forces on the Chinese border, which prompted Chinese intervention in the original Korean conflict in 1950.

Given Seoul’s vulnerability to attack, Mr. Moon should also do much more to encourage the decentralization of the country away from the Seoul area. Fifty percent of South Korea’s population lives in the Seoul-Gyeonggi-Incheon corridor — 26 million people in a space roughly the size of Connecticut, directly abutting the border. The South Korean presidential residence is only some 23 miles from the demilitarized zone. It is long overdue for the government to start halting Seoul’s uncontrolled growth.

Previous efforts to move the capital have failed. President Roh Moo-hyun tried unsuccessfully to move it 75 miles south to Sejong City — though some government ministries and administrative departments have relocated there since 2004, showing decentralization is possible. There are also tax and regulatory incentives in place for South Korea’s conglomerates, like Samsung and Hyundai, to relocate out of Seoul, but many remain centered in, or directly adjacent to, the city.

The South Korean government already intervenes heavily in the economy. Why not do so to encourage more dispersed settlement?

South Koreans have seen it all from the boy who cried wolf to the North and know what to expect from a third iteration of the Kim dynasty. What no one knows is what Mr. Trump will tweet next. South Koreans don’t know whether Mr. Trump realizes just how vulnerable their country is to attack. But despite their differences, Mr. Trump and Mr. Moon now have a chance to build on their countries’ decades-long alliance.

Filed under: Diplomacy, Foreign Policy, Korea (North), Korea (South), Media, Moon Jae-In, North Korea & the Left, Nuclear Weapons

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



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The 6 Best Online Courses for Learning Korean

Mon, 2017-05-15 14:40
The 6 Best Online Courses for Learning Korean

If you’re in the process of learning the Korean language, you’ve probably already considered all of the obvious ways that knowing Korean will enrich your life, like the fact that you’ll be able to watch Korean dramas without subtitles, or listen to your favorite k-pop songs and know the meaning! Plus if you choose to visit South Korea you won’t need a dictionary or phrase book to get around.

After learning Korean, they have no trouble finding their way

Learning Korean will ultimately open a door into another culture for you to experience — suddenly you’ll have access to a whole new world of movies, books, and conversations that you didn’t have access to before!

Although these reasons make learning Korean worth it, the learning process can sometimes feel frustrating if you run into an issue with understanding a word or phrase. Luckily, these days learning a language doesn’t have to be difficult — nowadays, with online courses at your fingertips language learning resources are extremely accessible to learners at all levels. And many aspects of Korean are very easy to learn from your home, like the Korean alphabet. With the click of a mouse and a couple of keystrokes, you have access to hundreds of websites and blogs whose express purpose is to make your learning journey a piece of cake!

Learning has never been so convenient and easy!

There’s no need to visit Seoul right off the bat to learn the language — help is everywhere. With the hundreds of resources on the internet, it can be difficult to determine which resources will be a good fit for you, especially because everyone’s learning style is different.

*Ready to learn Korean yet? Click here to learn about our 90 Day Korean learning program!

Read on for a list of our favorite Korean learning courses available, and be sure to let us know if we are forgetting any in the comments below!

** Please note: these courses are in no particular order! We love them all equally. **

Online Course #1: FluentU

Some of the most successful language learning resources focus on real life material rather than material recorded expressly for the purpose of teaching a language — by exposing learners to movies, songs, and TV show clips right off of the bat, learning stays interesting to the viewer (and gives them a chance to use their new language skills right away). FluentU uses this method, and it’s no wonder that they’re so popular!

FluentU is comprised of multiple mini language lessons that highlight present day media to teach the Korean language. This can help keep their audience from getting burnt out — as soon as you feel like tuning out and taking a break, an interesting Korean drama clip or movie trailer will pop up and make the lesson exciting.

FluentU is accessible to all levels of Korean learners — they have beginner lessons that will teach you the absolute basics and get you introduced to the language, and then as you progress they have a wide selection of intermediate and advanced lessons that will follow. FluentU also keeps track of your interests as you go along and will show you clips that match those interests, so it’s a truly personalized learning approach.

There’s a FluentU iPhone app, so your learning doesn’t have to stop when it’s time to put your computer away. Check out FluentU for a fun, accessible Korean learning method that everyone is talking about!

Online Course #2: Udemy

If you’re just getting started with learning Korean and you need a solid overview of the basics of the Korean language, Udemy has a course called “Learn Korean! Start speaking now!” that is a great foundation to the ins and outs of Korean.

The intro course spans five hours, but it’s approachable because it’s segmented into over sixty mini lectures that teach you a couple of words or grammatical rules at a time. This is perfect if you’re the type of learner that needs to take breaks throughout a study session — because the lectures are so short, you won’t need to pause anything and worry about picking up where you left off later. You can just take a break in between lectures and get started on a new topic when you’re feeling ready!

Check out Udemy if you’re not a big fan of learning Korean from books and prefer a video interface. The site itself is very easy to navigate, and the content of the mini lectures will build the foundation that you’ll use throughout your learning journey.

Online Course #3: Seoul National Education Center

If you’re learning Korean, today is your lucky day — Seoul National University, one of the best universities in South Korea, has its very own Korean learning course that you can begin today!

This online course is a great supplement to any language classes you happen to be taking. The courses are well structured and cover topics ranging from vocabulary to syntax to conversation, so there really is a little bit of everything and all of the basics will be thoroughly covered.

The course itself consists 20 free courses that will help you cultivate your basic understanding of the Korean language. One of the best parts of the course is the follow-up questions that pop up after each part of the course is completed — when you’re able to check your knowledge and understanding at the end of each segment, it’s less likely that you’ll forget material or progress to the next course until you are confident in what you’ve learned.

Check out Seoul National Education Center’s course if you’re interested in learning Korean from a prestigious university. You can even download the audio clips to review whenever you’re on the go, so there are truly no excuses for not keeping up with your studies!

Online Course #4: Loecsen

If you’re more interested in learning phrases and basic conversation than you are learning about Korean language structure, Loecsen is the online course for you! Loecsen is perfect for anyone who needs some familiarity with the Korean language for a quick trip but isn’t looking to commit the hours required to become fluent in the language.

Unlike some of the courses on this list, Loecsen only has 15 lessons (which may come as a relief!) that cover the basics required for Korean conversation. While you’re going through the 15 lessons, you’ll cover everything from ordering at a bar, what to do if you injure yourself and need to talk about medical information, and how to tell a taxi driver where to take you. All of the lessons are extremely pertinent to day to day conversations. To help you remember vocabulary words, Loecsen will ask you to match audio clips of words to their written form and a picture that represents the meaning. Pretty cool, huh?

If you’re planning a trip to Korea sometime in the near future and you need a crash course to help you navigate the country and enjoy your trip, consider checking out Loecsen to help make you comfortable with speaking basic conversational Korean. The site even has quizzes you can print out to make sure you don’t forget anything!

Online Course #5: Sogang Online

If you’re searching for an intensive course that will help you dive into the nitty gritty aspects of the Korean language, Sogang is the course for you! Whether you’re a beginner or you’ve been studying Korean for a while, Sogang will have lessons available for you in their vast database.

Sogang courses are challenging but extremely rewarding — the courses use media ranging from audio to fun animations to keep learning exciting for you. Keep in mind, because these courses are more intensive than many Korean learning courses out there, you should be prepared to give them your full attention. These definitely aren’t courses that work well playing in the background as you’re multi-tasking — because they pack so much information into such a brief time, it’s best to take notes!

