Wednesday, September 29, 2004

Korean College Students Say the Darndest Things

One thing about the protest happy anti-Americans in Korea is that they only seem happy spouting off the most extreme phrases their creativity-challenged minds can come up with. They are so happy when they read or overhear the newest "shocking sound-bite" they can use for their next protest or just share with their juniors.

Here are a few I’ve heard in the past few years that come to mind.

1. Did you know that America has killed more people in the 20th Century than Hitler, the USSR and even China?

2. Did you know that America has troops stationed in more countries than the Roman Empire did at the height of its power?

3. Did you know the USA, in its relatively short history, has started almost 200 wars?

4. Did you know that America has killed nearly 17 million people around the world AFTER World War 2?

All appropriately “shocking.” All told by eager zealots who probably read for the first time in their lives some fashionable book like “Rogue Nation” or “Gangster America” and now think they have joined the ranks of the enlightened. They run out and tell their friends these shocking "facts," looking all the more intellectual for doing so (I read a book!). And in a place like Korea, their moronic statements will be blindly accepted as fact by their peers who likewise have no idea what critical thinking means. “Well, he did read it in a book so…”


What's the next level of ugliness after coyote-ugly? Should it be South Korean female protestor ugly? Not enough soju in Korea to make any of that look good...

The Devil is in the Details

I know, I know…I should just let these idiots be idiots. But on the small chance that someone reads this humble blog who could be rescued from the ranks of the clueless, I just have to say something. Rather than just spell out why the above quotes are not so shocking as they might seem, let me list some questions that anyone with even a weak grasp of critical thinking skills should be asking.

1. Did you know that America has killed more people in the 20th Century than Hitler, the USSR and even China?
First of all, it’s a plain out-and-out bullshit statistic as you’ll see by the time you finish this post (they get rather creative with the statistics), but let’s just play along for now, ok?

Question 1: What percentage of this total was killed in World War 1 and World 2 alone? 75%? 90%?

Question 2: Is the world a better place because of USA’s involvement in these 2 wars? Or is it a worse place?

Question 3: What percentage of those “American caused deaths” came later in the fight against the spread of communism (Korea and Vietnam)?

Question 4: How are the countries that fell to communism doing compared to those that did not?

Question 5: Now that we’ve accounted for about 98% of those deaths, what more is there to say? Did Hitler, China or the USSR's role in wars (actually, most of their killing is from the slaughter they inflicted on their own peoples) do so much better for the world in general?

2. Did you know that America has troops stationed in more countries than the Roman Empire did at the height of its power?

No, I didn’t know, but I’m not surprised to hear that it is true. Rome didn’t really have a chance to get out to the Far East and of course the entire continent of America was still a secret to most.

I suppose the “shocking” effect they want to get is that America is a more imposing “empire” (another word that is getting very loosely defined these days) than even the great Roman Empire in the past.

Questions that beg to be asked...

Q1 How many of these countries WANT American troops in their nation? Let me make that easier for you: How many of these countries do NOT want US troops in their borders? Sorry, Korea isn’t one of them (look at your own public opinion polls).

Q2: What happened in the past when countries that had US bases told the US that they didn’t want them anymore? Hint: Think about France and The Philippines…

Q3: Now apply these questions to the Roman Empire (or any other empire in the past). How many countries had Roman troops in their borders at their own request? How impressive is this "fact" now?

Are you catching on to how this “critical thinking” thing works? Want to try another?

3. Did you know the USA, in its relatively short history, has started almost 200 wars?
Here’s a picture I took from a Korean campus I visited the other day. It reads “Wars started by the USA”

The list is quite long (gets near 200). I stopped to look at the lists of countries by region. Without thinking, I burst into laughter a few times, which got me some strange looks from Korean students passing by. Not the reaction they anticipated I suppose.

After looking through the list I realized that the definition of “Wars started by the USA” is a rather loose one. The Clinton bombing of the Al Qeada training camp in Afghanistan was a separate entry for a “war,” as was the bombing of the pharmaceutical plant in Sudan. The majority were incidents such as these.

We also get blamed for “starting” World Wars 1 and 2 and, naturally, the Korean War. Basically, any war that the US participated in was on the list.

