From the Korean Peninsula

Quite a bit to talk about…


The TPP will be a boon for South Korea:

The Korea Institute for International Economic Policy says Korea’s real GDP will grow 1.7 to 1.8 percent 10 years down the road if it joins the TPP trade pact, but if it does not, GDP will shrink 0.12 percent.

That puts opponents of the Washington-led deal here in a difficult position, especially since Chile, Malaysia, Vietnam and other countries with smaller economies did join the TPP.

If Korea is to join the ranks of the world’s advanced economies, it needs to stop dragging its feet over opening its markets out of fear of opposition from various interest groups. It must take the initiative by further opening the agricultural market and streamlining regulations on intellectual property and tariffs and customs. If it is to pull its economy out of the low-growth trap, additional market-opening measures are essential and unavoidable.


One hundred and nine professors have boycotted the government’s official textbooks for middle and high-school students while the government claims it will re-introduce the texts to counter left-wing bias. There has been a lot of discussion about the textbooks. Some believe that the tone of the texts is too leftists while some believe current texts will adopt a more pro-Japan sentiment (for background, see here and here).

Imagine such a discussion in North America.


But… but… tolerance!

Nine Korean totem poles that were severely damaged by religious fanatics in St. Petersburg have been removed from the site.

They were donated by Korea as a symbol of friendship to Russia’s second largest city on its 300th anniversary in 2003.

But the Jangseung totem poles, which are traditionally placed outside Korean villages to frighten away demons, attracted the ire of religious fanatics who insisted that Russia is a Christian Orthodox country and attacked them with chainsaws on April 15 this year.

They were irreparably damaged. According to local media, city officials removed the three remaining totem poles, which had stood in a park, on Sept. 22 while officials from the Korean Consulate General looked on.

City authorities apologized to the Korean Consulate General and began an investigation but failed to catch the vandals.

Kim Jong-heung, a famous Jangseung sculptor, made the totem poles from Russian pine trees.

They will be replaced by Harubang, a stone folklore symbol of Jeju Island believed to bring protection and fertility and ward off evil spirits, the consulate said.


Wow. Russia has really turned over a new leaf.


(Sidebar: Jangseung are Korean totem poles thought to protect villages and crops. One still sees them in rural areas though not many people see their significance beyond the cultural.)