Check out Sogang if you’re interested in eventually becoming fluent in Korean. These courses will help you achieve that goal quickly!

Online Course #6: 90DayKorean

90DayKorean is a course specifically designed to get you speaking, reading, and writing Korean as soon as possible with no previous experience required. We make sure that we figure out what your personal goals are as you get started with our program, and you have a personal coach that checks in with you and sees where you’re at in relation to those goals as you progress through the program.

At 90DayKorean, we’re big fans of the “learn at your own pace” philosophy — if a course is moving too slowly, you’ll get bored, and if it’s moving too quickly, you’ll feel overwhelmed. Both of these outcomes mean you’ll be less likely to stay committed to your learning method. We’ll send you weekly lessons, but you can move through them at a pace that’s right for you. If life gets too busy to commit hours a week to learning, it’s not a problem! You can wait until you’re less busy and then pick right up where you left off and keep moving through the material.

Obviously we love our course and have great things to say about it, but we are firm believers that you should do some research and decide what course best fits your needs before diving into the learning process. If you find a course that’s a good fit, you’re way more likely to see it through to the end and get the most out of it!

Have you started learning Korean online? What are some courses you really enjoyed? Share with us in the comments below!

Learn to read Korean and be having simple conversations, taking taxis and ordering in Korean within a week with our FREE Hangeul Hacks series: http://www.90DayKorean.com/learn

Korean lessons   *  Korean Phrases    *    Korean Vocabulary *   Learn Korean   *    Learn Korean alphabet   *   Learn Korean fast   *  Motivation    *   Study Korean  


Please share, help Korean spread! 



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My New Fiction Book!!

Sun, 2017-05-14 09:52
My New Fiction Book!!

Hello Again Everyone!!

I’m extremely to announce, once more, the publication of an all new book. This time, it’s my first attempt at fiction with The Lonely Saint.

In The Lonely Saint, and unbeknownst to Sean, his life has mirrored an ancient set of Zen Buddhist murals. Since graduating from university with an English degree and a suffocating amount of debt, Sean Masters decides that he wants to teach and travel abroad; however, his life seems to be anything but ordinary as he negotiates the culture and seamier sides of living and teaching in South Korea. It’s only through his loss of everything, including his wife to a horrible accident, that Sean is able to find peace in the most unlikely of places. In the end, it’s with the Zen Ox-Herding murals as a guide that Sean Masters is finally able to go from a life of ignorance to that of enlightenment.

You can order The Lonely Saint through Amazon.com either in hard copy or as an e-book.

You can order the hard copy here.

And you can order the e-book here.

If you’d like a signed copy for $20 dollars (plus shipping and handling) of my book, please contact me at: dostoevsky_21_81@yahoo.com   We can discuss the details.

Please support this free website by ordering your copy today!


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It’s Easy (and Cheap!) to Cook at Home in Korea

Fri, 2017-05-12 02:06

Food is a connection to culture.

Whether it’s for comfort or simply sustenance, food is essential. Of course, eating for survival is important, but isn’t it better when it’s more than just a way to stay alive? Food’s fun. To make. To talk about. To write about, for sure. But, mostly to eat.

For people living in a new country, a familiar food can help get them over the initial growing pains that usually come before, during and/or after the Honeymoon Phase phases out. Until there was one in pretty much every neighborhood, news of a new Subway restaurant opening in Busan was met with praise far outsized compared to how people respond when another one opens in a strip mall in New Jersey.  Likewise, when people leave Korea, many will give themselves a nostalgia injection with a trip to a Korean restaurant, or a Korean supermarket if they’re lucky to live near one, to have a taste of something that is connected to a very specific place and point in their lives.

When I first arrived in Jinju in 2005, my diet was mostly things served at my hagwon or the few things I could recognize at the nearby Top Mart. Spaghetti, bananas, cereal, the sushi wastefully wrapped in individual plastic sheets. Cigarettes.

In 2010, I expanded slightly, to orange juice and dried squid. Once I came back for a long haul in 2013, I still had to deal with the initial growing pains that seemed to crop up no matter how many times I’d moved back here. My comfort foods became those I had ordered enough that I didn’t feel like a fool when I would try to order them in the nearby restaurants. Kimchi Jjigae. Chamchi Gimbap. Dwaeji Gukbap (a soup so satisfying, they wrote a song about it).

Most of my meals were enjoyed outside of my home. Why? Partially because I lived alone and was too lazy to put any effort into making a meal for one. Maybe I didn’t always know where to go to buy what I wanted to make. But a lot of it was fear of looking like I didn’t know what I was doing. It resulted in lots of convenience store meals and, when I did decide to cook at home, a lot of microwave rice bowls and fried eggs. But, it doesn’t have to be that way.

Last year, my girlfriend and I moved in together. With it, a world of cooking at home expanded. Sure, I’d cooked some meals at home before. But, with an audience, the stakes got higher. I wanted to impress her with my expertise at not burning the water. I wanted a meal good enough I might eventually want to tell others about it.

We have cooked many meals together. With it, we’re creating our own subculture, separate but inspired by our mutual American roots, our Korean influences, and our mutual love of exploring the world through food. It’s uniquely ours.

In this ongoing series (the second time attempting such a thing, sort of), I am going to be posting some lovely photos of meals we’ve made and how we made them (the recipes we used, the places we procured the stuff needed to make them). “Best,” of course, is subjective. Sometimes “best” is exactly what you expect it to be: the highest quality something or another. But, sometimes “best” simply means the foods that helped get us over our growing pains.

TL;DR Here’s what we eat in Korea. Cooking at home doesn’t have to be scary. In fact, it can be an outlet for great joy, and it does not have to cost a fortune.

Creamy Mushroom Soup
(Adapted from this recipe on Serious Eats)

For this creamy mushroom soup, a blend of various mushrooms such as button, cremini and shitake is called for in the original recipe. However, we used two bags of shitake mushrooms (called “pyo-go-boh-seot,” 표고버섯) on discount (about 2,500 won a bag) from the Emart discount rack.

Discount racks are an excellent source of cheap vegetables that are still good, and definitely still good for a soup that will be blended like this. Shitake mushrooms can be particularly earthy, but it worked out well for this soup. If you want it a little milder, make sure to hold out for some discount button mushrooms, as well.

Other alterations to the original recipe included using about a tablespoon of dried thyme instead of fresh (I have never seen fresh thyme sold in Korea. If you’ve seen it, especially in Busan, please let me know where in the comments. Or, I could just try to grow it). White wine was used (some chardonnay from Chile that was at Kim’s Club for 13,000 won. Tres Palacionaois, or something like that. It’s fine, nothing special, not terrible). We minced five garlic cloves instead of four (because garlic), and our stock was a combination of a mushroom seasoning powder that can be found at any Korean mart or supermarket, as well as some old homemade vegetable stock that had been taking up space in the freezer for a couple months. Everything else was pretty much according to the recipe and can be easily found in most Korean marts and supermarkets.

