Biden Seeks to Strengthen Security, Economic and Humanitarian Relationship

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While there were no big surprises, Friday’s speech was and exciting moment, in which the Vice President was able to explain the benefits of a strong United States and Korean relationship although a few moments could been seen as cultural awkward.

The speech began with a began with Biden reflecting on his experience meeting Nelson Mandela, who’s death was announced hours before the speech began, telling the audience how Mandela became friends with his jailers instead of resenting them. He then transitioned to discussing the need for new leadership as the Asia region grows in influence. Examining the sixty years since the end of the Korean war, “the miracle on the Han River,” the period of rapid growth and success for South Korea, he compared to America’s growth, saying that it happened because of the audiences parents and grandparents “betting on ordinary Koreans” Having been in Korea long enough to understand that Yonsei is considered to be the number 2 school in the nation to me such a statement would be comparable to somebody going to Yale and praising the student body for having overcome a lower middle class lifestyle especially as he added “not the elite, not a special class, but ordinary Koreans.  Because they know what we know in America:  Ordinary people are capable of doing extraordinary things if you give them an opportunity.” In South Korea the elite cheabol companies such as Samsung and Hyundai control wide sectors of the economy making independent opportunity hard to accomplish.   One could compare this cultural moment to one in America where elite politicians attempt to appeal to the everyday public or contrast it assuming that the White House does not understand these dynamics of Korea fully.

But the main motivation of this was probably in the purpose of the speech to bring the United States and Korea closer together. On North Korea and the China air defense zone  Biden reaffirmed America’s stance to be similar with South Korea saying that negotiations with the North required disarming of nuclear weapons. He also spoke of the need to renew trade agreements and improve economic ties. Environmental cleanup and joint humanitarian missions such as typhoon  Haiyan relief were also discussed as important relation builders.

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Biden speaking of the need for nations to take action to decrease tensions in the region following the new air defense zone declaration by China.

Text of the full speech can be found on the White House website, http://www.whitehouse.gov/the-press-office/2013/12/06/remarks-vice-president-joe-biden-us-korea-relations-and-asia-pacific

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Proof that I sat in the front row, and thus took these pictures myself.

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The Vice President Departs Yonsei University after his speech

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The U.S. ambassador to Korea seen after the speech.

Vice President Joe Biden’s Korea Speech, Preparing the Campus Gym

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Yonsei University is getting ready to play host for the U.S. Vice President as he will be delivering a speech on campus Friday. After being pushed aside from importance this Fall thus far, the Obama administration is trying to refocus its efforts in terms of solidifying influence in the region. It is attempting to both contain and benefit from China’s growth and perhaps an effort will be made to increase cooperation between Korea and Japan. According to Image his speech at Yonsei will be a major one with the focus on the U.S. Korea relationship. Details are harder to come by because the media is fixated on China’s Air Defense Zone. I am not expecting anything critical and new to be said, so I think the best odds of this speech being heavily noted in the media is if Joe Biden does something silly, as he sometimes does. However anytime somebody at his level visits campus it is great opportunity, fun afternoon, and feels historic.

Besides an e-mail and word of mouth, I only saw one poster about the event. Registration closed today so that there will be time to security screen those attending. While I have only talked to a handful of people who plan to go, I imagine an event like this will be well attended.
Update (December 6): The event had more requests than tickets as some people I spoke to were rejected.

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Yonsei Card, More than Student ID

As HWS considers implementing a student card system, I wanted to discuss the student ID card system here at Yonsei University here in Korea.

Student ID cards are not full T-money cards, however they share some functions.

