Category Archives: South Korea

I Notice There’s a Lot of Suicide in My Entries.

Fountain

So a neighbor committed suicide on Monday evening. She jumped from the 13th floor of the building and landed on someone’s car. This was after a series of fights she and her husband had been having, at least according to the security personnel in the apartment. Apparently, she didn’t pass away immediately, instead, they lost her on the way to the hospital. I only hope she immediately lost consciousness and was brain dead by the time she hit the ground. What keeps most people from committing suicide is the dread of immeasurable physical pain on the way to dying. The thought of suffering through minutes, seconds of dying horrifies me.

Compounding the tragedy, she leaves behind two children, both no older than 10 years old.

This isn’t the first time I’ve experienced suicide around me. I still remember a few years ago seeing someone’s leg twitching after falling a mere four floors. What’s always constant through these experiences, and I guess with death in general, is the surreal feeling, the numbness. It takes a while for things to register. For one, it takes me a while to realize that the building will now be haunted, and elevator rides (with the window peeking into every floor hallway) will now be a tad creepier.

Korea is consistently high on the suicide rate list, surpassing its neighbor, Japan. It’s not unusual to hear about high-profile suicides happening. Just recently, I wrote about the mayor of Seoul committing suicide after sexual harassment allegations. I believe these high-profile deaths only fuels more suicides in the country. And as someone who suffers from waves of depression and anxiety, I must admit I occasionally toy with the idea of dying in my lowest state, often approaching dying much like an engineering problem: how does one do it quickly and with the least pain? And I always end up distracting myself or my cowardice overcoming my despair (a win?).

Anyway, there’s been a couple of interesting artsy developments that happened this week (a couple of commissions, being included in a magazine), but a stranger dying close by just kinda overwhelms everything at the moment. 2020 continues to be a shit show.

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Covid-19 isn’t free anymore?

Strawberry

I haven’t been very happy with the actions of some foreigners in Korea. As I wrote a few weeks ago, there’s been several reports of foreigners in beaches not wearing masks even when prompted by the police or given free masks by volunteers. There’s even been some arrests after some rowdiness during the July 4th weekend. It’s also, not uncommon to see foreigners not wearing masks as they wander around Seoul. As a foreigner myself, it makes all of us look selfish. Most people in the country are doing their part to contain the virus, and yet there are people around who walk around not wearing masks because “the country is safe.” It’s safe, thanks to most people wearing masks!

So now I understand why people might be annoyed with foreigners, especially since many of the cases of covid-19 now are getting caught in the airport from people coming in, both from foreigners and from Koreans coming home. But now I see that some people are pushing the government to charge foreign nationals for their covid-19 treatment as some form of punishment? Normally, the treatment is free for everyone, but I think some people believe that foreigners are taking advantage of this situation? I’m really not sure where the logic is here.

As of writing this entry, there’s about 14,000 cases of covid-19 in the country. 700 of those are foreign nationals. A couple of the article I read has stated that the treatment is causing an undue burden to tax payers, which is laughable sine the number of foreigners infected is quite small compared to the total number of cases. How much of a burden would that lighten if those foreigners were forced to pay for their treatment? According to the articles, government officials are saying changes will be targeting those who “intentionally cause a burden to the country’s quarantine and medical system.” The language is quite vague, but it’s notable that a couple of the big outbreaks were caused and hidden by Korean nationals. Also, threatening some sort of punishment to foreigners might discourage more from getting tested or properly treated.

As free as the tests are here, it is not really that simple to get a test. One must exhibit symptoms first for a prolonged period prior to getting tested. I am involved with several sensitive projects in my company, and when I learned that someone tested positive in a building I regularly visit, I tried to get tested afterwards. I got a big fat no. I was told to wait until I exhibited symptoms. Now, if I had covid-19 and was spreading the disease while I was awaiting symptoms, I would’ve been jeopardizing several projects and endangering lives. I was very much encouraged to not worry about it, but if I was indeed ill, does that qualify me as “intentionally causing burden to the medical system?” What if I was a foreign factory laborer who is in a more desperate situation? What if I simply was asymptomatic?

I think this is once again the occasional blaming of foreigners and enacting laws to punish them to ineffectively solve problems. I wrote several times about high profile child abuse cases and the way conservative Korean legislators acted was to force foreign teachers in the country to undergo mandatory AIDS tests, despite those cases not having to do with foreigners. Unfortunately, most of the Korean newspaper outlets online are conservative, so maybe I’m just reacting to the outrage among conservatives, but a part of me feels that when Koreans see dumb foreigners walking around not wearing a mask, it’s not a hard proposition to sell.

Jair Bolsonaro has been accused of crime against humanity by the Hague for his neglect with covid-19. He has recovered and posted a picture of himself holding hydroxychloroquine almost as a way to troll the whole world right before he drove off in a motorcycle not wearing a mask. It’s disgusting. How could the people of Brazil have this man as president over Lula da Silva, the man who raised the hungriest people in the country out of poverty?

