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Thursday, November 27, 2014

KIM Yo-jong - cherchez la femme

We've been flooded with interesting Baekduology updates regarding the women surrounding KIM Jong-un lately - and even before his 40-day 'ankle-management' hiatus (to which we'll return later).

Here's the latest score:
  • KJU's ex: HYON Song-wol reappeared last May on local TV, proving that reports of her death were an exaggeration, and suggesting that rumors of her involvement in debauched videos were probably not that trustworthy either. 
  • KJU's aunt: a defector says that KIM Kyong-hui committed suicide shortly after the execution of her husband JANG Sung-taek. Her poison: whisky, as usual?
  • KJU's wife: RI Sol-ju is not as visible as she used to. Maybe her bling-bling outfits contrast too much with lil' sis' Yo-jong's vintage Baekduwear. Anyway, in this family, giving birth to a potential heir doesn't guarantee anything for the future.
  • KJU's daughter: 2 year-old KIM Ju-ae is too small to ride a white horse, hold a notebook, or even study in Switzerland.
  • KJU's sister: when KIM Jong-un was under media radar, rumors had it KIM Yo-jong was running the show. She's got the Baekdu bloodline and even the Baekdu clothesline. Newly wed, enjoying new prestigious jobs, and a lot of attention from the propaganda, lil' sis' seems to have become more than just the most politically correct female figure to exhibit these days.
So is KIM Yo-jong the next Dear Leader or just a Cheer Leader? Kim The Fourth or Jang The Second? Let's unhearth a few tweets and links.

Clap along if you feel like Ri Sol-ju's an ambitious girl

Clap along if you feel like Kim Yo-jong's running the show
KIM Jo-young the next Dear Leader of just a Cheer Leader?

KIM Yo-jong's rise mechanically helps Kim The Third become Kim The Elder, a father figure. Not just that isolated brat who got his uncle and aunt removed, not just the potential last ruler of the dynasty.

At this stage, KYJ is not portrayed as a next-in-line. She's in the background, trailing behind, more cheerleading than leading. But at least she's in the picture, unlike poor bro KIM Jong-chul, who anyway has never been the one wearing the trousers in this litter of baby dictators (or holding Uncle Jang at gunpoint?).

Among Kim Jong-un's servile notetakers, his sister Kim Yo-jong (in today's Rodong Sinmun via @pearswick) - 20141127
Yo sista got minista! Kim Jong-un's sister Kim Yo-jong, here in her Kim Jong-il-blue best: "N.K. leader’s sister granted official post" - 20141128
Kim Yo-jong behind her brother Kim Jong-un, looking elsewhere. In North Korea, military first goes with family first - 20140311
Still, in case of emergency, the propaganda can always pull out an old picture where KYJ appears directly at the same level as her dad. Kim Jong-un would need Photoshop to produce this kind of shots:
Kim Yo-jong can not only wear Kim-Jong-il-style clothes, but also ride a white horse Baekdu-style with her dad - 20141128
Meanwhile, in the much more advanced South Korea (where the leader is already the daughter of a dictator), mainstream media are multiplying covers featuring Park Geun-hye in KJUesquely odd photo ops:

In South Korea too, the leader makes all covers smiling in odd photo ops (Park Geun-hye with guitar, with giant screen...) - 20141128

 KIM Jo-young: Kim The Fourth of Jang The Second?

KJY conveniently fills many shoes at the same time: aunt Kyong-hui is gone? here's a new female, blue-blood presence - uncle Jang is out? here's someone more trustable who can take care of cash machines. And she's married to authorities, party friendly... If these guys cut a whole branch of the family tree, they made sure the main one filled the gap.

