Friday, 31 December 2010

Pati isoyo

It's just me. Work. Write, travel, do photos, write. Read. Sometimes talk.
Until it is some 1st May, 3rd May, 15th August or Silvester like now. And I end up having nothing to do because I never plan anything like that if I have too much work.

On a haste we decided to have common dinner. My Iranian friend Mona is an excellent cook and I really felt good with her companionship for the day.

At some point there was an idea to go to the Big Chill, our favorite bar in Suwon, where the fate had placed us to live at the moment. "Aga, are you coming? It's 11 pm? " a desparate sms from my Georgian friend Irina. Yes, sure I do, but first we need to get taxi. We went down to an ajoshi who is our watchdog and makes sure we don't get wasted in the dorm.

"Taxi obsoyo, no taxi, busy" our watchdog told us in broken english. My broken Korean was able to comprehend what he wanted to say.

In this case we left our industrialized prison camp and headed to the main street. Or so we thought that we ought to head to the main street. "Let's hitchhike" thought I seeing a guy next to the car at the lot. I stopped him and said "Happy New Year whoever you are and whatever are your plans. We are women as you see and if you wanna have a ride with two good looking ladies please take us to Nammun. Chinguryl mannayo" said I hoping that he was gentleman. To be frank I have no idea how did he look like, only that he was taller than me. Maybe Mona does. Maybe not. It was dark.

Does it sound spooky? Two foreign women stopped the car and abused a Korean young man? Well, he seemed to more than enjoy to drive us to Nammun where my friends where more than happy to see us.

Nate, thanks for the pool game. One of the most unequal in my life, but companion matters, not winning. Irina, thanks for dragging me out. Mona, thanks for the dinner. Nick, for being a DJ. All of you, just for being.

To my anonymous friend in the big sexy Hyundai: thank you for being as well. Thanks to you I could wear my summer shoes. You are our:

yes exactly. You are our pride of dorm. If you were not Korean it would not happen. So this is why I love Korea too.

Happy New Year people :)

Yeah, forgot to mention that I got wasted a bit so the tradition was fulfilled. And the taxi way back was just there the moment we went out of the bar. I like it.

Happy New Year 2011

To all my readers - Happy New Year 2011.
My all your decent wishes come true and indecent be forgotten :)

Wednesday, 22 December 2010

Sleeping with the enemy part 2

Yesterday I attended Christmas dinner at my ambassador's residence.

As we had been talking and mingling among each other the topic of recent events came up naturally and we had been wondering what comes next in inter- Korean relations and how it may affect our lives as expatriates.

Although general public does not care at all, the government does. At some point I said that I admire their cold-blooded reaction for Cheonan sinking in March, as in the West it would probably result in war. My current boss said that the chain of avoiding responsibility and pushing decisions as high up as possible is what makes that cold-blooded reaction. I cannot repeat here all the comments and remarks for obvious reasons. Although everyone agreed that life in Korea is like sleeping with the enemy. I heard that once from Swedish colonel from the Panmunjom base. In my recent coverage for press it is confirmed by many statements from guys who had accomplished military service. The threat is there and life goes on. Thrilling and toxic in one.

A year ago one of my readers asked me what would be the path to reunification and whether I believe in it or not. And if I could describe North and South Koreans as two different nations. I ask such questions very often and I see that the attitude varies depending on the generation and on the position. Older people repeat like mantra that there are only one Koreans and that South Korea moves on behalf of North in the international scene as well. The theme of broken families appears every now and then too.

But younger generation if asked really thoroughly replies clearly that North Korea is a problem, but it should be reseolved differently and that even if the regime changes one day they do not want 20 million of hungry people to be fed at their expense. They do not want higher taxes and no longer feel any kinship. If it was me to bet what is going to happen in the future, I bet that there will be two Korean states. They will maybe merge one day but only in a federation and only if the North catches up economically.

Are they two nations? Maybe... already yes maybe not yet. But... the first layer of Korean mentality is hierarchy and kinship - this is common for both South Koreans and North Koreans. Equally important in both societies. But the core difference is in the layer which was created very recently - the attitude to consumerism and competition. The attitude to democracy and acceptance of different ideas. Despite some 50 000 North Koreans who stay hidden in China and numbers in other countries, majority is behind the iron curtain brainwashed and convinced that elsewhere are only problems, diseases, AIDS, terrorism, etc. If even some of them watch South Korean dramas in secrecy, there is a chance that their mindset is non-capable of accepting modern capitalistic competition and requires a lot to be just given - a phenomenon known as homo sovieticus. South Koreans are totally different. Accept rat's race and competition, public debates, differences in the opinions as part of the normal daily life. My answer is yes, they are on the way to split forever.

Wednesday, 15 December 2010

Roots of conflict



Popular prejudice in the world perceives South Korea as democratic and liberal society which opposed totalitarian North. In reality the picture is a little bit more complicated than that. Let me introduce you to Syngman Rhee, the first president of South Korea, and the first one of subsequent South Korean dictators.


When Syngman Rhee had taken power as the first president of the Republic of Korea, he faced the reality of a post-war, post-occupation country with a society striving for survival.

In 1945 when the American presence on the Korean panninsula began, the country's economy was totally devastated. Although infrastructure had been spared from larger destruction, anything of economic value had been exploited to the fullest by Japanese military needs during the war.
More over South was the agricultural part of the penninsula with not more than 1/4th of the heavy industry, but in return, a food supplier for 65% of Korea.

Growing tensions with North under the communist regime did not make it any easier either. It is said that between 1945 and 1950 US overseas aid and UNRA donations saved lots of Korean lives, because hunger and starvation occured a lot.

Syngman Rhee was a Korean aristocrat born to a Yangban family. Under Japanese occupation had been involved in resistance movement and because of that was forced to leave the country. In exile he spent most of his life in USA where he gained university education but also continuously campaigned for Korean independence. He was also a member of Shanghai based Korean Provisional Government, however most of the time he stayed in USA.

His time in Korea came when it became apparent that short-term lived war alliance between US and Soviet Union will no longer be continued. Any attempts to discuss the future of the Korea by joint US-Soviet commision had failed and so the armistice line was settled on the 38th parallel. In such circumstances Rhee had started his term in the presidential office. The country urgently needed constitution and it was prepared. It secured a lot of civil rights which general Hodge had previously secured and was largely copied from the constitution of USA but with ready and effective escape clauses that guaranteed the right to impose martial law with direct presidential executive order if any danger arising from foreign relations should occur (Art 57).

Such solution seemed inevitable. Even before establishing the Republic, communist guerillas from the North had initiated a lot of unrest and uprisings. Authorities had been attacked on various occasions, the biggest uprising occured on Jeju-do and started to expand all over the country which faced already starvation and other problems.

These rebelions had been reason which led to the open surpression of civil liberties and excused why the first president of Korea had to act agressively on society by establishing the National Security Law.

By that time (1948) occupation forces withdrew from the penninsula and Kim Il Sung started to prepare for war which eventually broke out on June 25th 1950. The struggle led to a loss of 1 million lives and had been the direct challenge for the UN Chartter. 95% of the territory had been taken over by North Korean communists, some 0,5 mln Koreans were forcely dragged into Soviet lagers or for starvation in the middle of nowhere in vast Uzbekh and Kazakh territories. Seoul had been torn down to debris.

By the time the armistice was eatablished in 1953 Rhee became a ruthless authocrat. Although he bravely opposed the invasion he also used it as an excuse to strengthen his legitimacy and get rid of the opposition. He amended the constitution twice expanding the power of the president and to be elected by public vote. By the end of his term Rhee reminded more of the king surrounded by aristocrats than of a modern democratic leader.

Repressive measures towards society and growing infiltration, control and surpression of human rights using the anticommunism as an excuse had led to clash with American diplomacy. US Secretary of State delivered note stating that Rhee's style of ruling was ''unsuited for free democracy”. Although during this time anti – Americanism has been also growing because the American army had never openly critisized Rhee, all whatsoever critique had been done behind closed doors.

After 12 years in power facing massive growing protests president Syngman Rhee resigned from the office of the president and went into exile to USA.

Some may say that it is not an easy task to run a democratic society which permanently faces danger of war but also internal infiltration and provocations. Indeed history of the world shows that during transition from feudal state into modern democracy some form of autocratic rule often occurs.

Although critiques may say that president Rhee abused power to get rid of the opposition and exagerated threat from the North. In my own point of view both reasons occured. Also as a representative of Yangban family he belonged to the cast which very often had temptation to abuse power. And indeed he had opposition to get rid of.

The number of rival leaders is a very interesting issue itself. Could Koreans have prevented their own division? This question is not to be asked directly and is not answered.

Nevertheless for more than 20 years of it's existence Korean Provisional Government was not recognized by many countries. Too many rival organizations and voices called for the legitimate right to represent the interests of Koreans. A consistent unified voice would maybe change a lot. Syngman Rhee failed to think bigger than his own personal interest both during times of Japanese occupation and also later as president. Rhee took an occasion to became a dictator, just as an occasion makes one a thief. Although he had done one very honourable thing – he knew when to step down. And this was the end of the ROK First Repiblic.