THE ORIGINAL RECIPE, courtesy of Serious Eats:

  • 4 tablespoons unsalted butter (50g)

  • 2 pounds mixed mushrooms such as button, cremini, portabello, or shiitake (1kg), sliced

  • Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper

  • 1 medium onion, finely chopped (about 8 ounces; 225g)

  • 4 medium cloves garlic, minced

  • 2 tablespoons flour (45g)

  • 1 cup dry sherry or white wine (235ml)

  • 1 cup milk (235ml)

  • 5 cups (1.2L) homemade or store-bought low-sodium chicken stock, or water

  • 2 bay leaves

  • 2 sprigs fresh thyme

  • Squeeze of lemon juice (optional)

  • Minced fresh herbs such as parsley, chervil, tarragon, and chives for serving.

  • Drizzle extra-virgin olive oil, for serving

  1. Melt butter in a large saucepan or Dutch oven over medium-high heat. Add mushrooms, season with salt and pepper, and cook, stirring frequently, until liquid has evaporated and mushrooms are well-browned, about 12 minutes total. Add onion and cook, stirring, until softened, about 3 minutes. Add garlic and cook until fragrant, about 30 seconds. Add flour and stir to combine.
  2. Add sherry or wine and cook until reduced by about half, scraping up browned bits from the bottom of the pan. Add milk, chicken stock, bay leaves, and thyme sprigs and stir to combine. Bring to a bare simmer and cook for 20 minutes.
  3. Using tongs, remove bay leaves and thyme. Blend soup with an immersion blender or in batches using a countertop blender. Season to taste with more salt and pepper and a squeeze of lemon juice (if desired). Serve immediately, garnished with minced herbs and olive oil.

Definitely buy an immersion blender if you see one at, say, Home plus, Emart, Mega Mart or somewhere else (you can also try GMarket). Or, if you happen to see some expat on their way out selling theirs. It is indispensable in the home kitchen. Here’s a good article from Bon Appetit on why an immersion blender should be in your kitchen.

We enjoyed this for dinner with a hearty salad, with lots of veggies grown locally (Busan Organic Vegetables, check them out!). We were stuffed and satisfied.

Here’s the finished product, one more time:

I hope you give this a try soon. It’s easy to make, with ingredients easily procured in pretty much any part of South Korea. And, it’s sure a lot healthier than McDonald’s delivery. The best part was the tons of leftovers that will be for lunch or dinner for the next several days, and the two bowls that are now frozen and ready for a dinner sometime in the future. And everything cost about 7,000 to 8,000 won.

Enjoy, and let me know how yours turned out! And, be sure to check out Serious Eats for this and other great recipes and kitchen tips.

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

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President Moon

Wed, 2017-05-10 02:05
President Moon Good morning, Moon Jae-in of the liberal Democratic Party was elected as Korea’s 19th president with 41.1% of the votes in a snap election following President Park Geun-hye’s impeachment in March, beating a conservative runner-up with 24.0%.  Moon’s election is expected to make a dramatic shift from government polices formed in the past 9 year under conservative Lee Myung-bak and Park Geun-hye leadership.  Born in 1953 to parents who had fled from North Korea to South Korea during the Korean War in 1950, Moon fought against dictatorship as a law student in the 70's, against Park’s own father, and worked as a human rights lawyer in Busan in the 80’s.   He served as a chief of staff under ex-president Roh Moo-hyun who killed himself in a scandal in retirement in 2009.  Moon ran for presidency in 2012, but was narrowly defeated by Park Geun-hye.  From his ideology and political path, it is likely Moon will show his warm heart to North Korea, and reveal sharp teeth towards the U.S. and Japan.   While many South Koreans are happy to see beaming Moon shine in dark nights, Korean business communities are not.  Moon is sympathetic to union, but hostile against conglomerates. Moon wants to lower unemployment rate by hiring more government workers, and  spend big money on social welfare programs, but plans to fund the money through raising corporate taxes and income tax.  Just hope Moon doesn't go too extreme, otherwise  South Koreans will be soon riding on Moon's bullet train to Venezuela.    Regards,H.S.
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North Korea Embraces Changing Economy: Choson Exchange in the DPRK

Mon, 2017-05-08 18:51
North Korea Embraces Changing Economy: Choson Exchange in the DPRK

Listen to "North Korea Embraces Changing Economy: Choson Exchange in the DPRK" on Spreaker.

Choson Exchange is bringing capitalism to the DPRK. 

Since 2009, the Singapore-based non-profit has facilitated training workshops for everyday North Koreans in Economics, Entrepreneurship and Urban Planning in metropolitan Pyongyang and elsewhere around the country.

In this conversation, Choson Exchange Associate Director of Research Dr. Andray Abrahamian discusses how the introduction of some aspects of a free market economy under the Kim Jong-eun regime is changing the way North Koreans look at capitalism. We’ll also talk about the prospects for further change in North Korean society and discuss how initiatives like Chosun Exchange could impact how the United States, South Korea and other countries approach North Korea policy. 

Also: how can political leadership in the United States and the Koreas move past saber-rattling and militaristic rhetoric? How will South Korean policy towards the North change in the post-Park Geun-hye era? And what's it like to fly Air Koryo?

Music on this episode is 'Great Comrade Kim Jong-eun, We Know Nobody But You' from KCTV State Television:

This episode was produced in collaboration with the University of Michigan’s Nam Center for Korean Studies. 

To see Andray Abrahamian’s full Nam Center Undergraduate Fellows lecture, look for “Social Changes You See When Working in North Korea” on Youtube. Subscribe to Nam Center lecture series at 'umichncks'.

    The Korea File

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President Trump “Seriously Undermining” South Korea-U.S. Alliance

Mon, 2017-05-08 11:47
President Trump “Seriously Undermining” South Korea-U.S. Alliance

column recently appeared on NKNews.org that directly made light of how US President Donald Trump has influenced what’s going on here on the Korean Peninsula, & it didn’t paint the new president in a very good light. Under the title “How Donald Trump is seriously undermining the South Korea-U.S. alliance”, the article begins with a description of how things generally operate here regarding North Korea, noting that “As long as North Korea is able to make life a living hell for whoever attempts to engage in regime change or regime collapse… it will always have that assurance that they will not be pushed too hard,” & for that reasons, “the United States & South Korea (& Japan to a certain extent) have coordinated closely over the years to deter North Korea as much as possible.” However, the article is quick to note that things have now changed, & that after Donald Trump’s electoral victory, it has been “nothing but one bumbling fiasco after another.”

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The Commodification of Dokdo Island: Nationalism in the Marketplace

Fri, 2017-05-05 01:18
The Commodification of Dokdo Island: Nationalism in the Marketplace

How do we consume nationalism in the marketplace? And what does it mean to treat nationalism as a commodity? 

In this conversation, Nam Center Postdoctoral Fellow Jiun Bang discusses the commodification surrounding the Dokdo/Takeshima dispute, and challenges some of the traditional assumptions behind our perceptions of nationalism. 

And- a conversation on the strange linguistic character of the name Ehwa Womans University. Bang shares some little known facts about her alma mater. All this and more on episode 67 of The Korea File. 

This episode was produced in collaboration with the University of Michigan’s Nam Center for Korean Studies. 

Music on this episode:
John Lopker's 'My Dear Dokdo' https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=NTSMNaFB8Rkand also 
Kim Kyung-min's 'Dokdo, dokdo, dokdo' https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=JT3NcD5162s


+ Listen to "The Commodification of Dokdo Island: Nationalism in the Marketplace" on Spreaker.

    The Korea File

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Emojis – Here to Stay?

