Sunday, December 25, 2011

briefly back, baby!

Click to Embiggen.

I'm working again at Minjok's leadership camp.  It's Christmas day and I'm a little lonely, but I celebrated Christmas (Kitzmas) with my family on the 20th.

Yesterday, I had a short but great hike at Hwa-am Sa.  I did this hike a few years ago with a Sokcho friend and the wind was so strong my glasses were ripped from my face.  This year, I held on to my glasses (and kept a spare pair in the car just in case).  It was every bit as cold and windy as last time.  In fact it was so windy that I couldn't see precisely where I was shooting - hence the gap in my stitched photo above.

Wednesday, September 07, 2011

Government blacklist of Korean universities includes one in Gangneung

The news was apparently on Monday: now the English news is full of it.
I first learned of the blacklist from Asiaone:
The naming and shaming of 43 poorly managed universities by the Education Ministry on Monday has spawned confusion and concern among universities, with some decrying the label or expressing worries about next year's freshmen recruitment.
But a closer look and deliberate search finds the news everywhere.
 Officials have said that an equal provision of funds to all schools would be a waste of taxpayer money and could end up as a lifeline for uncompetitive colleges. President Lee Myung-bak has also called for college restructuring as a condition for providing government money to universities.
   In South Korea, 80 percent of higher education institutions are operated by private foundations that rely heavily on tuition for revenue.
And also:
The ministry said it has chosen the universities in consultation with advisory bodies based on the results of a university evaluation that used criteria, such as the employment rate of graduates, the yearly enrollment rate and the number of full-time instructors. 
The Herald has copied the same press release as Yonhap.
The news has reached Malaysia, where Bermana reports:
The education ministry has selected 43 private universities that will have their subsidies partly cut or denied next year as part of a government drive to weed out poorly managed schools.
I find this big news especially as I just finished writing a big article saying that blacklists couldn't happen here.  I don't exactly have egg on my face, but perhaps on my freshly washed jacket.
My old university is on the list, which I cannot find in full anywhere - Asiaone names a handful of the schools in question.  I hope that my friends are okay, or will be okay during the next semester.  Time to dust off those resumes!

Thursday, July 28, 2011

Obligatory Flood post

It seems too early yet to have a strong opinion, as a layman, on what the flooding and resulting deaths and property damage means.  Newspaper articles try to connect the weather to global warming and the damages to negligence or malfeasance by the Korean Meteorological Administration:  I don't know.  I do know the destruction was terrible but not how it relates to larger issues.

I am currently in Gangwondo and inconvenienced by the incredible rains, but my life and belongings have not at all been threatened.  In this, I am very lucky, compared to the people in Seoul, Chuncheon and elsewhere in Gangwon and Kyeonggi Provinces.

From the Dong-A:
Safety standards for flooding should be urgently raised. Unexpected heavy rain can fall at any time, so drainage ways, underground water storage systems and levees should be built in areas vulnerable to floods. Existing flood prevention facilities are ineffective against torrential rain because they were designed based on standards of the past. Accuracy of weather forecasts and public awareness of the danger of flooding should also be raised. The landslide in Chuncheon is akin to a manmade disaster. The Korea Meteorological Administration’s weather forecast was incorrect and residents in the affected areas were not evacuated though houses were deluged due to blocked drainage ways an hour before the accident. In Seoul, evacuation orders were repeatedly issued for people near Cheonggye Stream Monday night amid the forecast of regional torrential rain, but most of the people along the stream remained.
I remember the typhoon flood in July, 1998, almost exactly 13 years ago, that drowned many people camping on the banks of a mountain-fed river in Chilisan.  They were camping in places where camping was forbidden.  I haven't heard enough yet to say for sure that the Chuncheon deaths were due to any kind of malfeasance.

From The Hanky:
On the morning of July 27, an automatic weather station in Seoul’s Gwanak District measured 110.5mm of rain per hour (4.4 inches per hour), although this was not included in the Korea Meteorological Administration’s (KMA) official statistics.
Such powerful banks of rain clouds normally pass by in a few hours. This time, however, a cold anticyclone near Russia’s Sakhalin blocked their way. As this configuration of air pressure persists, heavy rain continues to fall.

In South Korea, the pattern of a monsoon season followed by a period of sweltering weather is being broken. Even after the monsoon front dies out, heavy and localized downpours, like the current one, resulting from atmospheric instability continue until September. There is no longer a long-term forecast of when the monsoon will begin and end.
The first paragraph of the Hanky's report reinforces the claim of the Dong-A article that some of the damage and deaths could have been prevented.  Why didn't the KMA report the weather correctly?

Wednesday, July 20, 2011

CSI comes to Wonju

From the Joongang:

As part of its goal to “promote balanced national development and diffusion of government,” the government is relocating the National Forensic Service’s main office from Seoul to Wonju, Gangwon. 