Tuesday, 30 November 2010

Nation branding

I have already mentioned about Korean Nation Branding efforts and how they impress me. In more developed countries than Korea comprehensive nation advertising and public diplomacy took much longer time or is not that well organized.

Part of it is Korean Wave which currently hits Japan, China and other Asian countries. Korean boysbands and girlsbands, so called K-pop music to which you may find links in the video corner is just an example. Korean dramas with Winter Sonata leading among them, singer BoA and many others.

This entry on the blog will also be featured on Arirang TV soon thanks to which hospitality I can share even more stories about country's and city's promotion enterpreneurship.

This year Seoul was choosen as one of the must-visit cities by UNESCO as a result of long term action of the Metropolitan Government. Maybe it was this little creature, Haechi, which was designed as a Seoul brand based on a fictional good spirit, symbol of the city, which caused it? Who knows...

Whether Haechi himself had blessed the city with good spirits or not, he definately works as a brand developed back in 2008. Metropolitan government uses it as a symbol which helps promoting good businesses for tourists.

I was taken for a dessert to one of the restaurants in a Korean traditional house situated in a White Collar area, next to the COEX Intercontinental, the very site were G20 was held. The restaurant which name is Pulhyanggi serves all sorts of Korean food for very sophisticated set of clients who usually go there for business negotiations and incentives.
 Inside the Pulhyanggi...

Btw. did I mention that my favorite Korean food is a pancake with seafood which is called haemul pajeon and I can even make it myself?

And this is how restaurants are promoted with the city brand sign:
The Haechi drawing is based on the ancient creature I have already mentioned, which looks like this:
And Seoul area is full of them standing in all sorts of places, both very modern and traditional ones.

As a city Seoul tries to catch up with modernity but also save what is the best from it's ancient spirits. For this all sorts of different things are done, one of them is Cheonggye Stream near Gwanhamun Plaza, or Design Street near Toksugung Palace. There we may find interesting things like design chairs or sculptures as below:
All fitted in traditional historic environment.

Haechi is successful in promoting business as well. An idea which had not been followed by other cities so far as I know. As a brand Hi Seoul is shared by all sorts of small companies which are given support by Seoul Metropolitan Government. The partnership is perfect for both sides: the city promotes itself even better and business gets money and stable environment to grow.
Above is one of the example of the shared brand products. We visited the exhibition with the TV crew from Arirang and were given a gift set with very useful and very nice items including a pen with a flashlight which I use a lot right now.

Haechi itself is a legendary animal representing justice and integrity. The mythical creature distinguishes good from evil and was believed to bring fortune and luck and provide safety from disaster. The creature has been believed to serve as a guardian of Seoul for a long time.

At Gwanhamun Plaza the souvenir shop opened and the top sells are Haechi dolls in all sizes. I got myself the small one... maybe it will bring me the luck?

*******
Just as I shared with viewers of Arirang I will repeat here. Despite constant threat from the North Seoul flourishes. Korea flourishes. South Koreans take steps foreward, round the clock, like a circle in a spiral... strive and persist.

Special thanks to Yoon-mi Jung and her crew who assisted me for more than 6 hrs on a freezing Friday in Seoul driving me around the city wherever I wanted. Thank you for your hospitality and patience. I love Korea!

_________________________
Links to explore:
http://english.seoul.go.kr/gtk/news/news_view.php?idx=7700
http://www.idwseoul.com/interdesignen/user/bizapp/link/link_01.asp?sBBS=0501

Tuesday, 23 November 2010

Sleeping with the enemy - DMZ

Several recent posts supposed to be about G20 related stuff and the economy. But sometimes more important things pop up and nothing can be done about that.

Today North Korea shot 200 shells at the South Korean Yeongpyeong island  injuring 13 people and killing one and putting several dozens homes on fire.

Apart from sinking the Cheonan fregate that was the most important incident since the Korean War. Rising tensions in the region are caused by current power shift in North Korea where supposedly ill Kim Jong Il is trying to put his youngest son as a heir to the regime.

Last Monday I talked to colonel Ulf Persson who works at the Swedish base at Pammunjom. As we exchanged several diplomatic remarks as on such banquet occasions is normal, the colonel joked: "We are sleeping with the enemy".

Although for an average tourist DMZ is nothing special. The possibility of war apparently was so misty that South Korean business invented DMZ brand. Gadjets with DMZ, DMZ cola, DMZ t-shirts sell out very well among tourists who go for a trip to Panmunjom.

Despite that, chaos in the North is apparent. For many years status quo relied on simple exchange: we don't hurt you and you feed us in reward. North Korea was blackmailing doing something small from time to time and receiving economic aid as part of Sunshine Policy of the South government. So on one hand everyone earns money on anything they can and on the other those who have to be aware are aware and the silent tension of warzone is present in the air.

Now it is no longer that sure whether the game has still the same rules. It seems like there is some chaos in the North related to power shift. It is enough that small thing happens between fighting fractions and the war is ready.

The irony of fate is that DMZ is the only genuine ecosystem habitat in the entire penninsula. If the North and South is ever reunited this area might be one of the biggest National Parks in the world, and one of the only in this particular area, where development had paved everything in concrete across hundreds of kilometers. Typical irony of fate shows that where people can't boost, nature does, taking advantage of human hostilities.

Saturday, 20 November 2010

Gwanaksan

Changes in life sometimes come in shock and haste and can create some mess in one's brain. Each time I want to purify myself, restructure my internal logic and gain some energy, I hike.

The more challenging hike is, the better. Last year I lived at the bottom of Mount Gwanak which embraces with her northern slope Seoul National University Campus. Her view was tempting me every single day, but when I actually tried I had to quit. First because of lack of proper hiking shoes. Secondly because of not overcome fear of space after I spent 45' hanging over 500m steep in a blizzard in Tatra Mountains some 3 years ago. I still remember the moment I had to back off and how terrified I was. I owe it to a very close French friend of mine who carried me down. As simple as that.

This time I live away from SNU but Gwanak like a queen of Gyeonggi Do still reaches her arms towards me each time I see her from the bus. This time I haven't been waiting for anything, I just went. As I created the event on such a haste, noone joined me and maybe even for better?

Something told me to get off at Nakseongdae to pass by the dorm and campus of SNU. Visiting place I used to live before...
 the kid's playground on which I swinged away my "moodie" times...

the building in the family dorm I used to live in. So many memories accumulated over time. Irritation, boredom, disgust, fear, hope. Overally good time if I compare it to living in any kind of dorm for singles.

I walked all of my usual path down passing the language institute and the crown of the stadium where I saw the subject of my work at SNU, a magpie, pica sericea, asian type of what we know in Europe as a magpie. The bird which used to be a symbol of Korea and still hangs on the walls of all sorts Korean embassies globally. However is no longer a symbol because people started complaining for something about this bird, what, that I did not understand when SangIm, my professor's wife, was explaining me the issues.


Strongly tempted to drop by the institute resisted and went to the SNU gate to start a hike. It was about 10:30 when I stopped being lazy and made it in my dynamic pace just going foreward gradually higher and higher. Based on my instinct decided to get to the main range and turn left which should drag me to the place I had to surrender beforehand. And there it was... Gwanak range in late autumn sun appeared in front of my eyes and I had a rest for a while.


I was hiking at my own tempo stopping once a while to take a photo. What struck me was that all these legendar crowds vanished somewhere again and in the middle of 25mln city area there was just me and silence. The smog in Seoul makes anything practically invisible from the peak so the feeling of being away from civilization was enormous.

At some point I had to gradually overcome my fears because the trail became difficult in various places. I passed by some ajoshi in his mid-50's asking me:
- Odiso ishyossoyo? Where are you from?
- I come from Poland.
- Are you hiking that alone? Where are your friends? - such typical collective question, genuine and soft.
- Well... so it happened. Alone. - replied I taking hair away from my face.
- You are pretty woman. You should have a boyfriend. - ajoshi made my day with a smile.
- What can I do, I don't.
- Be careful, here is dangerous. Man should be for a woman. - and so he helped me to jump over some steepy break in the trail with some 150m of straight down space under my feet.

The sun was slowly caressing southern slopes of the mount. People were going up and down, having lunch, laughing together, exchanging thoughts. Joking about some plenty of issues which I could not understand fully but what I got was sun, light, and joy in their voices. So often they greeted me with their joy: we love you cause you love hiking. I was patiently getting through rocks which seemed to be neverending up and down up and down until the moment when I saw it. I saw the peak. It was approximately 3 pm when I reached the bunch of electric cables near KBS tower on the top of Gwanak. At one point some Koreans stopped me asking in fluent english:
- Hello, you almost made it. Wanna eat? - I was reluctant for a while but would never abuse hospitality. I was fed by a very resourceful wife of my host who prepared seaweed, rice, kimchi, and dried fish. How did it taste at this time!
- Aju mashissoyo, Hanguk aju juoaheyo - spoken I in my broken Korean.
My hosts started asking what is my name and where am I from and other questions. I asked them where they are from too. Apperently it was a Korean professors couple on holidays from USA. Their hospitality was something which brought back my faith in human species as such.
- My name is Aga.
- Aga... - burst with laugh - oh how funny. It is actually a small baby in Korean. Indeed you have a young face.
- I'm not that young anymore. Then I said my age.
- Impossible! - so nice reaction of them made my day with genuine smile.
- But you should not hike alone! It's not healthy! - yeah, tell me about it. What to do when there is no other option?

