Thursday, February 13, 2014

The Unbearable Lightness of Being John Kerry

John Kerry was born two centuries too late: this Francophile Secretary of State with the heckuva $2 banknote mug* would have made a decent Plan B for Thomas Jefferson, but he had to face Karl Rove and his minions, and to live in a World where Asia matters more than Europe.

JFK Jr. dreams of being the guy who solved the Israel-Palestine conundrum, and tries his best to stay away from East Asian politics:
In 2013, John Kerry flew once to Seoul and Beijing, twice to Tokyo, 6 times to Paris, 9 times to Tel Aviv, and 12 times to Shannon (for "refueling" - Irish whiskey I presume)
During his short stop in Seoul before Beijing, the SoS did something right on his way to or from Cheong Wa Dae: passing by the quintessential Seoul neighborhood Seochon (and more precisely in the now highly touristic Tongin Market**) to taste Korea's quintessential street food. Judging by the color, his tteokbokki wasn't that spicy; if John Kerry makes a face, that's because he's being forced to swallow East Asian politics:

Here with Ambassador Sung KIM, John Kerry eating tteokbokki in Tongin market
KIM Jong-un's obviously not on a tteokbokki diet. Ever since he discarded uncle Jang, North Korea's "Beer Leader" has been drinking, eating, and smoking his way to heart attack:

After the purge, Kim The Third needs some fat cleansing.

I mean look at this blob from a closer range!
"BREAKING: Flappy Bird grounded in North Korea as well!"
So. Since neither Kim nor himself seem ready to move, Kerry drops the hot potato on XI Jinping's lap: "China has a unique and critical role it can play. No country has a greater potential to influence North Korea". And while you're at it, could you please stop building aircraft carriers, redrawing ADIZes, and claiming Senkaku/Diaoyu? We can't even make our partners agree on Dokdo/Takeshima...

Of course, the US have a unique and critical role they can play. No country has a greater potential to influence Japan and Korea, and they are very much aware of Shinzo Abe's amorality, but the revisionist PM has it all tied up: the US need Japan and they're kept busy with Okinawa reshuffles. Somehow, if Abe's as much a S.O.B. as his untried war criminal of a grandfather***, he remains their S.O.B.

So the US 'criticisms' remain totally indirect and nowhere near the face-losing zone: Abe's Yasukuni visit was a 'disappointment', and Barack Obama's 2-day state visit to Japan became a one day in Korea - one day in Japan stunt.

Even 89 year-old Tomiichi Murayama was more direct in his toned-down reference to Japan's "indescribable wrongdoings" yesterday, as he met survivors of Imperial Japan's sexual slavery system.

And Secretary of State Hillary Clinton stood much more firmly for the victims as the clock keeps ticking****.

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* an "Forbes" for a middle name!
** don't get me wrong, I love that place, and I'm glad it's more alive and kicking than ever! See posts related to Tongin Market, including "Yeongcheon Market saved, Tongin Market already bukchonized" (November 2011), "Tongin market opens up to art : adaptation or yet another symptom of Seochon's "Bukchonization" ?" (July 2011)
*** see among other posts "The Elusive Independence Day - When will Japan officially proclaim its Independence from Imperial Japan?"
**** again, this essential case is gaining momentum in the US (most notably in NJ and CA), and reaches far beyond Japan or Korea (see for instance "First International Memorial Day for "Comfort Women"")

UPDATE 20140226

Read the backstory of Kerry's visit to Tongin Market (with a kinder picture of him): 

Tongin Market's tteokbokki looks more appetizing than John Kerry trying to eat it


  1. For what it's worth, the 기름떡볶이 places in 통인시장 do two kinds of tteok - one in a mild soy and honey marinade, which is what you see on the plate, and one absolutely blistering hot version, which is what is on his chopsticks.

    1. I heard about that mild version, but never tried it. My favorite street food in Tongin Market remains the classic gimbap (for the tteokbokki, I prefer Yeongcheon Market).


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