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Singapore Summit: The Trump Show Goes to North Korea

Koreabridge - Fri, 2018-06-08 21:59
Singapore Summit: The Trump Show Goes to North Korea


 

This is a local re-post of an essay I wrote earlier this week for The New York Review of Books.

I haven’t blogged here in awhile, because I am so busy. Last weekend, I went to the Shangri-La Dialogue (reflections here). Today I am flying down to Singapore to provide analysis for BBC for the Trump-Kim summit. Two weeks after that, I am going to the Jeju Peace Forum. So sorry. Also, I am slowly gravitating toward Twitter more for my commentary. Please go there.

This NYRB essay focuses on the extraordinarily chaotic ‘process’ of Trump foreign policy-making applied to the North Korean case. The short version is that there is scarcely a process at all. Trump agreed to the North Korea summit 45 minutes after it was broadly suggested to him by the South Korean government. He has since done none preparation, and Bolton has all but abjured what NSA’s are supposed to do.

So now, we are basically going into this blind. It’s a Trumpian crap-shoot, and no one really knows the outcome will be, because no one knows what Trump will say, or worse what he will give up for his ‘win’ for the fall midterms. Call it this whole mess of reality TV affectations + incompetence + unprofessionalism the ‘Trump Show.

My guess, the summit will be a nothingburger. The strategic and ideological divisions between the two sides are too wide for such a tight timetable, and Trump is way too checked-out from the details of nuclear missiles to seriously bargain the issue. Even Trump is now saying it’s just a ‘get to know each other’ meeting, which is default win for the Norks, because the get the photo-ops. So wait, why are we even doing this now?

In short, we should have cancelled long before, but now it is too late. And Rodman, Gorka, and Hannity are coming too, just to make sure this whole thing is a gonzo Trump Show entertainment-not-reality joke. Whatever…

The full essay follows the jump:

 

 

The last few weeks in North Korea diplomacy have been tumultuous but curiously pointless, in our modern “Trumpian disruption” way. US President Donald Trump has for months flouted established patterns of engagement with North Korea, and he clearly relishes doing so. Cable TV is filled with pro-Trump pundits praising his marginalization of “so-called experts” on the North. The analyst community is apparently to be swept aside before Trump’s bold moves and wheeler-and-dealer bravado, which will bring North Korean supremo Kim Jong-un to the table.

But it is not at all clear that this turmoil has resulted in anything other than chaos, setting off a daily rollercoaster of changes, such as the South Korean President Moon Jae-in’s sudden suggestion that he, too, might participate in the summit. We are still waiting for a clear sign of triumph or improvement in America’s position in relation to North Korea: Pyongyang has offered nothing yet that cannot be easily reversed, while in South Korea, Trump’s antics have noticeably worsened US standing.

Trump’s bellicose 2017 rhetoric has scared up a huge dovish consensus for the liberal Moon to make concessions to the North—which is an ironic result, perhaps, for a hawkish Republican US administration to have achieved. Elected a year ago with just 41 percent of the vote, Moon’s approval rating is now above 80 percent, despite no serious domestic achievement. Trump has also regularly bullied South Korea—by, for example, calling Moon an appeaser, threatening to unilaterally withdraw US troops, and forcing an unnecessary and contentious trade-deal renegotiation.

The US president is now extraordinarily unpopular here, even as the South Korean government has taken to rank flattery to keep him at bay. It is an open secret in South Korea that Moon’s suggestion that Trump might win the Nobel Peace Prize was nothing but a gimmick to appeal to Trump’s vanity and keep him on a diplomatic track in the place of his threatened “fire and fury.” No one in South Korea actually believes it—and it is a mark of just how effectively Trump sets the US media agenda that the notion was seriously debated at home for several weeks.

Conversely, when the Trump administration decided to put the Singapore meeting back on track, it sent to Pyongyang, on May 28, precisely those sorts of experts—people like US ambassador to the Philippines, Sung Kim, and National Security Council Korean specialist Allison Hooker—who represent the supposedly stodgy status quo. After two months of his showboating on North Korea, when the president finally decided to commit to the meeting with Kim, he fell back on establishment policy wonks operating quietly on business trips. These officials now face a nearly insuperable burden of slapping together in just a few weeks a framework deal that has eluded US negotiators for years. A successful outcome in this venture is highly unlikely.

This return to backroom expertise suggests that the Trump-Kim summit process has, in the harsh glare of the global media, been overexposed. One might call it the “Trump Show”: a disquieting mix of ginned-up melodrama and neediness for attention. And this was apparent from the start, when Trump accepted the general suggestion from South Korean envoys to meet Kim. It is unclear if the envoys actually spoke for Kim himself. They may simply have encouraged Trump. But Trump, ever impulsive and disdainful of experts, agreed to it without even telling his own staff. He then, bizarrely, sent the South Korean envoys outside the White House in the middle of the night to make a statement that the US secretary of state should have made in a proper forum.

This mix of reality TV antics and Trumpian disruption has characterized the entire run-up to the summit, generating endless TV talking-points, but little actual movement on the technical issues. Indeed, Trump’s bragging about how he had forced the North Koreans to agree to talks and the speculation about a Nobel almost certainly worsened the negotiations. The North Koreans partially halted the summit process in mid-May because of hype from the White House that Pyongyang would completely denuclearize. Compare this chaotic approach to President Lyndon Johnson’s boisterous yet meticulous engineering of Civil Rights and Great Society legislation, spending hours on the phone with members of Congress, fighting for every inch of political advantage.

As so often occurs with Trump initiatives, the process became more important than the substance itself. Rather than debating the details of what complicated deal we might strike with North Korea—a cap on missiles in exchange for a relocation of US peninsular airpower to Japan, Guam, or Hawaii, for example, or cameras in North Korean facilities in return for targeted sanctions relief—the media focus has been on the frenzy of daily moves and counter-moves, such as Trump’s strange, “jilted lover” withdrawal letter of May 24. Trump cannot help but makes his policy initiatives about himself, and this was no different. Meanwhile, no one seemed to notice that Trump never made any programmatic statement about what US talks with North Korea hope to achieve beyond highly unlikely CVID (complete, verifiable, and irreversible disarmament).

It is unnerving that on something as momentous as North Korea’s nuclear program, the president has never spoken in any detail about what trade-offs the US might consider in order to demobilize those weapons. If the North Koreans reject CVID, as most analysts expect, would the US accept something less? If so, in exchange for what? This is the sort of mixed-deal package likely to emerge, and Trump has not publicly laid any groundwork for what compromises the US might accept. Instead of maximalist campaign-rally speeches and the Nobel hype, moving the negotiations to the expert staff level—and giving them more time—would help a great deal.

The necessary presidential framing is probably missing because, first, the president himself does not understand these issues and does not want to spend the time studying them (reportedly, he “doesn’t think he needs to” prepare for the Singapore summit); and second, since he appears unwilling to actually negotiate with the North at Singapore, there is no need, conveniently, to learn any details. With a penchant for threats and little interest in the giving-to-get of diplomacy, Trump appears to expect to dictate terms, as he has attempted to do in negotiations over Obamacare repeal, China, NAFTA, Iran, and elsewhere.

A sign of this belligerence in the North Korean case was the promotion by Vice President Mike Pence and National Security Adviser John Bolton of the “Libya model,” referring to the agreement with the former leader of Libya, Muammar Qaddafi, to give up its entire nuclear program upfront in exchange for vague future promises of security guarantees and economic assistance. This major blunder suggests that Bolton and Pence were deliberately undercutting Secretary of State Mike Pompeo’s outreach to Pyongyang, even attempting to sabotage the June summit.

Few in the analyst community think North Korea will accept Libyan-style CVID. The North Koreans spent forty years working on nuclear weapons. They have written them into their country’s constitution. The ballistic missile warheads give Pyongyang the power of direct nuclear deterrence over the US mainland, and that is a powerful shield against any US-led attempt at regime change in North Korea. It would be astonishing if the North Koreans were suddenly to surrender their arsenal. Even were they to agree to that, the counter-concessions they would demand would be enormous—such as the end of the US-South Korean alliance.

Notably, the Libya deal ended very badly for the Libyan elite, particularly for Qaddafi. The US provided neither the economic aid nor the security assurance. First, Washington dragged its feet on the benefits, much to the enragement of Libyan officials, who started claiming they had been cheated. Then, during the 2011 Arab Spring, the US violated the security guarantee by supporting the Libyan revolutionaries. Qaddafi met a grisly end when rebels hunted him down, captured, and killed him. No one misses Qaddafi, of course, but the US’s clear failure to uphold its end of the bargain damaged American credibility in dealing with other rogue states over nuclear weapons.