Yeah... supported with fresh strength I kept on going until the trail for Gwacheon detached. It was time to go down despite the fact that I skipped reaching the observatory point which was still several hundred of meters away. On this side of the mount though every trail was easy and comfortable paved with steps so indeed crowds of hikers headed for the Gwanak Observatory point. I gradually went down...

As I was walking down and people were passing I saw a girl without shoes or say with shoes in her hands. That is not someone who would make it before getting dark. On haste I decided to pack her shoes to my backpack and get her down somehow. I would have carried her down on my back, but Yujin as was her name, was too scared of that. I experienced real gratitude which I must admit tastes nice. Nevertheless I would never leave her behind as my long term hiking experience says that mountains are not a terrain for any kind of competition between people. In a result of this I gained a a new friend and finished the day full of good emotions.


_____________
Practical information:
Gwanak is a mount in South of Seoul built of old granites. It's relevant difference in altitude towards the bottom makes her a reasonable goal for an average hiker with good shoes and with no fear of altitude and space. Height: 629m a.s.l. In Korean mountains it's good to have your lunch and drinks with you and also pick up the trush.

Time: if you want to make it leisure and take photos etc from SNU Main Gate through the pass until the summit and down to Sadang or Gwachon - 7hrs.

Sunday, 14 November 2010

The Currency Issue - G20 aftermath

Summit, summit, and after summit. G20 is over.

I promise this time not to make any typo which irritated so much one of my friend faculties ( sorry about that).

The hottest issue discussed during the summit was the apparent currency war between China and USA. One might actually think that it is some new issue suddenly on the global media agenda.

It is not. Indeed it roots from the very times of  Deng Xiao- Ping as China's head of state. It was him who told to the nation "Socialism does not mean being poor. Get rich by all means you can. It is not important if a cat is black or white, the important part is that he hunts for mice". With more or less these words Deng "encouraged" the nation with centralized carefully planned vision of economic growth. He started from getting hands on Hong Kong area and it's finnacial businesses and opening it's shores to foreign investment in simple-assembly electronic sector.

USA with raising wages in it's blue collar sector was very happy with this solution. Together with another stage of multilateral talks in WTO rounds, that was a strategy which supposed to be both successful for american businesses relocating their factories and for long-term democratization agenda which USA had actually never given up.

As I often say, West plans for 4 years term in office, East, including Korea, Japan, and especially China, plans on tens of years ahead. This is one of the factors totally ignored during any sort of economic actions and negotiations done by the Western powers.

China gradually accumulated and invested capital inflow since the very 80's. Hong Kong street educated financial tycoons advised and still do advise central government on what to do when and how to get richer and to checkmate USA on the global political and economic map.

Weak renminbi means long term exports of goods which conquer 25%-30% of the Western customers pockets with their affordable price. This as such has been a long term basis of Chinese growth. Only recently China invests in own R&D and focuses on own high-tech era in development.

So China secured lots of $ simply buying them off the forex market, investing in US treasury bonds or securing them out of trade. The first crisis encountered in 1998 when USA woke up and started insisting on Beijing to make the Yuan more real in value so the Chinese goods would no longer be that cheap.

The second crisis encountered in 2007 when during subprime mess $ got dramatically weaker and some China critics in Congress started advocating that stronger Yuan will bring blue-collar jobs back to USA and so on.

Third one is happening just now and is related to current $ situation in general.

By common sense economically it's nonsense to say that stronger yuan will change anything. China is no longer cheap labor market. And although manufactured good are decreasing as % of USGDP the high-skill and talent added value ones are still it's comparative advantage.

Current situation is a strong effect of superficially liberal full of mess lacking working transparent regulations American economy. And the American attitude to prosperity - if I can no longer afford Cherokkee 4x4 each year it means there is a crisis.

Finally in terms of politics Washington realized that it cannot insist on Beijing about anything, whether this be freedom press, transparency, human rights, etc., simply because it's time to be afraid of what actually China can do with $ and it can do a lot.

As in 2007 one of the Chinese scholars had put it very clear:" If Yuan gets appreciated dramatically we will be forced to sell our $ assets into the market. As long as the exchange rate is stable it's ok."

In both countries politics plays a major role and now it's the middle of struggle for dominance in the world between an emerging Asian dragon and mature, slow, but neverthelessly still strong American grizzly.

Maybe after all Deutsche Welle journalist was right on Friday when he said: "regarding currency issue, is it an advance in process if they talk?"

From my point of view, maybe it is. But the conversation can be pictured as above on the illustration.

*********

Have a nice day or night, wherever you are.
Even if you are worried about the economy or politics or future of the world as such, don't forget to show love, appreciate your friends and folks. After all that is what makes it all fuzz worth living.

********
Illustration comes from safeheaven.com

Friday, 12 November 2010

G20 aftermath

This is the first in a series of posts related to G20. I hope to provoke some discussion here, so if you read this and feel heated by my comments, use email to blow your arguments on me, it's a genuine offer.

Today my crazy Polish friend Martyna went with her Turkish equivalent to Seoul to protest against G20. As we had some issues to discuss I called her and caught her on the spot in action screaming Stop G20 and so on. I just remember that I told her to have some mercy, cause after all, these guys do also care for the world. Martyna replied "Funny said".

Hmmm, good question, asked I myself, do they?
Here in Korea everyone is so crazy about it because it helps Korean nation branding and advertises the city globally. Just like tourism increased after the FIFA WC 2002 it will boost now cause everyone would like to see COEX.

Nevertheless leaders had come to Seoul for 2 days, or say 24hrs to discuss some hot issues. Prior to this event Korea held two semi successful conference events: G20 Development Conference and Bridge20 held in recent weeks.

As part of Nation Branding Korea is trying to build it's public diplomacy by sharing her development path as the growth model for other nations. But also Korea had taken a role of advocacy of African nations and therefore their representatives had been present.

So they talked about currencies, trade inequalities, and other stuff. So they agreed on the issues about trade inequalities between developing and developed countries. As to the heated currency issue one of the journalists on Deutsche Welle had put it: "They actually talk about it, do you think it's already some advance in the process?"

As part of the Seoul statement they want to put more responsibilities on China for the global banking system, that is their solution.

Several months ago I volunteered to do the coverage for the 1st Polish Radio Channel on the event. My boss replied: "No need, they will talk a bit, smile to the camera and so it will be". Apparently he was right. Actually I feel pity for all these protesters because it's November and rather freezing outside. It all seems like barking at the wrong tree.

There are things which are not even talked on G20 meetings, and these are speculations and short term forex games which tend to do a lot of mess in the global finance world.

I messed up the 3rd session of G20 Development Conference with a very inconvenient question. Suddenly during a very sleepy panel on food crisis and sustainable development I got suddenly very awake when I heard that wheat price rise and rice price rise in 2007 - 2008 had been due to oil price rise. Well to my best knowledge no it had not. It was a result of sudden fund allocation by Goldman Sachs and Lehman Brothers when they got to conclusion that they actually miss some hard cash in their safe boxes which they won't get from ill-managed housing loans so why not take it from food commodities?

I have smiled nicely and asked "We may face one underestimated issue here... - here I went on explaining the issue of speculation and continued - how possibly can G20 restore transparency on food commodity market, what can be done about food commodity bonds?" There was a moment of awkward silence and the speaker said " Well there is no evidence that the food commodity price rise had been a result of speculation"... in that moment I had seen movement in the ballroom, that is when everyone got really awake looking at me with this expression "Are they nuts?"

I smiled to the very end, nicely thanked the panelists for their answers and headed to the lobby for a cup of coffee. On the way Mr Cozendey from Foreign Office of Brasil, their economic expert said to me "Well, are you happy with their answers?" I denied. He replied stating as follows " And you are right, there are quantities of $ flying on food commodity speculation and it's exchange rate is linked to it in bigger extent than with anything else".

Some people may ask me why don't I come with solutions instead of critisism?
Oh I do, here they are: let ill-managed banks go bankrupt, don't bail them out. The blank space left by one business is almost immediately taken by the other one. The one which may offer something better to the market and it applies to banks just as much as to anything else. I can understand a bailout for some coal mine employing 80% of population of some area, but a bank??? Give me a break!

And I have my argument to back this up. Goldman Sachs received first bailout, and what did it do? It played on currencies in Middle and Eastern Europe almost directly causing financial and political trouble in Ukraine, Hungary, and Baltic States. They also tried to play on Zloty and our Fed made the intervention movement.

Is this what you are supposed to do with money taken straight from pockets of hardworking American commoners? Spread the financial crisis globally, spread the turmoil and smile to the photo afterwards?

These are my thoughts regarding G20.

Thursday, 11 November 2010

G20

Good luck Seoul. Good luck to all the people who spent sleepless nights on all the preparations for the summit.
I will write about the event later on.
Have patience.

