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Wednesday, March 8, 2023

Justice under the rug

Unsurprisingly disappointed by politicians of both sides who decided to sweep justice under the rug: the Democratic Party by failing to deliver LEE Jae-myung to justice, YOON Suk-yeol by chosing closer ties with Tokyo over justice for the victims of Imperial Japan's forced labor.

At least, a higher proportion of Korea's Democratic lawmakers chose the high road than their American Republican counterparts: whereas the GOP overwhelmingly supported Trump when he faced a well deserved impeachment. only a tiny majority helped the Korean Trump preserve his immunity. Across the country, a vast majority was in favor of LEE's arrest, but the party made the wrong decision, and had the gall to pretend that democracy was under attack because for the first time, the opposition leader was investigated and issued an arrest warrant, whilst LEE precisely seeked party leadership for the sole objective of eluding justice one more time! LEE even selfishly stole the safest seat of an incumbent in Incheon to guarantee his personal survival, letting the rest of the ship sink during the elections... 

As we've already seen, this is clearly not the party of KIM Dae-jung and ROH Moo-hyun anymore, but a group controlled by a clique that betrayed their ideals of justice and democracy, and only care about their own interests. I wish the party had seized the opportunity to cleanse their ranks from these thugs. Now lets hope the truly progressive side, that proved it still existed during this vote, will gain enough momentum to reform the party, restore decency, and build a more sustainable, inclusive platform.

Of course, Korea's right remains another kind of mess, but internal debates are a bit more public, even if YOON Suk-yeol managed to get his guy on top for next year's election (not sure KIM Gi-hyeon is a future-proof leader, but the selection of THAE Yong-ho in the Supreme Council sends an interesting message to Pyongyang elites: you can make it in the South if you reject the North Korean regime). If YOON decided to make the most of his lameduckhood to push for reforms that are not necessarily popular, he just played a very risky and unpopular card on the forced labor issue: the victims will receive a financial compensation, but paid by Korean companies that benefited from the controversial 1965 treaty, and without any apology from Japan.

From the start, YOON's eagerness to appease Tokyo seemed heading in this kind of direction. I'm all for diplomacy and warming ties with our neighbors, but I'm not okay with eluding key issues. Again, the victims of Imperial Japan's institutional Forced labor and sexual slavery never received any official apologies from any Japanese government (non binding declarations by individuals? yes, but that's not the same, and I'm not even talking about Shinzo Abe's anti-apologies - see "Decoding the Abe Statement: "why apologize for crimes Japan never committed?"). 

YOON Suk-yeol was not elected for his obsolete Miltonfriedmanian program but to restore some sense of justice, particularly following the PARK Geun-hye scandals and the MOON Jae-in betrayals. Eluding resolution can't be the solution.

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Thursday, February 23, 2023

KOTE Potluck Art Festival 2023

Between March 1 and 5,  Insadong’s cultural complex KOTE proposes an art festival rich in exhibitions, events, and performances featuring major as well as emerging artists.

About KOTE

Over the past few years, KOTE has become a vibrant symbol of Seoul’s creativity, resilience, and inclusiveness. At the crossroads of Insadong, Pimatgol, and contemporary art, a retro yet modern space to explore, connect, and inspire; a salon where, every day, cultures and citizens dialog and meet, where thinkers and creators from all horizons share and challenge each other; a unique ecosystem where visionary companies and embassies host meaningful events; a village where, in all seasons, new ideas and friendships bloom across generations, around its charming courtyard and iconic paulownia (the very name KOTE rings like both ‘court’ and ‘flower’). 


For five days (March 1st to 5th), the KOTE Potluck Art Festival will fill the whole complex from its courtyard to its rooftop with a rich program featuring over 150 artists from 12 countries: contemporary art, new media, installations, photography, films, music or dance performances…  a wide diversity to stimulate all senses.

Kote Potluck Art Festival 2023 (March 1-5)

Opening Ceremony: March 1st, 5 pm
Kote: Insadong-gil 7, Jongno-gu, Seoul
Tel: 02) 737-7977




ADDENDUM 20230226

A few shots from my series 'The People of Seoul' will be exhibited at KOTE's Joseon Salon during the festival:

Seoul Village 2023
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Monday, January 2, 2023

Seoul Village Season XVII

And so 2003 begins, the Year of the Rabbit.


