Saturday, May 14, 2005

More on Korea

So many stories, so little time.
I want to blog about everything I read as I surf, but there isn’t time.
This piece keeps drumming in my head…

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At Lee's command, the factory's 2,000 employees donned headbands labeled Quality First and assembled in a courtyard. There they found their entire inventory piled in a heap - cell phones, fax machines, nearly $50 million worth of equipment. A banner before them read Quality Is My Pride. Beneath it sat Lee and his board of directors. Ten workers took the products one by one, smashed them with hammers, and threw them into a bonfire. Before it was over, employees were weeping.

Ritual purification at the command of a heroic leader is an ancient and powerful tradition in this part of the world. With a few superficial changes, this whole scene could have played in a Zhang Yimou costume epic. Certainly it had the desired effect: After Lee's visit to Gumi, shoddiness was not an option. Ki-tae Lee, then the Gumi factory manager and now head of Samsung's mobile telecom division, personally tests new models by hurling them against a wall or dropping them from a second-story window. Once he even ran over a handset with his car. It still worked.
This happened in 1995.
It happened in a small factory town in South Korea.
The source of the story is Wired Magazine, via the Marmot.
Put it together with other observations of Korea and see what you get.
This is only one of many stories that the average American on the street would look at, blink, roll his eyes and keep walking.

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According to relevant authorities, North Korea has built military-related underground facilities in 8,200 places. North Korea is also moving major facilities beneath the earth, having moved about 180 major munitions factories underground in the late 1990s. There are even air bases where runways penetrate whole mountains. North Korea is evaluated at being among the world’s best at constructing underground facilities. [...]

North Korea spends a lot on building and maintaining underground facilities. Its underground munitions factories, the building of which began full-scale in the 1970s, suffer from serious problems due to the country’s antiquated power grid. This is related to the fact that the power grid losses about 30 percent of the North’s real annual electricity consumption of roughly 12 billion kWh (Unification Ministry figure). Intelligence officials figure there have also been a string of large-scale disasters involving explosives at the underground munitions plants, where the environment is poor due to dampness and other factors.


Am I the only one who thinks that behind the scenes there could be serious reservations about the reunification of North and South Korea? Real serious reservations.

What would happen if the technology and wealth of the South combined with the gritty, powerfully focused military intensity of the North? Just asking.

In a lengthy post referring to a couple of Time articles, the Marmot comments:
South Koreans — particularly those in the Seoul area — have been living with the prospect of a very bad death for more than any people should, and given the numerous incidents and crises that have plagued the peninsula since the end of the Korean War, many may simply be desensitized to the threat. That is to say, North Korea has become a part of everyday life, and while nukes may represent a new twist in the equation for the U.S., for Koreans, many of whom are going to die regardless of the nature of the ordinance, North Korean nukes don’t really change things other than possibly make a U.S. attack on North Korea more likely.

More telling is this from the comment thread:

Many young Koreans I’ve talked to are not merely unperturbed by the Northern nukes; instead, they positively want the North to make them and keep them. The logic of this position seems that they see both the waning of the U.S. influence in East Asia and the re-unification of the peninsula as inevitable, and the possession of nuclear weapons as both a badge of national prestige as well as a weighty geopolitical chip against China/Japan when those scenarios materialize. Obviously, from this perspective the Northern nukes are considered to be somehow “ours” for South Koreans, and the possibility of its use v. the South most improbable–a fine by-product of DJ/Roh governments’ indoctrination.

My remark above about "what would happen if the technology and wealth of the South combined with the gritty, powerfully focused military intensity of the North" is not an entirely obtuse piece of fanciful thinking on my part. At least one other person using a Korean name profile advanced the same notion...

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