Monday, 8 November 2010

Seoroksan



A refuge.

We made it to the park early evening on Saturday. Louisa and me. We saw mountains. Dah, kind of usual sight in Korea, one may think.

Seoroksan is not an usual sight. It's sharp white peaks arising straight from the sea level leaving just a minor space for Sokcho city to hug in between leave a newcomer with a sight curved into the head forever.

The National Park is said to be a very center of Korean hiking tourism, is also said to have crowds of people on every trail. Apparently we were lucky.

As we went uphill along a V shaped rocky valley with a creek in it's bed we gradually avoided human beings. Those who we met were of it's special kind, the kind which makes it to the mountains for a prayer, for a reunion with Creator, reunion with Mother Nature. Buddist monks with their bells and catholic nuns with their rosaries, and middle aged Korean hikers, families, friends in groups by 2, 3 or 4.

The sky was blue and the air seemed chilly and sharp with it's touch of mountain freshness. Wind blew steadily and leaves were falling down the trees in all sorts of autumn colors. Despite the wind there was also this silence, this point on the way which forces naughty human being to stop, to slow down, to reflect.

A range itself is an amazing example of precambrian - paleozoic geological structure. Rocks forming the penninsula are very old of all sorts: ingenous and sedimentary as well marbles and other methamorphic ones. Grey paleozoic limestone has been eroded away by water giving space to steepy walls of more resistant gneisses which especially in Seoroksan have their stripe structure visible everywhere. Apart from gneisses, also porphyry and ryolites, limestones and slates are everywhere.

Huge stones in river beds may surprise a visitor. Does water really have that much power? It has, during sudden downpours it can move huge rocks on it's way.

A hiker goes and cherishes his eyes with these wonders of nature, so old and majestic. The average altitude is not bigger than 1700 m above sea level but the bottom of the mountains is at sea level so it gives altogether 1700 m of relative altitude difference.

People bewitched with it's beauty will become calm and friendly. Silently help eachother or show their enthusiasm by wholeheartedly greeting a stranger. Just as we did with Darren and Jo. Sudden hiker you meet on the way and start talking and spend nice time with connected by common challenges and spirits is the best part of mountain hiking.

The only thing which may spoil the taste of nature is unfriendliness of hut managers. Korean extreme capitalism had reached even here. Everything is traded for high price everywhere. Maybe their unfriendliness is also a part of the social spirit and structure? As mountain rescue officers they are the bosses and they are on top of the hierarchy which may excuse their unapprochable attitude. It is seen in front of the hut when Korean hikers are using their own gas to boil the water instead of having it done by the rescue man if he is around in his hut. He eventually gave us a bit of hot water to our thermal bottle - but - as a result of huge quarrel which really spoiled our moods for a while. We have experience with hot water given for free everywhere in every mountain shelter. Because it is just hot water and because it may save your life.

But this small bitter taste did not spoil our overall impression, which we still have. We still see the stones, hear the mountain creek and feel the silence of nature.

Good morning or good evening wherever you are
Aga

__________________________________
Practical information:
To Seoroksan: Take a bus to Sokcho City and decide which park gate you wanna take later
There are two bus terminals, one directly on the way to the main gate another one more away from it.
Bus ride from Seoul is 25000 KRW approximately.
Motel stay is 50000KRW for a room approximately.
To the gates of the park there are buses leaving from the other terminal close to the Fish Market.
Important: get some reasonable maps from somewhere else than the information center. All what you get there is oversimplified idiot's version. The times given are for really sportive hikers who just run. If you want leisure time, reasonable pleasure with views and some photoshooting multiply the times by 1.5 at least. If you want to have a hot dinner, better take field cooking device with you. Ok, that's all of my preeching for this time lol :)

Friday, 22 October 2010

CNN Poland Korea - Global Connections


Last tuesday a lady from CNN asked me if I agreed to show on Global Connections as they have a Poland -Korea week ongoing.

It prooves imagination and high IQ actually to spot the simmilarities and connections between the two countries, cause they are there and many of them.

In OECD ranking Polish and Koreans work the longest hours in developed countries outscoring demonized USA by 7 places.

Unlike other rather cool and hush down East Asians, the Koreans are hot-tempered and one has impression that they tend to blow up even in business, and this happens to Polish as well. We do quarrel and blow up a lot, enough if I mention my dad who is like a volcano.

On Global Connections website people had been putting thoughts which popped up in their minds on the topic.

From very accurate like simmilarities in folk cuisine - cabbage (sourkraut) and dumplings, to very absurd and idiotic like paper cut and caligraphy paper.

Here I come to the very core of my point. Making superficial remarks by American who doesn't speak proper Polish anymore and had maybe one Polish grandfather does not make much sense here, does it? Yet it very often happens. So, according to some Polish-American Polish culture is all about "wy -chee - naan - kee" how he had written it in the website.

Never again mention paper-cut as something core important in Polish culture if you don't actually know it and have never been there. Polish folk culture differs a lot and when you drive 30 km the folk traditional dress maybe already the whole different. Paper cuts were peasants solution for cheap wall decorations in a region which is much smaller than Warsaw nowadays and it was ... more than 100 years ago, so it has now a museum value and is not a living culture at all. Therefore attaching it as something called "Polish culture" may be strongly insulting.


If you really want to know what Polish culture is about, get to know Możdżer, Chopin, Penderecki, Kilar, Polanski, Kieslowski, Kossak, and so on and so on. If you are interested in folk culture, move your ass and come before you say that "paper cut" is what defines it. 

Core difference is that Korea had been a feudal state until 1910, and Poland had first form of democracy established as early as 1570. Therefore Korean culture is strongly homogenous, but even they had also had astonishingly beautiful poetry and even for them it may be insulting to be associated with cabbage and paper.




*************
Though I must admit that EXPO had been a success in terms of architecture. The EXPO -POLAND  building
had been copied around whole Asia including Dubai, and within first 4 days of the show, 28000 people visited the building. Maybe those who visited will, after all, go to visit and discover even more. And especially that modern buildings in Warsaw are not made of "Wy Chee  nan kee". 

*************
The show on CNN was cool. It was very nice to get some recognition as a country on CNN, however so late. Global stocks, inverstors, funds, and business would not admit it but invests a lot in "Warsaw" related entities, bonds, financial instruments and others. As Jack Nicholson said" Better Late Than Later". Korea was also a veeery long time ago discovered by international business. Only media, as usual, are the latest.

I appeared on the show for brief second, and I do promise that I will never ever do it again because it is not nice and not professional to be "grey citizen" speaking for CNN. I had no make-up cause the lady was late, had forgotten the appointment and all my nice cloths, nice hairstyle and nice makeup was gone when she finally contacted me at more or less 1 am.

The photo shows Polish pavilon on EXPO. Wy -chee-naan-kee. Enjoy.

Wednesday, 20 October 2010

"Sustainable" concept of development

I think I might have written about this before, but today I had a successfull presentation about international aspect of sustainability at the University of Ajou Global Leadership for Sustainable Development International Seminar, exactly today, October 20th.

During my research I have read thousands of pages, papers, and so on, but also interviewed people, read newspapers. From common sense observation, sustainable development was put aside after the 1997 financial crisis in Korea, and it is very said because it influences not only natural environment but also national heritage - traditional Korea in terms of it's authentic non-museum non- festive manner is disappearing if not disappeared already.

Faculty are conscious about it, and they admit it as a sad fact, but not much can they do within this matter. They would have to be very close to actual policymakers in the presidential's committee to change that.
Maybe something even more is needed, such a conclusion came to my mind at the very end of my presentation. The comprehensive system of environmental awareness education is needed from the very kindergarden in schools and also in public media. Our minds are already shaped when we join academia, It's too late to learn about sustainable development or eco-friendly approach and manners of life.

How is it in Poland, one may ask. Well Poland is green because of it's historic heritage, public approach is divided, just like in Korea. Some say: grow, develop, grow, develop, build, expand, and some say: think before you act and "though shall not kill". Positivism and it's historic legacy of natural scientists who involved into early modern conservation ideas led to establishing first Natural Reserves and Natural Parks in the late 19th/early 20th Century. Later Sustainable Development was under the carpet during communist times, two professors worked on it and two of them also served as high rank UN ofiicials building framework fundamentals for global sustainability. For those really interested I recommend works and interviews of Ignacius Sachs or Stefan Kozłowski (more of Sachs in english).

Both Poland and Korea are facing modern development pressures. But both are conscious about growth limitations, and seek the way to achieve sustainability, and have ways to share the experience: Poland it's fundamental heritage for global conservation and Korea it's global stewardship for sustainable ideas.

The paper and the presentation will be published soon at my website: www.agnieszka,schibgilla.de

Have a nice day, evening, night.

Enjoy the natural world till you still can, treasure every little bit of it.
"The culture which cuts off from the wild life in nature around us and also from the wild life of our inner selves, is meant for self-destruction" Gary Snyder

Tuesday, 19 October 2010

Orange

... about how my faith in humanity was restored and why I love Korea.

Because I do, genuinely.

