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Monday, December 30, 2013

Last Stand for 2013 and Gyonam-dong

Only a few hours left for 2013, and for the old Seoul neighborhoods sacrificed for Dongnimmun New Town  (see "In memoriam Samdong Samgeori, Gyonam-dong").

About 70% have been destroyed, but last time I checked - here on Christmas Eve -, my beloved "Samdong Samgeori" was still standing. That's the last hanok before the final stop on the yellow 'supermarket' building:

I took this other shaky video from the other end of the street, up Songwol-dong. Water was sprayed to prevent dust from flying around, but it didn't prevent me and Seoul from choking...


... Enough grieving!

I wish you tons of love and happiness for 2014! That's all we need, and the best human ondol system:

Happy New Year! It will literally heat you up

Seoul Village 2013
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Thursday, December 26, 2013

With neighbors like these...

And the winners of this year's "How the Grinch stole Christmas!" awards are:

  • Bronze Medal - To China's Politburo, for their new and improved ADIZ, unwrapped one month ahead of Christmas:

History belongs to whom draws the last maps and burns the last books (see "One Flew Over the Senkaku's Nest - Nationalist maps of Asia")

  • Silver Medal - To North Korea's "Great Leader of Songun" (or whoever runs the Barnum nowadays), for his late november - early december avunculicide*. No sign of light at the end of the tunnel(s) for DPRK:

Tunnel #1 (July 20) - Bright smile, yellow mushrooms! "Kim Jong-un radiating: he just discovered non-atomic mushrooms (non-magic?)" (20130720 - - image via @AskAKorean)

Tunnel #2 (December 16) - More tension, pink-grey squids. "Kim Jong-un in yet another tunnel. Dried squids this time. After mushrooms, what next? Frozen purgees?" (20131216 - - image via @pearswick)
Tunnel #3 (December 25) - No smile, bloody slaughtered pigs. "Escalade in Kim Jong-un's propaganda: in purge times, backgrounds get really gory"
( - 20131225 - image via @adamcathcart)

  • Gold Medal - To Japan's Shinzo Abe, for his sordid Seasons Greetings from Yasukuni:
"Ho ho ho. Bad Santa's back: (MT @justinmccurry) "Japan prime minister Shinzo Abe to visit Yasukuni shrine later today"
( - 20131226)

Just recycling an old image of the incurable shameless and unrepentant Shinzo Abe ("Germany and Japan: different ways of remembering war crimes and playing politics" - August 2013). Make no mistake: when this man says "Japan must never wage a war again - This is my conviction based on the severe remorse for the past"(see "Text of Abe statement pledging continued peace efforts, remorse for past" - Japan Times 20131227), he's just pretending to pay his entrance ticket**.
With neighbors like these, hardliners have no problem pushing their own domestic agendas, and that's precisely the aim of the game***. 

Even in South Korea, ultra-nationalists from all sides need bogeymen at their doorsteps to thrive. And again, what's the point of criticizing your neighbor's revisionism when you're not fully transparent about your own past****?

Seoul Village 2013
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* see "JANG Sung-taek "sledge-hammered" out (tu quoque, patrui mi?)", following our "Exclusive interview with KIM Jong-un"
** see previous "Abeignomics" episodes, for instance "The Elusive Independence Day - When will Japan officially proclaim its Independence from Imperial Japan?"or the already old "Dear Japan, Please Say No To Abeignomics".
*** all episodes are first about national politics: a token for the hard line following the party plenum in China, a power/money struggle at the top of the North Korean camorra, Shinzo Abe losing momentum at home
**** see for instance "The Sejongno Insult"

ADDENDUM: North Korean Tunnellology, a 2013 retrospective in one image:

Tuesday, December 24, 2013

Joint wishes from Seoul City Mayor and Seoul Village Minor

Merry Christmas to you all!