It speaks to its high-handedness and disdain for diplomacy that Team Trump even suggested this as a framework, for Pyongyang has often said that a Libyan outcome is exactly what it fears. The North Koreans have told US negotiators for years that if Qaddafi had held onto his nuclear program, he would likely still be alive. This is almost certainly true.

Worse, this storyline from the North Koreans about Qaddafi is so well-known among those who work on North Korea that is it hard to imagine Bolton and Pence did not know it. When they invoked the Libyan model, they almost certainly knew it would set off a harsh response—as it did, with Pyongyang calling Pence a “dummy” the next day. They also likely knew it might even bring down the summit, which it nearly did. North Korea’s mid-May semi-halt to the process directly followed the Libya references. Pence has been a notably hawkish voice on North Korea from the start of the Trump administration, and Bolton has repeatedly advocated a military strike against North Korea or all-out regime change.

Little of the above suggests that Trumpian disruption has improved American foreign policy outcomes. Indeed, Trump’s manic behavior nearly sank the summit three times—first, with his early May triumphalism, predicting that the North would denuclearize and hyping the Nobel; second, with his May 24 semi-withdrawal letter, which simultaneously threatened nuclear war again; and third, through his inability to control his subordinates’ provocations about the Libya model. Amid the media distractions, no one appears to be talking about the specifics of a possible deal: some mix of aid, sanctions relief, cameras or inspectors in North Korea facilities, a pullback of US conventional forces or airpower, a peace treaty, a North Korean missile cap, a stockpile inventory, and so on. In the event that Trump does strike a deal, the US public—told hyperbolically last year that a nuclear North Korea was an existential threat to America—will be wholly unprepared for such a volte-face.

From the repeal of Obamacare to trade with China, from his border wall to an infrastructure plan, Trump’s overexposure of his proposals by stimulating a media frenzy through his own shenanigans routinely undercuts his efforts. There probably is room for a US-North Korean deal—both sides seem to want the summit—but Trump’s propensity to turn every major policy initiative into personal theatrics may well undercut his Korea effort, too. Pyongyang may judge that it cannot trust someone so unstable and prone to change his mind.

Worse, the North Koreans may try the flattery route to obtain a deal. They, too, can see that Trump has been easily rolled by sycophancy from such diverse quarters as Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe, Chinese President Xi Jinping, Persian Gulf royals, and US CEOs. The North Koreans were always canny negotiators in past dealings; it should not surprise us at all if they have now identified Trump’s vanity as his weakness, and choose to cater to it, as did their fawning response to Trump’s May 24 letter. Are you ready for Ambassador Dennis Rodman to take up residence in Trump Tower Pyongyang?

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

@Robert_E_Kelly

 

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Reality TV Diplomacy: Pageantry Trumps Tension as US-NK Summit Proceeds

Koreabridge - Tue, 2018-06-05 12:29
Reality TV Diplomacy: Pageantry Trumps Tension as US-NK Summit Proceed Listen to "Reality TV Diplomacy: Pageantry Trumps Tension as US-NK Summit Proceeds" on Spreaker.

On episode 75 of The Korea File podcast:

Former U.S. diplomat, speechwriter, and commentator on U.S. foreign policy in Asia Mintaro Oba joins host Andre Goulet to discuss this month’s on again off again US-North Korea meeting how the Moon administration’s heroic heavy lifting has kept the summit on track. Plus: a risk-free template for how to be a North Korea pundit. 

This conversation was recorded on June 1st, 2018.
 

Music on this episode is from the album 'The Best of Yi Moon-sae'.


    The Korea File
      http://www.spreaker.com/show/korea_moments

AttachmentSize xTKF ep75 Mintaro Oba (Mono).mp314.89 MB
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LTW: Sin-soo Choo and BTS shine in the U.S

Koreabridge - Fri, 2018-06-01 01:33
LTW: Sin-soo Choo and BTS shine in the U.S While Donald Trump is changing his mind on the meeting with Kim Jong-un as often as he makes trips to bathroom in diarrhea, two Korean celebrities have made histories in the U.S. Sin-Soo Choo, a Korean in Texas Rangers, hit a good-bye home run, his 176th home run in his MLB career, on May 27 in the 10th inning against Kansas City Royals, becoming the Asian with most home runs in MLB history since his debut in 2005 with Seattle Mariners. Matsui Hideki of Japan had held the title with 175 home runs until his retirement in 2012. Another Korean sensation was with boy band BTS as they earned the first No.1 album on Billboard 200 chart with 'Love Yourself:Tear', becoming the first K-pop album to lead the Billboard 200, and the first foreign language chart topper since 2006 when Il Divo topped the list with Ancora in the mixture f Spanish, Italian and French. 



Sin-Soo Choo and BTS are not the only Korean history makers in the U.S. Another great MLB achievement that no one had made before, and no one will ever repeat, was accomplished by Korean pitcher, Chanho Park of LA Dodgers, on Apr 23 in 1999. In the 3rd inning against St.Louis Cardinals, Chanho Park allowed two grand slams, to the same hitter , and all this in one inning. Bill Phillips of Pittsburgh Pirates gave two grand slams in one inning nearly a century ago in 1890, but it was with two different hitters. The Cardinals hitter that helped Chanho Park shine in MLB history was Fernando Tatis who is also listed with the most RBI in one inning in MLB history. Hard to believe? Just check it out below.

https://www.facebook.com/mlb/videos/10152971278367451/ 
Regards,H.S.
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Please Help! URGENT! Need BLOOD TYPE B+

Koreabridge - Tue, 2018-05-22 11:57

Hi,

I want to ask you for help!

The friend of mine PYAK IGOR. He was diagnosed with BLOOD CANCER.  And he is really in bad condition now.  Right now he is in Busan National University Hospital (Address: 179 Gudeok-ro, Amidong 1(il)-ga, Seo-gu, Busan, South Korea: orange line. TOSONG station)

Doctor said that he needs B+ TYPE OF BLOOD  a MALE DONOR.

Maybe if there is somebody who's having this type of blood can help my friend.

PLEASE  HELP US TO SAVE A FRIEND.

For anyone  who can help  and need more information please write in the comments.

Thank you in advance!

Please Help! URGENT! Need BLOOD TYPE B+
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Teachers Teaching Teachers Playlist

EdTechTalk - Sat, 2018-05-19 04:13

While things have gotten a bit quiet on the the EdTechTalk site, Teachers Teaching Teachers continues to have great conversations Wednesday nights at 8pm EST (global times). Below is a playlist of recent episodes.  
Tune in at: http://edtechtalk.com/ttt
 

read more

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:Educational Technology and Education Conferences: (December 2018)

EdTechTalk - Fri, 2018-05-18 03:06

:Educational Technology and Education Conferences:

for June to December 2018, Edition #39

 

Prepared by Clayton R. Wright, crwr77 at gmail.com, May 12, 2018

 

read more

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Which North/South Korean Scenario is most likely five years from now?

Koreabridge - Sun, 2018-05-13 14:27
North & South Korea have begun the process of Reunification Relations are closer than now, but the countries remain firmly divided Things basically stay the same Tensions will be heightened and/or military conflict has occurred Other Which North/South Korean Scenario is most likely five years from now?
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Things to Think about Before Having Surgery in Korea

Koreabridge - Mon, 2018-04-30 07:25
Things to Think about Before Having Surgery in Korea

 

A couple of months ago, I underwent surgery in Korea. Although I’m used to being a patient here, that was the first time I stayed in the hospital for what seemed like an eternity (a week, actually). Let me share my experience on being a foreign inpatient for those of you who may be contemplating on going under the knife in the land of the morning calm.