Looking through the list, some of the incidents mentioned were worthy of criticism, but the exceeding majority were just silly to post under a title such as this. Was it a bad thing that the US stopped Japanese expansion and freed Korea as a result? Was it a bad thing that the US got involved in the Korean War and prevented the South from suffering what North Korea is suffering now? Are they against the first Gulf War? There are certainly some events of America's past that should be questioned, but if you want to be taken seriously, don't childlishly pad your numbers to make it seem so shocking. Middle school is over, it's time to join the ranks of the adults.

4.Did you know that America has killed nearly 17 million people around the world SINCE World War 2?

This is from a site that gets most of its “documentation” from the book “Rogue State.”
They estimate the total numbers killed by the US to be between 10,784,849 to 16,874,717 post World War II.

Naturally, they include totals from the two “hot wars” the US was involved with during the cold war.

3-4.5 million Koreans
2.8 million Vietnamese

You know, people die in wars and it sucks. But in both cases communist regimes attacked their brothers and the US came in to stop them. Was it for our own selfish ends? Of course! It was in our interests to stop communism from spreading. You can argue about whether or not we should have been in Veitnam, but considering what communism did to its own people it seems rather odd to be so comfortably morally opposed to preventing the spread of this destructive ideology.

Hey, we already got about 33% of this "17 million" done, what about the other 66%?

This is where they start to get creative with their statistics and definitions.

We get blamed for 200,000 deaths in East Timor because we stayed allies with Indonesia while they were trying their hand at genocide. So, we didn't actually kill them, but we didn't stop them either (like every other country in the world, for that matter). I guess that is close enough for them.

We get another 300,000-800,000 in Angola because, along with China and South Africa, we backed one side while the other side was backed by Cuba and the USSR. All those countries involved but we the full credit for those killed in the conflict…

Naturally we get the 200-2,000 South Koreans who died in the Kwangju uprising.
“William Blum, "Rogue State," pp 150-1, reports US military joined Korean military in crushing a student uprising that sought and end to phony elections and torture.”

Wow, I must have missed all those pictures of American GIs gunning down Kwangju residents. They all have such perfect Korean disguises I guess. Good research, dude.

40,000 in Chad.
William Blum, "Rogue State," p. 151-2 writes that US & France built up an Army of supposed peacekeepers in Chad. Instead, its leader Hissen Habre overthrew the government of Chad, installed himself, and had his secret police murder "tens of thousands" - with US support.”

Now what exactly “US Support” means is not made clear. Is it just that we didn’t do anything to stop them? Would you rather that we invaded? I suppose you would, since that would have jacked up the numbers even more. And what about them war-mongering French? Why are they so conveniently left off the hook?

As many as 1.5 million in Afghanistan 1979-1992, for supporting the resistance against USSR occupation.
[Damn, now the USSR is directly doing the killing and the US STILL gets credit for all the kills. And am I wrong, or are we getting credited with the total killed on BOTH sides of the conflict? Ok Mr. Blum...

Lebanon 241 deaths “Joel Andreas, "Addicted to War" p. 15 reports that 241 Marines were killed by a truck bomb following US invasion of Lebanon to back the Israeli invasion.”
My God! We even killed our own troops! This was by far my favorite entry. Um…no dead Lebanese from our “invasion to back the Israeli Invasion?” I guess we had an off day.

17,000 Columbians because of our support for the government putting down the rebellion.

About 1.5 million Iraqis during and after Gulf War 1
Most of these are estimated dead due to the UN sanctions, but they also throw in the Shiites and Kurds slaughtered by Hussein (hey, we probably made him what he is anyway, right?)

We get another 500,000 because people might die of cancer from depleted uranium used against Iraq. This is really cool, because now we can count all cancer victims denied aid due to sanctions twice!

Now sure, some of the above could and should warrant criticism of US policy. But for those intellectually capable of looking at the context of these policy decisions it becomes readily apparent that the “right” decision is not always easy to see. After the Gulf War, for example, should we have rolled the tanks into Bagdad and put an end to Saddam right then and there? Should we have just let him keep his military and weapons programs intact so he could live to invade yet another country in the future (third times the charm!)? Should we have invaded right away when sanctions didn’t work? Where is the easy answer to this kind of messed up situation where you have an immoral dictator in power of a country?

