Thursday, September 29, 2005

Avoid Mice Fever (EHF)

In the northeastern Jilin Province the discomforting Mice Fever has been spreading rapidly. The Star Online reports that the number of fatalities may already have surpassed last year's number of 1,840 cases. Experts suggest, according to that the increase may be linked to lower vaccination rates this year. Sadly, farmers in the poorest areas often cannot afford the vaccination, which is fatal in the areas where the Fever has hit the hardest. In one of the more seriously hit areas, Jilin's Shuangyang district, national-level monitoring of the disease has been implemented. The bottom line: stay away from Mice, their droppings, or any culinary delicacy (no matter what they tell you in Jilin) that involves Mickey's relatives.

Now, would this disease ever have the potential to reach epidemic status (like SARS)? You probably won't get that news from any Da Lu (Mainland) news sources if this ever were to become the case.


Tuesday, September 27, 2005

End of China/Taiwan's "Dollar Diplomacy"...maybe


Remember the China/Taiwan "dollar Diplomacy" and these were donating vast amounts in order to win support in favor of each respective" country." This may soon be over Chen Shui-bian has called for this to stop and in his own words "Taiwan must never engage in a spending competition with China." You really think he can and will stop this? But then again, its also very exotic to report on China/Taiwan's surge in foreign aid to countries such as Grenada, Nauru, and Dominica.

What does this mean for the Taiwan-China rivalry? Would it mean more spending on other factors of rivalty (such as the military) or could it reduce the tensions between the two Chinas? You never know - but the sabrerattling between the rivals has lasted for 50 years without any major conflicts- why wouldn't this carry on as usual despite the end of the expensive "dollar diplomacy". Besides, the Taiwanese New Dollar has just dropped to new lows.

Monday, September 26, 2005

Bush Should Visit North Korea: Kim Jong-il

According to a Yonhap news report, Kim Jong-il is apparently seeking a visit by Bush or another high-level official to visit his beloved DPRK. Bush Sr. and Condi would also make the VIP list.

What a situation it could turn out to be - Kim and Bush shaking hands. The comedy channels would have enough material for years - you would almost think Jon Stewart and Jay Leno would buy one of Bush's oil wells for such an event.

And what about translators? Would they 'really' translate when Bush and Kim meet?
Bush: I'm very happy to be here today! (Kim's translator): I envy your strength, Dear Leader.
: Welcome to heaven on earth. (Bush's translator): Isn't it almost as nice as Texas?

: Do you remember my comment about me loathing you? (Kim's translator): Let's be friends.

: Your Vice-President Cheney called me a 'bloodthirsty beast'. But I still think you're a half-baked man (Bush's translator): Mr. Kim loves Dick Cheney's blood sausages, and even more, your baked bread.

Let's hope Messrs. Stewart and Leno do it a bit better, if Bush and Kim do end up meeting...

Want to learn more about East Asia?

Copyright-Univ. of Washington

The East Asia Center at the University of Washington has an impressive list of Links to useful sites related to any aspects of East Asia ranging from General Information to Cultura, History, Languages, and many others.

Let's hope they think as highly of this blog :D


Friday, September 23, 2005

Higher Number of Mental Disorders in the South Korean Military; Korean Times

You may have heard rumors about the condition for soldiers in the South Korean military. Rumors speak of a hard-line marine corp, poor facilities--archaic to our time, and a tough conscription service that takes broad sweeps by forcing all young men to join the armed forces, save those that have physical- or mental health issues. While it may sound like a fair system--as you don't want unstable individuals in control of lethal weapons--you may be surprised.

The Korean Times reports of new information released by South Korea's Defense Ministry that speak of an increasing number of hospitalizations due to mental disease in Korea's armed forces. This does not sound swell now, does it?

Politicians and experts speak of a conscription service that signs up soldiers without serious consideration to their medical and mental history. Others speak of how the poor conditions in the military is not exactly "helpful" to preventing people developing mental conditions. It thus seems there's some credit to the Marine story and how it may be "driving people crazy."

