Oh Korean Internets!

Assiniboine

As much as I love that Korea has the fastest and most ubiquitous Internet access in the world, it is ironic how so much of Korea is doing the Internet wrong. Let me illustrate that with my past experience with ordering stuff through Amazon to be sent to the country.

First off, for some odd regulation, Amazon cannot send anything to Korea that are not books, DVDs, or CDs. Already, that sours the experience. Then a few years back, it became a new regulation for people to have a Uni-Pass ID to be able to order anything from Amazon. So I went and tried to get a Uni-Pass ID.

First off, in order to get a Uni-Pass ID or certificate, I have to register as a receiver of goods through customs. Now, one would assume that this would be foreigner-friendly and would have English on the custom’s Website. It doesn’t. Everything is in Korean. Not only that, I have to download and install a security software in order to go forward.

Registering my name, address and postal code proved to be a minor challenge. Seoul has recently changed its postal code system as well as its address system. This is something that mystifies even the Korean population as many don’t even know their own address under the current system.

I manage to successfully register at customs, but NO, I still don’t have my Uni-Pass ID. That’s another application I have to go through. One would assume that the only reason a person would register at customs was to get the ID, but I guess that would be too simple and obvious. In any case, I had to download another security program in order apply for my ID. Like the first program, this one didn’t have English, but worse, the Korean text on the menus won’t even show up properly on a machine running English Windows. I had to get help from a coworker who’s familiar with it.

Everything went well, including authenticating my phone and my carrier information, until BAM! It won’t let me get any further. I repeated the process a couple more times and still it won’t let me go further. And then I realized I was using Google Chrome. Korea is still very much wedded to Internet Explorer in 2017, including Active-X, so I had to repeat the process using Internet Explorer and then it finally worked. I got my ID.

Went to Amazon, ordered my books, and hopefully it will arrive soon. Hopefully! Some foreigners report that despite going through the whole process, their packages end up getting stuck at the postal office. When they call and inquire about it, the postal service workers ask them for their alien card number, something which all foreigners have here. Now, if that’s all that they needed, why make people go through the whole Uni-Pass process?! It’s just another system of which they can track my activities which the government already does with my passport and alien card number. What’s the point of all of this?!

The Korean Internet experience is great if you’re not doing any transactions with Korean sites or institutions. If you are, get ready to install a bunch of software you don’t need, do your business using Internet Explorer, and have an hour or two handy. It’s the most ironic situation for a country that’s so hip to the whole Internet.

Oh and if you ever want pornography, use a VPN to access sites. The Korean government has hired Christian watchdog groups to police Internet content, making many sites inaccessible without a VPN. Ironically, this means only members of these Christian watchdog groups ever get to enjoy pornography freely (and an unhealthy amount of it, if that’s what they’ve been tasked to devote their time on).

Update: If you want to modify or distribute modified games, you could face fines of up to $50,000 in South Korea. I guess this is to cut down on massive cheating on online games, which I would argue there are worse problems out there that needs legislators’ attention. If anything, I think this is just to protect the integrity of e-sports and companies profiting off of e-sports, because really, how is anyone supposed to police this? And what kind of legislator sits there and wonders about modifying games? That’s a big leap from stodgy legislators raging over violence in video games.

If I happen to modify an old copy of Super Mario, will that get me fined and how are they supposed to catch me? And what about say those Jamma carts with pre-loaded games? A lot of those have, by definition, unlicensed modified games. Are those technically illegal now? And what about trainer programs that aren’t really designed for online use? Again, pretty dumb Internet in South Korea.

 

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Oh, Hole!

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I’ve been busy with a lot of writing in the past few days that I found it difficult to do much writing on my spare time. This is the gift of Twitter. It scratches my writing itch without sitting down and investing too much thought in it. Not that my diatribes in this Website take so much time and thought, but it’s just not very efficient writing stuff out in this format.

I just finished watching “Hit So Hard, The Life & Near Death Story of Patty Schemel.” I’ve occasionally enjoyed Courtney Love, but I always liked her band’s sound, and I’m guessing a lot of that comes from Patty Schemel’s drums. It’s a decent documentary which touches up on the history of the band, spends a bit of time on Nirvana and Kurt Cobain, goes into Kristen Pfaff, homosexuality, the whole getting kicked out of Hole, and never really gets too deep or preachy when it comes to Schemel’s struggles with drugs. Quite frankly, I think the documentary loses direction and forgets what it’s trying to say. I don’t really know who to recommend it to unless you’re really into Hole, Nirvana, Patty Schemel or curious about the whole drug thing.

