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Thursday, October 29, 2009

De Vermis Ttukseomis

Last time I crossed the Han river by the Yeongdong Bridge, checking how the Ttukseom Resort renovation went, I had a strange feeling but couldn't quite nail it.

The answer came this morning as I opened the JoongAng Ilbo : the journalist started his article on Hangang Renaissance* by a description of the new observation deck as a "giant inchworm".

That was it. When I saw the long tube circling around bridge piles, I had in mind a huge concrete tube slide, but deep in its own rotten jelly, my brain clearly saw a giant warm, which struck it as both monstruous and totally normal. The monstruosity didn't come from the worm itself but by the fact that fiction had somehow snaked out into reality : I happen to have written a short story on Seoul giant worms a few years ago ("de Vermis Seoulis", recently republished along with other "
dragedies"). My worms love concrete dust, and the biggest ones use to go down to the riversides to die, like old elephants, but this 240 m fella is made of concrete, and yet to be born...

Anyway, the article delivered other insights about Hangang Renaissance in Ttukseom, Yeouido, and Nanji (near Seoul's main camping site), and many other sites are still under renovation or construction. and I recently noticed the ballet of trucks on Hangang Bridge, where a Sydney style opera will be erected on the small island of Nodeul-do.

More food for my beloved worms.

Seoul Village 2009

* "
Renaissance by the riverside" (Limb Jae-un - JoongAng Daily 20091030)

Wednesday, October 28, 2009

Ranju Ramien (Seoul)

Yes, your Honor, I came for a snack and eventually had a 5 p.m. dinner. But in my defense :

1. An excellent location, particularly after the removal of Hoehyeon Overpass (one more key downtown area claimed by pedestrians) : almost at the crossroad (Hoehyeon Sagori), opposite Shinsegae, on the way to Myeongdong and the Post headquarters.

2. Good food from a Chinese chef : knife-cut noodles (도삭면 - between sujebi and thick, large, uneven tagliatelle) in a soup (seafood, spicy...), gimchi boribap, bossam, buchu mandu, kalguksu...

3. Kind prices and super-kind service.

Do I feel guilty ? No, your Honor. Who would under such circumstances ?

Will I pledge never to commit this crime again ? Not recidivating would be a crime, your Honor.

Seoul Village 2009

Ranju Ramien / 란주라미엔 (restaurant)
1F, 25-9 Chungmuro-1ga, Jung-gu, Seoul, ROK
Tel : +82.779.4800

Tuesday, October 27, 2009

Truth and Reconciliation : which model for Korea ?

Yesterday, in its 2009 International Symposium (see program below*), the Truth and Reconciliation Commission, Republic of Korea (TRCK) collected priceless insights, very comforting for the future of Transitional Justice in Korea and, beyond, for the future of democracy itself.

This country is about to decide which model to follow, with the unique opportunity to not only follow but lead, and even become a role model for all Asia. The Commission has already accomplished a terrific job, and Korea needs it more than ever, not only because more truth needs to come out. But for reconciliation to succeed, Korea needs its government to play its role, to fully support transitional justice as a whole (i.e. beyond the TRCK, the settlement foundation has yet to be established according to the law), and to guarantee the success of national reconciliation. Any failure to do so would definitely send the wrong message to the world about the level of democracy in Korea.

Hopefully, this simply can't happen in this century.

Yesterday, among the cases from Africa, Americas, Africa, and Europe, I expected the most from Rwanda and indeed, ITCR Judge PARK Seon-ki delivered a comprehensive presentation, including precious insights about the local context (i.e. the Gacaca justice system). I only wish he had more time to raise the "national reconciliation" issues, critical in a country where genocide survivors often live in the same village as their torturers.

Dr. Martin Salm (Germany) put the human factor centerstage, and that's a necessity when all you can give to people who lost 3 years of their lives as forced laborers is 500 euros... not much at the micro level, but his EVZ foundation eventually distributed about 5 billion euros to 1.6 million victims across Europe, and that's not petty money. Korea and Japan can learn a lot from this impressive publicly and privately funded international effort, but also from the importance of the care given to grieving individuals often suffering from isolation. Reconciliation is also about replacing bitterness and anger with peace, recognition, and confidence in the future. Strenghtening society and lifting the whole nation instead of letting it rot it in a nationalist dead end. For chaebols often perceived as distant from the people, contributing to this national cause would not only be the high road, but an easy one at that if they want to enhance their own image.

