Korea – The DMZ

Next: Going to China on the most ad hoc trip ever. And I caught a cold.

A pig has 30 minute orgasms. That’s what I learn when I hang out with an Aussie girl for a day.

Also, went to the DMZ today. I got to see N. Korea as close as any American can get.

Also went into one of the tunnels they dug trying to get over here, which they painted with black paint to make it look like they were just digging for coal (rofl?).

There is a village just next to the DMZ, they call it “propoganda village”, because it’s made only to make the North look rich.

Though it has no electricity.

And the farmers never actually grow anything.

And in fact they’re just starving their people and making the Free world pay for their subservient army while they sit atop a potential missle crisis.

Kim Jong il uses so much electricity for his personal auditorium that the capital city is usually without power.

The history of the North and South, on the English tourist panels, is insanely brief and kind of whimsical.

Sometime during the Black ages – Three Dynasties in Korea. The Silla dynasty comes out on top.

Sometime after that – The Gora dynasty steps in from Manchuria (where the name Korea comes from).

Fifteenth century – The Joseong dynasty takes over, creates Korean alphabet, then gets seriously owned in a genocidal war against the Japanese. 90% of Korean civilization is burnt to the ground…then restored later on.

1910 – Japan colonizes Korea again. This lasts a long time and is a God-awful event but hey everyone was doing it at the time.

1945 – The Soviet Union takes North Korea as a colony (influenced through Marxism), and the U.S. and allies take South Korea.

1950 – After five years the North invades the South in an effort to unify the entire country under a communist regime. The North is aided by Russia and China while the South is aided by America. in 1953 they have an armistice agreement at the 38th parallel. Kim il Sung becomes the “God” of North Korea while Rhymee becomes president of the South.

1960s – The North prospers because all the energy facilities and resources are in the north. The South meanwhile goes through a couple military coups until Park Chong Hee comes along and becomes president for nearly 20 years.

1970s – The South surpasses the North in miraculous man-power and intelligence. All the intellectuals that were sent to foreign schools in Germany and America have returned and they help give the South a huge economic boom. The North by this time is starting to fall under the strains of a spurious ideology. The same is going on in Russia and China. Also, a surge of Northern spies are sent to the South through secret subs, from Japan, and through underground tunnels.

1980s – Park is assassinated and replaced by more military coups, each one a bit more democratic than the last. There are also many assassination attempts of South Korean presidents, a terrorist bombing that was authorized by Kim Jung il in egypt. That’s right, there’s overwhleming evidence that Kim Jong Il authorized terrorist-style bombings from N. Korean assassins. One woman was caught, and pretended to be a Japanese tourist.

The story goes, upon seeing Seoul (the South’s capital) the female terrorist from the North burst into tears and admitted everything about what she had done. The North had taught her since childhood that South Korea was nothing but huts and starving families that “had to be liberated from the evils of capitalism.” The South let her go as she had obviously been brainwashed. She then recieved hundreds of marriage proposals…

1990s – South Korea emerges as a modern-industrial country with an enduring infrastructure and a still-booming economy. North Korea is going through a recession that will eventually turn into a depression worse than any the western world has known since WWII.

Russia, East Germany and China all collapse, but North Korea refuses to change though it’s struggles are on par with the others. This is because the apotheosis that is required to make any sane country convert to communism (Stalin, Mao) is strongest in North Korea

A doctor friend of mine who works with the UN once performed operations in the North. He was never thanked, but immediately the North Korean he had cured would begin bowing to a picture of Kim il Sung for thanks.

But I digress. The point is that the South had been doing an awful lot better than the North, but my visit to the DMZ verified the amount of BS passing through from one side to the other. First, there were very few trees on the North Korean side, in fact if you look at it from China they are stripped bare because people eat the bark. There are no running rails or cars, the farmers only pretend to be farming but nothing is ever grown.

When the South puts up a flag, the North’s MUST be higher up. The South sees it as trivial and lets the North have their way.

Back to history. In 1997 the South went through a recession it has fully recovered from partially thanks to the U.S. (It gave more money to the IMF fund than South Korea had in it’s entire treasury) and other western countries.

2000 – that brings me to the Sunshine Policy of “DJ” (Kim Dae Jung). He offers the first presidential meeting with Kim Jong Il and creates the Sunshine policy with the North (This stems from an old story that wind cannot make a man take off an ugly jacket, only giving him more sunshine can…). In other words the South will continue to give money over and over and over until the North decides to stop being such isolationists and let the seperated families reunite.

The point is that this was nearly 8 years ago when it seemed the two countries would unify. Kim Jong il has no running economy, and many sources claim he doesn’t give a shit at all about his starving people (from North Korean refugees). All the money and food that’s given to the North goes straight to their army. It made all the sense in the world that eight years ago the North would be forced into tearing down it’s communist walls to the world as did East Germany. But eight years is a long freaking time to be in denial about something, and the South Korean youth no longer show any interest in reunifying. Instead they’re pissed off at the shabby use of aid and the desperate attempts of the North to become relevant to the world by threatening it with nukes. In the next election, they’re going to vote for someone anti-North.

So here’s the case today. The South has created railways into the North, they have given a ton of aid, they have even started incentive programs offering thousands of tons of rice to be dropped into the north despite their nuclear ambitions. It seems to me the South has done nothing but bend over and play ball and in the past eight years nothing has come of it but more nuclear threats. Hell, the North even tried to get more money by claiming that the “secret tunnels” that they built in the 1970s to attack the South should “route all the money gained from tourism to the North” because they built those tunnels.

Anyways, there.

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Japan Travel

JAPAN Traveling.

