South Korea’s CARS Epidemic Enters Fourth Decade

A Yangpa News Special Report

SEOUL – The OECD has announced that 5,869 South Koreans died of CARS in 2014, which marks the 30th consecutive year that the number of fatalities from the epidemic has topped the 5,000 mark.

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One of Seoul’s many high-risk areas

CARS, or Catastrophic Automobile Ramming Syndrome, is believed to affect nearly a quarter million people a year in South Korea. In a country of 50 million, this means that nearly everyone can name a close friend or family member who has been stricken by CARS.

Delivery driver Kim Yeseok has had several bouts with CARS and survived, but some of his friends were not so lucky. “Last year I lost two colleagues to CARS,” said Kim, “A Sonata and a Bongo, to be precise.”

While most victims of CARS survive, many suffer a range of severe symptoms, including massive trauma, internal bleeding, paralysis, compound fractures, third-degree burns, lacerations, coma, profuse bleeding, and death.

The World Health Organization has traced the beginning of the CARS epidemic in part to the rise in private automobile ownership in South Korea. “Since 1985, when the number of privately owned automobiles exceeded one million for the first IMG_8976time, South Korean CARS-related deaths have consistently been among the highest of all OECD nations,” said Doctor Park Jin-hyuk.

While there are a variety of treatments for CARS-related symptoms, experts say that prevention is the best medicine, and that people can greatly reduce the risk of CARS by following a few simple precautions. “Slowing down and wearing a ‘safety belt’ are effective,” says Doctor Park, “but the best thing may be merely paying attention to the warning signs. You can usually see CARS coming and take effective countermeasures.”

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Despite the epidemic south of the border, North Korea remains largely free of CARS

Despite the perennially high death toll, the South Korean public maintains a relatively calm attitude about the threat of CARS. “Actually, I am very worried about MERS,” said Seoul pedestrian Lee Soon-ja, voicing a popular concern about a disease which at press time had killed a total of 16 people – roughly the same number who are killed by CARS in a typical day in Korea. “I was just now reading about it on my smart phone as I was crossing the street. It’s utterly terrifying.”

How I Accidentally Killed Benny’s Hedgehog

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by O. Langer

In a recent study by psychologists at the University of California, Berkeley, one hundred ten-year-old boys and a hundred ten-year-old girls were sat at tables with a pencil and sheet of paper and asked draw a mouse.

The results confirmed the scientists’ suspicions. Of the 200 children, 180 had drawn not the rodent but a computer mouse. These were millennials. They may not have had pets but they’d always had a PC in the house.

*

I used to play video games on sunny days. I’d draw the curtains to keep out the sun’s glare. It seems so wasteful now. I should have been outside.

One summer my brother and I got guinea pigs. Sisters. An exotic-sounding breed, they were Abyssinian. Abbys are the loyal opposition to the typical show pony strain in that their coat is rough and tufty with cowlicks. One was cappuccino brown, the other granite grey. We spent the weekend handling and stroking them and overseeing as they explored.

They were a weekend wonder – we didn’t play with them again. I reverted to spending all my time in my bedroom alone playing on my Sega Megadrive (Genesis in North America). Dad built a large pen where they lived freely day and night each summer. In winter they slept in the garage. I used to see him from my window cleaning out their hutch or with one in his hands.

We had a dog too – a German shepherd who’d failed as a police dog. We got her when she was two. The police couldn’t train her to bark or bite, so were giving her away. We paid £10 – for the leash. Her name was Sadie.

Before Sadie we’d had Merlin, a border collie my parents had gotten as a puppy, before they’d had kids and bought their first house. I’ve never seen my dad cry, but the first time I knew he’d shed tears was the Sunday morning Merlin died upstairs in my parents’ bedroom as my brother, sister and I were downstairs, watching cartoons. Mum came down first to tell us what had happened and not to go up there. When eventually Dad came down he was puffy-eyed. His best friend was gone.

Sadie was a different story. He hated how she’d loyally follow him around the house. Merlin hadn’t done that.