In Korea like everywhere else, victims first need to be officially, and if possible legally, recognised as victims. This usually comes before financial reparations. Condemning methods (beyond potential political / ideological sensibilities) is also essential : the most powerful sentence ever pronounced by Barack Obama is "we reject as false the choice between our safety and our ideals". Punishing the criminals is yet another level, and Korea will probably fine tune its amnesty / trial ratio. But if much truth remains to be uncovered, the time of reconciliation has come, and that will require pedagogy, sensibility, a lot of work on memory, with visible, tangible, shared elements to not only honor and remember, but also strengthten society and its future.

Honoring the great Latin American literary tradition, former Peruvian Truth and Reconciliation Commission President Salomon Lerner submitted a brilliant text with a universal reach. One can only subscribe to his beautifully crafted focus on the power of words and the clarity of the vision, the importance of "a prudent approach to social expectancies (...) which demands, in turn, a fine and responsible crafting of the discourse and messages", and the need to prolong this writing with "memory, that, in becoming social life and in being fecundated by ethical motivations, becomes a true transformer of history".

I wish Dr. Leigh Payne used a more "responsible crafting of the discourse and messages" in her own conclusions, particularly since those were only temporary conclusions following the first part of her very interesting research on 91 national cases of Transitional Justice. She did use all the right precautions in her speech, but "verba volant, scripta manent", and the slide bluntly singled out TJ systems featuring only truth commissions as potentially "harmful". Such a message could be misunterpreted and thus maybe "harmful" to transitional justice, particularly in countries where truth commissions very existences are threatened... It can be misunderstood and almost sounds like blaming a thermometer for fever : of course, what is "harmful" is the abuses perpetrated, and certainly not the doctor examining the wound and recommanding ways to cure and prevent further damage - what is also "harmful" is the lobby trying to silence the doctor, or to discredit him by depriving him of his most essential tools. TRCs are not into reopening wounds : they are an essential part of the healing process, the guarantee for a better future.

That said, I'm not exactly a model in "fine and responsible crafting of the discourse and messages", and I naturally agree with Dr Payne's results, which look totally logical : Truth Commissions simply cannot work as stand alone tools precisely because they are not meant to work as stand alone tools... except in those countries where they are set up as smoke screens (or rather, as Dr. Payne finely and responsibly put it, "facades"), by governments who want to appear as mature democracies facing their own pasts. That is, fortunately, not the case of Korea, where the TCR was really meant to help the country move to a higher level.

But the TCRK was given a relatively limited reach, and key elements of the Basic Law for the Settlement of Past Incidents have yet to be implemented. Furthermore, the success of the whole system depends on the full support of a government which, these days, can at times appear uncomfortable with transitional justice : as I pointed out earlier**, ultra-conservative die harders keep lobbying against the TCRK, undermining not only Korea's efforts to emerge as a leading nation on the international stage, but also Japan's efforts to at last face its own dark chapters regarding Korea.

Every voice should be heard in the process : as reminded yesterday, that is the essence of democracy. It is not an easy task but there is no other way. The choice is simple : unity or division, reconciliation or hatred, healing or suffering, more democracy or less democracy. And it's binary : not doing anything, letting time pass and tensions rise is equivalent to killing transitional justice altogether.

So the pressure is certainly not on the Truth and Reconciliation Commission, but on the Korean government, who is compelled to give it a total support. By the end of TRCK's mandate, the world will have an answer : either Korea decides to become a model for Asia, or its rulers decide to cast shame upon themselves.

