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Monday, June 22, 2020

Nine new museums in Seoul by 2023

Last Sunday*, Seoul announced nine new museums for the 3 years to come, after inaugurating five others over the past three years. As this map shows, downtown's dominance in cultural sites shall grow even stronger, but a few underserved neighborhoods will get their fair share:

The 5 museums inaugurated between 2017 and 2019 (NB this list doesn't count infrastructures that are not managed by the city, like the Seoul HOUR opened last year**:

The 9 museums to be inaugurated by 2023:

Melike Altinisik Architects' winning project for Robot Science Museum
As you can see, quantity doesn't always mean quality, but I'm looking forward to returning to neighborhoods I haven't roamed in a while... and I really can't wait to see that last one. Please, don't disappoint me!

Seoul Village 2020
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* see "사진·한식·로봇…서울시 '테마형 뮤지엄' 9개소 개관" (Seoul Metropolitan Government 20200622)
** see "Seoul Hall of Urbanism and Architecture, Seoul Biennale 2019 Symposium"

Wednesday, June 17, 2020

KIM Yo-jong Crash Landing On You

Within a couple of weeks and with considerable help from the South Korean government, KIM Yo-jong pretty much effortlessly achieved her goals: claiming head of state level, beefing up her military credentials, boosting campaigns against defectors on both sides of the DMZ, paving the way for a conversation with China...

Well that escalated quickly, but without really escalating that badly. Just follow @theSeoulVillage Twitter timeline:

1) KIM Yo-jong's first and decisive victory came within hours, and probably as a surprise to herself: shortly after she asked South Korea to outlaw counter-propaganda leaflets from defectors, Cheong Wa Dae obeyed, and a new law did just that. Regardless of what you think of these leaflets, in a democracy, the executive and the legislative powers simply don't give in that quickly to someone who is not even the head of a dictatorship. Worse, this came as a betrayal to defectors, who got vilified on both sides of the DMZ, ruining overnight decades of efforts to help them overcome discrimination. The move, condemned by Human Rights Watch, echoed last year's appalling surrender of two defectors to North Korean authorities, against all normal procedures.

"MOON Jae-in gives in again. Obeys KIM Yo-jong and bans leaflets..." (@theSeoulVillage -
"A few hours. All it took for the ruling party to come up with a law pleasing #KimYojong. Laws against #discrimination or stalkers? Not a priority. #NorthKorea first it seems" (@theSeoulVillage -
2) In the days that followed, North Korea said they would sever the communications with the South, and refused to answer any call. By anything but a coincidence, and as the DPRK staged demonstrations against defectors, Seoul decided out of the blue (house) to slash their reallocation budgets, effectively stabbing defectors in the back once more:

"Open season for #NorthKorea #defectors, continued: after obeying #KimYojong, #MoonJaein govt keeps destroying decades of work to help them overcome #discrimination in #SouthKorea" (@theSeoulVillage - - Jeongmin Kim @jeongminnkim · Jun 12 - South Korea will cut this year’s budget for North Korean defector resettlement in the South, Seoul’s unification ministry confirmed 
3) Why stop when you're on a roll and everybody's playing your game? The very same day, KIM Yo-jong rewards this new zealous good deed from MOON Jae-in by upping the ante, and to announce that she will 'exercise (her) power authorized by the Supreme Leader':

"#SaturdayNightFever (Will #KimYojong's latest demand/threat pay off as well as the last one?) (@theSeoulVillage -
Laura Bicker @BBCLBicker · Jun 13 North Korea’s Kim Yo Jong tonight. “We will soon take a next action. By exercising my power authorized by the Supreme Leader, our Party and the state, I gave an instruction to the arms of the department in charge of the affairs with enemy to decisively carry out the next action”
"From Photobomb Queen to Bomb Queen, #KimYojong definitely cementing her badass 😎  profile. Note how Kim The Fourth put Military First (and next) in her pocket. Already calling the shots while Bro #KimJongun downs them?"  (@theSeoulVillage -

