Wisdom of Korea (2007, January -- June)


Y.S.Kim (2007.2.18)

I was not able to send you emails for two months. Perhaps it was due to lengthy holiday periods. I hope you had good holidays and enough rest. Many people asked me how I am doing these days.

As usual, thinking of new things. One of them was to purchase my private web domain from Yahoo and move most of my webstuff to this new site. In this way, I have more freedom and more advanced technology. My new web address is http://ysfine.com.

Very easy to remember. If you wish to visit my wisdom files, go to http://ysfine.com/wisdom.

My Einstein page is at http://ysfine.com/einstein.

The main theme of this new website is "Beautiful Hearts and Minds." These day, we have enough technology to carry photographic cameras anytime everywhere. We can also send images of beautiful people anywhere in the world. With these new degrees of freedom, we should be able to create something new.

I propose that we photograph beautiful hearts and minds. Both hearts and minds are abstract concepts and are not directly visible to human eyes, nor to camera lenses. However, combination of those visible objects can produce something profoundly meaningful.

You are a natural scientist. Experimental data constitute a beginning point for scientific theories. They consist of isolated points. By drawing a curve on those point, we formulate an abstract theory.

Let us look at Chinese characters. The abstract concept of "bright" consists of sun and moon which are both visible objects. The abstract concept of "good" consists of a woman and her son. They look so good if they are together. The portrait of a woman and her infant son play a pivotal role in one of the major religions known as Christianity.

I lived long enough and travelled to many places in the world. I have collected many photos from many different places on this earth. I intend to organize them to reflect beautiful hearts and minds. I just started this project, and I intend to continue for many years to come using the internet technology. Please do not hesitate to tell me if you have suggestions.

Sometime ago, I started telling you stories about Rhee Seungman who set up the present form of Korean-American relations. It is about time to finish up the story, but I started talking about Korea's foundations of democracy. Let us how see things go. I will continue my stories next time.

Foundations of Korea's Democracy

Y.S.Kim (2007.2.25)

In 1948, Korea has the first election and produced the first edition of the constitution. Koreans were very hopeful about the future of their democracy. As we all know, the road to their democracy was not so smooth. The key person was Rhee Seungman.

Korean politicians were naive enough to think Rhee would step down after his first term was over in 1952, after the second term in 1956, and after the third term in 1960. But Rhee was able to play tricks to stay in power until he was forced out in April of 1960. During his 12-year period, the Korean army played the key role as the guardian of his presidency. As I mentioned in my earlier articles, the person named "Kim Chang-Yong" was the closest army man to Rhee. Recently, after reading my articles about Kim, his maternal grandson send me photos of and about Kim Chang-Yong. I would like to share those photos with you. Simply go to http://ysfine.com/wisdom/kcy.html. stored in my private domain.

It is generally agreed that it took Koreans fifty years to establish their democratic form of government. Compared with other countries including the United States, Koreans made this remarkable achievement in a short period.

We now know that it is not enough to hold the first election to establish democracy. In order to set up the country, we need an army, police, judicial system, ...., comedians, popular singers. Right? As we constantly hear from mass media these days, it it taking Koreans 60 years to build their own army. It took them somewhat shorter period to build a self-sufficient economic system.

We still have a long way to go to construct a judicial system acceptable to Koreans and to the world. The laws are not yet applicable to every Korean. The United States is not a perfect country, but the U.S. is respected throughout the world because American laws are applicable equally to all American. If the president violates the law, he becomes impeached.

Koreans envy a Korean businessman named Park Tong-Sun. Yes, he is a perfect Korean gentleman. Many Koreans regard me highly if I tell them I know Tong-Sun. However, he recently received a five-year prison term for his shady money dealing in Iraq's oil-for-food program. He got this harsh sentence because he did not understand correctly the American judiciary system.

The question is then why Koreans are so great in one area but so poor in other areas. It is an interesting question. Let us continue next time.

Rhee and FTA

Y.S.Kim (2007.3.20)

Korea had many different governments since 1948. It is generally agreed that the present government is most assertive toward the United States. Yet, this assertive government is pushing hard toward the FTA with the United States. What is going on?

The reasoning is that Japan continues in maintaining the No.2 status in economic power, while China is catching up very rapidly. Korea is now being squeezed by these two economic giants and can be squeezed out from the world market. The only available option is to establish a special economic relation with the United States.

The United States does not want Japanese and Chinese economies to become integrated into one great economy. It is essential to maintain its base (both military and economic) base between these two countries. Korea offers an ideal geography to Americans. Korean negotiators seem to know it.

Korea has many things to gain from its special relation with the United States. Rhee Seungman was the first one to see this point from 1945 to 1960. His reasoning was that the U.S. is the only country which could offer something to Korea while Korea's Asian neighbors were not. Perhaps, Rhee was not the only Korean who saw this, but he was the only one who could talk effectively to Americans to get things of substance. Rhee was able to give "kihap" to appropriate Americans to get large sums of American financial and military aids.

The secondary benefit (perhaps more important) from Korea's special relation with the United States was of course the security guarantee which Korean enjoyed for more than a half century. However, the more important benefit was free education of the entire Korean PhD manpower from the United States. Did you know that Korea is the No. 2 country possessing American PhDs? Can you guess which country is the No. 1? The United States. Are you surprised?

If American complain that it is difficult to negotiate with North Koreans, it is because they speak different languages. Americans also complain that it is difficult to negotiate with (south) Koreans because they speak the same language. The Korean negotiators studied in the United States.

If Koreans acquired this much brain power during the past half century, is it because American want to give us, or because Koreans obtained this? In either case, Koreans have been able to this.

Why are Koreans so weak in Research?

Y.S.Kim (2007.3.22)

While many Koreans got their advanced degrees in the United States at no cost to Koreans, Americans do not seem to claim the credit for the service they provided. On the other hand, Japanese constantly assert that they set up the education system in Korea before 1945.

In either case, education does not depend on who sets up the system. It depends on who is going to learn and how. There are many foreign students in the United States from many different countries. Koreans learn in their own way. Then what is the Korean way?

This question arises because Korea's research capability is very weak in spite of its numerical superiority in American degree holders. What is the reason? I do not believe Koreans have inferior brains.

Korean students do well in American schools. However, they study hard not because they want to dedicate themselves to research, but to rise to big Gamtu positions in Korea. The strongest indication is that they do not learn English while studying in America. You do not have to speak English in order to become a Gamtu in Korea.

As a result, most of Korean students return to Korea to find comfortable positions in Korea. This is the reason why there are so many US PhDs in Korea.

Another troubling effect is that Korean scientists and engineers in the United States like to set up organizations (such as KSEA, AKPA, and many others) with numerous Gamtu titles. Everybody knows that they do very little except holding birthday parties. I used to think those organizations thrive because of the Gamtu greed of old Koreans who passed their "Nomang" age. But, this disturbing trend continues for younger Koreans.

Koreans are also ferocious competitors. Otherwise, they cannot go to college. Then why are they so weak in competing with Americans or Europeans? Yes, they are superb in competing against their fellow Koreans, but non-Koreans are beyond their imagination. This has been one of my main concerns for many years, and I would like attach an article which I wrote in 1998 for your information.

Degree of Korea's Isolationism

Y.S.Kim (1998.10.13)

When I was in Rome (Italy) last January, I was able to spot a number of Korean restaurants, but most of them were closed. One block behind Via Nazionale, which is one of Rome's main shopping streets, there was a restaurant called Arirang, and I went in. It was a dinner time but the restaurant was empty. I asked the owner why most of the Korean places are closed. He said most of them are for Korean tourists who spend lavishly. They are not coming because of the IMF crisis.

Because I was the only customer, the owner was able to talk with me on various Korean affairs. He was curious what Gamtu I was wearing within the Korean community. I told him that there is an organization called "Worldwide Association of Korean Physicists," and I am the "life-time" president of this organization. He asked me how I can cover the entire world. I told him I can do this by maintainig a global computer communication system, and I said further that communication is much stronger than Gamtu. He appeared to understand, but the word "life-time" sounded very strange to him. Even though he knows that there should be a single individual totally dedicated to the organization if it is to survive, it was not clear to him whether I am qualified to be the life-time president.

The restaurant owner decided to test me. He asked me again whether my business is physics. He then asked me whether I know his younger brother whose name is "Kwon Heok Jeon." I told him I met Dr. Kwon in 1992 while he was a graduate student at Brown University. He then went back to Korea presumably to fulfil his military duty. I said further that he came again to the U.S. and is now doing his post-doctoral research at the Univ. of Florida. He was impressed and told me I am indeed the life-time president. I promised to him to tell Dr. Kwon that I met his elder brother in Rome, and I am doing this now. Dr. Kwon must be reading this mail.

While we were talking about other issues, a group of Koreans came into the restaurant. This group consists of thirty Korean high school seniors and three teachers. I sat with those teachers and asked them what are those youngsters. Those students were selected from a TV quiz program and the sponsor is providing a world tour for them. To me, those students appeared to be neater and smarter than the Japanese students I often see in European cities. I went to the table for students and asked a few questions.