Seoul Village 2009

* "The Global Trend of Past Settlement and the Task of Korea to Build National Reconciliation" (20091027) :
Opening Remarks (AHN Byung-ook, President, TRCK)
1. The Justice Balance: When Transitional Justice Improves Human Rights and Democracy (Presentation by Dr. Leigh PAYNE, Professor of Sociology, Oxford University - Questions from AHN Kyong-whan, Professor, SNU and former President of Naitonal Human Rights Commission of Korea)
2. Rwanda Genocide, United Nations International Criminal Tribunal for Rwanda and Lessons from Rwanda and Africa (Presentation by Judge PARK Seon-ki, ITCR - Questions from LEE Suk-tae, Lawyer, Duk Su Law Office)
3. Achievements and Tasks in confronting the Past in Peru and Latin America (Presentation by Dr. Salomon LERNER FEBRES, Rector Emerito, Pontifica Universidad Catolica del Peru and former President of the TRC in Peru - Questions from PARK Koo-byoung, Professor, Ajou University)
4. Will remembrance of National Socialist Crimes never end ? Meaning, tasks, and societal role of the Foundation 'Remembrance, Responsibility and Future' (Presentation by Dr. Martin SALM, Chairman of the Board of Directors, EVZ - Questions from SONG Chung-ki, Professor, Kongju National University)
Wrap up session : Evaluation and Proposal for the Past Settlement of Korea

** see "President Lee, keep digging" followed by "A Common History".

Sunday, October 25, 2009

Dunnae Minsokchon (Dunnae)

Don't be deterred by the name and decor of this restaurant : if "Dunnae Folk Village" is abusively covered with traditional and wooden artifacts, their food is the real stuff : not make-believe junk, but simple country food with an intense and unique taste. The kind of meals that deserve a trip if you really love Korean food, and like to discover new / old tastes.

Definitely the perfect stop after a morning in Gangwon-do forests and fields, enjoying their autumn best : even a few hours after eating about one and a half Korean cow (hanu) in every possible ways, I felt positively ravenous.

Still now, one day later, I'm drooling just remembering a few dishes :

- side dishes (banchan / 반찬) featuring mountain herbs (san namul / 산나물)

- Deodeok gui (더덕구이) : grilled deodok. Deodeok (도덕) is a variety of bellflower (codonopsis lanceolata) similar to toraji. Fibers seem softer.

- Taegisan Dodeok Sundae (태기산 더덕순대) : intestine / blood sausage with dodeok from nearby Taegi mountain.

- chondubu (촌두부) : a fantastic "village tofu / dubu" - You can have it with soy sauce or gimchi, but I liked it best as it came : in a very light warm broth, probably plain water with a touch of cereal, giving a slightly smoky flavor.

- namul doenjang jjigae (나물 된장찌게) : since I'm used to the best homemade doenjang, I'm difficult to move for this classic. This one is really ok.

- dondeure namulbab (돈드레 나물밥) : healthy rice and herbs bibim with doenjang sauce

- biji jjigae (비지찌개) : no meat, and an incredible taste. It reminded me of the feeling I have when I savor my favorite rich bread soup in the deep Perigord Noir (the one you finish with red wine before attacking the confit de canard pommes sarladaises... if you still have room left after the foie gras).

- ... I'm probably missing one or two steps there but that's part of the game.

Seoul Village 2009

Dunnae Minsokchon / 돈내 민속촌 (restaurant)
Gangwon-do, Hoengseong-gun, Dunnae-myeon, Dunnae, ROK
From the market, the street along the stream right before the bridge. About half a mile after the school.
Tel : +82.33.342.7807.5949

PS: thank you Mr Bae, from Byeolmuri pension, for the address.

Thursday, October 22, 2009

Shinhotan, Beginning of a new Era - a big MOCA cup for Seoul

A "Shinhotan" is a flare to show the way, what we Frogs call "un eclaireur".

"Shinhotan, Beginning of a new Era" is a relevant name for the exhibition preceding the transformation of the former Defense Security Command (Kimusa) into the Seoul MOCA, the Seoul branch of the National Museum Of Contemporary Art, Korea.

Kimusa was closed late last year and recently hosted
ASYAAF 2009, confirming the potential of the site for contemporary art. This time, it's fully exploited, including the roof. "Space Transformation Project" bodes the transformation to come, while "Art Museum Project" showcases Korean contemporary artists from Gwacheon collections (in Kimusa's main building), and "Documentary Project" showcases images of this most controversial place in Korean minds. Overall, 300 works by 58 artists.

It's as much an end as a beginning : this is the last opportunity to visit this very intriguing place before it mutates into something completely different.

You have absolutely no excuse : admission is free.

