Hey there, again. Haven’t really had time to catch up much on Korean movies or novels, but since a lot of stuff has been going on recently and I’ve read a ton of worthwhile articles on Korea, I figured it was time for a little update. Consider this a reading list, I guess:
First up, let’s keep going with the presidential scandal (see part III if you’re unfamiliar).
-> There are still massive protests, and president Park’s approval ratings have hit an all-time low, shattering all previous records. Park has unsurprisingly also apparently lost all credibility overseas, and is “dead” diplomatically. Even the New York Times published an op-ed strongly calling for her resignation.
-> The largest ever rally is set for Saturday with up to half a million protestors expected to attend. Looks like all three opposition parties have joined forces. Interesting times are ahead.
-> “Don’t call Choi Soon-sil a shaman, it’s disgrace to shamans”, Shamans say. Sounds kinda like an Onion headline at first, but there you go.
-> Ask a Korean has once again written a fascinating piece on the scandal, and draws a lot of parallels between the political systems of South Korea and post-election USA. It’s a really fascinating comparison. Based on that, he makes some predictions regarding Trump’s presidency that sound pretty spot-on to me and…well…they’re not great.
-> Speaking of Doomsday news. President elect Trump (still can’t believe I’m really typing this) has also said a bunch of words about the two Koreas in the past. And let me assure you: They are very, very good words. Possibly the best words.
-> Korea’s democratic history has been short and full of scandals. Here’s an overview. Take note of how Roh’s suicide is framed, certainly much more carefully than in the Ask a Korean piece linked above.
But of course – luckily – there’s also some other stuff going on:
Let’s start with a fun one – there are supposedly more fried chicken places in South Korea than McDonald’s franchises worldwide. Undoubtedly tastes better, too. You could probably draw a bunch of implications from this, such as Koreans’ strong urge for conformity, and some troubling economic realities driving this, but I’ll leave that to the experts.
Finally, I have discovered a new source for information about Korea in the past couple of weeks – Korea Exposé, a site featuring a collection of articles aiming to “show Korea as it really is”. I’ve grown really fond of the site, as they feature a bunch of often pretty long articles on a variety of subjects, as opposed to mostly just covering the daily news like English-speaking Korean newspapers might do. Some of my favorites include:
-> A Nation as Beautiful as a Rolex Knock-Off – On the role of conforming to (beauty) standards and the cosmetics and plastic surgery industries
-> Can South Korea survive without Samsung Electronics? – I have been pretty annoyed at the (mostly German) reporting I’ve come across that pretty much equates Samsung Electronics with all of Samsung and Samsung with the entire South Korean economy. Hence, when Samsung fucks up (as they undoubtedly have on a massive scale), the entire economy is bound to go up in flames. This all seemed very reductive and reflective of the typical panicky way in which Korea is reported about in Germany – after all, the same article concludes that the Korean war is likely to break out any time again and lead the world into a second Cold War (it is not entirely clear between whom or why). Yikes. A piece like this is pretty valuable to get a in-depth Korean perspective on this whole mess. Things are certainly not looking great, but it’s definitely a more nuanced look that is worth a read. Also contains some fascinating insights into chaebols.
-> Pleasures of Seoul – Pretty self-explanatory. Lovely essay about Seoul that touches on a bunch of things you will probably not hear about typically.
-> Memories of Dictatorship from not long ago – Very interesting personal reflection of a Korean born in the 1940’s and the tumultuous political landscape he has experienced in his lifetime. It’s always worth remembering, especially given the recent troubles, that democracy is still very new to South Korea.