INFORM WORK  ABOUT THE SURGERY EARLY (IF POSSIBLE).If the surgery can wait, schedule it during vacation. In Korea, calling in sick for a day is like being guilty of a crime. What more if you’re going to miss work for days? If you’re going to undergo a medical procedure that may require you longer time to recover, you MUST ask for a leave a month ahead to give your company time to get someone to stand in for you. It’s not odd at all if your boss would ask you to look for a substitute, especially if you work as a teacher. I’ve done this a few times during my hospital visits. If you say you’re going to resume work after a week, you have to keep your word. It’s better to extend the time of recovery your doctor gave you and get enough rest than have to call your boss again and say that you’re not ready to go back to work. I remember that time when I suffered from severe backpain and had to call in sick, my wonjangnim was furious! She called me up to say I had to go to work no matter what. I was in the hospital, and my boss kept berating me on the phone. She hung up on me as I was explaining. The next day, my condition got worse that I couldn’t even stand up. I had to call her again to say that I couldn’t go to work, but she wouldn’t listen even when I challenged her to call the hospital. I quit that hagwon before deciding to have surgery. My oncologist said that I could return to work a week after the operation, but I wasn’t sure if I would be physically and mentally ready after just a few days, so I took a month-long leave from the hagwon. In the school, however, I resumed work after two weeks, because I didn’t inform them about the surgery and I had English Camp to facilitate.HAVING SOMEONE ASSIST YOU IS A MUST.The initial plan was to have my mom fly to Korea, so she could care for me, but my husband was able to ask for a leave, so he was my caregiver. Lately, I’ve seen a number of Korean inpatients who have no family member or a friend attending to them. Korea is a busy country with busy working people who barely have time to breath, so sometimes family members will just visit and leave the patient under the care of nurses. When my father-in-law had an operation, no one stayed with him in the hospital. (Everyone in the family works fulltime.) We only visited him and brought him everything he needed. Sometimes my mother-in-law would cook him dinner or bring his favorite banchan (side dishes) and stay with him for hours, but she never slept at the hospital room with him. When my husband underwent surgery, I insisted that I stay with him overnight, but he declined. He said sleeping in the hospital would be too uncomfortable for me, because he won’t be the only patient in the room. Most inpatients here stay in the wards, because Korea’s National Health Insurance does not cover upgrades like having a private room. I was willing to pay for my own room. (I have a private insurance and I really value my comfort.) Unfortunately, there was neither a private nor a semiprivate room available, so I had to stay in the ward with six other patients. I was more anxious of being in the ward than the surgery itself, because I thought I wouldn’t have much privacy, but it wasn’t so bad. The curtain around my bed was huge enough to cover my place and the room wasn’t packed to the gills. We were four patients in the room. Other patients arrived later. My bed was near the bathroom, so I didn’t have to walk far every time I had to use the toilet. The only issue I had was the noise. Sometimes I would be awakened by one of the patients whining. One of the attending family members coughed and spit incessantly in the middle of the night. (He seemed more ill than any of the patients in the room.) The girl next to me went through the same surgery that I had, and she was miserable when she woke up. She cried a lot during her first day post-op. I knew how painful the first couple of hours are when the medicine wears off, and you have to fight off your sleepiness, because you’re instructed to stay awake. I asked my husband to get her a stuffed toy, and I gave it to her. I told her the pain would soon go away. Before I left the hospital, she gave me a thank-you letter and a box of macarons.There was also the janitress, an ajumma (middle-aged woman), who cursed every time she was cleaning the bathroom. One day, she threw a fit because she had to unclog the toilet and clean the flooded bathroom. (All the patients in that room had to take laxatives before surgery, so you can just imagine the toilet being a fecal matter war zone!) To everyone’s astonishment, the ajumma kicked one of the unused IV stands left near the bathroom, and it landed right in my bed. I swear I would’ve lost it if that IV stand hit me! No one reasoned with her. I wish I did. (Anywhere you go, beware of angry ajummas… even in places like the hospital where people should have more compassion.)If you can speak fluent Korean, you will be all right without a caregiver as there are many friendly and kind nurses who will attend to you, but if you can scarcely speak the language, I suggest you have a friend who can speak Korean help you out. Maybe your friend can stay with you until you wake up from the surgery. Before you have the procedure, you’re going to be asked a series of questions (about your medical background) and sign an agreement and/or consent. My level of Korean is intermediate, but there were still some things that were not clear to me when the nurses were explaining preoperative procedures. I asked if they could give me an English-translated copy of the paper they gave me before I was admitted to the hospital, but they said they have it only in Korean. It came as a surprise to me, because the hospital where I was admitted is one of the biggest and most prominent hospitals in Seoul, and it even has an International Healthcare Center, but even the foreigners’ desk could not provide me with an English-translated copy. All of the papers they handed me and the waivers I signed were in Korean. I had to rely on my little knowledge of the language and my Korean husband’s help. Most doctors and nurses will try to speak to you in English if you tell them that you don’t understand Korean. My Korean is good enough to talk to the nurses, but my husband urged me to speak in English to avoid misunderstanding.If you don’t have a Korean friend or someone who can speak Korean well to assist you, don’t fret. Most big hospitals in Korea have International Healthcare Centers. In Seoul National University Hospital (SNUH), for instance, you can ask for an English-speaking volunteer to guide you. ASK QUESTIONS.Normally, doctors in Korea don’t spend a lot of time explaining to their patients everything they need to know about their surgery. Doctors here are not used to being bombarded with questions. Some may even find it offensive. You are, however, their patient, and it’s your right to feel confident about the surgery they’re going to perform on you, so even when you notice your doctor fidgeting or scowling, ask, ask, ask. I suggest you make a list of things you’d like to ask your doctor prior to your procedure and make the talking concise.Also, I made it a habit to ask the nurses what medicine they were giving me or injecting into my IV. Some of them would just hand you medicine without informing you what it’s for.DEAL WITH LACK OF PRIVACY.You may find it awkward to have another patient in the room waiting for his turn as your doctor is discussing your diagnosis or treatment plan with you, but believe me, that patient doesn’t give a damn. Korean hospitals don’t have the same privacy that we enjoy in our home country, something we have to get used to. I recall one time when the nurse had to empty my bladder after surgery. There was another patient in the room who was going to be next, and only a thin cubicle curtain separated us from each other. The patient was a woman, so I didn’t mind it that much. Besides, I had similar experiences in other hospitals. I’ve gotten used to this culture somehow.When I was wheeled into the waiting room, I was stunned to see other patients, both men and women, who were lined up in stretchers, prepped for surgery. My husband was allowed to stay with me while I was in the waiting room. He was the only family member there.Being alone in a foreign country when you are sick can be daunting, especially when you have to undergo a serious medical procedure. I’m fortunate enough to have a caring husband who never left my side, but if you have to face the surgery alone, you don’t have to worry. Korea offers excellent medical care despite some peculiarities in its hospital culture. You’ll be in good hands. You’re going to be all right. I will never forget the kindness shown to me by the nurses and how well they took care of me even when I had my caregiver. After the surgery, I woke up in the recovery room and I felt a gentle hand wiping the tears from my face. I thought it was my husband, but I realized later on that it was a nurse. I was crying not because of pain, but because I lost something important to me, a part of me, after the procedure, and that nurse stayed by my side to try to comfort me.

A couple of months ago, I underwent surgery in Korea. Although I’m used to being a patient here, that was the first time I stayed in the hospital for what seemed like an eternity (a week, actually). Let me share my experience on being a foreign inpatient for those of you who may be contemplating on going under the knife in the land of the morning calm.