Kim Jong-un's sister (and fellow horse rider) Kim Yeo-jong gets key power-giver post in party: "Kim Jong-un's Sister 'Given Key Party Post'" - 20130722

Baekdu Bank? Kim Jong-un's sister Kim Yeo-jong in charge of currency-earning agencies in Workers Party: "Kim Jong-un's Sister Put in Charge of Regime's Coffers" - 20130114 -

North Korea defector says Kim Jong-un aunt Kim Kyong-hui killed herself ("Defector: Kim Jong Un’s Aunt Killed Herself Last Year"). With which poison? Whisky? - 20141125

Meanwhile, Comrade KimYeo-jong gets first Warholian moments in DPRK propaganda: "Kim Jong-un's Sister Secures Place in Nomenklatura" - 20140310

Aunt Kim Kyong-hui loses seat in parliament, sis Kim Yo-jong's in charge of Kim Jong-un's hairdo, elevator shoes ("Kim Jong-un’s peculiar sister gains prominence") - 20140314

Piggy's sis got married: Kim Jong-un's sister Kim Yeo-jong tied to top North Korea official (Room 39 or security): "Kim Jong-un's sister weds key official"- 20141029

Kim The Fourth? Kim Jong-un's lil' sis' Kim Yo-jong gets North Korea propaganda favors, high profile job (" Young sister of North Korean leader takes senior party post: KCNA" @pearswick) - 20141127


Like it or not, for the moment, 'all roads lead to Comrade Kim Yo-jong':
'All roads lead to Comrade Yo Jong', North Korea's new 'princess' ("North Korea's 'princess' moves closer to center of power" by @pearswick) - 20141128

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Tuesday, November 25, 2014

Yeonhuigung - quintessentially Joseon

As you may know, the founder of the Joseon dynasty wanted to build his new capital city in the Yeonhui-Sinchon area. King Taejo loved the place, but his teams wanted to go further afield, to a bigger site beyond Muaksan / Asan, in the nest guarded by Bugaksan / Inwangsan. Taejo eventually gave in, but built a palace for his father where he wished he could have created his own.

The name of the future 'new town' capital city remained until now: Sinchon means 'new village'. The name of the palace also survived, but more indirectly: Yeonhuigung (연희궁-延禧宮) gave its name to the neighborhood, now known as Yeonhui-dong, and later to Yonsei University - for the 'Yon' part ('Sei' came from 'Severance' hospital).

Yeonhuigung was said to be made for future kings, and people around here often joke that the tradition perdured into the next millenium, because 4 South Korean presidents lived in the area (CHOI Kyu-hah, Chun Doo-hwan, ROH Tae-woo, KIM Dae-jung). But when they ruled, Yeonhuigung was already gone for decades.

It's interesting to note how this palace shared his fate with the Joseon Dynasty: created by its founder, blessed by King Sejong The Great (Taejo's grandson renovated it during the second year of his rule), and disgraced by King Sejo's bloodline. Sejo was the man who destroyed Sejong's heritage and the nation's momentum (see "King Danjong and Korea's Curse"), and his descendant Yeonsangun, another one of Korea's worst rulers ever,  basically turned Yeonhuigung into one of his lust spaces. The palace didn't survive the Japanese occupation.

So where would be this palace nowadays? On Yonsei campus, not far from the soccer field where I use to play, around where they built that new exit on Songsan-ro (to pave the way for a pedestrian Yonsei-ro).

Inaugurated Yonsei's new sw gate on my bike after the game (4 goals, 6 assists). Felt like king of Zlatanistan. (20131023 -
NB: to reach "Ventouxsan" (see "A bump on the road (Ventoux-san)")
, follow that bike to the right
Local authorities have only recently sold the land - at a very low price - to the university, which had been using it for decades. Maybe something could be done to mark more visibly - not too eyesorely visibly, if possible - the former location of such a royal landmark.

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Sunday, November 16, 2014

It's the democracy, stupid

So Japan is in Recession, and Shinzo Abe is expected to call for snap elections to be held mid December, giving Japan a chance to avoid the biggest R: the Restoration of Imperial Japan. For that, beyond Abe, the country must remove from power Nippon Kaigi, the extremist lobby that controls its political system*. Is that possible?


1) Are Abenomics at last meeting reality?

From the start, I wrote on this excuse for a blog that Abenomics were just a non-sustainable smokescreen to bribe the population at their own cost, the time for Abe to fulfill his main agenda: AbeIGNomics**. Tax hikes were supposed to make for the further deterioration of the Japanese deficit, but Abe didn't have the time to implement the second wave. Now he's kicking the can down the road, and pledging that he won't raise taxes because he can't win the vote otherwise.