Thu, 2017-05-04 09:39
Emojis – Here to Stay?

It seems that anyone who uses any kind of messaging app (Kakao Talk, Facebook Messenger, SMS, etc.) these days uses emojis to some extent. Even a 46-year-old relative latecomer to chat apps like me tends to use them as a shorthand way of answering affirmatively (thumbs up), to show laughter (as opposed to typing “LOL” which I never quite warmed to), or sometimes just to be silly and try to get a laugh out of someone.

I haven’t had a use for this one. Yet.

This recent piece talks about the ways that East Asian users use emojis, and one of the things I found interesting was the idea that emojis offer softer or more indirect ways of saying things that would be hard to express otherwise for cultural reasons:

“[Emojis] appeal not just to the young but also to middle-aged office workers looking to smooth awkward or delicate situations with bosses, colleagues and family members. [Some emoji sets] include a crotchety grandmother who curses a lot – a softer way for chat-app users to swear in front of their elders – and a loving father-daughter set in which the girl gently admonishes her dad.”

Not everyone is crazy about emojis, for similar reasons why people were initially opposed to the ubiquitous shorthand of text communication in general (cya, omw, lol, OMG, etc). To me emojis serve as a useful supplement to written language, in that they convey that missing element of body language and other visual cues without which it often becomes hard to express humor, sarcasm, anger, levity, seriousness, joy, and a range of other emotional shades that are clearly present in face-to-face speech.

A judiciously chosen emoji can reduce ambiguity and thus lessen the potential for miscommunication, which to me is reason alone to consider it a useful supplement to the written language. My sense is that they’ll stick around in some form. What’s your take?

Groovy Jay ending it all? I’m not sure what to make of this one. Use with caution.




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Running The Pyongyang Marathon As A Foreigner

Mon, 2017-05-01 14:54
Running The Pyongyang Marathon As A Foreigner

Recently, over 1,000 foreign runners participated in the Pyongyang, North Korea Mangyongdae Prize International Marathon. Held every year since 1981, the race only began accepting participants from outside North Korea in 2014, & the very next year, Laura Imkamp was one of those who traveled to North Korea to participate. The Shanghai-based German expat spoke to Korea FM reporter Chance Dorland to describe her experiences & what she learned while running the event.

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Sunday April 23 : Busan International food and crafts market

Sat, 2017-04-22 10:54

From: https://www.facebook.com/events/1885007781779546

The Busan Foreign Culture Market is a regular (usually monthly) event where people come together to share arts, crafts and food from all around the world. 

At the heart of every market is Culture, Community and Charity with us raising money for several local and international charities. 

부산 외국 문화 시장은 사람들이 함께 모이고 세계 각국의 음식과 공예품을 공유하는 곳입니다. 또한, BFCM가 다양한 지역 자선사업을 위해 돈을 모금하고 모금활동에 참여하고 있습니다.

We also believe in reducing waste with the event serving as a donation point where people can bring along unwanted items which we will then sell, donate or re-cycle for charity. Please check out our FAQ section herehttps://www.facebook.com/notes/busan-foreign-culture-market/faqs/628434080694302

To make the event succesful we need the community to support us so if you would like to donate a couple of hours of your time to help out we will welcome you with open arms, it is a great way to meet new people and give back to the community.

Location location location

British pies, sausage rolls, pate & Bakewell tarts
British chocolates, HP sauce, marmite & vegemite
Fudge, brownies, rock cakes & cookies
Massage candles and soaps 
Calligraphy & crochet
Hand sewn postcards and Busan themed accessories 
Jewelry by Broadhead boutique
Hummus, tzatziki and falafel

HQ Bar
Baked goods and cheesecakes
German baked goodies
Pakistani food - biryanis, samosas
Dips, pots pies, pasta
BAPS tables banana bread and chocolate treats

Beached Bar
Clothing donations and donation drop off point
Teddy bear game
Dill Pickles
Vegan and gluten free baked goods
Jewelry & accesories
Monkey bread

Baked goods
Heat packs
Soaps & beauty products
French baked treats 
Desserts & food from the Philippines 
Fabric & embroidery items



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Young Koreans Challenging Politicians & Their Role In South Korean Society

Fri, 2017-04-21 11:03
Young Koreans Challenging Politicians & Their Role In Korean Society

Former South Korean President Park Geun-hye’s presidential career began & ended with firsts, & while countless pieces have been written on the protests that led to her removal from power, one recent writeup from the Canadian weekly current affairs magazine Maclean’s makes the case that that South Korean youth, & the forces they control, are perhaps behind it all. Maclean’s writer Dave Hazzan, formerly based in Seoul, joins Korea FM reporter Chance Dorland to discuss his article & what it reveals about the power of South Korean youth. Read Hazzan’s full article at http://www.macleans.ca/politics/worldpolitics/in-south-korea-the-young-rise-up-against-a-president-and-a-society/.

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This episode is brought to you by SeoulStartups.com, an English speaking community for workers in Korea. Designers, developers and entrepreneurs share and discuss ideas, work, culture, startups, language and integration to the market and life in Korea. Networking in Korea when you don’t speak the local language fluently can be hard. Seoul Startups wants to bring the currently fragmented community into one place, where people can ask for help, advice, learn and make connections that will help them succeed in their career in Korea. Join today at SeoulStartups.com/.

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The post Young Koreans Challenging Politicians & Their Role In South Korean Society appeared first on Korea FM.

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THAAD is Not about Missile Defense anymore

Sun, 2017-04-16 13:23
THAAD is Not about Missile Defense anymore

This is a local re-post of a piece I wrote at The National Interest a few weeks ago. The graphic here comes straight from the Lockheed Martin webpage on THAAD. There’s so much contradictory information floating around about THAAD, maybe it’s best just go to the website and look for yourself. No, I’m not shilling for LM; I have no relationship. I just thought it would be convenient. And yes, I support the THAAD deployment here.

Anyway, this essay is actually about the politics, specifically that China WAY overplayed its hand against the THAAD deployment in South Korea. Now THAAD isn’t about THAAD anymore. The Chinese have ballooned it into such a huge issue, that it’s now about SK sovereignty and freedom to make national security choices without a Chinese veto. If you want to read why I am wrong, here’s my friend Dave Kang to tell you that I am getting carried away.

I still stand by my prediction though: neither Ahn nor Moon will withdraw THAAD even if they’d want to otherwise, because now it would look like knuckling under to China. Maybe the Justice Party candidate would withdraw it, but she is polling at 3%.

The full essay follows the jump:



The South Korean decision to install the Terminal High Altitude Area Defense (THAAD) missile defense system has prompted a major Chinese reaction. The Chinese government has used a wide range of economic pressure against South Korea to reverse its decision. It has severely restricted tourist travel to the country, cancelled cultural events, pursued fatuous regulatory action against the company (Lotte) which sold the land to the South Korean government on which THAAD will be stationed, and, in a move worthy of the ‘freedom fries’ of yore, staged a public bulldozing of bottles of the Korean national alcohol soju.


Campy, yet Serious

This effort is simultaneously ridiculous and clever, campy and serious. On the one hand, it is preposterously obvious that these ‘protests’ are staged. Once again, the Chinese Communist Party (CCP) has demonstrated how woefully out of touch it is with modern democratic opinion. The same apparatchiks who mistake ‘praise’ of North Korean dictator Kim Jong Un in The Onion as the real thing are those who think that a video of a bulldozer driving over soju bottles might somehow appear authentic. If China’s increasing bullying of South Korea over THAAD were not so serious, these hijinks would be comedy material. Indeed my students here in South Korea laugh over this in discussion even as they worry about it.