Good!“@theseoulvillage: Just a few files to sort before Christmas, and we're back to you! (with )”
Just a few files to sort before Christmas, and we're back to you! (with @wonsoonpark in #Seoul City Hall)

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Wednesday, December 18, 2013

Seoul-Namyangju? Check. East Gyeonggi? Still To Be Defined

Now with the full support of Seoul, Namyangju, and the Ministry of Transport, the extension of Subway Line 4 from Danggogae Station (Sanggye-dong, Nowon-gu, Seoul) to Jinjeop Station (Jinjeop-myeon, Namyangju) shall be, as expected, delivered by 2019.

Pre-feasibility studies confirmed a project we already detailed earlier, most recently last year*:
"In a diagonal parallel to the Gyeongcheon Line (railway for Chuncheon), the 14.5 km extension from Danggogae will create three stations in the city of Namyangju: Byeollae (Byeollae-dong), Onam (Onam-eup), and Jinjeop (Jinjeop-eup). All three correspond to new towns, not to mention (see reminder) today's terminal itself, Danggogae Station, at the center of the future Sanggye New Town. I bet many inhabitants may feel more like in an extension of Nowon-gu than in a new Namyangju neighborhood: there's no direct railway connection to Namyangju city hall in Geumgok-dong, and Nowon Station with its city hall and attractions is just 1 to 4 stations away.

Sanggye, Danggogae, and Byeollae all lie along Deongneung-ro, an axis already very congested by traffic jams. The only road cutting through Buramsam (in its middle) became an important entry point into northeastern Seoul when the Seoul Ring Expressway was completed: located halfway between Uijeongbu I.C. and Guri I.C., Byeollae I.C. instantly relieved the saturated Toegyewon I.C. gateway. But the road was not dimensioned for that traffic, and turned into a bottleneck."
I positioned Danggogae, Byeollae, Onam, and Jinjeop on Seoul Village map, and as you can see, a stop in  Jinjeop-eup could be added (maybe near Naegok-ri,, between Byeollae and Onam):

View Seoul Village in a larger map

If you zoom out from there, you see how this Eastern New Town Line takes the Wangsukcheon valley towards Pocheon, not the greatest 'pull' to prolong it even further.

But again, the way new towns have been decided across the capital region never followed any grand, long term vision combining from the start urban development with transit solutions. For instance, it would have been so easy to plan an arch from Uijeongbu to Hanam via Namyangju and Guri, in order to build a strong vertical backbone for eastern Gyeonggi-do, and instead of weak horizontal fishbones sticking out from the capital, a sounder dialog with Seoul.
Note that this Eastern New Town Line, that has been on the map for ages, was not even mentioned in Seoul Metropolitan Rapid Transit Master Plan. Now you know why I preferred the previous 'big picture' I added in my focus, where such hubs as Nowon-Sanggye appear more clearly (see "If you ain't broke, fix it: Seoul, Welfare and railways deficits").

Seoul Village 2013
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* see "Spectacular extensions of Seoul Subway Lines 4-5-6-7 ?" (April 2010), followed by "Seoul subway updates : gos, no-gos, maybes" (January 2011) and "Nowon confirmed as Seoul's northeast hub" (October 2012)

Monday, December 16, 2013

KIM Jong-un's Movember Selfie

Now we know why JANG Song-taek was purged: he tried to shave KIM Jong-un:

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Thursday, December 12, 2013

JANG Sung-taek "sledge-hammered" out (tu quoque, patrui mi?)

No textbook purge would skip the trial part. And here's how, in KCNA words*, the old "despicable human scum Jang, who was worse than a dog" ended:

"The special military tribunal of the Ministry of State Security of the DPRK confirmed that the state subversion attempted by the accused Jang with an aim to overthrow the people’s power of the DPRK by ideologically aligning himself with enemies is a crime punishable by Article 60 of the DPRK Criminal Code, vehemently condemned him as a wicked political careerist, trickster and traitor for all ages in the name of the revolution and the people and ruled that he would be sentenced to death according to it. The decision was immediately executed."
Blaming JANG for every crime except Kennedy's murder and the NY Mets' latest losing streak, KCNA nailed his coffin with the finesse of a car crusher:

"Every sentence of the decision served as sledge-hammer blow brought down by our angry service personnel and people on the head of Jang, an anti-party, counter-revolutionary factional element and despicable political careerist and trickster." (...)
JANG's execution was very much expected, and not only because KIM Jong-un spilled the beans the other day (see "Exclusive interview with KIM Jong-un"): there was no other issue for this purge, and in the 'random' interviews of 'people on the street' spread over the past few days by North Korean media, each citizen gave their own preference for the mode of execution of the abominable traitor for all ages.

