Post #8: Guest Speaker Reflection

Soren Larson was a guest lecturer whom I found simply inspiring. Not only did he preach a story of perseverance, but he preached of respect. He came upon the Cheslatta people by pure chance, intending only to be tied to them for as long as he needed to for his own studies. However, by the end of it, he was helping preserve their own culture. Undaunted by the idea of helping them preserve their language through the creation of phone and online content, he helped Google create a keyboard for the Cheslatta people. Quite honestly, I felt ignorant about my own culture in comparison to what he learned about not only himself and how he fits into his own culture, but how his idea of his own culture has changed and evolved to include his identity within the Cheslatta people. In comparison, I feel as if I am still constantly questioning my own role within my own culture, especially being a female wishing to work in the sports industry. While I understand that I am 21 and it is unfathomable to expect that I would be solid in my identity culturally at this moment, the idea is still daunting. Soren Larson was able to fit himself not only into his own culture, but adopted and was adopted by the Cheslatta culture too. On a side note, this topic also brought up the idea of the role of technology in preservation – of identities, of cultural aspects and items et al. We digitize records of many things so that they will not disappear, and it is interesting to think about how Apple viewed the importance of the preservation of the Cheslatta language.

Sherry Meriea also challenged me in that she pushed me to work even harder to break through the glass ceiling. As a woman who has repeatedly done so, she inspired me to work harder to combat gender bias within my own industry. My goal is to be a woman little girls will look up to as a woman in the sporting industry who worked extremely hard in order to combat the multiple gender biases which surround sports. As Sherry Meriea and our reading pointed out, I have noticed firsthand the importance men have in either perpetuating stereotypes or working to squash them. In my internship this pat year, I have been forced to deal firsthand with those men who see me as a sex object first and foremost and not the hardworking professional I am. Learning how to deal with that was definitely a challenge for me, but also having people assume I was having an inappropriate relationship with those I was friends with is an interesting double-standard which still exists in the industry. She inspired me to continue working to show that women belong in the front office of sports teams just as much as men do. Another interesting thing she brought up was the, “Honey,” nickname from when she was actively practicing law. Though it is seen as a small thing, it still represents the gender divide which exists. I related this to when I was in the office one day and one of my bosses said they did not know I knew so much about hockey, which is something my male intern never received. I am glad to know there is nothing wrong with that statement bugging me, for I correctly recognized its role in the proliferation of stereotypes.

Overall, both of these guest speakers really challenged my idea of how exactly I feel I fit into society, from my role as a human being to my role as a woman in sports.

Post #7: South Korean Sex Trade

In a country where women are still expected to be subservient to men, sex trafficking is at the front of human rights issues within South Korea. However, it is not limited to women within this country. The U.S. Department of State says South Korea, “is a source, transit, and destination country for men, women, and children subjected to sex trafficking and forced labor. South Korean women are subjected to forced prostitution in South Korea and abroad.” This article goes on to say that not only are South Koreans trafficked through the country, but people from many other Asian countries are bought and sold through the country as well. Migrant workers, the U.S. Department of State asserts, are the most likely to be bought and sold into slavery as a way of repaying the debts they incur. Due to their low skill set, they often feel as if they have no other option of repaying their debts, nor do they know how to get help.

According to the International Business Times, the sex industry accounts for as much as 4% of South Korea’s GDP, or more than the fishing industry. This article also asserts statistics which say that one-fifth of men in their 20s purchase sex four or more times each month, which further shows just how ingrained the sex industry is within South Korean culture.

The United Nations has identified sex trafficking as one of its Sustainable Development goals. Goal 5 is to “achieve gender equality and empower all women and girls”. One of the subsets of this goal is to, “eliminate all forms of violence against all women and girls in the public and private spheres, including trafficking and sexual and other types of exploitation.” Therefore, sexual trafficking was one of the issues which made it on the final version of the referendum, as the author was hopeful would happen.