Today I went to fix my new cellphone number. I couldn't manage with it, cause apparently they have no prepaid cells available on the spot, but I had funny adventures.

I went to SK Telecom shop and heard a very well accented "Hi". A good looking bit panicked young man was watching me and waiting until I say something.

- I want to get the cheapest prepaid phone you have.

- Impossible. - oh, I already thought it was impossible because of my ARN is until Deecember only.
- Why?

Then I had seen him opening google translate, typing something in Korean and the screen had shown:
- We don't have now. Sorry.
- Onjae isoyo? When will you have ? ( less gramatically correct but he seemed to understand me well).
- Monday.
- Olmayeyo? How much?
This time it was calculator in use.
- Handy phony 29000, chargy 20 000 KRW.
- ??? - nomu pisayo. Expensive! Why that?
- Chergy 20 000.
- Arossoyo. I see.
And I start taking money from my wallet.
- Aniyo, on monday. Come. Pay.
Broken english was just enough for me to understand what he was saying. My broken Korean spared him from typing each time on the screen. One thing came to my mind though.
- How will you know it's me? Why don't you write it down somewhere?
I had written him down my landline and a word Monday on yellow sticker.
- Ah, arossoyo. Kinchanayo. - heard I in response.
- Nanyn 월요일 come. I will come on monday.
- See you on Monday.
*********
How friendly place in the world is this country. In Poland there are global policies and global solutions and here every branch of the bank and every branch of any telecom has policies adjusted to local community of customers and their needs. The closest telecom shop to Ajou makes no fuzz about anything, no formalities, even if it's staff does not speak english at all and uses google translate instaed. I think two dimensions make it prevailing the way it does. Asians do not complain that much and are not that poshy as customers. I am not that poshy as a traveller as well. In Poland some sophisticated Briton would maybe make a big fuzz about the level of the service, especially in Warsaw's white collar district. A personnel without good command of english would be fired. Here, noone cares... and I love it.

As I was walking down my local food and service street close to Ajou, walking back home, I decided to have a cup of nice coffee.

- Hojilnot isoyo? - asked I gently in haha Coffee shop.
- Anyohaseyo, oh, haizeelnoty obsoyo. Myanamnidah. We don't have hazelnut coffee now, sorry.

I saw a very nice guy in his 40's with genuine smile saying sorry to a customer with his entire self, and he ran away from the shop somewhere as I was waiting for machiato he offered to make with a discount.

My machiato was ready when I saw a guy rushing back in with a bunch of mandarines, giving me two of them said:
- Mashilke tyseyo - bon apetite.

And he said something which in my instinct translation sounded like " Have a nice day".

Not much was needed to make me even more happy today.

Now, eating my mandarine.
The photo comes from flog.pl.

Tuesday, 12 October 2010

North Korea: heir officially appointed

North Korean dynasty seems to be well. Last Sunday on the North Korean military parade marking 65 years of reclusive state's rule the father and son, Kim Jong Il and Kim Jong Un, appeared together side to side.

It is too early to say if it's going to change anything in NK policies towards it's Southern neighbor, power shift very often brings sudden changes. Kim Jong Un has to be accepted by majority of informal leaders. If he is not, then "righteous" rebelion based on ancient confucian culture may very likely take place, just like it was in South Korea in 1979, when development dictator Park was assasinated.

Kim Jong Il had probably suffered from a stroke in 2008 and hence focused on establishing a heir. It comes to my mind in this case, what is actually a chance for a dynasty in North Korea? Maybe it sounds silly, but...

Next to it, South Korean society does not want any kind of reconciliation anymore. Reconciliation with North Korea starts to be an old granny story for plenty of young people, but relevant data I shall reveal soon. I perform research on this issue and expect some results in a month.

Up till now, nothing changed. The world turns as it turned before...

Wednesday, 22 September 2010

Chusok

It's Chusok now.
The most important holidays in Korea. It is on the 15th of 8th lunar month, so it is either in September or in October of the Gregorian solar calendar ( means the calendar we use globally).

The encyclopedia says that it is 2000 years old harvest festival in Korea. It is also sort of thanksgiving day, though not to the God as it used to be in the West, but to the ancestors.

It is a time of enormous traffic, as most of the inhabitants of Seoul are people who live here for  no longer than 50 years. Most of these modern nuclear families go to the countryside to visit their relatives and on the Chusok day pay respects at their ancestors graves.

The ancestors worship originates from primeaval Korean times, longer than confucianism, buddism taken altogether. It has it's roots in Shamanism, in times when harvest was crucial to survival of the group (clan) and ancestors were worshipped as the source of care and inherited group wisdom shared spiritually by all of the members of the tribal village. In ancient Korea there were several shamanistic influences both from the South and from the North, nevertheless with the similar characteristics in it.

Ancestor worship was digested by buddism and taken as part of the belief system, later confucianism also did not fight with this as it fell into the category of filial piety.

What is Chusok now? It is difficult for a foreigner to grasp. All we see is that buses are not that much crowded, on subway there are less people, less cars race down the streets. The lazy relaxed athmosphere is somehow in the air.

I have learnt from my Korean friends that Chusok requires lots of preparations. Ideally these are women of all generations gathering together for baking song pyun and cooking japchae. Song pyun are traditional rice cakes, very delicious, and japchae are friend brown noodles, something worth to try.

Sometimes guys help in these preparations as well, especially in the families where there are no girls. Chu Won, my ex- coworker, helps his mother a lot during Chusok and Sollal.

In the old times there used to be common gatherings and festivals in the villages, just like globally in the rural society getting together is an important thing.

Currently Koreans cook and eat, but they also play games or watch movies. Encyclopedias say that they also make their traditional dances in the evenings, but I haven't seen it in my own eyes.

Not everyone goes home though. Some troubled young people or those who quarelled with their families, go nowhere.

Chusok is a test of character for many. Together with Sollal, Chusok is also a time when couples suffer, cause no matter how much in love they are, usually both have big family assemblies. In the West, we would not invite someone casual, but a serious partner shares our family holidays. It's actually a test for the relationship, as to how serious it is. Here though, even if the relationship is serious, people are still parted for that time. I have no idea yet how is it with married couples, this is yet to discover.

And dear Iris, Doe Won, I will never forget your invitation for Sollal. Time which we, foreigners, could share with you and your family at your family table on the first day of Lunar New Year.

*****
Source of a photo: http://rice-cake.info/

Thursday, 2 September 2010

Climate typhoons etc

Last night the typhoon hit South Korea's capital area including the city where I live, Suwon. We woke up in the middle of the night, both of us, not knowing what to do next. Things were flying in the air and trees were falling down. After 4 hrs or so it all calmed down, but the remains of fallen trees are still there. In Seoul several people were killed.  Now I know what the tropical storm is, and I didn't wake up for the worst part of it, which my friend survived in a lonely nervous silence. Two weeks ago, back in Poland, I've been through worse things though ( but that's an offtopic).


Climate in Korea is warm temparate monsoon with influences of subtropical. It varies depending on the lattitude.
Winter normally is cold and dry, with not much snow, except for recent times. Autumn is beautifull, but short, characterizes in beautifull colors of leaves on the trees. It also doesn't rain a lot during the autumn, compared to the monsoon time. Spring is warm and nice with not that much rain either.  In summer, when monsoon season starts, it rains a lot and it's also humid. Humidity in the air exceeds 90%, means that all you wear or touch is wet.

I survived the storm inside the building and I will take some photos of the remains and present them here.
As I was sitting in the embrace of quite safe modern building very sure that nothing will happen to me, I thought of how big progress Asian countries made over recent decades. I remember the phrase from James Clavell's Tai-Pan in which on the island of Hongkong in the end of the 19th century Tai-Pan's beloved asks the question: - Where are we going to hide, Tai-Pan?
And he replies:

- There's no refuge from typhoon My Love.

They both die in each other's embrace killed by the tropical storm.
*******
Each time I think about this I appreciate the engineering skills of construction. We survived the storm unscratched as we all live in modern buildings.

Monday, 30 August 2010

Immigration affairs

Every person who is not coming for tourist reasons and is staying in Korea for longer than 90 days needs to apply for the Alien Registration Card and Number in the Immigration Office.

Immigration Offices are local to your residence area, and the list of them is in the internet. Ask a Korean assistance to explain where is the nearst one for you.

In Seoul it is near Omokgyo Station, where you follow the exit indicating Seoul Immigration Office, turn right after you exit the subway and go straight until you see a triangular crossing. The Immigration Office is on your left.  You will see signs bringing you there which are on the 3m height attaches to the trees or other things, though not many of them.

In Suwon, get the transport to Yeongtong Park. From Ajou University you can take the bus number 11-1 from in front of GS25 minishop near the Main Gate. Once on the bus, count 14 stops or focus until you hear Yongtong Koongwon, and you pass under the curvy bridge over the road and immediately on your left you will see the Tesco/ Home Plus Megastore.

Get off the bus. Go back until the curvy bridge. Climb the bridge. Go across the bridge. Cross the road. Go straight through the narrow road full of small businesses. Cross the road. On your right there is Suwon Immigration Office blg.