Propaganda displayed two key sets of images: the official - theatrical - arrest in front of unshaken apparatchiks, and the presentation to the judge. Two soldiers have replaced the two upper-grade officers, and Judas keeps his low profile all the way:

Brass to pick up the 'traitor'...

... low rank staff to bring him to the military tribunal

No drama: the system is discarding a rotten apple at its pace, by the rule of law - or what passes for it that side of the DMZ. The system also acknowledges dissent at the top, but leaves no room for misinterpretation about how it intends to cope with it.

Adding more material to a future Scorcese-style biopic, JANG's wife KIM Kyong-hui is rumored to have okayed the purge, and KIM Jong-chul to have acted as a true brother in arms for KIM Jong-un, holding his uncle's guards with a gun. 

You'll have to wait for the next episode of "The Prisoner" to know if he's the next Number 2, and whom the giant white balloon will get next.

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* see "North Korea executes 'traitor' Jang Song-taek" ( 20131213)

Wednesday, December 11, 2013

Exclusive interview with KIM Jong-un

Earlier this week, I was granted an exclusive interview with North Korean leader KIM Jong-un in one of his luxurious residences. I'll skip the details about how I landed there, but to get the exclusivity, significant money transfers were required. I also had to ship three million Choco Pie packs to the Cayman Islands, along with an undisclosed number of NBA autographs to grease top wheels.

Seoul Village: "Since I'm not coming out alive from this meeting, I might as well cut the ceremonial crap and go for a first-name basis. So thanks for accepting this interview, Jong-un."

Kim Jong-un: "I should make your death even more painful for that but actually, it's a nice break from the bootlickers' routine, so let's keep it informal. Cigar, Coke?"

SV: "No thanks, I don't smoke, and coffee will do. So you're drinking that imperialist brand?"

KJU: "I was not talking drinks - our elites are growing tired of meth, and our labs working on new lines of products (no pun intended). North Korea must target markets with higher margins."

SV: "I see... You're starting to integrate step by step capitalist notions into the system."

KJU: "Exactly: myself, I indulge in free market all the time - I seize, and no one objects."

SV: "Certainly not JANG Sung-taek, now..."

KJU: "No one was taking me seriously, see? I detonated a frigging nuclear bomb, and all I got was a slap on the wrist - as if I were just a brat playing with firecrackers! The other day I asked China if I could visit, and they wouldn't talk to me, even after I threatened to have another nuclear test. So I discarded the old fart, and the next day they asked me if I wanted an unlimited visa."

SV: "Speaking of China, the way you humiliated your uncle in public was not very Confucian".

KJU: "But in the end, he was the one crying uncle! And you want to talk about Confucianism? From the start, this guy was impervious to the "rectification of names" - look how you Westerners CHANG Sung-taeked, JANG Seong-taeked, or JANG Sung-thaeked him depending on where the wind blew from, when you were not Chang Sŏngt'aeking in the pure McMuffin Whatever tradition."

SV: "McCune-Reischauer".

KJU: "Bless you. So I rectified his name alright. He thought he was the big boss, the one granting favors and pulling strings, but I showed them all that no one was above me, that any head could roll anytime. Read that KCNA news flash? Watched that video? Boy we performed a textbook purge to make Uncle Joe proud. I even had my Minister of Photoshop re-read 'Darkness at noon' before airbrushing the old geezer out from all the documents."

SV: "You read Koestler?"

