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Monday, September 9, 2013

The Sejongno Insult

 This is just wrong:

PARK Chung-hee parading on Sejongno in 2013

PARK Chung-hee parading on Sejongno in 2013, at the feet of the Government building and facing - among others - the highly controversial National Museum of Korean Contemporary History? That's simply shocking.

Of course, the artistic alibi doesn't stand one second: the former dictator didn't land here by chance anymore than Shinzo Abe landed on jet fighter #731 by chance last spring*.

This is not the kind of messages Korea needs to send these days, particularly as the nation asks Shinzo Abe's Japan to stop revising history.

Yesterday, PARK Chung-hee's daughter paid a silent tribute to Uncle Ho at the Ho Chi Minh Memorial, but missed a golden opportunity to issue formal apologies for Korea's wrongdoings during the Vietnam War. Yes, "in 1992, when Korea and Vietnam established diplomatic ties, Vietnam agreed not to ask Korea for an apology for fighting on the American side in the war"**, but we're talking about apologies for crimes that didn't belong in a war.

Again, PARK Geun-hye has the legitimacy to become a game changer in East Asian politics, and she could even deserve a Nobel Peace Prize if she had the courage to make the first move. We can't go like this any longer, all nations have to face correctly their own dark moments, regardless of the relative importance to what their neighbors did. Korea must apologize for the crimes committed by its troops during the Vietnam War, and as the President of the Republic of Korea, PARK Geun-hye must make sure that Korean history is correctly taught at home, recognize that her father was a dictator, state firmly that it is wrong to present only the positive sides of his reign, and restore the Truth and Reconciliation process.

Only then can she expose Shinzo Abe and his fellow revisionists without any reserve.

Until now, she's only half-distanced herself from her father's heritage. Typically, she said that the future Park Chung-hee museum shouldn't be funded with public money, but that's not enough: the State should make this museum illegal unless it exposes both sides of the coin, and involves victims of the regime in the process.

There's no better moment than right now, following the embarrassing exposure of other enemies of democracy, at the other side of the policial spectrum (see "LEE Seok-ki's Arirang Spring"): this is not a witch-hunt, we want Korea's democracy to be stronger, and see, we're cleaning our own mess.

To be consistent, PARK Geun-hye must also give her full support to investigations on the "NIS-gate", the scandal that cast a shadow on her own election. And she should even be ready to call for new elections, if that's what the outcome demands.

That's what a great leader would do to reunite at least this side of the DMZ, and at long last, propel Korea into the new millenium.

Seoul Village 2013
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* See "Can't top that? Shinzo Abe posing as Shiro Ishii, the Josef Mengele of Imperial Japan". I'm not comparing PARK's dictatorship to Imperial Japan, but precisely: Korea must realize that such tasteless provocations are undermining the nation as a whole.
** "Park vows $70B in Vietnam trade" (Korea JoongAng Daily - 20130910)

Sunday, September 8, 2013

A happy event to share? Call "Basketball Diplomacy" Inc.

Following the tradition started last February ("Dennis Rodman in North Korea (live feed)"), here's the live Tweeter feed of The Worm's second coming to DPRK.

By the way: I'm typing this post without my left index, stung by a caterpillar while I was gardening this morning - probably an agent sent by Pyongyang to prevent me from achieving this most vital mission (like Ali, they float like a butterfly, sting like a Bae). Two hours later, the pain has yet to subside.

G2 between and : rebel hairdo, rebel tattoos, white wine diplomacy via

: nothing to declare except cigars and wine from duty free. Couldn't bring (excess bagage).

At least solved the missile crisis (two cigars up in smoke)

- G2 Summit debriefing, courtesy Dennis - expletive - Rodman

what? traded to the Los Atomic Leakers? Got an ticket to Chicago for ?

Baby news, a US- basketball game... next stop for : Damascus?

A happy event to share? Call : .cigars provided by .public birth announcement by star

I'll keep you posted about Rodman's trip to Damascus: I can't wait to learn the name of Bashar's new pet canari, and to hear about the organization of a basketball game between the Cigaro Bulls and the Sarindiana Pacers.

Seoul Village 2013
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Thursday, September 5, 2013

Magok District on cruise mode

Since last January's focus ("Magok District: SIM City as in "Seoul Intra Muros"? Alleyways as in "Seoul Inter Muros"?"), Magok District has steadily made the headlines, most notably:

  • Business: extension of the LG Science Park project (from 130 to 170,000 sqm, and from 20 to 30,000 Research and Development staff)
At the core of the business district project. New batches of lots are regularly being proposed.
  • Environment: Seoul city announced for 2016 an eco park combining a lake with a 60,000 sqm urban botanical garden, in addition to wetlands
Forget about the costly and futuristic waterfront project. This ecosystem will host 5,000 species, and might draw researchers as well as tourists.

  • Public spaces: selection of Wooridongjin Architects for Magok Central Plaza

A sunken plaza reaching across the street, hopefully more open than the Coex mall patio. Now the neighborhood also needs to care about pedestrians at street level, and this diagonal canal has an interesting potential.