My grandparents had suggested Sadie to us. Dad’s heart hadn’t been in it this time. One summer’s evening, I paused playing Megadrive to go downstairs for something. Passing my brother’s room, I saw Mum sat alone at the end of on his bed, looking forlornly out the window at the street out front.

I stopped, surprised, and asked her what was wrong. She asked me: “Do you want us to give Sadie back?”

Having Sadie wasn’t like raising a puppy. Sadie didn’t play. But I liked having a dog around. Besides, you didn’t give dogs back.

“But you don’t walk her.”

Just then Sadie walked in and up to Mum, who stroked her apologetically. I escaped back to my room. My world. An uncomplicated world. I had entered my teens and cherished solitude. Mum didn’t broach the subject with me again and we kept Sadie.

*

Every summer Sadie was tormented by the guinea pigs in their pen. She would run to wherever they ran and just fixate on them grazing. They were oblivious to her. The larger, brown sister even gnawed the wires persistently, irritated by its confines. Occasionally it made a hole, which Dad would patch up before it could be nibbled big enough to escape through.

One afternoon my parents were out and my brother and I were downstairs, him watching TV and me at the PC. Then, a sound I hadn’t heard before, from the back yard: a siren, rising sharply then held. I went to look and saw Sadie with the brown guinea pig in her mouth. The bolder sister had finally broken free. But its freedom had only lasted a few seconds.

I screamed “No!” and she put it down. The useless police dog could have shaken it to death but hadn’t wanted to.

It was uninjured, but splayed flat on its front, too shocked and shaking to stand. My brother held and stroked her, but she kept shaking. We took both guinea pigs inside and made them a cozy temporary home in a shoe box upstairs. When the shaking stopped she was tense to touch. Normally she purred when stroked, but not now. Waking early the next morning I checked in on her. She’d died in the night.

Her sister died within a year, from loneliness. I remember not being surprised. And relieved. She needed company. But I wanted to play at the PC over playing with her.

*

Video games rendered me a poorer academic. They’re chiefly why I’m absent-minded and impractical, lousy at sports, utterly unable to multi-task or make quick decisions and awkward socially – too inside my own head. Then I went and killed my friend’s hedgehog.

It was my first year in Korea. My school had two foreign teachers: me, and Benny, from America. Not long after arriving in Korea, Benny got a hedgehog from a department store, which he named Ine. Soon after that he got a puppy. He left the puppy alone too long too often, but he never bored of playing with her and trained her well.

One Wednesday, Benny fell deeply ill. A doctor told him told he’d been drinking too much soda (!) and advised a two-night hospital stay. He complied, arranging for his closest friend Amy to take in the puppy and go by his apartment after work both nights to feed Ine.

Come Friday Benny’s condition was just the same and he was counselled to remain for the weekend – to which he said “ok”. But that weekend Amy had Christian camp to attend which put her in a dilemma: should she stay or should she go? In the end her calling to please Jesus was so great that she opted to go rather than stay and help the sick, and lo and behold, the puppy came to stay with me.

It was also up to me to look in on the hedgehog. Ine spent most of his time in his house, in his tray-box quarters. When he ventured out it was to eat, drink or play with the cardboard tube from a tissue roll by sticking his snout deep inside it then parading around with it in the air. He’d then discover it was stuck and appreciated if you pulled it off for him. It went “pop” when you did. I don’t know how he ever got it off with no-one around to help him.

I poured Ine his food for the day and filled his water bottle, which had a spout with a ball that emitted water when licked. Bottle in stand, I put it back beside his tray.

But it wasn’t his water bottle. It was the puppy’s, and once in the stand, it stopped just above the critter’s head.

A hedgehog can’t crank its neck to reach its mouth up. It isn’t able. Hedgehogs can barely look up at all. Pet hedgehogs either drink from a dish or a bottle hung much lower.