And speaking of war crimes, Brazil is only second in covid-19 cases and deaths. The United States is still much higher in cases and deaths. It’s death rate is not as high as other countries, but that’s not saying much when you have the resources of the richest country in the world and you’re comparing the country to Spain, Italy, Peru, and Sweden. How come I don’t see Donald Trump being charged with neglect regarding covid-19? The man literally played golf as people died under his watch.

It is scary how China has been flexing its muscles throughout the world. It’s been trying to claim ownership over the South China Sea and the Spratly Islands for years now and it’s curious to hear what President Duterte of the Philippines had to say about this in his state of the union. He’s long been accused of kowtowing (haha, see what I did there?) to China, but when he said that he was inept in matters of war and that he can’t do anything when faced with China’s military might should they claim ownership of the South China Sea, it was very telling.

For one, no one is really talking about going to war with China. But for immediate effect, he goes straight to China’s military might in order to justify his helplessness in the matter. He is right to point out that these matters are best sorted out diplomatically, but you don’t start diplomatic negotiations by saying you are weak and inept. Other countries are facing up against China and they are not coming out as weak as Duterte appears. Taiwan, Vietnam, and Indonesia are not kissing Xi Jinping’s ring over the territory.

If anything, it shows how weak of a bully Duterte truly is. He can only lord over those who are weaker than him. He would extra-judiciously have suspected drug addicts and drug pushers killed, some of which are children, but cowers over forces that would literally take what his country has claims over. The country’s national anthem (Lupang Hinirang- The Chosen Land), much like “Oh, Canada” reads like a love song but ends with a very tragic, albeit romantic promise. The last verse goes “but it is glory, ever, when though art wronged, for us thy sons to suffer and die.” But Duterte, he doesn’t have the stomach for this. “Inutil ako riyan (I am useless there), and I am willing to admit it.”

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Focus, friend. Focus!

Ugh

Look Korea, I’m rooting for you. I’m your friend. But this tendency to make things about you, this desperate thirsty shit needs to stop.

Black people are being killed and an authoritarian steak salesman is threatening to point US military guns towards US citizens, and yet you find time and resources to figure out which properties damaged were owned by Koreans? That’s messed up.

Koreans sometimes need to calm down and stop trying to find the Korean angle or trying to assert Korean-ness in things too much. I get it. There’s patriotism. There’s love of country and fellow country men. Canadians tend to be overly assertive in finding the Canadian angle in things, too. But sometimes Korean media just seems a tad too thirsty. Korea has arrived on the world stage. Most people can now differentiate between Japanese and Koreans. Korean media doesn’t have to weed through every miniscule detail in things to find out if there’s anything Korean in order to blow it up as if it’s a triumph or that Koreans are somehow victims.

I see this in local media a lot. “Oh, let’s send out a food truck in Washington, DC and film it for our reality show. People will learn about Korean food.” Yeah, great idea if most people don’t already know about Korean food, especially in Washington, DC. “Did you see that one ‘kimchi’ comment by one of the characters in Birdman? Don’t you think it’s racist?” Maybe? But it’s a super minor comment in a prestige film that not many people will see!

Do you know about Dokdo? It’s Korea’s Hawaii!” It’s not. Not even most Koreans think it’s Korea’s Hawaii.

Things like this can range from annoying to mildly amusing. But when a major international event happens and I see headlines like the one above, not only is it disappointing, it just reeks of being blind to the issue at hand. The writer, as well as the editor and everyone else involved in having the dumb article posted on the paper, seem to be unaware to the tense history between black Americans and Korean Americans, particularly the LA riots and Koreatown. Heck, officer Tou Thau, a Hmong American who was one of the officers who allowed the murder of George Floyd to happen, kinda symbolized the complicity of Asian Americans (the model minority) to the violence against black communities. Simply put, this is not the time to worry about property. Black people are dying!

In Minneapolis, the city where George Floyd was murdered by cops, Gandhi Mahal, an Indian family restaurant was burned to the ground due to the protests. The restaurant was started during the recession and became a local community hub. During the protests, it became a shelter for protesters, especially to those who were injured. And when it burned down, instead of being concerned over his loss, the owner was quoted as saying, “Let my building burn. Justice needs to be served. Put those officers in jail.”

Forget property. Forget who owns what. The headline should be “Racist Cops are Out of Control.” Sure, you could mention that seventy-nine Korean businesses were damaged or looted in the process, but if you’re not focusing on the racism, death, and authoritarianism in the US, then you’re missing the racist forest for the Korean trees.