It sounds like South Korea has another area in which it needs to shape up its human rights 'work-out'--a leftover from the 80-90s. It could also, however, demonstrate a global trend towards pacifism and the falling support for keeping such large military establishments active. The prosperity in the North East Asian region has developed without any major military conflicts since the Korean War, and perhaps people are starting to see the direct relationship between peace and prosperity.

Or maybe not. People may have developed mental disorders in the armed forces since the invension of the bow, arrow, and other sharp objects. What do I know??? I am not an MD in Psychiatry. What is important, however, is what you think?

Tuesday, September 20, 2005

Alas: North Korea wants a civilian nuclear program earlier than expected...

Sigh.... And we all thought it was going to go so smoooooothly....

BBC News Article

Is this is? Are we back to Square 1?

Monday, September 19, 2005

The Joint Statement: A scorecard

After much media ado and happiness regarding the first 6-party accomplishment (knock on wood), here is my numeric take on the joint statement issued on Monday on North Korea's nuclear program

Section 1
So they all agree on removing nuclear weapons from the Peninsula. North Korea has signed it. Good for all of us. +1
The US has agreed it won't attack the DRPT. Super. +1
The return to the 1992 joint declaration. DejaVu!. +1
South Korea will not build, receive nor store any nukes. Hmmmm. Ok. That's also great. +1
North Korea's right to a peaceful nuclear program. I'm pro-windmill, and not so happy about nuclear energy. That's a -1.
Light-water reactor issue. That might come back and haunt us all. Not great either. -1

Sub-total: +2. Not bad, Messrs. Kim, Hill, Wu, et al.

Section 2
The six parties have agreed to abide by the purposes and principles of the UN Charter and recognize the norms of International Relations. With US attacking Iraq, we are currently lacking international norms and ethics: +-0

DRPK-US mutual respect for each other's sovereignty, peaceful co-existence, and steps to be taken to normalize their relations. Engagement is key. +1

DRPK-Japan took steps to normalize their relations. Wonderful. Perhaps North Korea will be more honest about the abduction issue and help prevent an anti-North Korean backlash under future-PM Abe. +1

Although this is a very vague category, we're still up with +3. That's stupendous.

Section 3
The six parties have agreed to promote economic cooperation in energy, trade, and investment, both bi- and multilaterally. Yahoo. Have you heard of Friedman's Dell theory of conflict resolution? +1

The five other nations will provide the DPRK with energy assistance and South Korea will stand by its commitment of providing 2 million KW of electric power. Let's hope this happens without any corruption scandals. +1
Sub(way) total: +2

Section 4
Commitment to long-lasting peace in northeast Asia. Sweet-honey-rosy stuff, but looks great on your CV. +1
A separate forum to pursue this. Why don't they use ARF, or Asean+3, or the like? But perhaps this could be a forum that actually works! Wow. That would be great. +2
Sub: +3

Section 5
Step-by-step follow through of commitments. This should help prevent a "you go first" situation. Nice one. +1
Do we need a sub? +1

Section 6
Another 6-party meeting in November. Let's hope this gets even BETTER! +1
Sub: +1

Deductions (them yella' cards):
For all the stubbornness (on all sides): -3
For the many, many…… meetings it required (and money it cost the tax payers): -1
This could still drag on for month, and months, and months, and m........ -1.25

What's the total? The quantitative conclusion?
I don't know. Who cares? It's like the point system in "Whose line is it anyway"? We don't really care. Its about the road and the journey 'out there.'
Let's instead save the energy and spend it on making the beautiful Korean peninsula a peaceful place with only one flag!

NK Agrees to Seize Nuclear Programs


WOW. Christopher Hill and Co. did it!!!

Now we just need to unify the countries...

