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Korean society

Disabled Live in Poor Conditions

Disabled people in South Korea live in unsatisfactory living conditions, a government report said Tuesday. The average monthly income of disabled households was estimated at 1.57 million won ($1,600) last year, or 52 percent of what non-disabled households earn, the Ministry of Health and Welfare said.

It reported that one out of every 10 households with a disabled person lives below the poverty line.

According to the report, 45 percent of the disabled said they are satisfied with their living conditions. More than 50 percent of them said they lack the equipment necessary to cope with their physical disadvantage because of financial hardship.

About 55 percent of the disabled said they suffer mobility problems in public places due to inadequate infrastructure for them. (Korea Times, 14/02/06)

Korea jumps to 40th in the world in transparency.

South Korea ranked 40th out of 159 countries surveyed in a global corruption perceptions index (CPI) this year, climbing from last year's 47th out of 146 countries, the Transparency International (TI) reported on Tuesday (Oct. 18).

Scoring five out of a clean score of 10, South Korea is 'the largest improver in Asia compared with last year,' said the report issued by the TI headquarters in Berlin, Germany.

The CPI is a composite survey reflecting the perceptions of business people and country analysts, both resident and non-resident. It draws on 16 different polls from 10 independent institutions, according to TI, a global non-government organization committed to fighting corruption.

This year, Iceland came first with 9.7, switching with Finland, which took first place last year. Finland and New Zealand followed at second with 9.6, while Bangladesh and Chad came in last, both scoring 1.7.

South Korea 'has made significant progress in developing the institutions and laws to fight corruption, beginning with the inauguration of the Korean Independent Commission Against Corruption (KICAC) in 2002 and continuing in 2005 with the launch of the landmark K-PACT on anti-corruption and transparency, initiated by TI Korea and involving leaders in politics, the public sector, business and civil society,' the report said.

South Korea's transparency also improved among 30 member countries of the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD), ranking 22nd this year, a two-step rise from the 24th place it has maintained since 2001.

TI Korea and the KICAC hailed the nation's improved CPI as important progress, but both noted that the country still has a long way to go.

'This is actually a shame considering the country's gross domestic product or the economy's scale,' commented TI Korea in a statement. 'In Asia, we are even positioned behind Malaysia.'

Among 12 countries in Asia, South Korea comes sixth, the same as last year. Singapore and Hong Kong lead the regional ranking, recording fifth and 15th in global ranking, respectively.

Kim Sang-geun, chairman of TI Korea, said the proper implementation of the K-PACT, nationwide education on anti-corruption, and parliamentary ratification of the United Nations Convention Against Corruption, which is scheduled to take effect from Dec.14 this year, are necessary to move closer to a more transparent society.

The KICAC attributed the nation's improving CPI to the government's anti-corruption drive.

'We think the government's efforts to fight corruption are beginning to be noticed both at home and abroad,' said Chung Soung-jin, chairman of the KICAC. 'Recently, international institutions such as the International Institute for Management Development and World Economic Forum have also rated South Korea higher in transparency indexes.'

Survivor of Family Suicide Takes Own Life

A high school senior who was the sole survivor of a family suicide that took place in Gongju, South Chungcheong Province in April committed suicide last Wednesday. The 18-year-old, identified by his family name of Lee, was found groaning in the hallway of a high school in Gongju around 3:15 p.m. on June 15. Paramedics were called and the teenager, who had drunk herbicide, was immediately transported to Soonchunhyang Hospital in Cheonan. He died on Saturday morning, however.

Police are currently investigating the cause of the suicide, but speculate that Lee killed himself in despair because he could not overcome the grief of losing his family and not being able to go to school. On April 12, Lee's parents and younger sister set fire to the car they were in parked near the high school that Lee attended, committing family suicide. It was reported that Lee's father chose to die with his family, as he grew more and more pessimistic over his son’s failure to adjust to school life.

(You Tae-jong, youh@chosun.com )
Korean men adopt cosmetic values

South Korea's image-conscious modern male has overcome his inhibitions to embrace the benefits of make-up.

The handsome young men walk past each other in the blinding sunlight. Their shoulders lightly brush, and they turn their heads for a closer inspection.

"Wow, he's got great skin," murmurs one, while the other casually informs him, "It's just that I've changed skin lotion."

The scene is from a television advertisement, hawking what is euphemistically called a "color lotion" for men. Actually, it's a liquid foundation designed, as the ad says, to "cover the imperfections".