More than ever, the equation can't work. Anyway, economy's never been the aim of Abe's game. But he certainly doesn't want to lose for the second time his PM seat because of the economy and money scandals involving members of his cabinet. Can he scam voters once more with the same tale?

2) Can Abe's pseudo-diplomatic offensive pay?

Ahead of the APEC and G20 meetings, Abe appeared in an international TV campaign promoting the image of Japan as a peaceful nation helping others, and I almost choke each time I see the ad with this impostor shamelessly piggybacking on a NGO's noble deeds... he who pushes so hard for the re-militarization of Japan and the revision of its peaceful constitution! he who maintains that the Imperial army never waged any war of aggression, never committed any war crime!
Shinzo Abe already started his campaign. On international TV. With government money (Japan sharing campaign)! Posing as a peacemaker! #AbeIGNomics - 20141113
Shinzo Abe badly needed to raise his international profile ahead of the elections, and he seems to have bagged a trilateral meeting hosted by Japan for next year. I wouldn't be surprised if we heard later that he had given some guarantees to Xi Jinping or Park Geun-hye, something like I won't anymore visit Yasukuni as a Prime Minister. A small price to pay for a man who's already pledged not to attack the Kono statement before going back at it.

3) With or without Abe as PM, will Nippon Kaigi be confirmed as the de facto ruler of Japan?

Abe didn't change. Never did, never will. He'll try whatever it takes to remain at the helm of the nation to pursue his goal of destroying peaceful, post-war Japan. And he wouldn't want to be sidelined by his own majority, and to see the LDP push another candidate. Take Koizumi's former Finance Minister Sadakazu Tanigaki, for instance: that political weasel already proved that he could used leverage Abe's outrageous traits to position himself as a more consensual player (he stopped supporting Yasukuni visits when it helped him gain momentum within the party, then returned to it when it was all the rage). Of course, like most contenders, Tanigaki is tied to Nippon Kaigi... 

Fresh faces keep emerging in a lobby that lost at least 3 old timers over the past few months (Abe advisor Hisahiko Okazaki, the economist Yasuhiko Oishi, and the ultimate die-hard Imperial Japan soldier Hiroo Onoda).

In less than one month, Japan is unlikely to purge its political system from Nippon Kaigi, but if it could make it lose its majority at the Diet (289 of all 480 lawmakers these days), that could be a start, and a positive signal.

A contrario, a confirmation of Abe and his Nippon Kaigi friends would further weaken Japan's endangered democracy.

For the moment, revisionism keeps permeating the society at large: a recent Jiji Press poll showed that already 45% of the Japanese want the Kono Statement about Imperial Japan sexual slavery system reviewed***.

And Abe keeps making the 'best' of his tenure by trying to undermine the nation at all levels, most recently by allowing his government, expert in historical revisionism, to decide which documents to classify as state secrets, and to crucify leakers****.


In any case, Japan is deciding its own future, even when it refuses to decide (See "Saving Japan - Let's fall the Indecision Tree"):

Saving Japan - Let's fall the Indecision Tree
And for those of us who refuse to see this beautiful nation (self)destroy, let's remember to always stand for Japan. Never against it, only against its enemies from within:

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* see "Nippon Kaigi and friends exposed, at last", "'Comfort Women': No Resolution Without Resoluteness. From Everyone, Please".
** see all posts related to Shinzo Abe.
*** even if that embryo of nano-apology only refers to former sex slaves as the euphemistic 'comfort women' label ("45% of Japanese want ‘comfort women’ statement reviewed, survey by Jiji Press suggests" - The Japan Times 20141114)
**** "Prosecutors to be tapped for secrecy panel, in hopes of mollifying law’s opponents" (The Japan Times 20141116)