Sunday, September 18, 2005

Hill's Monday Au Revoir- AP


AP reports that Christopher Hill, the head US Envoy at the 6-party talks, will leave Beijing on Monday afternoon after 7 days of negotiations. Whether he will leave the talks with an empty briefcase or whether his sooner-than-expected departure it will pressure all parties to sign an agreement, is yet unknown.

Pressure seems to be mounting on the US to allow the North Korean regime to establish Light Water Reactors, as originally promised in the 1994 Agreed Framework. It will be exciting to see whether this issue is a 'showstopper' or an issue to be resolved before the new Monday deadline. These LWR could potentially be used to construct nuclear weapsons material, but it is very difficult and probably the best solution for a country starved of energy.

The US should let the North Korean regime keep a low degree of Nuclear Power technology, in order to gain some leeway with the communist regime. This could in the long-term allow for better engagement and communication between the North Korea and the other 6 party members -- the best way to start a reform process.

My other suggestion is to let Denmark and Holland build windmill farms in North Korea. That's would be a sight and a half.

Saturday, September 17, 2005

The 6-Party Talks Carry On...

Extending the deadline for the adoption of a Chinese draft document stating DPRK's right to utilize nuclear energy technology, the negotiations in this 2nd part of the 4th round is continuing.

Is there still hope - will the US find an alternative for the North's demand to establish a Light Water Reactor, or will the North give up on this?
Is there still hope?

Latest BBC News Article

Perhaps there's a chance for the US to commit as the eye of the US population is looking the other way, focusing on Hurricane Katrina, New Orleans, and college football.

What do you think?

Friday, September 16, 2005

The 6-Party Talks. Stalled Again???? Go Figure.

After having just reconvened after a long break in the 4th round of the super-duper 6-party talks, an impasse between North Korea and the US has left the talks stuck in the mud...once again. Similar to the situation before the long 'break', the North Koreans cannot agree with the US on the issue of having a peaceful nuclear energy program in the form of a Light Water Reactor (LWE) power plant.

The situation was predictable as most countries agreed with North Korea's request for a nuclear power program to fill its domestic needs rather than being dependant on its neighbors. But I think the problem goes deeper. North Korea is at heart still at war. The US and Japan are still seen as active enemies that North Korea fears will attack any time. For North Korea to suddenly accept to be dependent on its enemy (or their allies, such as South Korea) to supply them with crucial resources, is silly. There are many steps that need to be fulfilled first. So in other words this calls for a comprehensive plan, or a Grand Bargain (thank to Mr. O'Hanlon over at Brookings) to solve most of these problems at once, to prevent some problems standing in the way of each other.

A Grand Bargin should include not only the dismantling of the North's nuclear program, but also signing a comprehensive peace treaty, agreeing to de-militarizing the peninsula, re-establishing diplomatic relations, etc. etc. Before this happens, it seems very unlikely that the North will engage in an economic and inter-dependence role with its enemies, basically due to the threat it perceives in the other 6-party members, and the US' lack of a comprehensive strategy to finally come to terms and solve the North Korean dilemma.

Comments, please.

Thursday, September 15, 2005

Asian Culture and Holidays: Chusok

East Asia Blog should not only be a forum for political and economic issues. Soft issues, such as culture, art, and entertainment (I love Korean movies) are just as important and interesting.

Since the Korean Thanksgiving, Chusok (추석), is just around the corner, now is an appropriate time to discuss the meaning of this important holiday. The following website gives you a good explaination of the ways in which Koreans celebrate their harvest festival:

Chusok the Korean Thanksgiving, by Eun Mee Kim

Korean Thanksgiving Day: by Yoo Min

Chusok: by Bet Key Wong

In a nutshell, Korea turns into one big traffic jam during this holidays, as people visit family members and graves of their ancestors, which they worship.

My own experiences from Chusok is that you get time off from work, and that's always fun.

What are your experiences?
Please tell share your stories, both from a Korean and Expat perspective.