30 March, 2006

yodok story

Joshua at Korea Liberator - which is not incidentally a CIA front - reports that attempts to shut down the North Korean prison camp musical have backfired.:

Scene200In one of the great ironies of this young year, “Yodok Story” has had a splendid opening because of the very people who tried keep it from seeing its first opening act. The Chosun Ilbo reports that many shows are sold out, and that the play’s Web site has crashed from the overflowing traffic (though OFK/TKL readers have known for weeks that the site has labored under what we will call technical “challenges”).

A month after the fact, the government finally got around to denying reports that it tried to intimidate “Yodok Story” producers into watering down the atrocity stories in the script, or that it had a hand in pressuring some investors to pull out of the production. Director Chung Seong-San also claims that someone threatened his life. Soon afterward, a flood of media attention attracted new investors, donors, and the interest of theataah-goers.

Whoever attempted to stop “Yodok Story” failed miserably. Not only did the play get most of its publicity from its enemies free of charge, so did the cause those enemies tried to conceal from the world’s attention.

UPDATE: Reports of a smash hit have likely been exaggerated.

(Photo stolen from NPR.)

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by @ 11:11 pm. Filed under South Korea, Asia, East Asia, Northeast Asia, North Korea, Music

happy birthday ultraman

As well as pick on Yahoo! day, today is also Ultraman’s birthday.:

In celebration of Ultraman’s 40th birthday, a news conference was held on March 28th. The highlight of the conference was not just to show off the latest incarnation of Ultraman, Ultraman Mebius, but to reunite the entire Ultraman family.


Everyone looks good in a tux.

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by @ 9:26 pm. Filed under Japan, Asia, East Asia, Northeast Asia, Film

population maps

Tyler Cowen posts links to a series of manipulated maps. Included is a surprise - India and China are getting thinner.:

Here is a population-weighted map of the world, circa 1500:


Here is the projected world population map, circa 2050:


Here are other neat maps.  Here are maps of tourism, emigration, and refugees; Here is my favorite, a map of the flow of net immigration. Or try this map of aircraft departures, watch Africa disappear. Here is the strange geography of fruit exports. Here is how to make South America look really big, or reallly small (can you guess?).

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by @ 9:19 pm. Filed under China, India, Asia, East Asia, Northeast Asia, South Asia

pinky violence

AsiaPundit’s would apply the usual disclaimer “this is not porn this is pop culture,” but upon consideration AP has decided that this actually is porn - and the videos are clearly not worksafe.:

Trailer about “the inspiration for Kill Bill”, Female Yakuza Tale + Sex and Fury trailers, and The Pinky Violence Collection, Japanese sexploitation movies from the ’70s.


Also Pink Movie Posters gallery.

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by @ 9:08 pm. Filed under Japan, Asia, East Asia, Northeast Asia, Film

pick on yahoo! day

There’s such a storm of bad publicity for Yahoo! across the net today that AsiaPundit is decreeing March 30th as official pick on Yahoo! day.

For starters, Rebecca has launched one of the most-biting attacks on the company and co-founder Jerry Yang that  I have yet read. Yahoo! Abomination:

Freechinesevistimsofyahoo2Yahoo! founder Jerry Yang continues to spew excrement, echoing his shoulder-shrugging of earlier this month, which essentially amounts to saying: So sorry we assisted in human rights violations, but there’s nothing we can do if we’re going to bring the Internet to the Chinese people. One recent quote:

"You have to balance the risk of not participating," he said. "And people don’t realize that being in the market every day there, and being on the ground, we are seeing changes, on the whole, for the positive."

Tell that to the family of Shi Tao who is in jail for 10 years.  Jerry Yang should meet with them and tell them to their faces just how sorry he is, but that Shi is being sacrificed for a noble cause. I’m sure they’ll understand…

Yahoo! executives keep framing this issue as black and white: Either you’re in there and do everything the Chinese authorities tell you without question, or you can’t do business in China at all. That is false. Companies can and do make choices. You can engage in China and choose not to do certain kinds of business. Yahoo! has placed user e-mail data within legal jurisdiction of the People’s Republic of China. Google and Microsoft have both chosen not to do so. Why did Yahoo! chose to do this?  Either they weren’t thinking through the consequences or they don’t care.

Meanwhile David Wolf at Silicon Hutong questions how well joint-venture partner Alibaba is doing with the management of Yahoo! China and what Jack Ma has done with the $1 billion the company had received from Yahoo!..:

Jack Ma told the Search Engine Strategies Conference in Nanjing last week that he has basically redefined the phrase "burn rate." Less than a year after Yahoo! handed over it’s China operations and a $1 billion check to Alibaba in return for 40% of the company’s stock, and he’s already spent $750 million of that.

Let’s call it 9 months since the deal was announced. That’s $250 million a quarter. $2.7 million a day, 7 days a week, for nine months. At this rate, the entire billion will be gone by the end of the summer.

Hey, Pizza and Jolt Cola are Expensive in China

Now granted, he says that it’s been spent on research and development and "other projects." But without casting any aspersions or making any accusations, nearly any CPA or tax lawyer you talk to will tell you that both of those categories can (in practice) be interpreted very broadly. And the company is looking at further investments.