Shinhotan, Beginning of a new Era - National Museum Of Contemporary Art, Seoul / 신호탄 - 국립현대미술관, 서울관 건립예정지
2009.10.22 - 2009.12.06
165 Sogyeok-dong, Jongno-gu, Seoul, ROK
Tel: +82.2.2188.6000

Seoul Village 2009

Tuesday, October 20, 2009

Donuimun Restoration and Sadaemun Resurrection

Today, Seoul announced the restoration of Donuimun in its original design and location by 2013, along with the prolongation of the fortress walls, and the intention of claiming a new UNESCO World Heritage label for resuscitating the initial frame of Hanyang, the city's original name.

The image I have of Donuimun (also known as Seodaemun - the Great Western Gate), is the desolation at Jeong-dong Sagori : an abrupt slope at the feet of a concrete monster (Samsung Gangbuk Hospital), a dangerous crossroads for pedestrians and bikers (probably meant to feed the above mentioned monster), and a sober glass / wood post-it decor signaling the place where one of Seoul's four main gates used to stand. Victim to Japanese forces in 1915 as part of a comprehensive destruction plan (city walls, palaces, gates, symbols of power and independence had to be removed), but also as part of a more constructive scheme (new tram lines), Donuimun had been shamelessly overlooked during more recent redevelopment projects.

Yet, I was confident this forsaken area would be revived in a very near future :
- If the gate is gone, Jeong-dong Sagori remains a focal point where Jongno-gu, Jung-gu, and Seodaemun-gu meet. Nowadays, the pleasant walk along Deoksugung-gil (a successful restoration if I ever saw one) comes to an abrupt end, ruining the connection with Gyeonghuigung.
- According to Donuimun New Town (a.k.a. Gyonam New Town) master plan, the triangle between the hospital and Gyeonghuigung's entrance will be transformed into a park (reminder: in the meanwhile, there's still time to enjoy the
good restaurants still standing !).
- At last, the overpass joining Saemunan-gil and Seosomun-ro will be removed. Good riddance.
- Seoul wants to restore the city's original fortress walls, and a significant portion has already been completed uphill along Songwol-gil (with a small park in Songwol-dong, above the Swiss Embassy).

Seoul decided to restore Donuimun in its exact location, regardless of the intense traffic, and it's almost a matter of pride : the prestigious gate was destroyed to widen the road and install railway tracks ? it will be reconstructed as it was originally designed, like it or not. The result should be quite impressive, and the area can really look gorgeous if Samsung has a soul (and a few billions to spare) and revamps its hospital more elegantly (burying it could be a solution). I guess cars and buses will probably have to pass under the gate one way or another, without bumping into Seodaemun Station. And I do hope pedestrians can cross seamlessly along the walls without waiting for traffic lights.

Let's recapitulate the score for Seoul's fabled "Sadaemun" (Four Great Gates) : by 2013, the city will have completed a grand slam in the major league (the gates meant for the VIPs, all completed during the first year of construction of the fortress wall, in 1396) :