On the other hand, this a wise way to pressure South Korea if the CCP is absolutely dead-set against a THAAD emplacement in South Korea, which it appears to be. South Korea is a mid-size economy with a few very large exporters selling to a few very large markets. This makes it highly sensitive to the politics of its biggest export markets, of which China is one. Japan too has been targeted in this way by China, but it is more diversified economically than South Korea and so had more flexibility to ride out Chinese displeasure. China has also used these tactics in southeast Asia.

The CCP also retains plausible deniability by routing this pressure obliquely through nongovernmental actors. There has been little overt, ‘track 1’ pressure, likely because Beijing is hoping South Korea will back down without an open breach. But the mercantilist-dictatorial state can ‘encourage’ patriotic action in an economy where something like 80% of firms have some amount of state ownership.

Countries with an open media can surely see through this charade of independent action. But in China itself, this can be marketed as the outrage of the Chinese people, rising up against encirclement by the Americans and their lackeys. And in global public opinion, there is surely enough hostility to the US in places like Russia or the Middle East that this will sound somewhat plausible, or at least be marketed that way by anti-American elites.

Now South Korea Cannot Give In


In South Korea, the recent impeachment of conservative president Park Geun-Hye has opened the door for the left to take power in the upcoming special election on May 9. The left has broadly opposed THAAD. In the wake of Park’s final approval of it last year, several opposition parliamentarians jetted off to China to express their discontent (or ‘appease’ as the conservative press howled). The likely winner on May 9, Moon Jae-In, has expressed skepticism over THAAD before. The other left-wing candidates – there are no serious right-wing candidates given just how badly the Park scandal has discredited the right – have been even more hostile.

Yet I am very doubtful that Moon or any of the candidates, barring the least likely winner on the far left, will remove THAAD. There is indeed still a debate over THAAD’s technical merits. While I believe the case for THAAD is solid, and South Korean opinion generally supports it now given the sheer velocity of North Korean missile testing, there remain coherent arguments in opposition. For example, that it is merely symbolic, because North Korea could use other weapons to devastate South Korea, or that it might simply encourage North Korea to build even more missiles to overwhelm THAAD.

But such technical issues are increasingly irrelevant. The time to debate that was a year or two ago. Back then, the US and South Korea had made extensive track 1, track 1.5, and track 2 outreaches to China on THAAD, to explain its capabilities and consider China’s concerns. All were rebuffed. Instead China has dug in its heels, rather deeply, on this. It has been signaling to South Korea for more year not to deploy, threatening all sorts of retaliation. This has increasingly turned THAAD from a technical-functional issue of missile defense to an expression of South Korean national security sovereignty: does South Korea have the right to make national security decisions without China’s approval? The South Korea media, even on the center and left, are increasingly framing the tussle this way.

Hence the curious, but deserved, outcome for Beijing. Just as a South Korean government which agrees with China on THAAD is likely coming to power, Chinese bullying has painted it into such a tight corner that a leftist president will likely retain THAAD. For at this point, THAAD is not about THAAD anymore; it is about whether China has a veto over South Korean foreign policy. No South Korean president can assent to that.

Filed under: China, Defense, Elections, Korea (North), Korea (South), Missiles/Missile Defense

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



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Top 10 Things to Do in Jeju Island

Thu, 2017-04-13 07:20
Top 10 Things to Do in Jeju Island

Fly just an hour and a half from the capital city of Seoul and you will arrive at South Korea’s resort island, Jeju Island or Jeju.

From UNESCO-certified natural wonders to hundreds of unique museums and attractions, this enchanted island has something for everyone.

To help you get the best out of Jeju, here’s a list of 10 best things to do on the island – try a bit of everything!

1. Get in touch with nature in Jeju Island

When it comes to nature, Jeju has it all. Named as 7 New Wonders of Nature in 2011, Jeju offers pristine beaches, waterfalls, oreums or volcanic cones, lava tube caves and many more awe-inspiring natural wonders that are absolutely bucket list-worthy.

There are so many places to visit in Jeju, so here we’ve narrowed down to five of our favorite spots on the island.

  1. Hallasan Mountain: a dormant volcano at the center of the island with crater lake on the top, surrounded by a national park with 368 parasitic volcanoes.
  2. Seongsan Ilchulbong (Sunrise Peak): an 182m volcanic cone famous for spectacular sunrises.
  3. Iho Taewoo Beach: a beach near downtown Jeju City famous for iconic horse-shaped lighthouses.
  4. Manjang Caves (Manjanggul): the longest lava tube on Jeju with the largest recorded lava column in the world inside the cave.
  5. Jusangjeolli Cliffs: unique volcanic rock formations that look like rectangular pillars near Jungmun Beach

Since there are so many destinations on the island, you won’t be able to visit and see all of them in one day, especially if you are traveling by foot or public transportation.

If you want to maximize your travel, the best options are to rent a car or to book one of the organized tours such as 1 Day Small Group Van Tour and 1 Day Bus Tour or private and personalized tours with a customized itinerary such as Taxi TourPrivate Van Tour or Private Mini Bus Tour.

2. Visit museums with a difference

If this is your first-time in Jeju Island, you will definitely be blown away by hundreds of museums scattered all over the island. In fact, Jeju’s museums are one of the main reasons to visit the island as they certainly offer something more than the classic, boring ones you’ve visited before.

A. Jeju Loveland 

Have fun taking photos in a sexy pose with the sexy and erotic sculptures at Jeju Loveland. Showcasing 140 sculptures and artworks inspired by human sexuality, this unique theme park has been drawing tourists and travelers from all around the world.If you’re with the little ones, don’t worry. There’s a separate playground zone for minors. To purchase 17% off discount tickets for Jeju Loveland, click here.

B. Teddy Bear Museum

Displaying a massive collection of teddy bears, Teddy Bear Museum is one of the must-visit museums in Jeju. Not only children love this place, but adults as well! For more information, click here.

C. Hello Kitty Island 

From galleries, café to a gift shop, Hello Kitty Island offers everything Hello Kitty. Don’t forget to drop by the gift shop and get yourself one of the Hello Kitty-themed goods as a souvenir!Make sure to take advantage of 17.5% off discount tickets before you visit.

See more must-visit museums in Jeju: Glass CastleBonte MuseumJeju Aerospace MuseumPlay KPOP Museum

3. Catch some waves

Offering a variety of scenic watersports and water-based activities, Jeju Island is a haven for aquaholics.Check out the list of exciting water-based activities offered by Trazy.com and book the activity according to your water personality!

  1. Stick-to-the-basics: Discover scuba diving program in Eastern Jeju
  2. Adrenaline junkies: Parasailing
  3. Laidback wanderer: Yongyeon Pond Kayaking
  4. Luxury sailors: Chagwido Glass Yacht
  5. Underwater explorer: Seogwipo Submarine
  6. A ‘reel’ fisherman: Deep sea boat fishing in Chagwido
  7. Non-swimmers: Aqua Planet Jeju
4. Take time to smell the flowers

Jeju offers beautiful gardens and parks to wander through and immerse in Jeju’s nature. Here are five best spots for an idyllic escape with your beloved ones!