Thursday, November 13, 2014

China Dependence

If XI Jinping doesn't eat himself to death, he'll be leading China well into the next decade. And as he hosted the APEC meeting, he already tried to pose as a new breed of World leader, some kind of a super-blob absorbing every disturbance:
- Airpocalypse? Suspended for the occasion. It came back with a vengeance afterwards, and Seoul got a mean whiff of it for Suneung.
- Democracy? Distant umbrella clicking sounds muffled by thick red padded walls. Even the World's supposedly ultimate Democratic leader came bruised up (a red-painted America for Obama's last Midterm Elections).
- TPP? Sorry to hear about your China-free Trans-Pacific Partnership struggle. Here's our China-led Free Trade Area of the Asia Pacific (FTAAP). And Vladimir? I'm not forgetting our Shanghai Cooperation Organisation, we'll invite Modi and India soon. Meanwhile, here's another big contract for you...
- Shinzo Abe? The Imperial Japan revivalist thought their handshake would mark a diplomatic victory for him, Xi turned it into a public humiliation (a red face as visible as the dot on the flag for Abe, once again shaming the nation).

Meanwhile, South Korea and Park Geun-hye confirmed their honeymoon with China and Xi Jinping by concluding their FTA deal, a few days after the official launch of clearinghouse services by China’s Bank of Communications branch in Seoul (November 6).

I need a pull
We got a deal
Do you think Vlad the Impaler is coming our way?
Asia Pacific leaders beamed down to the size of blue cells.
If you remember the survey recently led by the Asan Institute on "South Korean Attitudes on China" (20140703) and "South Korean Attitudes on the Korea-US Alliance and Northeast Asia" (20140424), Koreans seem to consider their growing dependence on China as ineluctable, and they don't feel so comfortable about it.

But Koreans are not so comfortable with their economic situation and gloomy demographics either, and many are ready to make a quick buck, whatever the long term consequences. 

Jeju illustrates perfectly the double-edged sword of Korea's growing dependence on China. Local authorities opened Pandora's box in February 2010 by offering F-2 visas to anyone who invests at least KRW 500 m in real estate, and the Chinese jumped in. Mind you: not just as political risk management tools or evasion tactics. As of June 2014, they owned 5.92 million sqm of land worth KRW 580.7 bn, up from 20,000 sqm worth KRW 0.4 bn in 2009. Over the same period, US citizens gained only 4% more land, and Japanese citizens even lost 2% of their total.*

This year, Jeju will welcome over 5M visitors from China. But beyond the construction of hotels and resorts, China doesn't boost local jobs or consumption**. And at this pace, the island could become a Costa del Sol - style environmental + real estate mess. Local authorities are starting to realize the unsoundness of the equation, but Korea opens other regions to similar schemes, to the risk of creating bubbles, and of sucking much needed steam out of nearby projects that are already struggling.

Otherwise, for places like Songdo, bringing China in the equation helps fill existing towers. And speaking of Incheon: look how the city revived its Chinese heritage over the past decades, from one extreme (a community below the radar) to another (a brand new, colorful Chinatown).

In Seoul, Yeonnam-dong (the southern half of Yeonhui-dong until it joined Mapo-gu) enjoys a long history with China too, and it still shows in the architecture, even if you have to dig deeper and deeper to find one of these 'fusion hanok':
Yeonnam-dong hanok tended to have higher ceilings. Fusion architecture for people from Taiwan. (@theseoulvillage 20140815) -
Restaurant-wise, there are still a few great Chinese institutions in the neighborhood, but for how long? If flocks of Chinese tourists have recently started pouring in, that's to visit the new duty free shops operated by their compatriots in closed touristic circuits that obviously generate a lot of business, but not much for the local economy. Seoulites won't keep coming if they see Yeonnam-dong's charming streets packed with jay-parked tourist buses. Next thing you know, these closed circuits will include big buffets that will further degrade the neighborhood.

Don't get me wrong: of course China is a chance for Korea at all levels, I'm really happy to see two countries I love develop friendly and fruitful relations, and that's perfectly normal that a big chunk of China's touristic bonanza ends up in Chinese hands. 

I'm just worried about the pace and reach of change, and its impacts on Korea's economy, society, and politics.