As usual, these pseudo-intellectuals choose to wait until they see what America does and then blindly criticize. America goes to war? They should have tried diplomacy. America tries diplomacy? They are just stalling while people are dying in the country or are criticized for not giving in to all demands. America imposes sanctions? They are just starving the people. America comprises? They are befriending yet another cruel dictator just so they can continue to do business with him while turning a blind eye to human rights violations.

It doesn’t matter which one you choose; they’ll find some way not only to criticize, but to argue it was the most evil of all choices.

Perhaps I can forgive young students of whatever nationality for being unable to think things through maturely, but what excuse do the “intellectuals” have who put out this manipulative shit?

These people are not intellectuals. These people are hateful frauds. What’s worst of all is that they further support the stereotype that all people who criticize mainstream politics are extremist idiots.

Is it wrong to criticize? Of course not. Just do so in an honest and consistent way is all I’m asking. Are Korean students completely incapable of doing this? I have to believe that there is a sizable percentage that isn't so eagerly willing to believe anything these psuedo-intellectuals dish out. The question is when will they get the balls to organize and speak out at least against this blatant bullshit.

Lest We Forget
(What, you are still reading this? Isn’t it about time to turn off the computer and go outside? Oh well, here’s a little more…)

Here is a list of the countries that were the true monsters of the 20th century to bring back “some fucking perspective.” This is from the “Death by Government” book by University of Hawaii Political Science professor R.J. Rummel (see, some people in academia deserve the “intellectual” label).

The statistics here are not those slain in war, but the governments slaughtering their own people. (apologies to a certain blogger, but Abraham Lincoln isn’t on the list, but if he had been a president in the 20th century I’m sure that genocidal sunovabitch would have been. ;)

The megamurdering states of the 20th century

U.S.S.R. (1917-1987) 61,911,000

Communist China (1949-1987) 35,236,000

Nazi Germany (1933-1945), 20,946,000
[and they say that the Germans are so efficient...Hitler sucks compared to the communists]

Nationalist (or Kuomintang) China (1928-1949), 10,076,000

[You can just imagine the poor Chinese in 1949 thinking, “Well, this new government couldn’t be any worse than the last one, right?”]

Lesser Megamurdering States

Japan (1936-1945), 5,964,000
[seems low, but that’s a pretty good number considering the relatively limited amount of time they were operating in]

Cambodia (1975-1979), 2,035,000

[ain’t it funny how Chomsky decried the western press for overlooking the 200,000 killed in East Timor while focusing so much on Cambodia (which Chomsky defended at first)? They say you’re a smart guy Noam, do the math…

Turkey (1909-1918), 1,883,000

Vietnam (1945-1987)1,678,000

North Korea (1948-1987), 1,663,000

[only 1.6 million by 1987, perhaps, but come on! They were just getting warmed up!]

Poland (1945-1948)1,585,000

[shouldn’t the USSR get a little credit for this?]

Pakistan (1958-1987), 1,503,000

Mexico (1900-1920), 1,417,000

Yugoslavia (1944-1987), 1,072,000

Czarist Russia (1900-1917), 1,066,000.

Friday, September 24, 2004

Journalism 101

Reading over the front page of the Korea Times today, I found this article on scrapping the Security Law

Four parties (all very "progressive") are joining forces to completely do away with the Security Law, which maintains laws and policies that restricts pro-communist and pro-North Korea activities among the South Korean citizens. The GNP, the only conservative party to speak of these days, wanted only to revise it.

Well, I'd tell you more about but I'm afraid I might be too biased. Let me just have a professionally trained journalist, one Ryu Jin, take it from here.

Here's Ryu making a great effort to fairly represent the GNP's take on this issue.

Dominated by staunch conservatives who show knee-jerk reactions to communist North Korea across the border, the GNP has vehemently opposed the abrogation of the draconian law while calling for an amendment instead.

Now that's good journalism. Excellent choice of descriptive adjectives, wouldn't you say?

Now an amateur might have wrote it like this:

"Composed of members who are still wary of communist North Korea, the GNP strongly opposes the abrogation of the law, while calling for an amendment instead."