Not grunge, but the death of Scott Weiland still bums me out. Chris Cornell, another person who was not quite grunge at the time, especially when they opened for Guns N’Roses, was found dead in what appears to have been suicide. He may now have had issues with drugs, not the type of drugs that killed Weiland or Pfaff, but Ativan, something that was prescribed to him to treat anxiety disorders and depression. Now I don’t mind drugs, prescription or otherwise. But I don’t like demonizing certain drugs while pushing others. Don’t use that; take these instead. Don’t take heroin; get a prescription for Oxycodone instead. I think if we just step back, stop demonizing drugs and drug users, and look at what we’re all doing in terms of what’s legal highs and what’s not, we can all be a safer, more responsible society. It may not have prevent all drug overdoses, be it legal drugs or otherwise, but I’m sure it would cut down sad stories.

 

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The Presidency in a Lon Fuller Cave

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When is a criminal act a criminal act? I remember studying R v Dudley and Stephens.  In the case, four men were shipwrecked, and with little hope of making it to land and one of the men fallen into a comatose state, two of the men decided to kill and eat the dying man in order to survive. One of the men refused to participate. The case was a precedent in establishing that necessity doesn’t justify murder. If I remember correctly, it was also a test on the reaches of the law, and whether the fact that the men were lost at sea and therefore out of the reach of legal powers, makes the law inapplicable to them during the act, much like a legal Schrödinger’s cat.

This is somewhat related to the “Case of the Speluncean Explorers” written by Lon Fuller for the Harvard Law Review. It’s a though experiment where Fuller gives a hypothetical case of cave explorers who were trapped in a cave, and in order to stave of starvation, drew lots on who to murder and eat in order for the rest of the men to survive. He wrote about five judges’ differing opinions on the case. I would not explain all of the judges’ reasoning, but one judge argued for setting aside convictions since the “murderers” in the case were out of the reach of the laws of society and thus were in a state of nature and under natural law. Under natural law, rules are governed by reason, and it is only reasonable to kill one person in order for the rest to survive. The purpose of the law forbidding murder, which is deterrence, also doesn’t apply to them under such a state because A. they were in an extreme situation B. it could be argued that preventing one murder would lead to more deaths, and C. which legal authority would prevent the murder in such a state?

This brings me to the current issue of the growing case against Donald Trump. In order to hide possible collusion with Russia during the election, Trump may have committed several indictable offences already, committing crimes to cover up a crime. He may be tried for intimidating witnesses and obstruction of justice when he tweeted about James Comey after firing him and Sally Yates during her questioning. He may be guilty of obstruction of justice when he inquired about his own investigations, asked for the investigations to end, and fired people investigating him. And even asking for a loyalty pledge from his own investigator is obstruction of justice and a criminal conspiracy should Comey have agreed to pledge to Trump. There’s also him tweeting about the supposed tapes, which if they do exist, could also implicate him in whatever crime he’s trying to blackmail Comey with, or would make him guilty of obstruction of justice and destroying evidence should he say that he got rid of the tapes. This is just for the past couple of days. It doesn’t take into account the original issue of collusion with a foreign government as well as conflicts of interests regarding his businesses.

Now, with all of these low-hanging fruit, would someone try to remove Trump from office? I’m afraid the president of the United States is in Lon Fuller’s cave as well. The country is in an extreme state, and just like the laws of society could not touch the men in R v Dudley and Stephens while they were at sea or the men in the cave, no one can touch Trump unless the people in power are willing to look for a crime. By virtue of him being in power and with the Republican majority being tied to their party, Trump might as well be killing and feeding on people while stuck in lawless isolation. He could hand the nuclear codes and all state secrets to Vladimir Putin while kissing him in the mouth during a press conference and it won’t be an offense unless people are willing to call it so. So far, he seems to have gotten away with so many offenses but people are willing to look the other way and not punish him the way other normal citizen would rightly face consequences in a civil society (“grab them by the pussy” anyone?). Trump is out of the reaches of law at the moment. Someone please bring him back to where the rest of us are before he causes any more damage.