Not because China's influence is bad in itself, but because massive and rapid changes could trigger anti-Chinese reactions which could not only damage the relations between both nations, but the multicultural fabric of Korea itself.

Likewise, when I mention political issues, that's not only at the national level (typically: okay for outsourcing part of  North Korea control, not okay to subscribe to the Northeast Project's 'Hanschluss' agenda): who and what will certain local authorities ultimately run for?

We're probably not at that stage yet, but I believe that Korean leaders should keep these risks in mind to work on a sustainable partnership. And that since this partnership cannot be balanced, to strengthen other partnerships in parallel.

See also:

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* "Chinese snap up real estate on Jeju" (Korea JoongAng Daily - 20141103), "Surge in Chinese investors in South Korea’s Jeju Island since 2009 may be to secure residency" (South China Morning Post - 20140903), "Chinese investment is taking over Jeju Island" (The Hankyoreh - 20141004)
** "Chinese Investment in Jeju Not Bringing Consumption, Employment to Region" (Business Korea - 20140829)

Monday, November 3, 2014

Nippon Kaigi and friends exposed, at last

I recently wrote this piece on the Japanese revisionist lobby Nippon Kaigi: "En finir avec Nippon Kaigi, le lobby révisionniste japonais" (Rue89 - 2014/11/02*)

That's in French, because if my compatriots are not much aware of what happened then or what's happening now in this region, they are used to debates about revisionism, including about France's own troubled past.
Furthermore we love to legislate about it. Our constitutionalists are not so happy with our 'memorial laws', because legislators have no business writing history (particularly the way they did in 2005 about colonialism!), but I like the fact that the negation of the Holocaust is considered a crime (Gayssot Act, 1990), and that a European treaty backs it**. 

Fundamentally, I want more people, more media, more human rights groups, to stand for Japan, globally. I want the anti-Japanese wave to become pro-Japanese, and the true anti-Japanese forces to be exposed. 

Remember that Shinzo Abe is not anti-Korea: he needs Koreans to continue playing his game and waging anti-Japanese campaigns. Korea must be resolutely pro-Japan by supporting the Japanese democracy, the Article 9.

Japan will triumph against Imperial Japan when, by its own initiative, it resolves the Imperial Japan sexual slavery issue, and gets rid of Nippon Kaigi and its avatars (see "'Comfort Women': No Resolution Without Resoluteness. From Everyone, Please."). This, of course, can't happen without a profound grassroot change.

Across the globe, the international community must speak up for Japan and against its enemies, and Nippon Kaigi is the perfect vehicle to expose Shinzo Abe and his friends: their agenda cannot be clearer, beyond rewriting history, they want to get rid of Japan's peaceful post-war democracy, to restore the Imperial regime, to cancel peace treaties and human rights laws... These are the guys who pretend to defend Japan and terrorize anybody who stands for the truth because they say they bring shame on Japan. The time has come for them to feel the shame, and to be rejected by their own people.

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* initially on my French blog: "En finir avec Nippon Kaigi" (blogules - 2014/10/30)
** see "Additional Protocol to the Convention on Cybercrime, concerning the criminalisation of acts of a racist and xenophobic nature committed through computer systems" (Treaty 189)
Article 6 – Denial, gross minimisation, approval or justification of genocide or crimes against humanity
1    Each Party shall adopt such legislative measures as may be necessary to establish the following conduct as criminal offences under its domestic law, when committed intentionally and without right:
distributing or otherwise making available, through a computer system to the public, material which denies, grossly minimises, approves or justifies acts constituting genocide or crimes against humanity, as defined by international law and recognised as such by final and binding decisions of the International Military Tribunal, established by the London Agreement of 8 August 1945, or of any other international court established by relevant international instruments and whose jurisdiction is recognised by that Party.
2    A Party may either
  • a    require that the denial or the gross minimisation referred to in paragraph 1 of this article is committed with the intent to incite hatred, discrimination or violence against any individual or group of individuals, based on race, colour, descent or national or ethnic origin, as well as religion if used as a pretext for any of these factors, or otherwise 
  • b    reserve the right not to apply, in whole or in part, paragraph 1 of this article.

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