Actually, the Year of the Water Rabbit, which should bring us extra inspiration.


A year full of cliffhangers, a year our turbulent neighbor up North will make sure we remember.


A year where we may not even need KIM Jong-un, a new pandemic, or a new war to be upset.


A year where Korea's unpopular, lame duck president YOON Suk-yeol, in spite of his lack of majority in the assembly, intends to push for even more unpopular reforms (welfare, pensions...).


A year of trials, errors, and successes.

Hopefully, a very happy new year to you, to the ones you care for, and to the ones no one care about.


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Sunday, December 25, 2022

Seoul Innovation Park on steroids

We've already seen Eunpyeong-gu's former KCDC site mutate into a makers' hub*, a vibrant Nokbeon-dong neighborhood park, and a cultural crossroads** in an underprivileged part of Seoul. Now the city wants to turn this low rise oasis into its gazillionth high rise utopia.

Meet the new and improved Seoul Innovation Park:

Quite a change from nowadays:

"Vegan Festival in Seoul Innovation Park, Eunpyeong-gu." (@theSeoulVillage 20170511-

Okay, all cars shall be parked underground instead of these traditional outdoor sprawls, plus there's also going to be this manicured 'Seoul UIC Campus' (University of Seoul Industry Cooperation), but that's not the same as a laid-back park full of happy families:

As you well know, I'm all for fixing the capital city's unbalances, and Northeast Seoul clearly deserves a boost. Besides, the city already owns this 110,000 sqm site, and it's next to a subway station (Bulgwang Station), close to the Yeonsinnae transport hub (Subway Lines 3 and 6, GTX-A - see "GTX, meet Sinbundang Line"). 

But not exactly there. And we've already seen this not so disruptive concept of futuristic, buzzword-friendly city within the city, with its iconic landmark tower - here, 60 more floors to be filled in a market already suffering from oversupply. Yet another empty alibi for yet another real estate nonsense (many 'apateu' have already risen nearby)? And of all models, why pick the COEX as a symbol of success? 


Needless to say, the grove with its old trees at the entrance, under which kids would play and seek fresh shelter in the Summer, is gone. From the outside, this could be any mall:

This time, it's different, they say. We go 'beyond zoning', we're truly mixing commercial, residential, and business. And this time, promise, we'll build and startups will come. SH Corporation will make sure a diversity of people build a genuine community, a 'Golden Village' where elderlies, newlyweds, single households share the same spaces with all facilities required in changing times.

Sincerely hope that flies but frankly, Seoul, you can do better.

"Seoul's project for Seoul Innovation Park (Nokbeon-dong, Eunpyeong-gu)? A coex-ish hub, very Oh Sehoon-ish urbanism:" (@theSeoulVillage 20221220 -

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* starting with Seoul Creative Lab and Hyebin's FabLab:

"Always nice to visit Seoul Innovation Park's FabLab! Eunpyeong-gu, Seoul." (@theSeoulVillage 20161207 -

** including, most recently, SEMA Storage in a former KCDC warehouse (see "Nine new museums in Seoul by 2023")

Monday, December 5, 2022


No regrets whatsoever for Korea following its most predictable defeat to uber favorite Brazil in the round of 16: the team held their ground with a very decent possession time and spectacular opportunities, even during that merciless jogo bonito / realism lesson of the first half, and made almost the best of their World Cup.

After an uninspiring draw against a very weak Uruguay, the Taeguk Warriors lost what was supposed to be their easiest game (allowing far too many goals from Ghana) before slaying Portugal's B team at the buzzer. If they came back twice from behind to survive their first round, they didn't collapse following Neymar Jr and friends' festival, which no team could have recovered from anyway.

Except for the first game, Paolo Bento's side built its opportunities and goals in a much more diverse and entertaining (not to mention less controversial) way than Guus Hiddink's commando*. For the first time in the ten World Cups I've been following Korea, I saw more style and confidence than resilience, the promises of an ambitious, sustainable playing identity. And I loved the way Bento, even as he knew he wouldn't stay, provided priceless experience to young talents in the second half. PAIK Seung-ho's awesome goal crowned perfectly Korea's 2022 World Cup, and if SON Heung-min may not join the party in 2026, KIM Kang-in,  HWANG Hee-chan, CHO Gyu-sung, and others already proved they could be leaders on the pitch.