  1. Hallim Park: a popular park featuring 9 different themed zones, including Palm Tree Road, Jeju Stone and Bonsai Garden, Subtropical Botanic Garden and more and two lava caves.
  2. Ecoland: a family-friendly theme park where you can explore Jeju’s forests on an 18th century Baldwin steam train.
  3. Ilchul Land: a theme park with botanical gardens, a waterfront park, a folk village, a cactus greenhouse and a small lava cave.
  4. Spirited Garden: a beautiful garden with the largest artificial waterfalls in Jeju. Many famous public figures including Jiang Zemin and Hu Jintao from China, Nakasone from Japan and many more visited the garden.
  5. Camellia Hill: the biggest arboretum in Asia famous for its forest path and beautiful gardens of camellias.

Looking for extraordinary parks? Check out the two popular miniature theme parks below!

  • Mini Land: a theme park with miniature replicas of world-famous architectures and landmark buildings located in the eastern part of Jeju. For more info, click here.
  • Soingook Miniature Theme Park: a miniature theme park that is similar to Mini Land, but located in the western part of Jeju. For more info, click here.
5. Hit the trailsA. Walk through Olle Trails

In Jeju, there is a series of trails called Jeju Olle-gil, which leads through forests, volcanic cones and many other best-kept secrets of Jeju Island. There are 26 routes in total and you can explore three of them if you sign up for a one-day Olle trekking tour. For more info, click here.

B. Hike up Hallasan Mountain

Hiking up Hallasan Mountain or Mt. Halla, and to its peak at 1,950 meters (6,397 feet) above sea level is one of the experiences you must try in Jeju. The reward for hiking to the top are the sight of Baekrokdam, the lake-filled crater, and the magnificent view of volcanic cones in the surrounding Hallasan National Park.It is relatively easy to hike Hallasan Mountain. The hiking courses are less than 10 km in length. Starting at the Seongpanak Entrance, the 9.6-kilometer (6-mile) hike to the summit takes about five hours. But take note that the weather changes constantly and it can be very wind while you are hiking.

6. Savor the authentic flavors of Jeju

Are you a food enthusiast? Try Jeju’s three best local specialties below!

  1. Jeonbokjuk: an abalone porridge made out of innards of the abalone and rice.
  2. Heuk-dwaeji: a juicy and succulent grilled pork belly from Jeju’s native black pig, which is slightly more expensive than regular pork, but well worth it.
  3. Jagalchi: grilled or boiled thinly sliced raw silver scabbardfish

See 9 best local restaurants in Jeju Island.

If you are a Muslim traveler, make sure to check out the list of Muslim-friendly restaurants in Jeju here.

7. Drop by hipster cafes and fine diners

If you feel like you had enough local foods, enjoy a fine dining at Maison Glad Buffet. Then drop by one of these trendy beachfront cafes killer views of the island’s stunning ocean vistas. See Jeju’s 6 best beachfront cafes here.Or try and visit one of the most unique cafes in Jeju, Siwa Dream Foot Bath Cafe. While enjoying a cup of coffee you can treat yourself a nice foot bath to relax your tired feet and freshen up yourself. For more info, click here.

8. Head out for outdoor adventures

When you visit Jeju, never miss out on adventurous activities and experiences that the island has to offer. Make your trip legendary with some of the best adventures below!

  1. Horseback ride: Try horseback riding in Jeju, particularly the shore-front horseback riding. You can take in the view of wonderful Seongsan Ilchulbong, or Sunrise Peak while riding a horse along the beach. Sign up here and saddle up!
  2. Rail bike: Take in Jeju’s stunning scenery with your beloved ones while pedaling along the railway tracks. You can purchase 34% off discount tickets here.
  3. Zipline:  Fly over a forest or ocean! Zipline Jeju offers an adrenaline-pumping zip lining experience with four different options for you to choose from. Purchase 25% off discount tickets here.
  4. Off Road Ride: Seeking for pure adrenaline-filled joy? Head out and explore Jeju’s natural wonders in off-road recreational vehicles at Sunsaemi Park. Grab your squad and enjoy the 12km off-road drive course! Booking is available here.
  5. Hot Air Balloon: Launch yourself a hot air balloon, hop on it and get a panoramic view of Jeju Island at sunset. Make sure to book in advance for this unique and amazing experience here.
9. Soak up the history and culture of JejuA. Experience Jeju’s local market scenes

Experience the authentic local culture of Jeju at five-day markets or permanent local markets. One of the most famous markets is Dongmun Market, located near Jeju International Airport.It is the largest permanent market in Jeju where you can find all sorts of indigenous goods and products such as Jeju citrus fruits. Compared to other seafood restaurants and traditional marketplaces around, the price of the fish and seafood here is known to be relatively cheap.

See Top 10 traditional markets in Jeju.

B. Time travel back to the late 19th century

Housing a folk village with over 100 traditional houses and 8,000 folk items, Jeju Folk Village Museum is a must-visit place for those who want to learn about the island’s rich history and culture. Purchase discount tickets for Jeju Folk Village Museum here.

10. Explore Jeju’s other paradise islands

Though Jeju itself is an island, there are beautiful small islets.

  1. Chagwido Island (west of Jeju): a tiny uninhabited island, just a short 10 minutes ride from Jagunae Harbor, famous as a fishing destination. A boat fishing experience in Chagwido at only $11 is available here.
  2. Udo Island (east of Jeju): a popular island situated 3.5 km off the coast of Jeju, famous for its pristine white beaches, particularly Seobin-baeksa Beach, and black lava cliffs.

Check out more awesome things to do in Jeju Island or other parts of South Korea at Trazy.comKorea’s #1 Travel Shop!

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6 Reasons We Probably Why We Probably Won’t Bomb North Korea

Sun, 2017-04-09 02:41
6 Reasons We Probably Why We Probably Won’t Bomb North Korea

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

Even though we are bombing Syria now and Trump wants to look tough and presidential, I do not think we will bomb North Korea. We’ve thought about it for years and always demurred. Trump, for all his bluster, has changed those reasons for not attacking, so I still think we won’t do it. Maybe Trump really is erratic and unpredictable, but I’d bet McMaster and Mattis are telling him a lot of the same stuff – huge risk or war, Seoul’s vulnerability, trashing of the relationship with China and so on. Are we ready to gamble all that on strikes that might not even work?

The full essay follows the jump:



US Secretary of State Rex Tillerson made waves last week when he suggested that military action against North Korea was an option. He pointedly said that former President Barack Obama’s ‘strategic patience’ approach was over. Tillerson did not say what military options were under consideration, but bombing is the likely choice. The US has air superiority over North Korea by a wide margin, while it is unclear what kind of naval action would be available, and ground action of course has huge risks.

