By late February 2020, the name Shinchonji was surfacing in the media, both in the Korean media (where it would very occasionally make an appearance anyway) and for the first time ever in the world media. The reason was the Virus Panic (so-called COVID19 disease; caused by a “coronavirus”) was tied to a returning Shinchonji missionary in China who ignored self-quarantine orders; most of the Korean cases seem tied to this incident. I am not surprised that it was them because of what kind of group it is.
Shinchonji [신천지] is a religious cult which I had many experiences with, directly and indirectly, in the 2010s, some of which I caught onto at the time and others I reconstructed later as certain, likely, or possible cases. Because generally you don’t know what’s going on. They don’t tell who they are. They use deception. As a result, I can say I have hated Shinchonji for years. I can equally say that few have ever actually taken me seriously when I talk about this, because it seems too bizarre; I wouldn’t take someone who talked about it as I do either, had I not seen it. I will record a few things here.
I was in China for part of December 2019, but only Beijing. About the time I left (which was Dec. 29, I think), the headlines began coming out that someone in Wuhan, China, was suspected of carrying a “new virus.” I had previously been in China at the very start of the decade, May 2010, and now was back in the last month of the decade, Dec. 2019. I had many observations of how I imagined China had changed.
This “virus” story, from my perspective, writing in early March, has been bad for China’s soft power.
The writing I was doing, in emails and chatting-app messages to many at the time, were all about how I perceived a South-Korean-ization of China economically and a North-Korean-ization of China politically. The South-Korean-ization of certain consumer goods and television shows were, I think, probably consciously copied. On the other hand, anything political was much more reminiscent of North Korea. The political sections of bookstores were laughable; they might as well have been selling nothing but repackaged and new editions of the Little Red Book.
That was my perceived reality. I admit it was probably colored by the fact that in 2010 I was in the south and in May, and in 2019 I was in Beijing in December; Beijing is never a friendly place, they say. In any case, the restrictions I perceived, such as on the Internet, I felt were tougher in 2019 than 2010.
What I meant was China’s soft power deficit still had a long way to go in 2019.
The COVID19 virus is all over the news. Though it began in the Chinese interior in Dec. 2019, South Korea is again in the news for an outbreak, as if on cue re-earning its sometime-nickname of the Land of Extremes. S.Korea has racked up more confirmed COVID19 virus infections (called in Korea “Corona19,” 코로나19), by a considerable margin, than anywhere outside the epicenter around Wuhan.
I have a few things I’d like to say related in some way to this latest big virus panic and/or to Korea’s place in it, in descending order of how long ago:
(1) My observations on what’s going on around me now with regard to the virus panic; (2) China’s soft-power problem; COVID19 as a potential serious a blow to China’s image/prestige; (3) S.Korea and the negative influence of the Shinchonji group [신천지] (my experiences with this group, which is definitely a cult by popular understanding of the term, date to 2014; second-hand as early as 2012; the experiences were through no fault of my own, as they use front groups and all manner of deceptions to get in contact with people, effectively like an intelligence agency); (4) My memory of the MERS virus panic of June 2015 that hit South Korea.
I’ll do these in succession in separate posts, starting with the last and most distant, the MERS virus panic of 2015 (2015년6월의 메르스 바이러스-감염병 위기).
I remember “MERS” well. What’s strange to me is how few others seem to, or their memory of it as something minor. I doubt it made the news much at all in the US.
Losing a pair of gloves I felt particular attached to, I decided I’d be willing to retrace my steps around town. Chances were fair that I could find the missing gloves, as I had in similar cases before. I was committed. I figured the had fallen out of my pocket while I was cruising along on the bicycle.
The glove search failed.
But unexpected good thing have a way of showing up, springing from the bad. I decided to make the best of this perhaps-several-hours-long commitment to carefully and slowly retrace all my steps by listening to a podcast along the way, so as “not to waste the time.” This is how I justified the search to myself. I am not in the habit of listening to earphones in public these days, so this was a conscious decision.
I googled around for a podcast that would make my time worth it. Something new. I came to the BBC podcasts page. The top one I saw was called “End of Days.” I said, Okay, yes, this’ll do. I don’t even have a good working pair of earphones anymore. I have a few freebies from airlines. Only one earphone worked.