KJU: "Nah, my nanny read me the story when I was a kid. Dad wanted me to know the ropes, and a lot of our technology transfer came from people like Uxley, Koestler, or Solzhenitsyn. Myself, I don't read books, and my favorite theoreticians are Al and Bob."

SV: "...?"

KJU: "Pacino's Scarface, de Niro's Capone. Now these guys knew how to make a splash with a purge. Straight to the point, you know, unlike them 'car accidents' - you'd be amazed to learn how much they cost us in spare parts."

What, Me Worry? - JANG Sung-taek

SV: "After the purge, you republished scores of dad-and-son pictures of the 3 generations of KIM to reassert your legitimacy. Now that you've cut a whole branch from the family tree, it's between you and your bros for the 'royal' bloodline. I presume you took care of your aunt as well."

KJU: "No sweat, man. Last year, I had KIM Kyong-hui stuffed by a taxidermist, and her husband never saw the difference. My brothers? Jong-chul's a sissy, and Jong-nam's softer than tofu. And he likes casinos - actually, the thing we wrote about JANG and casinos? I was also sending a message to Mickey Mouse: 'stay put, bro, don't take your chances, or I'll get you'. I'll get him anyway: Beijing's able to use him as a puppet 'Last Emperor', should anything happen to me."

SV: "Do you think Beijing will dump you?"

KJU: "Right now, we're talking the same language. See how hardliners tightened the screws around their last Plenum? New ADIZ, new JDIZ..."


KJU: "Journalist Defense Identification Zone: if foreign journos get too nosy, they're out of the game. Anyway, regarding North Korea, Beijing was more than happy to have one interlocutor instead of one and a half: it's already complicated for them to cope with different currents at home."

SV: "But one of the key factors of success of your dictatorship was the improbable balance of power you've been brutalizing ever since you got the job."

KJU: "Look. Politics and court intrigues have never been my thing, and long talks give me headaches. During my first meeting as the new boss, I kept expecting the five minute break, but it never came and it almost drove me crazy."

SV: "The five minute break?"

KJU: "You know, usually, when big guys meet, like in the NBA or the NFL, they cut every five minutes so you can get some popcorn or go to the johns. Here, I had to pee in my glass and to kill three people to get some attention. No, I really don't care about politics, and I'll outsource in China if needed - actually, the decision to remove uncle ST was taken during their Plenum. Military first, party first, Pyongyang first, entrepreneurs first... my job is not to make other people happy, you know? The way I see things is simpler: I decide, they execute, and sometimes I decide to execute them."

SV: "After all these purges, you're bound to face some HR challenges, and by that I mean Human Resources, not Human Rights. Do you trust your new guys?"

KJU: "I'm sick and tired of posing with a background of old garden gnomes in uniform with overgrown hats. During his first visit, Dennis Rodman didn't even notice that he'd stepped on four of them - he confused the poor guys with the garden step stones, with their round hats and all. No, I don't trust my new guys, but at least when I invite them to ski or to ride horses, they don't drop dead after two minutes."

KIM Jong-un the Mirimboro man, showing horse power.

SV: "Masikryong ski resort, Mirim horse riding club, Munsu water park... what next?"

KJU: "We count a lot on tourism to bring cash. Our infrastructures suck, but people are ready to pay a premium for the thrill of visiting a real life dictatorship. Why wait for the end of the regime to cash on dark tourism? Our next project is an extension of Camp 14, and we're considering adding public executions to our Mass Games shows."

SV: "Any plan for reunification?"

KJU: "The question of leadership remains the main issue, but yes, talks are well under way with Bashar al Assad."

SV: "Thank you, Jong-un, for this rare glimpse into your troubled mind."

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Sunday, December 8, 2013

Too proud to fail? Not so simple.

Very distressing portrait of start-up Korea in Friday's Korea Joongang Daily (see "Entrepreneurial students learn all the wrong lessons"): not only Koreans are less adventurous than the Chinese or the Japanese when it comes to start a business, but the few who are considering it are dissuaded from taking the plunge* by the very teachers who should be encouraging entrepreneurship!