I asked whether there was a student from Paichai High School. One of the boys raised his hand. I asked him whether his school anthem is the same as the old one. He said YES. I asked him who the most distinguished Paichai graduate was. He said "Woonam Yi Seungman." I was very happy. The students then asked me whether I am a Paichai graduate. I said Yes and No. I then noticed a girl looking like a college student. I asked her which high school she was attending. She said Kyonggi. I then said I know many Kyonggi graduates but I do not know when Kyonggi started admitting girls. She laughed and said there is another Kyonggi only for girls. I then said I remember her school and its school uniform. I asked whether the girls at her school still wear uniforms. She said the uniforms were once abolished but they came back, and she has to wear it when she goes back to Korea. I asked her whether she had to wear a belt around her waist. She said the old-timers did but not anymore. In this way, I continued silly talks with those high-school students, but not without purpose.

I noted that those students were there because they are the best academic competitors in Korea. I was naturally interested in whether they have a desire to compete with their American counterparts. None! Their position was that Koreans should compete with Korean and Americans should compete with Americans. We often say that North Korea is the most isolated country in the world. From the intellectual point of view, the isolationism in the South is not really different from that of the North. In the case of the North, we can blame their politicians. Whom can we blame for the South?

My only consolation is that the Korean athletes do well in world-wide competitions. Perhaps, if we learn the ideology from our athletes, we might do all right.

Korea's Educational System before 1950

Y.S.Kim (2007.3.25)

By 1950, Koreans were able to set up many universities and colleges, but they were not taken seriously. When I entered SNU's Engineering College in 1954, everybody was talking about its cooperation with the University of Minnesota funded by ICA (International Cooperation Agency of the U.S. government). Students were quite curious about the effect of this program, but one of the professors said he does not expect much. At the end of the first five-year program, he said "we would be lucky if we reach the stage where Japanese left us in 1945. The future of Korea's universities was quite bleak at that time.

On the other hand, Korea had many public and private high schools in 1950. Indeed, those high schools produced enough young people to form the core of officers in the Korean army trained largely by Americans. The United States could not set up a credible army in South Vietnam because Vietnam did not have enough high-school graduates.

Those high schools produced also the first crop of young students who went the United States, and belong to this group. Yet, most of those Korean high-school graduates stayed in Korea, and transformed their country into an exemplary nation with a working democracy and thriving economy. Those students are also responsible lifting up the standards of Korean universities. Every Korean university claims it world-class status these days.

In spite of the progress in higher education, Koreans still take one's high-school background more seriously than which university he/she attended. In addition to my high school diploma, I have a PhD degree from Princeton. My Princeton degree is a very powerful stamp in Europe as well as in the U.S.A. I still carry my Princeton credit card when I go to Europe. European ladies become impressed when I show the credit card showing a Princeton mark.

Yet, in Korea, I am still known as a "brilliant" graduate of my high school. I made the point. Koreans still do not take universities seriously. Yes, while Korea was under Japanese occupation, Koreans were able to bootstrap themselves to build schools. Of course, Americans helped us during the initial years.

In 1960, PaiChai (BaeJae) High School celebrated the 70th anniversary of its founding. Rhee Seungman was invited to come and speak. This was his last happy public appearance. He said "Ehwa Hagdang was set up ten years later than we were, but it now has its university. Well, I will make our university (PaiJai University) for you!" Everybody stood up and applauded. I assume that this film strip is still available.

Korea had a very rich and proud history in setting up their own educational system. This of course was the foundation of Korea's democracy. If our universities are not yet world standard, our high school system was, is, or can be. You may visit my wisdom page


for your entertainment. I am comparing my own Korean high school with Easton of England and a Hungarian high school which produced two Nobels and John von Neumann (who developed electronic computers).

Japanese Influence on Korean Education

Y.S.Kim (2007.3.29)

In one of my earlier articles, I stressed the fact that Koreans learned how to operate rifles and lower-level military professionalism from Japanese. With this background, we were able to build the Korean army. But we do not have to thank Japanese. They trained Koreans in order to make up the manpower shortage in their own army.

Japanese do not seem to claim credit for this military aid. But they insist that Korean agricultural system and educational system were set up by them. There is some truth in what they are saying, but we do not have to thank them. Japanese introduced some technological innovations to our agriculture, but they did this in order to produce more food for them, not for Koreans.

Japanese also set up a public educational system in Korea. By the time they left in 1945, about 70 percent of Korea's rural villages had elementary schools. There were a number of elite high schools in major cities, such as Seoul, Pyongyang, Hamhung, Busan, Dague, and Kwangju. Indeed, graduates of these elite schools played leading roles since the Korean government was set up in 1948. This is precisely the reason why one's high-school background is so important in Korea even these days.

You may ask to which elite group I belong. The truth is that I belong to the Pyongyang group even though I attended my high school in Seoul. The story is somewhat complicated, but let me stop talking about myself. In any case, I seem to have a strong Japanese influence.

Japanese had their own understanding of Koreans. They used to say "Chosen-in was sho-ga nai" (Koreans are impossible and cannot be changed). Their prejudice was that Koreans lack discipline. I am afraid to say that Japanese made a correct observation. For this reason, they imposed some extra items on Korean students.

They forced Korean students to bow toward their Emperor in Tokyo (toward east from Korea) every morning, while their own students did not. Korean students every morning had to recite the loyalty pledge to the Emperor called "Kogoku Jinmin-no Seisi." In addition to these rituals, they gave rigorous military training even to elementary school kids. I learned how to operate their 38-shik rifle when I was 8 years old. They of course much more extensive military training to high school students.

From the educational point of view, Japanese thought they could transform Koreans through sports and gymnastics. They gave special treatment to Korean gymn teachers including remission from military service. The gymm teachers had a special office where they discussed how to transform Koreans.

All these add up to tough disciplines, and Koreans continued the Japanese system after they left in 1945. We used to recite our "pledge to unification" (similar to Kogoku Jinmin-no Seisi) often while I was in high school (1948-54). I also had to through military training. The rifle was different. It was a US-made M1 rifle. One of my young Korean friends complained and told me I am basically different from him, because I was trained by "kihap" (practice developed by Japanese army) and lived in a society (American) where one could speak freely.

Again, we do not have to thank Japanese for our educational foundation. As I said before, education is up to those who learn, having not much to do with those who teach. Korea does not have natural resources. Yet, according to today's Washington Post, Korea is one of the richest countries in the world. This newspaper had an article about their FTA negotiations with Korea. The scale of proposed FTA with Korea could be as big as that of NAFTA (North American Free Trade Agreement), the Post said.

Koreans studied hard under Japanese occupation, during the post-1945 confusion, the Korean war, and imperfect Korean democracy. These political variations did not change the basic Korean value, which is study-degree-Gamtu-money. This was good enough to build one of the richest countries from the war ashes. But it is not not good enough to compete academically in the international stage.

Koreans in U.S.A.

Y.S.Kim (2007.4.21)

These days in the United States, the hot news topic is the tragedy committed by a student named Cho Sung-Hui of Korean origin at Virginia Tech. Every TV news program spends a substantial portion of its time to talk about this student and his background. This incident does not improve the image of Koreans in the United States, but its effects seems to be minimal at this point. They seem to put the blame mainly the university system which did not take care of his mental health problem.

The TV programs and newspaper stories all talk about his parents who immigrated to the United States, and also his elder sister who studied at Princeton. In spite of the magnitude of the tragedy beyond anyone's imagination, the American media seem to portray his relatives as good people.

American news media seem to know why Koreans immigrate to the United States. According to them, Koreans come to the United States and work hard in order to send their children to good universities. They are mostly engaged in low-skilled jobs such as laundries, construction works, and family owned stores. They do not learn how to speak English and confine themselves to the Korean communities centered around their churches.

Their life in the States is more rewarding materially than in Korea. They can buy individual houses after savings for several years. But, from the point of view of the American media as well as from our point of view, Koreans' No. 1 value is the education of their children.

In many other countries, only the educated upper class people have the value of educating their own children. Thus, the class separation is permanent. But, Korea is one of the very small number of countries in the world where this value is shared by everybody. Indeed, this is the reason why Koreans are endlessly debating their college entrance exam policy.

Yes, Koreans needed and could only afford elite education system even at the level of the secondary education before 1976. In 1976, Park Chung-Hee's son had to go to high school, and Min Kwan-Shik, then the education minister, abolished the entrance exams for high school. Of course, Koreans complained that Min did this in order to please Park. However, in my opinion, it was a necessary social evolution rather than a revolution. Korea needed this change in order to bring in more talented people to the educated society.

These days, the big issue is whether we should extend this equalization policy toward college levels. My answer to this question is YES. On the other hand, not everybody has enough ability to digest rigorous college programs, regardless of his/her social class. One does not have to go to college to live happily in this world. Bill Gates perhaps the ability to finish his degree at Harvard, but he did not.

How to tell whether one has the ability to go to college seem to be the biggest problem. Korea does not yet have a technology to solve this problem. This problem does not seem to be the education problem alone. Koreans should learn how to absorb those non-college graduates into all levels of the society.

Japan seems to have the same problem. If a high-school graduate fails to enter a college, he/she gets the title of "Ronin" (un-employed Samurai). Those Ronins repeat their entrance exams every year, but they seem to remain as Ronins. They thus form an unhealthy social class. Japan can eliminate this Ronin class only if the society extends warm hearts to them.

