Tuesday, October 31, 2006

It's not my (de)fault.

I came to Korea in 1996, a little more than a year before the bursting of the Korean economic bubble that is often inaccurately referred to as "the IMF crisis." Back then it was virtually impossible for a foreigner to get a credit card in Korea. In 1998, I started working for a local college and I managed to convince the people at Korea Exchange Bank to give me a shot. I was planning to get married and finding out the hard way that a credit card would be necessary since my savings was practically nil. I tried to fill out an application at the local branch of KEB but the people there told me that it would be impossible to issue me a credit card without a cosigner because I am a foreigner. I wrote a nice but firm letter explaining my thoughts on racial discrimination and mentioning the fact that KEB had branches in foreign countries as well as many foreign investors. A Mr. Gahng called me a couple of days later (a few eons before I expected to be called) and asked me a few questions before he told me to go to the local branch and speak to the manager. I did so and soon after received my first credit card in Korea; without a cosigner.
This was not the first time I had dealt with this cultural idiosyncrasy of saying things are 'impossible' when they are merely complicated or inconvenient for one of the parties. And it was not my last time to use similar arguments to convince creditors to give me a shot. While KEB has been, by far, the most helpful for my credit needs, other financial institutions have extended me credit in the past as well as recently. But on EVERY single occasion, I have met with resistance and the "you're a foreigner" argument. And even though I have religiously and completely paid off all of my creditors in Korea, I still find it difficult to understand why certain types of credit are unavailable to foreigners who hold stable positions in Korea and/or are married to Koreans. Even at my trusty KEB, I was told that a housing loan would be difficult and would require me to pay a ridiculous percentage rate (comparatively speaking) if I wanted the loan in my name. I eventually had to get the loan in my wife's name in order to buy an apartment.
The argument that is most often used against credit for foreigners is our 'transience.' It is automatically (and incorrectly) assumed that any foreigner who lives here will leave here. It is further assumed that when a foreigner leaves Korea, debts will be left unpaid without possibility of collection or punishment. So are we considered a 'bad credit risk?" Based on what statistics? If you don't give credit to foreigners as freely as you give it to Koreans, it is a little difficult to say that we won't pay up when the time comes.

Now comes this little gem from the Korea Times today, there are more than 2.9 million credit defaulters which apparently equates to almost 1 in 8 "economically active" people in default. It would be really interesting to see statistics on the credit that is so parsimoniously doled out to foreigners like myself alongside the statistics of default among the same just for comparisons sake.

Just for those of you out there who might be interested in obtaining a credit card or other loan try KEB first, they have the best track record with foreigners (they even have a card that is just for foreigners).

Korean banking industry is coming around...albiet slowly, but times they are a changing, the best thing I can tell you is to be persistent and patient but above all be polite. It works wonders.

Friday, October 27, 2006

Korean government to punish singing and dancing

According to this article in the Korea Times, the Korean government is going to start punishing women (and presumably men too) for singing and dancing in Karaoke rooms.

Under the new law, however, karaoke room owners will be banned from hiring toumies and arranging toumi services.

Those violating the regulation will be subject to three years in prison or a fine of up to 30 million won.

The law also specifies punishment for toumies _ one year in prison or a 3 million won fine _ and bans people from entertaining karaoke room customers through songs and dances or drinking with them for money.

So, let's say an attractive female office worker is coerced by her male coworkers and boss for a night out after work. They go out and have a few drinks and off to the Karaoke bar to belt out a few "gayo" tunes. Of course, she has had a few too many and maybe she is being more entertaining than she might be otherwise and in walk the police and arrest the woman for "entertaining" in a Karaoke bar. How are the police going to be able to tell the difference between this woman and a 'toumi' entertainer,
"Excuse me, Miss, are you being paid for this?" The policeman asked
"Why..yes I am." answers the not-so-bright and quite inebriated woman.
"Ok, then you are under arrest, come with me."
LIKE SHE IS GOING TO ADMIT SHE IS GETTING PAID! This law is swiss cheese and the people who want to do it are going to get around the law because it CANNOT be illegal to sing and dance in a Karaoke bar.

Previously, women and men toumies have been punished only when they provided sex to customers. But the new law will crack down on them for singing and dancing, as well.

AHHHH...here we have the crux of the matter....the sex-for-sale hydra rears it ugly heads. If you cut of one, it will just grow back somewhere else. But in the brilliance of the politicians:

However, customers who enjoy toumi services will not face punishments.

How does this make sense? Are these guys just 'innocent victims' of the nookie monster? What...the politicians don't want to self-regulate? Or do they just not want to piss off their wealthy constituency? How does it make sense not to punish the people paying for the 'service.'

And now for the Homer moment:
The police and law enforcement authorities plan to crack down on the services from Sunday. But they are worried that toumies will change their workplace to bars and massage parlors to avoid crackdowns, as such places are allowed to hire women to provide entertainment.

Gee, ya think? What gives you that idea? Could it be that every other thing that has been tried to 'crack down' on prostitution has failed miserably or only succeeded in sending it underground or overseas. (see Marmot's and Nomad for extensive postings on the subject of the sex industry in Korea)

Don't get me wrong, I am neither advocating nor condemning prostitution (maybe later) and I know that most of these girls are prostitutes and will go boots up/skirts down for the right amount of cash. But it seems to me that the government needs to get some balls and go after the heart of the problem (or maybe get some heart and go after the balls of the problem).