On the Sunday as I entered Benny’s apartment Ine came running out of his house. That was odd. Then I noticed the bottle was still full. He’d barely touched his food either. But I figured he didn’t eat and drink every day. I could leave. I had a puppy to tend to. As I left he was shuffling about his tray frantically.

When Benny came home the next morning, pale and thin, he opened the door to find Ine curled up in a ball at the front door. It was winter and he wondered if Ine hadn’t gone into hibernation. No, Ine had gone on a critical search for water. Who knows how much of the apartment he’d scoured, but at the front door he’d admitted defeat, curled up and died.

Benny chose not to disturb Ine at the door that night, hopeful a warm floor might rouse him from his dormancy. Meanwhile, I was praying. All praying is is pleading: “Please don’t let two and two equal four!” You don’t have to be religious to pray.

The next morning Benny posted on Facebook that he’d just buried his hedgehog. As I walked into the office we shared with Amy he looked up from his desk and said: “So Ine died.”

“Yeah, I saw…”

“Died when I was in the hospital.”

He knew I was sorry and never brought it up again, even the time he ran into his apartment to get something and my girlfriend, noticing no tray in the kitchen, called to him in the bedroom:

“Hey, where’s your hedgehog?”

“Died.”

*

I’m trying to be a better employee and friend; to pay attention, earn trust and anticipate my next big mistake. I don’t want to think like those kids, the guinea pigs in the experiment at UC Berkeley. I don’t want to always be staring at screens (he says, typing). Like an Abyssinian gnawing at wire, I want to break out and go explore. Like Benny’s hedgehog too, I’m meant to forage. Isn’t that an expat, after all? A forager?

Tomorrow we’re getting a puppy – my first pet since I had a Tamagotchi that’ll rely on me. It was my idea. Give me something real.

I’m ready.

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Beef and Cheddar, Utah

by Eli Toast

Last summer I drove to Bryce Canyon in Southern Utah to visit an old friend of mine. It was a long drive and on the way back home I stopped for gas at a Texaco in Snowville, Utah, halfway between Salt Lake City and Boise, Idaho. I was hungry as a wolf-bitch so I decided to eat at the Arby’s that was conveniently attached. Coupling restaurants to gasoline stations is a relatively new trend that was just beginning as I was exiting America some 10 years back. Used to be a guy could go into a Stinker, Texaco, Chevron etc… and walk out with a station-sourced plate of nachos, couple corn dogs, some kind of burrito, a few hot dogs, a pickled egg, a Hot Mama sausage, some jo-jo’s, maybe a burger, half dozen pieces of fried chicken, and 20 or 30 packets of mustard and taco sauce. Heat lamp food and hot dog rolling machines (equipped with an expertly located bun drawer just beneath the rollers that stayed nice and steamy for optimal bun moistness) were normal. I miss those halcyon days of tasty, American, lamp-irradiated food that gave you heartburn and made your body leak.

In-store heated food merchandisers are a relic of the past; you almost never find them in gas stations anymore. Hot-dog rolling machines, however, have managed to stubbornly remain (God bless). Nowadays, seems everything comes equipped with a fast food restaurant. I’d honestly rather eat heat lamp food than Arby’s so I was a bit bummed-out as I filled-up and listened to the wind whistle through the gas pumps there in Box Elder County, Utah, United States, population 167. Blue sky bigger than anything you ever saw and sagebrush for miles around.

Inside, the place was heroically Republican. Freedom was everywhere, loaded with all manner of camouflage Don’t-Fuck-With-My-Guns-Wolf-Eagle-Barbecue propaganda. A galvanizing mixture of liberty porn and brave sloganeering steeped in the tears of 9/11 firefighters.

I paid for my fuel then drifted over to the counter at Arby’s to place an order for a Beef and Cheddar combo meal. The girl who served me was the quintessential poster child for the harmful side effects of Utah. Sporting a meaningless blade inspired tribal tat; small enough to hide from her family, too small to be daring, but just big enough to be indiscreet: right in the lame sweet spot. Straight up home-cookin, nose-pierced Mountain-Dew addled teenager, with a boyfriend who doesn’t brush his teeth enough, smokes synthetic marijuana, and owns a stolen switchblade.