Cosmetics merchants in the West still fantasise about the day that men will wear make-up but in South Korea, the future is here.

Color Lotion was introduced last year with a lavish advertising campaign starring World Cup soccer star Ahn Jung-hwan - the David Beckham of South Korea. The lotion chalked up $US4 million ($A5.8 million) in sales in the first six months, surprising its manufacturer.

Meanwhile, the chairman of one of the country's largest cosmetics companies recently published his confessional memoirs with the title The CEO Who Wears Make-up.

"Why shouldn't men want to look beautiful and take care of their skin?" asked Yu Sang-ok, 70, the head of Coreana Cosmetics. "Especially as they grow older, they have to wear make-up if they don't want to look shabby."

In fact, Korean men have been touching up their appearances long before the term "metrosexual" was coined by trend-spotters in the West to describe heterosexual men who willingly spend money on their looks.

Most politicians older than 50 dye their hair. President Roh Moo-hyun and his predecessor, Kim Dae-jung, are distinguished by prominent heads of jet black hair - as is North Korean leader Kim Jong-il, although his regime is sufficiently secretive that one cannot say with certainty whether his hair is dyed.

Kim Min-yoo, an Estee Lauder salesman at a department store here, says that prominent figures have been using make-up as well, but discreetly.

"It's always existed. Men would wear a little of their wives' or girlfriends' make-up. It is just that now it is out in the open and respectable," said Mr Kim, who wears his hair streaked with copper highlights and admits to applying a little powder and eyebrow pencil on special occasions.

Seoul's plastic surgeons, boutiques, hairdressers and cosmetics merchants attract customers from throughout the region.

The advertising for men's make-up here features young, girlish models - called "kkotminam", or flower men. But market research indicates that the best customers are middle-aged businessmen.

"We thought this would be popular with teenagers and men in their 20s, but we discovered to our surprise that it was men in their 40s who were most concerned about their skin being rough from the effects of ageing, heavy smoking and stress," said Chong Pu-kyung, who helped develop Color Lotion for Somang Cosmetics.

Until Color Lotion was released last year, men's cosmetics consisted of aftershaves, moisturisers, acne treatments and "whitening" creams, a ubiquitous product in Asia. The very idea of a foundation designed to cover the skin was considered too effeminate to be marketed to men.

But the product's success broke through the psychological barriers against real make-up and it has since been emulated by other cosmetics companies.

Somang, meanwhile, is beginning to market its product in China, Vietnam, Mongolia and in Japan, where men's makeup is even more widely accepted.

- Los Angeles Times
5 Million Koreans Live in Poverty

By Bae Keun-min, Staff Reporter

More than 5 million Koreans are living in poverty, with one in every 10 people surviving on an income below minimum living expenses.

According to a survey by the Ministry of Health and Welfare on Wednesday, the number of people below the poverty line was estimated to surpass the 5-million mark this year, up from 4.6 million in 2003.

The poor include those who earn less than the minimum living costs and those who make less than 1.36 million won per month. The minimum living expenses were determined to be 908,000 won per month for a three-member household and 1.14 million won for a four-member household.

South Korea has a population of 48.29 million, which indicates that one in 9.65 people is living in poverty. ``The exact number of the poor will be released at the end of next month, after completing the survey,'' a ministry official said. The increase is attributable to the widening gap between the rich and the poor amid the prolonged economic slump.

As soon as the study is concluded, the government will take measures to help those in need, the official added. The ministry also plans to expand subsidies to low-income households, and to citizens aged 65 and older and to children under 18.

So far, people, who make less than the minimum living costs, have benefited from government support. Children under 12 years old and people suffering incurable or rare diseases in poor families have benefited from the aid program. The national health insurance program covered at least 85 percent of medical costs for a low-income patient.

The ministry is considering expanding the scope for destitute families so that more people living in poverty can get more state support.

South Korea Will Become Most Aged Society in 2050

By Bae Keun-min
Staff Reporter

South Korea is forecast to record the world’s highest proportion of senior citizens in 2050 with the younger generations having to shoulder heavier burdens to support the elderly.

According to the Ministry of Health and Welfare yesterday, the population of senior citizens aged 65 and over is expected to surge from the current 9.1 percent to 24.1 percent in 2030 and 37.3 percent in 2050, the highest level in the world.