 

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Korean Elections, Ugh.

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I’m trying really hard not to write about depression, so instead about my own personal depression, let’s talk about how depressing the election is in South Korea right now. How depressing is it, let me list the ways!

The election, instead of being divided by regional ties is a divided between generations, the older conservative generation versus the younger conservative generation. Now, this wouldn’t be very depressing. It’s actually quite promising since it’s the younger generation breaking free from old-fashioned thinking, but I really think this push for progressivism would only be short-lived. I predict it’ll die once the political players are safely in their place. One of the candidates (Ahn) used to be popular among young people, that is, until he got wise and learned how to be a politician. In the end, these are all politicians, and the people still high with their victory over getting the president impeached might be disappointed with the un-sexy reality of politics once seats are no longer at stake.

The leading conservative party candidate demonized gay people as harbinger of AIDS. He also had an anecdote on his book about not stopping his friend drug a woman and rape her. Why include it in the book, who knows? He also recently talked bragged about not talking to his father in-law for years until his death. Sounds like an awesome guy. This guy might be president tomorrow.

Despite who wins or who loses, the THAAD missiles pointing at North Korea with a radar system looking into China will probably still be in place. It’s going to be a while before those useless missiles are removed from the peninsula, if they’re ever to be removed. Meanwhile, South Korea will still continue to suffer strained relations with China as long as those missiles exist.

Older Korean conservatives are looking into the US and Donald Trump as if he’s a role model. These are the same people who made the daughter of a former dictator president (she later got impeached). These people are waving the American flag around.

One of the candidate’s (Yoo) daughter got attacked/molested during a campaign stop. The man was arrested and is being charged, but apparently his defense is that he suffers from some sort of mental handicap. Mental handicap. He is a member of a homophobic and misogynistic rightwing group who posted pictures of the incident online.

Speaking of homophobic, the leading progressive candidate doesn’t seem to care much about gay people either. Although he said he wouldn’t do anything legislatively to oppress them or give them additional rights, he said he personally doesn’t have any stance regarding gay issues. Yay, progressives!

In any case, the leading progressive candidate (Moon) will probably be the next president of Korea. He promises to overhaul the country and undo many of the evils that happened during the last two conservative presidential terms. This is all good. He’s quite the experienced politician himself, serving under the late President Roh, who, compared to recent Korean presidents, was reasonably good if not for the allegations of influence peddling later in his term. Oh…

 

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No Facebook, No.

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A good friend of mine contacted me on Facebook and showed me our Facebook anniversary notification. Apparently, we have been Facebook friends for ten years, and it showed some highlights and some stats regarding our interaction on the platform. It’s a good attempt from Facebook to get people to start using their platform again, although it’s a bit too obvious. I’ve long abandoned my Facebook page. I only use it to keep in touch with family members via the messenger app. I don’t think seeing my history with the platform would really entice me to go back to using it as much as I used to.

I just finished listening to the latest ‘The Hidden Brain’ episode (Schadenfacebook). It explores what I already read about years ago and what I’ve come to belief for a long time now, the more I use social networking platform, the more depressed I become. The show basically says that Facebook gets its users to curate their life, create a show for their friends and family to see. It creates or amplifies this need to appear happy, or at least happier than your friends. Also, the fear of missing out and constantly checking on the experiences of your friends diminishes your own current experiences. You could be traveling in some exotic locale, but the joy from the experience is dulled should you see that your friends on Facebook or doing something else together, even if it’s something as mundane as meeting up for coffee. Instead of enjoying your current experience, your mind is somewhere else, either wishing to be a part of your friends’ experience, or thinking of ways to one-up their experience with your own post.

Basically, Facebook is bad news. It gets you depressed. It turns you into a smaller person. The more depressed you are, the more active you become at the site. And the thing is, you end up competing with people who are probably just as depressed as you are.

Amazingly, one of the most cynical companies whose product is basically preying on people’s ego and making people less fulfilled in the process is one of the richest companies in the world. Good job, Mark!

