Posts Tagged 'Politics'

(UPDATE) Irrawaddy Under Attack, Still Unavailable

SEOUL — THE BURMA-FOCUSED MAGAZINE The Irrawaddy sent a message to its on-line subscribers today saying that both its main and mirror sites are down due to Distributed Denial of Service (DDoS) attacks, one year after the beginning of the Saffron Revolution. The publication is, in the meantime, continuing to report from a blogger site.

On Tuesday, we received reports that the Internet in Burma was running slowly, suggesting a concerted effort to prevent information from going in or out of the country.

Then on Wednesday, our colleagues and subscribers in the US, Japan and Malaysia notified our Thailand-based office that they were unable to access our Web site.

A few hours later, I-NET, the largest host server in Thailand, confirmed: “Your site has been under distributed denial-of-service (DDoS) attack since around 5pm.”

I-NET finally decided to shut down our server.

Singlehop, which hosts The Irrawaddy’s mirror site, explained: “Your server is under a major attack. Due to the size of the attack our network engineers had to null route the IP to negate it. When the attack has subsided we will remove the null route.”

Singlehop told us that the cyber attack was very sophisticated.

Currently, our Web site is disabled and we have been forced to launch our daily news in blogs. Fellow exiled news agencies Democratic Voice of Burma and New Era were also disabled.

A City Draped in Gray (Updated with Photos)

March on City Hall | Click to view entire set

March on City Hall | Click to view entire set

SEOUL — AS I WRITE THIS thousands of monks and laypeople are converging on city hall. They are unloading from buses that have carried them, along with their signs and banners of protest, from all the corners of the country. Great gray-robed masses make their way across crowded sidewalks, and hung high above the street are PA systems broadcasting dissent in waves of chanting and drums. There is a thrumming energy that emanates beyond the police lines, that sends ripples through the steel and glass.

These people are demanding an apology, they are demanding change. They see the government as isolated from the people, wrapped up in Christianity while a hefty chunk of the country’s faithful adhere to an indigenous brand of Buddhism. Whether their cries of foul are completely legitimate appears difficult to assess, but even some Protestants here admit that the president — a staunch Christian who earlier, as Seoul’s mayor, said he dedicated the city to God — might be throwing around his religious weight.

Dissent Blaster | Jogye Temple

Dissent Blaster | Jogye Temple

UPDATE September 1 — Dissent continued to foam over the weekend. A local paper reported that about 2,000 people joined in a gathering at Jogye Temple, the heart of the Buddhist order that organized last Wednesday’s rallies, which was titled “a service to condemn the Lee Myung-bak administration’s destruction of the Constitution and religious discrimination.” On Saturday, at the same temple, a high-ranking monk attempted to disembowel himself in protest. (He was rushed to the hospital, and his injures were not fatal.)

The force with which these demonstrations have arisen begs the question: Why? Is there good reason for the anger? Speaking in real terms, President Lee has filled his administration with people who attend his own right-leaning church — the now-famous Somang Presbyterian. Major Buddhist sites have been left off of new government maps, while the smallest of churches are given mention. The chief of the National Police Agency, Eo Cheong-soo, appeared on a poster promoting police personnel’s “fasting prayers for the evangelization of all the police.” A presidential secretary reportedly called demonstrators opposed to U.S. beef imports “a host of Satans.”

In terms of the more nebular realm of history, the current uprising is perhaps afforded added momentum due to an anxiety of repeating the past. As blogger Korea Dispatch points out, many of the monks who are participating in the rallies now remember the early 1980s, when then President Chun Doo-hwan mobilized a massive police force to arrest over 150 monks labeled as dissidents. Chun forced the head of the Jogye order to step down, accusing him of “corrupt activities.” Buddhists were beaten and tortured — as many political dissidents were then.

The difference now is that Lee’s brand of religious bias apparently has more to do with a fervent belief in evangelism, rather than a simple greed for power. In this way, the current situation is perhaps even more dangerous. Indeed, we need not look far back for vivid examples of what brutal kinds of things humans can do to each other in the name of God.

This Week’s Wandering News

  • Starting out on the lighter side, People magazine made a terrific racial blunder last week when it featured South Korean pop star Rain and then accompanied the piece with a photo of actor Karl Yune — who also happens to be Asian. Oops. (via Lao-Ocean)
  • Allison Arieff asks why school buildings tend to resemble drab, prison-like institutions on the New York Times By Design blog, and talks about Waldkindergartens: forward-thinking schools in Germany that have replaced the classroom with the forest.
  • Bombings in the ancient Indian city of Jaipur left 63 dead on Tuesday, and caused the local government to enforce a curfew. The Guardian reports that a little-known terrorist group called the Indian Mujahideen claimed responsibility, and apparently had the goal of disrupting the local tourism industry.
  • Mark Massara, a pioneer of surfer environmentalism and a defender of California’s coastline, speaks with the New York Times in this watch-worthy video piece, “Planet Us: The Coastal Warrior“.
  • The SF Chronicle reports that protesters donning black hoods and Guantanamo-style jumpsuits turned out at the graduation ceremony of UC-Bekeley’s law school Saturday, demanding that tenured professor John Yoo be fired. Yoo was the chief author of the Bush administration’s nebulous policies on torture

Police Plan to Prosecute Seoul Protest Organizers

FOLLOWING MASSIVE CANDLELIGHT VIGILS protesting the resumption of US beef imports, police in the South Korean capital say they are planning to crack down on demonstration organizers. Critics are calling the move an “arbitrary application of the law,” an argument further bolstered by the fact that protests so-far appear to have been entirely peaceful.