The first question that leaps to the top of anyone’s mind is okay, where did the money go? I’m not sure the general public will ever get to know, that it is really any of our business, or that it really matters anyway. It is entirely likely that everything is above board, as we have been given no reason (except for a monstrous sucking sound) to think anything is amiss. Yahoo! and its shareholders are certainly satisfied that their money has been well spent. Because if they weren’t, they would be calling for a SWAT team of forensic accountants to drop in with their arsenal of tools and start following money trails. Frankly, as a minority shareholder, I’m not even sure what rights Yahoo! has to even do this much.

But again, this is a diversion (albeit a titillating one for corporate scandal fetishists) from the real question.

Some more details on the spending are available at China Stock Blog.

AsiaPundit enjoys Jack Ma’s media appearances, he is inclined to say provocative things and the local media treat him like a rockstar. But while AP thinks Ma has a strong chance of beating eBay with auctions, he is not so sure that he will be able to turn Yahoo! China’s fortunes around. Especially as competition may be getting a bit more heated - Shak points to a report suggesting that the rapid growth seen in China’s search engine market is slowing.:

"China’s search engine industry will face a sharp slowdown in the coming 18 months." said Edward Yu, CEO of Analysys International, at the Search Engine Symposium held in Nanjing, China, on March 17, 2006. "The actual performance of search engines is far from people’s high expectations. Poor user experience, unstable advertising effects, and some irregular channel operations make the small and midsize enterprise customers of search engines suspicious of this new kind of advertising, which will lead to a slowdown in the growth of the search engine industry." explained Yu.

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by @ 8:41 pm. Filed under China, Asia, East Asia, Northeast Asia, Censorship

the temasek attachment

Oops! Singapore’s government investment arm Temasek accidently sent an e-mail to several reporters letting them in on executive talking points relating to its purchase of a stake in Standard Chartered.:

TemasekA Temasek document, entitled "2006-03 Taurus Q&As" - which was designed to help its executives answer media enquiries on its 12% stake in Standard Chartered - was yesterday sent as an email attachment to some journalists instead of another file. The document contains 59 questions and answers and was prepared by staff to anticipate questions that might arise from the acquisition. Given that Temasek has rarely done Q&As with the media, the exercise represents a somewhat unique insight into what the Singapore state investment agency currently perceives its perceptional issues are and its own stance on these issues. In what follows we have reproduced the entire Q&A section. It is unedited, except to state in square brackets where answers were left blank.

Full copy of the e-mail is here. Interestingly, talking point 33 provides a response to a question that will not be asked within Singapore.:

33. Your CEO is also the PM’s wife. The PM is also the Minister for Finance, heading MOF which is your shareholder. Is her appointment politically motivated? Wouldn’t there be conflicts of interest?

We are not here to discuss politics since we are not politicians or a political organization.

Our CEO is accountable to the Board of Directors, who is headed by an independent Chairman, just like any other commercial organisation.

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by @ 7:57 pm. Filed under Singapore, Asia, East Asia, Economy, Southeast Asia

the economics of polygamy

At Cafe Salemba, Indonesia’s Aco ponders the economics of polygamy, a rare but permitted practice in the mostly Muslim country.:

University of Michigan’s Ted Bergstrom has an interesting paper on polyginy. Borrowing an approach used by evolutionary biologists, he concludes:

A society that allows polygamy and stable property rights will usually have positive bride prices and some polygynous marriages. In such a society, bride prices will go not to the bride, but to her male relatives and all women be allocated the same amount of resources by their husbands. The greater the amount of material resources available per woman in the society, the higher will be bride prices and the greater the amount of resources allocated to each woman. However, in societies with sufficiently low amounts of resources per woman, instead of positive bride prices there will be dowries, which unlike bridewealth, are paid directly to the newly married couple. In such a society dowries will be of approximately the same size as the inheritance of males who marry.

In plain words, Bergstrom is saying that polygyny is likely to increase the “value” of women. Isn’t that a good thing, ladies?

Here’s more on the debate with econ points of view: Gary Becker (women better off in polyginous society), Tyler Cowen (polygamy makes children worse off), Alex Tabarrok (polygyny good for working women), David Friedman (polygyny good for women, polyandry good for men), Tim Harford (it’s just a math), and Robert Frank (the victims of polygyny are men, not women).

Meanwhile, in Buddhist Thailand, Mr Wichai is having twins.:


After Mr Wichai (Tao), aged 24, from Samut Songkram province, who earns his living by dealing in old goods, got married to gorgeous twins Ms Sirintara and Ms Thipawan 22, he vouched his sincerest ‘equal love’ for both of them!

Mr Wichai, just yesterday, 23 March, got married in pompous ceremony to both twins simultaneously. On being interviewed by the Thai Rath reporters, Mr Wichai declared wholeheartedly, that he didn’t see much problem in having to perform tiresome marital duties with two wives.

In the engagement ceremony before the wedding, Mr Wichai successfully offered a dowry of eight baht of gold and 80,000 baht EACH for his lovely darlings. Both families celebrated the marriage with joy and were said to be delighted for the threesome.

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by @ 7:43 pm. Filed under Indonesia, Asia, East Asia, Southeast Asia, Thailand

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