North Korea is always in the News

Ok, I’ll do my best to make sure this is the last North Korea topic for a while but in reality, you never know what those crazy buggers up North will do.

So let’s review some things and see if you can pick out the crazy things I see happening.

North Korea Launches rocket (See history up till March of last year here)….it explodes shortly after take-off.  My intuition screams sabotage but I have zero proof of that.

North Korea launches second rocket…it works fine.  Reports of it ‘tumbling wildly through space’ or it will only be ‘able to take nothing but grainy pictures’ but nothing confirming either contradictory statements.  Who really knows what it’s doing.

North Korea publicly proclaims the detaining of an US citizen for ‘unspecified crimes’.  The timing is just a little too close to the previous event.  I suspect that in order to prevent sabotage, North Korea used the ‘hostage’…err….detained citizen to guarantee that the rockets gets off the ground but again, this is just my intuition.

Google & a former US politician visit North Korea.  One to talk about the detained citizen, the other to talk about…..well, not really clear on that.  One would presume business and technology but given the highly restrictive nature, and Google’s habit of betting on the future, it could only be to make sure that Google gets their corporate foot-in-the-door before anyone else.

Google then allows people to see a bit more inside the ‘hermit kingdom’ by updating Google Maps images of North Korea.

So, what will be the next move?  North Korea proclaiming ‘space superiority’ by show-casing some ‘liberated’ shots of the earth from its satellite?  There are already tons of reports about their readiness for a nuclear test.  Wonder if the UN will simply put forth yet another ‘resolution’ against North Korea, which doesn’t seem to be doing much except costing a lot of money for paperwork.

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North Korean hackers

“(5th LD) Transition team retracts announcement on N. Korea’s suspected hacking attempts | YONHAP NEWS”
http://english.yonhapnews.co.kr/national/2013/01/17/56/0301000000AEN20130117011200315F.HTML.

It is near comical to see this kind of news. Not the first time that North Korea has been implicated in hacking attempts but I am highly amused at the back-peddling the South Korea is now doing. “misunderstanding” is like the new politically correct word for “don’t upset North Korea”. I have no doubt in my mind, that North Korea had done having, why wouldn’t they? They are still at war with South Korea as no peace treaty has ever been signed.

” The official asked reporters to run antivirus programs and change passwords more often.”

This is laughable advice at best.  Having been in the IT industry for over 10 years and passwords and seeing the vast majority of people who have so many problems with passwords, this advice is doomed before it is heard. In fact, I wouldn’t be surprised that the main way for North Korea to get “in” is through the media.

For a few months i had set up a file server so i coupe get at any of my files while i was out of the house. I saw a nearly endless, daily attempted break-ins from chinese ip addresses. Heck, they even once cracked myth mobile provider and all my Google passwords were being routed through a Chinese server. Luckily that was the same day i decided to enable 2-step verification worth Google. For the next 4 days i was very annoyed that i kept having to enter a pin number and thought that this 2-step security thing was a pain in the ass. That was until I put the two incidents together and realized that was Google saving my butt from Chinese hackers!

It just stands to reason that North Korea would do exactly that. Hell, they could entirely be the ones behind that last hack i just mentioned.

Korean Immigration and Ageing population

The Financial Times has an interesting article which echoes another one I read last year about a ‘perceived’ problem.  That being in order to keep up with the country’s production, they need to allow more immigrants because the birthrate is one of the lowest in the world right now.  So as more ages, less are available to replace, thus the country’s output will be slowed.  Here is the article (so you don’t have to register for the FT.  If you ever do, may I suggest using 10 Minute Email to do so.)

January 14, 2013 9:54 am

Head of BoK urges Korean immigration reform

By Simon Mundy in Seoul

The head of South Korea’s central bank has called on the incoming government to loosen restrictions on immigration to ease a looming labour shortage in one of the world’s most rapidly ageing societies.

“I believe it would be appropriate for us to embrace migrant workers with future-oriented and open immigration policies,” Kim Choong-soo, governor of the Bank of Korea, told a press conference on Monday, making an unusual intervention into a politically controversial subject.

“We’d be able to utilise these workers coming from outside in the right parts of the economy, and regain societal vitality at the same time.”

Mr Kim’s comments come as South Korean leaders are trying to find ways to prevent the country’s low birth rate from stalling its economic rise.

Ethnic minorities account for just over 60,000 of South Korea’s 50m citizens, and the first non-ethnically Korean lawmaker, Philippines-born Jasmine Lee, was elected only last year.

Mr Kim said that South Korea should follow the example of the US, which accepts more than 1m migrant workers each year, or risk draining momentum from the economy.

South Korea’s strict immigration laws have exacerbated the effect of one of the world’s lowest birth rates – an average of about 1.2 children per woman – caused in part by the high cost of childcare and after-school tuition, seen as essential by most parents.

If the current trend continues, the ratio of workers to retired people will fall from 4.5 to 1.2 by 2050, estimates the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development.

Park Geun-hye, who will be sworn in South Korea’s first female president on February 25, has promised to expand state childcare provision and slash university tuition fees: both moves that could boost birth rates by lowering the cost of child rearing. But she has not spelt out detailed plans on migration rules.

Immigration to South Korea has gradually crept up over most of the past two decades, driven mainly by ethnic Koreans returning from China or the US, foreign marriages and poor migrants from southeast Asia seeking unskilled work. But it has stalled recently, with the number of migrant workers falling by 9 per cent in the year to last November.