The article follows a survey by the Korea Foundation for the Advancement of Science and Creativity (not on KOFAC's website yet - comparing 3 nations among which China appears to be the daredevil (start-ups are almost perceived as a sure bet that brings wealth and can't fail, 61.6% see entrepreneurship as a dream job).

Why don't Koreans take the plunge, then?
  • Certainly not because they doubt in their own abilities: for only 9.8%, that's first because they think they're not capable, compared to one quarter of the Chinese and the Japanese (from the start, Koreans don't think that entrepreneurship is reserved to extraordinary people: 25.1% vs JPN 34.5%, CHN 53.6%). 
  • Furthermore, getting financial support is much less the key issue here (10% of the cases) than there (17.6% in JAP and 30.2% in CHN).
  • Simply put, the fear of failure is overwhelming: 40.1% pick "start-ups fail so easily" as the first reason why they don't take the risk (JPN 23.5%, CHN 13.8%), and an additional 10.7% tick "look at those people who already failed" (only 2.6% in JPN, 0.8% in CHN)

This contrast between personal confidence and public shame is telling, and I wonder - the survey wouldn't tell - what part of this mental block is linked to the sad reality of a Korean SME ecosystem choked by chaebol that seldom allow small fishes to grow in their ponds (not to mention franchisors that abuse individuals desperate to make a living - see "500 m, 80%, 100% urban crappuccino").

No, I won't replay my usual tunes today, but this point wasn't raised in an article more focused on the failures of the education system.

"Failure", again. The big FAIL that make you lose faith for fear of losing face.

Of course, we're all used to "failure the key to success" mantras, and we all know that the sweetest success stories and breakthroughs find their roots in bitter defeats. Heck, try convincing a serious Silicon Valley V.C. without a few scarred figures in your team...

I'm not an entrepreneur, but as a conceptor, I enjoy the early stages of businesses and ecosystems, and I survived three start-ups in the early nineties before joining a much bigger one (backed with billions), where my old "scars" came in handy. I'd love to believe that I would also have "taken the plunge" back then, had I been in Korea instead of Europe... but I'm not so sure.

Yes, startups do exist in Korea. Yes, the money and V.C.s are there. Yes, governments are trying to boost entrepreneurship, and they keep talking about forcing chaebol to reduce their overwhelming control of most ecosystems, but they never go all the way. 

All that would-be entrepreneurs need is to see more positive signs, to believe in the system that fails them. They don't expect guarantees of success (they know risks are necessarily involved), but a minimum guarantee of fairness, the hope that they will be given a chance to have their shot at opportunities that do exist, but are usually monopolized by pervasive players.

Again**, Korea cannot sustain leadership without reforming its education system and its SME ecosystem.

Seoul Village 2013
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* to echo the advice of YouTube founder Steve CHEN at "Asian Leadership Conference 2013" ("measure your risks, but if you want to go far, you have to take the plunge; opportunities never last long").
** see among others a wishful "The end of the Korean model?" (later published by Korea JoongAng Daily as "Is 2011 the first year of a real Korean model?").

Saturday, December 7, 2013

A stroll through Seoul, following in PARK Wan-suh's footsteps

Atelier des Cahiers, who published PARK Wan-suh's autobiographical novel "Who ate up all the shinga?" last year ("Hors les murs" in French*), had the wonderful idea** to produce this video in the footsteps of the author and her young alter-ago, where key places mentioned in the book are illustrated with excerpts and pictures from the Seoul of then and now.

