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March 15, 2005




"And I deserve a big "I told you so" from Ed, who pretty much told me so in comments to this not-lacking-in-ambition post."

No I don't think so at all. Hey I didn't pick up on the VHS tape thing at all. And I should've since I'm Korean, my mother's Korean and when she was alive my mother was completely engrossed with ROK soap operas. Heh. Even now when I go to my local Korean grocer there's an entire wall of ROK soap operas.


It might actually be worth it for the ROK, Japan and the USA to generate a selection of Korean translated movies in VHS. Well at least those that aren't readily available. I don't know what the Chinese market is like but I wonder how many movies/soaps are available on VHS now that everyone has pretty much moved to DVD.


Perhaps producing or editing popular soaps to specifically include scenes that would otherwise be redundant. The article mentions scenes involving skyscrapers and traffic jams being highly informative. There are many other scenes that we all take for granted that could also be highly corrosive to the NK government's control.

I remember, back during the Cold War, that images of America supermarkets were viewed in Russia as complete hoaxes and pure propaganda. In their experience it was simply impossible that entire shelves would be dedicated to various brands of coffee. By including such shopping scenes, and a multitude of others, the impact of such soaps could be dramatically magnified.

Soaps that use a "live" camera, that follows the actors everywhere, rather than a pre-built set would probably have even greater impact.

Heh. Victory by Wal-Mart!



Oh BTW. I disagree with that article. The author believes that China will become the nexus of Northeast Asia. It won't be. It'll be Japan.

There are a lot of reasons but the primary ones are:

1. China would swallow Korea up whole without a burp. This frightens a lot of Koreans.

2. Japan needs Korean manpower for manufacturiing and will increasingly need more and more as the Japanese population ages and dwindles.

A close alliance between Korea and Japan is a very workable solution. Any combination that includes China just ends up with everything eventually becoming China.



I know this is an unorthodox view at present, with all the talk of this being China's century and the like, but I'd take the general thrust of your point (which I agree with) a step further: China won't last as a country very long, but rather "China" will come to mean something akin to "Europe."


I don't understand how North Koreans can afford second hand video tapes and machinery (and electricity!) yet not afford food. Something about this doesn't add up.



It sounds as if the author of the NY Times article hasn't spent much, if any, time watching Korean soaps. I would say half the scenes occur in real locations, whether it be a cafe, a college campus, a restaurant, or just on the street. Korean soaps rarely are limited exclusively to sets. So any North Koreans watching these shows are seeing much more than just "skyscrapers" and "traffic jams."

In fact, the location of some highly popular shows has been a boon to the tourism industry. There was one show called "Autum Fairytale" that was so popular in Taiwan that thousands of Taiwanese tourists traveled to Korea just to visit the seaside town that it was filmed in. Something similar is happening now with Japanese tourists as a result of another hit Korean drama in Japan.

I feel given the geopolitical situation in which the U.S.'s hands are tied with respect to North Korea, undermining the regime via "culture" is the best strategy and tactic. Bush is right to keep a hard-line stance that isolates NK while activists and ordinary people help crack open the system's iron curtains to the outside world, under the radar of geopolitics.


Calls for China's imminent demise are premature. The CCP has a stronger hold on its population than it did 20 years ago, in the years leading up to Tiananmen Square. Seperatist movements in Tibet, Xinjiang, and Inner Mongolia are also fairly weak, and the Chinese continue migrating to those far-flung regions to "Sinify" them.

I'd like more than anything for a peaceful revolution in China, but I don't see it happening soon. Furthermore, it's unlikely that China will split a la the Soviet Union.

Quite encouraging about North Korea, though. Kim will have to modernize the economy there if he has any hope to hold onto power long-term.

Kevin B.

There's a S. Korean soap opera called "Lovers in Paris" which played really well in the Philippines (it was one of my fiance's favorites.)
That series also showed quite a bit of non-set environments (countrysides, city life, etc.) and plenty of economic prosperity which I suppose might raise a few North Korean eyebrows.
Er, not that I was watching soap operas... I was just... sitting with my fiance while SHE was watching. Yeah, that's it.


The problem with "Lovers in Paris" is that it takes place in, uh, Paris, and therefore wouldn't give North Koreans as much of an idea of the development of their southern bretheren as a Seoul-based soap.

Anyone who's lived in Asia in the last five years or so is aware of the awesome power of the ROK soap opera... The UN needs to appoint Bae Yong-joon (of Winter Sonata) to travel the region and heal the wounds - as only he can.

Here in China, as popular as Korean soaps are, they are not nearly as fashionable as anything Taiwanese. Music especially, but also clothes, soap operas, milk tea... anything at all sells better if it claims to be from the island, which explains the omnipresence of "Taiwanese-style hot dog" stands.


Lovers in Paris had several segments in Korea.

I had to watch some of it too with my Taiwanese wife.

She prefereed Stairway to Heaven.


Speaking of the devil, here's an article on CNN about how thousands of Japanese women are flying to South Korea to visit sites that appear in dramas with actor Bae Yong Joon


S. Korean star sparks tourist boom

"Only a select few ever get the chance to see him in person, much less hug him.

The rest have to make do by going on a "Winter Sonata" tour on Nami Island in South Korea.

With the skyrocketing popularity of the show, this picturesque little island, where many of the scenes were shot, has been turned into a must-see attraction for hard-core fans.

64-year old housewife Takaeyichi and her friend sat at one bench, where Yon-sama kissed his girlfriend for the first time, to buy souvenirs and take pictures.