Dawn of Korean Economy

Y.S.Kim (2007.4.29)

As I said before, it takes much more than holding one election and writing a constitution to build a democratic political system. Korea could serve as the best example for the countries working toward their own political systems.

I often meet Mongolians in the United States and Europe. Surprisingly many of them speak Korean. The reason is very simple. Their grammar is the same as ours, but this is not the only reason. They know that Japanese also has the same grammar. Then why not Japanese instead of Korean. The reason is that the Korean example is easier for them to follow.

In my earlier articles, I talked about how Koreans built their army, how Koreans wrote their popular songs, and how they developed their educational system. I would like to write a book about how Korean built modern industry, but I do not have enough professional resources to do this. As you know, my main strength is a strong memory. Based on this, I would like write something about how Koreans manage to fill their stomachs in those early years and started to become richer.

I was born ten years before 1945 while our country was under Japanese occupation. During this period, about 80 percent of Koreans were farmers. I grew up in a farm land and I am a true Korean. Yes, Japanese introduced technological innovations to Korean farms and a banking system called "Kinyoo Koomi Ai" (Koomg Yoong Johap) for our farmers. Good for Korean farmers? Needless to say, Japanese did this in order to feed their soldiers.

Yes, Koreans started earning money. Then, Japanese retail stores, such as Mitsukoshi, sold shiny-looking consumer goods to Koreans, and took the money Koreans earned. In order to counter this, A Korean businessman named Park Heung-Shik developed his own department store called Hwa-Shin.

In order to cloth their soldiers, Japanese encouraged the family of Kim Sung-Soo to build a textile factory. They were interested in transforming Korea's cotton crops into their army uniforms.

Perhaps, the most sophisticated program was to build a chemical fertilizer plant in Heungnam (do you know where it is?). I wrote an article about this and pointed out that this became the beginning of Korea's chemical engineering.

Yes, Japanese provided many useful things for our economic development, for their own interest: to build their own army. Yet, Koreans were wise enough to use this opportunity in their own ways. Some Koreans learned how to build business organizations, but most of them invested their resources in the education of their children. If I am forced to state what was the magic of Korea's economic development, I should mention this aspect of Korean culture. I would like to elaborate more on this point in my future articles.

Circulation of Money

Y.S.Kim (2007.5.9)

If you have extra money these days, you put it into your bank in order to save for later days. In older days, Koreans did not have the concept of bank. My grandfather was a well-to-do landlord. In addition to those land ownership documents, he had many 100-won bills (perhaps equivalent to today's $100). I am talking about the five-year period before 1945. The 100-Yen bill carried a portrait of Kim Yoon-Shik who was the first president of the "Chosun Eun-Haeng" which later became the Bank of Korea. Its color was somewhat green, but was yellowish toward the center. We used to call it Noran-Don (yellow money).

My mother was my grandfather's accountant, she kept those 100-won bills at the bottom of her cloth box. After the division of the country, she came to Seoul with many of those 100-won bills. This was the beginning of my family in Seoul. My mother was a capitalist in her own way, but she never understood the banking system and she always kept her money in her cloth box. She came to the United States in 1978 and lived in Los Angeles until she died in 1999. Even in the States, she never trusted American banks. She kept $5,000 at the bottom of her rice jar as a gift for her grandson (my son).

Yes, the banking system is still strange to Koreans. In order to construct a "big money," Koreans usually form financial klans called "Kei." The Kei custom is quite common these days even among educated well-to-do Koreans in the United States. Until recent years, it was not uncommon for respectable business people to resort to financial big hands called "Keun Son" (product of the Kei system) for emergency funding. Those Keun-Sons play important roles in political campaigns.

What is wrong with this traditional capital market? It lacks transparency. It does not work in the modern electronic world. The United States the world's biggest debtor, and Japan is the biggest creditor. But the United States is the richest country in the world. How? The reason is that the U.S. has the most transparent financial system in the world. It is very safe to keep money in the bank and people make money by investing money in the stock market. Thus, the people of the world want keep their extra money in American financial institutions.

How about Japan? When Japanese news programs talk about their domestic issues, there are three most common subjects. They are earthquakes, hurricanes, and Wairo. The word Wairo was commonly used in Korea until recently to describe the bribes taken by public officials. Koreans used to call Korea as a Wairo republic. We think Japanese are highly disciplined people, but they do not seem to be capable of getting rid of this ugly side of their tradition.

My American friends familiar with both Korean and Japanese affairs are telling me that Japanese are not able to clean up their financial mess because their culture lacks Christian base, and Koreans are making progress because there are many Christians in Korea. Let us hope my American friends are right.

When you visit your medical doctor, his nurse will measure your blood pressure and purse rate to check the health of your blood circulation. Likewise, the first measurement of a country's financial health is the transparency of money circulation. Korea made progress, but we still have some way to go.

Strength behind the Economic Strength

Y.S.Kim (2007.5.23)

In my previous article, I mentioned the transparency in money flow as the economic strength, and how difficult it is to achieve this from the medieval culture. Koreans made some progress along this direction. Needless to say, this is also the foundation of a clean government.

To Koreans, the most serious test was the IMF crisis of 1997. This crisis however gave Koreans an great opportunity to clean up their financial mess. Korea's financial circuit has now been be switched to the world-wide financial network. These days, we can see branch offices of Korean banks in Budapest, Warsaw, and other respectable European cities.

During the period 1960-1990, Korea's new prime minister's first visit was to the headquarters of the IMF and World Bank in Washington, to beg for money. These days, Korea is one of the major creditors for these international organizations.

Then, how could Koreans make this remarkable achievement? The answer of course is Koreans' admiration for education. Let us see how much progress we have made along this line. During the Korean War (1950-53), every eligible young boy was drafted to the army. Can you believe that one half of those conscripts were not able to read or write? These days, one has to be high-school graduate to become a soldier. In Korea, the army statistics can represent a very accurate statistics for the entire population.

Yet, by 1950, Korea had a small number of elite high schools. As I said before, those high-school elites formed the building blocks of modern Korea. That is the reason why Koreans still have two- letter extension after their three-letter names. Those two letters tell which high school they attended. When Koreans talk about me, they talk about the high school I attended, instead of from which university I got my PhD degree.

As I emphasized in one of my earlier articles, Korea was able to build a strong army thanks to those high-school graduates. Korea was also able to build a modern financial system thanks also to those educated elites, starting from the murky environment.

However, the most important aspect of Korea's achievement is that every Korean became a high-school elite, as the army statistics show (statistics of 1950 and that of now). In terms of natural resources, Korea is a very poor country. In terms of human resources, Korea can become the richest country in the world.

Affluent Society

Y.S.Kim (2007.6.25)

I have been talking about how Koreans developed their own democracy, but I am trying these days to point out that politicians did not contribute too much to this important process. The question is whether Koreans were interested in constructing a democratic society or an affluent society. The answer seems to the latter. This is precisely the reason why they were tolerant to the 30 years of military dictatorship.

By the end of the War (1953), Korea was one of the poorest nations in the world. There were some "affluent" people in Korea, but they were regarded as bandits. Some of you will recall a story entitled "O-Juk" (five bandits) written by a poet named Kim Ji-Ha. His story portrays all affluent people are bandits. For publishing this story, the legendary magazine "Sasang-Ge" was shut down by Park Chung-Hee.

These days, affluence means something different, even to Kim Ji-Ha. What does this mean? Europeans worried about this word for sometime, and many novelists wrote books about this concept. My literature friends are telling me Thomas Mann got his 1929 Nobel prize for addressing the meaning of affluence in his writings. Apparently, Mann dealt with this issue in terms of art and psychology, but I do not have enough expertise to comment on his works.

What is true is that I cam to the United States in 1954 from a very poor country to the United States where many many affluent people live. But I cam to an industrial city called Pittsburgh. There, American were working as hard as Korean farmers. Yes, I was impressed. The United States is a strong country because Americans work that hard.

It was not until 1958 when I moved to Princeton to see some affluent people. I stayed there for four years. During this period, I was still on the side of hard-working proletarians. This was not uncommon among Princeton's graduate students. However, their undergraduates were quite different. They came from America's affluent families.

I was quite interested in the attitude of Princeton's alumni to their own school. Of course they are very proud of their alma mater, but their pride is quite different from the pride practiced by Koreans. In Korea, pride means privileges. For Princeton graduates, it means obligations. They have to contribute large sums of money to the school to earn the pride.

This was a fascinating concept to me. The pride practiced in an affluent society! I cannot write a novel, but I am able to construct webpages to address abstract ideas. You may visit


and click on "P-rade" to see how America's affluent society operates. I updated this "P-rade" page today for your summer-time entertainment.

PS. Fifty seven years ago, North Korea's T-34 tanks crossed the 38th parallel. How did those tanks look? You can see one of them in the "P-rade" page I introduced above.

Wisdom of Korea (2007, July -- December)

Andrew Mellon

Y.S.Kim (2007.8.3)

Who is or was Andrew Mellon? What does he have to with Korean?

When I came to Pittsburgh in September of 1954 to become a freshman at the Carnegie Institute of Technology, I had to open a bank account. I went to a branch office of "Mellon National Bank" and received a book of personal checks. I thought this bank had something to do American melons if not Korean melons.

