Kim, Psy, and Abe — Winter 2013 Recap
 North Korea succeeds in placing a satellite into orbit with its in-house-developed rocket on Dec. 12, 2012.

What makes the North Korean space flight a particularly impressive technological feat is that all stages of the rocket as well as the launching pad were developed indigenously by the North Korean engineers (with no foreign technical assistance and only a minority of the parts having been imported from foreign countries).

 First successful launch of the South Korean Naro rocket, end of January 2013.

A couple of months later, on Jan. 30th, 2013, South Korea succeeds in launching a satellite of its own into orbit. The Naro rocket [l] consists of a Russian first stage and a Russian launching pad. Only the second stage (a solid propellant rocket) was developed indigenously by South Korean engineers. The launch of the NK satellite was touted in the Western and South Korean media as a disguised missile test. But a missile test would not have aimed to achieve orbit and would have involved the testing of an horizon stabilizer and the nosetip ablation during reentry. The western media missed the point here (as they often do with respect to North Korean affairs): this was not a missile test, but a space race which the North won hands down. Indeed, not only did the North reach orbit almost 2 months before the South, but they did so by developing indigenously most of the components of their access-to-space vehicle — something that the South could not manage. In the process, Kim Jong-Eun won an important psychological battle: the North Korean leader gained more respect on the international stage, and more support from the North Korean people.
 03.03.13
 Psy performing Gangnam Style in Times Square on Dec. 31st, 2012, with Noh Hong-Chul [l], Yoo Jae-Seok [l], and MC Hammer [l].

Many of my colleagues and friends in Korea are surprised by the popularity of the Gangnam Style youtube video throughout the world, and especially in the Anglosphere. The video is somewhat funny, but to this point? I think the success of Gangnam Style has as much to do with the catchy music and funny video than it has to do with the surprise of seeing Asians dancing, partying and having fun. In the Anglosphere, Koreans and other Asians have a reputation of working diligently in the office or in the factory and not having much of a "personal life" — hence why seeing Koreans dancing and singing and having a seemingly well-established entertainment industry may have been a "shock" to many. But this shouldn't be surprising.. Those who actually have experienced life in Korea know that the wild dancing and singing is not limited to kpop music videos but also takes place regularly in the multitude of night clubs and singing rooms in Gangnam and in various other places all over the country (see a sample of what the Korean nightlife feels like [l]).
 Korean grocers are asking for a boycott of Japanese goods sold in Korean stores. Seoul, March 1st, 2013.

Why do the Korean grocers wish to boycott Japanese goods? This boycott is in response to the Japanese government having officially supported for the first time a few days ago the “Takeshima day celebration” by sending a government official to the Shimane prefecture (a Japanese province). The Takeshima day celebration is an annual event that has been held since 2005 in the Shimane prefecture effectively claiming that the Dokdo islets (which are under Korean control) are actually Japanese islands that the Koreans are “illegally” occupying. Of course, such a move by the Japanese government is seen by the Koreans as being a threat to their national security. After all, the Dokdo islets were the first part of Korea that was annexed to the Japanese empire in 1905 before the rest of Korea was annexed in 1910. The Korean grocers here decide to take matters into their own hands by boycotting Japanese products as long as the Japanese government doesn't apologize for its recent statement of claim of ownership to the Dokdo islets. I don't blame the Koreans for being worried by the Japanese government's recent claims towards Dokdo. I am also particularly troubled by Japan's aggressiveness. Not only has Japan highered the tone against Korea with respect to the Dokdos, but it has also done the same against Russia (Kuril), the U.S. (Ospreys and troops in Okinawa), and China (Sendaku). I can not help but see a link between this recent increase of aggressiveness and Shinzo Abe's speech in Washington in February 2013 in which he proclaimed that changes are necessary for Japan to restore its influence in Asia. Nonetheless, given the current state of alliances in the region, I doubt an armed conflict would take place over the Dokdos. Rather, the Japanese government's moves towards Dokdo seem to have some fair dose of machiavellianism: by increasing tension, it will be easier to convince the Japanese people of the need to rewrite the constitution, re-militarize and eventually perhaps even wage war against China over the Sendakus (an island conflict far more likely to lead to war and more worthy of our worries than Dokdo). By boycotting the Japanese goods, the Korean grocers are unknowingly giving the Japanese government what it desires: more tension. Hence why I do not agree with this boycott. The best strategy here would be to ignore Japan's claims towards Dokdo and keep cool in order to prevent the tensions from escalating further.
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