However, for sexual trafficking to end, many of the U.N. countries need to stop turning a blind eye to what is happening in their own countries. As previously discussed, South Korea is a prime example of it. The GDP percentage figures came from the government itself, which is acknowledging that it knows sexual trafficking exists, but the government is not making any real headway in passing legislation to improve it. From an economic standpoint, with that much of your GDP coming from an illicit act, it would not make sense to crack down, spending more money to at the same time also reducing the amount of money your country is receiving. At the same time, the right move economically is not always the right move humanitarily, and in this case the right thing to do is for governments to intervene and pursue an agenda which benefits all of its citizens, not just the rich ones. As we discussed in lecture this week, countries need to understand and be willing to make economic sacrifices in order to benefit people, for in the long run it will be in everyone’s best interests to do so.

Blog #6: NGO Issues

  1. The main concerns Linda Polman raises in her book is that it seems no matter whether you are an INGO or a MONGO, no one is handling aid correctly. For INGOs, there is a huge visible waste of money. Whether it goes towards placating the ruling governing body through bribes or other forms of “negotiation” so that the INGO can operate, or goes towards financing the lavish lifestyles of many humanitarian aid workers, a lot of money raised by various INGOs does not directly benefit the cause it is raised for. Polman cites many instances where the aid workers are living a high life outside of when they are doing aid, going out to clubs and dining on good food often. Indeed, these aid workers are not living in poor conditions; the country clubs et al. are fixed before schools in many disaster zones. Polman also states that on the other hand MONGOs are going into areas believing they can do good but they are only there for a small period of time, being uninformed about the events which had to occur for the disaster to have happened, but also not being there for the aftereffects of their actions. She cites that an MONGO out of Kansas left many patients without aftercare, and other NGOs had to take care of them after the MONGO left, at their own expense.
  2. Polman says that “aid organizations are businesses dressed up like Mother Teresa” because the only thing we ever learn about aid organizations is that they help people. We never see the business side of things, where agreements have to be made, tariffs paid, etc. in order for the organizations to be able to operate in the first place. We also are never exposed to the bonuses the head aid workers experience, taking form very similar to those of top executives in Fortune 500 companies. We never hear about the lavish lifestyles these workers are allowed to live. In fact, we just assume that anyone involved in aid is living at the lowest possible level they can so that they can do the most good, but in reality this is not always the case. They still take care of their people, in the same way that businesses do to their own.
  3. Journalists have to not be afraid to ask questions to organizations and stop being afraid of any backlash. The public expects them to hold politicians accountable for their actions and to ask the tough questions, but this same status quo does not exist in the realm of NGOs. The public has to in turn also empower journalists to feel the need to ask such questions, while also holding the NGOs they donate to or work with accountable as well. Governments need to establish better transparency when reporting the actions of NGOs they work with, as well as cooperating with the countries they are providing aid to to attempt to reduce barriers. Additionally, they need to ensure organizations are not allowing unqualified people to carry out actions in foreign countries – they need to establish a system which either fines, or worse, people who are taking advantage of those in need.

Blog Post #5

Climate change and human rights are directly linked, for countries with more human rights tend to have higher rates of income which leads to either A) a society which can support an eco-friendly habitat like many European nations, or B) they are the larger cause of many environmental issues like the United States and claim to have an interest in preserving the status quo to keep making money.

In South Korea, women informally have fewer rights than men, and it deals with many climate change issues as well. South Korea is a country which has experienced significant economic growth in a relatively short amount of time, which has led to a boom in manufacturing and other industrial aspects which, in turn, has created a host of climate change-related issues in South Korea. However, the government’s response to air pollution is just to tell people to avoid going outside instead of solving the root of the problems, showing how little respect there is for the citizens in South Korea. Clean air is not seen as a human right.

The people in South Korea feel powerless to step in and help where both climate change and human rights are concerned. They do not trust their government, and therefore do not view the government as a means to fixing all of the issues in the country. This distrust of the government, however, has made South Koreans feel powerless about enacting change in their own country. The citizens feel they have to go with the flow the government is headed in out of fear, which had led to the further decay of conditions within South Korea.