One month later, in October, I had an occasion to go to the campus of a small college called "Pennsylvania College for Women" (now called Chatam College). The campus was like a private mansion, and I was told that it used to be a one of the residences belonging to a rich man named Andrew Mellon. I was told that the Mellon Bank is named after him.

One year later, in 1955, I saw a familiar face in Pittsburgh's newspapers. There used to be three newspapers, namely Pittsburgh Sun Telegraph, Pittsburgh Press, and Pittsburgh Post-Gazette. He was Matthew Ridgeway who was the commanding general of the 8th Army in Korea during the most difficult time during the Korean War. Shortly after MacArthur's troops landed in Inchon and marched north to occupy Pyongyang, Chinese troops came in and destroyed the 8th Army. Ridgeway came to Korea at this critical moment, and reorganized the 8th Army. He then pushed the Chinese army to the present cease-fire line. Not many people know Ridgeway saved Korea from the communist take over.

Ridgeway was coming to Pittsburgh as the Chairman of the Board of Mellon Research Institute. It was of course the first time to hear about the Mellon Institute. I was told that this research organization invented hot dog skins. As you know, the hot dog is an American product and different from the European sausage. Unlike those Italian and Polish sausages, hot dogs use transparent artificial skins. Do you know how those skins are made?

I think it was 1966. I heard that the Carnegie Tech. and the Mellon Institute absorbed each other to become Carnegie-Mellon University. Only recently, I found out the National Gallery of Art in Washington was a gift from Andrew Mellon. What Washington connection did Mellon have? I thought Mellon was a rich man whose fortune was based in Pittsburgh.

It was only after World War I that the United States started as the capitalist country in the present form. As we know, American economy is based on big business firms contributing huge sums of tax money to the federal government. Before World War I, the United States was a very different country. Americans did not pay taxes to the federal government. When did the change take place?

Andrew Mellon was secretary of the treasury from 1921 to 1933, serving three presidents, namely Warren Harding, Calvin Coolidge, and Herbert Hoover. In other words, Mellon was the architect of the present capitalistic system of the United States. He helped big businesses grow, and let them pay federal taxes. Of course, his system was not perfect and had soft spots. People say that the great depression during the 1930s was caused by Mellon's not-so-perfect management of the treasury system, but others say it was a necessary side-effect in the great transitional processes.

Even after leaving the top position in the treasury department, he was a very powerful money man. He was of course immensely rich, and he was able to raise limitless amount of money from American business people. With these resources, he decided to build a world class art museum in Washington. This is how the National Gallery of Art was created.

Italian and French soldiers always run away at battle fields, but Both Italy and France are strong countries. They are strong art counties. Mellon realized this, and he was determined to make his country culturally strong. It costs money to construct museum buildings, but it costs much more to purchase art items from other museums. Mellon did it.

So what does this have to do with Korea. Korea's economic development has been following the pattern established by Andrew Mellon. Government supports big businesses, then those businesses make money from foreign markets. In that way Koreans become affluent.

Then, does the affluence stop at level of economic satisfaction? Certainly No, according to Andrew Mellon. You have to invest your wealth to make your country strong or make your country men and women happy.

As for myself, I am not as rich as Mellon. I am barely "affluent" enough to travel to anywhere in the world. But my affluence does not stop here. As you know, I like electronics, and I always brag about the shortwave radio I used to have when I was a high-school student. I still maintain my interest in long distance communication, and still am struggling to create something new in this ares. This is the reason why you are getting this email from me. I have just constructed a webapge describing what I did and what I intend to do in the future. You may be interested in visiting


to see how crazy I have been and I still am. If you are interested in my Korean background page, you can go to


Korean Tourists in U.S.A.

Y.S.Kim (2007.8.22)

Last Sunday (August 19), I had an occasion to drive through the city Washington, DC, and decided to walk around the White House. I go to that area once in about every three years. The street called "Pennsylvania Avenue" in front of the White House is closed these days, and is used as an open space. Usually there are groups of people demanding things from the government, and a number of police cars. When I went there, there were no demonstrators, but about 100 Korean tourists.

I was very happy to see them. When I was talking to a group of college-age people, I asked whether they know about Rhee Seungman. They said Yes, but Rhee lived during the Dangoon period. This could mean that there are problems with Korea's history education, or that they do not care about politics, or both.

I then talked to a gray-haired gentleman. He said he was 8 years old in 1950. I asked him who he thinks will be next president of Korea. I said it will be a race between Lee M.B. and Kim Jong-Il. He said he does not care about who gets elected.

I then talked a lady looking like 40 years old. I asked where she was going. She said New York, Washington, Niagara Falls, Montreal, Quebec, Boston, New York, and then to Korea. They are travelling on a fleet of buses run by a Korean tour company called "Dongbu Tour" (east coast tour). I asked her how much her tour costs. She said about 3,000 dollars. I forgot to ask whether this includes her airfare from Korea to New York.

I asked all those people which part of Korea they came from. They said from the south-eastern region. None of them are from Seoul.

I became very happy after talking to them. Koreans, whether from Seoul or from countryside, are now affluent enough to enjoy seeing appropriate parts of the world. They are not interested in who becomes their president. They can live their lives without blaming politicians. This is indeed the way people should live in democracy.

However, there are still alarming signs. Affluence should not solely be measured by how much money they can spend. About two months ago, I had an occasion to dine with a group of student from one university in Seoul. You can guess which university I am talking about. I was fortunate enough to share a table with two male students. I asked them what they intend to do after graduation. One of them said he intends to come to the United States for graduate study. He wanted to become a PhD. Good! The other student said he likes to become a government official. I asked him which agency he wants to join. He said "customs office" (dealing with import and export taxes).

It was a surprise to me. After some thinking, I asked him why customs office. He did not say directly, but he had in mind the bribes he can collect from foreign businessmen who want to sell their products in Korea.

Of course not all of Korean students are like him. However, if one in two students thinks in that way, their university should be shut down. You will agree. Korea is not yet an affluent country. One Japanese educator commented about the progress Japan made since 1945. He said it took 50 years to make cars and TV sets better than Americans can, but it might take one thousand years or more to produce Japanese "Kokoro" envied by the people of the world. The word "Kokoro" in Japanese means in human being other than bodily comfort. In this case, he had in mind Japanese ethical value.

I have my own definition of affluence. I become very happy when I achieve things which were beyond my reach in the early years of my life. When I was in high school, I wanted to own a Leica camera, but a very special kind. A Leica camera made in the Soviet Union. How is it possible? Russians still do not know how to make high-class consumer goods. Visit


and have fun.

Japan's Wairo Culture

Y.S.Kim (2007.8.27)

Koreans have mixed opinions about Japanese. We admire them as highly disciplined people. Yet, Japanese do not seem to be able to clean up their "wairo" (bribe system). As I said before, the three most frequent domestic new items are earthquakes, hurricanes, and bribes. Only God can control the first two, but they do not seem to able to get rid of their bribe culture. They are disciplined people, Why?

I once attended a conference held at a small Japanese university. The principal organizer was better known to the world than his university. Since I knew him, and since he invited me, I brought with me a gift for him. There are not many things I can bring from the United States to Japan because most of the consumer products are Asian countries these days. After careful thinking, I decided to bring a bottle of Tequila wine produced in Mexico with colorful bottle and box.

When I met him at the conference, he was not too kind to me, and I decided not to give it to him. Instead, I gave it to a younger person working hard for the conference. That young man thanked me in Japanese style, making a 90-degree bowing toward me. I was happy and I thought I gave the bottle to the right person. Two days later, the president of the university came to me and thanked me from the bottom of his heart (from his kokoro). I did not know for what he was talking about initially, but found out from his description that he was thanking me the Mexican wine which I gave to the low-ranking conference secretary.

Yes, this is the Japanese system. If anyone receives a gift, he has to submit it to his superior, then next superior, and eventually to the top man. This is the tradition Japanese developed during their Muro-Machi period. After Toyotomi Hidesyoshi unified Japan 400 years ago, he became greedy and invaded Korea (this is well known to Koreans).

While Toyotomi was crazy about the war, Tokugawa Ieyasu organized a political system based on financial culture. One's promotion or retention of position strictly depends on his ability to submit monetary dividends to superiors. In order to power this internal bribe system, all public officials have to collect bribes from ordinary people.

This sounds like the Korean system. Yes, bribes (wairo) are still common in Korea, but not as thorough as in Japan. The difference is very simple. Bribe is a vice in Korea, but it is still a virtue in Japan. It is easy to eradicate the vice, but it is impossible to get rid of the virtue. This is Japan's problem only Japanese can solve.

Last time, I introduced my webpage about Leica cameras. My prediction was right. Koreans still like Leica, and I received many comments on what I said. In response to them, I modified my page and made it more satisfactory to my Korean Leica friends. You may visit again at http://ysfine.com/kobak/leica.html.

As I said before, I bought a vintage Russian Leica for $70 essentially for producing my Leica webpage. Yes, each webpage costs me money. The most expensive webpage was my Kant page containing a story about the Russian city of Kaliningrad. It costed me about $3,000. Why did I spend that much?