INFORM WORK  ABOUT THE SURGERY EARLY (IF POSSIBLE).If the surgery can wait, schedule it during vacation. In Korea, calling in sick for a day is like being guilty of a crime. What more if you’re going to miss work for days? If you’re going to undergo a medical procedure that may require you longer time to recover, you MUST ask for a leave a month ahead to give your company time to get someone to stand in for you. It’s not odd at all if your boss would ask you to look for a substitute, especially if you work as a teacher. I’ve done this a few times during my hospital visits. If you say you’re going to resume work after a week, you have to keep your word. It’s better to extend the time of recovery your doctor gave you and get enough rest than have to call your boss again and say that you’re not ready to go back to work. I remember that time when I suffered from severe backpain and had to call in sick, my wonjangnim was furious! She called me up to say I had to go to work no matter what. I was in the hospital, and my boss kept berating me on the phone. She hung up on me as I was explaining. The next day, my condition got worse that I couldn’t even stand up. I had to call her again to say that I couldn’t go to work, but she wouldn’t listen even when I challenged her to call the hospital. I quit that hagwon before deciding to have surgery. My oncologist said that I could return to work a week after the operation, but I wasn’t sure if I would be physically and mentally ready after just a few days, so I took a month-long leave from the hagwon. In the school, however, I resumed work after two weeks, because I didn’t inform them about the surgery and I had English Camp to facilitate.HAVING SOMEONE ASSIST YOU IS A MUST.The initial plan was to have my mom fly to Korea, so she could care for me, but my husband was able to ask for a leave, so he was my caregiver. Lately, I’ve seen a number of Korean inpatients who have no family member or a friend attending to them. Korea is a busy country with busy working people who barely have time to breath, so sometimes family members will just visit and leave the patient under the care of nurses. When my father-in-law had an operation, no one stayed with him in the hospital. (Everyone in the family works fulltime.) We only visited him and brought him everything he needed. Sometimes my mother-in-law would cook him dinner or bring his favorite banchan (side dishes) and stay with him for hours, but she never slept at the hospital room with him. When my husband underwent surgery, I insisted that I stay with him overnight, but he declined. He said sleeping in the hospital would be too uncomfortable for me, because he won’t be the only patient in the room. Most inpatients here stay in the wards, because Korea’s National Health Insurance does not cover upgrades like having a private room. I was willing to pay for my own room. (I have a private insurance and I really value my comfort.) Unfortunately, there was neither a private nor a semiprivate room available, so I had to stay in the ward with six other patients. I was more anxious of being in the ward than the surgery itself, because I thought I wouldn’t have much privacy, but it wasn’t so bad. The curtain around my bed was huge enough to cover my place and the room wasn’t packed to the gills. We were four patients in the room. Other patients arrived later. My bed was near the bathroom, so I didn’t have to walk far every time I had to use the toilet. The only issue I had was the noise. Sometimes I would be awakened by one of the patients whining. One of the attending family members coughed and spit incessantly in the middle of the night. (He seemed more ill than any of the patients in the room.) The girl next to me went through the same surgery that I had, and she was miserable when she woke up. She cried a lot during her first day post-op. I knew how painful the first couple of hours are when the medicine wears off, and you have to fight off your sleepiness, because you’re instructed to stay awake. I asked my husband to get her a stuffed toy, and I gave it to her. I told her the pain would soon go away. Before I left the hospital, she gave me a thank-you letter and a box of macarons.There was also the janitress, an ajumma (middle-aged woman), who cursed every time she was cleaning the bathroom. One day, she threw a fit because she had to unclog the toilet and clean the flooded bathroom. (All the patients in that room had to take laxatives before surgery, so you can just imagine the toilet being a fecal matter war zone!) To everyone’s astonishment, the ajumma kicked one of the unused IV stands left near the bathroom, and it landed right in my bed. I swear I would’ve lost it if that IV stand hit me! No one reasoned with her. I wish I did. (Anywhere you go, beware of angry ajummas… even in places like the hospital where people should have more compassion.)If you can speak fluent Korean, you will be all right without a caregiver as there are many friendly and kind nurses who will attend to you, but if you can scarcely speak the language, I suggest you have a friend who can speak Korean help you out. Maybe your friend can stay with you until you wake up from the surgery. Before you have the procedure, you’re going to be asked a series of questions (about your medical background) and sign an agreement and/or consent. My level of Korean is intermediate, but there were still some things that were not clear to me when the nurses were explaining preoperative procedures. I asked if they could give me an English-translated copy of the paper they gave me before I was admitted to the hospital, but they said they have it only in Korean. It came as a surprise to me, because the hospital where I was admitted is one of the biggest and most prominent hospitals in Seoul, and it even has an International Healthcare Center, but even the foreigners’ desk could not provide me with an English-translated copy. All of the papers they handed me and the waivers I signed were in Korean. I had to rely on my little knowledge of the language and my Korean husband’s help. Most doctors and nurses will try to speak to you in English if you tell them that you don’t understand Korean. My Korean is good enough to talk to the nurses, but my husband urged me to speak in English to avoid misunderstanding.If you don’t have a Korean friend or someone who can speak Korean well to assist you, don’t fret. Most big hospitals in Korea have International Healthcare Centers. In Seoul National University Hospital (SNUH), for instance, you can ask for an English-speaking volunteer to guide you. ASK QUESTIONS.Normally, doctors in Korea don’t spend a lot of time explaining to their patients everything they need to know about their surgery. Doctors here are not used to being bombarded with questions. Some may even find it offensive. You are, however, their patient, and it’s your right to feel confident about the surgery they’re going to perform on you, so even when you notice your doctor fidgeting or scowling, ask, ask, ask. I suggest you make a list of things you’d like to ask your doctor prior to your procedure and make the talking concise.Also, I made it a habit to ask the nurses what medicine they were giving me or injecting into my IV. Some of them would just hand you medicine without informing you what it’s for.DEAL WITH LACK OF PRIVACY.You may find it awkward to have another patient in the room waiting for his turn as your doctor is discussing your diagnosis or treatment plan with you, but believe me, that patient doesn’t give a damn. Korean hospitals don’t have the same privacy that we enjoy in our home country, something we have to get used to. I recall one time when the nurse had to empty my bladder after surgery. There was another patient in the room who was going to be next, and only a thin cubicle curtain separated us from each other. The patient was a woman, so I didn’t mind it that much. Besides, I had similar experiences in other hospitals. I’ve gotten used to this culture somehow.When I was wheeled into the waiting room, I was stunned to see other patients, both men and women, who were lined up in stretchers, prepped for surgery. My husband was allowed to stay with me while I was in the waiting room. He was the only family member there.Being alone in a foreign country when you are sick can be daunting, especially when you have to undergo a serious medical procedure. I’m fortunate enough to have a caring husband who never left my side, but if you have to face the surgery alone, you don’t have to worry. Korea offers excellent medical care despite some peculiarities in its hospital culture. You’ll be in good hands. You’re going to be all right. I will never forget the kindness shown to me by the nurses and how well they took care of me even when I had my caregiver. After the surgery, I woke up in the recovery room and I felt a gentle hand wiping the tears from my face. I thought it was my husband, but I realized later on that it was a nurse. I was crying not because of pain, but because I lost something important to me, a part of me, after the procedure, and that nurse stayed by my side to try to comfort me.

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Cheonjuam Hermitage – 천주암 (Changwon, Gyeongsangnam-do)

Koreabridge - Sun, 2018-04-29 02:15
Cheonjuam Hermitage – 천주암 (Changwon, Gyeongsangnam-do)

The main hall at Cheonjuam Hermitage in preparation for Buddha’s birthday.

Hello Again Everyone!!

The compact Cheonjuam Hermitage is located in northern Changwon, Gyeongsangnam-do. And it’s beautifully situated on the eastern slopes of Mt. Cheonjusan, which stands an impressive 639.5 metres in height.

Follow the plethora of mountain hikers as you make your way towards Cheonjuam Hermitage. The first thing to greet you is the stone front façade to the hermitage. Before entering the hermitage, turn around to get a beautiful view of northern Changwon down below.

To the right, follow the pathway up towards the lower courtyard. Situated in the lower courtyard is a two story building that acts as the monks’ dorms at Cheonjuam Hermitage. To the left of the monks’ dorms, and overhanging from the upper courtyard, is the hermitage’s bell pavilion. It’s rather surprising that a hermitage so small in size would have such a large bell; but it does!

Having climbed the stairs either to the right or left of the bell pavilion, you’ll see the main hall to your right. The main hall is surrounded around the exterior by beautiful blue hued Shimu-do, Ox-Herding, murals. Stepping inside the main hall, you’ll notice a main altar comprised of three seated statues. Sitting in the centre is the image of Amita-bul (The Buddha of the Western Paradise). This statue is joined to the left by a green haired Jijang-bosal (The Bodhisattva of the Afterlife) and a crowned Gwanseeum-bosal (The Bodhisattva of Compassion) to the right. And hanging over top of these three statues is a large red datjib. To the right of the main altar is a mural dedicated to Chilseong (The Seven Stars). And to the left is the temple’s guardian mural.

The only other shrine hall that visitors can explore at Cheonjuam Hermitage is the newly constructed Samseong-gak shaman shrine hall to the right rear of the main hall. Both the Chilseong and Dokseong (The Lonely Saint) murals are rather typical in composition; it’s the Sanshin (The Mountain Spirit) mural that stands out a bit with a dongja offering Sanshin an assortment of fruits including grapes and a watermelon. Also worth having a look is the fiercely painted tiger on the left exterior wall of the Samseong-gak Hall.

HOW TO GET THERE: You can get to Cheonjuam Hermitage from the Changwon Intercity Bus Terminal by taxi. The taxi ride should last about 10 minutes and cost 6,000 won. And after visiting the hermitage, there’s plenty of mountain hiking to enjoy.

OVERALL RATING: 4/10. During Buddha’s birthday, when the paper lanterns are hanging in the upper hermitage courtyard, Cheonjuam Hermitage is especially beautiful during these mid-spring months. Added to this aesthetic beauty is the large hermitage bell, as well as the Ox-Herding murals adorning the main hall and the Sanshin and tiger murals housed in and around the Samseong-gak Hall.

The front facade as you make your way up to the hermitage grounds.

The view from Cheonjuam Hermitage towards northern Changwon.

The entry to the hermitage grounds with the monks’ dorms to the right.

The bell pavilion at Cheonjuam Hermitage.

A large bell for such a small hermitage.

The main altar inside the main hall with Amita-bul (The Buddha of the Western Paradise) in the centre.

The amazing datjib canopy above the main altar.

The guardian mural to the left of the main altar.

And to the right is this mural dedicated to Chilseong (The Seven Stars).

One of the Shimu-do murals that adorns the exterior walls of the main hall at Cheonjuam Hermitage.