Money for the People

Buddha

In Canada, people in need during the coronavirus crisis would be given $2000 a month for four months. I’ve read from people going through the process and even read through the guidelines, and it seems simple enough. Not everyone would qualify of course. The program is targeted towards those who have lost their jobs or are struggling because of the lockdown. It’s not a free for all. Someone I know who hasn’t worked for ten years asked if they qualify for monetary assistance. As someone who is essentially retired and hasn’t paid income tax forever, he doesn’t really qualify. This is Canada taking care of it’s most vulnerable citizens. Coupled with universal healthcare, I think it’s not that bad. It could be better, but it’s still good.

In the US, they have a similar program which gives out $1200 to people help them out. Other countries have assistance programs of different amounts. How much each program actually helps is debatable, but the concept is all the same. People have lost their jobs or are not earning as much. They need help. Also, money needs to be moving around in order to maintain the economy. It shouldn’t just be static, otherwise there will be greater effects in the long run.

South Korea just unveiled a stimulus package that would help the lower 70% of the population. It’s a lump sum of 1000 Won to help people in the form of vouchers or check cards. As little as I earn, I don’t really qualify for assistance. I’m still currently employed and working every day. And though things have been tighter in the past couple of months, I’m still able to pay my bills and go out once in a while. I don’t really begrudge others for getting benefits. I’m just grateful that I’m still in a comfortable position not to require it.

Unfortunately, that hasn’t been the tone in the past few days in the country. Many people who are against the Korean president are complaining that he is essentially buying the support of people right before the upcoming elections. Also, many are complaining that it is unfair that the “bonus” is not universal and that they do not qualify. There’s also a conspiracy theory that the flattening of the curve in the country is a complete lie designed to make the current administration look good.

Well, first off, buying the support of people prior to an election is what every politician does in terms of their promises. Telling people that they’ll lower taxes, improve the economy, or whatever will ultimately impact the voters’ bank accounts. Offering the lower 70% a small financial assistance in the midst of a crisis is the least a country could do in the current situation. I just walked through a neighborhood near my workplace and it’s depressing to see all of the business that were shuttered due to a lack of tourists. People need financial assistance and more. This undeniable reality has become so evident that just recently, all of the parties have adopted some sort of financial assistance platform to help individuals.

Regarding artificially flattening the curve. Anyone who trumpets this doesn’t really follow politics well. An administration facing a crisis would more often see a rise in approval levels than not. George Bush saw his poll numbers rise during 9/11. Even Donald Trump is enjoying a rise in his poll numbers. A country in crisis would naturally root for their leader even if they don’t normally support him or her. You want your country to succeed. If Moon Jae-In is artificially deflating the number of infections, then he is going to make it a non-issue prior to the elections. This is similar to how Japan tried to make coronavirus a none-issue prior to the Olympics. The problem with this however is two-fold. One, once the coronavirus becomes a none-issue, it opens up the field to people who can criticize and proclaim they could’ve done better without much consequences. If you were in power, wouldn’t you want this right after an election? Second, if the lie becomes too untenable, then the political backlash would be so much worse. Moon Jae-In and his administration doesn’t have to worry too much at the moment. Well, not so much that they need to resort to shady tactics.

Anyway, I don’t want to delve into too much Korean politics. I’m just happy that some people are getting some help, sad that they are not getting enough, and grateful for every day that I’m able to work. And as for complaining about some people getting benefits while others don’t. One should look at their neighbor’s plate only to see if they have enough food to eat, not to check if they have too much.

 

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Wearing Me Down

Space Man

I was done worrying about the coronavirus. I was done. Dammit, this thing has been on my radar since January, and I was done. Granted, I haven’t really been too worried about it until there was a resurgence in South Korea after Valentine’s Day, but the fact that my office is still responding to calls from customers, re-scheduling, informing them about the virus, has got me tired. I’m tired of worrying about my health, about people’s health, about my job, about other people’s jobs. This constant atmosphere of high alert, it’s stressful. It’s like we’re witnessing another global historic event that will affect the way we do things, much like Sept. 11, except this one is dragging along through the year.

Last Friday, I went out with some friends. I think because of the sudden drop in temperature, I got a bit of a cold over the weekend, but I’m almost over it. I usually get really bad colds about twice or three times a year, but this one wasn’t too bad. Still, it didn’t stop me from being overly anxious about it. “Do I have it? Is this it? If Tom Hanks has it, then maybe I have it, too! After all, cases of infection have been documented around the neighborhood I work in. Am I endangering everyone right now? Am I going to be Internet famous as the Canadian guy who got everyone in his office sick?”

Korea’s doing well right now. It’s not quite like Singapore, but it appears that the government has got the whole thing under control. The infection rate has gone way down, and more people are recovering from the disease in comparison. People everywhere are still wearing masks, and we are constantly getting updates on television and online regarding the disease.