The forecast is based on data from the United Nations. In contrast, Japan, a nation with a large elderly population, will see the ratio grow from 19.7 percent to 30.4 percent in 2030 and 36.5 percent in 2050.
In Italy, senior citizens will make up 28.2 percent in 2030 and 34.4 percent in 2050, soaring from the current 19.6 percent.

As a result, Korea will surpass Japan and Italy in the ratio of senior citizen population by 0.8 percentage points and 2.9 percentage points, respectively, in 2050. The ratio in the United States is expected to jump from 12.3 percent to 20.2 percent in 2030 and 21.1 percent in 2050. A global average of the elderly population ratio is estimated to rise from 7.3 percent to 11.8 percent in 2030 and 15.9 percent in 2050.

A ministry official said the surging percentage of senior citizens will impose heavier burdens on youth in supporting the elderly as well as change the demographics of workers. Young workers have decreased in workplaces during the past few years, while middle-aged and senior workers have risen. However, children aged 14 or younger in Korea are likely to plunge from the current 19.1 percent of the total population to 11.2 percent in 2030 and 9 percent in 2050.

People aged between 15 and 64, who are classified as the economically active population, are also forecast to decrease from 71.8 percent to 64.7 percent and 53.7 percent in the cited period. In consequence, Korea’s ratio of senior citizens to economically active population will jump from 12.6 percent to 14.9 percent in 2010, 21.8 percent in 2020, 37.3 percent in 2030 and 69.4 percent in 2050, the ministry said.

In other words, 10 percent of the economically active population will be responsible for taking care of seven senior citizens in two and a half decades. The trend is already visible in the workplace. According to the state-run Work Information Center, those in their 20s and 30s accounted for 63.3 percent out of the total workers who benefited from employment insurance as of March. The ratio decreased from 65.2 percent in 2002, 65.1 percent in 2003 and 63.6 percent in 2004.

However, beneficiaries from employment insurance in their 50s and 60s rose from 11.1 percent in 2002 and 11.2 percent in 2003 to 12.7 percent in 2004 and 13 percent in March. The trend was also visible in the manufacturing industry, as workers in their 20s and 30s edged down 1.4 percentage points with the older group rising by 0.8 percentage points for the cited period.

kenbae@koreatimes.co.kr 05-22-2005 21:42
Males giving up citizenship to avoid call-up

An increasing number of male Koreans with duel nationality have rushed to give up their Korean citizenship since a bill was revised last Wednesday that obliges them to do military service. The legislation is set to be implemented early next month.

The number of people who renounced Korean nationality - recording usually 2 or 3 per day - skyrocketed to 143 on May 10, with males accounting for 99 percent, the Ministry of Justice said yesterday.

Out of 386 people who gave up Korean nationality from April 2-10, 97 percent or 374 youngsters hold American citizenship.

Previously, Koreans who were born overseas were exempt from military duty after canceling their Korean citizenship.

The new legislation will not allow a male with duel nationality to give up Korean nationality before he finishes military obligations.

The revision aims to thwart the growing number of overseas childbirths to obtain foreign citizenships for military exemption.

According to a leading travel agency, some 3,000 maternity trips were estimated in 2001, 5,000 in 2002, 7,000 in 2003, and reached nearly 10,000 last year.

"Since we initiated the bill last November, the number of people who abandoned Korean nationality jumped to 700 and now it reaches 1,400," said Na Kyeong-bum, an aide of opposition Grand National Party lawmaker Hong Joon-pyo.

"Given that most of them age from 14 to 17, they intend to evade military service before the law takes effect," Na said. A Korean male is enrolled in the military when he becomes 18.

As a measure against the growing number of young males who give up Korean nationality, Rep. Hong is preparing a bill to deprive them of all rights as Koreans and to treat them like foreigners.

"The bill will hinder a Korean (who gave up citizenship) from going to local schools and deprive them of other rights (such as medical insurance)," Hong said.

Their parents are usually known to come from the upper social class of professors, businessmen and diplomats.

Parents of children under the age of 14 can cancel their children's citizenship without taking them to the immigration office.

By Jin Hyun-joo (The Korea Herald 12/05/05)
Snow White-wannabes get skin of their dreams

Call it the Snow White Complex. Asian women will stop at almost nothing to obtain porcelain skin, a prized symbol of beauty for centuries.
Long before little girls had "Snow White" read to them at bedtime, long before they grew up to realize the true meaning of "Mirror, mirror on the wall/ Who is the fairest of them all," Korean women sought "white" skin. Fair is not some vague notion of beauty; it specifically means "pleasing to the eye or mind especially because of fresh, charming or flawless quality," according to the Merriam-Webster Online Dictionary.

