Tuesday, May 20, 2003

President Roh is back from his sojourn to US of A and spent May 18 commemorating the anniversary of the Kwangju Uprising. The ceremony included the awarding of the Kwangju Human Rights Award. But on his return form his trip Roh also found that students and the younger voters were not pleased with his diplomacy efforts in US since they were expected him, apparently, to support their more anti-US views in front of President Bush. In an interview with Jim Leher (spelling errors not withstanding) though he comes across as being quite politically correct, neither agreeing or disagreein too much with anything. As noted earlier on this site, agreement on their non-acceptance of North Korean nukes was as much to be hoped for. Agreement on how to handle the issue was never on the cards, and I doubt it was even discussed in much earnest. Especially given South Korea's sidelining in the last negotiations, emphasising that the path to peace is mostly between North Korea and US (and maybe China) with South Korea and Japan watching closely from behind. Solidarity and support is necessary but total agreement on action, at this stage, is not critical as resuming negotiations remains the key aim.

Academics (though not Korean specialists) have come out from the Brookings Institute citing the stupidity of recent comments to adopt containment as a policy against North Korea and to proffer a Korea peace roadmap. The roadmap peace plan expounded was similar to one I read earlier from a source that escapes my memory. Sounding good in practice it is flawed because it assumes people/nations are calm and rational and, I don't know about you, but for me, when I think Bush and/or Kim Jong-Il the words calm and rational do not enter my head. US would be too busy trying to look strong and credible to make simultaneous concenssions with the North and the North, well it remains an enigma.

Closer to home, the head of Kogas, Korea's state gas company has been brought in on bribery charges. And while it is all too true that the corruption levels in Korea are riduculously high for a country of its economic standing (below Botswana) I think that criticism needs to be tempered with encouragement as such crackdowns are becoming more frequent and the persons finding themselves charged are bigger and bigger fish. I should also note that given the crackdown on, not bribery, but unacceptable and irregular behaviour of government officials our ministry this week handed out our new guide to regulations and standards that we should adhere to with new and stricter measures than the old edition. This booklet, given to every employee in the ministry includes regulations for business meals, gifts, etc. Progress may be slow, but the fact that it is taking place is an important consideration in taking stock of Korea's corruption levels.

I got my official certificate from the Korea-Philippines marathon telling me I ran the 10km race in one hour and 43 seconds placing me 264/536 and 18/87 in my age group. Cool! My parents have gone to the DMZ today, so hopefully they have made it back alive by now. And of course tomorrow is my b'day - hoorah!

Currently reading:

"Hell" by Yasutaka Tsutsui