Yes, this World Cup remains a total nonsense, an insult to sports, environment, human rights, you name it. And like every World Cup, this one remains opium for the people. But Korea badly needed this chase of the 2002 dragon right now. And it felt good to see its struggling youth party joyfully outdoor just weeks after the abominable tragedy in Itaewon.

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* which I absolutely adored, don't get me wrong!

Thursday, October 13, 2022

Asymetric War (Laissez-)Faire - Crouching Doves, Hidden Hawks

Hard to get some attention in 2022. North Korea's testing frenzy (over 40 missile launches so far) eventually paid off, but with another dictator with a bigger button, an itchy finger, and an actual, ultra violent war raging, KIM Jong-un and the KCNA had to beef up their storytelling.

Look what you've done

So as Putin shot missiles all over Ukraine in retaliation for the incident on his controversial bridge to Crimea, KIM had to mansplain that his recent shots were a simulation of tactical nuclear strikes, and a rehearsal for the wiping out of key infrastructures across South Korea. If no mock up Blue Houses were harmed during the shooting, that was clearly a few notches higher than the usual reactions to joint KOR-US drills, or VIP visits (VP Kamala Harris the other day).

Furthermore, the DPRK demonstrated yet new levels of readiness and stealth, making South Korea's failed test even more embarrassing. YOON Suk-yeol can say the neighbors upstairs have 'nothing to gain from nuclear weapons', calls for nuclear deterrence South of the DMZ keep getting louder.

There's always Uncle Sam's 'ironclad' support, and including on the ground, at a time when Joe Biden can't set foot in Ukraine, or even say what he wants about Taiwan. Besides, hawks are getting a little more subtle across the East Sea, and coordination becomes possible (though whatever LEE Jae-myung may say, the ROK is not heading for a 'pro-Japan defense'). Fumio Kishida and friends even received some help from Kyiv, where Zelenskyy declared that the Kuril Islands belonged to Japan, not Russia...

All eyes should be on a key player: after circumnavigating unusual unrest at home, and Putin's most urgent demands overseas, XI Jinping is about to become more officially dictator for life (at the XXth Congress of the Chinese Communist Party), and an even more ruthless 800-pound gorilla.

(Seoul Village on Facebook - 20221001) "China's 'Panda Diplomacy' in 2022 according to 阿塗 (IG @ah_to_hk). With North Korea supporting Russia's massacres in Ukraine, South Korea (NB Yoon?!?) composing with Xi Jinping Imperator, Japan restoring Imperial Japan, the mighty USA eagle a distant observer, one feather brushing Taiwan... Among countless details, China's Pandamic SNAFUs, its support of autocrat neighbors, South China Sea's floating borders, a few birds that managed to escaped post-democracy Hong Kong, or those powerless doves (EU / OZ / UK / CAN) in the corner..."

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Monday, July 11, 2022

Two Murders and a Funeral - The Abe Legacy

Today, private funerals will be held for Shinzo Abe, whose assassination shocked Japan and the whole world. 

In Zojo-ji.

So the man who so heavily promoted the restoration of State Shinto will be honored in a Buddhist temple. The man who campaigned so hard for the return of Imperial Japan's militarism was murdered by a former member of the navy. And the man whom Korea loved to hate for his negation of war crimes died because that madman believed the former PM's family supported Reverend Moon's cult.

Ultimate paradox? This tragedy may help Abe fulfill his lifelong dream of destroying Japan's peaceful postwar constitution: his LDP won in the landslide he always needed but never quite achieved. 

Now the murder of peaceful, postwar Japan shall be quietly performed by lawmakers following his brainchild Nippon Kaigi. Let's see if Fumio Kishida will forever taint his name by pulling the trigger.

20220708 thread @theSeoulVillage:
"1) Fmr Japan PM in cardiac arrest, suspect arrested. Shinzo Abe was shot during speech (Reuters). Lunatic? Political? His Yakuza pals? As much as I hate his Nippon Kaigi AbeIGNomics, I wish him well.
Shinzo Abe died. Killer a former member of the SDF.
3) This is clearly a tragedy, but Shinzo Abe was neither a Muhammad Anwar el Sadat nor a Yitzhak Rabin. #AbeIGNomics"

=> My 2019 fake interview of Abe Shinzo: "Make Imperial Japan Great Again - an exclusive (fake) tell-all interview with Shinzo ABE"

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