[GOING TO THE BLOGS]RECLAIMING THE STREETSIf you’re a manufacturer of those fetching red headbands no self-respecting Korean protester would be seen without, 2006 has been a fine year. Alongside Hyundai Motors’ annual strike-fest have been sit-ins, walkouts, pickets and parades by, among others, Ssangyong workers, Posco contractors, civil servants and, of course, those cuddly anti-American protesters. This week, however, something odd happened in Seoul: an “anti-anti American demonstration,” as Joshua at “The Korea Liberator” (http://www.korealiberator.org/) has it. “Although it’s not clear whether 50,000 or 200,000 showed up,” he writes, “it was at least comparable to the turnout at the anti-American protests of 2002. The word I often use to describe the Korean street is ‘mercurial.’”
Meanwhile, writing at “The Marmot’s Hole” (http://www.rjkoehler.com), Sewing thinks genuine change may be afoot. “The presence of so many people speaking out against Uri Party policies (or at least the Uri Party’s role in other countries’ decisions) suggests that the popular tide may be turning in South Korea’s brief experiment with ‘leftist nationalism,’ as the ideology is often described,” he writes between looking skyward and clasping his hands in prayer.
That may be, writes GI Korea at the newly renamed “GI Korea’s ROK Drop” (http://www.gi korea.net/BLOG/), but, “I think it is going to be too little, too late to be able to stop the [transfer of] wartime control from happening. The conservatives probably realize this and may be showing Washington that a large number of Koreans are for a strong US-ROK alliance and that the problem is President Roh ... For too long USFK [United States Forces Korea] has been taken for granted and used as a punching bag for a variety of groups and politicians in Korea looking for any issue to demagogue and blame on USFK in order to draw attention from the Korean public ... I think it is starting to sink into many people in the country that Korea is not as important in the grand scheme of things to America as they once thought it was. I think it was a real shock to many that America would be willing to pack up and leave so readily.”
But for “Yi Sun Shin” at “Yeohaeng Ilgi” (http://yisunshin.blogspot.com/), the transfer of military command is actually overdue. “Without the Soviet challenge, with a China bent on economic ties rather than ideological or military conquest, Washington's control of the Korean military became a relic of convenience, rather than one of strategic necessity. This is one of the realities that current South Korean President Roh Moo-hyun noted even before taking office, and many of his early speeches revolved around the need for South Korea to prepare an independent defense posture.”
What’s more, he writes, the transfer needn’t be the economic disaster many predict. “A properly designed military improvement program could prove a boon to Korean technology and manufacturing. But it will cost [a lot of] money ... It is not a normal situation for a sovereign nation to give up control of its own armed forces to another nation, except due to conquest, and Washington's shifting plan for the Pacific no longer need[s] massive captive forces in Korea.”
FOOD, GLORIOUS FOOD
What should you avoid doing at the table? What does pulgogi actually mean? Why is it not kosher in Korea to leave your chopsticks standing upright in a bowl of rice? If you’ve ever awoken at night in a cold sweat, convulsing with fear at committing a culinary faux pas while dining with Koreans, fret no more; Chris at “Outside in Korea” (http://outsideinkorea.com/me/) has kindly compiled “A Short Korean Food Primer,” replete with food terminology and tips on table etiquette.
“It is perfectly fine to ask for more of a given side dish if it's all eaten (and is provided without charge),” he writes, “and it is unnecessary to eat all of the each of the side dishes (and in fact might give a bit of an impression of gluttony).” There you have it ― a ready-made waiver for avoiding anchovies.
by Niels Footman