Tan may be fashionable in the West, but in the East, where pale skin was, and still is to large extent, equated with the ruling class, purposely darkening one's face is reserved only for the fashionable few.

It is ironic that Asian women, who value a fair complexion, are genetically more prone to brown patches on the face, known as melasma, one of the most common complaints of patients at dermatology clinics. "Asian women have more melanin so they are genetically predisposed to developing melasma," said Julius Jon, a U.S. and Korean board certified dermatologist who heads Teng Teng Dermatology Clinic in Seoul.

Other causes of melasma are hormonal changes and sun exposure. Pregnant women develop melasma, called chloasma or the "mask of pregnancy," which disappears after pregnancy in most cases; oral contraceptives also trigger melasma.

The sun's ultraviolet light and even very strong light from electric bulbs can stimulate pigment-producing cells or melanocytes in the skin. The melanocytes produce a large amount of pigment under normal conditions, and this is increased further when stimulated by light exposure or an increase in hormone levels.

One of the wonders of lasers is that they can zap skin blemishes, including the brown patches. "IPL (Intense Pulse Light) is very effective in eliminating melasma," said Jon, showing before and after photographs of a 30-year-old female patient who was treated for melasma around the eye area. One month after the initial treatment, the patient's raccoon look was gone. The woman, who had come in for a second treatment, was so satisfied with the result that the doctor sent her home without additional procedure.

However, not all results are as dramatic. "It really varies according to different individuals. You need to find the right wavelength that will work for that particular patient. That is why experience is so important when it comes to laser (treatment)," said Jon. Each treatment lasts about 20 minutes and requires no anethestics. Another option for those seeking "pure" skin is a form of chemical peel, known as Cosmelan peeling. The treatment is based on the inhibition of tyrosinase, the enzyme responsible for transforming melanin precursors into operational melanin. Ingredients in the Cosmelan formula act by blocking tyrosinase, or by inverting the metabolic process of the transformation chain. The treatment process involves the application of the chemical compound and subsequent medical skin care to enhance the effect. Since this is not a form of microdermabrasion, there is no downtime, meaning the patient can wash her face and use makeup following treatment.

Cosmelan Cream is applied on the face at the doctor's office and the patient goes home with the mask on and is instructed how long to wait before removing it with water and neutral cleanser. Most skin types will be told to remove the mask after six to eight hours. Home care starts the next day with the application of two types of creams. There might be some reddening and flaking on the first and second day of treatment.
About four weekly visits to the doctor's office are required for medical skin care. With Cosmelan, there is no period when you are more sensitive to sun, so the treatment is safe all year round, according to Jon. "You will notice the marks getting light in the first to second week. After a month, you will see disappearance of a lot of pigment," he said.
If you are hesitant to apply anything more than a cream to your face, there are "bleaching" creams that can be tried. These creams do not actually bleach the skin by destroying melanocytes but decrease the activity of pigment-producing cells. Two-percent hydroquinone cream, available over the counter, is most commonly used. However, Jon advises against taking matters into your own hands. "In some patients, it will actually make the patches darker," he warned.

At the doctor's office, a dermatologist may prescribe creams with higher concentrations of hydroquinone. It normally takes about three months to improve melasma this way and creams containing tretinoin, steroids, and glycolic acid are available in combination with hydroquinone to enhance the depigmenting effect. Other medications that have been found to help with melasma are azelaic acid and kojic acid.

While these treatments will give you a blank slate to begin anew, melasma can always recur. In fact, incidental exposure to the sun is the main reason for recurrence of melasma, according to the American Academy of Dermatology. Daily application of sunscreen is a must to defend against the harmful effects of suns rays, including melasma and deadly skin cancer. The American Academy of Dermatology recommends a broad-spectrum sunscreen with a Sun Protection Factor of at least 15 for basic protection year-round. Even on cloudy days, 80 percent of the sun's ultraviolet rays pass through the clouds.

Broad-spectrum sunscreens offer protection against UVB and UVA rays. UVB rays are sun's burning rays, which are blocked by window glass, and are the primary cause of sunburn and skin cancer. UVA rays, which pass through window glass, penetrate deeper into the base layer of the skin and also contribute to sunburn and cancer. When shopping for a sunscreen, look for ingredients such as oxybenzone, cinnamates, sulisobenzone, salicylates, titanium dioxide, zinc oxide and avobenzone that offer protection against both UVB and UVA rays.

