SKorea: Politician who launched teargas may face no punishment

November 30th, 2011 · Photos · 0 comments

Original article in Korean is at this link.

It has been over a week since National Assembly Representative Kim Seon-dong of the the Democratic Labor Party exploded a teargas canister in the National Assembly during debate over the KORUS FTA, but no investigation of him has even begun and criticism of the police is mounting. Many are calling the delay by prosecutors an example of abuse of the law.

Kim Seon-dong, South Korea

Rep. Kim Seon-dong, bottom, of the opposition Democratic Labor Party, explodes tear gas in front of the speaker's chair on November 22. Pic: AP.

On the 30th the Seoul southern district prosecutors’ office announced that it had still not begun an investigation despite receiving requests from four civic organizations, including Right Korea (라이트코리아),  on the 24th, two days after the teargas incident. Some see this as prosecutors having no power to act because the National Assembly itself has not requested action against Rep. Kim.

On the 29th the National Assembly Secretariat accused Rep. Kim of interefering with government business, but only by damaging a door and a large window in a chamber of the Assembly. The Grand National Party has also accused him of breaking the law.

Jeon Hui-gyeong, head of Citizens United for Better Society (바른사회시민회), said of this that “with the National Assembly failing to call for action against Rep. Kim, the National Assembly could be seen as a lawless area… Because of this prosecutors are following the Assembly’s actions by taking none of their own.” Chairman Jeon continued that “if an ordinary citizen had set off teargas police and prosecutors would have already begun investigating… That prosecutors have done nothing about this shows they are making political considerations.”

Paark Jeong-seop, head of Freedom Union (자유연합), said that “the continuing delay of the investigation is an example of abuse of the law… People who break the law should all be treated exactly the same, with no differential treatment regarding social status.”

Today’s KORUS FTA news

November 29th, 2011 · Economy and Worklife, Politics · 0 comments

Here’s a round-up of the top FTA stories on Naver right now. The complete, real-time archive of the site’s articles is at this link.

1. President Lee promised that the FTA would give Korea access to the “larges market in the world, America” and thereby improve the nation’s economy, but also pledged to help manage the transition for those who are harmed by it in the short term.

2. Conservative lawmakers began the process of passing implementing legislation.

3. Progressive legislator Yu Shi-min vowed that the fight was not over and that liberals would be battling the implementing legislation.

4. FTA negotiator Kim Jong-hun predicted that even if the implementing legislation goes into effect in February, a quick timeframe, there would be no major problems encountered.

5. Police are searching for two people  who caused violence during protests in Jongro.

6. Democratic Party representative Kim Seon-dong, who actually fired off a tear gas canister in the National Assembly during the vote on the FTA, may or may not actually face punishment at the hands of his fellow legislators. Which would be pretty amazing.

Also, Korea has just seen its first fatality from Creutsfeldt-Jakob Disease, which is very similar to mad cow disease. A woman died of the exceedingly rare disease in July. It’s unclear how effectively this may be taken advantage  by beef import opponents, if at all.

Japanese tourists buying fake goods in Korea

November 28th, 2011 · Economy and Worklife, Japan · 0 comments

Well, hey, this is free trade, right?

Original article in Korean is at this link.

The Seoul office of the Korea Customs Service (관세청) has caught 39-year-old Mr. Choi, a tourist guide, secretly making and selling counterfeit brand name goods to Japanese tourists.

Mr. Choi is accused of setting a shop in an apartment in Hannam-dong where the fake goods were displayed and selling them to Japanese tourists enticed in off the street.

Customs Service investigators found that Mr. Choi moved the tourists in his personal car to avoid detection, and to prevent discovery during the departure process he used international mail to smuggle them out of the country.

The Customs Service has arrested Mr. Choi without detention and plans to refer him to prosecutors.

Korean judge in trouble over FTA comments

November 28th, 2011 · Economy and Worklife, Legal news · 0 comments

This week I’ll be surveying various responses in Korea to the ratification of the KORUS FTA — starting with a somewhat amusing story.

Original TV report in Korean is at this link.


With controversy over a sitting judge making critical remarks about the free trade agreement on Facebook, the courts are considering creating rules for the use of social network sites.

As spaces that are both private and public, social network sites are again an issue in our society.

Park Jo-eun reports.


The online world provides a service were you can be seen by total strangers.

Social network sites are private spaces that allow free communication with other people.

However, they can also be seen as public spaces where your “friends” and “followers” are strangers, and their number amplifies the reach of your thoughts.

The judge posted on Facebook remarks disparaging the FTA and the president, and they became controversial as they were publicly visible.

With the courts, there is as yet no clear regulation.

[Interview:Yang Seung-tae, Chief Justice of the Supreme Court]

“The commitee on public servants will make a full investigation and present a positive proposal. Until then it would be inappropriate for me to comment.”

A member of the courts said that because social network sites are neither e-mail nor discussion forums they do not fall under current rules.

He explained that the measurement of one’s influence is difficult to see discern just from the number of Facebook friends or Twitter followers.

Whether you have 100 friends, 1,000 friends, or more, your thoughts are still publicly viewable from anywhere.

The Supreme Court will convene its committee on public servants next week and discuss the need for guidelines or regulation on the use of social networking sites.

Also, it will consider whether the judge in this case violated regulations of public servants by expressing his political views.

Most-read articles of the week — Nov. 27, 2011

November 27th, 2011 · Stories of the Day/Week/Year · 0 comments

Top 10 in society.