  • Commercial and service areas: Shinsegae just signed for a new site connected to the subway. Earlier, Ehwa Hospital confirmed the move from Dongdaemun Gate to Magok.

  • Residential areas: emboldened by last July's successful launches, developers started a rather off-the-wall campaign for the new residential blocks (if the visuals are deja vu, you don't often see 'stupid' splashed on the headline of a real estate ad in this town):
The 3 dumb real estate investors: the one who doesn't know Magok, the one who knows Magok but is not interested, the one who knows Magok, is interested, but doesn't buy

  •  ...

The new district is step by step completing its puzzle, leveraging on key assets: Seoul intra muros, the Gimpo airport connection, the DMC-Magok-Guro triangle..., and of course major public transit infrastructures - particularly subway stations - that have been laid out first, far ahead of the inauguration (unlike for most new towns, or Sondgo IBD).

Now the most important remains to give some soul and consistence to this alleywayless place. You want to see residents and researchers venture beyond their homes and campuses, roam the streets, enjoy the city. The park and diagonal canal can give purpose, but let's not forget to optimize every single street for pedestrians and bicycles, make this neighborhood a destination from all directions, in continuity with Hangang Park, and the new neighboring communities (Banghwa, Balsan...).
Seoul Village 2013
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Wednesday, September 4, 2013

Chinese Communism, the Ultimate Stage of Capitalism?

Eric X. LI was giving a lecture today at the ASAN Institute. This successful venture capitalist is known for lauding the virtues of the Chinese model in audacious yet always "CPC correct" ways (Communist Party of China, that is), most notably through a couple of OpEds (NYT, FT), and a much debated TED talk.

© Stephane MOT 20130904
A cutely mischievous Eric X. LI about to spice up the debate at the ASAN Institute today 

In his presentation "Warring States - The Coming New World (Dis)Order"*, LI envisions a world where all nations will selfishly seek their own national interests, where the US will be forced to dump their costly dream of a universal Pax Americana if they want to remain a superpower, and where China will have no qualms continuing to thrive as a 'free rider', a new leader refusing to become the next Leviathan.

Eric LI is right to say that China has a more "central" than "universal" vision, but where does this pervasive "center" stop? And does that mean that China will not eventually take over as the next boss? As HAHM Chaibong, President of the ASAN Institute, rightly pointed out, at the beginning, the US themselves were more than reluctant to become a world leader.

I shot the first question from the audience: since LI depicted a rather cynical, amoral, and yes, imperialist China, shamelessly pushing go stones across Asian oceans, syphoning resources from North Korea, corrupting both camps in Zimbabwe to secure its interests, and somehow acting like the unbound monopoly it somehow is, doesn't it prove that somehow, Chinese communism is the highest stage of capitalism?

I know that's not very PC. I'm by no means a socialist but to me, free market ayatollahs insult economics as boldly as hard core Soviet marxists. History proves that Adam Smith's "invisible hand" doesn't work, that the ultimate stage of free market is the negation of the market, the negation of economics itself**. And to me, the Chinese model is no more sustainable than an overgrown conglomerate that would control a whole country and set its own rules and standards, the mother of all Standard Oils. Yes, a Politburo Standing Committee system does have its charms (e.g. board approach and ten year tenure more efficient for strategic vision and consistency...), but this pyramidal bureaucracy is simply not adapted to a network society, particularly in a nation counting 1,359,730,000 individuals (that's 715 Qatars). Tell me: does this look like the future, or a doomed Leviathan? It seems that China needs to evolve as urgently if not more than the US.

But all at denouncing simplistic ideologies, LI proposes his own simplistic views, failing to deliver a long term vision beyond the already well documented failures of existing systems... except the one 800 pound panda that has yet to receive its wake up call.

LI doesn't seem to know that Samuel P. Huntington's "The Clash of Civilizations" is an imposture as caricatural and obsolete as Francis Fukuyama's "The End of History", that the post-Arab spring transition periods do not qualify as poster childs for democracy, that beyond the neocon alibi of spreading democracy, the invasion of Iraq was also a theocon project to spread fundamentalism across the world (and that in that sense, Fundamentalist in Chief W. could rightfully claim: "mission: accomplished"), that the world is already trying to move away from the old and failed ideologies of communism and free market, towards a more pragmatic and fair market***...

I'd better stop before spilling all my own simplistic views in this utterly biased excuse for a blog.

And I'm being very unfair to Eric X. LI, who is right about, among many other things, this evidence: in tricky transition times such as the one we're living in, nations would better try to evolve and adapt.

Seoul Village 2013
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* yes it rings a bell: "New World Disorder" was precisely the title of the recent 2013 ASAN Plenum
** "Le stade ultime du libéralisme, c'est la négation du marché (le déni d'économie continue)" ("The highest stage of free market is the negation of the market - denying economics, continued") / "This is not a financial crisis"
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