Now how in the hell would bland reporting like that help our dear readers to understand how they are supposed to think about this issue? It wouldn't! Confusion would reign.

Here's more from Ryu "The Spew" Jin.

Rep. Kim Yong-kap, an ultra-conservative from the GNP who has often declared his preparedness to lose everything to save the security law, collapsed earlier in the day for five minutes, while giving an impassioned speech at the Assembly against the move to terminate his prized law

Again, very well done. Note how describing Rep. Kim as an "ultra-conservative" allows us to realize that this is a kooky extremist whose words should not be taken seriously.

Oh, and good thing there aren't any "ultra-liberals" in the Korean government who would sell out South Korea to the North. Not at all. They are all "progressives." Isn't that a nice sounding word? Don't you want to be a progressive too? You aren't anti-progress, are you?

Let's say one more time together: "progressive." mmmmm.....nice....

Ryu continues to school us on professional journalism in Korea:

The law, enacted in 1948 and subsequently revised seven times, has long been a source of contention, often being used by iron-fisted regimes as a tool to crack down on pro-democracy activists and opposition figures. North Korea has long demanded the law be dropped as a prerequisite to improved relations with the South.

Yes, used by iron-fisted regimes...that is so true. Do we all understand how evil this law is now? It crushes pro-democracy activists! Especially the communist ones! Don't you see that we need to completely throw out this dirty bathwater and anything else that might be in the tub?

In a major setback for the Uri Party, however, the nation's two most revered judiciary bodies _ the Constitutional Court and the Supreme Court _ recently upheld the National Security Law and accused the Uri leadership of trying to strip the country of its last defensive measures against the communist North.

Now this really pisses me off. How can Roh and "Our Party" institute a real democracy with all these checks and balances throwing a monkey wrench into the works? Where's the progress if they just can't do whatever they want?

Honestly, why can't conservatives see that the Sunshine Policy has dramatically succeeded in changing North Korea and that they are no longer a threat? With all the amazing progress we've had so far with North Korea, can you imagine just how super-lovey Kim Jeong-il and co. will become once we completely get rid of all laws and policies that shield us from speedy reunification?


Why can't the GNP just feel the love* that radiated forth from the 2000 intra-Korean summit?

Why do these knee-jerking, draconian law loving super-duper ultra-conservative wackos insist on clinging to outdated beliefs that North Korea is still the enemy?

Anyway, thank you Ryu Jin, and even bigger mad props to the fine journalism institutions in Korea that serve the people of Korea.

By the way, I don't mean to get off topic, but here are some completely unrelated news stories I also read on the front page of the Korea Times today...

Seoul alert for possible NK's missile test

North Korea threatens to turn Japan into a sea of fire.

Oh, and tucked away in a corner on the second page (no link, buy the damn paper if you want to read it)was something about North Korean ships crossing into South Korean waters again (but leaving once warning shots were fired). An honest mistake though, could happen to anybody. Well, maybe South Korean navy ships never do that, but obviously they've just been lucky for the past 55 years. And besides, it's not like anybody dies that often from these accidental intrusions anyway.

*retail price: $500,000,000 US (hey, you try to fund a nuclear weapons program just on illegal drug sales alone!)

Friday, September 17, 2004

Party Pooper Assaulted!

I was walking through the Sadang subway station, a fairly crowded area, when some sanity-challenged Korean walloped me with his umbrella on the back of my head. I turned around, rather stunned, and he made some wild gestures and grunts that either meant "Get the fuck out of my country you Imperialist pig," "Don't blame me, blame society," or just simply, "I'm Living la Vida Loca, baby!"

Then he turned and shambled away (only crazy homeless people "shamble," by the way. I'm pretty sure that word can only be used for them). I stood there with my mouth hanging open for 1.5 seconds, checked for blood and cooties, and went on my way.

This is the police sketch I had drawn later. Other distinguishing features include mismatched bathroom sandals (pink and light green), urine stained pants, and one mean umbrella (slightly dented).

