Posted : 2011-08-22 17:23
Updated : 2011-08-22 17:23

Are foreigners divided over Jeju naval base?

By Robert Neff

One of the big stories making its way around the English-language blogs in Korea is the construction of a new naval base on Jeju Island and the protests surrounding it.

“Gloria Steinem Right About Korea’s ‘Island of Women’” declared the blog The Western Confucian. Linking and quoting from an article written by John Eperjesi (Jeju: From peace island to war island ― Asia Times online, Aug. 10, 2011), The Western Confucian seems to support the opposition of the naval base and Steinem’s sentiment that “Jeju Island means Women’s Island. It stands for an ancient balance. We must save it from the cult of militarism that endangers us all, women and men.”

Not quite sure Steinem’s translation of Jeju Island is correct but at least some Western Confucian readers agree with the blog that the base should be blocked. One reader, Yumi, said that she had signed a petition protesting the military base:

“I am not sure what effect it can or will have but I signed it. There is a strong strain of anti-Americanism in Korea that I don’t like, but at the same time sometimes you just have to stand up against the military-industry complex.”

In contrast most readers ― the vocal ones at least ― at Marmot’s Hole seem to support the need for the base. Citing quotes in the New York Times’ piece by Choi Sang-hun (Island’s Naval Base Stirs Opposition in South Korea, August 18, 2011), a lot of the feedback made it clear that they supported, or at least were unopposed to, the construction of the naval base.

DLBarch was especially pleased with the quote from retired South Korean admiral Yun Yon who said, “We may do business with the Chinese, but still it’s the Americans we should do security with.” According to DLBarch, “Right there, in one sentence, is Korea’s national security strategy for at least the next decade.”

Marmot’s Hole wasn’t the only blog supporting the base. Rokdrop declared after reading an article in Japan Focus that he knew “the protests over the construction of the ROK military’s Cheju naval base was going to be hijacked by the usual suspects on the Korean left and turned into an anti-US hate fest.”

Strangely enough, the blog Lost on Jeju has no recent postings of the naval base controversy. It is a shame considering he probably has better insight of the Jeju Islanders’ opinions than the bloggers on the mainland.

Basketball in China

Another popular story with bloggers was the recent basketball game in China between Georgetown and the Bayi Military Rockets. Monster Island (a blog based in Hawaii), entitled its posting as “These shoes were made for walking… and that’s just what they’ll do.” Marmot’s Hole entitled it “China out-thugs the Hoyas” and GI Korea’s was “China Continues Aggressive Behavior.” Each of the bloggers noted that the spectacle reminded them of the violent conduct of the Chinese and their supporters during the Olympic Torch Run in Seoul in 2008

Dutch Santa Claus detained in North Korea

Seoul Galmegi did an extensive posting on Willem van der Bijl ― the Dutch stamp collector who was detained in North Korea a couple of weeks ago. At first it was speculated that Bijl, who sort of resembles Santa Claus, might have been arrested for buying rare stamps illegally but apparently his arrest came because of an editorial he had written for an English-language North Korean newspaper. It seems that the North Korean authorities had an issue with photographs that accompanied Bijl’s article. He was detained for subversive activities and released once he signed a confession.


But not all bloggers were concerned with politics:

Buhay sa Korea, was merely concerned with getting the best mangoes in Korea. The owner of the blog, who describes herself as a “Pinay, Seoulite, Working Mom, and Wife to a Korean”, wrote:

“Last Friday, my husband came home with the best gift he could give me on my eighth year in Korea ― mangoes! Love them more than the pricey French makeup he gave me last week.”

Ask a Korean, a blog in the United States, explained to one of his curious readers the background of Baekseju. Not only did he give the history of the company but also translated the tale of how the alcohol got its name.

Many blogs posted stories about Rhiannon Brooksbank-Jones’ intense interest in Korean. The 19-year-old, who has never been to Korea, has been studying Korean for just two years and has a fairly high level of proficiency but struggled with pronouncing some of the Korean letters so she had her tongue surgically lengthened. She hopes to study at Yonsei University and later live and work in Korea.

And, speaking of communication, Marmot’s Hole noted two Indians were recently arrested for touching a six year old boy inappropriately while in the showers at Daechoen Beach. Apparently the men told the police that this was how people greeted each other in India.

Robert Neff is a columnist for The Korea Times and researches Korean history. He can be reached at
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