During Orientation this August we were all given your U cards. These cards are designed to be used for banking although for some reason using this feature is not recommended. It has a viable chip on the fount just like Asian style ATM cards and on the back we learn the card is issued by Woori Bank which has a branch on campus for those needing to open a new account. Also of convenience, the U cards can be used to add value in order to ride the city transport buses and trains in Seoul, however they do not have full T-money capacity, so they can not be used in stores or on taxis. T money cards can be purchased for a few dollars and provide a 100Won (9 US cent discount) on each subway ride, however opening up a bank account is way to get the cards for free. Of course since the U cards are a student ID our pictures, submitted beforehand online, are included along with the university name, logo, and colors. Another added bonus is the listing of our birthday’s because this allows for the ID to be accepted (in most cases) on the rare occasion that one is requested for drinking at a restaurant or more frequent to enter a club. The drinking age in Korea is 19 (what Westerns would consider 18) so almost all college students benefit without holding another document proving they are too young to drink.

Student ID cards can be used to pay fares on the bus and subway in Seoul.

Student ID cards can be used to pay fares on the bus and subway in Seoul.

This is not however the full one card system for campus however because a separate key card is required to enter the dormitory. (Yonsei also does not have meals plans so each meal is purchased separately without needing to confirm identity.) I view this as a disappointment because I was hoping to only have to carry around one card in high tech Seoul, however we are still a way off for the paperless, wallet-less future. Of course the technology, expect for acceptable exist to run our entire lives from our mobile phones including banking and passport controls however safety and implantation become the biggest concerns. Converting every part of our economy from street vendors to police records online would be extremely costly even for a wealthy tech savvy nation. If that one device becomes lost or malfunctions a person would be in a terrible situation. While added a dorm key to the U card system is not so dramatic, the loss of this card would become marginally worse. Also could it be considered safe to have all of that information in the cloud and no back up copies existing or the only copies being in the hands of the government? A hacker could ruin lives and shut down society since deleting data or causing blackouts could prevent people for obtaining necessities and accessing there homes, unless the system was perfect and humans can be perfect. The government could also very easily suspend the ability of criminals and political dissidents to operate by shutting down commence and tracking them down. They could delete citizens from there records and deny there rights. Currently paper money, apartment keys, and physical passports prevent these harms. While the additional convenience can help speed up daily lives along with the economy and usually sometimes provide for greater security and accountability a sufficient Plan B must remain in the hands of everyday people. As we look to Korea as an example of advancement, let us also remain alert about the possible harms.

Stars Rock Style Icon Awards 2013

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Celebrity Overload one of my new friends described the night as we were clearly the lucky ones attending the Style Icon Awards in Seoul. I did not know what to expect at first since personally do not know that much of the Korean language or about the K-Pop scene and even less about fashion, however when Mentors Club, for exchange students, sent out the e-mail I thought it would simply a way to get out of the dorm for a few hours, however it proved to be so much more than that.

After we met up at Digital Media City subway station a nice mini shuttle bus brought us to the venue, where it was time to wait. I bit cold outside, but when I stepped away from the group I was able to see the red carpet area where the stars were slowly making  there way to event, however it was tough to see without fighting for a spot. The real fun began when we were allowed inside a small studio which was packed standing room only with probobly about 2,000 people. Once the show began it was a lot of fun. Although most of the speeches were in Korean there were plenty of performances and more than a handful of songs that I have heard listing to K-pop on Youtube and going out in the city. Pictured above are Crayon Pop. The second woman is holding the award with her right hand while the others have glow sticks in both both hands.  Somewhat of surprise was the appearance of ASAP Rocky, who won the Global Icon Award. In the end G-Dragon won the Style Icon of the Year Award.

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With fashion being very important in Korea and celebrities who are willing to try almost anything out of the ordinary it should not have been a surprise that an awards show honoring style would be such a star filled and fun event for all. A great evening to remember and connect with the international image of Korean entertainment.

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Preparing for Model Asia Union

What are the unifying elements of Asia? This is a very daunting question my partner and I realized while trying to prepare for this event. Unlike Europe, there is no common religion or race and comparisons to more complex Africa did not seem to be helpful either because that Continent has had the shared experience of colonization to unify around. However after much discussion we realized that the region is very diverse and huger to be rising star in the global perspective seems to be a common thread.