Gone forever though the gloves may be, those gloves did give me a final gift, one arguably even better than hand warmth, as without losing them, I’d never have come to hear this really excellent “BBC Five Live” podcast. It’s less about the 1993 Waco incident, more about the personalities involved, a retrospective after 25 years. About 4.5 to 5.0 hours of total listening time; eight episodes. Some impressions and reactions follow in this post. First personal re:Waco, then a long review of the podcast’s contents, then a brief final thought on cults as I encountered them in my years in Korea.
It suddenly occurred to me that the endless US interventions in the Middle East familiar to us today really date to August 1990, and have, since that month and the fateful decision made in it, followed on a path set down at that time. August 1990 was the month George H.W. Bush and his foreign policy people decided on the intervention against Iraq in its local war against Kuwait. In other words, there is a traceable ‘genealogy’ of US Middle East interventions that start with the August 1990.
This idea occurred to me suddenly while reading a book called The Back Channel, by William J. Burns, published in March 2019 and recently given to me by my friend Aaron S. The author, Burns, is one of the most significant US State Department figures of the 1990s–2010s whom you’ve never heard of. The chances are fair that he could be sworn in as Secretary of State in Jan. 2021, if a Democrat wins.
When I created this blog in 2013, I created a new Yahoo email account specifically for the blog so as to maintain some degree of separation from my main email. I logged into it today. I was surprised and somewhat dismayed by what I found, which was Nothing. That is to say, everything was gone. Every single email sent and email received, gone; the drafts folder, empty; spam, trash, everything was deleted.
Right when I logged on, a brief message said something ridiculous like “Emails in accounts subject to inactivity will be deleted.” I think I last logged in in September 2019…
I have been spending time off and on the past few months working on a highly research intensive genealogy project. It traces my great-grandfather’s “line” (as the genealogy-ism has it) back several centuries, across New England and back to 1630s Massachusetts. Before that, limited information is available but it seems the original ancestor was a Puritan out of Lincolnshire, England.
It’s been fascinating making new discoveries and connections all along the way.
For thirty-six hours, as of this writing, Germany has been in uproar over something in Erfurt, the capital of Thüringen, a state in Germany. It was an election. Ninety assembled delegates, popularly elected late last year, assembled to choose the new head of the state government. Once elected, the head of the sttae government (Minister-President) would appoint cabinet ministers and get on with the business of things.
All the commotion is about the party known as the AfD, which was crucial in electing the winner. It appeared that the AfD would be “in” (though not leading) a state government for the first time ever. The AfD had broken through the cordon sanitaire.
This may not sound like a big deal, but it is, at least in Germany, and I have been seeing it unfold live, if from a distance. I would compare it metaphorically to a case of significant civil unrest, or a war panic. “Constitutional crisis” gets much closer to non-metaphorical accuracy.
We use the phrase “thirty pieces of silver” metaphorically in a variety of contexts. I used it today. It is a reference to the betrayal of Jesus by his apostle Judas for which he was paid that sum of pieces of silver.
I got to wondering how much thirty pieces of silver, ca. AD 33 in the Roman province of Palestine, would be worth in our terms, today; what is a reasonable US-dollar figure to attach to it? I spent some time on this and would propose $10,000 (see below).
Nov. 2019: I passed through California for about five days.
(Observations about Southern California with pictures, and some springboarding off of them.)
Places I spent at least some time were: Van Nuys; the Santa Ana River trail in Orange County; Anaheim and “Anaheim Hills;” Orange (the city of); Santa Barbara. On a previous visit (late Aug. 2018), I went to Huntington Beach.
Leaving Southern California, north to Silicon Valley, I spent time in: San Jose; Palo Alto; the Stanford campus; Menlo Park; Redwood City. (Another post, maybe.)
Friday early morning. I arrive at the airport from points east (Korea, by way of a long layover in Hawaii) and am soon on the bus to LA Union Station. Or am I? I am not. I got on the wrong bus. It was not labeled. It came to the place marked LA Union Station; I decide to take this new opportunity. and follow the shuttle bus where it goes. New destination: Van Nuys.