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Reforming the university system in S.Korea is a good thing, especially as it relates to research and development; as economic issues have long been on the mind of South Koreans, due to stagnant wages and weak aggregate growth. Technological innovation could lead to Korea developing lucrative specialized niche markets.

This kind of jumped out at me: “When I was a student here in the mid-1980s, some students stopped before the national flag at the library in the morning and observed a moment of silence, vowing to dedicate ourselves to the nation’s industrial development,” said Cho Byung Jin, a professor of electrical engineering.”

The underlying problem, as pointed out, is that the same Confucianist work ethnic and respect for hierarchy that helped South Korea develop at such a rapid clip has now brought them to a point of diminishing marginal returns. To reach a higher level they must be creative enough to innovate. “Outside the box” thinking and military style conformity for big “push” initiatives usually do not mix well. This has been a problem in Singapore and Japan in recent years, as both nations have tried to promote creativity and “relax” cultural constraints, to varying success.


South Korean science prepares to take on the world

DAEJEON, South Korea: In Professor Cho Dong Ho’s laboratory at Kaist, South Korea’s top science and technology university, researchers are trying to develop technology that could let you fold a notebook-size electronic display and carry it in your pocket like a handkerchief.

It’s too early to say when something like this might be commercially available. But the experiment has already achieved one important breakthrough: it has mobilized professors from eight departments to collaborate on an idea proposed by a student.

This arrangement is almost unheard of in South Korea, where the norm is for a senior professor to dictate research projects to his own cloistered team. But it’s only one change afoot at this government-financed university, which has ambitions to transform the culture of South Korean science, and more.

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Desperately seeking students (Japan) – What is interesting about this is that Japan’s government is fully aware of the increasing student shortage and will allow the market to decide which schools stay open. This is something Americans should let happen with HBCUs.

Bloggers push China to prosecute beating death – What is most interesting about this is that the Internet was instrumental in pressuring the government to adhere to the rule of law. This is a powerful tool for public outcry, that despite government efforts; they really can not effectively control.

Asia: ‘Internet forces’ in China and Taiwan step up cyber attacks – Last time it was Chinese hackers attacking South Korea, now it is Taiwan v China. This article is a little different from the one I read on the South Korean attack. It goes into a lot more detail about the nature of the attacks. The United States and German governments also appear concerned as well. The article also mentions that due to security measures Taiwan is less vulnerable to cyber attacks than Japan, the U.S., and EU.

Japan asked China to tone down Nanjing Incident exhibits – This is somewhat shocking to be honest. I have said all I have to say on Japan’s WWII issues here, but I do not think it is wise for Japan to make statements like this.  Instead they should demand for a international panel of historians from China, Taiwan, South Korea, and the United States to decides what occurred during WWII and in its aftermath once and for all and have high ranking government representatives sign it and agree to abide by the findings.  As I said before I do not think China would ever agree to that, for reasons obvious to me.

West Africa: Food Prices Still Climbing, Crisis Feared – This is not good at all.

This is pretty cool.  Its in Japanese but most of the Chinese character (kanji/hanzi) place names are the same in Japanese and Chinese so… —————–

Japan pledges to help China curb pollution – A lot of confidence building came out of this meet, which was good. I lived in Shanghai and I can tell you about the throat and lung infections from the pollution, all the days that were so dark you could not see the sun, etc. China needs all the help it can get with this. It is a beautifully diverse country and although I think they “have to” go through this industrialization, just as everyone else has, itis good they are taking steps to limited the environmental degradation. For more information on other points discussed check here. On a side note, sometimes people underestimate the power of goodwill programs (i.e. exchange students) to change public perception, but I do not. 3,000 students can saw a lot of thinking at home when they get back.

Taiwan presidential candidate cleared on graft – Told ya so, here.

Shuffled off to history, veneration of Ro Moo Hyun will follow – French plays the requiem for the Roh Administration in South Korea. I’m sorry but I think he overplayed Roh’s statesmanship here, in large part, due to his dislike of the Bush Administration. I’m not a fan of George W. either, but even he was not stupid enough to try military action against a potentially nuclear armed N.Korea when there was so little intelligence and N.Korea could potentially nuke Seoul and Tokyo; especially with so many American troops exposed. Sorry, Mr. French; don’t buy it. It seems the S.Korean people did not either, as they elected the political opposite of Roh.

Nigeria’s graft catcher is sent for training – This is not good; just when I was congratulating Nigeria on its anti-corruption crackdown. Although it is likely Nuhu Ribadu did not go out of his way to “bite the hand that feeds”; any crackdown on corruption is better than none at all. The people know this and that is why he has popular public support. $380 billion in graft is nothing to sneeze at.

Tokyo opposes Taiwan’s UN referendum: Fukuda – This is not shocking coming from a Fukuda Administration. He appears focused on making good relations with America and China; both oppose the referendum. Although I recognize this as the most pragmatic position for all involved I have moral issues with it. I do not understand why Britain and Canada can allow or would allow significant segments of their country to vote for independence and Taiwan, a self governing democracy, can not democratically decide what it wants to do. It makes no difference to me if they voted for independence or voted to seek political unification with China immediately. What matters is they have no choice and countries that pride themselves on democracy and human rights are doing everything they can to smoother their right of self determination.

Update: It seems the Fukada Admin is sneaky. He said exactly what China wanted to hear in relation to Taiwan and then a couple of days later revised clarified his governments position:

Japan has recently explained that it “does not oppose” the plan to hold a referendum on its bid for a seat in the UN under the name Taiwan, but hopes the referendum will not raise tension in the Taiwan Strait, a senior Ministry of Foreign Affairs (MOFA) official said yesterday.

