In News Today (Actually, Yesterday)

The front page of the newspaper I bought today included the following news items:

  • Pyongyang’s still run by bastards, but they were promised money. To not give it to them is understandable since they’re also dishonest bastards, but it seems to me there must be a way to keep them at the table. Some of the money could be unfrozen. Or poisoned Hennessy. I really, really like the idea of poisoned Hennessy.
  • The GNP is discussing recognizing North Korea as a sovereign state to reflect the softer-on-North-Korea attitudes of the general public. Who wants to talk about gulags and people fighting over the most-rat-infested hovel in the gulag? That’s no fun. I wonder who’s going to remember, a few decades from now, that there’s millions of people starving to death up there under a tyrant’s rule. I can see the banners now: “We have always been at war with Eurasia.”
  • Nudity on major Korean portals has got the Korean government itching to start blocking websites again. They say it’s just porn sites they’ll block, but last time, the attempt to block videos with the beheadings of a Korean in Iraq resulted in widespread blockages of foreign blogging services for months on end. (That’s how long it felt, anyway. It could be it was only weeks on end, but it was a long, annoying season of state-commenced, K-netizen-approved censorship.) Frighteningly, they’re going to be (a) relying on civilian reports of porn sites, and (b) they’re forecasting a slowdown in general net connectivity as a result. The claim is that this will allow them to prevent the bad effects of pornography. I wonder if they’re comparable to the bad effects of an overgrown sex trade that’s operating basically out in the open. Which one do you think is behind the current epidemic of middle-school-girl rapes: the widespread, in-your-face, commercialization of womens’ bodies on the streets, or maybe the endemic sexism that basically everyone willing to discuss it agrees is still a major problem here, the increasing depravity of students who are largely unsupervised, undisciplined, and abandoned by teachers who seem more intent on brainwashing them into hating Japan, or occasional, inadvertent appearances by files containing nudity on Korean portal sites? (Not that the porn might not have a relation, but… I mean, when you have establishments openly offering pay-as-you-go sex in pretty much every neighborhood in the country, there’s a clear message there about the role of women, and their ostensible purpose in life.)
  • The relaxation of laws on cloned stem cell research aren’t likely to make much difference since egg cell donation is no longer allowed: Dr. Hwang’s group basically had been given a monopoly on this kind of research by the government, and since the government was then embarrassed for enfranchising a total fraud, the whole area has been even harder to get into. Koreans with obvious good common sense and education are worried about scientific the future of scientific research in the area here, noting that other countries are likely to pull ahead while the government sorts its shame-crisis out. But there must be wailing and gnashing of teeth before serious research can recommence. (Meanwhile, some of the less-clever people I’ve met here still insist that Dr. Hwang was set up by jealous foreigners out to steal his discoveries. If only he’d made any to steal.)
  • Some Korean figure skater got some award in Tokyo. Which obviously matters a lot to me.

That’s just the front page. Why is it when I read the issue in a restaurant, like I did Friday, there’s interesting news, but when I buy it for myself, there’s nothing but depressing news and irrelevancies?

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