The beautiful scenery that surrounds the main hall.

The Samseong-gak shaman shrine hall to the rear of the main hall.

A closer look at the Samseong-gak Hall.

The Sanshin mural housed inside the shaman shrine hall.

A decorative tiger that adorns the left exterior wall of the Samseong-gak Hall.

The view from the Samseong-gak Hall over the monks’ dorms at Cheonjuam Hermitage.

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LTW: The Summit

Koreabridge - Fri, 2018-04-27 15:58
LTW: The Summit


As you have probably seen live on CNN on Apr 27, Kim Jong-un became the first North Korean leader to cross DMZ for a meeting in S.Korea since Korea got divided right after liberation from Japan in 1945. In a joint Panmunjom Declaration after a big bear hug accompanied by their spouses, Kim Jong-un and SK president Moon Jae-in pledged to make nuclear-free Korean Peninsula, agreed to officially end the Korean War by the end this year, promised to hold another summit meeting in Pyeongyang this fall, and vowed to halt hostile acts along the DMZ, such as loudspeaker propaganda broadcasting. While most Koreans are excited about the dramatic turnaround from just a few months ago when Kim and Trump threw mud at each other over the size of their nuclear buttons, some critics caution that the Panmunjom Declaration is not much different from the two previous summit meetings in Pyongyang between Kim Jong-il and Kim Dae-jung in 2000 and with Roh Mu-hyun in 2007. The critics argue Kim Jong-un would be very reluctant by instinct to throw away for nothing the very thing that made him get all the attention from the rest of the world including the mighty U.S.


The Moon-Kim summit served only an appetizer as there were no details over how and when the denuclearization can be completed. The main menu will be coming when Trump sits on the table with Kim Jong-un in 3-4 weeks for CVID of nuclear program. My two cents for Trump and Moon for their Nobel. Trump better understand Kim Jong-un has Hitler's DNA in his family blood . Kim's grandpa started Korean War in 1950, much like Hitler did WWII, Kim's father blew up Korean Air flight in 1987, killing hundreds of innocent passengers, much like Hitler's Auschwitz, and Kim Jong-un himself terminated his own cronies, brother and uncle, much like Hitler did away with his Nazi friend Ernst Rohm in Nacht der langen Messer in 1934. Two previous S.Korean presidents got duped by Kim Jong-un's father in the past. President Moon better keep in mind, "If deceived the first time, it can be a mistake. If cheated the 2nd time, it is because you are a fool. If third time, you are an accomplice." Below is what Moon's barber will make Moon should he become an accomplice.
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Vance Stevens' Contribution to Earthcast 2017 (from Oman)

Earthbridges.net - Tue, 2018-04-17 21:15

Vance Stevens' contributions for Earth Day from Musandam, Oman.

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Earthcast 2017

Earthbridges.net - Tue, 2018-04-17 15:37

Earthcast 2017

#1 - Rye, NH students - Blue Class

#2 - Rye, NH students - Green Class

#3 - Rye, NH students - Yellow Class

read more

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Can Moon Sell a Deal with North Korea to the Hawks, in the US and SK?

Koreabridge - Fri, 2018-04-13 22:56
Can S Korean President Moon Sell a Deal with North Korea to the Hawks

This is a local re-post of an op-ed I wrote earlier this month for the Lowy Institute. Basically, I am wondering if Moon can get a deal with North Korea by South Korea’s  conservatives, especially in the press. I am skeptical.

It is worth noting in this regard that Moon and the Blue House have said almost nothing publicly about the talks with Kim Jong Un, specifically what the agenda might be or what proposals POTROK might make. Does anyone else find that vaguely alarming? Given all the big talk about settling the big issues of Korean, shouldn’t POTROK be floating some ideas out there for the public and analyst community to chew over? And Moon talked so much about improved transparency in government as a candidate.

It is worth remembering that when SK President Park Geun Hye negotiated the comfort women deal in a blackhole like this, she faced punishing public criticism when the deal was finally released. Moon will face the same backlash if he gives away a lot with little to no public input or warning. This is all very curious. I wish we knew a lot more about what Moon and Trump are considering offering up – USFK, the alliance itself, aid, sanctions relief, recognition? Everyone is guessing, because these two democratic governments aren’t telling anyone anything. Grr.

So below the jump are some ideas on how to get a deal passed Seoul conservatives who are increasingly suspicious of this whole thing.

 

 

Later this month, South Korean President Moon Jae-In will meet North Korean leader Kim Jong Un. This is the third inter-Korean summit since the days of the Sunshine Policy – an approach of opening and dialogue toward North Korea from 1998 to 2008. This effort earned a Nobel Peace Prize, but previous liberal governments in South Korea struggled to show real successes. There were widespread complaints, from the right especially, that the Sunshine Policy was all South Korean concessions in exchange simply for a provocation halt. All North Korea gave up was its willingness to attack South Korea, and in exchange it received somewhere around three to four billion US dollars over a decade.

Overcoming this conservative skepticism at home will be Moon’s biggest hurdle. Moon won with only 41% of the vote. As a minoritarian president, whatever deal he brings home will be dissected in the conservative press, and there will likely be much analogizing of him to Neville Chamberlain and ‘peace in our time.’ Moon has not floated any proposals or talking points unfortunately, so we can only guess what he might focus on or give away, but here are some suggestions to slip this by the hawks:

1. Do not get derailed by all the North Korean efforts to change the subject away from its nuclear and missile programs.

Perhaps the heart of the skepticism from analysts everywhere about these summits is that North Korea would ever give up its nuclear program despite forty years of effort to build these weapons and the obvious deterrent utility – no American-led regime change is possible now – of keeping them. It is easy to predict that Kim will seek to discuss anything and everything but the nuclear missile program. There will be lots of suggestions for joint projects like sports teams at international games, economic cooperation, rail through North Korea, training of North Korean technical staff, family reunions, and so on. And lots and lots of nationalism with the subtle dig that the Americans stand between the two Koreas. Moon must nevertheless hook any movement on these pleasantries to some kind of controls on the nuclear missile program.

2. If the North Koreans will not discuss denuclearization, try nuclear safety.

I have floated this idea for the last month or so because of the likelihood that the North will balk on denuclearization and possibly walk out. Our goal, however unlikely, is CVID: complete, verifiable, irreversible disarmament. The North Koreans will likely not move on that much if at all. Or they will ask for a concession so outrageous – the end of the US-South Korean alliance, e.g. – that Moon will have no choice but to say no. (Moon himself might be open to such a swap, as Lowy’s own Sam Roggeveen has floated too, but I doubt 41% Moon could get that past the right back home.) Indeed, John Bolton may be hoping for exactly this outcome: Moon demands CVID; the North Koreans laugh and walk out; and the Americans have their casus belli.

An alternative that keeps the discussion in the nuclear space, and avoids the subject-changing problem I mentioned above, is nuclear and missile safety. North Korea, besides being a horrible orwellian tyranny, is also a grossly mismanaged semi-feudal state. One can only imagine how sloppy and careless it is with nuclear materials. We already know their main test site suffered a tunnel collapse which killed two hundred people. So why not talk with them about issues like waste disposal, storage, site access, missile command and control, and so on to avoid a Chernobyl-style meltdown? That is a legitimate concern, one North Korea (and China) probably share, and keeps the conversation focused on the nuclear program.

3. Map out a Trump-Kim summit as best as possible.

The possible May summit between Kim and US President Donald Trump is an enormous risk for the democratic camp. I have argued vociferously in print, Twitter, and on TV for weeks that it should be cancelled. Trump has neither the knowledge of Korea, the willingness to learn (i.e., to read), the attention span, nor a clear preference for democracy over dictatorship to negotiate on behalf of democracy with a tyrant Trump may well secretly admire as he does so many other dictators. I am amazed the Moon government thinks it is a good idea to put someone like Trump in a room with their existential competition. Were it up to me, I would cancel the summit immediately.

But if Moon insists, then he should do the very best to nail down specific items and issues for that discussion. Naturally Kim and Trump, fellow norm-breakers, will violate those guidelines. So Moon should broadcast those very publicly so that Trump faces a public backlash if he veers wildly. It is easy to see Trump gambling away South Korean security for some small-beer outcome which he can market as a ‘win’ back home to change the subject from his endless scandals so that the Republicans survive this fall’s midterm elections so that Trump will not be impeached next year. It should be pretty obvious to everyone now that Trump makes decisions based on his narrow interest; he is certainly not thinking about the American national interest, much less a small ally’s.

4. Get the details.

Deals with North Korea in the past have collapsed over sequencing, implementation wiggle room, delays, and other such deep-in-the-weeds specifics. Moon should try his mightiest to nail down very specific moves and timetables. US officials used to complain of ‘buying the same horse twice’ from the North. After twenty-five years of negotiating with the North on nukes, it should be pretty clear to everyone that they are canny negotiators who will take a mile if you give them an inch.