Japan to amend textbook accounts of Okinawa suicides -My grandfather served in Okinawa during WWII. He told me stories about Japanese people hiding all over the island (i.e. caves) believing that Americans would eat them, because that is what they were told by the government. The Okinawans would jump in the ocean before surrendering or even stab themselves in the throat. Due to historic discrimination against the Okinawans, due to their “impure” status, many Okinawans believe they were used as cannon fodder. My wife thinks that this is not an example of anti-Okinawan discrimination, as all Japanese were instructed to behave similarly. The main difference is that the war never got to the main islands, where they would have been expected to exercise these instructions; Okinawa actually became a battlefield for Japanese civilians.

In any case, I think most Japanese people know about this. It is clear to me that most Japanese people over 30 are aware of this; my wife certainly is and she is no history buff. It is good to acknowledge it formally in history texts though.

Chinese goods transform life in Southeast Asia – Cheap Chinese goods are apparently a benefit to poor Southeast Asian states, despite their low quality.

Government to stop energy subsidies next year – Relying more on the market should help control inflation, at least a little bit. This is always a good thing, as price ceilings and floors are inefficient; basic Econ 101. It is also good to see Vietnam moving away from such intricate state intervention in the market.

Vietnam plans Mekong mega-dam in Laos – Laos wants to become the hydro-capital of Southeast Asia and Vietnam will contract to build it?

Kenya: Charity Begins At Home for Top Contenders – The article talks about how each presidential candidate is leading in his home province, largely due to tribal ties. 

Japan infuriated by China’s deletions from joint press communique – This is not the way for China to build goodwill.  When I read things like that I question the ability of the CCP elites to really understand the outside world.

Rising inflation forces banks into a corner – Vietnam is having some serious inflation issues, again.

Japanese studies facing the chop in Europe –  This is very sad to read but inevitable.  What this article should say is, “Japanese studies faced with popularity of Chinese studies, get the chop in Europe.”  Japan is not doing enough to stay relevant internationally.  They are the second wealthiest nation in the world with a lot of great qualities and they are fairly isolationist and timid.  That has to change if they they do not want China to run all over them in Asia and make them a larger outsider than they are, with Washington being their only real friend.  China is quickly surpassing Japan as the “sexy Asian country” because Japan allows it.

(LEAD) Front-runner Lee Myung-bak eyes landslide win – ’nuff said.   He is conservative, expecting to take a harder line on North Korea, but still favors engagement.  He is pro-free market.  Lee was born in Japan and he and his family moved back to Korea after WWII.  He grew up dirty-poor, but worked his way up.  He also has a history of being anti-Japanese, but then again, that is not going to hurt him in S.Korea, it makes him “normal”.

LOL This is where I taught English in Japan! Well, specifically, the Shinjuku-honko branch in Tokyo. I only worked there 3 months to secure my work visa then did other stuff but there were some old weird guys from all over the Anglosphere who were trying to be “lifers”.

An example was my boss; a Civil Engineer who quit and moved to Japan. He told me he was from some posh suburb of Toronto, a real Waspish upper middle class family. They did not approve of his “gay life style” and it seems no one else in that area did either. Instead of moving into liberal Toronto, he just came to Tokyo. There was another guy, a French Canadian. He was convinced that English speaking Canadians would forever hate the French speakers, despite all the French PM of Canada. He said it was like “being a Jew in Nazi Germany” (no I’m not joking). He eventually went to Singapore though Both these men were in their late 30’s at the time (6 years ago). I’m guessing if they are still around they either had established enough connections to get a job at another school or just went to another country (S.Korea maybe).

As far as NOVA, it was a pretty good deal back in the day. Pay was okay, by the hour, a lot of overtime. They subsidized your rent (although you had 2-3 roommates) and had to work nights, weekends, and holidays (because that is when Japanese had time to take lessons). Most of the Japanese clients just wanted to talk, not really do formal lessons. Many of them where forced to go by their parents or their companies; others, a lot of desperate housewives, were there to meet a foreign boyfriend while their husband was working his @$$ off at some sweat shop company.

Since my wife, girlfriend at the time, lived in Tokyo; I quite and moved in with her. I started working at IBM Yamato in Kawasaki-shi. The biggest barrier for people to leave English teaching was finding housing (not easy for a foreign as you have to pay 2 months rent in advance), job skills, and finding a job that will hire a foreign (especially if you don’t speak Japanese). I had been doing IT work for most of my time in college so I had some skills and working for an American company (that was 95% Japanese) you technically did not have to speak Japanese fluently.
All and all it was a great way to get into Fortress Japan, which other than English teaching, investment banking, very high level IT work, high level business exec, recruiting, nursing…it is nearly impossible to get a work visa and no one is going to hire you if you do. You have to find a niche in the market where foreigners are accepted. There are no anti-discrimination laws (other than you can’t discriminate against a Japanese citizen). I still managed to make more money there (and save it) than I do in America. I knew a Canadian chick who also managed to get out of English teaching and get into journalism through a Japanese boyfriend. J Hey…do what you go to do. She lived in a posh area of Tokyo with some roommates who were club party promoters from Europe.

There were a lot of rumors of corrupt practices with the English instruction companies, especially with Yakusa involvement, but it was always “someone else’s company, not NOVA”. LOL


Monday, Nov. 05, 2007

In Japan, Teaching English for Food

When Natasha Steele came to Japan from her native Australia earlier this year to teach English, she was looking forward to immersing herself in a foreign culture while earning a little money on the side. Now, after the spectacular collapse of her employer, Japan’s biggest English language school chain, Steele has found herself jobless, threatened with eviction and hungry. “I was taken out and afterward, she took me to a bakery and told me I could have anything I wanted,” she says of one charitable student. “She just wanted to know I had enough food for at least two weeks.”
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