  • Sungnyemun ("respect", Southern Great Gate or Namdaemun) is still under reconstruction following last year’s tragic arson (see "Namdaemonium"). Final touch : 2012.
  • Heunginjimun ("wisdom", Eastern Great Gate or Dongdaemun) has already finished its restoration and will soon recover part of its wings : on one side the Naksan section of the fortress (Ewha Woman's University Dongdaemun Hospital has just been destroyed to make space for a park), on the other the future microsection planned for Dongdaemun Design Plaza. Dongdaemun's time to shine should be next year, to celebrate Seoul Capital of Design (see "Buldozing Seoul again - Dongdaemun Design Plaza, New City Hall").
  • Sukjeongmun ("humility", Northern Great Gate or Bukdaemun) was closed not long after its completion because it was supposed to allow bad vibes into the city. Japanese occupants destroyed the edifice along with the wall and Donuimun, but under what was left of popular and royal pressure, they couldn't get rid of Namdaemun and Dongdaemun. Sukjeongmun's rebirth in 2006 didn't raise many eyebrows but marked the start of the whole project. The following year, the path to Bukhansan was reopened to the public for the first time since Park's assassination attempt by a North Korean commando in 1968 (see "Inwangsan's Great Wall and Seoul's Royal "T" Time").
  • Donuimun ("loyalty", Western Great Gate of Seodaemun) completes the diamond circuit in 2013.
The less notorious "Sasomun" (Four Lesser Gates), the minor league gates, remain in outfield :
  • Souimun ("justice" – Seosomun) used to lie between Seodaemun and Namdaemun, so it should theoretically be the South Western gate. But like the other two it belonged to the Western wall of the fortress, and the SW corner was actually Sungnyemun. Seosomun has a terrible reputation because this is the gate through which criminals were banned… or executed. That's also where the “sayuksin” were beheaded (see "King Danjong and Korea's Curse"), and early Christians martyred. And that's also the way to Seodaemun Prison.
  • Gwanghuimun ("bright light" – Sugumun) : at the SE corner of the walls, on the other side of Namsan along which the Southern section of the wall is running. I guess this is the "bright light" at the end of the tunnel : this rather cute gate, now part of a small park near Sindang, was the portal through which corpses left the city. Brrrr
  • Hyehwamun ("wisdom" – Dongseomun) : NE corner of the walls, on the other side of Naksan. An important entry point to Hanyang from the North.
  • Changuimun ("fairness" – known as Jahamun) : NW corner of the walls, between Bugaksan and Inwangsan. Still standing after all these years, even if it had to be reconstructed during the 18th century, following a Japanese invasion.

The city boasts many other gates ("mun"), but they mark the entrance to palaces or altars. The most famous of these gates remains Gwanghwamun, more than ever the star at the center of the show.
Seoul Village 2009

Seongbuk-dong Maemil Sujebi Nurungjibaeksuk (Seoul)

Frankly, this big, modern, two storey building evokes more a factory than a restaurant and more often than not, looks too packed with people. I don't know how many times I sneered at it but today I eventually decided to give it a try.

And I'm glad I did.

As the name clearly explains, the speciality is buckwheat (Maemil / 매밀) dough flakes in soup (sujebi / 수제비), and the location is Seongbuk-dong.

You can't ignore the place if you follow Seongbuk-dong-gil (that's the main road) all the way : the strategic fork where you either take off or land depending on where you're coming from (respectively East from Dongsomun-ro, or West from the Samcheon Tunnel and Samcheonggak).

In this very spot, at the feet of the Seoul version of Beverly Hills with its packs of residences for diplomats, a small park was recently created to celebrate peace between Seongbuk-gu, its sister cities, and all countries boasting a diplomat residence in the gu. As a result, they planted more flag poles than trees.

As I took a seat in the factory, looking through the window at this colorful installation, I almost heard the unmistakable clik of a tourist trap when it snaps shut on your spine. To cheer myself up, I decided that at least the food couldn't be terrible : maemil / buckwheat specialities are a commodity nowadays, and don't require much effort.

Neither did the decoration of the place, obviously - I guess the bulk of CAPEX, beyond land, went into the gigantic neon sign outside...

Almost without stopping, a chain worker moves 3 side dishes (banchan / 반찬) from a rolling cart to the table : gimchi, ggakdugi (깍두기 - that's radish gimchi), and white mul gimchi (물김치 - that's water gimchi). Each one is OK, but the red and white combo adds to the weird impression of being cast in a Jacques Tati movie.

Enter the maemil bindaetteok (매밀 빈대떡).

Now this is good. Plus you can use each portion to wrap young shots with a touch of chogochujang (초고추장) sauce.

I try both maemil sujebis versions : in wild sesame broth and with clams. Both deliciously rustic, but with a deeper and more original twist for the wild sesame.

I have to come back for dinner, and try their piece de resistance : a yummy combo featuring chicken soaked in guess what.

Seoul Village 2009

Seongbuk-dong Maemil Sujebi Nurungjibaeksuk / 성북동 메밀 수제비 누룽지백숙 (restaurant)
281-1 Seongbuk-2-dong, Seongbuk-gu, Seoul, ROK
Tel : +82.2.764.0707

Thursday, October 8, 2009

Santa Sejong is coming to town

As expected, the 10 meter high bronze statue of King Sejong and the exhibition space below were inaugurated on Gwanghwamun Square for Hangeul Day.