What most people do not realize is that sunscreen needs to be applied at least 20 minutes before going outside to allow the skin to absorb the product. Also, it needs to be reapplied every two hours when outdoors.


By Kim Hoo-ran


Korea's Protest Culture
by Michael Breen
Invest Korea Journal
Nov-Dec 2004

Some years ago, a foreign correspondent based in Jerusalem, who I'd met in London, said to me, "Korea? Wow, you're in a war zone, man." Me? Someone from the Middle East is telling me I'm the one in the war zone? Yes, he insisted. He'd seen Korean student protests on TV.

The more I tried to play the protests down, the more I came across like some kind of blase war reporter-you know, emphasizing the month of boredom over the occasional ten seconds of sheer terror.

But, for those with ears to hear, I still insist, Korean protests ain't what they seem to be. They weren't in the 1980s and 1990s when protestors used to get tear-gassed, and they aren't today. They are not a symptom of deep, angry divisions, of instability and risk.

That's not to say that the protestors today do not have serious causes. They do. Sometimes the cause is political, sometimes it's labor-related, sometimes it's personal.

But what they all have in common is passion. This is a country of passion, exuberance and noise. It's a culture that understands emotion. To illustrate, if a drunk gets on a bus in Korea, instead of tut-tutting and remonstrating, people will stand up to give him (or her, I guess) a seat. Why? They know what it's like to blow off steam and do not feel threatened when someone else does it. And similarly, when someone in a headband yelling and screaming, the Korean instinct is not to condemn, but rather to think, "I guess he (or she, to be sure) is angry about something."

This has been a hard point to appreciate for me personally because protesting goes against my upbringing. When I see a demo, I have to confess, I feel the people are doing something wrong and my adrenalin starts. Protest is an act of political persuasion. It involves mobilizing the power available to you to weaken the other party and force it to do your bidding. It doesn't seem right. Nor, in a law-based environment, does it seem necessary. If the other party is truly in the wrong, why resort to a form of political action that has a semi-illegal feel to it? Why not, say, file suit?

This is because recourse to the law has not been historically popular with Koreans seeking redress. That takes some explaining. But first, let's get a better sense of what we're talking about.

A SEOUL DEMO GUIDE To get a feel for protest in Korea, I'd recommend a 1-kilometer stroll from Gyeongbok Palace to City Hall in Seoul's central business district. The first building on the right is the Central Government Building that houses various agencies. At morning rush hour, there is usually at least one person standing outside the gates with a placard detailing a complaint. The objective is to catch the attention of the relevant government officials as they drive to work. This protestor highlights the prime objective of most complaints, which is to shame, bully, pressure or otherwise get government to step in and take action.

Larger groups often congregate in the park next to the Sejong Cultural Center. Across the road on the left, next to the culture ministry, which is next to the American embassy, and set back slightly, is a small park. This is the site of regular events to protest American policies because it is the nearest and most convenient place for demonstrators to gather without violating a regulation outlawing protest within 100 meters of a foreign embassy. From time to time, protestors run mini exhibitions here, highlighting their causes. In the winter of 2002, after a U.S. court martial ruled that the road traffic deaths of two schoolgirls were accidental and acquitted two GIs on charges of culpable homicide, activists held displays linking this tragic event to other alleged crimes by American soldiers.

The riot police that ring the embassy itself serve as a permanent reminder of the protest culture in Korea. Political protest, of course, differs from labor and other types of protest. In Korea, the objectives of political protest are not always well articulated. Unlike in the United States, for example, where most social issues boil down to legal action-that is, all the arguing and demonstrating and column-writing that tends to stop once a law has been introduced or amended-in Korea, the objectives are less clear. What, for example, do anti-American protestors want? The common assumption is that protestors want the United States to withdraw its troops but two years ago, when American commentators started suggesting that the troops be withdrawn if they were not wanted, protestors took to the streets to complain that Americans did not understand Korean anti-Americanism.

"We don't want you to leave; rather, we want you to change your attitude," they said. This had not been clear before. And, frankly, it still isn't.