Make sure you have sufficient documents with you. Normally these are: passport, two photos, and a certificate indicating that you are a student or a faculty member or that you are anyhow else employed in Korea. If you don't have the photos, you can make them in the machine. Warning: the machine accepts only 1000 or 5000 KRW. The current fee for photos is 6000 KRW.

Once at the window, explain what you need. The clerks speak pretty good english, unlike in Seoul. You may also ask for reentry permit and ask for your card to be sent to your address later on. The waiting time is apprx two weeks. The fee is 10 000 KRW and you need to by a Revenue Stamp and give it to the clerk ( do it before you approach the window - it's faster).

When you go out of the Immigration Office, make sure you take the proper exit, it's very easy to get lost. If you are lost ask where is the Home Plus, it's your orientation point.

The bus stop which takes you back to the University, is under the bridge. You can take the bus 720-3. Focus until you hear "Ajoodehakkyo" in the name of the bus, and get off. This will be either the University Hospital, or the next stop. Both are ok to get to the campus. Good job, you made it.

Friday, 27 August 2010

So again

I arrived to Korea and from now on I will cover Korean issues with doubled attention. There will be also some changes to the blog, which I will introduce later.

I wondered what to write about at first. Today we had the orientation day at Ajou University, Suwon.
We have been introduced to the stuff and the facilities and got bit more familiar with the campus life and the formalities.

At one moment there was a minute of speech about the aclimatization shock and cultural shock as well. We all come from somewhere and belong to somewhere and are afraid of what's new and unknown.

There were symptoms presented such as radical changes in behaviour. Emotional withdrawal, overreacting, stigmatization and stereotypization of the host culture, long sleep, sudden cleaning attitude and so on.

However I have been to Korea I wonder if it got on me, because I am very well sorted out and I live a healthy life this time. I have enough of sleep and I eat only healthy food and not much, on a very regular basis. And I stick to my European food habits, first meal after 1 pm. But I am much more sorted out than I was in Europe. So I simply ask myself if I have these symptoms or not?

Irritation feeling was one of those mentioned. I have that recently. I feel knocked off my balance. I hope this is only because since I arrived I don't really have time for myself. A lot happens all the time and my friends keep talking and talking to me. No chillout so far. Now I feel like my balance and energy flow on place because I type this in my room in a total silence.

There will be changes to a blog. I will group posts into simple tagged categories like: politics, society, culture, cross culture issues, anecdotes, tourist usefull, business usefull. Once a week there will be a post labeled by one or more of these tags for more clear overview. I will also relabel the old ones.

Enjoy. And please contact me with any questions you have. I'll try to answer most of them.

Aga

Thursday, 8 July 2010

Break

The blog is suspended until I say otherwise, likely 3 weeks or so.

Monday, 5 July 2010

Cross-cultural business perspective

Koreans invest a lot abroad, though I have rumours that these are also smaller companies associated under the global Korean brands to make things easier.

Once they invest, like for example here in Poland, in Development Centers (Samsung) it is more or less cool, as engineers have jobs and nice things can be done.

But there are also manufacturing businesses located like LG or others.

The Polish - Korean romance in global business reaches 90's as Deawoo FSO was established to help the FSO save jobs and production. But as the Deawoo collapsed in 1997 during Korean crisis, Daewoo FSO was just quit and shut down despite of good revenues and nice cars produced and sold. Shit happens. Still Llanos is considered one of the better cars with optimal relation of the price to quality.

Later more businesses opened. And people employed started their dream jobs in many corners of Poland touched by unemployment. Soon several companies like Humax and Toshen, but also LG faced criminal charges for worker's rights abuse. Mostly women were forced to work up to 15 hours a day with a very limited payment and with no possibility to use a bathroom or eat a sandwich. If they raised their rights coded in EU law up, they were either beaten or shouted at and threatened to loose their jobs.

There are cross-cultural relations in behavior, attitude and aproach to work. I often advice on cross-cultural European- East Asian misperceptions and miscommunications. But this time I have a message to our Korean counterparts: Once in Rome, do as Romans do. If you enter our culture- adjust and learn as well, this saves trouble for both sides.

If you want to make a Polish person, wether a woman or a man, work efficiently, give flexibility and payrise. Appreciate and motivate. Shouting or yealing doesn't work on us.

Saturday, 3 July 2010

Football&National Planning

What one has to do with the other, one may ask?

Even within quantities of work I am of course watching the games sometimes.
Yesterday we have seen a magnificent victory of Netherlands over Brasil in Port Elisabeth.

Another cool thing was watching nice games of South Korean team and their 1/8 final game with Urugway.
This game and also previous games in this WorldCup and any other since 2002 is the illustration of Korean Management and attitude. Money makes success because we will simply copy the best systems and employ the best available couches.

It happens everywhere. In any Korea's global business, any bank, any research institute. And yet, all of it stays Korean. The hell with that we actually employed and paid for success, when the flag is Korean, team is Korean, bank is Korean business is Korean. All remains Korean.

Football is a very interesting topic to study social attitudes and human creativity or else, lack of it. As a collective and team work game it requires collective mind and good group cooperation. Then good East Asian group work and technical accuracy should give good results here, shouldn't it?

And oh yeah, it does. It can exercise and exercise penalties, corner kicks, free kicks and other constant elements on the pitch. And it will exercise and exercise and will not enter any tournament if not mastered all possible regular tricks.

Yet, there is another thing to football, which is not easy to copy-paste into yourself, that's creativity and speed thinking of what can I do with this ball within this moment of time Myself without watching for others, or even more demanding, how can I imagine what pattern is there considering others.

In confucianist societies it is not easy to allow creativity. Not only there, creativity as potentially dangerous factor was also forbidden by the entire education system in communist societies until their fall in 89'. Spirit of creativity is not possible to be simply learnt from someone. That's something one is born with and later in friendly environment can only develop it even more. This is something what a couch is able to train when the team is sealed together in the training center and noone is able to see their growing spirits of individualism. That is what dutch couches taught them and what they seem to use well under their long time manager Jung -Moo Huh. But it takes time before the spirit flows and we will see if bought abroad creativity will be same as might be the innate one.

There are two football teams which combine ideally these two factors: solid team cooperation, efficiency and accuracy, and free spirit of creativity, these are Germany and Netherlands. Both of them buy some players abroad, but not many, and both are the fruit of good training system.


Friday, 2 July 2010

Soju

Lol, what a title for a blog post, hah?
No, I am not a heavy drinker, and this is not an AA advice post.

The closer to my arrival to Asia, the more I think about stories, people, places.

If I think now about especially nice sutuations, these were always when I was asked" 어디서 오셨어요?" "where are you from?" by a bartender or waitress or the owner of some small restaurant business somewhere, I replied: "처 는 펄 란드 사람 임니다" "I am Polish" or "I come from Poland" more formal.

Apart from learning immediately that Korean people love Chopin, Pope and Lech Walesa I usually got free siders and Soju.

So what's that Soju?
That's in it's pure form a rice vodka. It can have from 20 to 45% and better be carefull with it. Tastes like a sweet warming almost neutral spirit and really gets into you, especially when you are an "economic drinker" lol.

For polish people, especially guys it's not much of a problem, but sometimes we can find ourselves in non-comforting business situations when we drink. And drink, And drink. And even more drink. Until everyone is under the table- that's Korean way of drinking even in official formal situations.

What then? Well, my chemist academic teacher used to say that alcohol is basically a poison after 150-200g but somehow Polish and Russians are resistant. So compared to Korean person, Polish should survive this heavy drinking and steadily walk home really well.

What if someone is, like me, an economic drinker. Well, then it's better to quickly pretend a state of total knock-off.

In our European heads (don't know many American, sorry) , as we are in our essence non-honest and false people, that raises a question. What comes next? What if someone uses the things we said or stuff we have done against us later especially in  business talks or negotiations?

No fear over here. No need to be afraid that we will be later blackmailed or manipulated. In Korea there is a one magic rule - an amnesia after drinking.

During alcohol parties surpressed emotions come out. People sometimes forget about confucian "non-burden keep-quiet about yourself and your needs" attitude. So our Korean counterparts won't use this against us as they have their dark side as well.

Back to work.

Wednesday, 30 June 2010

Are you hungry, Aga?

Since I am in mood for blogging, I will blog lol:P

I remember that one of these remarkable things which surprised me, was the repeating question each time I saw a person: Are you hungry, Aga?

I usually kept kindly responding, that well, yes or no, adding some remark like :"let's go for lunch then", until I started thinking that it actually might be a local way of saying: "How are you?".

The roots of this attitude are not that long and they reach Korean War and it's aftermath. During the struggle both sides had their losses in human assets, but South Korea went weakened out of the war and civilians suffered hunger until the 60-s.

During that first several years it often happened that farmers cooked grass and pieces of tree branches to feed themselves and actually hunger deaths were popular cases.

It was then, when people asked each other with caring attitude: "Have you eaten rice yet?", as "Are you well, are you in need, how are you?".

So if you hear" Have you had your lunch yet?", you can reply "I'm fine, thanks" unless you really want to eat.