4) From then on, we knew that she had to walk the talk, and to do very soon something miliary-ish. Something destructive. Something more spectacular than blowing up Punggye-ri's shack outhouse, but something less lethal and war-like than the Yeongpyeong Shelling or the Cheonan Sinking. Something that would reach over the MDL to hit South Korea:

"There's no defusing, #NorthKorea must strike, and that will cement #KimYojong's credentials as Kim The Fourth. The question is less when (soon) than how." (@theSeoulVillage -
"#DPRK must somehow destroy something, but it should be, on Paekdu Richter's scale, more significant than blowing up #Punggyeri shack outhouse, but less lethal than #Yeonpyeong Shelling or #Cheonan Sinking. Across the #DMZ anyway... #baekduology"
(@theSeoulVillage -
That, of course, with #NorthKorea's ongoing #hacking campaigns..." ((@theSeoulVillage -

4)  As many predicted, KIM Yo-jong ended up blowing up Kaesong's inter-korean liaison office. No DML crossing, but you could at least see something from the other side. The greyish images from the South failed to make this underwhelming event more impressive. Basically, the North shoots itself in the foot to destroy the shoes offered by the South.... Kim The Fourth? More Baby Shark than Jaws.

"A minima disruption: #NorthKorea eventually blew up the Inter-#Korea liaison office minutes before stock exchange closing. Disappointingly predictable." (@theSeoulVillage -
"Didn't even cross the #MDL" (@theSeoulVillage -
"So for her maiden strike, #KimYojong scored rather low (scare-wise, less Jaws, more #BabyShark-doo-doo-doo). Embarrassing, but #SouthKorea's 'retaliation' is simply laughable: cut the electricity of the just blown up liaison office!" (@theSeoulVillage -
5) The next day, North Korea released their own colorful images, more firework-like, with splinters and debris flying everywhere, damaging nearby buildings. Of course the aim was not to neatly demolish a nondescript low rise building, but to simulate a military attack on a Southern landmark. Barely more impressive than blowing up mock-ups of the Blue House, but from a propaganda point of view, mission accomplished for (future?) Marshalll KIM Yo-jong.

"When #NorthKorea blows up something, sparks have to fly. For the #Kaesong inter-#Korea liaison office, debris flew in every direction, probably causing unnecessary damage. But what counts is the photo op, to help Photobomb Queen #KimYojong become Bomb Queen Kim The Fourth:" (@theSeoulVillage - 20200617)

So basically KIM Yo-jong succeeded beyond her expectations thanks to very complacent partners down South. Unification Minister KIM Yeon-chul resigned, and the two names advanced to succeed him used to be activists in favor of reunification under North Korean rule... doesn't look as if the KIM Dynasty should fear much on that front.

Of course, this is not about North vs South. The KIMs don't expect much from there, and want progress elsewhere. The US? They will put more pressure on Donald TRUMP, but closer to November in order to get the best deal / quid-pro-quo against an October Surprise. Depending on the fallout of John BOLTON bombs, opportunities may rise in the short term. What they seem to be needing urgently is support at home and from China.

As THAE Yong-ho noted, North Korea often bullies South Korea in order to get the US involved, and ultimately China called to the rescue. And nowadays, the situation doesn't seem that rosy inside the hermit kingdom, where coronavirus could well be raging. NK News mentioned embassies abroad trying to collect PPEs and other medical resources. Defectors say support seems to be eroding in Pyeongyang, and the lower middle class took a big hit when scores of pigs where culled (unlike cows, they are private properties).

The focus on defectors struck me as telling of a truly dire situation. Yes the regime needs scapegoats to divert from its failures, but acknowledging the importance of people who fled it clearly feeds THAE Yong-ho's growing aura in the North. That's a risk, but punishing those who spread news of him anywhere (North or South) has obviously become a matter of survival.
"#NorthKorea #propaganda focusing on #defectors, giving them extra visibility. Regime taking all sorts of risks on non-state scapegoats during #pandemic: popularity of #Thaeyongho & co is a systemic risk for them. The message: no mercy for 'traitors' who watch defector materials"  (@theSeoulVillage -

Seoul Village 2020
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