She was incredibly friendly. The whole outfit was lousy with friendliness. If you spend enough time away from America when you come back you think people are joking. It’s approaches parody. Like, is this some kind of joke? You don’t know me. What have I done to deserve this kind of treatment?

Anyway, I received my Beef and Cheddar combo meal with curly fries and then loaded up at Arby’s free sauce bar. I like to dip my curly fries in plain mustard, like the guy from Slingblade.

There was another couple there. Octogenarians was my guess. Good, salt of the earth folks. Planned on stopping at Arby’s over last night’s steak dinner. The old man needed a new tow-ball installed on his rig so the timing was right. They loped out as I sat down in the empty and bright dining room, the mid-day sun baking the hell out of everything.

I unwrapped my sandwich and beheld it as if it were a glistening ambassador of life sent to me straight from the top of Barbecue Mountain.

As I’m eating the manager busied himself by washing the dust off the fake plants that separated the tables. Mid thirties, dishwater blonde guy with a mustache. Into dirt bikes and Satanism. Tells everyone he loves elk hunting, but he really doesn’t, he just says so to fulfill a vague sense of obligation to what he perceives as his personality. He doesn’t dislike hunting because of the killing, that’s his favorite part: he dislikes it because he finds walking around in woods totally boring.

He turned to me, and asked with real enthusiasm: “How’s your sandwich today?”

And for a second I really wanted to say something snide and nasty. Not to be a dick, but to liberate these modest sandwich peddlers from the unctuous snare of corporate smarm that shackled them so. Then again they’d probably been calling me a lib-tard faggot since the moment they saw me step out of my parents’ Toyota.

I answered his question politely, “It was great, really good actually. I love that Arby’s Sauce. What is it? Horseradish? Mayo? And what else?”

“Definitely horseradish…” he said. “And mayo. The other ingredients are actually a secret proprietary blend… But between you and me.. It’s white vinegar, a little granulated sugar, pinch of salt, and Xanthan gum.”

“Really?”

“Yep.”

“Nice, thanks, maybe I’ll whip some up someday,” I said as I stood to leave.

“You, have a good day, sir.”

“You too.”

I figured I ought to buy a soda pop for the road so I grabbed a Fresca on my way out. The older, ostensibly down-and-out cashier (with darker, edgier tattoos: the portrait of a dead child lost in a car accident, the name of an asshole ex-husband who’s out on parole now, whom she still spends weekends with getting drunk together down at the reservoir, barbecuing, and having swampy hog-fart-sex that would give a grown man nightmares) wanted to share her Fresca memories with me.

“Fresca, interesting, not many people drinking Fresca these days… Me and my cousin used to drink Fresca all the time. We loved it.”

I couldn’t give a meaningful reply, and she knew that, so whatever I said was fine with her.

“Nice,” I said. “It’s crisp.”

“He lived in Wendell. Drove truck for Jacklin Seed. But whenever he came by we made sure to have a Fresca together… But… He’s dead now, sooooooo.”

“Oh. Sorry to hear that.”

“Don’t be,” she said, pursing her lips, “ because I ain’t.”

And with that refreshing bit of candor I turned my back on Snowville and set out for the oblivion of the open road. I Made one more stop along the way outside Mountain Home. Filled up my tank, went inside, grabbed a bag of salt and vinegar chips and a roll of extra-strength Tums because I had terrible heartburn.

“Someone got heartburn?” Asked the guy at the cash register (overweight, beard, lapsed bass fisherman with a rusty boat disintegrating in his driveway.)

“Too much Arby’s in Snowville.” I said.

“Mmm… Love that sauce they do.”

“Well, I can tell you how it’s made.”

“Shit, that’s the last thing I need,” he said.

Fair enough.

Suppose that’s the last thing any of us need.

Picture us, driving down highways knowing how all the secret sauces are made, all the wonder of life sucked out because one loosed-lipped poindexter thought he had things figured out.