Strictly business

I already thought I would have a rest from blogging for a while, at least take a break from my english blog, because I need to defend my thesis, do my finals on both study tracks, and finally think about having some rest, and oh yes, pack my stuff and leave Warsaw at last.

But I think I need to write about this one.
For recent year I got  quantities of emails, skypecalls, and other messages poking me if I know some Koreans, if I am in Korea, and that there is a great opportunity to earn some extra money.

After I asked for some details, ex. legal details of a contract, salary, etc. I usually got informed about extra opportunity in spa&wellness which is called Monavie and it is amazing and so on.

In this field I do have several remarks. To the owners of Monavie: please do go to KOTRA and negotiate and sign the agreement with sillebangs, as I see no easier option to get with a new product into Korean market. Of course if you guys are a serious business with a serious money with a serious vision and with a serious marketing.

If one of your "cooperators" pokes me asking "how is it" to live in Korea, that already sucks. If you want to do business with Koreans, learn the language and mentality, or pay the expert in social science as I am. I will teach you the etiquette and basic differences, 100€ for an hour each. Well, polish people 25€ each and it will be fine.

Also: do not look for cooperators in Korea if you have no knowledge about the immigration and labor law, don't know the beaurocracy of visas and stuff like that.

In other words: money make money. Pay and earn. And if you want to save, quit the business idea.

And last but not least: STOP POKING ME.

From the cauch in Warsaw
Me.

Sunday, 27 June 2010

Elections turnout and analysis

Elections turnout and analysis....

Recent elections brought several issues into spotlight.
More than 54% of voters took part and it is the highest number within 15 years. By region that number didn't differ much, with the highest on Jeju - well, not difficult isn't it?


In local provincial legislative seats GNP lost. to DEP almost everywhere. GNP won 4 out of 7 mayoral seats but was smashed by DEP in the governor's elections. In municipal legislative elections GNP won 160 seats, but DEP 154.

DEP is known as anti-American and Pro- North Korea party fed by childhood stories, that when you are nasty then American soldier will come and eat you - indeed this American soldier is a fairy tale equivalent to the evil wolf who eats the Red Hood in the West.

What does it mean for future? What does it mean now?
There is a growing fear I would say, that if we support the North then the North lets us alone and stops sinking our ships. Is it a way out? Not sure, depends on what solutions this party has. And about that- no real english sources, so please wait for the feedback from my Korean counterparts.

I generally observe the typical phenomenon of American presence somewhere. Well, USA is definately not an angel, but the presence of it's army and funds convince a lot of people worldwide that it comes for free. That we may receive the shield umbrella and revolt in one.

I would be careful if I were DEP officials. So far they treat many things as granted. Their progress is granted, democracy is granted, growing support for human rights is granted.

Well history shows that this is only granted for as long as people really want to preserve and respect these values. Any dreams of Kim Jong Il's heaven on the Earth may really harm South Koreans.

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But social changes are needed on the other hand. There must be a retirement system which is somehow supported by the state, I also see the room for rehabilitation of handicapped and much more. This is the room for socialist/leftist parties as I have no illusion that conservative Friedmanists would ever achieve that.

From now on I am on holiday time, we will meet again several weeks.

Monday, 7 June 2010

Elections...

Briefing on major powers and results and what it may mean for Korean policies coming soon.

Monday, 31 May 2010

Offtopicz: economy and culture

I am tired. Really tired so much that I can't sleep at night sometimes. It is my multitasking personality which makes this burden and I know I do it to myself and noone else does. Studies, radio, NG, museum, exhibition, photos, social life, thesis, etc. etc.

Today I have started analyzing the faces of economy in various corners of the world, especially I mean time spent at work, financial satisfaction, and many others.

Like a lot of people in Europe I have been previously convinced that agressive face of capitalism comes from USA and that if you do not wanna work 24/7 for shitty money as a first generation immigrant better don't go there.

But it seems that according to OECD comparison this is my homeland, Poland which takes the second place in the classification. Netherlands ( I have also lived there) takes the last place. So I have seen on my own eyes, talking to people and watching stuff. Polish were in Netherlands just as hardworking as Berbers, Marrocans and others. The prize for that comes only to fresh graduates after prestigious subsidiezed studies in the West, others need to proove themselves first. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/File:Yearly_working_time_2004.jpg

In Netherlands most of people leave home at 7:30 and go back home at 4 or 5 unless they have specific responsibility for network maintainance or managerial jobs. On Sunday only gas stations are places where you can buy anything as most of shops are closed. In East Europe most of shops operate on Sundays at least until 4 if not longer, not to mention Tesco or other networks.

The place South Korea takes requires deeper analysis. Does that 1st place mean that these people are the richest, the most happy or the country most effective? Not so sure. The responsibility structure is so mild that you never know if the goal gets accomplished on time. Many western managers I met mentioned that 3 Europeans do more within 3 hours until lunch than most of Koreans do until 4 pm. I cannot verify myself any of that as so far I am just a grant student or a university lab worker ( apart from freelance journalism), and this world is so much different from any corporate environment. Yet I have seen both hardworking and both lazy people, so it depends. Anyway Korea always accomplishes goal on time, so maybe that is what matters?

But I wish the most that the economic growth is not at the expense of the nation which has no real state law to secure it's interest at work and regulate labour issues. But for that there are needed leaders of changes, whose message can be heard.

In most of countries in the West such things were historically shaped by a long term social clash or dialogue ( mostly dialogue) and it took a 100 years to stabilize the situation. Maybe it's too much to expect a randomized process in any other corner of the world.

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It is also very nice to know that USA is still, after all, an eldorado. Of ideas.
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That reminds me of a coverage done for Trójka przekracza granice somewhen in 2008, when during the election year several radio reporters travelled through the States and interviewed average people on their feelings on crisis, elections, etc. Somewhere in Arizona in a very small city a lady said: " Yes, there is a crisis, but my neighbors will help me, I will help my neighbors and we will survive. If you want to feel welcome and accepted, come to us" I remembered these words for a long time.

From the cauch on the second floor in Warsaw,
Me.

Thursday, 27 May 2010

China: key player in the Korean game

I have written last week about possible reactions of South Korean government to North Korea after the results of the Cheonan sinking investigation revealed last week.

One of the key roles in this situation holds China who has been North Korea's closest ally due to strategic reasons so far ( NK is a natural security layer from spreading harmful democratic ideas from SK citizens).

But recently it seems that it is changing. Any unstability is not good and maybe Beijing has come to the conclusion that North Korean leader is after all not predictable in his actions.

Today South Korean president Lee and Chinease prime minister meet and discuss possible common course towards North Korea, or at least Chinease admitting NK guilt, which would be a real breakthrough. Strong evidence presented by an international expert's commision shouldn't be ignored. There is a strong pressure on China to stop doing Public Relations and advert itself as a stabilizer and peacemaker, and finally start acting.

Meanwhile president Lee does exactly what he can do in this situation. As I have written last week, there is currently a show off with military power on the Yellow Sea, large scale maneuvers exercise the possibility of detecting NK submarines.

Last week I have mentioned as well that economy will suffer some shakes, and so it happens. But what is impressive is a decision to suspend trade, strongly against vital interests of Seoul's economy.

One thing happens normally- today all the workers in Kaeseong special economic zone went to work as usually including 650 circa of South Korean workers who daily cross the border and go to Kim Jong Il's world to work at industrial plants.  

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The photography comes from Korea Times

Thursday, 20 May 2010

Cheonan sinking by NK Torpedo

As it was said two days ago the results of the multinational experts investigation on the sinking of the South Korean military ship are revealed to day stating with no doubt that it was a North Korean torpedo which caused the blast and death of 50 soldiers.

The joint experts commitee has worked since the end of March 2010 just after the explosion. It consists of 25 experts from ten domestic professional institutes, 22 military experts, three lawmakers from related National Assembly committees and 24 foreign experts from the U.S., Australia, the U.K. and Sweden. The group was divided into four departments: forensic science, explosive pattern analysis, hull structure and data analysis.

The results say with no doubt that it was a North Korean 250kg torpedo CHT-02D which hit the South Korean ship. Parts of the torpedo with original North military markings were found on the site of the catastrophe.

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The question is: what now? Where does it aim?
The current president of South Korea, Mr Lee is known for his much harder course towards Kim Jong Il and it is very likely that some serious measures will be conducted. But...

South Korean economy and civil prosperity, the very core of its potential is located in Seoul which is very close to DMZ. To close to risk any actions without threatening the success of two yuppie generations and their wealth - and South Koreans put a big value on their wealth. Despite their national pride and patriotism/nationalism they are not likely to risk their nice cars and homes for war with the North.

Even bigger factor are SK cheabols which founded Kaeseong Economy Zone and used to make enourmous profits on NK cheap labour power. Cheabols bosses are the SK aristocracy - the most influential in politics both domestic and overseas. They have not once tried to convince SK government on less hard treatment of NK because of potential and real profits for their companies - and for the entire economy.

Rice farmers also push on exporting their products to NK especially in times of hunger.

What will happen in such situation?
President Lee will very likely improve founds for national defence system, train more troops, and buy more weapons.

