“Look at us!”

Sociology professor Song Ho-keun on “The Korean Way”:

The numbers on the passenger list and the numbers of survivors, dead and missing didn’t add up. Simple arithmetic seemed beyond the Korean nation. No one can say how the rescue mission was orchestrated, ordered or carried out. Most of the real accomplishments on site were by civilians – fishermen who arrived at the scene first and civilian divers who first swam into the cabins returning with the bodies. A five-star, highly civilized and democratic society betrayed its feet of clay to the world at large. We’re like Stone Age cavemen waving smartphones in the air. Look at us!”

Some good has to come out of the Sewol tragedy but it’s still too early to tell what it will be.

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Chain of Command

JoongAng Daily talks about whether a ferry filled with primarily adults would have had better survival rates:

“‘Those who did not follow the announcement and came out lived, and those who listened to it are missing,’ said a 42-year-old mother of a child who is in middle school. ‘When I discuss this with other parents from our school, we say that maybe we should tell the kids not to trust strangers or teachers anymore.’

‘How can kids trust grown-ups when they hear that the captain and crew of the Sewol ran away after telling the kids to stay put?’ said another 32-year-old mother of an elementary school student. ‘I’m not certain whether I should teach my child to listen to adults in an emergency – or to just run away as fast as he can.’”

In a country where the authority of teachers and captains, and adults over children in general, plays such a strong role in daily life, these are genuinely difficult questions to grapple with.

Posted in Korea, Kultur, Sewol | Leave a comment


This article does a good job of pointing out how the writers of HBO’s Game of Thrones have made their first serious mistake, regarding Jaime’s raping of Cersei (didn’t happen that way in the book):

Much has been made, and will continue to be made, about George R.R. Martin’s Westeros, a violent, dark, dangerous world, especially for women. And it’s true, Martin’s A Storm Of Swords has that same sex scene, complete with the empty sept and dead boy-king. Except for one crucial difference. Cersei wantsto have sex.”

Yes, Westeros is grimdark unhappy nofun, especially for women, but this change from the novels was absolutely unnecessary.  You’ve already got a consensual, incestuous coupling right next to the dead body of their son.

Why do you need to make that even darker?

In better news, Maisie Williams as Arya continues to steal the show every week so far.

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Apparently people are “hoax-texting” parents of the Sewol disaster.

Jesus, people are awful.

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Confucianism On The Bridge?

And like that, we’re full circle back to the Asiana Flight 214 — did Korean culture and/or attitudes (in this case, students’ deference to authority) lead to a preventable tragedy (i.e., “Confucius In The Cockpit”)?  From The Straits Times:

“‘We were asking ourselves: ‘Shouldn’t we move? Shouldn’t we try and get out?’ But the announcement was saying help would be there in 10 minutes,’ Mr Huh told the News Y television channel.

Discipline is strict in the South Korean education system and authority rarely flouted, leaving observers to conclude that most of the 375 high-school students on the ferry, in their late teens, would have probably obeyed any official commands without question.

‘If only we had been told to get out earlier, then more of us would have been able to jump into the sea,’ one student who managed to escape told the MBC TV channel.

‘But most people just stayed put as they were told,’ she added.”

Still so many questions.  And no, Korean students aren’t robots but yes, relative to American students in my experience they’re probably more likely to follow orders rather than question them in a crisis situation.

And that’s not necessarily a bad thing as long as the orders are being given by someone competent and fully aware of the situation.

But from the information available so far, it sounds like the students who “broke” the rules against moving are the ones who survived and they were, so sadly, a minority.

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Condolences to the family and friends of all the victims of the Sewol, the South Korean ferry that went down near Jeju Island yesterday.  As of now, nearly 300 people, mostly high school students, remain missing.

Some thoughts from a complete non-expert on all things naval and maritime and so on:

1) There is a warm place in hell for whichever government official stated early in the afternoon yesterday that every single student on board (they were on a field trip) had been rescued.  Just how the hell do you make such a claim, while at the same time media started broadcasting video of a completely capsized and almost wholly sunken ship?

Update:  Chosun Ilbo writes that it was Gyeonggi Provice “Education officials” who texted parents at 11 a.m. telling them all of the students had been rescued.  The hammer needs to fall very, very hard on all of them.

2) Many reports are coming out that passengers were told to stay where they were, even as the water began rushing in.  While it can’t be an easy decision to order hundreds of people into cold ocean water, isn’t their a middle ground of “prepare to evacuate,” where passengers put on life-jackets and get above deck to await further orders?  Again, not an expert by any means, but wouldn’t ordering people to stay in their cabins be pretty much tantamount to a death warrant?

3) Some of the survivors reported that they were thrown life-jackets by rescue ships coming onto the scene, meaning they hadn’t put them on while on the ferry.  It’s still too early to say obviously, but there may have been gross negligence on the part of the captain and/or crew.

4) Speaking of the captain, it seems he’s among the missing.

Update: Apparently the captain and some number of crew survived.  Honestly, that just leads to more questions.

Overall, a really sad day for the country.  The fact that so many of the victims were teenagers makes it all the more tragic.

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Negative Nancy


Image source here.

I thought the “Purple Wedding” episode of Game of Thrones was fantastic.  And the next two or so episodes are probably going to be amazing if they do justice to the books.

After that, it’s all downhill.  Some weird stuff happens to Cersei, and we meet all these new and forgettable Dornish characters, but basically every other character in the series gets stuck in proverbial quicksand and simply.  stops.  moving.  (Poor Daenarys — she liberates the same slaver city three times to no real effect.  “ZOMG my dragons are getting so big!  ZOMG I sure wish I had a goddamn ship so I could head back west and actually advance the plot!”)

The HBO series has been a master-class in writing and casting, but I’ve got a feeling we’re at the high watermark right now.  Martin is about to lose the plot, so how could the TV series not follow suit?

What’s an even more interesting possibility, and one that grows more likely by the month, is that the HBO writers are going to finish the story rather than G.R.R. Martin himself.  Game of Thrones, the first book in the series, came out 18 years ago.  The idea that he could finish two more books before the HBO series “catches up” to him is pretty far-fetched.

And frankly, as much fun as the books are, I’d rather see what the HBO writers could do to finish things up, authorial intention be damned.

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“Cause the sky was never blue”

The Sea and Cake, “Harps”

Trying to figure out my future.  Porn star and astronaut are, for various reasons beyond my control, out of the question.

That leaves circus geek or investment banker.

Decisions, decisions. . . .

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That line between good taste and mere snobbery.

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Smells Like Democracy

After billions of dollars and thousands of lives wasted, Democracy is on the march in Iraq where nine year-old girls are now legally compelled to marry and be raped by their new husbands:

“Ayad Allawi, a former Iraqi prime minister, warned on Tuesday that approval of the law would lead to the abuse of women. ‘It allows for girls to be married from nine years of age and even younger,’ he said. ‘There are other injustices [contained in it] too.’

While there is no set minimum age for marriage, the section on divorce includes rules for divorces of girls who have reached the age of 9 years.

Marital rape is condoned by a clause that states women must comply with their husband’s sexual demands. Men are given guardianship rights over women and the law also establishes rules governing polygamous relationships.”

Dick Cheney must be so proud.

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