It’s Memorial Day so of course today I’m remembering the brave men and women who answered our nation’s call to duty and paid for our freedom with their blood. I wrote about one of them, my great Uncle Frank, last year. Have a read if you are so inclined.
Came home and hit the scale for my weekly weigh-in and was pleased to see a loss of three pounds. That brings me down to to 249. Glad to put those 250s behind me, hopefully forever. Total weight loss thus far is 29.5 pounds, pretty nearly half of my 60 pound goal (see, I can set the bar high too). Oddly enough, my girth measurement is up one inch to 47″. It boggles my brain to lose weight and get bigger at the same time. Jee Yeun says it’s from all the beer I drank this weekend. Well, I did put away some brewskis, but they were of the low carb (2.5 grams per bottle) variety. I’m more inclined to think it was the watermelon I scarfed down, which was pretty much my only major diet violation this week. Ah well, I guess the old saw that less is more has proven to be accurate in this case. Onward and downward!
Canada’s Globe and Mail thinks conditions are ripe for conflict on the peninsula in the new year.
“Some Pyongyang watchers expect yet another escalation as the regime of Kim-Jong-un tries to force itself – and its need for cash and food – to the top of the international agenda. Some predict North Korea will stage a spectacular military provocation, perhaps akin to 2010’s deadly shelling of Yeonpyeong Island, to force Seoul and Washington to pay attention to its demands.
And with South Korea’s hawkish mood captured by the presidential election victory of of Park Geun-hye – whose father was a former military ruler and whose mother was assassinated by North Korean agents – there are many who believe Seoul will punch back the next time Pyongyang strikes, sending the peninsula into an unpredictable spiral.”
More at the link. I do wonder just how much President Park would like to avenge her mother’s murder. Maybe she’s itching for a little provocation. But then again, I’ve always been astounded at just how much provocation the people of the ROK have been willing to tolerate in the past, what with sinking of ships and shelling of civilians and all. Of course, it seems to me the average south Korean just doesn’t seem to give a shit about much outside their own little bubble of the good life. For example, the general lack of compassion regarding the plight of their northern brothers and sisters has also been incomprehensible to me.
We shall see what we shall see. Call me a Rascal if you must, but ask me my opinion and my opinion will be, People Got to Be Free.
It’s October 1950 in my journey through LIFE. The troops in Korea have captured Pyongyang. The headline reads: Hard Hitting UN Forces Wind Up War. Kim Sung Il has apparently fled to Manchuria. MacArthur says the war is won.
Alas, it was not to be.
After the election in 1948, President Truman instituted massive cuts to the defense budget to pay for social programs. In 1950 we were totally unprepared for the war in Korea. And we paid for it in blood.
this is now.
Obama is doing his victory dance on Iraq. Some of us remember the truth.
One of my favorite writers, Pat Conroy, pays tribute to his father, Colonel Don Conroy, aka The Great Santini. Y’all really need to read the whole thing, but here’s the part that pertains to his service in Korea:
Here’s hoping that America will always find “a few good men” like Don Conroy when she needs them.
It has oft been said that those who fail to remember history are destined to repeat it. Or something like that. So, I’ve been thinking of that bromide recently in the context of appeasement and the treatment of terrorism as a crime rather than an act of war. Part of what triggered these thoughts was reading comments from Obama’s national security advisor John Brennan regarding the terrorist threat having nothing to do with Islam. At best, this amounts to pandering, at worst it is willful ignorance. Given that Brennan supports giving enemy combatants access to US criminal courts and Constitutional rights, I’m inclined to believe it is ignorance.
I challenge anyone to cite even one instance in the history of mankind where appeasement has paid any dividend or did more than prolong the inevitable conflict that must ultimately be resolved between two competing and irreconcilable ideologies. And we all saw where the Clinton administration’s treatment of terrorism as a crime led us. So, why are repeating these mistakes now?
I was reading about the first Barbary War and found this factoid fascinating:
In March 1785, Thomas Jefferson and John Adams went to negotiate with Tripoli’s envoy to London, Ambassador Sidi Haji Abdrahaman (or Sidi Haji Abdul Rahman Adja). Upon inquiring “concerning the ground of the pretensions to make war upon nations who had done them no injury”, the ambassador replied:
Sounds pretty damn familiar, doesn’t it? The point is, our enemies don’t want to kill us because of any wrong we have done them. It is not about Israel and the Palestinians. This war has be going on since the 13th century, pretty much like a volcano–sometimes hot and active, sometimes more or less dormant.