Eurocentrism is the idea that the whole world follows this ideal of “Western” culture, valuing its music, celebrities et al. above everything else even the native culture of various ethnic groups. Citizens in the West believe that since those in other regions of the world are familiar with tenants of their popular culture, then they must want to be like a Euro-centric country. That is one of the main dangers of the idea of Eurocentrism, however, because it underscores and undervalues any other cultures and their ideas immediately dismissing them as inferior comparatively.

Noor talks about this need to go beyond eurocentrism, where the ideas of other cultures are celebrated. Currently, American culture really only values Asian countries such as Japan, China and South Korea for their food and nothing else, really. This immediately discounts the numerous other facets of the different cultures of each of these countries, and reduces the likelihood that someone in the United States would want to learn more about them beyond the food. When eurocentrism is the status quo, it makes it less likely that people would want to stray from this and learn more about other countries. Eurocentrism also creates an idea of inferiority on the world stage, where the opinions, wants and needs of Western countries are prioritized above the needs of the East, such as helping repair Berlin after the fall of the Berlin Wall while Japan did not get aid after WWII.

Post #4: Environmental Issues Affect South Korea, too

The future of the world, which is currently experiencing a serve decline in many ways due to climate change (as evidenced by the 70-degree days Missouri has seen in February), requires change to come from the top-down. Even during the civil rights movement, while people were protesting and making small-scale changes in their own personal business, there was no formal trend towards integration until the government stepped in and made change happen. In this same way, positive actions towards climate change require the government to intervene and legislate in ways that will have future positive impacts on the environment.

However, the current biggest obstacle Americans are facing in regards to positive climate change actions stems from its president. Donald Trump does not share views on the environment with the rest of the United States, refusing to acknowledge climate change is real. He is focused more on providing what he calls a business-first agenda which prioritizes the wants and needs of businesses over the future of our climate. While the rest of the world leaders are signing pledges like the Paris Agreement, Trump wants to withdraw the United States from these kind of actions. There used to exist a consensus by the world leaders (or a majority) about the actions needing to be taken to combat climate change, but Trump withdrawing the US from these ideas signals a shift by one of the world’s leading polluters away from pro-environmental policy.

While Water.Org is not active in South Korea currently, it operates in five other Asian countries.

One of the largest environmental problems plaguing South Koreans is heavily polluted air. In the 2016 EPI, South Korea ranked 173/180 in air quality. The air pollution comes from two different areas, one being ambient ozone pollution and the other ambient particulate matter pollution. Many South Korean media outlets have been unfairly blaming China as the source of the air pollution it is experiencing. In reality, Greenpeace says that up to 70% of South Korea’s pollution issues are homegrown, but it has not backed up these charges with formal figures.

South Korea relies on coal plants and diesel fuel to run its country, and that has a significant impact on the air quality. To get a truthful view of the source of South Korean air pollution, one has to look outside South Korean publications who trend towards blaming China wholly. NPR states, “The South Korean president calls the country’s poor air quality ‘a grave issue.’ But little beyond warning people to be careful has been done to address it. The levels of particulate matter in Seoul’s air have stayed stubbornly steady in recent years.”

While the government does warn its people when the air outside is too dangerous to breathe, the air pollution levels have remained relatively constant in the past few years. South Korea is reluctant to move away from such a high reliance on fossil fuels, and is investing in more coal plants in years to come. These plants continuously worsen the environment, but are heavily favored by the government.

 

Post #3: South Korean Nationalism

Zakaria states that a lot of people in non-North American countries tend to absorb tenants of North American culture, but do not see them as a part of cultures of North America, denying that they enjoy sharing a part of their absorbed culture with another one. However, Zakarian states, “In many countries such nationalism arises from a pent-up frustration over having to accept an entirely Western, or American, narrative of world history—one in which they are miscast or remain bit players.” The nationalism he is referring to is the evolution of this combined nationalism, where countries who have adapted aspects of more modern culture, but yet are proud of their country’s growth. Their national identity has evolved to balance these seemingly-conflicting ideas.