Though the Japanese still lead in the post-modern pop art movement, simply taking a Japanese bullet train through the countryside and small cities made me realize just how iconic Japanese culture is, even in the United States. One art critic called Japanese culture the only post-modern culture that rivals that of the entire conglomeration of westernization.

Take this view:

A monumentous backdrop of mammouth factories and deposits, fenced off and set against Japanese style wooden houses that could ignite in an instant.

This view from the Kyoto train station before boarding:

The subtle colors of sprawling industry that moved as they say like “a dragon” in the 1970s, an economic miracle from a place of very limited resources. Like Korea, they squeezed their power from every hard-working Japanese person they could find.

And yet while on a Japanese bullet train, the most frequent sights weren’t factories, buildings or lights…but Japanese ancestrial graves. Tons of them pervading the countryside as common and clustered as herds of cattle in the American mid-west.

As well as funerary hills, from a train or taxi we could spot frequent shrines, perhaps five times as many as we see driving through Korea (partly Japan’s fault for that), as well as castle’s peeking through brush:

When we weren’t on the road we were sleeping in Japanese saunas, or traditional houses with public bathrooms and mats such as this:

On the way back we took a BEETLE Ferry, which is a boat that skis on the water like an ice-skater:

Anyways, it was heavy.

The entire time we were in Japan, Cam’s Korean girlfriend would continue to repeat: “Japan isn’t better than Korea, right?” So we would tell her how rude Japanese people were, though they are so kind and only being polite, or we would tell her how dirty it was, though it had the cleanest cities I have ever walked through, or we would talk about how dangerous it felt there, though walking to the motel drunk at three a.m., random people helped guide us back to the motel.

I feel like Quentin Compson anytime I talk about Japan in Korea, like I can’t help but think what I do and say what I really don’t mean…

“No…I’m not one of those Americans who falls in love with Japan after a couple of visits. Really, I don’t love Japan–I don’t LOVE Japan!”

2007 Traveling – August 5, OSAKA

At nearly 20 million people, Osaka isn’t an easy case-study when it comes to “drive-by” tourism.

After the long boat ride to Foukoka and refamiliarizing myself with the currency, language and habits of the Japanese, we bought a twenty-thousand yen ($200) railpass to see the entire western half of Japan. Before heading there we spent the night in a Japanese spa, sense neither me nor my traveling companions ever thought it very adventerous to make hotel reservations.

Spending the night in a spa is an experience nobody should miss. First off you get clean as hell, as in rubbing your skin until it turns bright red (which everyone can see cuz, well, it’s a bathhouse). I’m reminded of the Greek gymnasiums, where back in the day training the body was just as important as training the mind, and it was casual to have libraries in gyms and bathhouses. Japanese have that, and it seems like scrubbing and exercising go right along with reading and studying in the spa.

We had to travel through three hours of Japanese countryside on a high-speed bullet train before arriving in Osaka Station Terminal. Osaka is a city surrounded by water, the “water capital” and “food capital” of Japan; Osaka to me was just big as hell. From the Osaka towers you can look in every direction using a telescope, and still the buildings seem to extend indefinately.

Serrendipitously, one member of our group (not saying who) flirted enough with a Japanese girl to get us reliable directions to the hot spots. The first was Osaka castle. The last picture is from the top of the castle we visited, though to get there we had to move through a carnival of festivals and celebrations, losing each other in the mess of rock concerts and cheap beer while the sky was filled with balloons and helicopters.

As a westerner, the castle seemed far more like a medieval fortress than the sustained, subtle architecture I imagined from Dark Ages Japan. In fact, the castle is surrounded by two seperate moats, then built ontop of three gigantic foundations.

Oour tour of the castle was maimed by the lionizing of one of Japan’s greatest unifiers, who also attempted to “genocide out” the Kingdoms of the Korean Penninsula in the sixteenth century: the axe-wielding Toyotomi Hideyoshi. I recall my brother’s girlfriend expressing her nationalistic attitude: “How can they treat him like hero? He is monster!” My response: “Andrew Jackson wasn’t all that great either.”

I barely remember the Osaka nightlife. According to the guide, there are two big spots for nightlife, one that’s “Western orientated” and another that’s authentic Japanese, obviously we went to the “authentic” one.

Here’s what we got: Incredibly talented dart players winning drinks galore while we sat around consuming expensive but miniscule cocktails and watching older Japanese businessmen hitting on the younger boys and girls.

“authenticity” we desired…

Osaka was fun. I can’t begin to encapsulate it within a single blog…It’s big, and there’s lots of water.

Something I learned in Japan the last two times I came: judging by personality, the Japanese are nothing like Koreans. Perhaps this was my own prejudice, thinking they might act alike. But where Koreans are super-shy and self-conscious, Japanese will stare you down and offer conversations at a whim, perhaps because they really don’t care so much about you. Japan’s also far cleaner than Korea, and though it’s people seem far more polite than Koreans (Koreans have spat at my feet, casually), they are also a bit less honest and overtly friendly. This is just my impression from people in Fukouka and Osaka–mostly Osaka. Yet, like Koreans (and probably Americans too), their ostensible pride hits you harder than the stunning lights, the steaming pork ramen and the overly-modern bullet trains.

They also seem to revel in their perversions. Or perhaps perversions is the wrong word, none of them are perverse, in fact, as Erich Fromm would have said, when taboos are absent there is also the absence of shame. Japan is surreal, and free, and conspicuous, when it comes to sexuality. Shameless, one could say. Uninhibited, one could also say.

Even though Osaka is the ninth-biggest city in the world, I was completely unhindered walking the backstreets at 5am. Japan lives up to its reputation. Like Korea it’s strangely safe.

A Map of the water city

City’s website