The problem is now that Korea and China are on their way to out of the coronavirus hole, the rest of the world is just experiencing the brunt of the disease. Looking at the numbers, Spain and Italy have gone past Korea in terms of infections. Germany, France, and the US appear to be catching up within a week’s time. These countries didn’t take the virus seriously. Just a couple of days ago, people were out celebrating St. Patrick’s Day, crowding bars and restaurants, despite news of the pandemic being ubiquitous.

Quite frankly, I think the reason why the rest of the world didn’t take it seriously for so long is because the initial victims were Asians. I suspect western countries saw it as a foreign matter. “It couldn’t happen here!” When WHO declared the coronavirus a global health emergency in January, they explicitly said it was not because of the tremendous number of infected people in China at the time but the few numbers of infected people in other countries. When the disease exploded in Iran, I don’t think people took that too seriously as well. The world has gotten too used to seeing dead Muslims. The WHO didn’t declare the disease a pandemic until the number of infected Europeans starting rising dramatically. That was March 11. Korea was already in the middle of getting the virus under control.

I think Japan is in denial as well regarding their strategy of suppressing their infection numbers by not testing as many people as they should. “It’s not a Japan problem. It’s a problem with other countries.” I realize it has a lot to do with politics as well as trying to keep the Olympics. But even if Japan looks good on paper regarding their infection rates, the rest of the world won’t be able to participate in the Olympics if they are dealing with the coronavirus come July. Just cancel the Olympics already!

So if Korea’s starting to look fine and the rest of world isn’t, why am I stressing about it? I’ll be okay, right? Well, not really. I have friends and family overseas. Aside from that, I worry personally about the economy. People are already predicting a recession in the US, and I can only imagine how that would affect the rest of the world. How would that affect the company I work for? Fear of the disease and self-isolation has already affected many of the industries here in Korea, particularly restaurants, bars, saunas, and gyms. But all of that, couple with the global economy is bound to affect me at some point. Whether I’ll still have a job next month or if my contract will be renewed at the end of the year worries me.

And even though there are good signs in the country, the constant flood of distressing news from abroad is stressful. I love Twitter, but right now, most everything on Twitter is about how Americans and Europeans are totally dropping the ball in responding to this pandemic. This is really the worst time to elect a failed casino owner as the leader of the free world. I wish I could insulate myself and just ignore all of the news out there. But when I look at some of my art friends who are oblivious to what’s happening, just going about their merry way, I get frustrated as well.

And speaking of art (this is still an art Web site), I haven’t stopped making art. However, I stopped looking for art shows to apply to. I imagine galleries are suffering at the moment. Who wants to attend an art opening right now? Same goes for theater productions. Luckily, there’s plenty of opportunity to get my work seen online.

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An Update on the Panic

Ceiling Monster

I really didn’t want to write about the coronavirus again, thinking that the whole panic would’ve been over by now, but here I am again.

I just bought another set of masks. They’re still in short supply at the moment, and at least in Daegu where the most infections in the country have been, people have been lining up when they hear that shops have them. The problem with this is that in one instance, one of the people lining up was infected for the virus himself. I’m guessing the people lining up for those masks won’t be sleeping well for the next couple of nights.

Classes in the country have been postponed for another two weeks. I don’t have Korean classes this week, and I doubt if it will resume anytime soon. Many gatherings have been canceled due to fear of infection. Recently, a Zumba fitness class has been identified as infecting several students. This has confirmed fears of going to gyms or health classes. The gym in my apartment complex remains closed this week. I wake up early in t he morning with nothing to do.

Similarly, Japan has decided to postpone classes for a month. They’ve detected almost 1000 cases of infections but they aren’t testing as many people as in South Korea. Because of the virus, South Koreans are now unable to visit over 80 countries and people are also advised not to visit South Korea. Japan still manages to escape a strict ban to other countries, and is still one of the countries, like the US, that mostly prohibits other nationalities from entering due to the virus. I wonder when that situation would reverse itself, when let’s say Americans would be prohibited from entering Singapore due to American coronavirus cases.

I continue to be impressed with the transparency of the Korean government regarding their fight against the virus. New infections continue to be detected, but thousands of people are getting tested for the virus everyday. Real-time updates are available on television, and there is a website which pinpoints where the infections are on Google Maps. Unlike the United States, people don’t have to worry about costs when it comes to testing, quarantine, and treatment. The government has also set-up drive-thru coronavirus testing centers.

At work, things continue to be busy with people manning phones, rescheduling and updating people regarding our company’s actions during the heightened panic. Employees are still required to record their temperature coming in the office every day. Most people are walking around with masks around the office. I can’t spend the whole day breathing through a mask, so I do without.

I’ve cut down on my walks around the neighborhood where I work. I used to be quite friendly with many business owners and even the homeless people around the neighborhood, but I guess it won’t hurt if I don’t see them for a while. When I’m out, the streets are pretty empty. I don’t even see the vagrants I encounter on a regular basis.