This is does not mean Moon should negotiate in bad faith. Democracies should not do that; that is one of things that makes democracy morally superior to places like North Korea. But there should be enormous skepticism. A big-bang deal – swapping US troops for nukes is the most obvious – is a huge risk. Go slow. Get the North Koreans to agree to some mid-level proposals which can be overseen in some detail, and then let’s see if they actually stick to them. There is little strategic trust between North Korea, and South Korea and the US. Moon will be pilloried as Neville Chamberlain if he naively hopes that Kim is not of the same ilk as his family predecessors. Seven years into his reign there is little to suggest that he is some manner of reformer. Indeed the most remarkable part of his reign is just how little North Korea has changed despite the shotgun succession and all the international pressure. The North is still a human rights disaster, still a tyranny, still belligerent, still a trouble-making international rogue, still promoting a cult-like ideology, and still threatening South Korea. And on top of that, it is a nuclear missile state.

These prescriptions are admittedly hawkish. Perhaps too skeptical. But they channel the response Moon will receive here if he takes a huge leap later this month. Moon surely sees himself as Nixon going to China, rather than Chamberlain going to Munich. We can always hope of course. But that is not a strategy, and in the midst of all this year’s pleasant atmospherics, note that North Korea has yet to float one meaningful concession. It’s all just talk so far. Maybe Moon can change twenty-five years of nuclear North Korean history, but I doubt it.

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

@Robert_E_Kelly

 

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The Korea File: Summit Spring Brings DPRK, ROK, US and PRC to the Dialogue Table

Koreabridge - Fri, 2018-04-06 14:56
Summit Spring Brings DPRK, ROK, US and PRC to the Dialogue Table

Listen to "Summit Spring: DPRK, ROK, US and PRC in Dialogue" on Spreaker.

Jenny Town (Assistant Director of the US-Korea Institute at the Johns Hopkins School of Advanced International Studies/Managing Editor at 38North.org) joins host Andre Goulet to discuss Washington's reaction to the surprise announcement of a Donald Trump/Kim Jong-un summit and- what can we expect from this month’s upcoming inter-Korean talks? How do the conditions surrounding the summit compare to the Roh Moo-hun/Kim Jong-il meeting of 2007? 

Plus: John Bolton as White House National Security Adviser adds a dangerous element to peace-making efforts on the peninsula and- why is Seoul still without an American ambassador? All this and more on episode 73 of The Korea File. 

Music on this episode: 방주연's '당신의 마음' (1987)

This conversation was recorded on April 3rd, 2018

https://www.spreaker.com/user/koreamoments/xtkf-ep73-jenny-town


    The Korea File
      http://www.spreaker.com/show/korea_moments

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Cancel the Trump-Kim Summit – because you don’t really think Trump is up to this, do you?

Koreabridge - Fri, 2018-03-30 23:18
Cancel the Trump-Kim Summit – because...

 

 

This is a local re-post of something I wrote for The National Interest earlier this month. This essay expands on what I have been saying on Twitter for last two weeks since Trump – or rather foreign envoys speaking on behalf

 of the US president (WTH?!) – agreed to the summit. Namely, that Donald Trump is woefully, obviously, embarrassingly unqualified to go head-to-head with Kim Jong Un in a serious bargaining environment

Normally it would not make much difference that Trump himself is clueless about Korea, because staff work would comprise most of the summit effort. But with only 8 weeks before the summit, much of the burden of negotiating falls on Trump himself. And since it is a summit, presumably the the really big issues between the US and NK are on the tables – nukes, a peace treaty, recognition, etc. Does anyone really believe a reality TV star who doesn’t read, watches five hours of TV a day, and relies more on family and friends than technical staff is qualified to negotiate these sorts of questions in just 8 weeks? Wake up, everybody.

To be sure, the summit will likely just be a bust, with Trump skylarking about how he’d like to build a Trump Tower in Pyongyang as Kim gives a long-winded speech about US ‘war crimes.’ But it might also go badly wrong as Trump veers wildly off-course and trades away US forces here for some weak-tea de-nuclearization deal the Norks will cheat on. Honestly, I am amazed the South Korea government thought it a good idea to put Trump – the guy who just 3 weeks ago gave this insane speech – in a room with Kim. What is going on?

The full essay follows the jump.

 

 

The last week has been yet another head-spinner in the Trump administration’s interaction with North Korea. Six months ago US President Donald Trump threatened to ‘totally destroy North Korea.’ Then suddenly he agreed to a summit with North Korean leader Kim Jong Un just forty-five minutes after the idea was first pitched to him by South Korean envoys. Everyone has whiplash, which is almost never good for policy.

All week on cable news and Twitter the Korea analyst community has prevaricated over this, as it seems far too fast and too unlikely. My own sense is broadly the same: This is moving so quickly, that the possibility of the summit stalemating or falling into an acrimonious back-and-forth between Trump and Kim is much higher than normal. Traditionally summits occur at the end of years of diplomacy and staff work in which the devils in the details are hammered out. The heads of state show up at the conclusion to nail down a few particulars, lend their prestige to the proceedings, and finalize the deal.

By contrast Trump is suggesting to meet Kim in just nine weeks. That is simply not enough time, especially if a grand bargain on peninsular affairs is really in cards. Previous efforts on North Korea’s nuclear weapons – the Agreed Framework and the Six Party Talks – took years of effort and still fell through. (For an account of how difficult the Six Party Talks were, try this.) If the summit really does happen by the end of May, the two sides will simply not have had enough time to close much of the enormous strategic and ideological divide between the US and North Korea. That will leave much that Trump himself must do, personally, in the room with Kim. To put it gently, it is huge question whether Trump is really up to this.

Trump defenders are already suggesting he has the chops for this, because he is a great negotiator practicing the ‘art of the deal.’ But we need to be more candid here; the stakes are far too high to indulge Trump’s reality TV persona. Much in Trump’s character suggests he is not, in fact, ready for this. He does not read, including the presidential daily brief if rumor is true. He almost certainly knows very little about Korea. He watches enormous amounts of television. His grip on policy detail is notoriously thin and error-prone. He lies regularly. He is moody, erratic, unpredictable, and impulsive. He dislikes professional and technical staff and has an obvious preference for amateur friends and family. He is absorbed with his vendettas, feuds, scandal, and so on. His attention span is short, and he is prone to wander wildly off-script. He is given to rage, profanity, and insult when challenged.

Kim, by contrast, will almost certainly be a tough customer. No one could survive the brutal backrooms of Pyongyang politics without being a skilled bureaucratic knife-fighter. Kim is, to the surprise of many who suspected a young man with no time in the party or army would not last, overcame his inauspicious beginnings. He has culled the army brass, assassinated his brother-in-law, rapidly finished the North’s nuclear and missile programs, and gotten the moribund economy growing again – all while sanctions have piled up. Trump has never dealt with anyone or thing like this, and his usual negotiating tactics of bluster, threats, lawsuits, insults, and so on will not work. If this is to succeed, Trump will really have to buckle down and prepare. That is, to be generous, highly unlikely.

As a result, there is a not insignificant possibility that Trump will be outplayed by someone who knows the issues far better than he, or that the event will descend into a shouting match as two characters unaccustomed to being challenged tear into each other, as they did last year in the media (‘rocket man’ vs the ‘dotard’). If I had to guess, this outcome is unlikely, but it is still far more likely than in a normal summit preceded by proper staff work involving a president intellectually committed to the process. Most likely, the summit will be a bust, in which the genuinely deep issues between the two sides go unresolved given just nine weeks to overcome them. A face-saving communique could be released in which each side gives up something small, but no grand bargain would emerge.

But even that is a victory for the North, because a meeting of its leader and the US president on equal terms is a huge propaganda coup, something the North has sought for decades. That Trump has already given this carrot of US prestige away for nothing suggests just how woefully unprepared he is for this. North Korea doves keep saving we should the talks a chance, but consider how unlike any other summit this is so far, and it is only a week since it was announced:

No consultation with relevant stakeholders was done. Trump just decided to do this at the drop of a hat. Even his staff did not know. South Korean conservatives will be apoplectic if Trump trades away US forces in Korea for a weak-tea denuclearization deal the North might renege on. US hawks in Congress and the DC think-tank community would fight back too. Trump is hugely unpopular in South Korea; if a deal looks like it threatens South Korean security out of Trump’s reckless insouciance, desire to put tariffs on South Korea, or to provoke Seoul to pay the US more in the special measures agreement this year, it could well provoke an existential crisis in the alliance.

