26 November 2008

Stuff from both US and South Korea

Some items that I'm picking up around:
  • American football, primarily collegiate, has been around in South Korea for decades, but nobody ever paid attention to it. That is, until quite recently, anyway. American football has some following now, primarily due to its similarities to rubgy, a game much better known locally; the only key difference, in fact, is the American football's requirement to pass backward (except for the quarterback). The advent of cable TV since the 1990s has allowed interested South Koreans to watch some NFL games, and when Hines Ward, the Seoul-born half-Korean wide receiver of Pittsburgh Steelers, became the Super Bowl MVP a few years ago, interest went up dramatically. Many locals, in fact, are a bit surprised when I tell them that I don't follow American football - primarily because Los Angeles has lost both its NFL franchises, and in turn gained two MLS franchises, due to the changing demographics.
  • Another American item... San Francisco is considering a London-style congestion charge for driving in the downtown area. If implemented, it would be a first for an American city. It certainly will be politically very unpopular, but given that parking is next to impossible in downtown San Francisco and mass transit is reasonably good to and within the city, it could be something to consider. Of course, discounts and free passes will be given to residents and businesses. Honestly, I think San Francisco should seriously consider a special congestion charge just for drivers of BMW Group (BMW, Mini, and Rolls-Royce) products. I'm never taking my BMW to San Francisco again anyway - in fact, I'm selling it. I became aware of this from a radio report, and found a SF Gate report to verify it.
  • According to the same radio report, over here in South Korea, Korail has just raised the speed limit of the KTX bullet train from 300 km/h to 305 km/h. Many customers have been complaining due to the actual running speed ranging from 270 to 290 km/h (every carriage has monitors showing current speed if over 250 km/h), and with the faster running speed, the trains will have better on-time performance, as they currently tend to run a few minutes late. Safety shouldn't be a worry, as the line and the trains are both designed for continuous operation at 350 km/h.
  • BBC just informs me that a South Korean actress will serve two years in jail for adultery - a crime under South Korean law since the days of Syngman Rhee and the Liberals. About 1,200 people get snared by the law annually, but very few actually serve jail terms. Most people do consider it to be an archaic law from another era, but the Constitutional Court, which has otherwise been quite progressive on social issues in recent years, nevertheless determined that adultery destroys social order. Many feminist and other groups counter by saying that it's loveless marriages, and the ambitions of a loveless husband, that destroy social order instead - as appears to be the case in this particular situation. The Constitutional Court also recently determined that it is perfectly fine to limit masseur licenses to the blind, citing the rampant discrimination faced by the blind in other professions; it would've made much more sense to outlaw discrimination on disability, and let the blind work in other professions, instead. In any case, the Constitutional Court, due to its term limits and mandatory retirement ages, is not like the Supreme Court in the US; enough time in the hands of the wrong government, and it can be stacked in the wrong way, and I am pretty sure that it's what 2MB is looking forward to. This is NOT the same Constitutional Court that determined just two years ago that transgenders have full legal rights.
Time to start packing for Hong Kong. The reactionary 2MB and Grand National rule will drive me insane otherwise. My intention to get a Hyundai Genesis upon my return home remains stronger than ever, thanks to the enduring just and democratic spirit of the South Korean people. But I'll make sure to never drive it (and never let anyone else drive it) to Koreatown or a Korean-American church, the support bases of 2MB. As I'll probably order a Kwan Yin-themed vanity plate anyway, it will probably be unwelcome at those places anyway.