The idea of retaliating against North Korea has, of course, been around for a long time. North Korea provokes South Korea, Japan, and the United States regularly. Several of those provocations were severe enough that military action would likely have enjoyed some global acceptance. In 1968, the North Koreans captured the USS Pueblo, a naval intelligence vessel, and held the crew for almost a year. In 1969, North Korea shot down a US reconnaissance plane, killing the crew. In 1998, North Korea shot a missile over Japan. In 2010 North Korea sank a South Korean corvette and shelled a South Korean-held island, killing fifty. Yet in each case, the US, South Korea, and Japan choose to defer. The reasons for that restraint are broadly still in place and will likely inhibit President Donald Trump as they have previous US presidents:

1. Seoul is extremely vulnerable to North Korean counter-fire. This is probably the greatest military constraint. South Korea is badly configured for a protracted bout of tit-for-tat retaliation and counter-retaliation with North Korea. This is not like Israel’s ability to strike Arab opponents with limited counter-strike vulnerability. Seoul and its surrounding Kyeonggi province lie right on the demilitarized zone border. Kyeonggi includes 55% of the entire South Korea population and is the economic and political heart of this highly centralized country. This megalopolis makes for a big, hard-to-defend, easy-to-hit target should Pyongyang hit back against an airstrike.

2. Trump would need the political approval of South Korea and Japan. Those countries would bear the brunt of any retaliation. Legally, Trump could proceed of course, but he would destroy the US alliance with either or both if they did not approve. While Japan under hawkish Prime Minister Shinzo Abe might run the risk, South Korea is effectively unable to respond now, because its president has been impeached. Seoul is led by a caretaker government at the moment, and the left, which would almost certainly disapprove of airstrikes, is widely expected to win the upcoming May election.

3. Such a strike would not be brief or ‘surgical;’ it could last days or even weeks. As such, it would soon look more like a war rather than a limited action. North Korea has spent decades tunneling to protect its military assets after it suffered under an extraordinarily punishing US air campaign during the Korean War. It has also invested in road-mobile launchers and submarines. If the US were to try to hit all of North Korea’s nuclear and missile assets, the air campaign would likely be extensive and lengthy. If it did not, North Korea might well use its remaining assets to strike South Korea and Japan. The longer the campaign dragged on, the more likely North Korean counter-action would become. A slide toward all-out war would loom,

4. We do not know what North Korea’s red-lines are. The Korean People’s Army (KPA) presumably has war plans, just as we do. Those plans almost certainly have flash-points for how to respond to allied action. Given that its nuclear and missile programs are North Korea’s most valuable assets, after the leadership itself, it is easy to imagine that the KPA would hit back. Also, the longer the US air campaign lasted, the more it would look like a war, not a limited action. There would be rising pressure throughout the North Korean elite to do something, and given that the KPA’s access to the highly-constrained national budget turns on its reputation as the state’s ferocious defender, the brass would almost certainly be howling to hit back hard. Again, the slide from a limited action toward war would loom.

5. North Korea would almost certainly use human shields. Assuming the US air campaign did not end in short order, the North would almost certainly start wrapping potential targets with civilians. The North Korean elite let one to two million of its citizens starve to death in the late 1990s famine. They would have no compunction to once again sacrifice their people.

6. Such an airstrike would wreck America’s relationship with China, the most important bilateral relationship in world politics, for years, perhaps decades. Any US campaign would take place over China’s objection, and the US would almost certainly not provide any advance notification. China loathes North Korea but fears its collapse and US military hegemony in Asia even more. The US has always grappled with how much to let North Korea impinge on its relationship with China. While Washington desperately wants Chinese assistance on the North, it has never risked the entire relationship, in all its many important aspects – trade, investment, China’s dollar reserve holdings, the South and East China Seas, climate change, and so on – on the North Korea question.

These costs and constraints do not make airstrikes impossible, but they have impeded kinetic options in the past, and I see no reason why they do not this time as well. That the US is considering airstrikes anyway, despite these high hurdles, suggest just how dangerous North Korea has now become.

Filed under: Korea (North), The National Interest, Trump, United States

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



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Hwagae Cherry Blossom Festival | Travel Review & Tips

Fri, 2017-04-07 01:20
Hwagae Cherry Blossom Festival | Travel Review & Tips About Hwagae Cherry Blossom Festival

Early April every year, the Simni Cherry Blossom Road, the 4 km road that connects Ssanggyesa Temple and Hwagaejangteo Market, is filled with 1,200 cherry blossom trees in full bloom.  To capture this scenic view, people from all over Korea take a trip to this small village in Hadong, Gyeongsangnamdo Province and have an unforgettable moment with their beloved people.

In the hope that international travelers also get to know about this charming little village, I, a member of Trazy Crew and your best online tour guide for Korea, set off to Hadong to deliver the beautiful scenery of Hwagae Cherry Blossom FestivalTrazy’s Hwagae Cherry Blossom Festival tour bus dropped me off at Ssanggyesa Temple. The tour is designed for you to walk about 4 km from Ssanggyesa temple to Hwagaejangteo Market while enjoying the cherry blossom arch over your head.

Ssanggyesa Temple

Ssanggyesa Temple is one of the most popular temples in the Jirisan area and its foundation dates back to the 8th century. The layout of the buildings in the temple compound well harmonizes with the surrounding nature. The colorful, but not necessarily gaudy, paintwork on the wooden buildings doubles aesthetic pleasure in the traditional construction.

Simni Cherry Blossom Road

The road to Hwagaejangteo Market divides into two at the temple’s entrance by Hwagaecheon Stream. Both roads, laid out side by side with the stream in the middle, are filled with densely planted cherry blossom trees. Whichever side you choose, you’ll walk under the beautiful cherry blossom arch. Also, you can switch the road at the bridges that you will encounter a couple of times on your way to Hawgaegangteo Market.

Photo of the other side taken from one side of the streamPhoto taken on the bridge

This cherry blossom road has a nickname. Some people call the road “Hollye-gil” which is translated as “Wedding Road” in English. The myth behind it tells that if a couple walks this road together, they come to get married and live happily ever after.

Tip 1. Try Cherry Blossom Oyster & Ice Cream!

By the time my legs got tired and I needed something to eat, I came across a few food tents and snack bars. While the food is generally slightly over-priced, it is worth trying this unique local food of the area, Beotgul – the cherry blossom oyster.This oyster is caught from Seomjingang River in the local area. Unlike other oysters, this inhabits fresh water and grows as big as a human hand. I ordered one huge oyster. The server lady cut one of the shells off, took the flesh off from the other shell, chopped the flesh into a mouthful size and topped it with sour and spicy chili sauce. If you feel put off by raw freshwater food, you can also ask to cook it.I kept walking towards Hwagaejangteo market, the pick-up point for the tour bus to Seoul. This time I came across an ice cream stall famous for the cherry blossom ice cream. They added cherry blossom syrup in the ice cream mix. The ice cream is very sweet and you can taste the flowery flavor in it. I continued to follow the road with the ice cream on one hand, and the camera on the other hand.

Tip2. Walk More for the Greater View!

As I got closer to the market, the view became even more picturesque because the cherry blossoms begin to bloom near the market and they gradually spread up to the temple, the higher area. My view became brighter and brighter every time I took a step forward. The snow white cherry blossoms absolutely dazzled my eyes.The magnificence of the view reaches its peak at the end of the 4-km cherry blossom road and I finally met Hwagaejangteo Market with its signature thatched roof stores.

Hwagaejangteo Market

Hwagaejangteo Market is located where Hawgaecheon Stream joins Seomjingang River that divides Jeollanamdo Province and Gyeongsangnamdo Province. For its geographical feature, the market traditionally served as a meeting point for people from different provinces. People from Gyeongsangdo Province and Jeollado Province would come to Hwagaejangteo Market and exchange their local produce.The statue symbolizes a pedlar who used to travel across the country to sell goods in Hwagaejangteo Market.You can find locally cultivated green tea and herbs, pottery, and rice wine in the market. The beautiful scenery of the surrounding area attracts heaps of tourists all over the country and the market, of course, serves as an agora for people from different regions to meet.