There are now speculation that fear over the virus is going to lead to a recession. It’s continued to affect many businesses around the country. Quite frankly, I’m now worried about my company as well. Everyday I come to work, I count my blessings that I’m working for a company that could weather this crisis, at least for now. Movie theaters and theme parks are now closed. Study rooms, saunas, karaoke rooms, and many other businesses are currently empty. I went out for dinner last night. After dinner, I passed by a bar which caters to patrons going for a second round of drinking post main meal. It was empty. I imagine similar establishments would be the same.

I walked around the gallery area near my workplace the other day. The area was empty. Thursday is opening night for most of the galleries here and I imagine they would be equally empty as well. It’s a bad time for the arts. Curiously however, I read that a local production of ‘Jesus Christ Superstar’ opened the other day despite the widespread fear. I noted that the production, like similar productions in other countries, decided to cast a female actor in the role of Judas. I realize they’re breaking a glass ceiling, but isn’t a woman playing the role of someone who backstabs the Son of God a step backwards for women?

Production on several reality television shows has been halted. I think this is a good thing, quite frankly. I can’t stand the Korean brand of reality shows. It’s mainly just people eating, singing, playing with children, or watching foreigners react to things.

For once, the regular weekend protests near my workplace has been canceled. I believe this is mostly the result of the religious leader organizing the protests being arrested prior to the weekend.

The leader of the cult responsible for the resurgence of the virus has publicly apologized for hiding documents and impeding the government’s efforts to track down potential infected members. He now pledges to help the government in their efforts. I’m sure the mayor of Seoul asking investigators to look into charging him with negligence has nothing to do with it. Officials have also announced that despite the current rising cases of infections detected, the virus contamination in Daegu is now 90% contained and will likely subside in a week or two. People are cautiously optimistic. It would only take one dumb cult or something similar to trigger another resurgence.

Fewer people have been going to banks. Korea is quickly becoming a cashless society and fears of contracting the virus has led to people avoiding waiting in banks or handling cash. Even if people have cash in hand, vendors (mostly street vendors) who don’t have card readers have mostly been out of sight. Markets have been empty of customers as well. When ordering groceries online. What would usually arrive within the same day will now have at least a two-day waiting period.

Frankly, I’m hoping that as soon as people start recovering, more people would be at ease or simply be too tired of living in fear. Living in fear of infection is tiring. Even if you’re not afraid of the virus, just constantly hearing about it can be very stressful. Over the weekend, I tried not to go out and just stay at home, but ultimately I had to go out and eat at a restaurant. Cabin fever can be quite unbearable especially when unwillingly subjected to it.

I’m now observing how the United States is reacting to the pandemic. Unlike in Canada, an American checked and being quarantined can set him back a month’s pay. The US also has leaders peddling false information regarding the virus. It’s like a perfect storm for a disaster and I’m hoping things get better soon before this gets out of hand. Unfortunately however, it seems like things are going faster than it did here in Korea. The first coronavirus case in Korea was in January 20. This was after several weeks of fear over the virus. The virus was mostly contained until a cult managed to spike the number of infections. A month later, there’s been over 20 deaths. The US has identified its first case of infection a couple of days ago. As of the time I’m writing this, there’s been 6 deaths. This does not look good at all.

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White Male Bubble in Asia

Multitask

A friend of mine in Canada was telling me about her co-worker who was being rather stubborn and insensitive regarding race relations in the office. When he was confronted about this, his defense was he lived in Asia for a couple of years and is therefore sensitive to the plight of minorities since he was fully immersed living in Korea. This is bullshit, folks.

I’ve been living in Seoul for many years now. Pardon the generalization, but I can definitely say that white people, and white men in particular, live in a privileged bubble in Asia. It is not uncommon to hear white, male expats complain about racism and xenophobia after experiencing the most minor slights or inconvenience. You would think that you’re listening to Rosa Parks or Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. They ignore the fact that besides the occasional racism and xenophobia when living in another country, doors are opened to them solely by being white in Asia. The most mediocre white man from Scottsbluff, Nebraska has an edge over the populace and even other expats of color simply by the color of his skin. He is seen as more knowledgeable, more experienced/adventurous, and even more attractive. Just walk around tourist-heavy cities in Asia, be it Hanoi or something more metropolitan like Tokyo or Hong Kong, you’ll always spot the most mediocre white guy walking with someone who is far too young or attractive to be with him. (I know this is very judgmental…. But really…)

Of course, some people in Asia target foreigners thinking that they’re rich or they’re the key to moving to another country. White men just happen to be the most visibly western-looking compared to people of color. However, even if they’re not particularly wealthy, white men could produce mixed-race kids, and by having children who are perhaps a little lighter-skinned or western-looking, the children gain an advantage over other children. They would look like worldly children who must have some connection with the west, or children whose parents don’t have to spend to much time working under the sun. To put simply, they would look richer, a sentiment that is the result of white colonialist history.