I make webpages to find out about myself. I am very old, but I still keep redefining myself. While in the United States, I have been struggling to communicate with Americans. The only way to solve this problem is to understand its root. During this process, I found out Einstein also had difficulties with his American colleagues, but the question is whether Einstein's difficulty had anything to do with my problem.

While working with Eugene Wigner who knew Einstein personally, I found out Einstein's philosophical base was that of Immanuel Kant. Then I did a research to see whether my Korean background has anything to do with Kant's philosophy. This is the reason why I spent $3,000 to visit the place where Kant spent 80 years of his entire life. Kant's place used to be an East Prussian city of Koenigsberg, but it annexed to the Soviet Union in 1945 and renamed as Kaliningrad.

Since Kaliningrad used to be a Soviet submarine base during the Cold War period, and it is still one of the most inconvenient places to visit. Yet, it was worth from my webpage point of view. My Kant page is the most frequently visited webpage in my website. The visitors are mostly non-Koreans (including many Americans). I hope this webapage will eventually solve my communication problem with Americans.

You may also visit http://ysfine.com/einstein/kant/kant.html, and click on "recent photos from Kaliningrad" which I added after visiting Kant's birth place in 2005.

It was a pleasure to write this article. I assume you and I share the same Korean philosophical base, as well as the same vanity for Leica and Rolex.

North Korea's Economy (1953-60)

Y.S.Kim (2007.9.1)

On July 27, 1953, there was a three-party cease-fire agreement at Panmunjom. It was an agreement by China, North Korea, and the U.S.A. How about the Republic of Korea? The government of Rhee Seungman asserted that it was a national disgrace to end the war without completing the job of unification. Rhee thus boycotted the entire process of cease-fire negotiations.

The North Korean government headed by Kim Il-Sung claimed the cease as a great triumph, and held a big celebration in Pyongyang. At that time, I followed their ceremony with my shortwave radio. In July of 1954, several days before July 27, North Korean authorities held another big celebration. The event took place in Yongang (south-west of Pyongyang) at the site of a big steel mill. In less than one year after the cease fire, North Koreans were able to restore the production capacity of their steel production facilities.

In the South, the first steel mill was not constructed until Park Chung-Hee concluded a peace treaty with Japan in 1965 and started bringing in Japanese capitals. I do not know exactly when Pohang steel factory was completed, but it must me after 1965 and presumably before 1970.

Yes, North Korea was definitely ahead of the South in constructing heavy industry. In 1961, Kim Il-Sung predicted that Korea (that means North Korea) would become ahead of Japan withing ten years. While this was going on in the North, the South was not getting anywhere. Then, the Korean way of solving problem is to blame others. They of course blamed the government. Right, the government was hopelessly corrupt and without vision.

Koreans also blamed Korean students studying abroad. Those students were not returning to Korea after getting their degrees. I was one of those to be blamed. Whenever a new defense minister was appointed, his first pledge was to bring back all those draft dodgers abroad. Yet the corrupt government was not able to bring a single person back to Korea.

Yes, while there was nothing going on in the South, every individual was working for his/her own interest. It was a free country. Yes, Korea was an ideal country to make money. Laws and regulations? Only idiots follow them. This is how the economy was took off in the South.

In the North, they strictly practiced planned economy. They went through several stages of five-year plans, with some degree of success. Let us examine what went wrong. When N.K. students went to Russia and other Eastern European countries, they had to return within their prescribed time. In this way, those students could bring back needed technology promptly, but they did not have enough time to become professional.

In the South, people were free largely because the government's inability to enforce laws and regulations. I knew it was illegal to listen to Pyongyang radio, but I also knew that the Korean government did not have means to punish me. These days, the North is hopelessly behind. Why? The answer to this question is the FREEDOM.

I enjoy making webpages because I am completely free to express what I have in mind. As you may have guessed, I seldom agree with journal referees. Indeed, many people are coming to my website. They seem to be more interested in my personal background than what I have to say in my scientific research. As for the background, my Korean background seems to be of the prime interest to them. Thus, I am in the process of improving my image to the world by re-organizing my Korean background page. This page of mine could be similar to yours from the world-wide point of view, because we share the same background. You may look at http://ysfine.com/kobak.

Viktoru Yugo from Pyongyang Radio

Y.S.Kim (2007.9.14)

When I went to Paris in 1998, I was fortunate enough to visit a museum dedicated to Victor Hugo. You should know something about this great thinker and writer as well as some of his writings. I heard about him when I was in my elementary school, when my teacher was talking about a poor man stealing bread. What is unusual about me is that I heard about the Victor Hugo Museum in 1952 from my favorite radio station in Pyongyang.

A high-pitched female announcer was talking about the Viktoru Yugo museum in Paris and the display items in the museum. Viktoru Yugo is of course the Japanese name for Victor Hugo. So what is the point?

Japan copied many things from Europeans. Music from Russia, army from France then Germany (the change-over happened after Germany won in the Franco-German war), education from England. Literature? >From France! Kawabata Yasunari, Japan's first Nobel Laureate in literature, was heavily influenced by the French literature, and he was nominated for the prize by French writers.

During the period 1910-45, Koreans picked up Western culture mostly through Japan. This means that Korean writers were also heavily influenced by French literature, and they were quite fond of talking about French writers. Writers have to think before writing. During the confused period of American occupation (like Iraq these days), many Korean writers became disillusioned by the American system and went to North. Hong Myong-Hee was from a Yangban family and was mentioned as one of the three most brilliant graduates of Kyonggi High School. The other two were Kyonggi eletes were Park Hun-Young and Lee Kang-Kook. All three of them went to the North.

Indeed, I learned more lessons from the Pyongyang radio than from Seoul's KBS. Pyongyang's announcers all spoke standard Korean without Pyongyang accent (they came from Seoul). This is the reason why I learned about the Victor Hugo museum from Pyongyang.

How about in the areas of economics and management? Park Hun-Young had two faithful comrades. One was Kim Sam-Yong, and other was Lee Joo-Ha. Kim Sang-Yong worked closely with Park at a brick factory in Kwangju. Lee Joo-Ha studied labor unionism in Japan, and joined Park's communist movement after 1945. Lee acted as Park's brain in the South. Both Kim and Lee were caught by Kim Chang-Yong and were executed on the northern sand beach of the Han River on June 28, 1950, the day before North Korean tanks moved into Seoul.

I do not have enough expertise to mention who was who in Korean economics at that time. However, many Koreans studied economics in Japan, as many do in the United States these days. My father also studied economics in Japan. All those students had to read the books written by Marukoos (Marx). It is thus safe to assume that the smartest ones had a leftist inclination. It is also safe to assume that they all went to the North.

Indeed, these economic brains were responsible for the post-war reconstruction of the North Korean economy. The top man of this team was Chung Joon-Taek. It was in the 1970s, when it was strictly forbidden to talk anything about North Korea, Chung's name was mentioned in (south) Korean newspapers when he died.

Yes, the North was far ahead of the South in economy before 1965. >From Kim Il-Sung's point of view, those econocrats were produced domestically. He then kicked out all those with Russian background sent to Korea by Stalin, and he then proclaimed his own ideology called "Juche" (self reliance).

Then what went wrong with Kim's Juche ideology? You should know what I am going to talk about next.

As for Victor Hugo, I wrote an article from my Kantian point of view. As I said before, Einstein was a Kantianist. I am a Korean like you. To me, camera has to be Leica. As for scientists, I like Albert Einstein. Who else? You may visit http://ysfine.com/maga/hugo.html to see my Hugo article.

Update Yourself!

Y.S.Kim (2007.9.25)

In my previous article, I said North Korea was ahead of the South in economic reconstruction, and Kim Il-Sung was able to achieve this thanks to Korean economists who studied in Japan. Then what went wrong?

Until 1965, the North was ahead in economic development. In the South, politicians thought because it was due to the North's planned economy. Even before 1960, the government was planning its own five-year plans but was afraid of talking about them. After 1961, Park Chung-Hee openly talked about his first five-year plan and started implementing it. Park stopped talking about the plan after he started importing Japanese capitals in 1965.

What then went wrong in the North. The answer is very simple. Industry constantly needs up-dating. When I came to the United States in 1954, it was very strange for me to see Americans changing their car models every year. They had good cars. Why do they waste their resources to change the model every year? Germany used to produce Volkswagens, without changing the model. Thus, the car price was very low. I thought Germans were very smart. Volkswagen's original model does not exist, and younger Koreans will not understand what I am talking about.

We hear very often that Korea's big companies would collapse if they cannot get government loans. If they are so big and rich, why would they need extra money? It is because the companies constantly have to upgrade their production facilities. This process is called capital investment.

Kim Il-Sung did not have means to update his industry and technology. He was in contact with China and the Soviet Union, but they were far behind Japan and the United States. At that time, those two communist giants were engaged in a bitter ideological struggle. If Kim thought the South was behind, he was right. But he could have approached the United States, and the United States could have embraced North Korea. It was very unfortunate that they missed this golden opportunity. The United States at time could not think of anything other than the Vietnam war, and Park Chung-Hee's South made money.

Here again, we should not laugh at North Koreans too much. We are making the same kind of mistakes. During the 1950s, there was a legendary magazine called "Sasang-Ge" whose intellectual based on the group of Koreans who studied in Japan. It is said that the magazine was closed down by Park Chung-Hee because he was in feud with its editor named Chang Joon-Ha. But the real cause of its demise was that the magazine failed to update its intellectual base.