Since we’ve been destined to live during an active period, we must once again be prepared to defend Western values like liberty and equality. Is there anyone who sincerely believes those values are compatible with Islam?
How can you run when you know?
and I feel fine.
I will stay tuned for the BBC expose revealing that Ahmadinejad is just another stooge in league with the CIA. You know, like that Bin Laden guy.
For an intelligent guy, The One sure seems ignorant sometimes. Or maybe he was stoned during U.S. history 101…
(Emperor Hirohito came down?)
Well, who woulda thunk the French would ever be in a position to lecture the USA on showing some backbone in the face of threats from tyrants. Claudia Rosett reports:
Let the record show that from this day forward I have retired “surrender monkeys” from my vocabulary.
I thought I’d take a break from politics and talk a little bit about a story in the Stars and Stripes on “juicy bars” being a conduit for prostitution. The Stripes story covers the scene up in Dongducheon near Camp Casey in Area I. I don’t have any first hand knowledge of that bar district, but GI Korea at ROKdrop offers his take here.
My perspectives are based on what I have observed in Itaewon and also what I saw during my travels to the Philippines. I admit up front to being somewhat conflicted on the issues raised in this story. I certainly understand and adhere to the DoD prohibitions regarding prostitution. However, I’m not at all convinced that the “human trafficing” aspect is as widespread as this story would lead you to believe. For me at least there is a huge difference in a woman choosing to be a prostitute as opposed to being forced to do so. While that may sound obvious, the line can sometimes get fuzzy. Now, I have never met anyone working in the bars in Itaewon or the Philippineswho wasn’t doing so by choice. On the other hand, I’ve met more than a few who were working in the bars because they had no other choice. Yes, you could choose not to work the bars but for some that means choosing not to feed your family. Some choice, huh?
As I mentioned above my experience is limited to Itaewon. And I think the bars like those mentioned in the Stripes article probably only exist here up on “hooker hill”. And those are all off limits to DoD personnel and regulary patrolled by the MPs and Korean police. I expect some soldiers break the rules of course, but I’m guessing that’s not the clientele keeping these joints in business. So, I don’t think you can fault the actions taken or otherwise blame USFK for whatever overt prostitution still taking place in Itaewon.
Before we get into my critique of the Stripes article, let’s begin with some definitions and a caveat. A juicy bar is a bar where a young woman (degrees of attractiveness vary) will sit and keep you company as long as you are buying her drinks. These drinks are expensive (at least W10,000 but usually W20,000 in Itaewon) and normally consists of juice and little or no alcohol. So, you meet juicy girls in juicy bars. Some juicy bars also provide sex for a price (either on or off premises), others do not. I am not aware of any bar openly selling sex in addition to juice that is not on the off limits list for Itaewon.
Which is not to say that a juicy girl in a “legit” bar won’t engage in sex, but it would be more along the lines of a personal transaction without the knowledge or participation of the bar. I don’t know if that makes it anymore prostitution than does spending lots of money on a traditional date with a “regular” girl that ends in lovemaking. Perhaps we all have our price in that regard.
Not all juicy bars are created equal. Some are sleazy like those pictured in the Stripes article. Others are quite upscale with very attractive women elegantly dressed (meaning sexy, not slutty). I’d say there are more of the latter type in Itaewon. Also, at most Itaewon bars and pubs the staff will gladly accept a drink offer from a customer. Some (like Dolce Vita) charge the regular price, others charge W10,000. I make a distinction here because these bars aren’t selling juice and generally the bargirl stays on her side of the bar. For example, I sometimes buy the bartender a drink in lieu of a tip.
The caveat is that I’m no expert in that I rarely visit “juicy bars”, usually only in a “boys night out” setting, and I never buy W20,000 drinks which puts me in the unpopular “cheap Charlie” category. So, since I won’t pop for an expensive drink it is unlikely that I would be solicited for anything more pricey on the “menu” if you get my meaning. Having said that, I have lived here almost 5 years and have friends and acquaintences more well versed in the juicy scene than I, so I also speak with the benefit of that vicarious experience.
Ok then, on to the article:
Ok, well at least in Itaewon all the legit juicy bars I’ve seen (not off limits) employ Koreans. The only exploited Filipinas I’ve met here are the ones who came to Korea as “mail order” brides to Korean men. I’ve heard some real horror stories about that.