This is not to say that this privilege is solely the domain of the white man. White women as well as other foreigners enjoy perks by living in Asia as well, but they are often burdened by other problems and stereotypes. White women and foreign women in general can be subjected to more unwanted attention (“Riding the white horse” anyone?). Women of color can be subject to negative stereotypes. I myself, being a person of color, sometimes have to unnecessarily prove my qualifications even my Canadian-ness to people, even to other Canadians! I remember one time, a friend of mine visited me from Switzerland and introduced me to another Canadian who’s only been living in the country for a year. After being gracious with dinner, as soon as I leave, the other Canadian asks my friend, “Joe’s Canadian? But really, where is he from?”

I doubt if my Canadian-ness would raise suspicions if I were white. Perhaps I sound bitter, but it doesn’t make my observations any less true. I know I live in a privileged foreign expat bubble. I enjoy it and I take full advantage if it. But white men, they live in a far different bubble, and to claim that one is fully-immersed in the culture and fully understand the feelings of minorities is pure white arrogance.

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Impeachments and Shamelessness

Circle Game

This is the second impeachment of a US president I’ve seen in my lifetime. Looking back, this is the fourth impeachment of a president I’ve witnessed or closely followed. It is interesting to see how these things result into precedents and social attitudes that will be felt for many years to come.

At the risk of aging myself, I remember the impeachment of Bill Clinton. It was an embarrassing exercise which started as a fishing expedition and concluded with hypocrites impeaching a man for essentially protecting his marriage by lying. Commentators at the time would have people believe that the Clinton saga opened a Pandora’s box in society. It brought sex… oral sex, out in the open… right into public discourse. It was blamed for young people being more promiscuous and being more open-minded regarding sexual activities outside of coitus. And of course, conservatives successfully impeaching the president and surviving their rank hypocrisy, it made hypocrisy their brand. It’s amazing that Newt Gingrich, the man who led the impeachment of President Bill Clinton for having an affair, was also having an affair at the time, and the woman he is having an affair with is currently the US ambassador to the Vatican… the fucking Vatican. No one bats an eye. Of course Newt Gingrich is a hypocrite… he’s a conservative politician. Now ask him questions on CNN.

A couple of years ago, they impeached and removed from office the President Park Gun Hye of South Korea. I was there for a couple of the protests. I remember being amazed at how fast the whole process was, from outrage to removal of the president. It taught Koreans that when a move becomes popular and people, especially young people get outraged enough, they could shift politics. This power of youthful outrage is similar to the umbrella movement which happened a few years earlier. Unfortunately, the conservatives in Korea are trying to copy this movement and are now regularly attracting older Koreans to come gather in the public squares formerly occupied by the protesters who ousted the former president. They have seen how outrage and continued public protests could change the country. However, what they are getting mostly senior citizens riled about are mostly empty rhetoric and fake news. The weekly weekend gatherings are now turning more and more into just weekend strolls for angry old people to aimlessly listen to slogans.

Back in 1986, there was the People Power Revolution in EDSA. The people of the Philippines were protesting the violent regime of President Marcos and electoral fraud. I remember there was martial law in the Philippines and during the protests there were talks of violence in the street or people being detained by the police for no reason. I also remember my father being pro Marcos at the time. After the ousting of Marcos, the Filipinos seemed to see EDSA, or large public protests, as an exercise or even a ceremony of public grievance after a period of putting up with traditional political corruption. I say that because after EDSA, corruption still continued in the country, a second “revolution” happened entitled “EDSA 2” which overthrew President Joseph Estrada, but again, the country still continued to have its usual problems. It’s almost like nothing was fixed. The status quo remains and only the players have changed. Look at what they have now, Duterte, a populist who encourages violence on the streets. The country is getting better economically for rich investors (especially foreign investors), but not so much for the people who elected the president, the downtrodden masses who fell in love with his macho crime-fighting lies.

Now in 2020 in the US, we’re seeing the trial of Donald Trump after his impeachment. It would seem that the only lesson we’re learning is that there is no bottom that conservatives would sink to in order to maintain their power. I’m afraid the precedent we seem to be taking away from this is that with shamelessness and a bold disregard to the truth, one could weather any evidence of wrongdoing. Believe in your “truth” and yell it out until people give up and say yes, you’re right. It’s the lessson learned from The Secret. It’s the Kim Kardashian guide to being a celebrity. It’s the Real Housewives of Atlanta. It’s disgusting. It truly is disgusting what is happening right now. I really hope I’m wrong, but by looking at what happened during the first day of the impeachment trial, even with Lev Parnas speaking out and new documents being released by Mick Mulvaney, I think the winners have already been decided.