1. A 40-year-old man was arrested on charges of beating an elderly woman to death for scolding him for littering.

2. North Face gear is getting to be more popular among teenagers.

3. One man’s story of a journey through chronic illness and treatment in a university hospital.

4. Eight months after committing matricide, a high school student took the CSAT.

5. A look at whether getting a high TOEIC score can drastically increase your chances of entering medical school.

6. A CEO’s personal driver was arrested on charges of threatening the CEO with a knife for firing him.

7. A 38-year-old idiot in Jeonju got 18 months in prison for beating someone up in an argument over how many shots of soju there are in a bottle.

8. A man in his 20s was sentenced to 10 years in prison for burglary and rape.

9. An interview with Kim Mi-hwa.

10. One of the Korea University medical students convicted of molesting a classmate is appealling his sentence, arguing that his crime was not deserving of a prison sentence. He received the same 18 months as the guy in #7.

How not to drive the kids home

November 26th, 2011 · Accidents, Crimes and Scandals · 0 comments

Original article in Korean is at this link.

In Ansan, nine kindergarten students were injured when the kindergarten owner drove while intoxicated.

On the 26th, the Ansan Police Station announced that at approximately 5:22 pm the day before, 45-year-old Ms. Kim was driving a school car in an apartment complex in the Jwabu-dong area of Ansan when she hit a tree on the sidewalk and a nearby wall.

A six-year-old girl named Kang and eight other children riding in the car, as well as 29-year-old  teacher Ms. Yang, were injured and treated at a nearby hospital.

Investigators found that Ms. Kim was driving with a suspended license and a blood-alcohol content of 0.075%.

Ms. Kim, who operates the kindergarten in the apartment complex, had eaten dinner with the teachers and confessed that she had had a bottle of soju to drink.

A member of the police said: “The parents were furious they they had entrusted their children to place like that… We plan to seek an indictment of Ms. Kim for violating the traffic law.”

Seoul’s student suicide rate

November 25th, 2011 · Education and ESL · 0 comments

Original article in Korean is at this link.

65 teenagers committed suicide in the Seoul area during the past three years, since 2009, a study has found.

On the 25th Kim Myeong-shin, Democratic Party member of the Seoul City Council’s education committee, released statistics of the Seoul Office of Education showing that from January 2009 through September 30th of this year there were 65 middle and high school student suicides.

There were none among elementary students but there were 17 among middle school students and 48 among high school students. There were 24 in 2009, 27 in 2010, and 14 in 2011.

The most common reason was family troubles, accounting for 11 suicides, followed by poor grades (9) and pessimistic views on life (8). 29 were for miscellaneous reasons.

6 students committed suicide because of physical defects, and 2 chose suicide because of problems with the opposite sex.

The  number of students who attempted suicide but failed were 2 in 2009 and 3 in 2011. Of those, 1 was a middle school student and 4 were in high school.

80% of Koreans want to be the boss

November 24th, 2011 · Economy and Worklife, Surveys and Studies · 0 comments

Original article in Korean is at this link.

A large number of office workers hope to start their own businesses, a study has found. At least half of workers “absolutely” intend to do so.

Job Korea surveyed 1,239 men and women and announced its findings on the 9th. 21.5% of office workers “definitely” intend to start their own businesses. 66.1% said they will “watch the economy and consider it,” making 87.6% in total.

Only the remaining 12.4% have no such intent.

Of the 1,085 office workers who did intend to do so, 50.6% want to do so when they receive their current low pay.

That was followed by times when their companies have no vision (37.8%), when their jobs are boring and repetitive (31.6%), when their jobs are pointless (27.5), when their boss is self-satisfied (11.6%), and when they are not treated well (3.6%).

The area that office workers most want to open their businesses in is coffee shops, at 38.5%. That was followed by restaurants (27.1%), shipping and trading (12.3%), fashion (12.3%), IT (7.5%), and construction (2.9%).

There were differences between men and women in the desired businesses. 56.7% of women wanted to own coffee shops, much higher than average.

Among men, 33.2% wanted to own a restaurant, followed by coffee shops (24.5%).

It costs an average of 114.91 million won to start a business.

Most workers would require 9.5 years to earn that much.

Korea Beat is now Twittering

November 23rd, 2011 · Announcements · 0 comments

Er, that’s what it’s called, right? At any rate, I’ve now got a Twitter feed going as @Korea_Beat. It’s still pretty barebones at the moment, but I’ll be Tweeting the stories posted here as well as quick summaries of other, untranslated articles and anything else I happen to find interesting. And my solemn promise to you — no pictures of what I have for lunch. So start following me!

What Korean students do and don’t do after the CSAT

November 23rd, 2011 · Education and ESL, Surveys and Studies · 0 comments

With the university entrance exams in Korea having wrapped up recently with the mailing out of scores, students are looking ahead to what they can do with their newly unstructured time.

Part-time jobs website AlbaChunguk announced on the 9th the results of its survey of 566 high school seniors, which found that 95.9% plan to start a part-time job after taking the CSAT.

AlbaChunguk said that “every year after the CSAT the number of teenagers looking to make some pocket money with a part-time job… Last year, the number increased 700% in November.”

Besides part-time jobs, students were also looking forward to getting driver’s licenses (15%), changing their appearances (12.8%), and just having fun with their friends (12.8%).

Others wanted to travel (12.6%), make friends of the opposite sex (9.5%), and sleep as much as they want (7%).

The number one thing they don’t want to do after the CSAT is be asked by their friends how they did on the exam (35.6%).

Other most-disliked activities include finding out their scores (16.8%), being nitpicked at by their parents (9.3%), and hearing any news of the exam (7.7%).