South Korean national identity has been described as, “a national inferiority complex has been intensified by suffering sexual enslavement, which embodies physical domination.” The article from The Conversation states that this has evolved from being sandwiched between superpowers China and Japan.

However, Korea JoongAng Daily states,

“‘[The coinage of gukppong] means that the hanminjok supremacy, or the principle that everything Korean is good, doesn’t work anymore,’ Shim Jae-hoon, a history professor at Dankook University, said. Shim says gukppong in that sense could mean fatigue from nationalism. Kim Ki-bong, a history professor at Kyonggi University, says ‘a word that ends with “ism” is usually an ideology. It’s a school of thought. But interestingly, nationalism is a highly emotional concept. That is why highly rational people are having a difficult time accepting [gukppong content rooted in nationalism].'”

It then further states, “But experts say unlike nationalism in the West, Korean nationalism can be divided into the right-wing nationalism and the left-wing nationalism. ”

Nationalism conflicts in South Korea have been arising in a way similar to that of the United States, which is conflict between the left and right-wing tenants. Right-wing South Korean nationalists identify South Korea only in the boundaries which currently encompass the country, and celebrate the country’s present success, much like Zakaria states. However, the left-wing nationalists in the country view their nationalism as the combined identity of North and South Korea as one Korea, with a strong distrust and dislike of Japanese peoples.

The highest occurrence of inequality in the region of South Korea occurs in the form of a gender divide. Historically, women would work in “pleasure houses”, servicing the military men while they were on assignment. They have always traditionally been in a position of lower power and status than South Korean men, and it is still a recurring problem plaguing women in the current Korean status quo. Korea Expose traced the manifestations of said gender tensions as they occur throughout the year in a traditional South Korean household. It shows how women are expected to cook all of the food for holidays, and also states that women are expected to do chores around the house while when men do chores themselves, their doing of chores is seen as a favor and not as an expected role in their life.

This gendered tension has evolved, Korea Expose states, to have created tension also between mothers and daughters. Like the previously stated differences in nationalism between generations, younger generations also are more progressive when it comes to the idea of traditional gender roles. Where young women ask for the help from men, expecting them to pitch in as they do not conform to gender roles, the older women then step in preventing the gendered tension from evolving. Essentially, the older women are stating the younger ones are wrong for asking for help from the men and they should be serving them. This gendered tension permeates all aspects of South Korean society, from politics to the daily life of a woman.

Post #2: South Korea, its languages and role internationally

The official language of South Korea is Korean, which is shared with North Korea. However, there are some differences between the North and South Korean iterations of the language similar to Mexican and more authentic Spanish. Other languages spoken in South Korea include English and Mandarin Chinese, but they are considered immigrant languages. In response to anti-South Korean actions in China as a result of the ongoing deployment of a missile defense system, South Korea it came out on February 1st that it has stopped issuing visas for Chinese language instructors affiliated with a Chinese NGO affiliated with China’s education ministry. There have not been any new visas issued, nor have any one-year visas been renewed. When asked if these visa actions are in response to China-South Korean chances, an official from the Ministry of Justice said, according to The Korea Times, “According to the ministry, it recently discovered that the instructors at the Confucius Institute do not fulfill the requirements to receive the E-2 visa, as they are technically hired and paid by the Chinese institute, not a South Korean institute.” Chinese officials are hoping that these visa issues will be worked out.

According to the United Nations’ website, the Republic of South Korea has been a member since September 17, 1991. South Korea has been elected to the Security Council as a non-permanent member twice, including two terms as president of the council. South Korea also ranks 40th in nations who have sent peacekeeping troops to the United Nations, which they claim is, “a reflection of the government’s willingness to contribute to world peace and security, thus enhancing its status in the international community while simultaneously making the world a safer place.” South Korea also claims that it is one of the major players in nuclear disarmament in the world. From 1993 – 2006, South Korea served on the Commission on Human Rights. In regards to international justice, South Korea helped draft the legislation which created the International Criminal Court.