Trump lacks the staff for this. Not only does Trump only have nine weeks to put this all together, he is woefully under-staffed for it. Astonishingly, he fired Secretary of State Rex Tillerson just after he agreed to this momentous meeting. The national security advisor and chief of staff look to be on their way out. The State Department has been decimated by Trump and Tillerson. There is no US ambassador to South Korea, no Assistant Secretary of State for East Asian and Pacific Affairs, no point person on Korea in the White House or State Department. So few Korean experts are at the State Department that Secretary Tillerson mispronounced Kim Jong Un’s name – ‘Kim Yong Oon’ – for fourteen months without being corrected. When the South Korean foreign minister came to Washington this week, she met Ivanka Trump regarding North Korea. This is almost surreal.

The North Koreans have still not accepted the offer, nor even said that an offer was made. It increasingly looks like the South Korean officials who met Trump overhyped Kim’s words to them. Again, it is all moving much too fast.

Trump decided to accept this momentous summit offer after just forty-five minutes with no staff consultation. This is classic, impulsive Trump, and is a recipe for disaster in a tough negotiating environment. It displays his obvious disdain for expertise. Indeed, accepting this offer and pushing through his tariffs look more like Trump declaring independence from his establishmentarian staff rather than any real concern for these policy areas.

That in turn brings up that no one can say with any confidence that Trump is not doing this for all the wrong reasons, which in turn could encourage him to make bad decisions at the meetings. Trump is under investigation, bedeviled by scandal, likely faces an impeachment investigation if the Democrats do well in this fall’s midterm election, and loves TV coverage and attention. A grand-bargain deal with North Korea to be marketed as a ‘win’ at home might change the subject from Stormy Daniels and all the rest. To get to that, who knows what he might put on the table?

In brief, the summit should be delayed until the US side has done a lot more work, or cancelled, because an outcome good for the US is quite unlikely. If it goes badly, it could set could set us on the road to war as Trump concludes diplomacy has failed and hawks around him like Mike Pompeo and John Bolton concur. If it stalemates (the mostly likely outcome), it is still a propaganda win for the North because of the optics of Trump meeting Kim as equals. The only way the summit benefits the US is if Trump pulls off a grand bargain. Little in Trump’s character, staffing troubles, or the highly compacted nine-week timeframe suggests this is a likely outcome. It is all just too risky. The best move is just to cancel it.

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

@Robert_E_Kelly

 

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Living Abroad & Coming Home: Coy Canada, Please Take Me Seriously

Koreabridge - Fri, 2018-03-30 05:23
Living Abroad & Coming Home: Coy Canada, Please Take Me Seriously

Living Abroad and Returning Home: Oh, Canada!

I’m back in Canada.  After a year in Busan, 2 in Seoul, a questionable first week in Bali, blissful 2nd week in Gili Trawangan, and a lengthy journey back home chock-full of nasi goreng, kimchi, and caesars, I’m back, Beaches.  To be clear, I’m not quite back in Toronto, yet.  Those beaches I referenced in a 6ix-centric pun were not, in fact, on the boardwalk of my hometown, but actually way East.  I’m in a little town called Port Hope, and there doesn’t seem to be an escape in sight.  One might say I’m still technically “living abroad”.

Reverse Culture Shock from Living Abroad

Everyone’s been asking me how the reverse culture shock has been.  Well, it’s been like coming home after a vacation (which, hello – Bali, I did!) I mean, it’s crap not having access to public transportation, but beyond that I don’t really feel that much of a difference.  Canada and Korea aren’t massively different.  Off the top of my head, Canada has better snacks, healthier options at Starbucks, and horrible drugstore skincare products (in my opinion).  The only real adjustment has been to tax & grat being added.  I’m happy to pay the tax and grat, but could do without the surprise!

I no longer start my workday banding with the other teachers on my floor, forcing one another to smile and say positive affirmations before our ogre of a boss arrives to derail our classes.  I have gone to the gym and to community events with my parents.  Sleep has been most important while “funemployed”.  The rest of my time has been spent editing photos from my trip to Kota Kinabalu where I partnered with the Shangri-La Rasa Ria Resort and the Sabah Tourism Board.  I’ve got work to catch up on, a cough to get over, and a schedule to resume.  I also have distractions everywhere.

My “Influence” Living Abroad vs. At Home

To be fair, I’ve only been “home” for a week.  It’s been awesome to see my parents and go about their daily lives when I haven’t been impacted by a chest/ ear infection I picked up in Bali or the jet lag I thought I’d be able to avoid with 30 hours in transit from Denpasar through Incheon to Pearson.

Adjusting to life back home didn’t appear to be so challenging from afar.  I started applying for jobs 2 months before my Korean contract was up, and I’ve been applying aggressively since coming back home.  Keeping busy building two brands abroad has been great when submitting to influencer marketing agencies, but tough to get bites from actual full-time jobs with salaries and benefits.  Do these people genuinely think living abroad means a 3-year working (read: babysitting) vacation?

Living Abroad vs. At Home: Job Hunting

Job hunting in Korea was simple because there weren’t any many options as an E2 visa holder.  Our teaching options are limited to EPIK or hagwon, and Kindergarten, Elementary School (usually at a hagwon you’d teach both the former), middle school, or adults.  The age group of your pupils dictated your schedule, and that was that.  If you have a degree from an English-speaking country, a resume with your name and contact information listed, and a half-decent (but definitely foreign-looking) face, badda-bing, badda-boom you were employed.  It’s not necessarily fair, and I know plenty of native English teachers who are a disservice to their students, but that’s the way the cookie crumbles in Korea.

Now, I’m applying to jobs in Marketing, which is an eco-system unto itself.  I’m open to Event Planning, although I’m not 100% sure I want to go back to the hospitality side in the same way.  I did Influencer Relations in Korea and Public Relations at my 3 previous Toronto jobs, which means I’m all client side/ in house and have no agency experience (= slim to nil job prospects).  I’d love to sink my teeth into Content Production and Copy Writing, but all my experience is from newspapers, magazines, blogs, YouTube, and digital media in Korea.

Permanently Living Abroad? Never in the cards.

I don’t want to continue teaching English as a Second Language.  I’d love to continue teaching, training, or coaching high school or university students.  I’d love to train sales, marketing, and client service professionals, too.  ESL in Korean hagwons (private academies) is not for me.  If it was something I thought I’d continue to enjoy long-term, I would have stayed in Korea where the cost of living is significantly lower!

Living Abroad vs. At Home: Perceptions and Instrospectives

A successful and professional friend sent me a job post today.  It was for an online English teaching position starting at $16/ hr part time.  That’s a great way to supplement income while abroad, but there’s no way you can live in Toronto making that.  Also, I was director level before leaving Toronto.  I had a career.  I worked my ass off.  I don’t know if there’s been a moment in my adult life when I felt less capable or believed in by my friends.

Was it unsafe to assume their perception of me was different to that of recruiters?  Did I just imagine they thought of me as an outgoing, motivated, polished, and accomplished young professional?  She then followed up with “you might have to settle for entry-level”.  I was no longer just insulted, I was hurt.  Is this what my friends think of me?  Have I become the stereotype of an LBH (Loser-Back-Home) in the precisely 7 days I’ve been back in Canada?

Support After Living Abroad

As a teacher, it was my job to pump up self-sabotaging students with self-esteem issues.  The kid who cried  every day for the first two weeks because his reading, writing, and speaking abilities were limited won a speech contest he wrote by himself and delivered in a huge hall at the end of the year.  Another who refused to pick up a pencil out of sheer laziness brought home a thick, colourful field guide full of research and writing on dinosaurs by Christmas.  My entire class of 6 year olds was writing informational and argumentative essays by the end of last year.

Why is it that I can motivate and engage little ones to see their skills and value, but can’t seem to jump up and down enough to get anyone else’s attention?  I’m used to pointing out the path to kids who have lost their way.  Now, I can’t seem to see the trees for the forest.

Have you returned home “funemployed” and without your own place to live after living abroad?  How did you adjust to your lack of schedule (and lack of importance)?  How did you find your first job and did you need to take a big step back professionally?  

Leave me a note in the comments!

The post Living Abroad & Coming Home: Coy Canada, Please Take Me Seriously appeared first on The Toronto Seoulcialite.

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Yeongamsa Temple – 영암사 (Yangsan, Gyeongsangnam-do)

Koreabridge - Fri, 2018-03-30 02:09
Yeongamsa Temple – 영암사 (Yangsan, Gyeongsangnam-do)

The main hall and the three tier pagoda at Yeongamsa Temple in Yangsan, Gyeongsangnam-do.

Hello Again Everyone!!