But that means that all corpses and evidence will have to be shipped to Wonju, which is 150 kilometers (93 miles) southeast of Seoul. And that, critics say, will waste taxpayers’ money and the agency’s time because more than half of the NFS cases occur in Seoul, Incheon and Gyeonggi. And, they say, the move will work against conducting prompt investigations.

Thursday, July 07, 2011

Pyeongchang will host the 2018 Olympics!

From the Herald:
PyeongChang won the bid to host the 2018 Winter Olympics in a vote by the International Olympic Committee on Wednesday, succeeding in its third attempt to bring the Winter Games to South Korea for the first time.

Thursday, June 30, 2011

mine found in Gangwon- not a coal mine, either

UPDATED: I'm updating this on Aug 1, 2011, after a week of nightmarish rain and deadly floods in Seoul and Gangwondo.  Mudslides occurred in various mine fields and there are now mines that are not accounted for.  We don't know where they are.  Friends of mine wonder how the mines could have been tumbled in a multi-ton mess of mud and not have gone off.  I do too, but they were first to bring it up.  I suppose these are old and unstable mines.  Hit them with a hammer enough and something might happen on the twentieth try even if it didn't the previous 19 times.

From Marmot's Hole, The Herald and the Joongang.

Joongang: The areas where the search is focused on include air-defense entrenchments in Mount Umyeon, Gyeonggi and Gangwon, as well as some areas in Yangju, Gyeonggi. The border areas where North Korea’s wooden land mines are often discovered at a time of flooding were also included. 
Note that Umyeon is in Seoul, just south of the Han.  I lived near Sadang Station and learned the danso at the Korean Traditional Performing Arts Centre just below Umyeon mountain.

The Joongang reports that recent storms in North Korea have washed land mines -the exploding kind, if you really didn't know -into South Korea.  It appears that two mines drifted in the ocean and landed on South Korean islands, but the one in Gangwondo was carried by a river.

I have heard that mines shifted by storms, floods and mudslides are a problem in South Korea, too.  Without being able to recall the specifics, I do recall hearing that some mine fields in South Korea are impassible to South Koreans because the current locations of the mines is unknown.

Arirang is also reporting on the story.
Hmm.  the Joongang seems to describe the Gangwon mine as being in a river:
One mine was found on Gyodong Island, one on Bolum Island in Incheon, and the other in Suip Creek in Yanggu District in Gangwon.

...but Arirang states that it was found at sea:
Two were discovered in waters off the west coast near Incheon and the other on the east coast off Gangwon Province.
  I have discussed cross-border flooding before.

Monday, June 27, 2011

Surfers from Gangwon - and elsewhere - try to compete in Busan

The original post is here at my new blog.  Note the final few paragraphs where I discuss the typhoon's effect on Gangwondo and nationally.

Friday, June 17, 2011

Who is protected by Korea's libel laws?

The Joongang has an article about 'bad universities' and how they maintain their enrollment.

A reporter recently visited one of the schools, a four-year university in Jeju. The campus was eerily quiet, despite it being final exam time. “It’s a ghost town,” said a 72-year-old Jeju resident.

When the reporter finally caught up with some students, he couldn’t understand what they were saying because they were from China.
“It’s become so difficult to recruit students domestically, so the faculty and staff went to China and toured around its cities, pitching half-priced tuition for Chinese students,” said a university official.
Around 30 percent of the school’s 490 students are from China. The figure is 50 percent if you include students taking short-term Korean-language courses. Most of the Korean students pay 6.1 million won ($5,629) annually, an expensive sum by Korean standards. The Chinese pay half.

If a university's enrollment falls below a certain number, it loses out on government funding, so shipping in Chinese students to fill seats might work.  On the other hand, the Korean students are paying double!

The problem for me -well, the price is a problem, too - is that we can't be told what university this is. We also can't know the name of the university that here is "forced to cut costs to the bone. “The toilet in one building has no toilet paper, so students have to bring it with them,” said a 23-year-old student at a college in Gangwon. "

The university in Gangwon that I worked at had toilet paper back in 2009, so this article probably isn't about it.  Students, and their parents, should be able to learn these things, though.  It sounds like the Joongang attempted some good investigative journalism here, but the attempt is useless without the names.
Sorta Related:  GI Korea wonders if Koreans are paying too much tuition.

Thursday, February 24, 2011

storing electricity

As readers know, I have moved out of Gangwon Province and so post here much less frequently.  In addition, I was in Canada for a month, having recently returned - to Korea, not Gangwon, which I miss very much.

Consequently, I missed the whole "Corrupt Governor" story and now am commenting on an article that only slightly relates to Gangwon Province.