Things to Check before You Visit
  • Wear in Layers!
    Although it is warm during the day in early April, mornings and nights are still chilly and you definitely need a jacket. The tour starts in the early morning and the temperature is highly likely below 10-degree celsius. It would be wise of you to wear thin clothes in layers during this season.
  • Wear Comfortable Walking Shoes!
    The area is not hilly but you’ll have to walk the 4 km cherry blossom road and more. Make sure you wear comfortable walking shoes.
  • Remember When to Visit!
    Cherry Blossoms in Hadong, located in the southern part of Korea, bloom earlier than those in Seoul. Make sure you plan the trip for the first week of April if you want to visit Hwagae Cherry Blossom Festival.
Looking for other spring festivals in Korea?

Browse more spring packages and tours at Trazy.comKorea’s #1 Travel Shop, and savor the delights of spring with us!

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. 

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South Korean Security in the Trump Era

Sun, 2017-04-02 06:22
South Korean Security in the Trump Era

This is a local re-post of a piece I wrote a few weeks ago for The Korea Times. Basically my concern in the Trump period is, how will Trump and Moon Jae-In, the likely winner of the upcoming May 9 election, get along? Or not?

Trump doesn’t care about Asia, except for trade with China. His security concerns turn on Islam, and he was elected for that in foreign policy. His and Bannon’s clash of civilizations frame only works so-so out here. Huntington’s argument required putting China, Japan, and the Koreas into one Confucian civilization, but it was so obvious that they didn’t get along that Huntington was forced to pretend that Japan was its own civilization. Without this frame, I wonder if Trump the non-reader can figure out an approach?

The other thing which worries me is the burden-sharing fight. If Trump presents the ROKG with a bill like he did Merkel, the SK press will go ballistic. Trump might not care though, so ultimately I suggest that it would likely be a good idea for SK to pay a little more so that the issue can ultimately be dropped.

The full essay follows the jump:

The election of Donald Trump as American president is likely a loss for South Korea, or at best a neutral event. The next four years will probably bring a US strategic disinterest in South Korea, and possibly a serious trade dispute. The US-South Korea alliance is unlikely to fracture – it survived the mutual loathing of the Bush and Roh administrations. But sensitive issues, such as Korean defense contributions under the Special Measures Agreement (SMA), and South Korean compliance with the Korea-US Free Trade Agreement (KORUS) are likely to divide the partners once again. This will incentivize Korean conservatives to improve relations with Japan, as occurred in the 1970s when US President Jimmy Carter and South Korean dictator Park Chung Hee fell out. Simultaneously the Korean left will reconsider relations with China.

One caveat to this prediction of course is Trump’s volatile personality and affinity for unpredictability. It is simply unclear how Trump will respond when North Korea inevitably insults him. That said, I doubt Trump will wander into the North Korean policy morass. Trump’s narcissism and laziness strongly suggest he will avoid intractable issues with few public opinion benefits, such the Israel-Palestine conflict or North Korea. A consensus seems to be emerging that Trump ‘must’ deal with North Korea. Reportedly, Barack Obama told him that it is the most pressing issue in US foreign policy.

I doubt Trump sees it that way. The North Korean threat to the United States is a function of America’s alignment with South Korea, and Trump has expressed much skepticism about US alliances. Were there no US-South Korea alliance, it is highly unlikely that small, poor, backward North Korea would have spent the enormous sums required to strike the continental United States (with an intercontinental or submarine-launched ballistic missile). Previous American presidents carried this risk because of a broad commitment to a global liberal order of which South Korea’s evolution from dictatorship to democracy was an outstanding example.

But Trump does not appear to care for such things. His speeches and Twitter comments evince little interest in US leadership of the community of democratic states. Trump himself, with his racism, insults, taste for revenge, hatred of the media, and so on, does not appear much motivated by political liberalism. It is easy to see him cutting deals, his preferred method of operation, with dictatorships without care for smaller states’ fate or US alliance commitments. He has already thrown NATO into doubt, and during the campaign, he flippantly suggested he would meet with Kim Jong Un.

Instead of a liberal community of friendly states, Trump seems to see US allies as burden. They are fleecing the US by not paying Washington enough. Free-riding is indeed an old problem in the US alliance network. American allies spend significantly smaller proportions of their GDP on defense than the US. Washington has complained about this for years. Trump seems poised to make this a major issue.

Besides slacking allies, Trump’s other favorite foreign policy hobbyhorse is trade and the ostensibly unfair trade deals the US enters. Trump has already signaled US withdrawal from the Trans-Pacific Partnership and a desire to renegotiate the North America Free Trade Agreement. If Trump holds this course, KORUS would be an obvious future target. It is one of the more important trade deals worked out under the Obama administration; it is new enough that it could be rolled back with only moderate difficulty; and it is with an Asian exporter. Trump has publicly criticized Asian mercantilism as trade cheating since the 1980s.

So what might South Korea do? The emotionally satisfying, and therefore mostly likely, response is to hit back at Trump tit-for-tat. The South Korean government and media will likely assail Trump’s free-rider and trade cheater critiques out of sheer nationalist pique. This is unwise, unless South Korea is ready to carry the costs of a major strategic reorientation, toward either Japan (for conservatives) or China (for the left). For although South Koreans dislike to hear it, their relationship with the US is asymmetric, which gives Trump enormous leverage. KORUS grants South Korean firms better access to the world’s wealthiest market, while the alliance adds substantial firepower, plus intelligence, surveillance, and reconnaissance capabilities, to South Korean defense at a very low cost. As North Korea is only a threat to the US because the US is in Korea, Trump could wield the obvious threat of a US withdrawal to extract concessions from Seoul.

A more diplomatic South Korean answer might be to make reasonable concessions, such as greater SMA payments and more committed KORUS implementation, in low-profile negotiations, while ignoring Trump’s public bluster. I imagine European leaders will do this as well. Much of the American establishment, including the military and business community, wish to retain the South Korean relationship. Also, Trump’s many conflicts of interests and outrages mean he may well be impeached or fail to be re-elected. Best to wait out the four year orange storm, rather than provoking Trump’s pride into a conflict where South Korea has much more to lose than the US.

Filed under: Korea (South), Security, Trump

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



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Polling, Public Opinion and the Impeachment of Park Geun-hye (The Korea File)

Sun, 2017-04-02 04:31
Polling, Public Opinion and the Impeachment of Park Geun-hye

What role did public polling play in the spectacular political collapse of President Park Geun-hye? How effective is political polling today? And with social trends pointing to a continuing decrease in the rate of democratic participation, how can polls remain representative?

In our conversation prior to his recent lecture at the University of Michigan, UC Berkley Professor Taeku Lee discusses how the political science of public polling, until recently a primarily American area of study, has gained academic traction in South Korea over the last decade. 

This episode was produced in collaboration with the Nam Center for Korean Studies. Subscribe to the Nam Center’s Youtube channel at umichncks.

Music on this episode is 7080 star 김연자 with 봄비가.

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Listen to "Polling, Public Opinion and the Impeachment of Park Geun-hye" on Spreaker.

   The Korea File

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