Maybe I'm just a little nationalistic, but I really believe that our homeless in the States are far superior to the homeless in Korea. With the Korean homeless its always the same routine again and again: "Give me some money (or cigarettes), no? fuck you you foreign devil!" Where's the originality? Where's the class? Check this guy out (click to enlarge). You think you could find someone like this in Korea? Hell no. Our homeless got style!

Another advantage of the American homeless is that they can take full advantage of our advanced supermarket technology. In the States we all got it good!


Slumber Party!!!!

Word to the wise, watch yourself when you are walking around the area outside of Seoul Station (not the above picture, by the way). There's quite a gang of homeless people in the area and they don't take shit. I walked by them (about 20 or so in front of a building that had a lot of benches) in broad daylight and they stared me down pretty good. I'm not sure if they reserve their fury for foreigners or just hate all of the living, but it's not a place to be caught drunk and alone after hours.

Saturday, September 4, 2004

Kimchi Folklore--SARS cure

I read this article and I just couldn't leave it alone.

Last year when the SARS (severe acute respiratory syndrome) virus was taking its toll in Asia, Korea remained free from the killer pneumonia though there were a few suspected cases. Back then, Britain's Financial Times reported that large amounts of garlic in Korea's spicy fermented dish, Kimchi, kept the virus at bay. Though that theory has yet to be confirmed, it appears Kimchi is a healthy dish indeed.

For many Koreans, the belief that Korea avoided SARS due to kimchi is accepted as a fact. I know in at least one middle school it was included in some new teaching materials as such. Articles and news shows have repeated the above message since last year spring, when SARS was doing its worst in China and spreading to other countries.

In the article, they are now trying to argue that kimchi prevents food poisoning. Perhaps, though I have to say that of the 4 times I've suffered from food poisoning, three were in Korea (despite the fact that I eat kimchi somewhat regularly here).


Photo Quiz: Is this the SARS virus? Or is it kimchi?

Here's more "scientific reporting" from an article entitled: "Fights Cancer and Tastes Great." It talks about how a Finnish research team found a link between sauerkraut and cancer prevention. Since sauerkraut is fermented cabbage, the writer then extends the research to kimchi.


We know from experience that kimchi and garlic are good for the body, but there has been no systematic analysis to validate that folklore.

Um, actually, there is ONE kind of systematic analysis that could prove it. It's called the "scientific method" (better write that down) and its been going on for quite some time in the West.

With South Korea the only safe haven in the region from severe respiratory acute syndrome, the foreign press has reported a possible link between that seeming immunity and kimchi and garlic. According to reports, garlic consumption is on the rise in China and television has discussed Korean kimchi. I don't think a lack of scientific proof will invalidate rule-of-thumb evidence.

More on all this "foreign press reporting on kimchi" later (sneak preview: there isn't any).

And what exactly is this "rule of thumb evidence?"

1. Kimchi is healthy in some ways
2. SARS didn't spread to Korea (nor many other countries, but we'll get to that later)
3. Ergo we can rest assured that SARS was prevented by Kimchi.

That's not "rule-of-thumb" evidence or any other kind of evidence; that's wild speculation and no professional worth his salt (something kimchi has a very high amount of, by the way) would ever stake his reputation on such a conclusion.

And just what is behind all these "foreign reports" about Kimchi's effectiveness against SARS? They all refer to one article in the Financial Times (funny how one report later becomes referred to as "reports")

The original article requires a subscription to their site, so I didn't access it. However, I did find several articles that referred to it enough for me to get the gist of it. From what I can gather, the "foreign press" made no such claims about kimchi and SARS

Here's one such reference to that article in a Korean site (Donga--in Korean), interestingly headlined as Financial Times: There are no Korean SARS patients because of Kimchi and Garlic (파이낸셜타임스 '한국 사스환자 없는것은 김치속 마늘때문')

It first quotes the Financial Times quoting "Professor" Hong Jong Hoon, a technical consultant (not a professor) with the Korea Agriculture Development Institute as saying that he believes there might be a connection between Korea's "food culture" and lack of SARS victims. Hong, by the way, is not a medical doctor but he claims to be a scientist and he conducted research on this issue "over the internet." Yeah, that's good enough for me.

And when they do get a quote from a non-Korean, it does NOT make any claim that could possibly lead to the title of this article.

