Thursday, September 30, 2010

Photo of Kim Jong Eun published, golden opportunity lost forever

North Korea finally published an official photograph of its intended future leader Kim Jong Eun, Kim Jong Il's second son by his third wife. Here he is shortly after getting appointed to a variety of high-level posts which effectively make him the 2nd in command of the country:

In revealing this photo to the world, North Korea wasted a rare opportunity to make some real cash selling something other than drugs or missiles. For years, North Korea watchers have had to be satisfied with one grainy, outdated photo of the heir apparent as an awkward teen. Various media outlets have demonstrated their willingness to pay big bucks for a more recent photo, as Barbara Demick of the LA Times recently reported. One Japanese  TV network even paid $1600 last year for an "exclusive photo" which turned out to be just a photo of some random South Korean construction worker downloaded from the internet. In recent months networks have grown so desperate that they have begun pointing out random people who happen to be standing beside Kim Jong Il in official news photos and claiming they are Jong Eun.

If celebrities today can get hundreds of thousands of dollars for photos of their babies (which, let's face it, just look like babies), I figure North Korea could have picked up some easy cash itself by auctioning off the first images of this grown man to the highest bidder. Too late for that now...

Thursday, September 2, 2010

Typhoon Konpasu

We had a great typhoon come through last night. It's probably the most direct hit I've ever experienced, which is remarkable considering how relatively more exposed I was all those years in Japan. It definitely sounded more impressive even than the one that trapped me in a youth hostel in Kyushu for 4 days in 2005. That time I was safely ensconced in a low structure in the mountains; this time I was on the 8th floor of a tall building surrounded by other tall buildings, and the sound of the wind was like a freight train.

Check out the path of this thing:

(Notice the border between the two Koreas is not shown. This is typical of weather maps.)

It seems like it made a bee-line for Seoul. I was actually just thinking of the phrase "bee-line" the other day. It doesn't make much sense to me - are bees particularly known for traveling in straight lines?

Anyway, the typhoon hit in the middle of the night last night. I could hear the wind howling outside the window - it would get really loud in 10-second bursts, then die off again. My kitty got pretty spooked. This morning there were quite a few trees down. An entire stand of young-ish trees next to my apartment had been completely squashed to the ground. There were also some power lines cut and sagging on the poles near my bus stop, but no one appeared especially wary of walking underneath them. None of the trees on the grounds of our institute appear to have been affected - I guess they were protected by the mountain, or had stronger root systems, or something.

They're calling this typhoon "Konpasu" (compass), a name which the Korean press says was decided by the Japanese. Which is odd, because in Japan the typhoons always had numbers instead of names, and for the really big ones the press would sometimes call them by their Korean name.

The wind is still gusting and it's raining in bursts - looks like this could keep going all day!