Tomorrow (Saturday) is the preliminary round of the Model Asia Union Competition, in which teams of university students, 2 per, are charged with addressing the topic: Discuss how we can realize Asian Union. The first step after finding a team member, in my case a fellow Underwood Union member, was to write a short paper containing a proposal. This took hours as it was hard to agree on the reasons Asia Union should be realized and how to go about it without upsetting the individual states. Meeting in the school library, coffee shops and a computer gaming room, we finally got the job done.

After about a week of waiting, we received word that our proposal paper had been accepted it was time, despite midterms to prepare for our presentation, which required the use of a presentation program, thus we chose to use Prezi. Each team will be given 10 minutes to present and afterwords there will be some time for Q&A. After all the teams present  we will have dinner and those advancing to finals will be announced to be held next weekend. On November 1st Friday we are all invited to the Asian Economic Community Forum with the finals held that Saturday, both at the  Hyatt Regency in Incheon. Tomorrow rounds will be at Incheon National University.

In case anybody actually cares to read this, I will keep our proposal ideas a secret for now. Follow me today on Twitter for updates. @buildbynddebate

More event Information: http://www.aecforum.net/sub/mau/overview.html

 

 

Midterms End Discovery Rebegins

The lull time several weeks after arrival and the midterm period is over. I have several exciting events over the next few weeks which should prove to be both fun and informative about Korea and the wider East Asian Community.

Tomorrow Saturday October 26: Model Asia Union,  Incheon National University

At the MAU conference, me and a fellow member of Underwood Union Debate, will present ideas on how an Asia Union could be achieved. This event is the preliminary round of a competition based on this subject matter.

Thursday, October 31: Halloween, Yonsei University and Vera, Hongdae, Seoul

Halloween is gaining popularity in Korea and our school is supporting two events.  

Next Weekend Friday, November 1 and Saturday November 2: MAU Finals, Hyatt Regency, Incheon

For advancing teams the finals will take place on Saturday after the Asia Economic Community Forum on Friday.

November 8 and November 9: Hyundai Company Tour

Mentors Club, for exchange students is having Hyundai Company weekend tour.

November 14 thru 18: NorthEast Asia Open Debate Tournament, SolBridge International School of Business, Daejeon

I am preparing to adjudicate at the tournament as Underwood Union is sending several teams and judges

 

Nationalist Consumption?: Fueling Korean Growth KIDA Tuesday

(September 24 KIDA)

Patriotism, the question becomes how powerful should it be? This debate:

This House Regrets the preferential consumption of products from domestically established companies on the basis of nationalism,

proved to be an excellent first inner collegiate event in Korea. The Korean Innervarsity Debate Association holds the weekly debating league KIDA Tuesdays in Seoul. Performance is evaluated through the semester by both standings in the round and bringing qualified adjudicators. Last week the host was located within walking distance of Seoul at different university.

The mega companies of Korea were the focus of the debate, some of which make America’s too big to fail companies look like toddlers. Samsung has not only managed to become the smartphone of choice but also holds large shares of the computer, television, and insurance market, while Hyundai stores resemble Macy’s. The Goverment team began supporting the motion by saying that excessive support of domestic markets keep product prices high reducing quality of life and that innovation is stiffled because companies are not motivated to expand to abroad markets. In the second supporting speech they also expressed fears that companies will believe they can sell lesser quality products on the base of nationalism. The opposition responded by saying that nationalist support is good for development, since it helped Hyundai and Samsung to become stable companies.  They also felt that nationalism is used as a sales tactic and is as legitimate as Coco-Cola using Polar Bears. They sited the bankruptcy of Detroit after the callaspe of the auto industry to say that some companies are inter-dependent with the government and that defending them is ok. In the second half of the debate, the Government side said that the government does use its power to unfairly help Korean companies when politicians and state media promote local mega companies. Reporting about these companies can be overly positive. Meanwhile the opposition stated that consumers could gain enjoyment from knowing the products they are buying help domestic companies.

Watching this debate was informative as both sides presented the idea that national unity helps Korean mega-companies to be stable and grow. After the round we discussed whether it should have been a debate set in Korea. In the US, the Made in America are hoping to promote domestic products in order preserve jobs. However it is clear that efforts to support domestic companies are more significant here.