Pictures of the statue in its workshop had been previously exhibited, so it's not as if Seoul people discovered all of a sudden their favorite hero in its golden glory.

But today, watching Sejong Dae Hwang sitting in the sun with a big kind smile on his round face, I couldn't help but thinking about Santa Claus calling the next kid on his lap : come read the Hunminjeongeum Haerye with me... Have you been a good boy last year ? You'd better or I call the big ironclad fella down the street...

That would be Admiral YI Sun-shin, or rather the impressive statue of Korea's other hero who'd been guarding Sejongno over the past decades, waiting for the Great King to return to the boulevard named after him.

Waging war is not what Korea is about. What this perspective teaches us is that culture and education are treasures worth rediscovering every day. They sometimes need protection, but are meant for every citizen and visitor to enjoy.

Meanwhile, the next landmark to be unwrapped, Gwanghwamun itself (the gate), keeps rising under its colorful hangar : wooden pillars have recently been erected, along with lateral doors and staircases.

Seoul Village 2009

A Common History

Change has come to Japan.

At long last, a Japanese Foreign Minister called for a shared vision of history between Japan, China, and Korea, materialized in a common textbook.

Katsuya Okada confirms the hopes raised by Hatoyama's election, and revives the courageous position of former Prime Minister Tomiichi Murayama, who apologied for "damage and suffering" under colonial rule, called for an end to nationalism, and urged fellow Japanese citizens to face their own past.

As I wrote
earlier, "it's up to the Japanese people to decide : allow those warmongers to set the diplomatic agenda and rewrite textbooks for the next generations, or continue on their peaceful path. But to ensure the latter choice, they must at last face the sometimes troubled history of their beautiful country."

The time has come to set the record straight, and I'm sure Korea and China can work out something great together in a very near future (this noble announcement came ahead of a meeting between Lee Myung-bak and Yukio Hatoyama).

I'm not sure China will join the effort all the way : the regime is too busy working on its own revisionist versions. English scholars recently mocked at China's "Hanschluss" attempt on Goguryeo civilization : it would be as if England claimed to have created the German civilization.

The potential hurdles of these "three/four-party talks" shouldn't deter Korea and Japan to work on their common history as soon as possible, silencing nationalists from all sides.

This should also convince LEE to maintain his country's vital effort in coping with its own troubled past (see "
President Lee, please keep digging") : Korea needs its Truth and Reconciliation Commission more than ever.
Seoul Village 2009

ADDENDUM : this post was later published under the title "Japan may face its history" in JoongAng Ilbo (20091012)

Wednesday, October 7, 2009

Mayor OH Se-hoon answers

I recently e-mailed the office of Seoul Mayor OH Se-hoon about Haemil's headquarters (CHUNG Mong-joon's think tank / bunker, still under construction right behind the Gyeonghui Palace*), candidly wondering if all the short and long term consequences - cultural as well as political - had fully been taken into account.

This very kind answer came this morning :

Answers from the Seoul Metropolitan Government to Stephane MOT

Dear Stephane MOT

Thank you for your special love to Seoul.

As you know, Seoul has been doing various projects in order to rejuvenate the 600-year-old tradition and identity of Seoul, such as Seoul Walls, and Gyeonghuigung. Some buildings of Gyeunghuigung, which was lost during the Japanese occupation including Sungjeongjeon, Taeryeongjeon, Jajeongjeon, and Hangerang were successfully restored. However, the ground of Gyeonghuigung, Historical Site No. 271 failed to escape the wide-ranging abuse inflicted on the buildings and lands being sold. As a result, the area around the cultural site belong to private ownders.

While we understand that we must recover the old territory of Gyeonghuigung, there are too many obstacles so the Cultural Properties Administration, after a series of deliberations and discussions, notified a standard to change the area around the ground of Gyeonghuigung on Feb. 18, 2008.

According to the notification, the Thinktank building will be in the 2-1 Section on the East of the ground of Gyeonghuigung, where a building with up to 3 stories (12m) will be allowed to stand. A cultural asset agency has surveyed the site for the building, and the Cultural Properties Administration received the exploration results and allowed the construction project.