And yes, I know, I know, the Republican majority senate would not vote to convict and therefore remove Donald Trump. The only thing the Democrats could do is force the Republicans to be more brazen in their defense of criminality that it hurts them in their local elections. That, and by embracing Trump and the ridiculous arguments of the White House lawyers, it makes Trump’s eventual acquittal by the Senate a sham and invalid in the eyes of the public.

But that right there is the rub. The people in power, they don’t really care much about how they look in the eyes of the public. They don’t seem t o care how history would judge them. Let me enjoy my wealth and my power now. Forget history and my legacy. I will be long dead and gone by then.

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Hijacking the #MeToo Movement

Good Doctor

At 4:00 am, a couple is having drinks in a bar in Seoul. The franchise is known for its cheap drinks, thus it gets really crowded and tables are often close to each other. Because of this, and because it’s typical of people when they consume alcohol, people tend to be quite loud when they speak.  The couple gets harassed by a neighboring table. They were two women who for some reason started to harass the table. According to the couple, the two women have been exceptionally loud prior to them trying to ruin their neighbor’s evening. The couple decided to leave.

Not long after the couple left, a neighboring table of four men made comments at the two women. The group claims that they asked the women to quiet down and stop harassing other people. One of the women said that at some point, one of the men began filming them. The two women didn’t take this lightly and started arguing with the men.

The argument spilled outside when it got physical. Ultimately, it resulted in the two women getting seriously beaten and the police getting called. Everyone was arrested and now we have two conflicting stories and some people trying to tie the incident with feminism and the #MeToo movement.

I don’t care so much about the insults or the women’s claims that the men insulted them for them for not looking feminine. It was 4:00 am, people were drunk, and I am sure the two women must have hurled equally vile insults at the men. The women claimed that the men attacked them first, however, security camera footage proved that the women were the first to attack the men. I was never on their side, being obnoxious bar patrons, but this puts them in legal jeopardy and provides defense for the men. The men were trying to diffuse the initial situation (being good Samaritans), were initially attacked, and have a good argument for self-defense. The women were proven to have initiated the attack and are bad actors, providing false statements.

Korea doesn’t have a very good record when it comes to self-defense. Usually it is often the one who is most injured that gets compensation, which makes it wise for people to just walk away from a confrontation even after they have been physically assaulted (grabbed, touched, lightly hit) or threatened. There are self-defense laws, but in the country, it is often countered by laws over excessive force. I believe that at least one of the women thought that she could get away with physically assaulting a man and not have any repercussion due to the tendency of people to avoid physical confrontation and the unwillingness of most men to physically confront women. I’m in no way an MRA apologist, but I believe some women DO goad men into what they believe is an unwinnable trap, where men are either cowards for walking away or are monsters for hitting a woman. I think that these two women thought they could “win” the evening or satiate their bruised egos by putting at least one of the men into this trap.

Unfortunately for the men, it doesn’t look good that there are four of them and only two women. The excessive force argument is also pretty convincing. Most people could imagine four men easily defusing the situation with not as much injury. But if you follow that idea a bit further, the question becomes: what is the reasonable amount of injury is enough to diffuse an attack from a drunk and violent woman? You inevitably come to another trap. Are the courts and society at large willing to say that it is reasonable to lay a hand on a woman? In this day and age of feminism, equality, and the #MeToo movement, that would seem like a bridge too far.

It goes without saying however: it is never good to hit women! It is never good to hit people!

But in my opinion, allowing women the defense of being the weaker sex is in itself sexism. The women were proven violent instigators and they should be seen as that in the eyes of the law. The men’s actions don’t exist in a vacuum, and it should be seen as a separate case. The men would appear to be excessive in that early morning brawl, but that doesn’t give the women excuse for their earlier action. The problem is one of the women already started an online petition calling for an end to hatred against women. “The women were beaten up just because they wore no makeup and had short hair.” She is trying to make the case about men hating women instead of men hating obnoxious bar patrons who harass and physically assault other customers. And if they’re claim that men attacked them because they didn’t look attractive enough. Wouldn’t there be more evidence of this behavior? Perhaps other victims of this “gang’s” misogynist attacks, be it physical or verbal?  Or maybe other customers in the bar noting that the men were criticizing patrons for their looks? So far there’s been none. Just witnesses corroborating the men’s accounts and video footage showing that the women attacked first. Unfortunately, it would appear the women already have sizeable support on the Internet, turning the whole thing into a nationwide gender debate.

True sexism and misogyny is assigning the women weakness and freedom to harass other customers due their weakness. Being a woman does not allow anyone to lay a hand on a stranger free from consequences despite that stranger hurling insults. True sexism and misogyny is allowing incidents like this to be under the umbrella of feminism and the #MeToo movement when it has nothing to do with the movement. I’m a visible minority living in South Korea. If I initiated a physical altercation with two people and lost, I cannot immediately cry racism. It would be an insult to genuine victims of racism as well as a disservice to the fight against prejudice if other people took me seriously.