National Geographic has an article about ways to store electricity for utilities.  We are not talking about AA batteries, but ways to handle demand surges for large regions.  Storing electricity is important if new alternative energy production methods are to become mainstream.  Solar and Wind power can provide great quantities of electricity, but not consistently.

The article discusses using flywheels and compressed air as energy storage but also mentions pumping water uphill during off-peak periods.

Beacon's flywheel facility can dispense power for up to 15 minutes, but if a power plant wants to store energy for a longer period of time, it can do so by pumping water uphill. When the energy is needed later, the water flows back downhill, powering turbines that generate energy.
This so-called "pumped-storage hydroelectricity" is one of the most common forms of electricity storage now being used on the grid. But the DOE is looking into cheaper systems that rely on compressed air instead of water.

One thing I find interesting here is how this is not really that new.  As a scout, thirty-something years ago, at the electricity generating dam in downtown bracebridge, I was told how, during low demand periods, they reduced the amount of water flowing through the turbines and building up the 'head'.  I have to admit that the dam in Bracebridge could not have stored much water this way as stakeholders upstream would complain, but I do like the idea. Instead of having the water flow down to produce energy used to pump water uphill to later flow down again, just leave it up there.

I guess the pumping to a purpose-built reservoir would solve the complaints and environmental problems.  it is also the route Yangyang Gun in Gangwon Province took five or ten years ago.  Also, here (an excerpt although the rest is behind a paywall):
ANGYANG, South Korea, Sept. 4 (Yonhap) -- South Korea has completed its biggest pumped-storage hydroelectric power station after 10 years of construction, a state-run electricity company said Monday. The power station in Yangyang, 215 kilometers northeast of Seoul, was constructed at a cost of 932.4 billion won (US$972.7 million) and is capable of generating a maximum of 1,000 megawatts ofelectricity an hour, according to the Korea Midland Power Co., one of the subsidiaries of state-owned Korea Electric Power Corp.A dedication ceremony for the facility, the country's fifth pumped-storage …
Not entirely on-topic, but still interesting is a discussion of how much power we will need in the future.

Monday, February 07, 2011

snowboard competition cancelled in Yongpeong

An international snowboarding competition was canceled after boarders and coaches claimed the course was too dangerous.
Canadian team coach and former snowboard cross champion Drew Neilson said the course at Yongpyong resort was too steep at the top and very fast at the bottom, raising concerns about the athletes’ safety.
“The turns were very tight, on a very steep pitch. With the speed involved, if there was an accident, there would be nowhere for anyone to go,” he said.
“What we do is dangerous. It’s a dangerous sport,” Neilson said, and many athletes were already struggling with injuries following the recent X Games competition.
The snowboard cross, the fourth event in the FIS World Cup season, will be rescheduled at another venue, officials said. Meanwhile, the parallel slalom event will go on as planned Wednesday, Ma said.
Pyeongchang in eastern South Korea is mounting its third bid to host the Winter Olympics, and the cancellation comes just a week before an International Olympic Committee team is due in South Korea to inspect the city’s 2018 bid.
Neilson said snow conditions were fine and praised the local organizing committee in hosting the event, but blamed International Ski Federation officials for picking the wrong slope.
Oh, it wasn't just the Canadians complaining.

Wednesday, January 05, 2011

The fan-death story won't go away

Years ago, I found on wikipedia an article on Fan-death that quoted a professor at my university.  I interviewed him and found he didn't really say all those things he said but I think the audio-recording website has since disappeared.   Anyway, here are some articles I wrote about fan-death.

Today, XKCD put up a comic about common misconceptions and provided a link to wikipedia's list of common misconceptions. It includes:
"In South Korea, it is commonly believed that sleeping in a closed room with an electric fan running can be fatal in the summer. According to the Korean government, "In some cases, a fan turned on too long can cause death from suffocationhypothermia, or fire from overheating." The Korea Consumer Protection Board issued a consumer safety alert recommending that electric fans be set on timers, direction changed and doors left open. Belief in fan death is common even among knowledgeable medical professionals in Korea. According to Dr. Yeon Dong-su, dean of Kwandong University's medical school, "If it is completely sealed, then in the current of an electric fan, the temperature can drop low enough to cause a person to die of hypothermia."[80][81][82][83] Although an airconditioner transfers heat from the air and cools it, a fan moves air to increase the evaporation of sweat. Due to energy losses, a fan will slowly heat a room."

two of my favorite sports rolled into one

I enjoy polar bear dips and I enjoy ethically-questionable Korean practice of catching live aquatic animals by hand.  At the Hwacheon Sancheoneo Ice Festival, I could have done both.
Chris in South Korea has the details.  I'm not sure if he merely watched or participated.  The photo of the kid in agony is hilarious - kids in pain often are, after all.

Monday, January 03, 2011

Stop the Seorak Cable Car!


Image from the Korea Times (which my computer is again recognizing as a malware site - visit at your own risk.)