Facebook started out great. I get to see some friends from back home. I get to reconnect with some people who I’ve long lost touch with. But I also get to see some old romances and basically enjoy how bad their life has become or how their looks have deteriorated since I left them. It is basically a tool that helps me with my ego, telling me that I’ve made the right decisions in life. And while I can only say that about my own experience, I’m pretty sure that’s what motivates many people on the site too. They might as well call the site LookAtHowBadMyExIsDoingTheseDays.com. So yeah, jealousy, depression, unnecessary competitiveness, ego… it’s like Facebook was designed by the devil himself.

So yeah, while I love that friend of mine who recently contacted me (I love him like a brother), I won’t be coming back. Nice try, Facebook. I’m depressed enough as it is.

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Marriage Advice

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Today is my wedding anniversary. Today is also my parents’ wedding anniversary. As content as I am with my marriage, I can’t really recommend marriage for everyone.

I’m not saying that my marriage is better than most. I can’t even say that I’m particularly good or content at being a husband. I’m just more realistic about it. It’s challenging, and the good days are coupled with the bad. The problem is, instead of being objective at viewing the bad days, you either blame your spouse and drive a wedge between the two of you, or blame yourself which drives you to depression. And as hard as it is not to do either, sometimes the thoughts just linger there at the back of my head, like a tiny cancerous cell.

So why the negative? Well, as content as I am with my marriage. It is the marriage I think that I deserve. It is the relationship that a person like me, with all of my talents and failings, am worthy of, or perhaps even extremely lucky to have (depending on how much of a scumbag low life I think I am at the moment). I think people come in to marriage with visions of roses and a path paved with rainbows. And that’s when it starts falling apart. Nothing in life is that sweet. No prince charming will sweep you off your feet and take care of everything and make you happy. You can’t marry a sex doll who will also appreciate your personality, feed your intellect, and help support you financially. You get married if you finally find someone who can put up with you, someone that’ll make you happy now and then, someone that will put up with your inadequacies, a roommate that you won’t totally hate. That sounds like a low standard for marriage, but it’s actually quite a tall order if you look at it realistically. Just looking at the roommate standard, I’ve had roommates before, and many of them I liked, but there’s a tipping point to some of the things I won’t put up with and vice versa.

So what’s my advice regarding marriage? Don’t do it to make yourself happy. This applies especially to Korean women my age. Marriage won’t make you happy. You get married, because deep in your soul, for whatever reason, you have to wake up with that person next to you every day, until one of you dies and leaves the other person broken hearted until they pass away as well. It has nothing to do with happiness. It’s about filling a place in your life that is both joyous and miserable. You do it, because you have to do it. I guess that’s my roundabout way of describing a soulmate. A soulmate fills a void in your life; they don’t necessarily make you happy. Find happiness somewhere else. Then let marriage complement or complicate that happiness. Don’t confuse marriage and happiness for the same thing. Otherwise, the minute you start being unhappy, you start blaming your spouse. Going back to the roommate analogy, I never blamed my roommate for my unhappiness. My unhappiness was all because of me.

Of course this is just me talking about marriage without taking children into consideration. I don’t have kids, so I wouldn’t know how that factors in. I love children, but I couldn’t imagine having them myself. I think I’d make a good uncle but a terrible parent. Perhaps having children would make marriage more fulfilling, but I’ve seen marriages not survive despite couple having several children. Perhaps children help marriages, perhaps they don’t. But I wouldn’t want to risk having children in an unhappy household. And if the statistics are accurate, despite what your Facebook feed might tell you, more than fifty percent of marriages end up in divorce. Out of the other half that survives, how many of that are unhappy? How many of that has children. The stakes are just too damned high.

And before there’s any confusion regarding my own happiness with my marriage, let me answer that question. Today, I am happy with my marriage.

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We’re all John B McLemore Sometimes.

1 Goat

S-Town, from the makers of Serial and This American Life, is a glorious podcast. What started out as a crime mystery in a rural town quickly becomes an examination of tortured existence. It was good podcast to listen to after finishing Missing Richard Simmons. Both podcasts deal with examining people who have grown uncomfortable with the lives they lead. Though Richard Simmons claim he’s living well and is comfortable with how his life is, the podcast certainly explored the idea that he’s currently living a life of torture, either as someone who’s held captive, or someone who has grown tired pushing himself to creating a persona that has gone out of control. In any case, it didn’t get as dark as S-Town got. Both podcasts remind me of the Hammerstein line from ‘Ol’ Man River’ – “I’m tired of living, and scared of dying.” We all get tired of living. I can honestly say that I’ve been having more and more days where I am just tired of it all. Not enough to end everything, of course. I’m too much of a coward for that. But at one point on June 22, 2015, John B. McLemore got so tired of life’s slow, mundane misery, that he was no longer scared of dying.