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Madam is a Bigot

Strawberry

Ugh… when someone complains about the cost of housing/helping refugees. Don’t bother entertaining that question. It is a talking point as old as time usually aimed at immigrants. It’s been adopted by white supremacists. This “economic anxiety” is just fluff for what is basically racism. It was economic anxiety that got Donald Trump elected to the White House. However, this same “economic anxiety” does not surface when it Donald Trump wants a space force, an expensive military parade, and increased military spending. His supporters only seem to be “economically anxious” when it comes to issues which affect minorities and immigrants.

So as innocent as that lady might be when she questioned Prime Minister Justin Trudeau about where the money to assist refugees will come from, she is parroting a talking point that has been historically used to attack minorities and immigrants. It’s bigoted and racist. That is not to say that Canada should mindlessly bear the cost of helping all refugees out, but when it’s your first complaint, the one you heckle the leader of the country with, then I begin to judge your motives and intelligence. Canada is not a poor country. It’s not the richest country in the world, but we are not starving either. We can afford to help those who are desperately fleeing deadly situations in their home country. We can do this.

A few days ago, I came out of Seoul Station and heard festive drumming. There were drummers set-up in front of the station with seats for the audience and everything. It was pretty elaborate and the whole thing seems to have been well organized. It was a really festive mood. But ironically, it was organized by a group that wants to block refugees coming to South Korea, particularly the 500 Yemenis applying for asylum. The people who want the refugees out were channeling Trump. There are talks of immigrants taking advantage of the system, and that they are not really refugees. And these are the more civil talking point. Others on the Internet simply say they don’t look like Koreans or are scary. There’s a growing concern that the influx from a few hundred applicants ten years ago to about 10,000 asylum applicants this year point out to massive fraud, but it could also mean that the world continues to be a hellish place to live for some people. Or perhaps it shows how Korea has become more attractive to immigrants and refugees in the international stage.

A lot of the anxiety stems from Jeju Island, with many of the Yemeni asylum seekers being there due to its visa-free policy. I suspect this is also fueled by the growing angst against Chinese investors buying up property, coupled with the influx of tourists in the past couple of years. What’s disappointing is that aside from the usual racism, Islamophobia, and accusing foreigners of being involved with drugs and crime, the country’s #Metoo and feminist movement seem to have allied itself with the anti-refugee crowd as well. #제주도여성실종사건 (“Missing Women in Jeju-do”) was trending on Twitter last month, with the disappearance of six women being blamed on refugees. Again, there is no evidence that directly links refugees to the actual five missing women (rumors made it six) and it seems to echo the anti-refugee sentiments in Europe, with people saying that they are a danger to women. It also bears mentioning that foreigners in Korea as a group commit fewer crimes than the rest of the Korean population. This fervor reminds me of events a few years ago when there was a spate of students molested by their Korean teachers. Some were covered up, while others were simply fired. This created a bit of an uproar, but instead of addressing the problem directly, lawmakers decided to make it mandatory for foreign teachers to have AIDS test in order to get their visas. Ignoring the implication that foreigners have a higher risk for AIDS and that they should at least be AIDS-free when they presumably have relations with students, not many people batted an eye when this “solution” was made into law. Blame the foreigners and minority for crimes they didn’t commit. It’s an old, lazy, but effective tactic. Unfortunately, it didn’t really make anyone safer.

And if you really want to go deeper in history, women’s safety has been used by the Ku Klux Klan to demonize black men: the brute caricature. Black rapists, white victims.

Economic anxiety, women’s safety… these have all been incorporated by hate mongers to demonize foreigners and minorities. When it comes to talking about refugees, it is simply racist to address these things because a cursory search in the Internet will show how these talking points have been used repeatedly to demonize people. The coming of foreigners has never resulted in the collapse of a country’s economy and the pillage of women unless you look at colonialist history. European settlers ravaged the First Nations. Columbus and his men raped women and sold people as slaves. It was the First Nations that should have felt concerned about their economy and women’s safety. People don’t need to worry about these things when it comes to refugees. The last time I checked, Germany is still a pretty rich country despite taking in so many refugees. And as for crimes, it has the lowest crime record since 1992. So yes, going back to Prime Minister Justin Trudeau, that woman was talking bigoted bullshit.

I’m not saying the woman is evil however. She’s simply misguided on the issue. She could be the best mother, daughter, sister, or whatever… but when it comes to the refugee issue, she is a misguided bigot. A couple of weeks ago, a Korean man hurled some racist sentiments at me. The person I was with tried to defend me, but I told her to let it go, and I tried to move on from the situation. Now, as progressive as this person might be in defending me against racist attacks, this same person later tried to convince me of the problems with “fake refugees” coming in to Korea.

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