This is happening even these days. I read newspaper articles reporting that Korea's best university is having difficulties in recruiting new faculty members. We all know the reason. The best will not stay best unless it is constantly updated. Korea's best university was constantly singing "best" without improving its world-wide competitive posture.

I am an old person, but I still talk like a young man and also like a intelligent person. The other day, I saw many Koreans at a meeting. To them, I am known as an elite from one of Korea's elite high Schools. It has been more than one half century since I graduated from my high school. This is totally an out-dated concept. If I am still regarded as an elite, it is because I constantly updated myself. To be frank, I am somewhat higher than a high-school elite. You may visit


to see what I am talking about. If this page is too abstract to you, you may visit again my Leica page


to see my complex personality. I like webapges because I can always update them.

Life is dead unless it constantly updated.

Mein Kampf in 1960

Y.S.Kim (2007.10.1)

After Rhee left for Hawaii in 1960, Koreans thought they would establish democracy and get their economy going. Instead, new government officials in the government of Chang Myun were so busy in filling up their stomachs, the country became completely chaotic.

Yes, the economic elites were continuing their research on the North Korean system and were designing their own version of five-year plans. The word "five-year" meant a communist plan, and was supposed to be mentioned very carefully.

In the meantime, there appeared an American documentary movie called "Mein Kampf." Mein Kampf is the title of a book Adolf Hitler wrote about how he built up his political power. But the cinema version was mostly about he was able to rebuild Germany's economy and armed forces. The film of course includes Hitler's atrocious treatment of Jews and his eventual downfall. However, Korea was a single-ethnic country, and Koreans were not sensitive to ethnic problems in other countries.

Because Hitler made his country strong so rapidly, he became a hero in Korea of 1960. One of those who became deeply impressed was, you guessed right, Park Chung-Hee. He took over the government on May 16, 1961. Koreans had to accept his military dictatorship because what to eat is more important than democracy to Koreans.

Here comes an important question. While economic elite were considering copying the North Korean system, why did ordinary people remain so staunchly against Kim Il-Sung. There are two reasons. In the South, it is strictly illegal to talk anything about the North. However, the main reason is that there were no pro-North political organizations.

Of course, there was a strong communist organization, and it became very strong during the three years (145-48) of American military rule. However, their leadership was destroyed by Rhee's special force headed by Kim Chang-Yong.

Still, there were many local communists in the South when the North Korean army came to the South. Those communists surfaced from the underground and enthusiastically welcomed their Northern comrades. But Kim Il-Sung had a different idea. To him, those communists in the South form the political base for his rival Park Hun-Young. Kim used this opportunity to clean up completely all communists in the South.

This is the precisely the reason why there were no potent leftists in Korea to bring the South under Kim Il-Sung's system. Politicians have limitations. Kim Il-Sung was not an exception. He had an excessive complex toward those smarter than he was. I have a photo of Kim in his middle-school uniform, but it is not clear whether he finished his school. Park Hun-Young, on the other hand, was regraded as one of the most brilliant Koreans in his generation. If Kim had a complex toward Park, it was only natural. This indeed was the cause of his failure to use the opportunity in 1960 to unify Korea under his dictatorship.

Do not laugh at politicians to much. This kind of complex is too common among academic people. For this kind of behavior, I invented the word "Herod Complex." I hope you will enjoy reading my old article on this subject. Click


I will be in Poland and Czech Republic from October 13 to October 28. I hope to be able to connect to my computer from there. But it is safe for you to send me announcement requests before and after this two-week period.

Further Lessons foam Mein Kampf

Y.S.Kim (2007.10.8)

Again I am talking about the documentary film entitled "Mein Kampf" of 1960, not the book Hitler movie. Like most of the Hitler movies, the Main Kampf ends with Hitler's atrocities against Jews in Europe.

Koreans are somewhat insensitive to this issue largely because we do not have much contact with Jewish people. Of course Moses and his people in the Exodus story are well known to us, but Koreans do not know much about the history of Jewish people after the birth of Jesus.

Another factor is that Korea has been and still is a single-ethnic country. Thus, we are not able to comprehend racial problems in other countries. Three months before coming to the United States, in May of 1954, I was able to pick up radio signals from the United States with my shortwave radio. A big revolution was taking place. The Supreme Court ordered the integration of black and white children in American schools. But it was not an easy problem for Americans, and it is still one of the most serious social issues in the United States.

Undoubtedly, I also had been subject to one of another kind of discrimination in the past because I do not look like white Americans. Yet, I have been very lucky because I was not sensitive thanks to my Korean background, and because Americans have been an impressive progress on this issue since I came to the United States.

I am writing this story because Korea is no longer a single-race nation. First of all, we all know that Korea is now a province of the big country called world. Are we ready to live with the people from other provinces. We are not.

Secondly, there are now non-negligible number of foreigners in Korea. Are we ready to live with them? Yes, we have an experience of living with Japanese when Japan was occupying Korea. Koreans got along with them OK, and we should be proud of the fact that we let them go home peacefully after Japan's surrender in 1945. In many of Korean villages, Koreans gave them farewell parties to those departing Japanese people. We should be proud of this even though Japanese do not seem to appreciate this.

However, we should not be proud of what we did to Chinese during the "Manbosan" incident. Do you know what I am talking about? During the great world-wide depression years which started from the United States in 1928, Japanese economy was not moving, and Japanese transmitted their hardship to Koreans. They then let Koreans blame Chinese business people in Korea. One night in 1932, Koreans started looting Chinese shops and beating up innocent Chinese. This atrocious action lasted several weeks. Those helpless Chinese went to police stations, but they were beaten back by Japanese police. It is not because Koreans were intrinsically hostile to Chinese, but because we were foolish enough to be instigated by Japanese. In either case, we should learn a lesson from this disgraceful history.

During the 1923 Kanto earthquake in Tokyo, Japanese blamed Koreans and committed despicable atrocities against Korean residents in Tokyo. The earthquake was not caused by Koreans. This incident is well known to Koreans, but Japanese never talk about this. It is too much to be expected from Japanese. Okinawa is a province of Japan. In April of 1945, when Japan was losing the battle against Americans, the Japanese army forced the residents of Okinawa to commit suicide. Now, Japanese are going to delete this story from their textbooks, angering Okinawans. This seems to be a familiar story to us.

As late as 1992, American black population became very angry at the California court's decision called the Rodney King case, and there was a big riot in Los Angeles. During the riot, those black people, out of their anger, attacked shops and offices in prosperous Korean town. After this, Koreans did a careful study of why those black citizens were so angry at Koreans. It appears that Korean folks there seem to be making progress on this front.

It is not uncommon for Korean students for telling me that they are not interested in talking to me because they only want to talk to famous Americans. I have an advice to them. They should learn how to speak English if they are not capable of thinking about their nationality.

Speaking of famous people, I am also a Korean and I also know the best way to become famous is to identify myself with famous people. If they are really interested in approaching those famous people, they could learn from me how to, even though I am not famous enough for them. If they do not wish to talk to me, it is OK. You can look at my webpages to see how I am solving my own problem. You may visit my page


and click on "Artist" on the left frame. In the past, I used to talk about Eugene Wigner, who was regarded as one of the most difficult persons to approach. I approached him by writing a book about him. Moses approached God by writing five books about God. They became the first five books of the Old Testament. These days, if you wish to approach someone, make an webpage about him/her. How does this sound to you?

I am going to Poland again!

Y.S.Kim (2007.10.11)

As many of you know, Poland is one of my favorite countries. I am leaving this Saturday (Oct. 13) and will spend three nights in Warsaw, and two nights on Krakow. I will then go to Prague. For some reason, there are many Korean tourists in this Bohemian city, many more than Japanese or Chinese. I still do not know why. I plan to spend three nights in Vienna before coming home on Oct. 27.

I explained why I like Poland many times before. Poland is like Korea. People do not talk about Yangban and non-Yangban classes in Korea, but it is still important to realize this difference. Poland is the same. When I meet Polish people, I should indicate in one way or another I came from an upper class. In one way, Korea is ahead of Poland, and some other ways, Poland is ahead of Korea. Poland is far ahead in collecting Nobel prizes.

In my previous mail, I talked about Moses who approached God by writing five books about God. Moses was not alone who wrote books to talk to God. Around 1900, a Polish writer Henryk Sienkiewicz wrote a book entitled Quo Vadis. This book and its contents are well known to all Koreans. But you did not know this book has something to do with Moses.

The territory of Poland is surrounded by powerful countries. It was divided into three parts in 1794 by Russia, Prussia, and Austria. It was re-united after World War I in 1919 according to Woodrow Wilson's 14-point plan. Koreans wanted to have their own independence at that time, but you know what happened on the first day of March 1919.

Warsaw was under harsh Russian rule while Poland was divided. We know, from Soviet troops who came to the north of the 38th parallel in 1945, how rough Russians could be. Polish people needed help, but from whom? Only from someone in the heaven. Sienkiewicz wrote Quo Vadis to appeal to God. I think God listened to him, and Poland is now becoming a prosperous country. I plan to study this aspect of Poland next week. Sienkiewicz got the 1905 Nobel prize in literature for writing Quo Vadis.

