Archive for December, 2010

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Merry Christmas!

December 25, 2010

Merry Christmas to you all!

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Festive Giblets

December 24, 2010

Cripes, crumbs and crapulence if Christmas hasn’t properly snuck up on me this year! Like some sparkling, frosty ninja.

As has become the norm in these interesting times, I’m thousands of miles away from family and friends and the hyper-commercial onslaught of what Christmas is back home and thus, to some extent, my middling lack of engagement with the whole process is only to be expected. I’ve also been distracted, man I’ve been distracted, with a sudden flight home for only a week, undergoing health checks for a new contract, turning 31 and trying to maintain a semblance of dignity whilst doing so. I also had a good friend visiting from Taiwan, though that was awesome and nothing to complain about. In terms of my blog being a little lax, I blame the fucking Norks for their bullshit, tearing me away from some potentially detached film reviews and simply forcing me to strap on my liberal-hawk war drum and get a-beating. Dicks! There was so much to read and write in the aftermath of the Yeonpyeong attack that I couldn’t even retain much focus on the blog and instead found myself squandering my precious time on murky online forums, arguing with the usual conspiracy cranks and a litany of useful-idiot, Juche apologists. That shit is like picking a scab, folks. I know I really ought to know better.

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Pyongyang Pressure Points

December 23, 2010

As mentioned in an earlier post, a second Korean War, even in light of escalating tensions here on the peninsula and the continued belligerence of North Korea, appears unlikely (though not impossible). North Korea isn’t seeking such a conflict. Neither is South Korea, nor the USA, nor China. The North Korean regime is no doubt interested in self-preservation and, although the rogue state has been described as being the most perfect totalitarian system in human history, it nonetheless remains perpetually vulnerable on the grounds that neighbouring South Korea represents an exponentially more attractive place to live for North Koreans, in terms of how much more free, wealthier and healthier a society it is. North Korea, for its part, has a long-term dependency on foreign aid due to its utterly shitcanned economy and its inability to feed the population. Attacks like the sinking of the Cheonan and the bombardment of Yeonpyeong are aimed at extorting further concessions and aid from the surrounding powers on the understanding that preserving the status quo, and preventing collapse in North Korea, is broadly preferable to whatever uncertain crisis would occur otherwise. However, some analysts and commentators have been arguing in favour of an approach that differs from rewarding bad behaviour and which would instead punish North Korea for its continued aggressions and provocations. Some have suggested that North Korea would not have been so emboldened as to attack Yeonpyeong Island had it been sufficiently penalized for sinking the Cheonan in March of this year. Now, analysts have begun highlighting the unique weaknesses that can be exploited in order to gain leverage over the government of Kim Jong-il and family.

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Winnie the Nork

December 21, 2010

No, seriously, what in the fuck is this?

This picture is taken from an event that took place in downtown Seoul recently staged by a group of NGO radio broadcasters that broadcast into North Korea. It was a small public rally aimed at drumming up support for their actions and which called on the South Korean government to help them through a wider sharing of frequencies.

Groups like Open Radio for North Korea and Radio Free Chosun are awesome, that’s beyond dispute, but my question is what hell is with the evil mascot carrying the Nork missile? What is the story there?

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Further Korean Tensions

December 20, 2010

Nork To Be Taken Lightly

It’s been about a month since North Korean forces fired artillery shells and rockets at the island of Yeonpyeong, killing and injuring both marines and civilians there, and tensions remain high on the peninsula. Despite intense and alarming media coverage here and in the west, a full-scale outbreak of conflict, Korean War 2.0, is still considered to be unlikely on the grounds that none of the players involved want it. It is thought the DPRK will want to avoid starting a war that they can only lose and, as cannot be emphasized enough right now, the Republic of Korea is far more interested in economic prosperity, growth and security, than pursuing a quixotic endgame against the belligerent gangster-regime in the North. That said, with North Korea having already carried out two egregious attacks against South Korea this year alone, the fear is that yet another aggressive action from the Norks will demand a response from the South and a resultant exchange of fire could only escalate swiftly.

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Homefront

December 3, 2010

Some observations following a sudden, unexpected trip home to the UK.

I’ve been in Korea, and successfully built a life there, for such a time and to such an extent that I now experience, upon returning to my homeland, a phenomenon which I can only describe as inverse culture shock. It’s my culture, and I’ve known it for many years, but the sudden reintroduction to it is like a form of social decompression sickness. Familiar accents, expressions and facial features prove instantly distracting. I stepped off a plane yesterday and heard an airport staff member ask an elderly gentlemen, “There’s naebody here tae meet ye, sir?” My god, the novelty of that, I thought, a man in Glasgow with a Glaswegian accent. I forget how to use the chip and PIN payment system in shops and have to fight the urge to launch into a babbling, five-minute explanation to the shop assistant detailing my ex-patriot adventures and the toll it has taken on my capacity to shop at Tesco. I failed to fight that urge the first time I returned home from Korea and found myself chatting over-enthusiastically to the clerk in an over-priced shop that sold snowboarding clothes – “It’s so incredible to be able to talk to you like this!”, I exalted to the staff members behind the desk, before issuing an elaborately polite farewell and exiting the store with a manic grin. That is what I’m trying to resist now. I have to adopt the camouflage of the West of Scotland everyman and so I draw my face into an embittered scowl and mutter small obscenities to myself as I shuffle through the streets.

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Attack of the Norks

December 1, 2010

Yeonpyeong Island

I was sitting at my desk on an otherwise unremarkable day at work last week (Tuesday, November 23rd) when word first came through to me on a popular social networking website that North Korea was attacking the South Korean island of Yeonpyeong with artillery fire. Fortunately, mass panic did not immediately ensue, however, when I enquired of a Korean colleague how serious the situation was he smiled broadly at me and said, “Very serious”. Local news channels soon displayed images of houses ablaze and columns of smoke billowing into the sky from the coast of the small island as the initial reports came in. The bombardment commenced at 14:34 local time when North Korea fired some 170 shells at Yeonpyeong, hitting the military base there and the surrounding civilian areas, causing damage to homes and other buildings, and killing two ROK marines and two civilians. The South Korean forces on the island retaliated with artillery fire of their own, firing some 80 shells at the North Korean gun positions but it remains unclear precisely how much damage they inflicted in return.

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