Tuesday, August 31, 2010


in Asia (according to the Legatum Institute). It is interesting to note which nations are on (and not on) this list. I wonder if South Korea would be happy with its ranking?

Wednesday, August 18, 2010


Kim Jong Il's trademark attire is instantly recognizable. Some see it as sending a signal that Kim is not overly concerned with luxury or appearance. The leader of the people cares more about the people than about looking good.

Some, most notably Brian Myers (here and more recently in his new book), takes it a step further by arguing that Kim's trademark suit is an exercise in gender-bending, making Kim both the Fatherly and Motherly leader of his people.

What, then, are we to make of the allegation that there is more luxury and comfort to Kim's duds than meets the eye?
"In the early 1990s, I was ordered to buy fabric for the dear leader and went to France to buy 60 yards of high-quality, cashmere and silk fabric produced by Scabal of London," he said. "I paid US$300 per yard, which came to $18,000."

About four yards of fabric are needed to make a suit, so the price of the cloth alone for Kim's suit amounted to $1,200."
One should, of course, take this story with several grains of salt--anonymous defector, Chosun Ilbo etc. etc. Still, if true, this puts a somewhat different spin on things, not to mention making those concerned with fashion cringe just a bit: what a waste of fabric!

Tuesday, August 10, 2010


Two words one wouldn't expect to find in the same sentence. You be the judge:

Monday, August 9, 2010


in and around North Korea.
--Still no word on the South Korean fishing boat said to have been seized by the DPRK.
--The DPRK fired at least 100 artillery shells into waters near the ROK-DPRK border.
--DPRK media has reported on floods that have devastated homes and farms.

Friday, August 6, 2010


for Bruce Cumings' new book from a (perhaps) unlikely source: Tyler Cowen (more here).

I haven't read the book yet and will, therefore, reserve final judgment (for whatever that's worth). I will say that, based on the reviews--both positive and negative--it doesn't sound as if Cumings is arguing anything terribly new here. He is just pointing out a number of rather uncomfortable truths about the War, the U.S. involvement in Korea etc. etc.

UPDATE: Review of Cumings book by Andrew Salmon here.

Tuesday, August 3, 2010


I remember in the immediate aftermath of 9/11 discussing Afghanistan with a learned Washington DC colleague. She expressed her frustration with all the pundits, talking heads and supposed experts on tv who kept repeating the mantra that Afghanistan has never been conquered. She said that she starting counting the times Afghanistan has been conquered and ran out of fingers and toes long before she got to the present-day.

Along those lines, here's an article that declares it is time to "bury the graveyard."
One of those myths, for example, is that Afghanistan is inherently unconquerable thanks to the fierceness of its inhabitants and the formidable nature of its terrain. But this isn't at all borne out by the history. "Until 1840 Afghanistan was better known as a 'highway of conquest' rather than the 'graveyard of empires,'" Barfield points out. "For 2,500 years it was always part of somebody's empire, beginning with the Persian Empire in the fifth century B.C."
Of this hardly means that the U.S. efforts in Afghanistan will succeed. But I find it interesting how certain pithy memes become so embedded in our collective consciousness that no facts can dislodge them.

Monday, August 2, 2010


according to this undoubtedly 100% accurate website, I write like H.P Lovecraft. Can't say I saw that one coming. After all, the Qing Empire and Cthulhu, share so much in common.