He will also push on the US - SK free trade act which will make US more friendly towards Lee even in times of Obama in the White House.

The South Korean economy will suffer some hits from panicked investors on stock exchange and the KRW exchange rate will shake a bit.

Apart from that the world will turn as it turns. The possibilities of President Lee on move on this chessboard are slight, but he will do what he can.

The question remains if there is any power to stop Kim Jong Il from such actions, external power. Kim Jong Il regularly meets with Hu Jintao and negotiates both on help in hunger relief and both on tight border security to stop escapes through mainland China. It is certain and confirmed that Hu Jintao tries to push Kim on reforms in his system, but it seems - effortlessly. China either doesn't try hard enough or more likely has no real power of influence on NK so there is a very little hope for international talks on reconciliation progress.

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PS1.
How different it is from the effortless and omiting investigation after the crash of Tu 154 near Smolensk. Two months and we have results.


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PS2. I am now in Warsaw until August so my reports and analysis come with some hours delay.

Monday, 10 May 2010

Another technical break

I am very sorry, but due to severe influenza I cannot continue this blog for another week or two, as normally, unless something pops up.

Saturday, 24 April 2010

Mission Impossible

Sources close to Korean Government suspect direct North Korean involvement in Cheonan sinking. The chief prosecutor does not exclude the possibility of an underwater mine to be the cause of the event.

Even if tangible evidence of North Korean involvement emerges, the president’s caution and balanced behaviour will be understandable. Hot-blooded retaliation against a nuclear-armed neighbor would be a disaster for the entire region with strong possibility of foreign reaction, like China or USA, which are the main surrporters of south and north respectively.

So what's next? I had written about this on my polish blog two days ago. Nothing is next.

Next is a status quo in the situation, more South Korean aid for the North, more indoctrination in the North Korean tv, more jobs at Keseong Special Industrial Zone, more dollars flowing into NK budget.

What is possible resolution of this situation?
For as long as China directly or indirectly supports NK, there is none. United Nations will do nothing as they are paralised by China vote in the Security Council. USA will restrain and will only support SK just as it does for decades.

Google will cooperate with NK and will not publish North Korean maps on it's servers, press will be silent and so the world turns.

SK can only tighten it's security even more, though I have always been personally impressed by the discreet and efficient security system. USA can withdraw from trying to colonalise SK in economic terms and might consider selling their beef elsewhere.

NK plays the same role as Belarus in Europe. Is a border from democratic world which successfully helps stopping transformation and helps to keep control over number of processes.

In the mean time people in NK are dying of hunger and their government doesn't care.

Wednesday, 21 April 2010

Technical break

Due to important things to settle and lack of time, I contemporary suspend writing until beginning of may, unless something very important happens or something pops up in my mind. Sorry :(

Thursday, 15 April 2010

Cheonan soldiers recovered

The bodies of remaining 36 missing soldiers from South Korean frigate Cheonan were recovered lately.

Two weeks ago the frigate sank from unknown reasons and only 58 of the 104 crew on board had been saved.

Cold nerves of Defence Council, president Lee and Korean People had prevented the outbreak of conflict with North Korea.

However Mr President Lee says that the investigation has to be thorough, detailed and fast to finally know the causes of the tragedy.

For all Korean people, I am sorry for your loss.

Korean Prime Minister to attend funeral of Polish President

Mr Chung Un- Chan, the Prime Minister of the Republic of Korea is confirmed to attend the Sunday's funeral of the late President Lech Kaczyński and Maria Kaczyńska, the First Lady. The ceremony will take place at the Cracow's Royal Cathedral in Poland.

South Korea is one of those "silent friend" states, with which the Republic of Poland had just begun to have closer relations.

I had already written somewhere about enormous nowledge of my homeland's history among Korean citizens.

I promise that I will try to interview Mr Chung Un-chan on Sunday and the interview publish here in this post.

Last minute: PM had called off his visit because of air traffic difficulties.

Saturday, 10 April 2010

In memoriam

 This time this post will not be on Asian or Korean matters.

I made this movie about Mr President. It is my first movie, so have some understanding...
President of Poland Lech Kaczynski passed away

Today at about 9 am CET the presidential plane crashed near Smolensk (Russia) at 4th attempt to land.
The president of Poland with the First Lady and 88 other top important leaders of the country are dead.

Mr President was flying to attend the 70th anniversary of Katin genocide. During the 2nd World War Soviet "Ally" in the war versus Nazi Germany gathered and killed about 22 000 of top Polish intelligentsia: military officers, official leaders, aristocrats and nobles, professors, lawyers, doctors, and priests.

Several days ago in Katin met Mr Radoslaw Sikorski, Minister of Foreign Affairs of the Republic of Poland, Mr Donald Tusk, the Prime Minister of the Republic of Poland, and Mr Vladimir Putin, cirrent Prime Minister of the Russian Federation.

Despite of variety of optimistic comments in Poland, "historical breakthrough" after years of silence and denying Soviet/Russian involvement and governmental conspiracy in the Katin Massacre, it was only a tiny step on the very long road ahead. There was indeed Prime Minister of Russia in Katin, but there weren't many Russian media, there were not any news on the topic, and on the very day of the meeting pravda.ru put some concert of the secondary pop-star or her divorce as the top news of the day.

Mr President wasn't invited to Katin on the official meetings with Prime Minister Putin, because he was the person responsible for the idea of the "eastern partnership" of the European Union and spreading the idea of democracy and souvereignity to the east, slow democratisation of Belarus, and also the main inventor of the Belsat TV project which is supported by the Ministry of Foreign Affairs - the Belarus satelite tv independent on the Lukashenka regime.

Now following cnn.com:
(CNN) -- There are no survivors in the crash of a plane that was carrying Polish President Lech Kaczynski and his wife, according to the governor of Smolensk, the Russian region where the plane crashed.
The plane was approaching the airport at Smolensk and probably hit some trees at the end of the runway, a spokesman for Poland's Foreign Ministry told CNN.

"It caught fire, the fire has now been extinguished, but the extent of the damage is such that it's unlikely anybody on board survived," Piotr Paszkowsk said.
Kaczynski was 60.
Pictures from the scene showed parts of the airplane charred and strewn through a wooded area. Some pieces, including one of the wheel wells, were upside-down.
The crash happened around 10:50 a.m. (2:50 a.m. ET) on the outskirts of the town of Pechorsk in the Smolensk region, the Investigation Committee of the Russian prosecutor's office said in a written statement on its Web site.
The Tupolev-154 was carrying a total of 132 and was landing in heavy fog, the committee said.

The chairman of the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe expressed his condolences after the crash.

 On the crash site the journalists from Poland are not being allowed to even come closer to the site because of "securing evidence". They are kept in total ignorance and do not know anything new.
 
Currently the head of the state is Mr Bronislaw Komorowski, the Spealer of the Polish Lower Chamber of the Parliament.
 
In the Katin woodland there were people waiting for Mr President. These were members of the families of those murdered in Katin, journalists, and priests and other public involved.
 
On the plane crashed were in order of the presidency:
Mr President of the Republic of Poland, Lech Kaczyński
Mrs First Lady of the Republic of Poland, Maria Kaczyńska
Mr Ryszard Kaczorowski, the last President of the Republic of Poland in exile
Mr Krzysztof Putra, vice - speaker of the Parliament

Mrs Krystyna Bochenek, vice-speaker of the Senate
Mr Jerzy Szmajdziński, vice-cpeaker of the Parliament
Mr Władysław Stasiak, the presidential Chief of Staff
Mr Aleksander Szczygło, the president of the National Security Council
Mr Paweł Wypych, Minister of Staff of the President of Poland
Mr Mariusz Handzlik, Undersecretary of State in the Chancellery of the President of the Republic of Poland
Mr Andrzej Kremer, Undersecretary of State in the Ministry of Foreign Affairs
Gen. Franciszek Gągor, Chief of the General Staff of the Republic of Poland
Mr Andrzej Przewoźnik, The President of the Historical Memory Council
Mr Grzegorz Dolniak, vice - leader of the Civic Platform Parliamentary Club, the Polish Congressman
Mr Przemysław Gosiewski, leader of the Law and Justice Parliamentary Club, the Polish Congressman
Mr Zbigniew Wasserman, the Polish Congressman, Mr President's Friend
Mr Janusz Kochanowski, the Ombudsman
Mr Sławomir Skrzypek, The President of the National Bank of Poland, Mr President's Friend
Mr Janusz Kurtyka, The President of the National Memory Institute, IPN
Bishop Gen. Tadeusz Płoski, The Field Chaplain of the Polish Army

And many other importand leaders and special people

Non omnis moriar

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My personal comment:
3 days ago I haven't seen any russian tv in Katin. Now they are there and it's good.
Why can't they have better planes, but only those stupid Tupolev junk?
Why like during the worst Soviet times, journalists are kept far away from the site?
Why Mr Radoslaw Sikorski did not go immediately to Russia?
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And why did they have so many stupid interpersonal conflicts which were played against them by Russia during last months?

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And again, why did they go there? Because of this:
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=mM1zyQ_zffM&feature=related