Almost every Filipina I encountered in the Philippines was looking for a way out. Many, after the briefest acquaintance, were asking me to “sponsor” them to come to Korea, no strings attached. Of course I declined to help someone circumvent Korean immigration laws, but I question if these folks so desperate to escape the crushing poverty and hopelessness of their lives really don’t know what being an “entertainer” in Korea entails. Again, acknowledging that there are exceptions, I don’t believe the majority of these young women are being forced into sexual slavery.
Sorry, I think that is an unfair burden to lay at the doorstep of government. Hell, most of the “progressive” governments in Europe have thrown in the towel and legalized/regulated the prostitution industry. I certainly don’t think that closing all juicy bars is going to solve anything. USFK does a decent job monitoring the bars for illicit activites and places those found in violation of DoD regualtions off limits. Korea is a soveriegn nation and is responsible for enforcing its own immigration and anti-prostitution laws. Well, they are about as good at doing so as the USA is within its own borders. Most of the Filipinas I know in Korea are here illegally. And prostitution is rampant throughout Korea, not just around U.S. military bases. Hell, it’s not even that well hidden. You have the notorious glass houses, the double pole barber shops, and the room salons pretty much everywhere you go. And most of these are catering to Korean men, not foreigners.
And then there is the Philippines. Prostitution, although technically illegal, is big business there. And yeah, 20 years ago it was centered around the big U.S. military complexes at Clark and Subic Bay. Guess what, those places are still thriving long after Uncle Sam departed by serving sex tourists from around the globe. And a whole lot of those tourists are Koreans. So here’s the thing. If a Filipina in her desperation chooses a life of prostitution (again, it may be the only viable option, but still a choice if you will) should she sell herself for $30 in Angeles City, or 5 times that in Seoul? To be clear, I am not saying that trafficing does not exist. I am saying that the vast majority are choosing to use the only real asset they own (their body) to support themselves and their family. The smart ones come to Korea (and Japan and the USA) to maximum the value of that asset.
Do I feel good about that? No, not at all. I spent some time in the bars in the Philippines talking with the girls. And it was depressing as hell. So, at first I thought these young women are being exploited. But then I thought, if they didn’t have this they would have nothing. It seems to me that if a man can “sell his body” doing back breaking work as a laborer, it should be a woman’s choice to utilize her body as best meets her needs and circumstances.
So, close all the juicy bars in Korea and send the girls home. Be assured you will not be improving the circumstances of those unfortunates one iota.
I think that’s the right approach and all that can be reasonably expected.
Well, you know what? That’s pretty good wages comparitively speaking. The bargirls in the Philippines I spoke with might make 10,000 pesos ($200) in a good month. The girls with legit jobs, like working at the mall make half that. And you can’t get a mall job without at least two years of college which is beyond the reach of poor families in the provinces. Again, I have tons of empathy for these girls and the harshness of their lives, but I don’t see any real advantage to taking away the only means of a viable income. I pay my Filipina maid $320 a month and she sends most of that home to support her family. So, these juicy girls are doing exceptionally well, relatively speaking.
First of all, any bar that allows “bar fines” is immediately subject to being placed off limits. In the Philippines, a “bar fine” is called an EWR–Early Work Release. The way that works is the customer pays the bar a set sum, usually around $30. This entitles the bargirl to leave work early. The bar normally gives the girl half the barfine. What happens after that is contingent on what two consenting adults agree to do.
Now, I am not so naive as to not understand that the EWR concept is a convienent workaround to the prostitution laws. Still, at least in the Philippines, the bargirls can refuse an EWR request. They only go with the customers they choose to be with. Sometimes the EWR involves bar hopping or dinner or lounging at the pool. And yes, I am sure that in some (most?) cases it ends up with sexual intercourse.
Would these girls do this sort of work if they had better options? Some may, I suspect most would not. But it strikes me as being disingenuous to claim they are being exploited. Again, I have not ever witnessed any case of someone being forced into prostitution. I have however heard many sad tales about being the only means of support for children and family. Many of these girls hate what they do, but hate the alternative more.
I just can’t accept the premise that putting these people out of the only work that pays enough to provide food and shelter is making the world a better place.
Yes, let’s castrate anyone who enslaves or otherwise forces these young women into prostitution. But don’t take away one of the few options available in a desperate life for those who choose it.
I do tend to good-naturedly rag on our cousins up north, but it’s all in fun. Having met several Canadians here in Korea I can honestly say that in many ways they are just like normal folks. Ok, I’m ragging again.