Visualize Whirled Peas

by Chris Tharp

Oh North Korea, such a naughty little thing. How it blazes incandescent in the Western psyche. We just love to hate the place, don’t we? It’s a defiant, inscrutable nation, ruled by a blood succession of grumpy-faced, outlandishly-coiffed chubbies whose constant saber-rattling, fire-breathing, and generally bellicose bellowing raises eyebrows along with military alert levels. That’s right, North Korea talks some serious shit. On multiple occasions they have threatened to turn the South into a “sea of fire.” They have played the race card in the ugliest manner, referring to President Barack Obama as “a monkey,” and “a crossbreed with unclear blood.” More recently they’ve slandered South Korean president Park Geun-hye as “a crafty prostitute” and “America’s comfort woman.” Damn. And in one of their grander rhetorical moments of late, they labeled U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry “a wolf” with a “hideous lantern jaw.” As cutting as that is, I’m not sure if I can really disagree; the former senator does indeed rock an insectoid mandible that looks like it could grind gravel into dust. But I’m told he speaks exquisite French.

Being a pariah state carries a certain amount of mystique, so it should come as no surprise that the North attracts its fair share of nutbars and self-aggrandizers. Every few months there is a story of some wide-eyed Christian preacher bum rushing the Stalinist state from the Chinese side of the border, wading across the Yalu River armed only with bags of Bibles and good news. He invariably gets arrested and paraded in front of cameras for a forced confession before the ever-beaming Jimmy Carter flies in to save the day (If he’s busy building houses somewhere, you can always call Bill Clinton). Add naive television journalists, a (probably) mentally-ill ESL teacher, and the “basketball diplomacy” of Dennis Fucking Rodman (who is rumored to have gotten so drunk during his mission to the North that he took a dump in the hallway of his hotel), and you have positive cavalcade of attention seekers who have all figured out that the road to international media coverage runs straight through Pyongyang.

Now we can add Gloria Steinem to this ever-growing list. Ms. Steinem, of course, is famous for her ceaseless agitation for the rights of women from the 1960’s on. For many years she was the face of the feminist movement and I’d like to think has generally been a force of good on this planet. She has fought for equal rights day in and day out and  for this I applaud her. She’s also ceaselessly agitated for peace, which is a good thing, right?

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Peace. It’s such a seductive idea. After all, who is against peace? That’s like being anti-Christmas or hating babies. Everyone wants peace, even North Koreans, so when Ms. Steinem announced that she was co-chairing a “women’s march for peace” on the Korean peninsula, it seemed like a laudable idea, prima facie. After all, this is technically a very dangerous part of the world where hostilities could kick off again at any time, with disastrous results all around. Is there anything wrong with calling attention to that fact?

Women have often been peacemakers. After all, in the wars it is the men who do most of the fighting, leaving the women without husbands, brothers, and sons. In Aristophanes’s famous play Lysistrata, the title character attempts to end the Peloponnesian War by convincing all of the women in the town to withhold sex from their husbands. That’s right, all of the ladies go on a pussy strike and it works. Peace prevails and the people can get back to getting at it again. Thanks, women.

However, when I first read about this women’s march, which was called “Women Cross DMZ” (Someone forgot to take their creativity pills!), I for one didn’t go all tingly inside. In fact, my eyes did a 360 in their sockets. While no expert on intra-Korean relations, I have spent a decade here, read a lot on the subject, and try to keep track of the news. A peace march? Really? What were they possibly  hoping to achieve?

Gloria Steinem and the other organizers said that they wanted to bring an end to the Korean War, which technically never ended since no peace treaty was signed. Really? 65 years of conflict and loggerheads resolved by linked arms and a rousing rendition of “Cumbaya”? Please pass the barf bag.