Now, the podcast explored many reasons for John’s depression: his family life, his sexuality, his grief over his dog, his frustrations with his town, his obsessions with global ills, mercury poisoning, etc. It was evident that John was actually surrounded by people who are his friends, not just in his hometown, but throughout the world via the Internet. He is, after all, one of the world’s foremost experts in restoring antique timepieces. But despite not being alone, he believed he was lonely, to which host Brian Reed asks, “Is there really a difference?”

Despite being in a rather ideal situation, having money, a stable relationship, etc., can a person will themselves to depression and keep their joys to a minimum? It would seem this is exactly what John has done. He hated his town, and yet he stayed. He could’ve been more open with his sexuality, and yet he chose circumstances which kept him in the closet. He lashed at people who were genuinely his friends. He became addicted to information on the Internet that was upsetting him. He was constantly giving himself reasons to feel bad, like writing daily notes of self-denial instead of self-affirmation.

I wonder if that’s how things really are. That it can all be boiled down to simple mental exercise. Keep telling yourself that there is a God, and every little event in life would be God’s little miracle in your eyes. Keep telling yourself that you don’t deserve any happiness, and every little event would be proof that you don’t deserve any earthly joy. You are a fuck up, and the world will prove that you are. Why should you be happy when the world is a miserable place and you are miserable yourself. Keep telling yourself you’re lonely despite having good days. For as Brian Reed said, “Is there really a difference?” Perhaps at some point, you’ll get so tired of living, that you will no longer be scared.

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Osaka Again

Goat 4

Off to Osaka this week. I’ve been going to Osaka quite frequently recently. It’s a great city, people are friendly, and most things to do are pretty accessible. If you’re going to do Japan for the first time, I recommend Osaka. Tokyo is way too busy. Most of the interesting places to visit in Tokyo are separated by several subway rides. Tourists would end up spending a great portion of their time on the train. Go to Osaka instead; all the key Japanese things to do are pretty much in the same area.

Speaking of Osaka, I saw a short virtual reality video off of Littlstar, the VR video network. Here’s a tip, if you’re gonna make a video and call it “Passport Osaka,” don’t spend half of it on the tattooed expat. Most of the people visiting Osaka aren’t there to visit a foreigner’s tattoo parlor. And I really wouldn’t call Dotonbori and Amerikamura “best-kept secrets” either. They’re two of the main places where tourists go. Blergh.

 

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South Korea’s Interesting Weekend

Goat 3

I was in the middle of the rallies on the presidential impeachment last Friday and last Saturday. I couldn’t really avoid it last Friday. The pro-Park Geun Hye supporters were marching in front of my building. There were riot police and everything. It wasn’t very violent when I went out for coffee, but three people ended up dying during the protest after it was announced that the decision to impeach the South Korean president would stand.

On Saturday, my wife and I decided to check out the celebration for the ousting of the president. It was in Gwanghwamun, the place where Koreans have been holding their weekly rallies to protest against the president. Like every week, there was going to be a concert, and my favorite Korean singer Jun In Kwon would be performing. I felt more comfortable going to the event, because it wasn’t so much a protest or anything but a celebration for what is a historic event for the peninsula.

What was a little scary however was that we had to pass by the pro-Park Geun Hye supporters on the way to the rally. They were all waving the South Korean flag and old-fashioned patriotic songs were blaring on speakers. The mood was dark, and my wife and I didn’t feel too comfortable walking past them, especially since we’re a biracial couple (despite the fact that many of the protesters were also waving the American flag). It was weird, the site of the Korean flag brought about an almost nefarious aura. The site of riot police and police barricades separating the two factions didn’t help ease the mood either.

The mood on the anti-Park Geun Hye side was celebratory. People were smiling. It felt like being surrounded by people whose collective burden was just recently been released. Of course, there were still angry calls for the former president to move out of the presidential residence and for her to be prosecuted.