THE BLAME GAME While the objectives of political protest may not be clear, one feature is: blaming others rather than taking responsibility for problems one should rightly address oneself. Of course, you're not going to protest if you think that you are the cause of a problem. However, the relative ease with which others--be they the government or the conglomerates (chaebol)--are blamed is one explanation for the demonstration phenomenon.

But back to our trip. Further down, the telecom ministry sits in a good demo-free spot, squeezed between the U.S. embassy and the Kyobo Building, which houses the Finnish and Australian missions among others. No gatherings here, except of people waiting to catch buses.

Across the road, however, the Gwanghwamun intersection is a regular gathering spot for unionists. They are noted for their red headbands, brash-sounding songs, and yelling into loudspeakers. Their noisiness is turning downtown Seoul against organized labor. Their causes are quite easily defined because they're job-related. Wage negotiations may have broken down. Or, perhaps their company is about to be bought by another and they want to show that they can't be restructured out of their jobs.

Keep going on the right, across from the Korea Press Center, is the Seoul city council building where people upset by local government gather to punch the air. This rather institutional-looking building, incidentally, was the location of the first National Assembly. Last winter, foreign workers protested every morning on this corner.

Now, we reach City Hall and major headband territory. Action groups regularly protest in front of the steps. Their causes cover the spectrum, but a significant number are associated with city development projects. Local businesses fear loss of income during construction or as a result of construction and band together to make their case.

CONSCIENCE OF THE NATION The city plaza itself hosts larger and more political demonstrations. The most recent in October when tens of thousands protested against a government plan to abolish the National Security Law. While the government rightly notes that this law, which portrays North Korea as an enemy and forbids South Koreans from supporting or praising it, has been seriously abused in the past and used to incarcerate democratic dissidents, the plan to abolish it without any commensurate step by North Korea, fuels fears that Seoul's liberal government will be undermined by the North's communist regime. As with other large-scale political protests, various groups with different objectives jumped into the fray on this one-activists for human rights in North Korea, former South Korean spies agitating for due recognition and compensation by the government. This latter group threatened violence on the periphery of the protest when they started rocking police buses being used to prevent protestors from marching down the street. (Anticipating this one, police had double-parked the buses so they couldn't be pushed over). Police responded by hosing down the demonstrators with a water cannon.

"I know it's a naive question, but why do they fight?" asked a visiting British academic, who witnessed this scene. "They're undermining their own cause."

Thus framed, this is perhaps the main question from the foreign observer. Why do people in Korea seem to invest so much of their time and energy into demonstrating? Where does this culture of demonstration come from and why does it persist long after political dictatorship has gone?

Modern protest culture, you could argue, goes back a long way. There are historical roots in centuries past, when intellectuals were permitted to challenge decisions by the royal court. In modern Korea, when dictators ruled (until 1988), this role as a form of conscience of the nation fell upon students. Campus leaders arranged massive demonstrations, which served to remind rulers that they were unpopular. One important consequence of these protests-as with earlier campus movements from the 1940s onwards, was that they spawned future political leadership. Indeed, many a demo is actually the work of an ambitious young would-be politician or labor leader.

AVERSION TO LITIGATION With a few notable exceptions now sitting in the National Assembly, it tends to be forgotten that these young politicians, as protest leaders, contributed only indirectly or partially to the cause of democracy. Their protests were inarticulate, too violent, and while tolerated by the public, failed to garner widespread support. The memory of this failure is obscured by the events of June 1987 when a coalition of religious leaders called demonstrations to press for a democratic presidential election. Students naturally answered the call, but so did office workers, laborers and housewives. The massive nationwide protests that resulted led strongman Chun Doo-Hwan to allow a direct vote to choose his successor.

This victory showed the way for labor and every other group with a cause. Political protest was the way to go. The reason protests continue is that it still is. In the absence of more effective means, protest remains the most effective way to articulate your issue and get a hearing.

Two reasons, I would argue: first, since the emphasis within the educational system has been on the acquiring of knowledge to match and fuel Korea's breakneck pace of development rather than the exchange of ideas, there tends to be little debate as such. Secondly, the recourse to law is not a well-trodden path. Korean society is traditionally consensus based, with a marked preference to settle matters directly between the disputing parties.

So the next time you see red head-banded demonstrators waving banners or chanting with clenched fists, don't think that a revolution is imminent. Think more that you are a watching Koreans engaging in a time-honored practice designed to get their point across in the most dramatic way possible. And that they are doing in the same way that they do everything: with passion and fervor.

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