A very pleasant stroll downtown (even if you don't understand French!), featuring so many familiar spots on the way from Seoul Station to Inwangsan via Hyeonjeo-dong, Sajik-dong, Pirun-dong, Seochon...:

You can also prolong this "promenade hors les murs" on the publisher's website:

"Promenade hors les murs - sur les pas de Pak Wan-seo" (with photos, maps and page numbers for reference)

We can even spot this old cablecar (which I hope won't return! see "No cablecars in Bukhansan, please"):

"Hors les murs" is now also available on Kindle format, along with PARK's "Trois jours en automne" ("Three days in that autumn"), and many other titles published by Atelier des Cahiers, among which:


Seoul Village 2013
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* "Hors les murs"
Auto-fiction by PAK Wan-seo, traduit du coreen par Helene Lebrun
Editions Atelier des Cahiers 2012 - Collection Littératures 

ISBN 978-2-9529286-8-7

** Reminder (and shameless self-promotion) - Atelier des Cahiers also had the wonderful idea to publish one of my fictions in the anthology "Impressions papier Hanji" (now also available for download in Kindle format, 10 short stories about Korea in French, by four female Korean authors and six male French authors):

Impressions Papier Hanji
Dix nouvelles franco-coréennes
Editions Atelier des Cahiers 2010 - Collection Littératures
ISBN 978-2-9529286-4-9 

. Alain ROBBE-GRILLET ("Mon double coréen")
. KIM Da-eun ("Madame")
. Antoine COPPOLA ("La véritable histoire de Li Jin et de son horrible sacrifice")
. CHOI Myeong-jeong ("Pojangmacha")
. Eric SZCZUREK ("La joueuse de Baduk")
. Stéphane MOT ("de Vermis Seoulis")
. KIM Ae-ran ("Le couteau de ma mère")
. François LAUT ("Jours d'après")
. EUN Hee-kyung ("La voleuse de fraises")
. Michel LOUYOT ("Le poète sans nom")

Monday, December 2, 2013

From ADIZ to UDIZ (but NIMBY-do shall never surrender)

Shinzo Abe's sabre-rattling tactics have paid beyond his wildest expectations: he needed China to play its imperialist tune a bit louder to justify his sick return to Imperial Japan militarism, and Beijing kindly obliged. Abe probably helped his fellow hardliners from the Middle Kingdom (who'd been champing at the bit for months) make the best of the recent plenum, and get the nod for pushing a few more stones on the East Asian go board.

China first brought the 'battleships' game from the sea to the air level by redrawing its ADIZ - Air Defense Identification Zone over disputed territories, triggering outrage from Korea and Japan (see "One Flew Over the Senkaku's Nest - Nationalist maps of Asia"), and later opened an underwater front by claiming ownership of thousands of shipwrecks across the region:

After the skies, China brings East Asia "Battleships" game to yet another level: underwater ("UDIZ"?): "China Takes Territorial Disputes to Shipwrecks in South China Sea" (WSJ 20131202) (20131202)

Nothing new under the sun: archaeologist have already been drafted before (most notably for the infamous "Northeast Project"), and if you wonder about underwater or shipwreck disputes, remember Ieodo, or that ship deliberately stuck in 1999 to the Second Thomas Shoal reef by the Philippines. That's around the very disputed Spratly Islands, a surrealistic space claimed by the Philippines, Vietnam, Taiwan, and China, where a nation once lost an island while its lonely guard went to play a basketball game with a fellow Robinson*.

As we go to virtual press, Korea has yet to decide the final cut for its new ADIZ. For Winter-Spring 2013-2014, fashionistas expect longer sleeves, ideal to cover Ieodo during harsh seasons:

As Luis Mariano would sing, in "La Belle de Cadiz": "le label de KADIZ a les Ieodo velours, le label de KADIZ vous invite a l'amour" (aie aie aie)

Meanwhile, I am still keeping an eye on my much coveted rocks of Nimby-do, claimed as "Nukeyoushima" by Japan and "Zatsmain Dao" by China:

"I hereby declare a 3-mile ADIZ around these rocks, and won't hesitate to intercept any Tomcat entering our garden" (20131129)

BREAKING: my "Nimby-do" Islets are now claimed by Japan (as "Nukeyoushima") and China (as "Zatsmain Dao") (20131129)

And meanwhile, rumor has it all the seas in the region could be soon renamed Yellow Dust Desert.

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* Speaking of Mrs Robinson... "are you going to Scarborough Shoal?" (...) "tell her to find me an acre of land" (...) "Then she'll be a true love of mine" fields.

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