Koreans have been and still are interested in talking to God. Koreans these days think they can talk to God by converting others to Christianity. This morning I met a group of Korean ladies in front of a grocery store to tell me to believe in Jesus. I showed them my car license plate showing "Sorae" and asked them what it means. They did not listen to me. Then they told me again to believe in Jesus. I am tolerant to Christians of any kind because of my background, but they should not talk like this to Moslems.

Yes, I would like to see some Koreans interested in approaching God by writing books, or by constructing websites. The point is that Koreans knew how to do this in the past. About 700 years ago, Korea was under Mongolian domination. They were very ruthless to Koreans. It was like Poland under the harsh Russian rule. You all know to whom Koreans had to appeal. They carved 80,000 wooden plates for Buddhist scripture.

Yes, Koreans know how to beg for help from others. There will be a big election in December. Politicians are looking for someone who can pose with them to boost their images. Somehow Kim Jong-Il of the North became a prominent figure in this business. Others think George Bush of the United States is a valuable figure. One of those politicians had scheduled a trip to Washington to have a photo session with Bush, but the White House refused to give a photo session.

The White House's position was that the United States should not get involved in Korea's internal politics. The White House added that the United States had and will have a special relation with Korea whoever becomes the president. Koreans, especially politicians, should have a better understanding of the United States. I hope our politicians could talk to or have a photo with someone higher than Kim Jong-Il or Bush. They should should talk to God.

The Korean politician in question spent a year or two in Washington before seriously getting into politics. He was and hopefully still is a very nice person. I even have a photo with him, but it is not my character to show my photos with politicians. However, my wife does not seem to mind. If you are interested in a photo of my wife with this important politician, you may go to


While writing this article today, I thought I had to maka a webpage for the lessons we can learn from Poland:


I just started with two photos. I will add more from my old files as well as new picture I will take next week in Warsaw and Krakow.

Poland and Austria

Y.S.Kim (2007.10.31)

I just came back from Europe and I am still tired. I had to arrange my future conferences in Krakow (Poland) and Olomouc (Czech Rep.). I then spend four days in Vienna before coming back to Maryland.

Vienna is known as a great music city. Indeed, I was fortunate enough to see a French ballet entitled "Coppelia" in Vienna's Opera House. This ballet is a based on a stupid story about a crazy old man trying to convert his mechanical doll into a beautiful girl. During this process a crazy young man falls in love with this mechanical doll creating a mess. Yet, its music is superb and the entire ballet consists of a chain of musical pieces familiar to all Koreans. I heard the Coppelia music for the first time in 1952, you guessed right, from NHK Japanese radio.

Often unknown fact about Vienna is that it used to be a great scientific city. You all know who Ludwig Boltzmann was. You also know who Erwin Schroedinger was. They and many others did their scientific works in Vienna. Schroedinger's portrait used to be on their old 1,000 Shilling bills (approximately $100). They now use Euros. To my surprise, not many Austrians know who Schroedinger was, while Johann Strauss is still popular and alive in Vienna as Elvis Presley is in the United States.

There is one thing Koreans should know about Austria. At the end of World War II, both American and Soviet troops occupied Austria. But Austrians managed to get rid of them in 1955. Austria is now a neutral country, and many international agencies are stationed in Vienna. There are some Koreans who insist that Korea should declare eternal neutrality like Switzerland. They should study the Austrian case more carefully.

Indeed, this issue was raised in 1955 when Walter Dowling came to Korea as the U.S. ambassador. Before coming to Korea, Dowling was the ambassador to Austria and played a major role in negotiating with Soviets for mutual withdrawals from Austria. At that time, neutrality was an impossible dream for Koreans.

Of course, the people of Poland thought about becoming neutral, but it seems to be very difficult for them. They are just like Koreans. Instead of insisting on neutrality, those Poles like to maintain close relations with countries which do not share boundaries with them. They suffered so much from being between Germany and Russia. This is the reason why many Polish students spend their summer vacations in England while earning wages in London's restaurants. Poland also sent troops to Iraq to maintain a good relation with the United States. Poland is just like Korea. Koreans want to avoid China and Japan. Koreans (both South and North) prefer the United States.

Koreans in Central Europe

Y.S.Kim (2007.11.5)

Whenever I go to Europe, I am interested in how Koreans are doing there. In Warsaw, I stayed in one of the Holiday Inn hotels near the main railroad station. They recently put up a new shopping mall between the hotel and the station, but the construction work was continuing. Right next to my hotel, they were digging the ground in preparation for putting up another shiny building.

There were five noisy excavators. Two of them were giant-sized about six meters tall. There were two mid-sized units (about 4 meters tall), and one small machine (about 2 meters high). Both giant and mid-sized excavators (four of them) were made in Korea and were carrying the trade mark "Doosan." One tiny machine was made in Japan carrying the tradename "Takeuchi." Does this mean that Korea is ahead of Japan?

As I said before, there are many Koreans buying Bohemian Crystals in Prague. I asked the one of the shop owners whether Japanese are buying anything these days. He said those Japanese do not come to that area. They are buying things from their own private dealers. Of course they are buying more expensive items.

Vienna is a music city. You would expect to meet many Koreans there because there are now many world-class musicians of Korean origin, many pianist, violinists, cellists. Yet, Viennese music halls are full or Japanese tourists, and no Koreans Why?

Yes, Koreans have been very diligent in producing world-class performers. Yet, Korea's level of music appreciation is very low. Ten years ago, I had an occasion to drive my car with three young Korean PhDs who came from Korea's No. 1 university. They were fine people and I treated them nicely. While driving, I heard Beethoven's Pastoral symphony (No. 6) coming from my car radio. I turned up the volume and asked them whether they could recognize this music. The response was blank. In any country, at least of out of three PhDs could recognize this music. If not, they should know how to talk about Beethoven and some of his musical pieces.

Korea's music level for non-musicians is still very low. If Japan's level is high, much of its credit should go to their broadcasting system. I am one of the non-musicians (I cannot read those bean sprouts spread over five horizontal lines, but I am strong enough to give kihap to music students of any country, thanks to the basic music knowledge of I gained from Japanese radio during my high-school period.

In sports, the situation is about the same. Why was the team so mediocre at 2006 Berlin world cup match? Yes, those Korean players worked hard, and they are world-class players. Yet, compared with Japan, a very small number of Korean students play footballs as extra-curricular activities. If the popular level is very low, there is bound to be a limit at the professional level.

There is one thing more important than music or sport. It has something to do with people's livelihood. It is called economy. Korea is now regarded as 10-th or 11-th strong in industrial production. Yet, in terms of the average income, it is only the 40-th. Korea is not yet a rich country.

How about research? Our young researchers are telling me they cannot compete in the world because there is something wrong with Korea's educational system. Here the same thing applies. Korea's research level among non-researchers is hopelessly low. If we cannot solve this problem, understanding of the problem is half of the solution.

I promised to make a webpage about Poland when I return from my trip. I am still working on it, but I am late in my homework. I became sick after the trip and was be-ridden most of the last week. In the meantime, you are invite to go to my wisdom page:


and click on "Photos" on the top row. You can then choose various options including "Poland."

Vienna Story Continued

Y.S.Kim (2007.11.6)

I received a complaints from one of the readers that my comment about the music level of Koreans is not justified because of the lack of sufficient statistics. How could I make my statement based on one visit to Vienna? My answer is very simple. I have been to Vienna many times in the past, and I have been to most of the music halls there.

When I go there, I usually stay at the Hilton hotel near the main train station because it is very easy to reach the Vienna airport. Young people say that it is too far to walk to the city center (St.Stephens Basilica) from there. Since I am old, it is a comfortable distance.

This time, I took the young people's advice. I stayed at a Holiday Inn (also an American hotel chain) hotel south of the Opera Ring, close to the Tech. Univ. of Vienna. While I was staying there, the hotel was hosting a small conference entitled "Oxford Financial Seminar."

Out of my curiosity, I talked to the participants during their coffee break. I spotted a couple of ladies from Kazakhstan, and asked them whether they are of Korean origin. They said No, but said that there are many Koreans in their country. Their ancestors came from China, which shares a long boundary with Kazakhstan.

The participants were mostly from former Soviet Union countries. While I was talking to them and having a photo with them, the seminar instructor came to me asked me whether I came from Japan. I said No. and showed my thumb down. He laughed and asked me whether I am a Korean. I showed my thumb up and said YES.

The instructor told me that he is the vice-Ceo for the KDB bank in Hungary, and his boss is a Korean. I asked him what KDB means. He said it means Korea Development Bank which used to be Daewoo Bank. I remember seeing Daewoo Bank signs when I was in Budapest four years ago.

I asked him whether he is teaching them how money flows. The instructor said those countries are very rich in natural resources. In Kazakhstan, they know oil flows through pipelines, and they can see the pipelines, but they cannot see how the money flows. This is the technology they have to develop for their country. Otherwise, their country's natural resources will be stolen by other countries. Indeed, some of oil-producing countries constantly remain poor because they cannot trace the flow of their money.