Thursday, October 26, 2006

Chaebol leaders need to get a clue (or The stupidest thing I've heard all week)

``It’s a tradition of the family that the eldest son becomes the next chairman. There is no reason to change it,’’ an LG Electronics official said.

Duh!? There IS reason to change it if the son is an idiot who will potentially run the company into the ground costing thousands of jobs and the economic stability of the country.

I stand corrected, NORK Nukes are real :(

according to this article, now the South Koreans have confirmed it. Not that I trust South Korean scientists any more than American scientists or government, but I doubt that I will seek out the confirmation of China or Russia on the matter. So, the matter is closed as far as I am concerned but I still revel in the thought that it was basically such a dud that it took almost a month for the NORKs best buddies (or enemies depending on how you look at it)in the south to confirm it.

Thursday, October 19, 2006

Tell Us How You Really Feel Rick.

I suppose I'm just encouraging him by doing this. Perhaps, I should just ignore him and maybe he'll go away but Rick Ruffin posted a decidedly anti-Bush piece to guess where...yep...that's right...if it's unfit to print, if it is spelled badly, if it is totally void of any editing and most of all if it it anti-American you will find it in the Korea Times. Basically, it blames Bush for not just some of the ills of the world but ALL of them. Now, I won't say that I particularly like President Bush, he has made what I consider to be some questionable decisions during his presidency. When he is gone from office, I will not shed a tear (though thoughts of another Clinton in the White House make me cringe too). But C'mon Rick, ALL the worlds ills? I respect you for taking a stand but jeez! Doesn't Osama get any of the credit? Can't we at least give some of the blame to Kim Jong Il? And where do you thing we would be if Al Gore would have been elected in 2000 or Kerry in 2004? Rick, maybe you would like to quit your job as a writer, travel to Pakistan and search for your ideological twin. I'm sure he would welcome you with open arms, perhaps he would have a job for you. Can you say 'boom'~??!

Hat tip to Marmot

Tuesday, October 17, 2006

Confirmation of Nukes?

Well, according to the US Government, it has been confirmed that the NORK's tested a low yeild nuke. Now, I guess i am capable of being as patriotic as the next guy and, yes, I do love my country but I have trust issues with the current administration. I am sure we all remember how the Iraq thing (I refuse to call it a mess yet)got started with the US 'intelligence' community claiming that Iraq had WMD and that is basically how they justified the war in Iraq. Now, let me make something perfectly clear, "I SUPPORT THE WAR IN IRAQ AND THINK WE NEED TO STAY THERE UNTIL THE JOB IS FINISHED AS IT CAN BE." (Ok, there, I jumped to one side of the fence and it didn't hurt a bit)But, I do remember Gen. Powell sitting in front of the UN and talking somthing about secret trucks carrying WMD driving all around Iraq and, to date, I have yet to see either the trucks or the WMD uncovered. Fool me once, shame on you...fool me twice, shame on me. I am waiting for some OTHER country like Japan, Russia, or China to come out and confirm that it was actually a nuke before I buy into it completely.

Sunday, October 15, 2006

At best, I would have had to bite off my tongue.

Jodi, over at Asia Pages, gives an interesting account of a multinational conversation on the subject of North Korea and The Great Boobah's nuclear test. She managed to hold her tongue during a convesation that I am sure would have required a glossectomy to keep me from chiming in on the subject. It is nice to see that not everyone hates America. Good Work Jodi!

Thursday, October 12, 2006

NORK’s Nukes (try saying that 10 times fast)

Being a fence sitter, I really don’t have direction on the whole issue. On the right we have rabid screaming for everything from cutting off the whole country from the outside to a full-on ‘pre-emptive’ strike. Then we have the more sensitive but cajone-less left worried about the people the midget tyrant is persecuting and starving to death. If we sanction the North, who really suffers they ask?
Where am I on the issue you ask? Where would any good fence sitter be? I think I’ll just wait for people much smarter and more diplomatic than me to duke it out and fix this; hopefully before it’s too late.
Personally, I have my doubts that they even tested a nuke. I think it would be a Waldoesque move to load up a tunnel with old munitions and detonate them to create the earthquake that he would then claim is a nuke. A similar kind of deception is what started the Iraq war in the first place. Saddam convinced us that he had weapons of mass destruction and did everything in his power to make us believe it because he thought (mistakenly) it would deter an invasion. And if the invasion did happen, he could say it was our own fault and that there never were any nukes. Sound familiar? Except this time he’s gambling that we don’t want to make the same mistake twice. C’mon people, the Bouffant Boobah is goading us. Does he really have the goods?

Why “View from the Fence”?

Today is 2 days after the North Korean’s allegedly detonated a nuclear device. Two days ago, while I was watching CNN, one reporter was walking along the DMZ fence with all of its razor wire talking about what a ‘dangerous place’ and I started to chuckle. Not because I take the situation so lightly, but because I suddenly recalled something my father used to say to me whenever I would vacillate on an issue or decision, “You’re gonna get splinters riding the fence like that.” Razor wire….OUCH!! I’ve been considering starting a blog these days and something just clicked….korea…blog….sitting on the fence…hmmmm…hey!!! Great blog name….voila…fenceriderkorea and “The View from the Fence.” While I’m sure my content won’t be as prolific or exciting as some of the bloggers at Marmot’s or Nomad’s (just to name a couple I read regularly) I will hopefully be able to share some interesting thoughts and news with anyone who happens to stop by. Hope you like it 