Located southwest of the towering Mt. Togoksan (855m) is Yeongamsa Temple in Yangsan, Gyeongsangnam-do. In fact, if you look towards Togoksan, you’ll be able to see the abandoned Bokcheonjeongsa Temple from Yeongamsa Temple.

You’ll first approach Yeongamsa Temple down one of the worst roads I’ve ever driven on while visiting a temple in Korea. After finally traversing the pothole filled country road, you’ll be greeted by the Cheonwangmun Gate. You’ll be greeted by this gate and a very friendly Jindo dog. Painted on the doors are two intimidating guardians. With the doors wide open, the painted Heavenly Kings take up residence behind the large wooden entry doors.

Entering the temple’s lower courtyard, you’ll notice the monks’ residence to the right and the kitchen and visitor’s centre to the left. There is a stream that divides the two sides up the centre. It’s up the embankment that you’ll enter the upper courtyard. It’s the upper courtyard that houses all of the shrine halls at the temple.

Sitting in the centre of the upper courtyard is the main hall at Yeongamsa Temple. Adorning the exterior walls to the main hall are two different types of mural sets. The lower set, which are masterful in composition, are the Shimu-do (Ox-Herding) murals. The upper set is the Palsang-do murals. Housed inside the main hall is a triad of statues that rest on the main altar. These jade-looking statues that are green in hue are centred by Amita-bul (The Buddha of the Western Paradise). This statue is joined on either side by Daesaeji-bosal (The Bodhisattva of Power and Wisdom for Amita-bul) and Gwanseum-bosal (The Bodhisattva of Compassion). This triad is surrounded on the main altar by row upon row of smaller sized green Seokgamoni-bul (The Historical Buddha) statues. To the left of the main altar is an altar dedicated to Jijang-bosal (The Bodhisattva of the Afterlife). And this bodhisattva is backed by a dark Gamno-do painting. To the right of the main altar is the guardian mural.

To the left of the main hall is a biseok, while out in front is a three tier stone pagoda. To the right rear of the main hall is a glass shrine hall dedicated to Yongwang (The Dragon King). Out in front of the Yongwang-dang is a stagnant pond with, miraculously, Koi fish inside. Stepping inside the Yongwang-dang, you’ll be greeted by another green statue; this time, of Yongwang.

Over the ridge, and to the rear of the main hall, in a plum tree orchard, is the Samseong-gak. The plainness of the shaman shrine hall is elevated by the natural beauty of the flowering plum trees during the spring months. The Chilseong (The Seven Stars) mural is traditional in composition, while the blood-red eyes of Sanshin (The Mountain Spirit) and the atypical appearance of Dokseong (The Lonely Saint) standout. To the far right of the Samseong-gak, and over the bisecting stream, is another stone pagoda. This pagoda is seven tiers in height.

HOW TO GET THERE: The easiest, and perhaps only way, to get to Yeongamsa Temple is by taxi. You can get a taxi from Jeungsan subway station, #240, in Yangsan. The taxi ride should last about 30 minutes and cost 15,000 won one way.

OVERALL RATING: 5/10. While a bit treacherous to get to, Yeongamsa Temple is surrounded on all sides by the beauty of nature. As for the temple itself, the main highlights are the interior of the main hall with its jade-like looking ceramic statues, as well as the eerily dark Gamno-do painting.

The Cheonwangmun Gate at Yeongamsa Temple.

The stream that bisects the temple grounds.

The friendly Jindo dog that might just accompany you around the temple grounds.

The main hall at Yeongamsa Temple.

The biseok to the left of the main hall.

One of the murals from the Palsang-do set that adorns the exterior walls to the main hall.

As well as one of the masterful Shimu-do murals that also adorns the main hall at Yeongamsa Temple.

The unique main altar inside the main hall.

The Jijang-bosal altar inside the main hall with the Gamno-do mural backing the green bodhisattva.

The guardian mural to the right of the main altar.

The view from the Yongwang-dang towards the main hall.

The glassy exterior to the Yongwang-dang.

The hulk-like looking Yongwang (The Dragon King) inside the Yongwang-dang.

The plum tree orchard that fronts the Samseong-gak shaman shrine hall.

A closer look at the boxy Samseong-gak.

Some of the beautiful nature that surrounds Yeongamsa Temple.

Unfortunately, the Sanshin mural was placed in a glass frame. But his red eyes are still pretty menacing.

It’s not everyday that you get to see Dokseong with such a unique hairstyle.

And the seven tier pagoda through some of the plum trees.

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LTW: #MeToo all Over Korea

Koreabridge - Thu, 2018-03-22 07:11
LTW: #MeToo all Over Korea

The Me Too wave from Hollywood has crossed the Pacific, hitting Korean peninsula hard. It started when Seo Ji-hyeon, a district attorney, appeared on TV on Jan 29, accusing her then boss Ahn Tae-geun groped her in a funeral home in 2010. That opened the gate, and a flurry of Me Too came out. Seoul city government removed a tribute to Ko Un, 84, a respected poet and perennial candidate for Nobel Prize in Literature, for multiple accusations of his sexual misconduct in the past. Police questioned Lee Youn-taik, a prominent playwright and a best friend to President Moon Jae-in over 50 years, on sexual allegations on a dozen women in his theater troupe. An Hee-jung, the governor of Choongcheong Province with high potential to be the next president, had to resign and face prosecutors when his own secretary accused him of raping her. Rep. Min Byung-doo of the ruling party announced his resignation at a news report that he made an unwanted sexual advances at a karaoke bar in 2008. A famous actor and a professor at a university committed suicide out of shame when media reported their sexual misconducts to would-be actresses and students. Can go on with 10 more stories. A big puzzle is why all this Me Too are taking place with those in the liberal, instead of conservatives.


Ann Taegeun/Ko Un/Lee Yountaik/An Heejung/Min Byung-doo  from left to right

Korean society had been generous about men jokes in the past, especially while in drinking. Not any more. The Minister of Defense was in trouble for his joke at a dinner speech last year. "What do speeches and skirts have in common? The shorter, the better." He meant good to have his hungry soldiers not wait too long for his speech to end, but it was not appropriate. "A good speech should be like a woman's skirt:long enough to cover the subject and short enough to create interest." Good thing Winston Churchill made this comment over 70 years ago. If now, 
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Moon Jae-in, Diplomacy God: Peace Olympics Lead to Breakthrough

Koreabridge - Fri, 2018-03-09 17:16
Moon Jae-in, Diplomacy God: Peace Olympics Lead to Breakthrough Listen to "Moon Jae-in, Diplomacy God: Peace Olympics Lead to Breakthrough" on Spreaker.

 

Steven Denney (Munk School of Global Affairs at the University of Toronto/Senior Editor at SinoNK.com) joins host Andre Goulet to discuss the diplomatic delegation's visit to Pyeongyang and how Korean nationalism and American obstructionism continue to clash in the wake of the 2018 Pyeongchang Winter Games.

 Plus: January's weird Foreign Ministers’ Meeting on Security and Stability on the Korean Peninsula, organized by the Canadian government and the U.S. State Department, comes under observation. All this and more, on episode 72 of The Korea File.  Music on this episode: ‘그리움만 쌓이네' by여진 (1979)

 


    The Korea File
      http://www.spreaker.com/show/korea_moments

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360 views of Seoul at Naksan Park

Koreabridge - Tue, 2018-03-06 14:37
360 views of Seoul at Naksan Park

I’ve been watching one of those old dramas called “The King 2 Hearts” which is about a handsome South Korean prince falling in love with a North Korean commando. The plot isn’t that great but there’s this amazing scene where the minor characters get up on the old city wall in Seoul and have a heart to heart.

I really wanted to know where this beautiful scene was shot so I checked up and it’s Naksan Park near to Hyehwa station on Line 4. You can walk from the station or take a bus. The park is a famous shooting location for many dramas and movies – I think I recall it in Hong Sang-soo’s Our Sunhi.

Unfortunately, on the day that I went, the haze in Seoul was pretty bad so I didn’t get quality photos. But Naksan Park truly has a 360-degree view of old Seoul, especially the Jongno area, with the palaces and Dongdaemun all close up, and Bukhansan in the distance. Definitely a strong rival to the more touristy Namsan.

Naksan Park also has a famous wall-mural village that you can check out. Back at Hyehwa station, which is known as Seoul’s arts district, there are some fantastic theatres and galleries as well as great food.

 
Blogging on secretkorea.net is my way of sharing cool travel experiences with all of you. I do my best to personally verify everything posted here. However, prices and conditions may have changed since my last visit. Please double check with other sources such as official tourist hotlines to avoid disappointment. If you like this post, disagree, have questions or want to contribute additional information for other travelers, please comment below! =)

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