Modern economics starts from Marx's principle. If you add labor to raw material, then the value of the finished product becomes greater. The difference, which Marx called "surplus value" comes from the labor. Since capitalists do not return all the surplus values to workers, they are exploiting the workers. I picked up this aspect of Marxism while in high school even though it was strictly forbidden to talk about Marx or Marxism. I carried this concept until my college years in Pittsburgh, and I held the view that foreign companies are in Korea to exploit Korean workers.

However, one of my high-school friends changed my view. In one of his letters in 1957, he said foreign capitals could be helpful to Koreans if they generate incomes and profits to Koreans. I do not know whether he still remember whether he taught me this important lesson, but he told me that he taught this lesson to Park Chung Hee in 1973. Park was a Marxist, and capitalism was definitely an exploitation for him. He must have changed his mind around that time. Park once drew a criticism after saying that "bringing in a General Motors factory is like bringing in one foreign (American) combat division." This was a very sloppy statement for the head of a sovereign country, and tells clearly that he learned a new lesson.

Yes, capitalists exploit workers if the workers do not understand the flow of money. If they do, capitalists and workers can cooperate in making money. Koreans cannot teach this technology to Americans or Japanese, but they seem to be doing OK for the emerging capitalist countries such as Hungary and other former communist countries. I am happy, and you should be happy too.

Louis Dembitz Brandeis

Y.S.Kim (2007.11.11)

The word "Brandeis" is known as the name of an elite university in Waltham, Massachusetts, west of Boston. It is known to have a strong Jewish influence. It is therefore safe to assume that Brandeis was a man of Jewish origin. What else do you know about him? What does he have to do with Koreans?

Yes, he was born in a Jewish family in 1856 and graduated from Harvard Law School in 1877. He was the No. 1 man in his class, and became the first Jewish Supreme Court Justice in 1916 during Woodrow Wilson's presidency. Throughout his career, he was dedicated to the rights of underprivileged Americans.

As you know, American women could not vote until after World War I. Brandeis played the decisive role in women's suffrage. In trade negotiations, Americans have a habit of asking how imported goods are manufactured, especially how the workers are treated in the factories. Yes, Brandeis started this habit of questioning factory environments for the goods sold in American stores. He worked hard for the rights of those underprivileged factory workers in America.

After World War I, many Jewish immigrants came to the United States. They were not treated nicely by Americans. Brandeis worked hard for those underprivileged immigrants. Compared with those Jewish new comers, Korean residents these days are being treated like kings.

Quite rightly, American citizens set up a university named after Brandeis in 1948. Understandably, many Jewish students went to this university at the initial stage. In 1957, when I was in my senior year at Carnegie-Mellon, I took a couple of graduate courses. I was with a number of Jewish graduate students from a "new" university called Brandeis.

Last night, I attended a Korean party. We of course talked about who will be the next president. One of them remarked that democracy works at the level of presidential elections, but nowhere else. He was listing social injustices commonly and openly practiced in Korea.

Yes, Koreans worked very hard to establish democratic presidential elections. Yes, they also succeeded in constructing an industry which competes well in the world. Yet, we have not made much progress in constructing a judicial system which is respected by all Koreans.

It is very difficult to tell how to construct a respectable judicial system. It cannot be done by street demonstrations. The whole responsibility goes to the country's elites. Brandeis was the No. 1 man from Harvard. He took the courage of siding with the underprivileged Americans. I seem to know many Koreans who had been No. 1 in their classes.

Their tragedy is that they only want to use their positions to exploit other Koreans or steal the works done by their friends. This is precisely the reason why Koreans become bandits as soon as they wear Gamtu. As is well known, the elite image is thoroughly negative in presidential elections.

Many people say that I am a man of contradiction. I certainly belong to the elite class. They why am I so against the elites? I think I gave my answer tonight.

Mine is Yours and Yours is Mine.

Y.S.Kim (2007.11.24)

This is the ultimate virtue of friendship between two Koreans. This virtue works OK until some serious problems come. Indeed, the recent BBK issue in Korean politics is a product of this aspect of friendship.

Recently, I saw a movie of an American boy going out with a French girl. They meet in Venice but eventually break up in less than one year in France. From the Korean point of view, Americans and French people share the same value, and we would not expect conflicts from value differences. However, they breakup up because the American boy insists "Mine is mine and yours is yours."

Indeed, Americans are very strict about the private ownership. In trade negotiations, they upset others by insisting on the issue of copyrights of intellectual properties applicable to software and movies. Whenever we install new computer software, there are stern warnings about the copy rights. Do you read them?

You will be surprised to hear that America's first patent law was signed by George Washington, the first president of the United States. Indeed, thanks to this patent law, American inventors flourished and changed this world. Thomas Edison, George Washington, Bill Gates, to mention a few.

However, written laws are only reflections of the prevailing ethics. Americans are very strict about the private ownership extending to intellectual properties. This aspect of American culture is sometimes very strange to us. Koreans still believe in paternal and fraternal society where good things should be shared by everybody. This is fine, and we should keep this good tradition. But, is this consistent with making progresses?

I often feel inconvenient with this aspect of Korean virtue. When I was a student in Korea, I often got exceptionally high exam scores. My friends felt that I should share my score with them. How? My answer to this complaint is that they should work hard. My friends did not like my answer. Their solution was for me to fail the exam. Should I accept this solution to make them happy?

While in the United States, I often produced good ideas for Koreans. But those ideas did not work because other Koreans wanted to get the credit for the idea I produced. Even for this network system, there are still many Koreans insisting that the system belongs to them. Some of you will still recall a big controversy over who owns my system. To me, I am the owner of my system. It is not so clear to other Koreans.

It is quite common for Korean graduate students telling me what they read from my articles. When I ask them where they learned this, they say they figured out this themselves. There was a Korean graduate student in my department who could not understand why he was not invited to faculty meetings while I can go. For Koreans, it is OK to copy what other Koreans did, while it is not OK to copy from Americans. This issue has to be cleaned up before we can talk about professional societies. It is not enough to create Gamtu.

Speaking of copying others. There is a good webpage of mine Koreans would love to copy. I have been talking about a Poland webpage for some weeks. I managed to add 81 photos, and the webpage is now comprehensive. You can visit


or go to the http://ysfine.com/wisdom, and click on Photos. Then go to Poland. You will like this Poland page.

Yeosu and Born Approximation

Y.S.Kim (2007.12.6)

If you took a quantum mechanics course, you should know what the Born approximation is. Max Born was the one of the principal organizer of the Goettingen school of physics which served as the cradle of modern physics. He was born in Germany and is known was a German physicist. Yet, there is the Max Born conference held every two years held in a Polish city called Wroclaw. Why in Poland?

Wroclaw used to be a German city until 1945. Toward the end of World War II, Soviet troops occupied the south-eastern part of Germany, and gave that area to Poland, including the city called Breslau. Max Born was born in Breslau in 1882. Breslau became Wroclaw in 1945.

Of course, many Germans left, and many Poles came to the city. But the citizens of this city constantly had an identity problem. They did not feel they are part of Poland, and the Poles in Warsaw and Krakow did and still do not regard they are proper Polish people. I told you many times Poland is the same as Korea. Their regionalism is as bad as the regionalism we practice in Korea.

In order to find their own identity, Wroclawians had an idea of holding a World Fair in 2012, and Wroclaw was one of the three finalists along with a Korean city of Yeosu, and an African city in Morocco (I forgot its name) in the competition. We all know Yeosu won and will host the 2012 world event.

The point is that, like Wroclaw of Poland, Yeosu had and still has an identity problem. The city was developed as a fishing port in the Kwangyang Bay. There used to be a smuggling sea route between Yeosu and the Japanese port of Nagasaki. I wonder whether it still exists.

To many Koreans, Yeosu is known from the Yeosu-Sunchun incident. In October of 1948, less than two months after the Korean government opened its business, there was a communist revolt from the 14th Regiment of the Korean army. This army unit was waiting to be to be shipped to Cheju Island to put down the communist revolt there. The 14th regiment was cell-separated from the 4th Regiment stationed in Kwangju. This is the reason why "four" is an unlucky number in Korea, and there are no Korean army units contacting 4. The first division, 2nd, 3rd, and 5th always.

Yesterday, I met a Korean gentleman from that area, and he is known as the enemy of the Park Chung-Hee regime. He was telling me Yeosu was chosen for the World Fair because of its clean air. He said his Homan region was completely left out from Korea's industrialization process.

In spite of the series of adverse conditions, the Yeosu citizens did not lose their aspiration to prove themselves to the world. They not only improved the city's infra-structure but also constructed the transportation system covering the entire bay region by building bridges and highways. They now seem to have an ambitious plan of transforming the entire Yeosu-Sunchun peninsula into one city. Great! They deserve our hearty congratulations.

This kind of "rise from despair" in the main topic of the sermons given on Easter Sunday. Indeed, Rhee Seungman heard a resurrection story from an American missionary preacher while he was in prison. He then became a Christian. He was 28 years old. Go to


to see Rhee's photo in prison.

On the same page, you will also see a number of photos of Kim Il-Sung. Today, I added a pdf file of an article Kim Il-Sung personally wrote about his Christian background while praising Reverend Sohn Jung-Do. Both Rev. Sohn and Rhee Seungman were early Korean Christians, and they were very close friends. Rhee's first navy chief of staff was Sohn's son. This pdf file is 3.5 mb long. It might take several minutes to open up depending on where you are.