North Korea was the first to leap at the opportunity to host this march, which should come as no surprise, since these kind of vague calls for peace and reunification are right in their wheelhouse. The North has been clamoring for a peace treaty for a long time now, which was echoed by Women Cross DMZ. The South refuses to sign for myriad reasons, laid out clearly in this excellent, in-depth article on the march over at Korea Expose. South Korea eventually agreed to let the women cross, though from the start the conservative Park government was cool to the idea. Why was that? Because such a superficial, ineffective gesture would only play right into the hands of the regime up North. And that’s just what happened.

In addition to Steinem, two Nobel Peace Prize laureates were on board for this event, Mairead Maguire (1976) from Ireland and Leymah Gbowee (2011) from Liberia, lending the affair some much-needed gravitas. But it was the inclusion of lightning rod Christine Ahn that really set some people off. She is a Korean-American activist who has been often accused of having strong North Korean sympathies. The women of course toured Kim Il-sung’s birthplace when they were up North, and the state’s official paper, the Rodong Shinmun, quotes Ahn as praising the founder, though I suspect it was manufactured. Ahn is no idiot, and it’s unlikely she would spout such nonsense knowing what sort of microscope she was already under, though some of her other quotes featured on this DC-based blog seem pretty damning. Like other Northern-apologists, she seems totally unwilling to criticize or blame the regime for any of its woes. She has also engaged in what is the South Korean left’s version of 9/11 Trutherism: the conspiracy theory that North Korea was in no way responsible for the sinking of the Cheonan, in which 44 Southern sailors died.

I don’t think that Gloria Steinem or most the women on this march were pro-North Korea, but I do think their naivete was weapons grade. Yes, they went to North Korea and met with other women (every single one of whom was vetted, coached, and selected by the regime I’m sure) to ‘hear their stories,’ were feted by the government, posed for photos, and then bussed to the DMZ, where they crossed at the Kaeseong Industrial Zone (on buses, not foot) before heading into Seoul for a meeting with fellow activists. They were met with some supporters and plenty of protesters in the South, and, according to reports, their march was met largely with derision in the local media. I wonder why?

From what I read, the people behind Women Cross DMZ believe that person-to-person contact with North Koreans will somehow magically help open up the country. This sounds so reasonable but is, of course, nonsense. Plenty of foreigners visit North Korea, and like Steinem and her sisters, they are ushered to the same spots, surrounded by minders, and only meet ‘approved’ citizens. As a result, there can never be any real, meaningful, person-to-person exchanges. It’s all staged and monitored. These women are also of the predictable Why can’t North and South Korea just sit down and talk? school. They are under the starry-eyed illusion that North Korea can be trusted or reasoned with, which it can’t. The regime has shown time and time again that it only uses negotiations as a way to squeeze concessions from the South while breaking every promise it makes. I have become a hardliner on this issue: don’t talk to North Korea. Isolation and containment must be the only policy. Anything else just rewards the people in charge, who are terrible, terrible human beings. Look no further than abject failure that was the “Sunshine Policy.”

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North Korea is probably the most awful regime on earth. We love to hate it because it IS that bad. It’s a paranoid, racist place where one “wrong” thought can have you and and generations of your family killed or sent off to a slave labor camp. Their laundry list of sins and abuses is lengthy, clear, and well-documented. The only way they can bargain anything on the international stage is through threats and fear, though hosting events such as Women Across DMZ help to ameliorate this prickly image. Posing in front of the cameras and treating both Koreas as if they are somehow equal–economically, politically, or morally–IS legitimizing that regime. It is nothing more than a propaganda coup for the pack of gansters that runs the joint. These women gladly played the role of ‘useful idiots’ while wasting everybody else’s time.

Gloria Steinem should know this; after all, this wasn’t her first rodeo. One can’t help but think her involvement in this whole silly affair was one old woman’s desperate cry for relevancy before she fades away for good. It was a condescending move, reeking of entitlement.  Here comes the wise benevolent white woman to save these wretched souls. Lasting peace has only eluded the peninsula for almost 65 years because Gloria Steinem, peace sisters in tow, never deigned to stroll across the DMZ.

And look: They made a quilt.

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Can someone please smother me with it?