하지만 세계보건기구(WHO) 주한연락사무소 대표인 조지 슬라마는 “마늘에는 몸에 좋은 물질이 많이 함유돼 있지만 사스와의 연계를 입증하는 것은 불가능하다”면서 “사스 예방을 위해 김치에 의존해서는 안된다”고 말했다.

Here they have a WHO representative state clearly that there is no evidence of any connection between garlic, kimchi and SARS and that it should not be promoted as protection from SARS.

So let's go back to that title: Financial Times: There are no Korean SARS patients because of Kimchi and Garlic

The actual article quoted here only reports a KOREAN "internet researcher" as claiming kimchi and garlic prevent SARS, and a WHO representative that clearly states there is NO connection yet found between kimchi and SARS.

This is like listening to the Pope's speech against the Iraq war when he argues against the US belief that an invasion is justified because of possible WMDs, and then writing an article about it with the title, "Pope: Iraq invasion justified because of possible WMDs."

The Pope never said that, and nor dos it appear that any person with any credibility say that kimchi prevents SARS in the Financial Times article.

And yet from that one article the basis for a whole new kimchi mythology is born.

Another fine example of Korean journalism.

The School of Kimchi
There's a good article from the LA Times which discusses kimchi folklore. It is in the archives now, but a copy can be found here on the habermas site.

The article introduces Kim Man Jo:

Kim Man Jo, a food industry consultant and author of several books, including "Kimchi, 1,000 Years," "Kimchi, Hi!" and the soon-to-be released "Kimchi Odyssey," has yet another theory. This legend in the kimchi world, she holds two kimchi-related doctoral degrees and the unofficial title of "godmother of kimchi studies"

I'm sorry, but I just refuse to take seriously anyone who titles a book, "Kimchi, Hi!" And "Kimchi Odyssey?" You just can't parody something that is already this extremely ridiculous.

Oh, and not just one "kimchi-related" doctoral degree, but two!! Wow, I didn't even know there was one kind of kimchi doctoral degree out there.

"It can cope with SARS," said the food scientist, who is sometimes asked overseas if she's so devoted to kimchi because her name is Kim. [ha ha] "They haven't done experiments yet, but harmful diseases can be dominated by the lactobacilli."

Ah...the mind of a true scientist. No experiments have been done, but she already knows that it can "cope with SARS." I guess when you have two PhDs in something you are beyond silly things like objective evidence.

The Final Pooping
This will come as a surprise to many of our Korean friends, but Korea is not the only country to have escaped the brunt of the SARS epidemic. I couldn't find the most recent data, but I did find a site that compiled the data into the summer of 2003 (the time when SARS cases began to significantly decline worldwide).

Countries with 0 cases of SARS

Entire middle East, Africa (except for South Africa, which had one), North Korea (Kim Jeong-il is a demi-god, you know), Cambodia, Burma, Tibet, Norway, Sweden, Portugal, Russia, all of Central America and most of South America.

True, some of these countries have very little contact with possible Chinese carriers of SARS, but what about Russia? Tibet? Cambodia? Not a lot of kimchi eating going on there...

Countries with roughly the same numbers of SARS cases as Korea

A rather long list (about 25 countries--only China, Taiwan and Singapore were really hit hard). Some notable countries include Japan (one less case than Korea), Mongolia, and India. Again, countries near China, yet remained largely unscathed by the disease.

Naturally, these "kimchiless" countries should have some good reason why their people stayed healthy, no? And yet the Korean media and the Godmother of Kimchi never seem to have time to answer this mystery...

Is Kimchi really that healthy in general? Korean researchers are the only people really investigating it and considering that kimchi is revered like a religion here, I just don't think they approach these studies with a healthy dose of skepticism and objectivity (can you imagine some foolish Korean researcher trying to publish an article on the downside of kimchi? The heretic would be burned at the stake).

Anyway, I'm sure it is generally healthy food. But when Koreans go overboard like this, it just sets them up for embarrassment.

Korea most likely remained relatively free of SARS for the same reasons Japan, Russia, Tibet, India, Mongolia, etc. stayed free of SARS: prevention measures by the respective governments after word of SARS came out and a little bit of luck. No more, no less.