We’d like to express our deep appreciation for your love to the tradition and history of Seoul, and your precious proposal to protect the ground of the royal building. But please be informed and understand that we cannot infringe the right of private property beyond certain limit due to a cultural asset.

My best wish for your health, prosperity, and happiness.

Best regards,

Oh Se-hoon
Mayor of Seoul

So the decision to "change the area" came "after a series of deliberations and discussions", and the Cultural Properties Administration (now The Cultural Heritage Administration) gave the nod to the project after "a cultural asset agency (...) surveyed the site"**.

In other words : the zoning law was changed to make this construction possible, but neither institution (Seoul, CHA) can be blamed, sorry if we cannot infringe the right of private ambition beyond certain limit.

So be it then... but I'm really curious to see how people will react to Haemil's bold, political statement.

It surely can't be compared with say the Louvres pyramid, at the time a very controversial architectural project, but central to a monument's comprehensive overhaul by the public administration.

Once again, I’m glad that Seoul is growing new architectural landmarks, and this one, in a different context, could be alright (for all I know, it may even be celebrated next year, during the Seoul 2010 Design Capital festivities). But under the circumstances, this project definitely looks like bad PR for everyone.

I hope next projects around cultural assets will receive extra care.

My best wish for your health, prosperity, and happiness as well.

Seoul Village 2009

* see "CHUNG Mong-joon keeps rising...", following "Haemil - A Think Tank or only a tank ?"

** they probably found something interesting during the survey because there was a lot of time between the ground breaking and the actual digging. The big crane on palace grounds didn't raise many objections either.

Tuesday, October 6, 2009

Kim Jong-il's bridge to nowhere

Wen Jiabao collected what he came for : a pledge of allegiance from the North Korean regime and furthermore, the keys to the country... or rather the future Chinese province of Korea, which will be even more firmly anchored to "motherland" by a new bridge at the soon-to-be-former frontier (the perfect symbol for the success of China's highly controversial Nord-Eastern Project). The gift was graciously wrapped in a big smile by the hanschluss' victims, while they celebrated in a most spectacular manner 60 years of cloudless friendship with their big communist brother.

Kim Jong-il saved face : he just traded his country with his dynasty's survival, but almost succeeds in making this shameless treason pass for a political victory, the abdication of an absolute leader in front of a simple Prime Minister for a friendly meeting between equals, the sacrifice of national independence for a triumph of juche...

In this pathetic comedy, the ones losing face are American diplomats, who were basically used as mechanical hares in a greyhound race to please the Dear Leader. KIM started negociating the terms of his own capitulation as soon as he was rewarded with the winning prize : an invitation to bilateral talks with the US, crowning his regime as an equal to the Obama Administration.

Here we are, back to the statu-quo commonly called "Six-Party Talks" : a joke putting at the heart of negociations the two fiercest opponents to a reunification of both Koreas. As we saw earlier :
- Japan refuses to appear as a suburb to the next hub of prosperity, and the recent publication of a survey confirming the potential of a reunited Korea next to a declining Japan won't help Yukio Hatoyama undermine anti-Korean positions pushed by ultra-conservatives (see "
Land of the rinsing sun ?").
- China only considers one form of unification : all Koreans under the same Chinese roof and within the same Chinese walls (see "The Great Hanschluss" on Seoul Village :
Great Wall of China - Anschlussing Korea (continued)")

And when I consider NK's other 3 interlocutors, I don't see them fight against this imposture :
- Obama has other fish to fry than Korea's political and cultural independence. If the crisis could be solved without his intervention, that would be change even he couldn't believe in. Besides, these days, his Administration is not precisely seeking conflict against China on touchy matters : the POTUS decided not to meet the Dalai Lama before visiting China, and Hillary Clinton as well as Tim Geithner kept very low profile on human rights during their trips in Beijing.
- Russians eventually seem to leave it up to the Chinese. If they can't become the main entry point to the peninsula, this new socialist honeymoon could spread some wealth around in their direction as well. And they wouldn't have to bother with the always day to day monitoring of that weirdo hairdo lunatic.
- South Koreans simply don't seem to realise what's going on.

To be continued...

Seoul Village 2009

sur blogules en V.F. : "KIM Jong-il, un pont trop loin"

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