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The Republic of Korea has been a member of the World Trade Organization since its inception on January 1, 1995. However, South Korea initially joined the predecessor to the WTO, the GATT on April 14, 1967. North Korea is not a member of the WTO. South Korea is an observer to the Committee on Trade in Civil Aircraft. It is Party to the Government Procurement Agreement, and Signatory to the Information Technology Agreement. Since China and South Korea are both members of the WTO, South Korea has been considering filing a lawsuit through the WTO in regards to China’s THAAD economic retaliatory actions. While South Korean officials refused to officially comment on the actions they will be taking in response to the economic sanctions, they are exploring this route, which would make it an official trade dispute with the two countries. Currently, officials feel their hands are tied in one way or another, considering Chinese officials are stating publicly that they have no knowledge of any actions being taken against the Republic of Korea, but their actions have been directly opposite their official statement. However, officials are still reviewing whether Chinese actions can be brought to the attention of the World Trade Organization on an individual basis according to the Organization’s rules.

 

 

Post #1: South Korea-China Tensions

As a result of increased North Korean nuclear weapons tests, the United States and South Korea banded together a few months ago in order to deploy THAAD (Terminal High Altitude Area Defense). However, since this decision was announced internationally, South Korea has been facing a lot of backlash from China. The official announcement came July 8, 2016, according to The Diplomat. China fears that this will integrate South Korea into the United States’ security in Asia, which will further strengthen the U.S.  As a result of these fears, China has been issuing sanctions against South Korea, escalating them as South Korea and the United States have been hurrying the deployment in response to North Korea.

One of the most striking actions China has taken in retaliation, according to the same Diplomat article, is the People’s Liberation Army’s Navy underwent an exercise in the Yellow Sea in September. This did appear to be a warning to South Korea to cease the installation of THAAD, but did not deter the country.

North Korea has been increasing the pace of developing its nuclear weapons program, much to the disdain of many countries around the world. The European Union and the United States have been in discussion as to how to try and block the continuing development, and one of the proposed solutions has been to block North Korean access to international banking infrastructure, according to a CNBC article.

THAAD deployment in South Korea has been seen as an important step in the U.N.’s attempts to dissuade North Korean nuclear action, but it is also necessary for China to support the U.N. in any of their actions taken against North Korea, Daniel Russel, assistant secretary of state for East Asia, asserts. However, the Chinese are vehemently against any THAAD installation in East Asia for the previously stated fear of the increase of power of the United States.

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US Assistant Secretary of State for East Asian and Pacific Affairs Daniel Russel (L) talks with South Korean Foreign Minister Yun Byung-Se (R).

In order to oppose this action, the easiest path for China to take has been to issue sanctions against South Korea. According to CNBC, some of these sanctions have gone to far as to include the exclusion of any Korean pop music or any pop culture either created by a South Korean or which features a South Korean cast member. They have also been diplomatically sanctioning South Korea by both refusing to meet with South Korean officials and refusing South Korean officials access to China.

Both the United States and South Korea, however, have reason to fear further North Korean nuclear weapon development. In 2014, North Korea openly threatened to target the United States with its weapons.

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Via CNN http://www.cnn.com/2015/09/15/asia/north-korea-nuclear-program/

As a result of being openly threatened, it would logically follow that the country would want to defend itself. North Korea and the United States have both openly acknowledged the tension between the two countries on an international stage many times before. The U.S. considers South Korea an important ally to have, especially in case of any North Korean war actions, which makes South Korea an enemy of North Korea even though they share a border. South Korea therefore has a huge target on its back due to choosing to ally itself with the United States. Its close proximity to North Korea makes it most likely the first target North Korea would choose.

However, China is staunchly against what it views as both American aggression and American attempts to colonize Eastern Asia, which it has fought with over land before. Though China, South Korea and the United States are all members of the United Nations, this does not necessarily mean they have to agree on all of each others’ actions. Only time will tell whether China will take any sanctions against North Korea as well, or simply continue to retaliate against South Korea.