Nearly 800 people a day turn up here to pose for endless pictures in front of monuments or posters, dreaming of being in the arms of the drama's star"

I can only imagine that seeing S. Korean dramas like "Winter Sonata" can only breed a sense of resentment in North Koreans against their own government. Ultimately, it will be a wide-scale spontaneous movement by the people that will force change there....



*shrug* what can I say? I have eagerly avoided Korean soap operas all my life. I have avoided them with hope, joy and extreme alacrity. I have also done my very best to avoid Korean singers producing covers of Frank Sinatra and Dean Martin, however with less success. :)

As for China. IMHO China is in a real bind. I twas just recently announced that China has 46 million bureaucrats. Each with various perks such as government cars with drivers, etc. Which is a pretty amazing number all by itself. Then there's the $1 trillion, or more, in bad debt held by China's banks. Right now China is caught in a bizzare ponzi scheme and is running the Red Queen's racetrack.

China's government has traditionally been prone to being overthrown in times of crisis. The looming crisis for China is the massive unemployment in rural areas, massive migration of workers into the major cities and the necessity for the Chinese government to create jobs for these migrating workers. The only way to really do this is to ensure the American dollar is propped up, which is why the Chinese government is buying up dollars and federal debt. In effect President Bush and Alan Greenspan have been drinking at the bar all night and have been stiffing China with the bar tab.

It's strange. America owes China a great deal of money, but China cannot really collect it or else the whole house of cards will collapse. On top of that is the $1+ trillion in bad debt held by Chinese banks for loans given out to government owned/operated companies. A number of people are figuring that China is actually broke, i.e. liabilities exceed assets, as the bad debt might be even greater than is currently known.

Frankly I think the only way China can get out of this mess it's made for itself is to declare war on Taiwan. At that point use the propaganda machine to whip up a lot of Chinese nationalistic nonsense, invade Taiwan and steal all that money in the Taiwanese banks and the homes of the ultra-wealthy. The funds held by the Taiwanese banks and wealthy citizens would probably offset quite a bit of the costs of invasion and a significant amount of the Chinese financial problems.

Another solution might also include nationalizing all American assets, if we interefere, along with dumping the $1+ trillion in federal debt, default on all foreign loans and just generally play havoc on the international markets. It's definitely a vulnerable point. If the financial and commodities markets are dramatically whipsawed back and forth repeatedly they would either have to be temporarily shut down or drastic measures would have to be taken to offset the Chinese manipulations.



My "very long" certainly doesn't mean imminent. Forty years? A century. "Europe" can mean a variety of things, and I definitely didn't mean it in the sense of the Soviet Union splitting up. In any case, we probably agree more than disagree, and more importantly are probably wishing for the same kind of thing. But given the rah-rah tone of the MSM these days, I don't think it can be repeated often enough, that the mythic and ever expanding middle kingdom bit being spun by the regime in China today, is just that--mythology.


Unfortunately for its subjects who suffer under its rule, the CCP is remarkably adept at staying in power. I wonder whether or not the Chinese continue to tolerate their regime because things aren't as bad politically as they were thirty-five years ago, and the standard of living has risen considerably in the elapsed time.

And ecdan, you're correct that the rhetoric coming out of Beijing is mythological, and I would say a century seems a bit more likely than forty years. But with the current rate of things happening around the world these days, who knows?

Here's hoping for the best- truly a lovely country with lovely people.


ed wrote:

"I remember, back during the Cold War, that images of America supermarkets were viewed in Russia as complete hoaxes and pure propaganda. In their experience it was simply impossible that entire shelves would be dedicated to various brands of coffee."

And how do you know that? As a young lad - and Komsomol member to boot, growing up in xSU I don't recall too many people who would question West's prosperity. In fact prevalent attitude was what one could call 180 degrees: if Soviet propaganda said that there was an earthquake in the US, people figure that there are never any earthquakes in the US.



"And how do you know that? As a young lad - and Komsomol member to boot, growing up in xSU I don't recall too many people who would question West's prosperity."

From talking to some Marines who were deployed in Moscow on Embassy duty, this is when I was in the USMC, and the Russian wives, and relatives, of some friends. It's not from first hand experience, I've never been to Russia nor do I speak Russian. But when a friend's mother-in-law describes her experiences in an American supermarket, I'm willing to take that at face value. Heh, maybe she was pulling my leg?

I wouldn't put it past her, she has a wicked sense of humor.

"I don't think it can be repeated often enough, that the mythic and ever expanding middle kingdom bit being spun by the regime in China today, is just that--mythology."

Especially with China's impending gender disaster. According to government figures there's an average of 150 boys for every 100 girls in middle schools. This isn't a good statistic.

The Apologist

Gosh! It's so good to finally find some China skeptics. I keep hearing people talk about China like it's gonna take the world by storm in the next 20 years and I just shake my head. Their public health system is crap (God forbid bird flu really does become a threat) and that's gonna have real consequences if they open up. Guangdong's already seen some of that with SARS. And, golly, there are just so many things wrong with the idea that China is anything but a pipe dream I could just go on and on forever, but I'll spare you.

Incidentally, ed, where did you get that statistic and is it possible that girls are just being kept home from school? The figure I heard re: 1 child policy was a 4% difference, but I didn't believe it. It just doesn't make sense.

Also, did anyone hear the BBC's week long propoganda-fest on China two weeks ago. You'd think they were Chinese nationals the way they were blowing that horn.


Welcome to our game world, my friend asks me to buy some 12sky gold .

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