The Hankyoreh quoted a police official today who defended plans to prosecute organizers by saying : “The event was registered as a cultural event but it was in fact a political gathering overflowing with agitation and agitating slogans.” That’s some shifty legal ground for the government to be walking on — just a few steps away from the blunt politics of the 80s, when demonstrators who voiced their opposition were harshly silenced.

Meanwhile, South Korean officials are detailing new guidelines for beef imports, which will allow bone-in cuts and intestines; both were previously barred. The Ministry of Agriculture and Forestry says it plans to send four special investigation teams to inspect meat processing facilities in the US, and is promising strict screening in an attempt to cool public health concerns.

But despite taking careful measures to prevent instances of mad cow disease, what appears to be left unaddressed is how the government will control prices to protect South Korean farmers — an increased supply of cheap meat from the US is sure to put them in a pinch. If president Lee Myung-bak is truly interested in reviving the local economy, his policies should take a holistic and sustainable approach, instead of solely weighing the interests of his conservative counterparts in Washington.

This Week’s Wandering News

  • A new food blog is meticulously combing Seattle’s Chinatown restaurants in search of good eats. MSG150 has a total of 11 bloggers, each of whom takes photos of their meal, breaks down the good and the bad, and even copies their after-meal fortune. Via SeriousEats.
  • On the complete opposite of the food spectrum, shortages in North Korea are making political tensions worse. A poor autumn harvest, skyrocketing rice prices in China and Kim Jong Il’s rejection of South Korean aid are all culminating to create what could be a disastrous famine. From the IHT.
  • In the travel blogosphere, Nerd’s Eye View says she’s tired of all the on-the-cusp travelers whining about how tourists ruin everything. Her post, “The Thin Edge of the Tourism Wedge” cuts to the heart of the debate.
  • Marjane Satrapi, author of the Persepolis graphic novel series — now also major film — was interviewed by the Guardian last week. Journalist Simon Hattenstone talks about Satrapi’s precocious youth and her views on the way the world is heading.
  • A reminder to all us young writers and bloggers to keep perspective; there will always be someone who’s working harder.

China as an Intellectual Force

DESPITE THE MANY ARTISTS, writers and filmmakers that are currently doing big things in China, often with a political slant, the country’s modern culture continues to be looked at from the outside through the framework of its brute-force economy. But perhaps not for much longer.

Mark Leonard has spent the last five years studying the China’s growing intellectualism, and writes a surprising and important piece about the movement for Prospect magazine this month. Among Leonard’s more interesting observations is that China’s strict one-party system has unexpectedly (and likely, unintentionally) fostered a thriving environment for public debate:

Paradoxically, the power of the Chinese intellectual is amplified by China’s repressive political system, where there are no opposition parties, no independent trade unions, no public disagreements between politicians and a media that exists to underpin social control rather than promote political accountability. Intellectual debate in this world can become a surrogate for politics—if only because it is more personal, aggressive and emotive than anything that formal politics can muster. While it is true there is no free discussion about ending the Communist party’s rule, independence for Tibet or the events of Tiananmen Square, there is a relatively open debate in leading newspapers and academic journals about China’s economic model, how to clean up corruption or deal with foreign policy issues like Japan or North Korea.

Read the full article. (Via Howard French.)

Photo: tiananmen square, by pmorgan.

This Land

IT WAS AN UNEXPECTED TWIST of language. I was explaining to Hanju (in Korean) my concerns about Barack Obama, whom I’d recently seen at a rally, when I used the term uri nara – our country – in reference to the United States.

That might not seem at all strange, except that uri nara is a phrase that is only ever used to talk about Korea. The words are almost symbolic, an expression of solidarity and collectivism, two things rarely if ever associated with American culture. Yet at a time when our nation’s communities seem irreparably disconnected, that was the exact feeling I sought to evoke.

As I stumbled through a politial dialogue in my adopted language, I learned a few new words. Hanju learned a new one as well: rhetoric – by one definition, the art of making persuasive speech. The night before, Obama had spoken about the importance of young people reinvesting in their communities. In his words there were echoes of Kennedy’s famous line: “Ask not what your country can do for you, but what you can do for your country.” These ideas resonate with me as I’ve long felt that what ails this country is growing apathy and a general disinterest in our fellow man.

But amid Obama’s talk about changing the culture I was forced to wonder, is it just rhetoric? Uri nara is faced with so many problems, I said to Hanju, that we can’t afford four years of pretty words.

I talk a lot on this blog about wanderlust, about my desire to pick up and get lost in the big world, yet I have to admit to my affection for this land. As travelers it’s easy to lose touch with the romance and wonder of our own nation – to get bogged down by our misanthropic foreign and domestic policies. But every now and then something comes along to remind us of what we have here, and what we lose when we stop caring. How strange that my heart’s ties to the homeland were made plain while speaking the syllables of another tongue.

Photo: sunset over a wheatfield, by jfhatesmustard. eastern washington state.


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