By In essay, Korea, Olympics

If I’m an Expert, Something is Wrong

I sat uncomfortably on a small stool in front of a green screen that would end up depicting a still image of central Seoul. A small microphone poking out of my shirt enabled me to speak to a news anchor in Beijing about the 2018 Winter Olympics in Pyeongchang, specifically about the inter-Korean geopolitics at play. As I talked about the implications of a joint North-South women’s hockey team or the 1988 Seoul Olympics or being cautiously optimistic or something, a banner appeared on the screen with the words “political analyst” written across it. Fair enough: even if the nomenclature was a bit hoity-toity for what I actually am, I was, in fact, analyzing a political situation. As I continued to speak, the screen jumped to a picture of athletes from North and South Korea holding hands as they walked together for the opening ceremonies. When the screen came back to me, the title beneath my name had changed. I was officially, for those few fleeting minutes, an “expert.”

That’s when I knew there was a crisis of expertise…

Read more at Medium

Read more

By In basketball, essay, Korea

Away Games

The first time I questioned my decision to move from Hawaii to Korea was, not surprisingly, winter. Back home, cold doesn’t happen without consent. Not so in Korea. If my first winter in Seoul taught me anything about existential threats from the north, it’s that Siberian winds make daily life a lot more unlivable than any nuclear artillery. I took fatalistic comfort in knowing that if North Korea ever attacked, at least we’d all die together. I felt just as helplessly unprepared for the winter, but I had to face the cold on my own.

I was lucky, for that reason and others, that I knew Jay—that’s the Englishified version of Jong-il (yes, like Kim)—and that he was sympathetic to the plight of a warm-weather waygookin (foreigner) living in a blustery Asian city. I was luckier still that he’s a basketball fan and was willing to scoop me up from work to watch the showdown between Anyang KGC and the Seoul SK Knights in the Korean Basketball League. I hadn’t seen a live basketball game of any sort since college, but it seemed like a better way to deal with the miserable cold than my usual routine of hibernating in my apartment and overeating…

Read more at The Under Review

Read more

By In Korea

The Ultimate Goal: Sports Diplomacy and Inter-Korean Peace

The division of the Korean Peninsula has for decades remained one of the most intractable geopolitical challenges in the world. It is the last relic of the Cold War, an ossified monument to the vampiric and paranoid quest for global ideological dominance that defined the latter half of the 20th century. The so-called “DPRK problem” has thus far been insoluble, despite attempts at reconciliation through war, peaceful negotiation, and economic cooperation.

The question is whether or not something as nakedly frivolous as sports can achieve a lasting peace. Historically, the answer is yes…


Read more at CGTN

Read more

By In Korea

Making Sense of the Inter-Korean Summit

“The April 27th summit between North Korean leader Kim Jong-un and South Korean president Moon Jae-in was rife with symbolism. The two leaders shook hands across the demarcation line dividing the Koreas before stepping across it; they sat exactly 2018 millimeters across from each other on a table designed to look like two bridges merging together; and they planted a “unity tree” using soil from Mount Paektu in the North and Mount Halla in the South, then watered the tree with water from both the North’s Daedong River and the South’s Han River.

But the summit was not just symbolic. Concrete—albeit unspecific—commitments were made. A North-South liaison office will be established, separated families will reunite, and there will be a cessation of hostilities—specifically in the Yellow Sea where fatal attacks have occurred as recently as 2010. Most notably, both Koreas vowed to work together to achieve a denuclearized peninsula and to establish an official peace treaty to end the Korean War this year. Such a treaty will require an American cosign, as the 1953 armistice agreement that brought the War to a truce was not signed by South Korea.

The news was dizzying, leaving all who watched in a vertiginous state of skeptical disbelief and hopeful optimism. As developments continue to unfold, there are three essential questions to address in the immediate aftermath…”


Read more at Summit

Read more

By In Hawaii, Korea

Lessons from the Hawaii Missile Threat

“Since I moved to Seoul four years ago, I’ve grown used to the hysterical concern that my family and friends back in Hawaiʻi have expressed about my new neighbor to the North. The hysteria has only intensified post-Trump, with every fiery sound byte and furious tweet manifesting into another frantic phone call asking if I’m sure I don’t want to move home yet.

It was a strange sort of role reversal when I woke up on an otherwise regular Sunday morning to discover that, while I was asleep, an intercontinental ballistic missile had been launched, was inbound to Hawaiʻi, and it wasn’t a drill. No texts or voice messages were on my phone, and the worst-case scenario billowed in my mind like a mushroom cloud. A quick Internet search informed me, however, that the warning was a mistake. Gratefulness and relief washed over me. Harrowing stories of parents calling their kids to say goodbye slowly turned into memes poking fun at the whole situation. Everything was fine. Everyone was fine.

A latent restlessness lingered around my apartment, though; one that soon transformed into anger…”


Read more at Summit

Read more