On Sunday, most major Korean channels showed the president moving to her private residence. She was welcomed by her supporters, all waving the Korean flag. It was a strange affair. She was greeted by her party members, and she shook hands with them, all smiling, waving at her supporters. If I didn’t know the context or didn’t know Korean, I would’ve assumed she just got elected as president instead of being ousted. What’s more remarkable is that instead of addressing her supporters and the recent decision by the Supreme Court, she had a representative read a prepared statement saying the “the truth will come out.” I don’t know what this is possibly referring to. The highest court in the land already made a decision. If it’s referring to her impending criminal prosecution, she’d best not acknowledge it just yet.

I try to be impartial when it comes to the country’s politics, but the fact that the former president didn’t make a public statement immediately after the decision on Friday was very disappointing. She could’ve at least tried to unite the country and try to calm her protesters down. Perhaps people wouldn’t have died if she did. And the fact that she still hasn’t made a public statement is thumbing her nose at the justice system and not showing her supporters any respect. At least Nixon had the decency to make resignation speech. There have been talks about the country being divided, but truly, South Korea is not divided. Park Geun Hye enjoyed a 5% approval rating, and most of the country wanted her out. If there’s any division, I believe it’s just a division in the type of media people consume, with each side embracing their own set of facts and claiming the other side is fake news. It’s no different than other countries. But what would have helped make the country less divided, is if the former president called for unity after being impeached. At least recognize that the zeal partisan politics and distrust is at least part of what got her ousted.

I believe it’s going to be a long process, prosecuting the former president. There has been months of weekly protests, and I think it won’t take much for people to take to the streets again. It’s almost like a slow but magical form of direct democracy. It could get addictive.

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On Child-like Leaders

Goat 2

The thing with North Korea’s Kim Jung Un’s unpredictability is that he’s been given, GIVEN, the job of running the country as his first job. Not only was he just some rich kid living in Switzerland given the job of running a throwback country, but as the role of supreme dictator, he’s under the constant threat of usurpation from his handlers, his people, and even his family. He constantly needs to flex his muscles (figuratively, of course) and threaten his neighbors as well as his inner circle, lest he becomes another Muamar Gaddafi. This explains the occasional super villainesque murders of his associates and family members. It also explains the rather extreme reactions to slights against the regime.

There’s been a political rift lately between South Korea and China, with South Korea building a missile defense system (THAAD) against North Korea which is equipped with radar technology capable of penetrating deep into Chinese territory. South Korea defends the missile system as a defense against the North. I imagine in normal circumstances this would’ve been fine with China, since they appear to be losing their patience with North Korea. They recently cut off coal exports from North Korea because of their recent missile tests. But the South Korean government is partnered with the United States, and there is deep distrust between the two rivaling military powers. Also, the South Korean government seems oddly determined to install the missile defense system despite its unpopularity among the locals. After all, the North doesn’t need missiles to attack the South. Traditional artillery fire could reach Seoul just fine (But whether it could take the South is another matter). I suspect the installation of the missile system is either the US military slyly using South Korea to contain China, or perhaps some people are getting enriched with military contracts and the sale Lockheed Martin’s systems. In any case, without the North Korean threat, the whole missile defense system argument would be moot, and China wouldn’t be imposing travel bans to South Korea and threatening a ban on South Korean products.

So yes, because Kim Jung Un is an unpredictable player, it leads people and government outside of North Korea to act out in ways which ultimately hurt them. South Korea and China doesn’t need to be feuding at the moment. They are important partners in various industries. Korea doesn’t need to a build ridiculous missile system when North Korea would be committing economic suicide should they ever decide to full-on attack one of its neighbors. But Kim Jung Un’s child-like capriciousness gives people the excuse to do so.

Kim Jung Un was snatched up from his comfortable life in Switzerland to fill his father’s shoes. I doubt if he ever dreamed of living the rest of his life dressing up and pretending to be his grandfather. He had a carefree life, but now he’s living under a lethal microscope with powers that could affect millions of people in his country and beyond. What does he know about governing? Governments need leaders who have experience in leading and are actually interested in the role.

That brings to mind: I wonder how Donald Trump spent his weekend.

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