But on a serious note, this article on some Canadian troops doing important work in Afghanistan reminded me that we are brothers-in-arms and I do appreciate and respect their service and sacrafice.
Job well done, guys.
The USFK commander visited the DMZ yesterday to mark the anniversary of the armistice.
So, it turned into a photo-op battle, with the Norks posing for snapshots directly behind General Sharp. Pretty funny and typical of the oneupsmanship that is pretty much the norm on the DMZ.
So they say. Still, hearing the ROKs think along these lines is encouraging.
Friday night I attended the U.S. Army Birthday Ball in celebration of the Army’s founding 234 years ago today. You can read all about that glorious history here.
This was my first time attending an event of this nature, and it was pretty cool. All the military folks dressed out in their formal uniforms and the civilian contingent in our tuxedos. I had my tux tailor made three years ago for my last formal event, the Commader’s Mess. I didn’t need a scale to tell me I’ve gained a few pounds since then. So, it will be back to the tailor for some alterations before my next ball!
Anyway, the event was held at the Grand Hyatt Hotel in Seoul. A great venue and convienent as well. We started with a cocktail hour where I mingled with the brass, which was my real motivation for attending. You know, showing “the flag” and demonstrating that our civilian workforce is part of the formation and supportive of our brothers and sisters in arms and all that.
Then the signal was given to enter the dining hall and we all took our assigned seats. Now, if I had known better I would have arranged to get assigned to sit with some folks I actually know. Instead I was seated with some Korean civilians there to show support. Which is all good, but we didn’t have much dinner conversation if you know what I mean.
I never had the privalage to serve in the military, but I never fail to be impressed with the traditions and pomp and circumstance. We began with the presentation of colors, singing of the ROK and USA national anthems, and assorted toasts. Then something I had never seen but found fascinating to witness was the placement of campaign streamers on the Army flag. Army streamers ave been awarded for participation in the various wars and military engagements throughout the Army’s history. The had soldiers dressed in period uniforms solemnly presenting each streamer from that era to be attached to the Army flag. Good stuff, and a reminder of the debt we owe those who have served honorably in defense of our nation. Here’s what the flag looks like with streamers:
We then sang the Army song, which I always enjoy:
Oh, I met a traditional Korean woman at the event and she even consented to have her photo taken with me. She didn’t have much to say however.
I guess you could call that a good night. Happy Birthday to the U.S. Army!
So everyone seems to be speculating these days on what’s next from crazy ol’ Kim Jong Il. Well, your guess is as good as mine. The commonly held view seems to be that we can expect some type of provacative act, likely in or near the Northern Limit Line (the extension of the DMZ into the Yellow Sea). Could be a naval engagement or perhaps even an invasion of one of the coastal islands. Unlike his predecessor, President Lee will probably be disinclined to let such an act go answered. Whether it stops at a tit for tat remains to be seen.
I’m thinking Kim will wait and see if the UN Security Council does anything more than issue “a strongly worded letter”. If so, that may trigger him to lash out in some form or fashion. At least, that has been his modus operandi in the past. Rumor has it that sanctions, if they are coming, would be announced this week. So I suppose it’s wait and see time around here.
You know, people from home seem a lot more concerned about the current state of affairs here on the peninsula than those of us living here. Again, this is pretty much old hat and it is only the uninformed who believe that the Norks ever respected any international agreements to which they are a party. Make no mistake, military planning and preparations are ongoing, but that is as it should be regardless. Just some new possible contingencies to take into account is my observation. Certainly, it is business a usual for the Korean people who have been living under north Korean threats for generations.
I’m not worried or overly concerned. I guess the fact that I’m even thinking and writing about this issue now is about the only thing different from my perspective. While the Norks could rain some fire and destruction down on our heads, it would be suicide to do so. And my take on it is that everything the DPRK does is calculated to ensure perpetuation of the regime. There is always the chance that they will miscalculate and overplay thier hand I suppose, but I also expect China will not sit back indefinitely and let things get too far out of hand.
Of course, not everyone has such a sanguine view of things. Commenter Dennis from Florida left the following comment on an earlier post:
Time will tell I suppose. But I’m sleeping just fine.
UPDATE: Upon re-reading, my poor sentence construction may have left the impression that I thought anyone taking the situation here more serious than me was “uninformed”. My intent was people who only read the MSM and see “Kim renounces Armistice” might think things are worse than they are. Kim has never kept true to the terms of the Armistice, so that statement is not particular cause for alarm.
Places I Go
John McCrarey: That's the plan. It