Restrictions on most of those migrants remain strict, and many, especially from non-Korean backgrounds, find it difficult to integrate into a conservative society.

In most cases, foreign workers are not allowed to migrate with their families or apply for South Korean citizenship, and must leave the country within five years of arrival.

South Korea’s ageing society means it should reform policy to increase the number of foreign workers to 4m by 2030, compared with about 540,000 today, said Chung Ki-seon, senior researcher at the IOM Migration Research and Training Centre.

But large-scale immigration reform could prove controversial, she added. “Some Koreans don’t like the idea of a multi-ethnic society . . . Even though the government recognises the necessity for more immigrants, our immigration policy is in many ways very closed.”

A further challenge is attracting skilled workers – currently accounting for less than a tenth of the migrant labour force – who can add value to an increasingly advanced economy. The government could consider using the foreign aid budget to fund the education of children in poor countries, who could then be encouraged to move to South Korea, Ms Chung said.

Copyright The Financial Times Limited 2013.

There is definitely a conundrum here with immigration.  The government will have to eventually decide on whether the lingering resentment of a ‘foreign invasion’ outweighs the benefits South Korea’s ability to keep up with production.  Eventually I see this as being the only way for them not to ‘loose face‘ by allowing their growth to halt/reverse.  Sadly, this is both a wrong perspective, growth always stops at some point and continues later, but also there will be many, many more news articles slamming this idea and much more slanted reports of foreigners causing trouble.  Oh the Anti-English Spectrum will have a field day with this!

Google & North Korea

This post crosses a few interests of mine.  Namely, Google, North Korea, Conspiracy Theory-made-manifest.

If you weren’t aware, Google’s Eric Schmidt (and ex-New Mexico Governor) Bill Richardson flew to North Korea.

google-north-korea
Schmidt & Richardson watching a North Korean using the Internet. Photo courtesy of WSJ.

Word has it that the Richardson is pressing for the release of Pae Jun Ho, an US Citizen, for “Unspecified Crimes“.

What should concern people is that right now, tensions are a little high after the missile launch and the threat of a nuclear test being performed we don’t have an official GOVERNMENT visit to work things out (although, given the history of such and the following obvious failures…) we have CORPORATE interests gallivanting about the world, making ‘nice, nice’ with ugly neighbours.  Seriously, this smacks of the whole shift from a Democratic rulership to a Corporatocracy.  It’s not like we weren’t warned about this, publicly, in the 70’s.

This movie is one of my favourites and this scene is nearly as famous as the “Mad as Hell” scene.

So, back to my current northern neighbours.  What do you think the outcome will be?  Will Google be allowed inside the ‘hermit kingdom’?  That place where the Internet is so tightly controlled that only a select few are allowed to use it?  Somehow I doubt that will change anytime soon, given how tightly controlled the state media is.  Or should I say manipulated?  Were you aware that North Korea WON the World Cup in 2010?! (Despite Spain actually winning it seems.)

So what to the South Koreans think of the North Koreans?  Oddly not much.  There is a well know pattern that North Korea hypes up some event, threatens ‘Seoul’ with retaliation and then….fails to follow through. North Korea is like the boy who cried wolf all the time.  Sure some ‘spikes’ of interest show up (Kim Jong Il dying, Rocket launch) that get people to talk a little bit, otherwise North Korea is fairly well ignored by the southern populace.

I have met some Koreans whose families originate from North Korea (English teachers from South Africa actually) and they don’t seem any different from any other regular Korean really.  So it’s back to the big, egotistical Military types running the place and making big chest-pounding displays of strength while the rest of the people go ‘meh’.

Weird elections campaigning

This is how candidate campaign for votes here:

They get people (volunteers?) to stand around, in bright colours, holding signs and singing, along with just thanking you from their names “Mr Lee thanks you for your vote”. No one ever came to our door. I did see random trucks with LARGE video screens and P.A. systems that belted out recorded messages parked on street corners and occasionally saw a candidate giving a public speech from them. It’s like this weird form of marketing for a new product.

Korea and War

Since this is the topic on everyone’s mind back home let me enlighten you on how it all feels this side of the world.

Everyone is pointing to North Korea as the ones who ‘shot first’ with the whole Bombardment of Yeonpyeong.  Maybe the did, maybe they didn’t.  I wasn’t there, I can’t say who’s in the right or wrong.  What I do know is that South Korea planned some ‘air exercises’ of this island (that’s been in debate for ages) and if I were to take a guess, I think that North Korea did fire first but only after South Korea ‘pushed the limits’ of their nerves by being in that area as well as giving North Korea reasons to push back from the corner they’ve put themselves into.

As for the general populace, life goes on.  I’ve not spoken with any locals but the general consensus among the English teachers is that this is really nothing new.  Maybe more ‘fire exchange’ than in the past but there has always been skirmishes over this island.  Unless there is a drastic change in level of activity, it’s just one more notch in history of  ongoing Korean War. (You did know that it never ended right?)

North Korea’s only ally (China) is even staying somewhat neutral.  They have neither approved nor condemned the incident but at most said ‘the two should work harder at coming to peace’.

I’ve signed up with Canadian Government branch for registered Canadians abroad.  They keep track of such things and email updates on events like this.  Their last email said that neither country has raised any ‘alert levels’, a pointed indication that this is nothing more than two children fighting over one toy for the sake of pride now more than anything else.

I’m still here